To Make You Happier
A blessed few are born knowing these things. Others must learn them. A unique story from the life of Irene Dunne
Don't reach for everything. Make up your mind what you want and be prepared to pay well for it.
Don't say "No" too quickly or you'll cheat yourself out of more than you save yourself.
Don't look at everything in a lump sum
Don't try to discipline your man. Have fun and humor him.
by Roberta Ormiston
What is success? did you ever stop to think?
Only one thing guarantees it -- happiness!
It isn't sentimental of soft to say this; it's solid. And it leads, in turn, to another question: what makes happiness?
That's easy! Knowing how to live and love makes happiness.
A blessed few are born knowing these things. A few more learn them. the rest of the world grasps happiness only for short exultant moments ...
Irene Dunne wasn't one of those blessed in being born with the knowledge of how to live and love. She taught herself.
Irene was brought up in the kind of security that meant a handy man outsided the house, a maid inside, fresh dresses once or twice a day, and frequent trips to Washington. Then, when she was sixteen security vanished. She wasn't thrown on her own. It wasn't that simple. She had her mother and brother to look besided herself. She could have developed into a stupid snob forever boasting about her glorious past and bemoaning her threadbare present. Instead she soon was supporting her mother and her brother and herself in the style to which they were accustomed -- plus!
Later on, as a Broadway operetta star, Irene was put under contract to make musical movies. Then, since on one wanted musicals any more, the officials of Irene's company considered legal ways of ousting her. She could have given up her career and pretended she wanted to be a wife only. Instead, with six months, she proved herself a dramatic actress with few peers.
Picture work used to keep Irene in California while the dental practice of her husband, Doctor Francis Griffin, kept him in New York. Invetiably, their marriage became a target for gossip. Columnists reported seeing the doctor here with this charmer and seeing Irene there with that romancer. Irene could have decided it was too much trouble to keep her marriage together, sought a divorce and concentrated upon her career. Instead, she and Doctor Griffin built a house and adopted a little girl.
Doctor Griffin, Irene's senior, has businessmen and political figures for his friends. She, naturally, has sympathy and congeniality for professional people. She could have discouraged the friends of the doctor's choosing and left him to get along with friends of her choosing -- as too many husbands have had to do. Instead she managed to make their social life pleasant and satisfying to both of them.
For the past two years Irene has been off the screen. A year is generally considered far too long to be out of pictures. After turning down two or three roles, Irene easily might have become frantic and taken anything, for the sake of appearing before the public again. But because she was happy in her personal life she could better bide her time, patiently for a role in which she believed. Now, incidentally, in "A Guy Named Joe," in which she plays with Spencer Tracy, she has re-established herself as one of the screen's first ladies.
Irene always has had problems, you see. But again and again she has avoided coming a cropper and plunging herself into unhappiness ... indicating her roles for living and loving stand up.
Asked what her roles were, Irene was thoughtful and honest.
She sat behind her kidney-shaped writing table where she had just taken a telephone call. A committee sought her permission to hold a bazaar for the U.S.O. in her garden. She gave it. Graciously.
"That's one of the things I try to do," she said, returning the telephone it its crade. "Discipline myself against refusing to do things. It's such a temptation to say 'No' to any suggestion or request which might prove inconvenient or troublesome. For ever time we say 'No' we cut ourselves off from an association or an experience that might be enriching.
"I know how much I would have missed not long ago if I had not entertained two Princeton boys, sons of old friends of the Doctor's
"I would get home from the studios tired, a dozen things on my mind, and the radio would be going full blast, and they would be lying on the floor, sofa cushions bunched under their heads, their feet hoisted up on a table of a chair.
"But I am not aware they did any cushion, table or chair the least harm. And their visit jarred me out of any tendency I had of becoming Craig's-wifeish -- so pernickety about my household possession that in time the Doctor and Missy and I would have belonged to this house instead of the house's belonging to us.
"Those boys also gave me a valuable understanding of the generation that is growing up behind us, the generation that is now fighting for our freedom and, when Victory comes, must build a new world.
"I missed them when they left.
"UNDOUBTEDLY," she continued, "the most important thing I've ever learned is something my father taught me ... He told me a lot of other things, too, no doubt. But this happens to be the only thing I remember. He told it to me when he was dying, you see.
"I remember that Saturday night so well. I had broken a date so I could stay at home. I had only to look at my father to know there wasn't much time left to be with him.
"' I've tried to make you happy,' he told me. 'But from now on -- not because I won't be with you much longer but because you have grown up -- your happiness will rest with you.
"' Happiness is never an accident,' he went on. 'It's the prize we get when we choose wisely from life's great stores. So don't reach out wildly for this and that and the other thing. You'll end up empty-handed if you do. Make up your mind what you want. Go after it. And be prepared to pay well for it.
"'I hope you'll go after the rooted things ... the self-respect that comes when we accept our share of responsibility. Satisfying work. Marriage. A home. A family. For these things grow better with time, not less. These things are the very bulwarks of happiness.'"
"Those were my father's last words to me," Irene explained gently. "Early the next morning I heard my mother crying and ran downstairs to learn that while we had slept my father had left us ... "
"So many times," she explained, "remembering what my father said, I've saved myself turmoil.
"WHEN I was studying in Chicago there was a boy for whom I had a fatal attraction. He also had a fatal attraction for me. Looking back I can't imagine why; and I know we would have been miserable together once our infatuation was over. However, I would have married that boy had I been able to get my father's face and voice ouf of my mind long enough to forget it was up to me to go to work and put my brother, Charles, through high school and college -- since most of the insurance money had been used to educate me."
There were other occasiont too when Irene saved her happiness by following the advice her father gave her.
There were a time the RKO officials were trying to get rid of her and she fought to play Sabra Cravat in "Cimarron."
Sabra was the plum role that year. It also was an exeedingly demanding role, for, you will remember, Sabra had to be as a young woman, a middle-aged woman and a grandmother.
Irene had never done anything but operettas. Her voice, not her dramatic ability was considered her fortune. But she had always wanted to play dramatic roles. And somehow she knew she could play Sabra.
"Go after what you want," her father had told her.
She went to the studio executives.
"You've spent a fortune testing practically everybody in Hollywood for this role," she told them. "You have me on your hands. You don't know what to do with me. With musicals out, as they are, I'm a liability. So why not give me the same chance you're giving outsiders? I might surprise you. I might turn into an asset."
"Prepare to pay well for the things you want," her father had told her.
Before she took her test she worked day and night on dialogue. But that was only the beginning. During the sixteen weeks "Cimarron" was in production she worked and studied the way most people never work or study in their whole lives. With the release of "Cimarron" she was hailed as a brilliant dramatic actress and instead of thinking how they could get rid of her the RKO big shots considered ways of making her contract ironclad.
There was the time when Irene, remembering what her father had said about marriage's being a bulwark to happiness, arranged with her studio for a two weeks holiday and rushed to Doctor Griffin in New York. Columnists had been insisting she and the doctor were considering a divorce.
He was amazed when she barged in on him early one morning.
"Irene," he said, "I'm so happy to see you. I ..."
Breathlessly, cheeks flushed, eyes shining, she stood before him.
"Frank," she said, "I've come three thousand miles to tell you I'll quit pictures gladly if you wish it. I won't have you disturbed by newspaper rumors. I'd rather, a hundred times ..."
He took her in his arms. "I wouldn't let you give up your work," he told her. "I know how much it means to you. I know, better than anyone, how you have worked to get where you are. And even if the rumors had disturbed me before, they couldn't now -- not after this journey of yours and this offer."
"Missy" and her mother - who have found a right, and happy way to live
IRENE incidentally, hasn't too much patience with those who cry about the difficulties of being happily married.
"Usually," she says, "marriages break up because people won't take the trouble to get through the middle breakfasts. It's no trick to get through the first breakfasts, when love is new and there are bows on the eggs. And once the middle breakfasts are over the last breakfasts, when plenty of allowances have been made on both sides and an understanding friendship and deep love have been established, are a joy forever ..."
She paused. In the walnut doorway stood Mary Francis [sic], more dearly known as "Missy." She was wearing a white pinafore appliqued with yellow flowers and green leaves. Her soft bright pigtails were caught with yellow bows. She dropped her nurse's hand and ran heading toward her mother.
"I've been chosen as Queen of the May," she cried. "And I'm going to carry the gold crown."
Irene gave her a big hug and a light kiss on the tip of her enchanting nose. Then Missy and her nurse left for the green circle of a park where the young citizens of Holmby Hills, spurning their own lawns and gardens, play in some discord while their nurses gossip on the green benches.
Watching Missy depart, Irene said, "I tremble for that crown."
"Missy," she went on, "provides me with a perfect illustration for a third pet rule of mine ... Don't look at everything in a lump sum! Tackle one thing at a time!
"I used to harass myself and Doctor by worrying about everything I had to do and trying to anticipate and forestall all possilbe complications.
"The day we learned Missy was to be our little girl I began to worry about furnishing her room, buying her clothes, finding a good pediatrician, theories of discipline, getting just the right nurse, encouraging good trades and discouraging bad traits, endearing the Doctor and myself to her.
"When we went to see her I was badly frightened. 'What have we done?' I asked myself. Then, suddenly, aware of nothing but her shy little face, I went over to a piano that stood in the same room where we met and played and sang 'My Country 'Tis of Thee,' as I remembered my mother singing it when I was a little girl back in Kentucky. Missy liked the music and reached up her arms.
"'See,' Doctor said triumphantly, 'you're accomplishing one of the things you were worrying about. You're endearing yourself to her already. How about taking all the other things one by one, too?'
"I'm especially grateful right now," she went on, "when every day brings all of us new demands and deprivations and restrictions that I learned some time ago not to look at everything in a lump sum."
She suddenly smiled. "Some months ago, for instance, my maid left me to work in an armament factory. She took care of my room and bath here at home, my dressing room at the studios, all my clothes - personal and professional - and she drove for me. She was my right hand.
"The first morning I awoke after she had gone I was frantic. I began thinking of everything she had done that I must do, in addition to my own work. Then I pulled myself together. 'One thing at time, Irene my girl,' I said. Whereupon I got up, ran my bath, made my bed, tidied my room, drove myself to the studio. And from then on, tackling one thing at a time, I have managed better than I would have thought possible.
By this the shadows of the trees on the lawn were long. The French clock down the hall chimed five. Doctor Griffin knocked on the door, Missy had left ajar.
When the usual greetings were over, he said, beaming: "Irene, I've just asked that couple from Seattle I told you about - remember I met them at the clubhouse - for dinner. They'll only be in town a day or two. And I promised them stone crabs. Can we get them, do you think?"
For half a second there was a shadow on Irene's face. It wasn't anything a man would notice in a million years. "Fine, darling," she said: "I'll telephone the market right away - as soon as I can plan the right things to have with crabs. We'll give them a dinner to remember."
He left still beaming. Irene spun the telephone dial.
"This," she said, "brings me to a fourth rule. I have for living - for loving, really. This! Nature has ordained men as lords of creations. So, loving a man, don't try to discipline him. Indulge him. It's much more fun. And it makes him happier and you happier.
She wound up her philosophizing with a mischievous wink.
We are all the sculptors of our lives and can, if we only will, shape our lives happily. The time to begin doing this is right now. It's no use to think, "I'll be happy later on, when I get a good job, when I marry, when I have children, when I grow older." Happiness doesn't result from circumstances. It results from attitudes. And the faster we train ourselves in the right attitudes toward life and love, the sooner we shall know the happiness which should be our birthright.
Begin your happiness now!
(Photoplay, April 1944)