How I Stay NORMAL in HOLLYWOOD
by Irene Dunne
But Miss Dunne Plays an Un-Normal Madcap in the Picture "Lady In A Jam"
THIS is still and will always be a free country. Hollywood is part of this free country, and if people don't want to "go Hollywood" they don't have to. For me to what that deragatory phrase implies would involve a more strenuous session of acting than I have ever given to the screen.
How do I remain what is called "normal"? Because for me it's the natural thing to do, and therefore easier than doing something else. So if any decorations are being bestowed for "normalcy", I must gracefully decline them.
There seems to be a general impression that to be known as normal in Hollywood is akin to being labeled as rare animal in a zoo. As a matter of fact, most of the people in Hollywood are normal - otherwise, you can be sure, there wouldn't be any motion picture business.
How often do you pick up your newspaper Monday morning and read:"Five Traffic Fatalities Over Week-End"? Very often, don't you? And how seldom do you read:"John Smith, forty-two years of age, book-agent living at 4242 Booster Street, accompanied by his wife and two small daughters, arrived safely home last night from a motor trip to Pasadena"? Very seldom!
That's something like the way it is with the people of Hollywood and the public knowledge of them. If we don't make startling news, we're simply "normal". And it seems that then we are credited with making a terrific fight against doing things that we wouldn't even think of doing.
Strange as it may seem to those who have read much of the screwball side of Hollywood life, I have never had to fight against an impulse to jump into a swimming-pool while dressed for the opera. A court order restraining me from standing on my head on a night-club table would not detract in the last from my happiness. No matter how well I have been paid for a picture, I have never been seized with a desire to wear four hats at one time.
I confess to liking a well-ordered existence. I like my home to run smoothly, for the dinner table to be well appointed, for the courses to be served promptly and in the right order. I like to know the people I like to know. I like to do the things I like to do. I like to go to concerts; I like to go to shows; I like to play golf. I can do all these things in Hollywood. That's where I do them.
It's really not so hard. Hollywood doesn't put obstacles in your way. Never on any golf course have I been approached by a policeman who said, "Lady, you can't play with an ordinary golf ball. You're movie star. You'll have to use a coconut for a ball."
But I'm afraid to go on saying things like this, because if I do, I'll quit being normal. For that word is becoming strange and terrifying to me now, as Chesterton said any word would become if you looked long enough. It's certainly not normal to imagine that everyone is talking about you. Surely it isn't entirely normal to see fingers pointing at you as a rare species, the only one in captivity! I do want to remain as I am, or, as they say it, "normal". But if they don't stop saying it, pretty soon, whenever I see two persons putting their heads together I'll think they're saying, "Don't look now, but that's Irene Dunne. She's normal, you know!"
And then I won't be normal any more!
IRENE DUNNE is perfectly "normal" and sane in real life, but she realistically plays an "un-normal" madcap in "Lady In A Jam", just released by Universal. To achieve realism in the new gold-mining comedy, producer-witer-director Gregory LaCava took the film troupe to the desert wastelands of Arizona. There Miss Dunne, as a giddy fugitive from the Social Register, finds gold-mining a messy job. The actress proved herself really game by literally wallowing in mud for several days to make some appealing gold-diggins scenes.
THE STORY of "Lady In A Jam" begins with heiress Jane Palmer (Irene Dunne) getting a warning from Billingsley (Eugene Pallette), executor of her estate, about the financial jam she's going to be in if she doesn't stop her scatter-brained squandering of her fortune.
JANE goes right ahead spending. She is observed in a jewelry store by Enright (Patric Knowles), a young pschiatrist hired by Billingsley to investigate Jane's case. Enright sees Jane create a scene and fire her chauffeur, volunteers to drive her home, thus gets acquainted and becomes the chauffeur-confidant.
FINALLY losing her money, property and socalite friends, Jane sets out with Enright, whom she considers her glorified chauffeur, to visit Jane's grandmother, Cactus Kate, out in Arizona. They find she lives in a ghost town and owns a number of gold mines scattered through the desert.
HARD-BITTEN Cactus Kate (Queenie Vassar) never had much respect or affection for her sophisticated eastern relatives, but she is quite willing to let Jane and Enright live in her ghost town, turns over to them an abandonded mine to get out of it what they can. Pursuing his psychiatrical study of Jane, Enright "salts" the mine to give Jane a psychological urge to be sensible. Jane thinks she has struck gold; a phony gold rush is on.
AMONG the "rushers" is a corny cowboy named Stanley (Ralph Bellamy),to whom Jane attaches herself in an effort to make Enright jealous. Stanley takes the bows with Jane until they find out the gold discovery was a fake, then he loses interest in her. However, government men investigating the mine find not gold but valuable desposits of mercury ore, so daffy Miss Palmer finds herself with a potential fortune on her hands - and she's still a bit balmy!
JANE returns to New York, goes to see Billingsley and Dr. Brewster (Samuel S.Hinds), head of Palmer Foudation. She asks them to have Enright psychoanlayzed, for, not knowing that he is a psychoanalyst, she can't understand his unromantic aloofness.
MEANWHILE Enright has asked to be relieved of his assignment so he can tell Jane he loves her. But he says to himself in final scene:"Why should a man of science fall for a nit-wit? Why?"
And that's what happens to "normal" Irene in "Lady In A Jam"!
(Movie Radio Guide April 25. 1942)