No Soap For Irene Dunne
A TV Star may be able to sell more soap than a movie star, but a genuine movie star has more glamour.
This thought occurred to m while visiting Irene Dunne at her regal Beverly Hill manse. Living on one of the Beverly Hills' fashionably manicured avenues is a head start right off.
Most of the Hollywood stars live casual ranch-type homes in Fernando Valley or Sherman Oaks. They're nice, but one can still smell the varnish. In Beverly Hills there is a city ordinance against smells.
Miss Dunne (you notice I would never call her Irene?) is to star in today's "GE Theater" in a drama which was rumored to be a pilot film for a proposed TV series with Miss Dunne as a lady politician.
"They wanted it to be," she says, "but believe me, it is not a pilot for a series. When I was at the Revue Studios filming this show, I felt so sorry for all those people who were there doing series and knowing they were unable to do their best. It just can't be done every week, can it?"
It struck Miss Dunne and myself that herein may lie one reason why it's tougher to be a TV star and still be as glamorous as a big movie star.
"I think of the lonely lives they must lead," she adds. "They are so busy with the series that they have no time to do anything else.
"And those commercials! I don't want to downgrade television, but having to do commercials doesn't really do anything for a star, do you think?"
Miss Dunne learned way back in 1952, when she was hosting the old Schlitz "Playhouse of Stars", that even when a star doesn't pitch the sponsor's product directly, he or she can be smeared by it.
"Many of my fans were unhappy about my being associated with a beer, and wrote me to tell so," she recalls.
There are other reasons why a movie star can walk into one of Hollywood's or New York's most chic restaurants and electrify the jaded clientele, while a TV star might have trouble catching the maitre d's eye.
In Miss Dunne's opinion it was the care and feeding by the big movie studios which helped glamorize the stars she grew up with.
"I don't think acting had much to do with it, either. There was my dear friend, Gary Cooper, who lived just down the street. Now I don't think he was any better an actor in the last picture he made than in the first, but he had something - it was star quality.
Then don't forget that each studio had coaches who were constantly working to make us stars," says Miss Dunne, remebering a little girl named Elizabeth Taylor who worked with her first in "The White Cliffs Of Dover" (1944).
Do you suppose Elizabeth Taylor would have been the glamor star she is today if she had got her start in one of TV's family situation comedies?
I didn't even bother ask Miss Dunne that one.
"Remember now," Miss Dunn cautions, "I'm not talking about Loretta Young or Jane Wyman or Barbara Stanwyck. They were stars long before they went on TV. In fact, I remember Loretta's sitting on the floor in front to the TV set right in this room, and watching me on 'Playhouse'. Do you suppose I gave her an idea?
"I really believe," she continues, "that TV stars born on TV will have to get better, or they are not going to stay. Most movie stars had great staying power, because they were good at what they did."
Miss Dunne made her movie debut in "Cimarron", which won an Academy "Oscar". That was in 1932. For staying power she hasn't done too badly, either.
(Oakland Tribune, Sunday Jan.28., 1962 "Viewing TV" by Hal Humphrey)