Sandra Dee Out West ( Page 2)




"My agent made an appointment for me to read for Ross Hunter, a producer from Universal-International, on a Monday just after my father had died in September, 1956. I didn't want to keep the appointment. I was awfully upset, but Mother and my agent said I should go, that Daddy would have wanted me to do it and that Ross Hunter had flown all the way from Hollywood just to see me. I went and it turned out that he had flown all the way from Hollywood just to see me and four hundred other girls about a part in a movie called The Restless Years. I sat there all day and I was upset, miserable and angry. I cried all the time. When I finally got in to see him, he was in a temper too and we both stared at each other. Anyway I read for him [Ross Hunter recalls that Sandra was the only girl he saw who asked for ten minutes to look over the script before reading for him] and after a little bit he asked, how would you like to be in the movies and come to Hollywood? I thought he was crazy and left. I went home and told Mother he was a real nut.

A couple of weeks later I was working on a fashion layout for a magazine and the magazine called me and asked me if I was going to be in town the next couple of weeks, because of their shooting schedule. I said sure I'm going to be in town. I'm right here. Where did you think was going? They said, 'You're going to Hollywood.' Louella Parsons had had an item in the paper that I had signed a contract and I didn't know a thing about it!

"Mother and I went out to Hollywood where they were going to test me. When I got to the set I found out they were only trying me out to see if I was as good as someone else they had lined up for the part and the whole thing wasn't as I'd thought it was at all. I was furious when I found that out at the studio and Mother was furious when I told her about it. She was all set to pack me off back home to New York. But then the part came through for me. Before I started to work for Universal, M-G-M ran the test and they liked it and put me into Until They Sail. That actually was my first picture.

"I almost went through the floor when I saw myself for the first time," Sandra goes on, "I had my mouth open all the time. It's not so bad when I have a part where I don't talk much, but when my mouth is open!" She makes a face. "And you always think you can do better than what you see yourself doing.

"I never study my lines," Sandra explains. "I'm lazy. But luckily I have a wonderful memory. One look and I remember it, lines, addresses—everything. I don't believe in dramatic lessons although I did want to study with a drama coach for some of the scenes I had with John Gavin in Imitation of Life. But Mr. Hunter said absolutely no. He didn't want me to be spoiled. In the beginning I was never nervous. I simply tried to do what the director wanted me to do and then I'd forget about it. But now, as the pictures go on I get more and more nervous and the first day of any picture. I'm a wreck. Actually, I don't really think I need dramatic lessons to teach me how to feel emotions because they are all things I can imagine easily—what it might be like to want to seduce someone or be kissed or have a drink. Incidentally, I can't take a drink at parties, not even soda. If I have a glass of orange juice everyone says I have vodka in It. If I take Coca Cola, they say it's rum so I've quit drinking anything in public.

"When I made my screen test with John Saxon for The Restless Years I was so terribly embarrassed I went to the bathroom three times. I would be all right up to the minute we were to make the test but then I would excuse myself. Johnnie knew what the trouble was and he had a big laugh about it. He thought it was very funny. I had never kissed anyone before. My grandmother came on the set one day while we were doing a scene in which Johnnie and I kiss each other and she was horrified. Kissing a boy, and for all the world to see, she kept saying over and over again. She couldn't get used to it. But it was no trouble to kiss Johnnie, you just picked up and threw yourself into it. It wasn't like the time I made a love scene with Jeff Chandler. I felt so funny playing opposite him—I tried to take him away from June Allyson, who played my sister-in-law in Stranger in My Arms, my third movie. All the time I was in Chandler's arms I kept thinking how silly it all was, he was twice as old as I was or more, he even had a daughter who was as old as I was. I told him later and he said he thought about it too.

"When I got to see myself in my first movie, Until They Sail, right then and there I said I'm quitting movies for good, I'm not an actress. Mother was waiting for me in the next room. She heard me carrying on and she came in and I said to her, call Universal and tell them I'm going home. I wasn't kidding, I wasn't hamming anything up. I thought I was just awful. I never go to rushes any more. I get sick. At previews I get even sicker. After The Reluctant Debutante, everybody went out to have a soda or something. You think I went? I went home and cried. I had good reason on that, I was awful.

"When I saw The Restless Years, I didn't like it a bit. I decided after seeing that, that I would never look at myself again. I used to see the rushes—the scenes shot the previous day, which the director looks at so he can see how the picture is shaping up—but I don't any more after the first few days. I can't bear looking at myself.

"Actually," Sandra says, "I have been very lucky. All my roles have been different. In one movie I was sex crazy, in another a misunderstood teen-ager; in Gidget I was a regular kid on the beach, in Imitation of Life I fell in love with my mother's boy friend. I wore beautiful clothes in The Reluctant Debutante, I was a mature teen-ager in "A Summer Place." Sandra makes a face when she mentions The Wild and the Innocent, in which she played a western equivalent of a hillbilly. "It felt awful.

"The Reluctant Debutante was a terribly hard movie to make. It was the first time I had ever been to Europe. We worked six days a week. I was so tired, I would sleep all day Sunday. We didn't see Paris, we didn't see anything at all. Someday I'd like to go to Europe on a vacation and see what it's like." Sandra found working in a film with Rex Harrison unlike anything she had ever done before. "He takes so much trouble about everything," she says, looking around helplessly for a moment. "He's so painstaking. One scene in which be had to pick up a paper he talked about for two and a half hours, trying to decide which hand to use. I saw him give a fabulous stage performance in My Fair Lady, and Daddy used to tell me how wonderful he was in the movie of The King and I, but when I actually worked with him I couldn't believe it. He looked just like anyone!

"Gidget was a terrible location. I hardly knew how to swim. A surfboard hit me on the leg, it took ages to heal. Jimmy Darren cut his foot and oh, it was cold. We did some scenes on the beach, and made a lot of it in the studio tank. They used to pour buckets of cold sea water over me before some scenes; I shivered until my lips turned blue. Gidget was the hardest picture I've ever done and yet, it's funny that it's one of those that I love best. It was hard because I don't like the water and I don't like the beach and I was cold all the time. But I loved the story and the people. Now I'm going to Hawaii to make a sequel for Columbia called Gidget Goes Hawaiian." (ED NOTE: This did not happen.)

Ever since she made The Reluctant Debutante, people recognize her in the streets. "They crowd around and look at me in a funny way," Sandra says. "One night mother and I went to a movie and we were sitting there as usual --I always curl my legs up under me on the seat and take my shoes off--once I lost a pair of shoes in the theatre that way--and about have way through the picture I noticed one of the kids next to me looking at me out of the corner of her eye and she motioned to one of the kids in the back of her --there was a whole crowd --and I knew they were talking about me. People get a funny look in their eye. I felt embarrassed. I would have gone home except that we were watching Tab Hunter in Damn Yankees and I wanted to see one dance sequence so we stayed. I don't know why people should look at me that way. I may do things that are different from what other people are doing but I'm really normal, just like everyone else. I always try to stay that way. Sometimes it goes to my head and I have to be careful. I have a big mouth and I talk back to my mother sometimes, once I even threw a mirror at the wall and broke it, but that was the worst thing I ever did.

"It's funny," Sandra muses, "people don't treat me the same, people I've known all my life, people I went to school with back home, people who went to my church. Some of them are out here now and I meet them. They're kids my age but you would never know it. They won't even talk to me. If I go to visit them I end up in the kitchen talking to their mothers. They just stand and peer around the corners staring at me as though I were going to do an act or something."

Until Sandra was sixteen, she didn't date at all. "I've been around adults all my life; I have nothing in common with boys fifteen or sixteen. I never meet anyone my own age. I go out with Sal Mineo once in a while when he's in town, but mostly with people who are older than I am, boys in their twenties. We go to parties or to a show. I'm usually home fairly early. I like to date people who have nothing to do with show business although I hate to be asked questions about my work. They start asking questions and I say stop it right there because it's awful. Even when you go to visit somebody they begin with what are you doing and who are you working with and how is it and there you are. I tell them point blank, I'm not going to talk about the business. I came hereto swim. You have a pool and I'll swim. Talk about anything else, clothes, boys, dates, sewing.

"I've been working so hard and so steadily that actually I don't have much time for dates anyway. Tommy Sands called me for a date once, that is he called Ross Hunter, my producer at Universal, for my phone number. He wanted to take me to a preview, but Ross wouldn't let me go. I happened to be in Ross's office when Tommy called and I whispered, yes, I'd love to go, but Ross said I couldn't. I had to work the next morning and he wanted me to get to sleep early. Usually, I get up at five o'clock in the morning and I don't get home until eight- thirty. We work a nine-hour day but by the time you get through traveling and clean off your make- up, there's nothing to do except study the script and go to sleep. By the end of the week. I'm too exhausted to do anything but sleep.

"Ross advises me about certain people to go out with, and he tells me yes or no. If I haven't got a date for some big smash party, he takes me. If I get lonely or down, he always knows exactly how to handle me. I don't know what I'd do without him.

On Saturdays I don't budge from the house. I just put on my dungarees and fool around.If I even bother to get dressed its amazing. Saturday is the only day I try to eat a little bit.That's the only thing I ever argue about with my mother. Boys, never. Clothes, never. Nothing else, only eating. That's the only thing we disagree about. I just don't get hungry. The doctors have tried everything. Vitamins and everything else they can think of." Sandra, who. can make an entire meal of a quarter of a head of lettuce, remembers: "My daddy used to say, just eat one steak with me and I'll give you anything you want. Anything! But I couldn't. I hate to eat. I don't have any appetite at all. Sometimes Mother really pounds me because I won't eat but I don't do a thing and I'm bigger than she is and I just let her hit me. She doesn't hit me very hard. I seem to have enough energy but I get terribly tired after finishing a picture.

"Once I said I'd like to quit acting when I got married, but I know that's not the way I feel any more, I never thought I would change my mind but I have. Maybe make one picture a year or something to keep my career going. I would like to get married more than anything else and have lots of kids. I love children, I want a houseful and I want to take care of them and do things around the house. I don't want to marry someone in the business—not an actor anyway, actors are too egotistical. I'm enough of a ham for one family."

Not. long ago, Sandra bought a new house. "On the night I came home from work to move in," she describes, "The street was roped off because there was a brush fire on the hill in back of the house. They wouldn't let me up. But there's no place to go when you're under age." [Sandra was born on April 23, 1942.] "You can't go into a bar and sit there for a couple of hours. You don't know what to do with yourself. I told that to the policeman. I live up there, I said, that's my home. You can't keep me out. So finally one of them took me home."

Sandra loved Hollywood from the beginning. "It's home to me," she says with a laugh, talking of the three years she has been there. "It's funny. I don't do any sports, I only swim in a pool and I don't do anything much outside, but I love it. The air is cleaner. I love to lie in the sun and bake myself. My skin is fair, but I never turn red or get a heavy tan. I love to get into a car and drive around—I celebrated my sixteenth birthday buying a new sports car with room for mother, my two dogs, a poodle and toy pomeranian, and my clothes.

"Daddy always wanted to come out here," Sandra adds, "and I think he would have been terribly happy now. That's one reason why he was selling the buildings he owned in New York. He wanted to come and live here. He said he loved the hills arid the climate. And really, it isn't such a different life."

When Sandra was graduated from high school last year, she gave herself a big graduation present—a week in New York alone with her best girl friend. "Oh, were we excited," she says. "We stayed at the Sherry Netherland. We wanted to do a million things, theater and stuff. It was great the first few days, night clubs every night. Then we both got sick. The hotel doctor sent me to my grandmother's in Jersey. So my big-deal gift wound up with my sitting on the bed with Grandma as I used te when I was a litle girl!"

Now that she has completed high school, Sandra feels that although she had thought about going on with school, she would rather be working than anything else. "I'm always sick when I'm not working. When I'm working and don't feel well, I pay no attention. But the minute I'm through with a picture, the slightest thing and I am practically dying."

Currently, Sandra, who receives more fan mail at the U-I studio than any other star, has little time for anything but work. Her schedule is solid. She recently dubbed the voice for the heroine of The Snow Queen, a Russian-made cartoon feature adapted from a story by Hans Christian Andersen which Universal is releasing this month. (Sandra sings a song in this too, Do it While You're Young, which will be paired with Questions and released as a Decca single.) She plays an older girl opposite John Saxon in a thriller called Portrait in Black, which stars Lana Turner arid Anthony Quinn. She goes to Italy in April to star opposite John Gavin in the movie version of Peter Ustinov's Broadway comedy, Romanoff and Juliet, besides her trip to Hawaii for Gidget Goes Hawaiian. (ED NOTE: As noted earlier , Sandra did not appear in Gidget Goes Hawaiian.)

"How lucky I am," Sandra declares, "to have had as many pictures as I've had and to have them keep coming. I look around at others who started when I did and there's nothing happening. It's rough. I'd like to rest, but I wouldn't give this up for anything. I love it."

She means it too.

THE END


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