Modern Screen  September 1947, cont'd

playing hookey. . .

Being a worrier, there were several new gray hairs in my head when pianist Max Rabinowitch, who was giving Dana daily lessons, told me his pupil was off for a weekend on his ketch, the "Vileehi." You know Andrews and his boats.   Next to his family, he loves them best, with pictures running third. Yipe! Here he was polishing eighty feet of boat when he should be polishing the ivories.

The picture started. Dana sat down at the piano. Nobody laughed. Because that guy was doing a fine job of playing the very difficult concerto around which the story revolves.   And that wasn't all.   As a man who had lost his sight he had to: wear contact lenses that blinded him, and play the piano, and speak dialogue, and come in right on both music and line cues. Sound complicated? It is. Very. I still don't know how he did it all, except that Dana is a very remarkable sort of fellow.

I watched him on the set. It wasn't an easy, free, light-hearted chore. He may have been nervous, but he didn't show it.

"I can waltz, too," he quipped as he went through all the various pieces of business during rehearsal.

"Darn you, Harriet," he said to me later. "Do you realize I'm really going to have to learn this concerto?"
"Why?" I asked, as if I didn't know.
"Because all my friends are asking me to play it.   And it's a beautiful piece of music and I want to learn it," he said.

He's right. It is a wonderful concerto, which brilliant young composer Leith Stevens wrote especially for the picture. It's modern and melodic. Dana can hum it through from beginning to end. While we were shooting the Carnegie Hall sequence, Dana, Artur Rubinstein, Eugene Ormandy and Hoagy Carmichael formed a barbershop quartet. Their selection was the concerto. I expect there have been better quartets, but certainly none more creative!



Dana invited his boss home to meet his women folk,
Kathy, 5, and  wife Mary. The "boss" is
Harriet Parsons (right), Louella's
famous producer-daughter.

One of the questions often asked me, as a woman executive, is: "Do men like to work with you?" I probably will never know the real inside, but to the best of my knowledge most men don't particularly object to working with women. I have rules: Don't try to turn a business relationship with personable male stars into a social gathering, don't act coy, and never demand any concessions on account of being a woman. I guess it works.

When my favorite leading man has time to kill on the set between shots, watch out. He loves to talk. So do I. But I'm usually quite pressed for time and don't have much opportunity for chit-chat.

Dana cornered me one day when I was bicycling between sets. He knew I was in a hurry so he did everything he could to keep me there. All in fun, natch.
"How about a game of Klabriasch," he proposed. "If I win you stand on your head for 5 minutes. If I lose, I'll stand on your head for 5 minutes."
He's a joker, that boy.

In my college days at Wellesley, I was a champion at standing on my head. But I know when I'm beaten before I start. That tricky card game he plays is not well known, except by Dana and director William Wyler, who taught it to him. It's a diabolical form of pinochle which was invented and should only be played by Hungarians.
"Goodbye now," I said. Fortunately, I'd been paged and made my escape. It's always a good idea to have an out when Dana tries to trap you.

I wouldn't like to give the impression that Dana is always trying to be a life-of-the-party type. Fundamentally, he's well-informed, broad-minded, seriously intelligent. He's quick to grasp and help solve any problem that has to do with making a picture. That's why he'd be a good producer himself.
"So far, I haven't found a story I think enough of to want to produce," he says. "I don't care so much about the kind of story as I do about the quality." That's his personal crusade, and he feels the public will buy tickets to movies on any subject so long as they're good pictures. And I agree.

Those are the things I know about him as an actor. Now let's peer at him from a purely personal angle. He's home now, having a long, tall, cool one. I know, because I'm there, too. So are his wife, Mary, the kids -- David, 13, Kathy, 5, and Stephen, 2.   And the Cocker spaniel, Michael, who sniffs inquisitively and seems to want to know how come I didn't bring my poodle along.

chivalry rides again...

David, over in the corner of the large den, said, "Didn't I hear you on the radio when your mother was off the air?"
"Why, yes," I said, "did you listen to the show?"
"Oh, just the last 30 seconds of it," he said, dampening my ego. "Buck Rogers came on after you."
David had moved across the room and was twiddling with dials on a complicated-looking recording machine. "I'll put on a recording of the piece my Dad plays in this picture he's doing. You know he's a blind guy that plays the piano..."
"David," Mary broke in, "Miss Parsons is the producer of the picture. She knows all about it."
"Hey, kids," Dana called to Stephen and Kathy, "get out of the fireplace!" They both giggled, complied, and were piled on their father's lap within seconds.
"I fa' down," Stephen said, fingering an infinitesimal scratch on his knee. "I haf to have bandaids." The next minute he had buried himself under the pillows of the couch and was peeking out at us, grinning.

Kathy, a small, feminine spittin' image of her dad was busy drawing on a scratch pad. Dana and Kathy exchanged a look of mutual adoration.
"It seems to me," Dana said, "my kids move faster than anybody's. One minute you don't know they're within miles. The next, they're right on top of you. I don't know how Mary can take it. Even so, they're the reason I'm not doing some of the things I should, llike taking more active part in politics and civic affairs. I find my family too irresistible."

I found myself agreeing with him. Matter of fact, it's hard not to agree with Dana.

And that's the story of my first production with Dana Andrews. One of those rewarding experiences producers dream about between nightmares. So you can readily see why, when you're talking to people who have worked with him, his friends, press agents, writers, they all get this possessive look and say, "Dana? That's my boy!"

home  |  articles menu