Sunday evening I look up from my occupations at The Warwick desk first into the impersonal gaze of an expensively dressed woman wearing a pale fur coat - I drew a blank until I saw her name on the registration form: Ethel Merman - then from her into the grinning boyish face of a man in his mid forties wearing a vicuna coat and brown hat. Him I recognized immediately as one of the bright stars of the MGM Galaxy in my childhood during the forties. His is a technicolor impression with the happy young phantoms of June Allyson, Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly… shining white teeth, red lips ever smiling, eyes sparkle. My strongest, perhaps imaginary, recollection of him is grinning from a colored page in Photoplay, wearing a crisp white sailor cap and navy-blue bathing trunks posed at the top of steps descending into a turquoise swimming pool under a brilliant cobalt sky. Whether or not I imagined the picture, that was exactly his environment as one of America’s favorite young actors during the World War II years and a few years following. Then the bright image begins to fail me and is replaced by a maturer black-and-white one, which eventually fades altogether - until Sunday night. (My eyes and mind return to the word “boyish” above like pins to a magnet but I’m damned if I can find a word to replace it with, for in spite of signs of mileage and some fleshiness, freckled and boyish and open fax remains- in public at least.) The man was loud, the professional extrovert (perhaps high on something), and infinitely winning.
In private I found the semi-buffoon, the public person, painfully altered and appearances confirming his simple statement of loneliness - for in moments of tenderness never have I seen a more desperate -looking, indescribably sad eyed human being. I felt he wanted total love as well as sure destruction from the same person - his tragedy perhaps, a romantic hope that he will find the two in one person. One person can fill each capacity, but never can the two be combined… I don’t believe.