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Personalities (August 1957)

"A Summer In Hollywood"

By James MacArthur

One bright sunny day last June, when the freshness of spring had just kissed summer hello, a caravan left Nyack, New York, my home. It was Hollywood or bust. At first there were three of us. A little later in the day as we drove westward, the fourth and fifth joined us. Two days later we entered the windy metropolis of the great midwest and two more Hollywood travelers joined our entourage.

My name is James MacArthur. I was going to Hollywood to make a movie. My first movie. The other members of our two car caravan were my Mother, two friends named Footie and Kenny. A lovely young lass, Joyce, with whom I had attended school at Solebury School in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and who was along to keep Mother company on the transcontinental safari. The last two by name were Kathleen and Charlie who were driving Mother in her own car.

College students occasionally brag in the proverbial bull sessions that they can make the trip from New York to the West Coast in 5 days, we took eleven. However, we were not out to make any records (since we had no collegiate friends to face none of us yet being in college). Besides, with Mother’s understandable prodding -- every parent having the fundamental urge to uplift their offspring -- we saw every worthwhile sight between Grant’s Tomb overlooking New York City’s Riverside Drive to the Great Golden Gate Bridge. No doubt, if Mother had not been along we would have made better time, but being the avid sightseer that she is, we stopped just about everywhere we could. I, personally, am the type that can appreciate sights very well from a car going 50 or 60 miles per hour.

The entire trip was great right from the start. The nightclubs and gambling (which the “kids” could not do) in Reno, Nevada, was of particular significance due to somewhat of an altercation (polite language for fight) between Footie and Kenny. Kenny was affectionately called Skinny Minnie by the entire entourage, although he was by far the biggest and heaviest trooper aboard. I incidentally got the nickname MacDoodle. It wasn’t a real fight. Just some playful kidding around, but we sure didn’t do the motel much good.

Finally, however, we got to Hollywood. I started to work immediately while everybody else loafed and went swimming all day under the lazy sun. But I did not care since my work was really fascinating. However, the party soon broke up and everyone except Kenny returned to New York. Kenny and I were sharing an apartment together for the summer.

After the departure of the vacationing ones, as it were, my work really started in earnest. We were starting to shoot and I found out in a hurry that working in the movies was a little tougher than I had originally anticipated.

The average working day in Hollywood is comparable to Farmer Brown’s daily calendar. Here we go: drag yourself out of that cozy, warm, comfortable bed at seven; somehow keep your eyes open driving to the studio after gulping a cup of coffee and maybe a nourishing bit of tomato juice; makeup next and fall asleep in the makeup chair; stumble to the set grumbling good mornings along the way; drink two more cups of coffee then open your eyes and there you are all set to go for another day.

Seriously, the daily shooting started at about eight thirty o’clock and continued until noontime and then it was time for lunch on location. Back on the set an hour later and worked straight through to six when it was time to quit and go home. But before leaving for home, off with the makeup and the costume. By the time you reach home it is seven and that all adds up to a twelve hour day.The usual routine on weekday nights was to have dinner out somewhere since neither Kenny nor myself could more than eat something out of a can. Sometimes, of course, we would be lucky enough to be invited out for dinner, but as far as we were concerned that did not happen often enough to suit either of us.

By the time we got through dinner, it would be nine o’clock or thereabouts and practically bedtime (if you have to be up at five o’clock the next morn). Incidentally, my friend Kenny was not just sitting around all day but was working in a factory nearby.

Now we come to the weekend schedule. I am sure that all of you have heard of the fabulously wild Hollywood parties that go on all the time. Well, I went to one and I must say that it was not like I imagined at all. Since, quite frankly, the only previous sources of information I had were no different than yours.

In fact if you have attended a graduation party, there is very little difference believe me. A Hollywood party is a congenial gathering of congenial people -- nothing more or less. Perhaps, some of them are stars and have publicly known faces and names, but they are just people like the rest of any particular hardworking dedicated group of professionals.

During the weekend days there was swimming and tennis, and just plain loafing after an extensive week of grueling work.

Now, back to the motion picture, my first, The Young Stranger. I think the most difficult part of making the movie was having to do the scenes out of order. That is to say, they may shoot the end of the movie first for some technical reason and then do the scene right before the end which is rather hard on the actor. At least it was on me.

However, I found that the director, John Frankenheimer, who is only 26, always was completely conscious of these problems. Any difficulty that might occur was foreseen by him and they solved it before they could actually become difficult situations. This was not only because John is an excellent director, but also because he being so young himself, is not far removed from the teenager situation.

After a great deal of hard, but always vitally interesting and commanding work, the picture was finished in seven weeks. Now all I could do was wait and hope that it would be somewhat meritorious. Certainly the story itself, the able production and direction, and the other members of the cast, like Kim Hunter and James Daly were of superior quality, my worry was me.

And that is roughly how I spent the summer of 1956 after having graduated from high school, and just before entering college.

For my part, it was a worthwhile and wonderful experience for any teenager of nineteen.

James MacArthur

James MacArthur

James MacArthur, Jeff Silver

James MacArthur, Whit Bissell

Jeff Silver, James MacArthur

James MacArthur

James MacArthur, James Daly

James Daly, James MacArthur

James Daly, James MacArthur

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