James MacArthur Official Website: Welcome To My Digital Scrapbook!
James MacArthur Official Website Other Goodies Articles, Photos & Video Email Credits, Biography & Info News and Updates James MacArthur Official Website Logo

Compact, the Teen Digest (April 1959)

"The Courtship of James MacArthur"

By Helen Hayes as told to Rex Lardner

My new daughter-in-law, pretty, blonde, talented Joyce Bulifant MacArthur, and my son Jim must have experienced the emotional turmoil of a Desdemona or a Richard III on that chill, rainy Sunday in November of last year when they were married in Trinity Episcopal Church in Solebury, Pennsylvania.

For one thing, the nerves of us all were on edge because of the narrow escape Jim and his friend Philip Glynn had had late the night before. Jim decided not to have the conventional bachelor’s dinner and instead took Joyce, her family and some friends to dinner at an inn near Solebury. Then, after dropping them off at the farm of Joyce’s mother and stepfather -- Inez and Charles Pennock -- he’d gone with Phil for a drive in the Thunderbird he’s so proud of.

But suddenly, as they were tooling along, a deer leapt out from the brush at the side of the road. Startled, Jim pressed on the brake instantly, but it was too late. The blinded deer smashed into the front of the car with a terrible thump, killing itself at once and causing, we found out later, $850 worth of damage to the car. It was Jim’s first accident. Luckily, neither Phil nor Jim was hurt.

Besides the accident, there was my own contribution to keying up the tension. Regretably, I arrived barely in time for the ceremony -- and in my charge were many of Jim’s relatives and friends, including that most important element of any wedding, the best man.

Still, the principal emotion the bride and groom felt, judging by their expressions, was joy. As I watched them at the wedding and later at the reception at the Pennocks’ farm, I wondered, were any two ever so much in love? Were any two so incredibly right for each other?

They had many things in common: A great love for the theatre, a sincere appreciation of good music, a love of sports (though Joyce could never match Jim’s fanatic interest in baseball, football and boxing), a healthy curiosity about the world around them, a respect for one another’s talent. Of course, the respect is often disguised. Joyce sometimes calls him Mickey Mouse, because of Jim’s pictures for Walt Disney. She kidded him about his scalp-close, brushlike Mohawk haircut -- but she worked hard with him during the difficult time when he tried to establish for himself the puzzling character of the white boy raised by Indians in The Light in the Forest.

For his part, Jim asks Joyce joshingly, “When are you going to become a professional?” -- a reference to the many repertory-group plays Joyce has been in, mainly for the experience she gets. A few months ago, though, when Joyce was rehearsing three plays simultaneously (one a Broadway possibility), Jim worked like a demon with her, going over lines and working out bits of business.

They’re young, I thought (Jim is 22, a junior at Harvard <sic>; Joyce is 21), but they’re far from strangers. Their acquaintance had been a long one by today’s standards -- four years. They had been “going together” for two years, and they had been formally engaged for six months.

The two met very casually. They happened to be taking some of the same courses at Solebury School. For Jim, at the beginning, Joyce was only a member of the class -- “just somebody else who was there.” Then, on one of the school’s seasonal holidays, Jim asked her to go picnicking with him and several other couples. The food (supplied by Joyce) was good, the site soothing; they joked together and “hit it off.” Soon he was taking her to school dances (Joyce loves to dance and can master anything Jim invents) and Sunday-night movies.

When Jim went to Harvard, he asked Joyce to proms and football games, where they crouched shivering on hard seats in the stadium. When he bought his Thunderbird, he trusted her to drive it, acknowledging she’s a good driver. But mostly, it seemed to me, they spent their hours together soberly planning for the future.

What is the catalyst that makes two young people who like each other and like doing the same things suddenly decide to take the giant step? In Jim’s and Joyce’s case, it must have stemmed from their deep anguish when they were without one another. They hadn’t been so blindly dependent on each other, of course, that they didn’t have other dates, but these never “took.” It seemed as though neither was fully alive when the other wasn’t around.

But they felt the anguish most deeply last summer, when Jim was in Switzerland, making Third Man on the Mountain for Walt Disney. He worked hard, physically and mentally, but that didn’t cure his loneliness. On his time off, there was nothing to do but pine for Joyce.
Joyce missed him dreadfully, too. He wanted her to come over and marry him there, but marriage for Americans is a complicated business to arrange in the Alps.

To sort of pacify all parties, I brought Joyce to him in Zurmatt for ten days. The air was crisp, the scenery startling in its immense beauty. They had the finest of times, though Jim still had to work hard. They’d get up at 6:30, have chocolate and breakfast, and she’d go over his lines with him for the day’s shooting. Sometimes Joyce would bundle up and go with Jim to the set.

When the day’s work was through, they’d come back for supper and we’d talk about the immediate future: After Jim finished the picture and came home, there’d be a November wedding. Besides selecting her trousseau and a wedding gown, Joyce was to find an apartment in New York. “One with a dishwashing machine,” she insisted.

Then, after the plans were made, we’d play five-handed canasta until bedtime. The other two players were Philip Glynn, who was working on the movie, too, and a charming Swiss girl whom Phil was dating.
Jim won most of the canasta games. He’s a fierce competitor in any sport or game -- swimming, football, baseball, chess. My husband, the late Charles MacArthur, had taught Jim to play chess as a youngster and, after a few years, when Jim’s strong attack was perfected and he could beat Charlie, Charlie would get furious -- though secretly he may have been pleased.

Charlie admired talent. He had a “snake’s ear” for finding it, his good friend, Ben Hecht once said. Years ago, Charlie found it under his nose. He observed of young Jimmy, “That boy’s heading for someplace. I can’t figure out what kind of noise he’s going to make, but it’s obvious there’s going to be a racket.”

But now, far from making a racket, Jim was quite solemn and dignified, awaiting the appearance of the most beautiful girl in the world. Next to him was the best man, John Maxtone Graham, an acquaintance from Jim’s summer stock days. Because John and I were both working the night before the wedding (I was in O’Neill’s The Touch of the Poet), we both had thought it wiser to leave Sunday morning than late Saturday night. The winding roads in rain-lashed Bucks County had baffled us, however, and that was why we were very nearly late.

Dressed in a satin gown of royal blue (which I supposed I shall never get the opportunity to wear again), I waited a little tensely for the electrifying chords of the wedding march to begin. But then, for what reason I couldn’t fathom, I saw Jim’s mouth start to twitch. Perhaps the solemnity of the whole affair appealed to his sense of humor and he was going to burst out laughing!

“Play it straight!” The command echoed, it seemed to me, throughout the church. The startled minister jerked his head my way; Jim affected not to hear. Was it I who had spoken? It was. I was shocked by my own impulse.

In any event, the result was salutory. Jim played it straight. The wedding march burst on our ears and we peered down the aisle. There was lovely Joyce, on the arm of her stepfather.

They stood together and the minister began the ceremony. Jim said “I do” loud and clear. Joyce (and he never lets her forget it) said “I do” too soon. “Pretty anxious, weren’t you?” he jokes. “Jumped your cue.”

At the reception there were toasts, laughter, congratulations, exclamations over the gifts. The wedding cake dolls were perfect. Sentimental Joyce had worried lest their hair fail to match hers and Jim’s, but Inez saw to it the hair matched exactly. “Mother took a sample of my hair and she had a sample of yours,” Joyce told Jim.

“Where’d she get a sample of my hair?” Jim wanted to know.

“Oh, I gave it to her,” replied Joyce, blithely.

An embarrassing note for me: The minister took me aside and mentioned he’d heard my order in church.

“I thought it was so maternal,” he said, smiling. “The groom’s mother telling him to stand up straight!” I was thankful the minister didn’t know the theatrical term.

Suddenly, it was six o’clock. After a pretty hectic day, the bride and groom would off and away -- to Idlewild, to the Virgin Islands for their honeymoon, to their cozy apartment on New York’s East Side.

The car was out front. Bundled against the storm, they were ready to go.

A chorus of farewells followed them out of the door. They bent their heads against the howling blasts of wind and turned to wave final goodbyes. It was rather symbolic, I thought -- the buffeting they faced outside the warm house. Life is not always spring.

Jim had his arm around Joyce’s waist as, heads down, they scampered to the car. It seemed like a good exit. And it seemed, at the same time, as the new curtain rose and an old door closed behind them, the best of entrances.

Joyce Bulifant, James MacArthur

Joyce Bulifant, Helen Hayes, James MacArthur

>>Back to Top<<

{Home} {Current News} {Latest Site Updates} {Film Credits} {Television Credits} {Stage Credits}
{Other Credits} {Combined Credits} {Biography} {FAQ} {Charles MacArthur Salute}
{Email James MacArthur} {Photo Index} {Articles & Interviews} {Non-English Articles}
{Video Clips} {Contact Site Administrator} {Site Help} {Search Site} {Interactive Games}
{View/Sign Guestmap} {Join Mailing List} {Join Discussion Group} {Send an E-Card} {Free Screensavers}
{Site Visitor Statistics} {Site Awards} {Site Accreditations & Affiliations} {Links} {Privacy} {Copyright}
Site Layout and All Original Site Content © 2001-11 curator@jamesmacarthur.com. All rights reserved.

Site best viewed at 800x600 or higher screen resolution.