I Love My Husband But—
By Faith Service
Modern Screen magazine, June 1935
I could have loved these other five men too! Says Norma Shearer, one of Hollywood’s happily married stars
Norma was a flame the other day. Every exciting woman is half a dozen other women combined in one. Sometimes one mood is uppermost, sometimes another.
I have seen Norma in many moods…as the vital and efficient star preparing for a new production…as the gracious hostess…as small Irving’s competent mother…as a girl lazing on the beach…
The other day the actress was uppermost in Norma. She wore a tea-gown of some incredible shade of pale flame, gold ornaments at the throat, gold-girdled, gold-sandaled. Her lovely, rich brown hair hung loosely to her shoulders. We talked together in her new dressing room on the MGM lot…a dressing room all crystal and strange green, pervaded with that same pale flame shade…there was something in the atmosphere that day that suggested the perfumes of applause and roses, romance and strange adventuring.
Norma said suddenly, “I shall always find men attractive. An actress, an artist should live colorfully and dangerously in his or her imagination. And, if one is in love with one man, loves deeply, that should make all men seem more attractive. The same is true of children. Very often children, as a whole, may not arouse your interest until you have a child of your own. And then, when you do have a child, when you have grown to love it tenderly through its different enchanting stages, you find yourself responding spontaneously to all children, appreciating all of their little moods and eccentricities. I first fell in love when I was eight. I have been in love with someone ever since…”
Adrian appeared at this revealing moment to show Norma some of the dramatic sketches he has made of the elaborate costumes of Marie Antoinette, which is to be Norma’s next picture. And for which she is having headdresses made, sketches drawn, materials carefully selected.
When he had gone, Norma poured sherry into two tiny jeweled glasses and said, “I remember when I was in the second grade at school…there I met the first object of my affections. He had red hair and didn’t know that I was on earth. And then, a little later, a soft young cheek held close enough to mine for me to feel the warmth..asking eyes and tender goodbyes and funny little twisted gold rings worn on the ring finger. And still later, in New York, a little more grown up, getting my first thrills when I was taken out by a young sophisticate, terribly impressive, with shiny black hair and dancing feet, he was a Wall Street boy. Then, hot summer nights on the Biltmore roof, Park Avenue and a rich man’s spoiled son with football games and tete-a-tete teas at the Ritz…more farewells and promises ‘never to forget’…and then Hollywood!”
“Hollywood with men who have been chosen from all parts of the world for their charm, their appeal. I have been fortunate. I can think easily of five men whom I have found attractive, each in a different way. Five men with whom it was easy to pretend that I was in love…”
“There was Leslie Howard…Leslie, true spiritual, who can wear the lace frills and bend the knee with such grace and conviction. Leslie with those amazing blue eyes that so dreamily can contemplate the past then suddenly become electrified with a fervent contemplation of the present. Leslie, who in ‘Berkeley Square’ said, ‘I love you’ and said it more divinely than it has ever been said before. Leslie who, when kissing one woman, makes every woman in the audience feel as though she has been kissed, too.”
“Leslie attracts women because he has a great sex magnetism. Ah, that surprises you! But it is so. Leslie is the perfect combination of the physical and the spiritual. He conveys the feeling of romance which endured through the ages, of love everlasting. That is why, as Mooneyeen Clare, it was so easy for me to respond to Leslie for that little, lovely while…”
“And then there is Clark…Clark Gable. His beauty is thrilling. I suppose it sounds silly to call anyone as rugged as Clark ‘beautiful’…I hope he will forgive me. But he is beautiful, from his head to his feet. He is rhythmic, unconsciously alive with a powerful, effortless grace. He was the first leading man on the screen who could be cruel, even slap a woman in the face and make other women love him for it.”
“Clark is the Great lover without any of the morbid, tragic aspects of emotionalism. He is the type with whom a woman could roam the hills and highways of the world, loving and laughing lustily. He doesn’t take himself seriously in any way, which is his greatest charm. He would never die for love. He would be far more likely to laugh and ride away, like a strong wind, leaving you breathless…”
“Bob…Bob Montgomery,” Norma stretched her slim length on the dull green divan and laughed, the low delighted laugh of a girl looking over old dance programmes, remembering a waltz, a summer moon, a boy. “Bob,” said Norma, “symbolizes moonlight and prom thrills, sophisticated young love. In our first scene together on the screen we danced on a mirrored floor to the strains of ‘The Blue Danube’ and I thought, then, ‘A girl could dance to Heaven in his arms’. Our personalities react spontaneously, the one to the other, when we are on screen. He is effervescent and gay. He has the joy of living and a witty mind.”
“I always have the feeling that, before I became an actress, I knew Bob or had been in love with somebody just like him. I seem to remember the lines we speak, the moods, the very gestures we are living through together. In fact one day, during the taking of a scene, we both forgot our lines and it didn’t matter in the least. We just ad-libbed our way through the rest of the scene, speaking lines we seemed to have spoken before and the director never knew the difference! Bob typifies every girl’s beau. Some of my happiest, craziest moments on the set have been moments spent with Bob…”
“And then there is Freddie…Freddie March. The delightful, lovable Freddie of ‘Smilin’ Through’ and ‘The Barretts’. Freddie has the heart of a true actor. I am sure he would rather act than eat or sleep. I told him one day that no one should get paid for doing something that is as much fun as acting is to him. (He didn’t agree with me!) Anyway, while I was memorizing lines and making wild dashes between dressing room and stage, hoops flying, Freddie would be polishing up his imitation of John Barrymore or doing a Douglas Fairbanks, much to the amusement of the company. I would be quite likely to find him hanging from the chandelier of hiding under the couch, much to the distress of his valet, who would be keeping an anxious eye on a pair of carefully pressed trousers, which were to clothes Mr. Browning’s restless limbs for the remainder of the day.”
“And yet, underneath the splendid clowning, Freddie has an intensity which is very captivating. He is the impudent Romeo. Wise-cracks and kisses, laughter and sex-appeal, that is Freddie.”
“Bart…Bart Marshall,” and Norma’s voice dropped, unconsciously to a graver, more somber note. “Bart is so appealing on the screen because he has a beautiful courtesy and he suffers so. It is easy to act with Bart. You never have to worry about how he is going to do a scene.” Norma laughed, rather tenderly. “If he has to kiss you,” she said, “he never fumbles, never hits your nose by mistake, never disarranges your hair, never makes one awkward move. When he plays a scene with you he makes you feel as though you are the only woman who has ever existed in this world. By his hands, by the very inflections of that velvety voice, by the caress of his eyes, he can make you seem desirable and, by so doing, make all women seem desirable. And Bart’s charm doesn’t stop with the click of the camera. A few moments later I have heard him speak to a script girl on the set, ask her to do some little favor for him, and he will have the same tender courtesy in his voice that he would have if he were begging a favor of a legendary queen.”
“A woman, I think, is like a finely tuned violin. Each hand draws forth a different melody. Some melodies are transient and die on the air as soon as they are born, in the heart as soon as they as they are heard. Other melodies vibrate the heartstrings for as long as the heart beats. These are the emotions which keep our hearts in tune with life, in tune with love. So that, when we meet the man who has the combined charms of all the men we have ever known, he will be able to play a symphony on our heartstrings and we will know that we have met the Master’s touch.”