Jump to: navigation, search

Hollywood Magazine (1943) - Under Contract--To The Marines


  • article: Suspicion
  • author(s): Macdonald Carey
  • journal: Hollywood Magazine (February 1943)
  • issue: volume 31, issue 3, page 46 & 50-51
  • journal ISSN:
  • publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc.



Under Contract--To The Marines

I'm writing this on December 14, 1942. I've already been sworn into the Marine Corps and I have my uniform. Tomorrow morning I report for active duty, and if you think I'm not tickled pink, you should see an actor after twenty-one curtain calls.

It was while I was working in Paramount's Wake Island, that I became so interested in the Marine Corps, its tradition and its future, that I wandered down to a recruiting sergeant and tried out for a duration contract. They do a lot of type casting in that corps, but I almost failed to get the role I wanted.

As a matter of fact, I almost said my farewell to Hollywood before I even got into uniform. I don't think I'm revealing a trade secret when I say that nearly everyone in radio or legit hopes to get a crack at pictures at one time or another.

We may love the air around a broadcasting station or backstage, but there is nothing wrong with the west coast ozone, either. And then, think of the much larger audience you can reach through motion pictures. Naturally, I was pretty happy when Paramount tested me while I was working in New York in Lady in the Dark. I had been tested two years before, but that test had been slightly sour.

One morning the following things happened: my engagement to Elizabeth Crosby Heckscher was announced; I received a contract from Paramount, and a call from my draft board. It looked as if Mars had stolen the bases from Cupid and Thespis. The only thing to stop him was a fast double play, so I rushed down to the draft board, took an examination, and asked permission to marry. Love won, and Betty and I were married at Bryn Mawr on May 4, 1941.

I was still working in Lady in the Dark, which didn't close until June 15. Meanwhile I was doing a radio show every morning, then rehearsals in the afternoon, so our honeymoon had to be postponed. When the show closed I had heard nothing more from my draft board, so Betty and I decided to drive to California. I had been in Los Angeles once before, but the circumstances of that previous visit had given me an exaggerated idea of the beauty of the place. You see, along in 1933 I thought I was a writer, so I felt that I needed to see "Life."

I had signed on a freighter from New York, filled with visions of exotic lands. What I saw on that voyage through the canal and up the west coast was the inside of a churning, heaving, odoriferous tub. Jonah, compared to me, had accommodations in the Bridal Suite of the Queen Mary. When we docked I wanted to kiss the mud flats.

Meanwhile, I had heard a good deal about the behavior of Hollywood toward inductees from the New York stage. Frankly, on my return visit I was prepared for a dragon's den and was all set to be crushed by an avalanche of indifference.

To my gradual and sweet surprise I found everyone friendly, interested and eager to be of help. I sat around for four months, waiting for an assignment—or for some critical activity from my draft board—but nothing happened until I was cast in Doctor Broadway.

I had just finished it and was set for Take a Letter, Darling, when I had a call from my California board. It seemed that there had been some delay in getting my papers transferred from New York, but now I was to appear for another check-up. This time I was assured there would again be a slight delay for station identification.

After the second picture was finished, we gave up our house in Beverly Hills, and went back to New York. Here we were told there would be a further delay in my induction, so I hurried back to the coast alone to work in Wake Island.

That picture hit me hard. I began to think, eat and sleep Marine Corps. But when I went through my physical for the Marines, what do you think happened? The Navy doctors found that I was color blind!

Have you ever planned on something with your whole heart? Have you ever talked something up to yourself until it has assumed the stature of a colossus in your mind? Then you'll know how I felt about losing a part in the cast of this biggest of all shows, It might have been easier to bear if Betty had been with me, but she was in New York.

I talked it over with some of my friends and one of them told me about the Bates Method, a system of eye-training and relaxation that works wonders. I wrote to Betty, telling her that there was no way of knowing how long I'd be here, and that I needed her—so please come home.

Then I set to work under the instruction of a Bates Method teacher in an attempt to cure my trouble. The results were amazing. I couldn't believe it myself. Within a few weeks there was a great improvement.

It began to be a race between my eyesight and the Army. Now the Army is fine—one of my brothers is a lieutenant; and the Navy is splendid—his twin is an ensign. But the Marine Corps was for me. Besides, I'm just sentimental enough to want a Carey in each branch of the service.

Every night when I went home, I sneaked up to the mail box. No news. No long important looking envelope containing one of those Mr. Carey-doesn't-dare-regret invitations.

I was working on a Hitchcock picture, and my sight was improving by the day, when I received a request from my draft board to come down for another blood test. It seems that the first tube had been broken on its way to the laboratory—which explained my long reprieve.

After I gave my blood, I returned to the Marine recruiting headquarters and went through a second physical. Before it was over, three Navy doctors had examined my eyes. They studied my charts, asked me questions, and shook their heads in wonder. But they passed me! I was sworn into the Officer Candidate's Class. I can tell you that I went out of that building and stepped into a bright pink cloud. You should have seen Betty when I told her—I think she was almost as jubilant as I was.

When I told Paramount my approximate induction date, they scheduled Salute for Three as my last picture for the duration. Then they drew up one of those fascinating contracts that calls for my services for at least one year after the Big Show is over.

It now appears clear that during my First Act sequence in Hollywood, I spent most of my time waving goodbye. Or rather, I hardly got close enough to Hollywood, during my seventeen months here, to be able to say goodbye.

Betty and I did the usual things that newcomers do. During our first month in town we went to Ciro's once a week. Then, having polished that off our "must do" list, we quit. We haven't been back since.

We went to the beach a lot during the summer. Since I was born in Sioux City, Iowa, water in quantity has always seemed pretty impressive. My first glimpse of ocean was caught in New York, but I never got as well acquainted with the Atlantic as I have with the Pacific. From the things I hear about the Marine Corps, I may get to know it even more intimately.

I had heard a great deal about drive-ins, but I was a little disappointed with the institution. Maybe because I was so colorblind when I first came out here that I didn't get full value from the sight of those trig uniforms in rainbow hue.

In one thing, I have been overwhelmingly surprised: the kindness of motion picture fans. I can't thank those who have written to me in any adequate manner, except to assure them that I deeply appreciate the nice things they said.

To all the directors, the actors and actresses, and the technicians with whom I have worked in Hollywood, may I express my gratitude.

That's telling Hollywood. From now on I tell it to the Marines!