"Sunday Pop" by Fredda Dudley
Movie Stars Parade - April 1945
"It was mid-afternoon on the first day of shooting on 'Her Highness and The
Bellboy'. Over in a corner of the mammoth sound stage the Cradle Club
was in session -- as it had been, except for occasional time out to shoot a
scene or two, since early morning. Hedy Lamarr was knitting busily on
a wee white bootie for the family addition she and hubby John Loder expect
come June. Bob Walker was pacing the floor.
'How about it?' called that father of two sons as his stand-in, Freddy Spitz, turned from the telephone. Hedy increased her knitting pace nervously. Bob sank dejectedly into a nearby chair. Freddy leaned against a backdrop.
Bob and Freddy are pals, although Freddy, who was an Austrian Army Captain in World War I, is about fifteen or twenty years Bob's senior. Freddy is now an American citizen, of course. So highly does Bob regard him, both as buddy and patriot, that Bob was instrumental in securing a contract with Metro for Mr. Spitz, making Freddy one of the very few stand-ins in the business who is under contract.
It was not quite five minutes later that Freddy made his 91st assault on the Bell System, to come away wearing the expression of a man who has just won a carton of cigarettes in an office pool -- ecstatic is the word.
'My son, Rudolph Robert Spitz, just weighed in at six and a half pounds,' he announced.
Bob shook hands with the jubliant man. Hedy sighed in relief and murmured her congratulations and, after a respectable interval, Father Walker ventured:
'Michael, my younger son, weighed nine pounds when he was born. A whopper. And Bobby, he's four now, weighed eight and a half. They're really a rugged pair. Wait until your lad is two. Now you take Michael, for instance...'
Bob had the floor at the Cradle Club.
His boys are Bob's magnificant obsession. Because he figures kids belong with their mother, he hasn't even asked Jennifer for any partial custody arrangement whereby they'd live with him part of the year and her the rest -- since his and 'Phyl's' separation, but no Sunday (his only free day) goes by that he doesn't at least look in for an hour or two on Bobby and Michael. The boys are both miniature Bobs.
Mike's the sensitive one. Sensitive of mind and spirit, that is. His chubby body is a junior edition of a marine corps sergeant.
He is, in addition to his physical ruggedness, a conversationalist of great endurance. Whenever he is with his father he climbs into the parental lap and sets forth on a prodigious yarn. He is going to have a house, one day, with a hundred rooms and an electric train in each room.
'When you can't keep the one train you now have in working order, how are you going to attend to 100 electric trains?' his spoil-sport dad wants to know.
Michael ignores such frivolous interruptions, although he knows that Bob has spent as much as three hours the Sunday before bending tracks back into shape, removing the accordian pleats from cars and re-soldering switches.
Michael continues his prophecies. He is going to own a motorcycle exactly like 'Mr. Wynn's.' (Keenan Wynn, one of Bob's best friends.) But he is going to turn corners even faster than Mr. Wynn does, which would establish some sort of centrifugal record.
Bob, too, is a motorcycle fan, but a short while back he cracked into a wall that didn't crack and was laid up for several weeks. Soon as he could hobble, MGM delivered an ultimatum. No more two cylinder speed stuff -- or else. Bob had promised Mike that when he was a big boy he could ride on his pop's motorcycle. He figures Mike's references to Wynn's Harley Davidson prowess may be a snide reminder that he's not forgotten that promise.
Michael is also going to fly a P-38, a B-24 and a Fortress. In what spare time he has left Michael is going to raise dogs, starting of course with his present pet, a handsome boxer named Lady Brook.
Brook was the most recent gift received by Michael and Bobby from their daddy. Bob secured the dog when she was only a few weeks old, but he kept her sequestered at his bachelor quarters in Mandeville Canyon until she was nearly five months, hence a match for her Tarzanian young masters.
Lately Bob's house has kept him almost as busy as his sons. It was partially furnished when he moved in, having secured a man to cook for him and to maintain general household order. The man looked with jaundiced eye upon the new surroundings, and mentioned certain shortages. No silver. No cooking utensils. No china service.
So Bob went shopping...and collided with a situation painfully known to every housewife in the land. He did secure some cutlery -- mediocre steel blades and tines inserted in red plastic handles. But by the time this simple purchase was made -- after a dozen false starts -- Bob was disgusted. When regaling the Wynns with his problem, Bob was encouraged to consult a decorator by Evie. It seemed like a solid idea.
The decorator was a charming woman who promptly began to bombard the Walker menage with bundles great and small. First to arrive was a huge drum table. 'Not for me,' announced Bob, after comparing it to the rest of the furniture; it was so new, so elegant that it stood out like a white peacock at a sage hens' convention. Back went the peacock.
Next came a set of bathroom rugs -- all a tender pink. Bob sprang backward about two feet when he unwrapped the package. 'E-e-e-k!' said he. 'Not in my house!'
Round three found a huge cast-iron soup pot reposing on the Walker doormat; it was large enough to make the chef in any hotel kitchen cry 'Hosanna, at last we won't run out of soup, even if we entertain the American Legion Convention!'
However, after these three bad starts, Bob returned from the studio one night to find that he had been supplied with a complete set of glassware; oyster cocktail glasses, tumblers, wine glasses, champagne glasses, even orange juice glasses. Those, he kept. Also in this package was a rolling pin. Make up your own joke. Bob kept it.
He acquired his most prized possesion in a much simpler manner. While he was having his hair cut in the studio barbershop one day, he mentioned that he certainly wished that record players were back on the market. The head barber spoke up -- he had an excellent combination radio and record player, and he would be glad to dispose of it, along with his extensive collection of pre-war records, at a reasonable rate. Lap dissolve. The next scene shows Mr. Robert Walker sitting cross-legged on the floor before his newly acquired record player, testing his inventory of the classics, platter by platter. He really had something.
Having satisfied himself of their worth, Bob decided to invite his friends in to share his pleasure in these acquisitions. First came the Wynns and, to make it a foursome, Judy Garland, with whom he worked in 'The Clock', Freddy Spitz and the Missus, and Martha O'Driscoll, Van Johnson and June Allyson and Shirley Patterson, lovely Metro starlet.
Shirley is currently Bob's steadiest feminine friend. She and her parents live in one of those gracious old homes in Pasadena. Bob usually arrives at the Patterson house before eleven on a Sunday morning to accompany Shirley and her parents to church. Sometimes after services he is a grateful dinner guest at their home, and on such afternoons -- the time of his engagement with Bobby and Michael permitting -- he and Shirley allot themselves one A-ticket on which to cruise around Pasadena. A favorite rambling spot -- to save gasoline -- is the celebrated Busch Garden, a long-time show place for tourists. Because Bob wears glasses when he is away from the studio, few of the other visitors in the Garden recognize him.
Between his other activities, Bob finds a little time to read. That, though, can hardly be classed as relaxation, for no sooner does he start on a new tome than he becomes engrossed in casting it for future movie production. He's got himself nicely sewed up in the role of the confused, tortured boy in 'Strange Fruit,' and he has Jennifer Jones as 'Amber' in 'Forever Amber.'
'Phyl,' he says, 'would be magnificant as Amber.'
Lately he's been disturbed because she seemed to be drawing none but goody-goody roles. Amber would be a change of pace for her and give her a chance to show another side of her dramatic abilities, which he maintains stoutly are just about the finest in town. There's no self-consciousness when he talks about Jennifer, only genuine admiration. Torch carrying? Well, maybe he hasn't entirely given up hope they can patch things up. It'd be kind of nice to 'belong' at home again, 'stead of being just a Sunday Pop -- 'specially when you've got that not only Sunday but Monday and always feeling about it."
Copyright Movie Stars Parade