"Perplexed Pop" by Fredda Dudley - Modern Screen - November 1945
"It was Sunday;
a California Sunday soft with sunlight and riffled
with breeze. Two eager beavers stood at the window and watched the
highway with Superman eyes. These characters were named Bobby, aged
five, and Michael, aged four, and they were dressed in clean white
shirts and their best suits; their faces gleamed with soapy
cleanliness and their eyes glistened with anticipation."
the expected car swung into the driveway and two small
boys, yelling like Comanches, cataracted out of the house and down
the steps. "Hi, Pop," they yelled. "Hello, Daddy!"
unwound himself from the car and accepted the greeting of
his two sons much as an oak accepts the mantling admiration of a
smothering growth of ivy."
initial greeting was over, Michael announced from the
vicinity of Bob's left ear, "We saw you in the movie, Daddy. In an
airplane, Is an airplane hard to drive, Pop?"
"Bob said it
was just a picture. Those things were done in the
studio -- er -- an actor didn't have to be able to fly a plane, not
really. The studio....er....."
"And you fell
in the water and got all wet," added Bobby, the older
boy. "Mommy says that if we fall in the water and get wet we'll
catch a cold. Did you take cold, Daddy?"
that, in the studio, those things were arranged. One
got wet, yes, but it wasn't like being outdoors, and besides, every
comfort was provided. One took off one's wet clothes at once even if
the scene had to be shot over again... "You boys mustn't worry about
me. But if Mommy says you'll catch cold if you play in water, you'd
better pay attention."
his male parent with an accusing eye. "All the same,
when Bobby and I were in the picture show and we saw you and yelled
at you, and we said, 'Hello, Daddy,' well I think you should have
waved back at us," he said levelly."
hard. "Look, boys, that wasn't really I. I mean, it
was only a picture of me...."
"And Van Johnson
had his leg cut off!" groaned Michael. The boys
know Van Johnson well, and like him. They were very much upset over
his accident in "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo".
"So Bob went
into detail. He explained exactly how the illusion of a
legless Van Johnson was achieved and why it was necessary for actors
to create certain impressions. His sons listened carefully. At the
end of the recital, Bobby said in his gentle voice, "I still think
you should have waved back when we waved at you."
"Bob gave up.
It was apparent, he decided, that his sons were still
too young to understand the technical aspects of motion picture
"As soon as
he could change the subject, he asked what the boys
wanted to do to celebrate that Sunday (the day Bob always spends with
his sons). "We want to go to the zoo," announced Bobby. Bobby is the
sedate, gentle malleable son; Michael, a year younger, is the wild
up his two curly-headed, hazel eyed dictators, stowed
them in the car and was going through Beverly Hills when he had an
inspired idea. "Mike, since you're going to be a fireman," Bob
announced solemnly, "I thought you should take a look at the
his father a look that you could have used as a
halo. "Oh, Daddy!" he breathed."
Hills fire department is made up of a fine body of men.
They let both boys sit behind the huge steering wheels of the hook
and ladder section, the chemical wagon, and the chief's red coupe.
Each holding a boy, two cooperative firemen slid the poles, and both
Bob and Michael were allowed to wear an outsize hat during the tour."
were back in their own car, Bobby voiced the small boy's
ultimate compliment. "Gosh, Daddy, if you weren't a picture man, I'd
like to have you drive a fire engine."
rather have him be a pilot," said Michael, sticking to his
original story. "Was it hard to fly that big plane, Daddy? The one
Van Johnson flew when he got his leg cut off, Daddy?"
going to the zoo," said the representative of the older
justice to the monkeys, the lions, the China pheasants
and the peacocks, the male family Walker went to call on friends.
Actually, Bob thought a few moments in the presence of adults while
his sons played in the back yard with the children of his host, would
be refreshing for everyone concerned. Not until he arose to go --
after a pleasant forty minute chat -- did he discover what was going
on in the junior division. Both his sons, and the son and daughter
of his host, were hopping around on one leg. "Look at us," yelled
Bobby, "we're playing Van Johnson."
Johnson is very strenuous business (actually or make-
believe) so the boys announced, the instant they were back in the
car, their readiness for dinner. Bob has a favorite restaurant in
Beverly Hills where he likes to take his sons; the waiter understands
a perplexed pop."
the boys are seated, they announce the dish of their
choice; Ice cream and cake. "Yes, sir," says the waiter with proper
deference, "chocolate ice cream. And with it we are serving chicken,
mashed potatoes, green beans and whole wheat bread."
Sunday, Bob arranged the large napkins around a pair
of protesting necks. "I'm big," insisted Bobby. "I don't want to
have a bib like a baby. I want to be like you, Daddy."
monkey-does Michael never misses a trick. "Me, too,
All right. All three of us will wear our napkins around
our necks, said Bob. He knotted his own napkin just beneath his
chin, thinking that with his slim red face above the linen he
probably looked like a Christmas candle flaming above a snowy
tablecloth. Both boys were docile; they allowed themselves to be
as soon as Bobby and Michael were engrossed in
groceries, Bob loosened his napkin and allowed it to slip to his
lap. He began to enjoy his dinner. Beaming at his brood a few
moments later, he noticed that each sprout had quietly lowered his
own napkin to lap position."
why Bobby was decorated with chicken gravy at the
close of the meal, whereas Michael's shirt reflected his admiration
for chocolate ice cream."
the three satiated gentlemen drove to Bob's house and
settled, a cozy trio, in Bob's big chair behind a book, "The Little
Prince," by Antoine de St. Exupery. Much of the text is over the
heads of the two boys if one considers the actual words, but in a
good story, a story by one of the timeless tellers of tales, there is
a music, a rhythm that penetrates the spirit. Though the meaning of
the words may escape the young mind, Bob is convinced that the melody
enters in and remains. So, each Sunday, he reads some honest work of
literature to the boys."
"That the phraseology
is not lost was proved one night when Bob
returned his sons to Jennifer Jones. He kissed them good-night. He
said eagerly, "Well...didn't we have fun today?"
a profoundly ecstatic sigh. "Oh, Daddy, I am
extremely happy," thereby provoking an unsteady smile on his father's
Copyright Modern Screen