These two articles appeared side by side in Filmland, August 1950. They were written while Robert Walker and Joan Leslie were filming "The Skipper Surprised His Wife".

"Men Are So Wonderful" by Joan Leslie - Filmland Magazine - August 1950


"When I was a little girl, we had an Uncle Johnny. He was in the
eighties then and he used to give my sister and me lessons in how to
row a boat, how to catch minnows, how to stir a cup of tea (you
stirred the way you row a boat, back and forth, not in a circle). We
used to love to hear him, and as time has gone by I've realized that
the reason a man can be fundamentally so efficient is because his
approach is thoroughly programmed. He approaches each bit of living
with strategy as if it were a business deal while women are inclined
to be more emotional, more imaginative.

I can see it in my dad who never did anything about a house until
after my mother's recent death. He's so methodical, such a good cook
and gardener and he brings his sense of humor along with his
efficiency into everything he does. I've seen it in men like ex-
Governor Herbert M. Maw of Utah who played host to us when I sparked
the Salt Lake City drive to raise money to feed the children of the
world. He drove us everywhere, showed us museums, relics, took us
through the Mormon Temple, all without hurry. When we began worrying
about whether or not we had time to catch our plane, it developed
that the Governor was going to fly out of town thirty minutes before
we were!

All good actors have to be efficient. They must have a fundamental
emotional control and the ability to turn a performance on and off.
One of the most perfect and disciplined workers I've ever known is
Fred Astaire. We danced together in 'The Sky's the Limit' and it was
an exhilarating experience. It was hard work too, believe me. I
remember memorizing the first dance routine, then practicing over and
over through an entire day. Finally Fred said, 'Have you got it
now? Are you ready to shoot tomorrow?' Oh yes, I was quite ready.
There were two and one-half choruses, six different formations of
steps, three different cuts, three different camera angles -- I was
ready and I was exhausted. 'Okay,' Fred said, 'we'll do it once
more.' So we did, mechanically this time, putting it in our
subconscious indelibly. The next day we did the dance before the
cameras; and with all his mastery of technique and precision, Fred
had one more added touch, a spontaneity. He talked while we danced,
just enough to keep me free and easy.

Another efficient man is James Cagney. I remember the script
conferences they had during 'Yankee Doodle Dandy.' Jim knew the
character of Cohan and he dominated the conferences in which the
script was written before each scene. One of the songs was 'Off The
Record' and those lyrics had to be keyed to the topical, the
political scene of that minute. Jim had his finger on everything
that made the Cohan film a success, no detail was too minute --
script, music, lyrics, acting, direction, you felt on the whole the
impact of a logical mind.

Fred MacMurray is another organizer par excellence. He and I
rehearsed together for 'Where Do We Go From Here?', we had
conferences before each scene and it was his taste that kept the
whimsical fantasy from being blown to the winds.

Bob Walker has the same quality and it gives me such a sense of
security, working with him in 'The Skipper Surprised His Wife'. Bob
works artfully. He knows just where he's going. In some scenes of
the picture, he's subjected to the highest kind of comedy and
everyone has advice: 'If when your hands get caught in the mangle,
the dog should catch your foot...' 'And if you did a double-
take...' Bob keeps one hundred percent to reality. His sales
resistance is wonderful and in his characterization I feel he brings
out one factor that is so true -- a man can bring unqualified
efficiency to house-work because it is not a permanent necessity,
where to a woman who faces the same routine every day, that routine
must be varied and leave room for some personal expression.

You can learn so much from a man like my attorney, Oscar Cummins. It
has always amazed me how he can cope with more than a hundred phone
calls a day bearing on every sort of case or business. His secret is
the note system. Each call is immediately transcribed to a note and
clipped to his blotter. By the end of the day, each paper clip is
back in its box, all the notes are answered. I have note pads now
and can't imagine how I managed before. They're in the kitchen,
beside my bed, beside the telephone, and a daily diary goes with me
in my purse.

And I've learned a great deal too from another busy man who always
seems to be able to accomplish more than other people. He's Dolf
Zimmer, assistant director on 'The Skipper'. He's down on the set an
hour before the crew, guides us over and around all obstacles during
the day, and at night organizes benefit shows, is constantly involved
with charities, develops youngsters with talent, writes and is never
hurried or harassed. That is so important because it is an easy
error to expend energy becoming frantic and the more energy spent
that way, the less one has for positive use.

I have a great respect for the orderly mind and for the calm and
peace that usually stands behind it. For it reflects a good
regulation of life and that's the first rule of health. The
competent men I've known -- actors, business men and priests -- have
given me examples I hope to emulate, for there are efficient women
too in this world and I'd love to be one of them."

"As to Women" by Robert Walker - Filmland - August 1950

"I'd never thought about a housewife's job until we started the
picture, 'The Skipper Surprised His Wife'. I'm the skipper in this
one and when my wife breaks her ankle, I have to take over the
household, plus the two kids, plus my studies at the Naval Sonar
School. It hit me when I first read the script, but it hit me ten
times harder when I started going through the household routine for
the cameras! What a thousand and one details there are which women
handle every day of their lives and handle so smoothly that most men
aren't even conscious of the 'handling'.

I know a little about housekeeping myself for my boys are eight and
nine now, and although our house is a very informal one, there are
certain minimum requirements as to food, clothes, and a well-ordered
routine. We have a Filipino boy who takes care of the cooking and a
house-keeper and when we're having guests, Petro and I get together
and devise what we think is a pretty fancy deal. But think of the
women who do this themselves, and the many of them who are career
girls to boot!

You know a secretary or a young actress who does her work with
complete efficiency, but in addition to that, she probably runs a
house, shops, cooks, does dishes, keeps herself attractive, and if
she has children, does a good job with them too. Take Dorothy
Kingsley who wrote the script of 'The Skipper'. She's a terrific
writer, a wife and a mother. Her third child was born while we were
shooting, but Dorothy was down on the set every day until a week
before the baby was born, and she was back on the set two weeks
after. Her house, in fact everything she touches, would have to run
just so because she's so talented and so fast and she puts her heart
in it.

Ava Gardner is another girl who is completely on the beam, who shows
up organized and bright and knowing her lines. We worked together
in 'One Touch of Venus' and it was challenging to meet her on the set
in the morning, realizing how much earlier she had to get up to get
to the studio. It takes me five minutes to get ready but it takes a
girl hours for make-up and wardrobe. The same when the day's
shooting is over. A fellow can just go home. A girl has to take off
make-up, change clothes, and then drive home.

Joan Leslie, like Ava, is so well organized. Her sureness amazes
me. In Joan, as in any good actress, efficiency means also
adaptability. She keeps flexible, takes direction quickly, almost
intuitively. There's a new little girl on the lot that's like that
too -- Phyllis Kirk. She was one of those who tested for Joan's
part. Phyllis has had experience in the theater but after all, this
is a new medium, and when we worked together in the test, she was so
fast, so quick to adapt to the people on the set, the crew, the

Where women have an edge on us, I think, is in their emotional
efficiency. They have so much capacity for feeling, they can summon
strength so often to share. My mother was like that. When my
brother Dick broke his arm, she was terrific. He had a bad fall, out
of a tree, and she saw it; but you'd never have thought anything
unusual had happened. She was completely calm, got him to the
doctor, fed and dressed him while it was in a cast. I'm sure she
must have fallen apart inside after the emergency was over, but while
it lasted, and for our sakes, she was organized and efficient.

I had a drama teacher like that in high school. Her name was Mrs.
Atkinson and she emanated security and peace to every kid in her
class. Teaching dramatics to a bunch of self-conscious high school
kids is no breeze, but Mrs. Atkinson was a woman thoroughly in
command of the situation. She had a powerful personality and nice
blonde hair and she taught the rudiments of acting without any
shortcuts or nonsense. She not only coached the class and staged the
plays, she built the scenery and took a hand at costumes. There was
nothing she couldn't do, and after a while, you relaxed and knew that
the play was going to come off and come off well. We did 'The Family
Upstairs' and 'Sun Up' and 'Smilin' Through' and had the time of our
lives. We also worked harder that we did in any other class because,
I guess, she accomplished so much and we wanted to do the same and
with all the organization and dispatch, she had the silkiest, nicest
Southern accent you ever heard.

That is one of the wonderful things about efficient women. They
usually have so much charm you aren't conscious of the three-ring
circus they handle with such dispatch. You go out to dinner and are
greeted by a hostess who looks so lovely and moves about among her
guests with such ease that you're inclined to accept the whole thing
without realizing the planning, the effort and the emotional
integrity behind it.

Not me. Not any more. After wrestling with a household myself a
bit, planning furniture and everything else on the wearable, durable
side so that it won't be necessary to harp on my kids 'don't do
this,' 'don't do that' -- I've learned a few things.

I don't believe that a man, no matter how well he organizes, can
quite compete, because his attack is mental. He may figure the
chores down to the last, the nth degree, and still not be able to
mesh it all with the emotional flexibility that can cope with a sick
child, a harassed man, or the problems of countless friends who need
moral support. Here's to 'em and God bless 'em."

Copyright "Filmland" Magazine

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