Our company is the largest manufacturer of cast iron and plastic soil pipe in the country.  We also make artillery shells for the military.   General James van Fleet sits on our Board of Directors.

He lives in Florida.  When he comes in to the office, I sometimes do secretarial work for him.   He is always courteous, with a sort of old world charm.

He would say to me, you should be in the movies.  Even though he is also on the Board of Twentieth Century Fox, I take it as just his way of giving me a compliment.   People say things like that very casually.

One day, he says that Fox is looking for an exotic looking girl for a part in a movie called Sand Pebbles.  Steve McQueen is starring, and the filming will be in China.

General van Fleet says they tell him that not all beautiful girls photograph well.   Do I have a close-up photo?

I show him a photo.



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He says how can they turn that down?

I may not look oriental enough for the part.

Oh, I’m sure they can fix that.

Just in case, a friend finds a professional make-up artist who makes me up to look more oriental without any drastic changes.  A photographer of cinema stills takes new photos.

Next time General van Fleet comes in, he hands me two tickets.   They are tickets to a dinner dance to benefit some Greek organization.

These were given to me, but I can’t make it.  Take your boyfriend and enjoy yourselves.


White is my best color.  I wear a white satin gown with a sprinkle of faux diamonds glittering on the bodice, and no jewelry whatsoever.  Liam says, you look like a million dollars.

He is tall and handsome in a rented tuxedo.  You don’t look so shabby yourself.

He jokes that we should join the jet set before we lose our looks.

The hotel lobby is filling up with guests in finery to impress Croesus himself.  Greek potentates swagger in with wives and girlfriends showing off megawatt carats and stunning couture creations.

Suddenly, people are moving aside.   I see a small group of people arrive.   An old man in the center of this group is looking directly at me.


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You look like a movie star, he says.

Then people close in around him.

Immediately, a man tells me that it was Spyros Skouras who spoke to me.   Mr. Skouras is the Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox.   He gives me a business card and an appointment with Skouras at Fox.

Dr. Lowen asks why did you want to be in movies.

I didn’t know what I really wanted.    I thought that maybe if I were in movies the man who was meant for me would find me.   Besides, all kinds of people were saying to me, you should be in the movies.    Bartenders.   Cab drivers.   Photographers stopped me on the street and asked to photograph me.

No, what was your real reason?

Deep down I was beginning to doubt that I would ever find that man who was meant for me.  I was beginning to think that I couldn’t really love any man in the way I imagined love should be.  It was me.  I had spent too many years associating love with God himself.

I was ready to find something else that I wanted to do.

I am in the reception area at Fox.  You cannot miss the festive mood.   This is the morning after The Sound of Music opened to rave reviews.   They are saying, The Sound of Money!  It is the good news they need.

I know that Fox has been in financial trouble.  I know this because besides being CEO of a public company, my boss has a couple of small companies of his own.  One is a factoring company.   I hear a lot about people’s financial ups and downs.

Filming the extravaganza Cleopatra had been bankrupting Fox, although there are always a slew of things wrong when you get to this point.  In any case, there had been a shake-up a few years ago.

In desperation, Skouras himself, then President of Fox, called back Darryl Zanuck from Paris, where for years he has been living in 5-star hotels and producing independent films.  They made Zanuck President, giving him the humongous job of trying to bring Fox back from the brink.

Skouras was kicked upstairs.   No one expects him to like it.   It was Skouras who had brought in General James van Fleet to sit on their Board of Directors, back in the plush days.  General van Fleet is a war hero to the Greeks.

As soon as I walk into Skouras’s large, drab office, the festive mood evaporates.

Sitting behind the big desk, he seems older than the man I saw at the benefit.   He does not rise from the desk.  He does not ask me to sit down or at least put down the portfolio of photos I brought with me.

First thing he says is you have too much make-up on.

I am startled.  He saw me in full evening war paint and said I looked like a movie star.  I have a minimum of daytime make-up on.  Maybe he means the mascara and touch of eye-liner most of us New Yorkers wear to the office every day.

You don’t need all that paint on your face, he continues, it does nothing for you.

That gentle touch of transparent blush?

Then it dawns on me, this is deja vu.   Shades of Dr. Verschieden!   I keep my pleasant listening attitude and say nothing.

He asks me how much money I am earning at my present job, as if I were applying for a job on the payroll.   He says, that much, huh?  Actually, like everyone else at the office, I think I am underpaid.

It is a very short interview.

As he rises from his desk, he says, in the meantime, you should take acting lessons.  There is a class I want you to be in.   It is Sandy Meisner’s.  My assistant will give you the details.

Come with me, he says, you are going to meet Robert Wise.  He is directing Sand Pebbles.  Did you bring your photos?  Only now he notices that I have been holding my portfolio all this time.

Robert Wise has an office down the hall.  He is very gracious.  He shakes my hand, takes my photos, and promises to look at them.

I go to the acting class.  There are a lot of aspiring starlets in it.  One young woman introduces herself to me.   She is Stella, and she is Greek-American.

While the teacher, a middle-aged man who is definitely not Sandy Meisner directs a couple in a scene, Stella tells me about herself.  She says she has always wanted to be a movie star, since she was a little girl.  That’s the only thing she ever wanted to be.  If she doesn’t become a star, she says, she might as well kill herself!

Wow!  I hope she makes it.

What is she doing now?  She is getting ready for acting roles.   In the meantime, she goes on junkets and other events for Fox.   I guess she is on the payroll.   She knows that Spyros Skouras sent me to this acting class.  Skouras sent her also.

The teacher overhears and remarks that just because Skouras sent you to this class it does not mean that you will get a role.   He sounds bitter.  Stella ignores him.

For the next class we are sent to a low-rent neighborhood, in an ugly, almost bare room.   Most of the starlets are gone.  There are only a handful of students.  I would have thought that the acting teacher has been demoted for his tactless remark, but Stella is still here.

The teacher gives all his attention to one slightly chubby wannabe.   The same thing happens in the next class.  Same thing happens in the third class.  I am paying for these wretched sessions myself, even though it’s peanuts, and I am wondering what’s up.

The teacher pairs us off to practice scenes as homework.  I meet with a quiet, pleasant young man.  He is a hairdresser.   He looks a little like Eddie Fisher, but he can’t sing.  He can’t act either.

However, he knows worlds I am completely unaware of.  He regales me with wicked stories about vain older women, which I store up as object lessons for the future.

He sees that I am more naïve than I look, and he tells me that the reason we never get a chance to do scenes in class is that the teacher is screwing the chubby girl.

I stop going to acting class.  Nobody says boo.

At least I can be thankful that the movie star bug did not bite me the way it bit Stella.

1 Comment

  1. Alan Terry Wright


    I am fascinated with this portion of your memoir. I am a retired partner of a large international securities firm and am the author of a published historical novel, “Murder on Rouse Hill.” In retirement, I am continuing with my writing and am currently writing an extensive article about the making of a 20th Century Fox movie in 1952 entitled “The Glory Brigade.” The movie starred Victor Mature with young relatively unknown actors Richard Egan and Lee Marvin.

    I am fascinated with your acquaintance with General James A. Van Fleet and Spyros Skouras. It is my thesis that Skouras’s acquaintance with Van Fleet originated with Van Fleet’s role in the Greek Civil War after WWII and is one of the reasons for the movie’s plot about the interplay of U.S. and the Greek Brigade fighting together in Korea. Of course Van Fleet was the last commanding general of the 8th Army in Korea.
    of note before the truce in 1953. President Harry S. Truman was quoted as saying Van Fleet was his finest General, having won both the “war in Greece and the Korean War.”

    Anything that you might add concerning the relationship between Van Fleet and Skouras would be greatly appreciated. One thing would be the name of the company you were working for when you met General Van Fleet.

    Your picture on the website is indeed stunning and I can understand why Van Fleet would have referred you to Skouras..

    Thank you in advance!

    Alan Terry Wright
    Pawleys Island, SC