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My (Very) Brief Film Scene Career
It was the Shirley Temple era, and mothers of cute little girls took them to singing and dancing and acting lessons.
Agencies and studios for such activities had sprung up all over the place. I don't really remember a lot about this --maybe a little about the singing lessons, some tap dancing .
"Out, back, down... out, back ,down" -- that was the basic step and I don't believe I went much beyond that, before everyone decided that I had no aptitude for dancing at all.
Apparently I was better at singing and memorizing little speeches in dialects. There were also a few sessions at a photo studio where we had some publicity shots taken.
I was surely destined to be a child star. (Don't call me Shirley.)
The photographer, shooting photos of me for a range of expressions, told me a story about a kitty cat who got hit by a car, to get my sad expression. It worked.
Occasionally there were little shows and presentations. Where I usually sang. I remember that mom made me a costume of dark green taffeta with fluffy pink net sleeves. It itched.
On the way to stardom
I sang "Mighty Like a Rose" , "Always", and perhaps "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah".
A day or so after such a performance, Mom would take me down to Kress Store for me to choose a toy as a reward. I never quite understood why I should be rewarded for ding something fun. She would always try to talk me out of things like cap guns and rubber knives.
I wasn't much of a doll fancier. I think one reason for this was we went to movies every week and they were usually cowboys, or pirates.
It always seemed unfair that the men in the movies got to do the fun things, like defending the wagon train from the attacking Indians or swinging down from the rigging of a sailing ship with a gleaming sword in one hand, while the women were mostly helpless and silly.
Finally -- The Movies
I do remember my first job at Fox Studios in Hollywood, California -- well actually it was my only job at any studio. I may have had the world's shortest show business career.
Mom took me to the studio and stood in the back while the film rolled. At least I assume she stood there. It was impossible to see beyond the banks of bright lights.
In those days there were commercials in between movies in the theaters, this was one of those. I have no idea what we were advertising, and though we always hoped, and went regularly to the movies, we never saw the finished production.
There were lots of lights and cameras and scaffolds and stands and people carefully stepping between and over the mazes of cables and electric cords. There was a man with one of those snap boards that had the black and white lines on it, and another man who told everyone what to do. (the director)
I could have been a star!
No action scenes
As luck would have it, I didn't get a cowboy or pirate role. Strangely enough I played the part of a little girl in a family, which was something I had experience with.
There were several scenes which I remember quite well, all with a domestic theme. None of them had any dialogue, though we were told in some of them that we could talk to each other.
In one shot I was on the floor of a living room set, in front of the couch with a coloring book and crayons.
I don't remember what the other actors were doing. It was my job just to color. I was a good colorer.
In another scene we were gathered around a dinner table. There may have been six or seven people all together and dinner was being served. I think there was also a little boy in the "pretend family", but I don't specifically remember who else was there, except the "dad" actor.
This is one of the shots where we could talk to each other, while smiling and acting pleasant. I remember asking the 'dad' actor, sitting next to me, if he was supposed to be my daddy.
He said yes rather hesitantly... as if he weren't quite sure, and I told him that he didn't look anything like my real daddy. I also told him that I was glad we didn't have to eat the dinner, because I didn't like peas. He said he didn't care for them much either.
This was quite amazing to me, as I had never heard of an adult who would admit to not liking peas. I often wonder what lip readers might think of this scene...and for all I know we could have been advertising peas.
The BIG Scene
Because there were legal limits on the number of hours a child could work, it seems to me that we had to take a long lunch break. When Mom and I came back , they were set up for a kitchen scene. (This was my big one.)
It involved my movie mom and I coming into the kitchen with paper bags filled with groceries, which we set on the counter. This required some effort for me, as the counter was high, and I was short.
Then I was offered cookies from a plate. My direction was to take a cookie, look at it, get up close to the stove and take as big of a bite of the cookie as I could.
It seems to me that we re-shot this one two or three times, each time the director telling me to "take a bigger bite". At home this would have seemed an impolite and unladylike way to eat a cookie, but I did my best. I was a good direction follower.
The retakes were good, because the cookies were delicious. I got 16 dollars for my day's work. Life was very good for a five year old girl. Imagine getting paid all that money for coloring, not having to eat peas and eating cookies.
We went to the movies once a week and always hoped we would see the one starring me.
We never did.
Please share your own show business experiences in the comments, below.