Frank Albertson — Sunny Disposish (1930) 🇺🇸

Frank Albertson — Sunny Disposish (1930) |

February 07, 2023

One bright, sunny morning I put a Sunday-go-to-meeting smile on my face and rang the bell of the Albertson domicile. Frank drew a corner of the curtain aside, took a squint, shouted, "No pencil-pushers need apply," and dropped the curtain back in place.

by Samuel Richard Mook

I gently broke the glass in the door and stepped gayly into the room. A delightful aroma of ham and eggs smote my sensitive nostrils. "Ah," I murmured, "just in time for breakfast."

"No," Frank corrected me, "just too late. We're on our last eggs now."

"Last legs, you mean," I retorted, as the rickety chair which no one had offered me collapsed.

"No, sir, eggs are my story and I'll stick to 'em. Eggscuse me for not offering you some," he added a moment later, as he cleaned up his plate.

I turned to his mother. "Mrs. Albertson," I pleaded, with tears in my eyes and a catch in my stomach, "I've come for an interview and —"

"A-ha!" shouted Frank, "an interview comes into my life!"

"— and I've got to have sustenance," I ended. "Nix, ma, nix," the fiend interrupted. "I've got a million things to tend to today, and if you get him started eating I'll never get away."

Once more I appealed to his mother. "Mrs. A.," I wheedled, "I've been trailing this guy for one solid week trying to get an interview out of him, and all I've got "

"Well, say!" Frank ejaculated. "Why do you have to see me to write your story? We've been knocking around together for almost a year now and you already know more about me than I know about myself. What is it you want?"

"Some ham and eggs," I persisted doggedly. "Aside from that, you might tell me where you were born."

"In bed," he answered innocently, and added as an afterthought, "Fergus Falls, Minnesota, February 2, 1909. Eventually we came here' to Hollywood and I registered with Central Casting, but the school authorities and truant officers felt that my education was more important than my career, so I had to go to school most of the time. Finally I went to Paramount, got a job in the still lab, and worked there for a couple of years. "By and by they had a reorganization and the new head hinted that I was about through. I thought I'd bluff 'em into keeping me, so I went over his head to Harold Hurley, who was chief of publicity at the time, and asked for a raise. When he recovered from his surprise, he gently intimated that I wasn't worth a raise. I stuck to my guns, though, and he eventually agreed to a five-dollar raise, if I'd go on the night crew. But mamma didn't want me to. You know how mammas are."

"Yes. 'You gotta see mamma every night, or you can't see mamma at all,'" I hummed.

"Shut up," said Frank. "I had my choice of the night crew with the raise, or getting out entirely. So I packed up my troubles in my old kit bag. and off I went to United Artists studio.

"You've no idea how smart those boys are there. They signed me immediately at the five-dollar raise, to work in their technical department. It sounded swell. But when I reported for work, I found the technical department was nothing but the still lab, and sulphur fumes by any other name are still sulphur fumes.

"Well, things rocked along for a while, and then a kid in the publicity department came to me and wanted to swap jobs. 'Nuts,' says I, 'who wants to be a cheesy publicity writer?'"

"Indeed!" I bristled.

"You take my job," he continued, ignoring the interruption, "and I'll get somebody else for yours. You know me — big-hearted all over. Give anybody the shirt off my back — anybody who can wear it when I get through with it. So I took the fifty thousand and left."

"So that's why all these girls are chasing you, eh?" I broke in.

"Say!" said Frank, "who's telling this story? Well, this time my wandering footsteps took me to Central Casting. I recalled to them that I had been registered there since I was thirteen years old, showed them that I had grown up, and told them I had decided to give some director a break and play a juvenile for him as it should be played."

"What a break!" I breathed.

"I'll break your neck if you don't keep quiet," Frank threatened.

That's the trouble with interviewing your friends. You can't have an}- fun, because the}' have no respect for your position.

"I had to call up every day," Frank continued, "to see if any one had snapped up my offer. But no one did for a few days and then one day just after they had told me 'Nothing doing,' they got the wires crossed, and I heard a call come from M.-G.-M. for some other guy. I hung up, waited a few minutes, called back and asked 'What about that M.-G.-M. call for Frank Albertson?'

"The fellow said 'Wait a minute,' and then came back and said, 'It wasn't M.-G.-M., it was Fox. Be over there tomorrow at nine. Ten-dollar check.' Boy, howdy! Meet the wife. Meet the kids. Meet the family. Maybe you think that ten bucks didn't look like the Bank of Italy to me."

"Well, little Italy?" I asked. "Then what?"

Frank picked up an Indian club, twirled it speculatively a few minutes, and continued. "That job lasted ten days, so you see my career started off auspiciously, but it curled up and died after that. I just couldn't seem to get any work. Occasionally I'd get a day or two. Dick Arlen and I worked extra together in Old Ironsides, and I also worked extra with some of the present-day big shots.

"But it's a funny thing about this business — none of them seemed able to recall me after they got ahead — until I began to get some breaks, too. I'll qualify that a little — Dick has always been mighty nice to me, and Neil Hamilton and Larry Gray never have any difficulty in remembering me, but outside of them —"

"Never mind a recital of your indignities," I began, and then I don't remember exactly what happened. It might have been an accident that the Indian club slipped out of his hand and hit me.

When I opened my eyes fifteen minutes later, Frank had retrieved the club, and was sitting there twirling it. Mrs. Albertson had made some fresh coffee and was thoughtfully sipping it.

"Shall I continue?" Frank asked.

"Tell me more," I pleaded, fingering the bump on my head.

"Well," Frank went on, "to make a long story short, after about six months of that sort of thing, with work getting scarcer and scarcer, I breezed into Fred Datig's office at the Paramount studio. He's the casting director, and I knew him pretty well. 'Hi, Mr. Datig,' said I, in my airiest manner, 'I'm going to give you a break and let you put me in stock. Anything you say is O. K., but I just want the old check to be coming in every Saturday.'

“‘Listen, Frank,' said Mr. Datig, 'I've been in this game a long time and I'm talking to you as a friend. I'd strongly advise you to get out of pictures. You're not tall enough to be a leading man' — I've grown some since then — 'and, anyhow, you're too young. You have no particular ability and you're not overly good looking. There are thousands like you out here and all of them starving to death. Get yourself a good, steady job and stick to it.' "

"I still think he was right," I interjected, dodging the Indian club which went hurtling through a window behind me.

"This roughneck stuff has got to stop," said Mrs. Albertson, tossing the coffeepot at the two of us.

"You can imagine how I felt," Frank resumed when order had been restored. "I decided to take his advice and try Fox for a job as prop boy. On my way to the prop department I ran into Dave Butler. I had played extra in several of his pictures, and he remembered me. 'Hi, Frank,' says he, 'aren't you in pictures any more?' 'I guess not,' says I. 'I can't seem to find anything to do.' Well, he was casting for 'Prep and Pep,' and instead of going to the prop department, I was taken to the test room. There were a bunch of kids who had already done things in pictures being tested for the same part — Billy Bakewell, Buddy Messenger, Buddy Wattles — a raft of them. They were all dressed to kill, so I got a dirty sweatshirt and some spotted slacks and, believe it or not, I landed the part."

As I had seen him in the picture, I believed him. Frank is the sort of chap you'd believe, anyhow. I've never met anyone whose name fitted him more perfectly.

Before he made "Prep and Pep," he had tried to get extra work in "The Farmer's Daughter," and couldn't even land that. After "Prep and Pep" they remade "The Farmer's Daughter" and Frank played the lead. Then "Blue Skies," opposite Helen Twelvetrees, in which he played a serious part — and played it well, too. In Men Without Women, he played another serious part which indisputably establishes his versatility, for he proves that he is something more than just another juvenile comedian.

But until you've seen him go wisecracking through "Salute," "Words and Music," Son of the Gods, "Spring Is Here," and "So This Is London" — well, brother, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Where William Haines' wisecracks sometimes lead you to the point of wanting to take a poke at him through exasperation, Frank's are the kind that make you sit back and relax with a here-comes-a-laugh feeling, every time he comes on the screen.

Off the screen he is just like any other kid of his age. About five feet ten, brown hair, blue eyes, very broad shoulders and a happy faculty for laughing at everything. He's got the sunniest disposition I've ever come across, and no matter how deep a shade of indigo your mood may be, a half hour of Frank's company, and you're looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. He has his serious side, too, but he seldom lets people see it. He thinks we should keep our troubles to ourselves.

"Amen!" says I. "Here's to more Frank Albertsons."

Frank first attracted attention in "Prep and Pep."

Frank Albertson began in the movies as a laboratory worker.

Mr. Mook and Mrs. Albertson listen patiently to Frank in the throes of his confession-story.

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, June 1930