Sidney Fox — Sweet and Low (1932) 🇺🇸
Have you ever had one of those nameless blue feelings? The dictionary has no word for it and the doctor no cure. A month of spoiled Sundays is no more depressing. Sometimes you think you are able to tell what had caused it. More often you can't. You just know you've got it.
by George Kay
Up in the Hollywood hills, in the cutest villa on a winding road, where the bedroom windows catch the sunlight all day long, and birds start concertizing early and finish late. Sidney Fox, surrounded by friends, fame, and fair fortune, has got it, and got it bad.
Instead of feeling gay and handsome, she's melancholy and low.
"I used to be happier at twenty dollars a week than I am now," she reflects, "and I don't know whether to blame Hollywood for it, or myself."
That's the worst about these unaccountable spells. You don't know where they come from.
"Perhaps it's just me. Of late I've often felt as if I had sprung a cork, as if thoughts, accumulated for a long time, had bubbled over.
Taking inventory may have made me feel so punk. I've been thinking —"
Sidney's life alternates between four and five-week periods of picture-making, and six-week spells of rest. Having finished "Forgotten Commandments," she's now on a lazy stretch with time for meditation.
"I've been thinking of how I used to laugh — really laugh — forgetting all worries, gnawing ambitions, headaches. I can't do that any more. To-day I merely smile — that is my face smiles. What's wrong with me?"
Yes, what's wrong with the little whippoorwill? She's enjoying good health. There's no grande passion. Her pictures are successful. Strictly Dishonorable has brought her a great deal of recognition. What is the matter?
"Feeling that I'm misunderstood and frequently misrepresented doesn't exactly contribute to my happiness."
What's this? Misunderstood? Frequently misrepresented? From the lips of some one less unaffected than Sidney the plaint might easily have a false ring. She's referring to the distortions that are the by-product of much publicity. Reading exaggerations and outright falsehoods about herself upsets her, she says.
The picture of a star taking the antics of press-agentry to heart is an uncommon one. So uncommon that it raises doubts as to her sincerity.
You fear you're just encountering another form of publicity. A ten-minute talk with the comely suspect, however, dispels any doubt that she means it.
Two traits stand out in her character — sensitiveness and a passion for truth.
Sidney is thin-skinned. It's apparent the very minute you look into her eyes. They beg and wish to be friendly. If you hold yourself aloof, they look distressed. They woo you constantly, as does indeed her whole person. A visit at her home is an adventure in hospitality.
"You walked up here? Why didn't you let me know? I could have sent my car for you. Is that chair comfortable? Will you have a cigarette? A cup of tea? Fine, and what with it? Sandwiches or cake? Please take the sandwiches. We're really better at that." She looks as if the afternoon would be spoiled if you didn't take the sandwiches.
"And some dessert? We have dee-licious ice cream." She dashes out and orders. You stay behind in the high-ceilinged living room and think of your hostess's Southern accent in Strictly Dishonorable. It sort of fits in with this kind of hospitality.
Her desire to be friendly, the unconscious precautionary measure of a highly susceptible mechanism, is matched by her great passion for truth. Sidney abominates sailing under a false flag. It's a well-known fact that she almost got into a fight with a studio over refusing to do a stunt which, in her opinion, would have given the fans an untrue impression of her. She won her point, because, as said before, you only have to talk to her ten minutes to realize her sincerity — and be taken in by it.
"I don't like to misrepresent myself, and it makes me feel bad to have others misrepresent me."
Misrepresentation is not always of malicious origin. The truth is frequently a matter of tints and shadings difficult to balance accurately. As somebody has said. "It takes more than the good intention to be truthful."
Sidney appreciates the wisdom of this remark when she admits, "My life has been such a hodgepodge. To make head or tail out of it is a task."
Her life has indeed been kaleidoscopic. Just having come of age — Miss Fox was born December 10, 1910 in New York — she has managed to cram more purple patches, crimson threads, and blue funks into her biography than Isadora Duncan turning thirty.
Take her professional life alone. It's a riot.
At an age when most girls exclusively devote their time to growing up, this spunky early bird was already earning her own living. Having learned shorthand and typing at night school, she presently got herself a job in a law office, where in no time at all her quickness and accuracy qualified her to take court dictation. Not a bad achievement for a tot of fifteen.
The ordinary flapper might have been satisfied — not Sidney. When she got everything going fine, she kissed it good-by — figuratively speaking — and looked around for new worlds to conquer.
Writing was tackled next. Ostensibly still a secretary, she procured a position with a newspaper syndicate that permitted her to pen little pieces of her own, generally fashion news. Once or twice she substituted for the man who ran the advice-to-lovelorn column.
Though allowing her a little more self-expression, this dabbling didn't hold her attention very long, either. She had now reached a stage where the value of personality had begun to dawn on her.
While writing fashion news she had become impressed with the enormous advantage that people of attractive exterior have over others less fortunately endowed. Everybody had been telling her how beautiful she was. A look into the mirror rather clinched the matter. So in her next venture she made capital of a very perfect thirty-six and took a job modeling gowns in a Fifth Avenue shop.
From a manikin's dressing room to one backstage is only a short step, one which our heroine presently negotiated. After a brief apprenticeship with a Johnstown, Pennsylvania, stock company, she appeared in a New York play. There the movies caught sight of her and dragged her to Hollywood.
It's all very swift and confusing.
"The trouble with this sort of life," complains its owner, "is that it lends itself too readily to a jazzy treatment. There are so many episodes in it that the integrity of each single one is not held particularly inviolate. In the hands of an unscrupulous writer being a stenographer in a law office becomes a semester of studying law at Columbia University. And substituting once or twice makes me the editor of the lovelorn column altogether.
"It's not very serious, except that at times I feel that I'm being made ridiculous in the eyes of people who know me."
No, it's not very serious. Even an impressionable girl like Sidney should not be thrown off balance by it. Inconsequential ballyhoo like this might occasion her some embarrassment, but it should not bring on melancholy — not even if the screen happens to be the medium.
So far Sidney has appeared in six pictures, having played the lead in them all. In all this footage there isn't a sequence that shows her as she thinks she really is. From preview after preview she comes away feeling that she has watched a stranger.
"It, too, is not a major tragedy — not as long as the fans are enthusiastic and the studio pleased. But it does set me wondering — wondering what's wrong with the me that is really me."
Up in the Hollywood hills Sidney has got it, and got it bad. When the sun shines she may almost fool you. But on a rainy afternoon there is no mistaking.
The chauffeur has put up the car and the maid has lit the fireplace. Bridget, Sidney's duenna, is trying hard to cheer her mistress. A visitor who's accidentally dropped in is now engaged upon the same task, but their combined efforts are of no avail. The Lady of the House is feeling low. She's wondering why she used to be happier in the days when she earned next to nothing.
The visitor leaves presently. On his way back to the valley he wonders, too.
"I used to be happier at twenty dollars a week than I am now, and I don't know whether to blame Hollywood or myself," says Sidney.
Photo by: Ray Jones (1892–1967)
Sidney Fox is thin-skinned. It's apparent the instant you look into her eyes, which beg to be friendly. They woo you constantly, and if you hold yourself aloof, they look distressed, says George Kay in his charming interview opposite.
Photo by: Irving Lippman (1906–2006)
Transcriber's Note: On November 15, 1942, Sidney Fox died from an overdose of sleeping pills that authorities ruled "an accident".
Collection: Picture Play Magazine, August 1932