Sir Guy Standing — “I’m Sixty — But What of It?” (1936) 🇺🇸

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January 11, 2022

Commander Sir Guy Standing, C.B.E., K.B.E., R.N.V.R., and a swell fellow for all of that, has rounded the corner of three score years and is looking upon life with fervor and benignity.

by William A. Ulman, Jr.

At the age when most men begin to relax and think in terms of breaking a hundred on the golf course and the sad plight of the younger generation, Sir Guy cannot find enough to do. From the prancing young buck of sixteen with jaunty step and conquering eye to the seasoned veteran of today, life has been one adventure after another— enough to exhaust a dozen lesser men. But Sir Guy is looking forward with pleasant anticipation to more.

It was raining like the devil outside as Guy sat at the piano playing an altogether grand waltz of his own composition. I sat in a deep lounge chair in his new home with that deep sense of ease that only a perfect host can bestow upon you. The music trailed off into infinity. Silhouetted against the luminous grey of the stormy afternoon was my host, his fine, white-crested head turned toward the lake and dim mountains beyond. There was a hint of something vaguely disturbing about his pose that made me feel as though I were looking at something not meant for anyone to see; he might have been thinking of past romances or a puppy he had befriended years before — but whatever it was I was sure that it was too intimate for conversation.

But curiosity overcame manners. “What’s up?” I inquired, hoping that there might be facet of that amazing and eve about here. He sighed heavily without turning from his rapt contemplation of the lake.

“Wish we could get out for a bit of fishing.”

“I don’t see why. It’s comfortable here.”

“Yes, but this thing of sitting about the house all day is a bit thick. Nothing doing, no activity; gets on my nerves.”

“Activity! I should think you’d had enough of that.”

“Oh, my-eye-and-Betty-Martin! I like to work; I like to do things. You can’t even paint on a day like this!” he answered, his eyes roving vainly around the room in search of something that needed attending to.

“Don’t you like to ever just plain rest, Sir Guy?” I asked, thinking guiltily of three unfinished stories waiting for me at home. “Don’t you ever get tired?”

“Not in the usual sense of the word, I’m afraid. I was a bit worried about that, too, a while back. Didn’t seem right, somehow, and I wondered if it might not be something wrong. Glands, you know, or that sort of thing.

“Anyway, I decided to put it to a test. I got up at six in the morning and drove out to the Rancho Golf Club — that’s half-way to the beach, you know — and I played off thirty-six holes, using two balls all the way; had a bite to eat and walked on down to the beach for a couple of hours’ bathing and then came back for another double round on the course. Got bored with golf and tramped home. I’d forgotten that that was the day my man was to come over for a few rounds of boxing, but he was there waiting for me when I got back, so we went for ten three-minute rounds. He kept me moving smartly for three quarters of an hour; but after a shower, whisky-and-soda, and dinner, I was far too chipper to potter about the house so we went out to see the fights at the Stadium. You know, I never did get tired; the years at sea, I suppose.”

I sank into my easy chair, all tired out just thinking about it — seventy-two holes of golf, a fifteen-mile hike, two hours’ swimming, and a fast ten rounds to top it off. It doesn’t seem quite decent.

Although he wasn’t working the next day he was planning to make the fortymile drive from his mountain place to the studio just to ramble about the sets and chat with his host of friends on the lot. Easily one of the most popular men at Paramount, he is, perhaps, most significantly liked by the grips and electricians. Whenever the Paramount Cubs, the baseball team, are playing, you’ll always find Sir Guy seated in the front row with Mac, the cheery-eyed Scot who guards the studio gate. Guy has taken a particular pride in that team ever since they made him an honorary member and presented him with a silver statuette.

His choice of friends is broader now, if anything, than it was when he was a young man. He has carefully avoided “graduating” in the matter of friends. He has retained youth by retaining the feelings and perspective of sixteen even while acquiring the outlook of thirty, or sixty. Mentally, he can shift forty years as smoothly as batting an eye. I’ve heard him discuss the subtleties of drama with an august executive and five minutes later have seen him ribbing young Toby Wing about her new beach pajamas with equal fervor and authority.

He has told me indirectly that therein lies the secret of his three-score years of youth, but it was no secret to anyone who has watched his daily life. He is vitally interested in people, not as a scientist adding notes to his case histories but as a man who loves his fellow men.

Paramount, like all major studios, has a sizable contract list of younger players who are being brought along slowly toward that not far-off day when experience will lead them to the marquee lights. To these kids Sir Guy Standing is both father confessor and a willing coach. Toby Wing, for one, thinks the sun pretty much rises and sets on this elderly Knight. Johnny Engstead is a boy whose name you don’t yet know, but you do know his work. He is responsible for some of the swell still pictures that you will find in the galleries of every fan magazine. But Johnny aspires to the other side of the camera. Guy heard about this and remembered a young swashbuckler whose first part on the stage was the portrayal of the hind end of a lizard up in the gusty north-country of England. With suavity and sympathy he took another embryo actor under his wing and spent hours upon hours of what little free time he had, coaching Johnny in his lines and business for a show over at the well-known Pasadena Community Playhouse.

Kent Taylor is one young actor who is definitely on his way up and who owes a great deal to Sir Guy. I happen to know that Sir Guy worked all one day and far into the night not long ago. He had no call for the next day and was living over forty miles from the studio. But he was on the lot at nine in the morning. Kent had an important test coming up that afternoon and Guy thought he might be able to help him a little with his lines’.

That morning he was up at five-thirty with Buster, his adoring dachshund. Together they pushed off over the mist-shrouded lake in a light boat. In a moment they were lost in the world’s greyness, but the faint snap of a well-cast fly and line drifted back through the fog mingling with an almost imperceptible odor of pipe smoke. Out there Guy was fishing for his breakfast while Buster stood immobile in the bow of the boat, brown eyes alive with the intense stare he gave the waters in futile search for one of those wriggly things the boss was trying to catch.

But he was on the dot at the appointed time to spend the morning with Kent rehearsing that scene. By lunch he’d called on half a dozen friends ranging from Carole Lombard and Gary Cooper to somebody named Pep in the property department and Bill Something-or-other over at the ‘juicers’ building. He stopped at the commissary for lunch and asked a girl in the publicity department how her youngster was doing at that new school and offered to take him fishing on his vacation.

An hour later you could have found him back in the mountains in an old tweed coat, a pair of khaki britches and a high good humor. Under his arm was a folder of drawing paper and, shoved in a pocket, a box of water-colors. Five miles through the brushy solitude and he came to rest under a vast live-oak tree where he worked on a mountain-scape till the light failed.

Waiting at home was Ralph Holmes, the well-known landscape painter, and the dinner conversation hinged on a mutual understanding and appreciation of the finer points of art.

Sixty? If at sixty I can have half the joy and savour out of life that Sir Guy Standing culls each day I shall count myself the luckiest man he knows.

Source: Screenland, August 1936