Yvonne DeCarlo — The Beautiful and Blessed (1946) 🇺🇸

Yvonne DeCarlo — The Beautiful and Blessed (1946) | www.vintoz.com

February 23, 2023

A beautiful girl was feeding nickels into a pay telephone at The Players. She was having a little trouble in getting her number and two vertical lines marred the smooth loveliness of her brow.

by Jack Hyatt

I paused and took a second look, well, you would, too. Anyway, I had a hunch that this was the girl I was to have luncheon with. Just then she glanced up and saw me. Maybe it was telepathy. Anyway, a moment later, she came out of the booth smiling and said: "Have you been waiting long? I'm sorry. I'm Yvonne DeCarlo and I was pretty sure you were the one I was supposed to meet."

She gave me her hand and people all up and down the long room looked at us and smiled, too. It was nice standing there holding her hand, and knowing that every man in the place would have been happy to do just what I was doing. Curious as it may seem, the response to fresh young beauty is just as instantaneous here in Hollywood as it is in Ft. Dodge, Iowa, despite the often-published statement that pretty girls are practically a drug on the market in this Bagdad-on-the-Pacific. Your Hollywoodite isn’t half as bored as he would like to appear. Show him an arrestingly beautiful face and a shapely figure and then watch the world-weariness vanish out of his eyes. Men are the same everywhere. Nothing revives them so much as the sight of a good-looking girl.

We sat down in a booth and I watched the enthusiasm come up in her blue-gray eyes as she told me about the possibilities of her next picture, "Heat Wave. She moved her hands in a way I suddenly remembered in Salome, Where She Danced. It was a single, expressive gesture and told more than many of us can express with words. "Think of white moonlight on African sand," she breathed, "a murmuring sea and a penniless dancing girl who has been a Spanish aristocrat and is in love with a Russian boy. And overall the magic of Rimsky Korsakov's music." She laughed suddenly and flung out her hands. "Even you would get excited in such a place and under the spell of such music."

"Even I?" I said, "Look, I'm so excited right now I can hardly stand it."

"You're laughing," she said. "But just wait. When that picture comes out maybe I'll show you something."

"My dear," I said, "I'm not laughing. Anyone who can find humor in an entrancing dream is nuts. Go on, tell me some more."

But suddenly she wanted to talk about Salome, Where She Danced. "It was a jumbled-up story," she said, "and anything that could have been good in the dancing was spoiled by the cut-back camera shots — you know, from me to someone else in the scene and then back again to me. A gesture of the arm or body ends in a jerky, graceless movement. Dancing, if it is beautiful, must be as fluid as water, as harmonized and rhythmical as music. In 'Heat Wave' I hope I'll express all that June Roper ever taught me in Vancouver."

One senses in talking to this girl with the darkly olive skin and that curious air of "foreignness," that she knows precisely where she is going and how long it is going to take her to get there. There is no vagueness in Yvonne DeCarlo. She is as definite as a bar of sunlight in a dim room. She believes in two things — intelligence and the ability to drive and direct that intelligence — which is work. She wanted to become an actress when she was 13 years old, and she has never abandoned that ambition.

Dancing was something she didn't want at first. That was literally grafted upon her consciousness by her mother, who had always dreamed that she would have a daughter who would some day become a famous dancer. Yvonne became a dancer but she also became something more — a young woman who knows how to use her mind as well as her body.

When she came to Hollywood with serious screen aspirations in 1941, she went from studio to studio trying to get a part in a good rousing Western. "Westerns are filled with dramatic action," she says. "If you're an actress they'll bring it out."

But the directors of horse opera would have none of her. "You're too dark, too foreign," they said. "We want the pure American type."

This gave Yvonne a good deal to think about, wondering if being born in Vancouver, B. C, of French-English descent, made one a Hottentot or something. And then, one day, Walter Wanger saw her photograph. (Yes, of course, there's always a "then one day" in these stories. They don't happen to you and me, perhaps, but they do happen to girls like Yvonne DeCarlo.) Mr. Wanger was looking for an exotic creature to play the part of Salome. He is a gambler so he took the thousand-to-one shot and hit the jackpot. Not only was Miss DeCarlo beautiful even beyond Mr. Wanger's wildest dreams, but she could dance and sing. And, pearl above price, she possessed a figure which bemused even the cameramen. The picture, Salome, Where She Danced, as you will remember, was a cross between a good rootin', tootin' Western and a bad dream. But the cash customers came out of the theater convinced that they had seen something which happens once in a blue moon — the emergence of a new and glowing personality wrapped in a sheen of grace.

Observing the career of any girl who has rocketed, seemingly in one bewildering burst from obscurity to stardom, one is often tempted to believe in the old legends of fairy wands and magic lamps. But if you look a little closer you find that the sudden meteoric flight into the artistic stratosphere was grounded on a solid foundation of bitterly hard work. Miss DeCarlo says of herself that nothing ever came easy, except two things: she possessed, almost from infancy, a sense of timing and a trick of reading lines well. But the muscular control, the ability to express an idea or mood through dancing, was sheer drudgery. She worked six hours a day, every day, in June Roper's Vancouver School of Dancing. Then, when this stint was finished, she went home and practiced again, sometimes far into the night. In 1937 she came to the United States and spent six months studying at the Fanchon and Marco School in Hollywood. She was then 13 years old, with her life all mapped out, at least in her own mind. "I don't believe that merely the possession of a pretty face and figure, unsupported by a diamond-hard determination to drive ahead, will ever get an aspiring actress very far," she says. "You see, it's all mixed up with pain — the pain of preparation for the Big Thing or the pain of frustration. The latter, I think, is the greatest agony of all. I would scrub floors rather than endure that." This sort of thing, coming from a twenty-one-year-old, rather sets one back on one's heels.

"So now," I said, blinking a little, "now that you've arrived and can look back with satisfaction on the tough road you've traveled, you can give all your attention to this needle-point you're standing on and lay out your campaign to stay there."

Maybe she heard the faint jeer in my voice for she looked at me soberly. "I'm glad you used that simile," she said, "because that's just what it is — a needlepoint. Now I'm up against the toughest job I've ever encountered and I'm pretty sure it will require greater balance than any dance I've learned thus far. And at that I've only reached a little pinnacle. All the big, towering ones still lie ahead."

She paused and started drawing patterns on the table cloth. "You see," she went on at last, "I have a lot of weaknesses to overcome. I like to mug. Every director I've ever worked with is always telling me to show more restraint. Then there was the trick I had of moving my lips too much when I talked. I had to learn to overcome that, to enunciate clearly without moving my lower lip at all. And that's just the beginning of what's ahead of me. There will always be things to overcome."

Such honesty is refreshing, but one must never forget in viewing Miss DeCarlo's career that honesty, the objective viewpoint, is part of her mental equipment. She is determined never to try to fool herself, never to let any single thing thwart her ambition.

"How about marriage?" I asked. "Do you think that would hold you up in this plan you've laid for yourself?"

"No," she said. "I'd have to make up my mind before marriage about what I wanted most — to be a good wife or to devote all my thinking to my career. But maybe — I'm not sure yet, of course — maybe I'd give up acting and dancing."

"Like a seal gives up swimming," I said. "Anyway, you don't have to cross that bridge until you've met the man."

"Oh, but I have met him," she said, a quick smile coming over her warm, mobile mouth. "But I can't tell you who he is. We've decided to keep it a secret for a while. Maybe it will be quite a long while. In the meantime I'm going to keep on trying to be a good actress and a good dancer. Even if I marry later on, as I hope I shall, nothing will have been wasted. I read something somewhere that made a great impression on my mind: 'No honest effort is ever lost.' I'll keep on making the effort."

Just now, before the heat in "Heat Wave" is completely turned on, Yvonne is spending a lot of time talking to interior decorators. She has bought a house in the San Fernando Valley — where the desert meets the mountains. Thus far the house is quite empty of furniture but Miss DeCarlo knows just how it is going to look when every piece is in place, the windows all polished and the hot, rich sunlight comes flooding through. "Look," I said, "don't you think that's a sappy idea — letting an interior decorator do your place? It'll come out the conventional Hollywood home with about as much personality as a plush hotel."

Her gray eyes flashed at me. "Don't use that word," she flared. "I never do anything sappy. My house will be the home of Yvonne DeCarlo and nobody else. The decorator is using my ideas and his own skill in making them come true. I'll show you." She grabbed my pencil and pad of paper and began sketching. "See, the lawn comes down this way to a point to meet the street. Back of the house is a wall of trees and beyond that the mountains. The rooms are like this: a big living room with tall windows to let in the sun, a fairly small dining room — I don't care much for crowds and neither does Mother. There will be only two bedrooms, A small house, you see, for simple living; not a place for mobs. And all around me is the desert where I can ride King, my horse, and where, if I wish, I can be alone."

No one who knows Yvonne well has any fears that she will go Hollywood. She seldom attends parties and is addicted to slacks or severely cut English suits. People, en masse, make her nervous and she would much prefer talking to some inconspicuous person about her hobby — collecting symphonic records — discussing the latest best-seller. Reading and speaking French, her tastes in literature are fairly catholic, even to the extent of Shakespeare and Greek mythology. Having discovered that books are excellent company, she is never lonely.

Perhaps one of Miss DeCarlo's most praiseworthy characteristics is her inextinguishable gratitude toward those who have helped her on the way. Recently, while on a visit to Vancouver, B. C, her home town, she went to see June Roper. "Not," she said, "to show myself off and say to that great lady: 'See how well your former pupil has done,' but only to pay homage to a wonderful teacher. She gave me her jade ear-rings and necklace. When she placed that lovely chain of jade about my neck I wanted to cry. All I could think of at that moment was that I would always be worthy to wear it.

Hollywood is full of the ghosts of old players who rode the crest while they were on top, scattered their substance to the four winds, believing that the avalanche of money would never end. Miss DeCarlo has seen a few of these ghosts and the sight is not reassuring. As a hedge against the time when her pretty legs no longer flash through dance routines as they do now, when the lovely young face is no longer alluring, she is watching the corners with a careful eye and saving a comfortable slice of her salary. Yes, Yvonne is beautiful but she is not dumb. Distinctly she is not dumb.

Collection: Screenland Magazine, March 1946