Facing Zanuck


In the meantime, my baby, Low Pressure, was being hammered into a screenplay by George Seaton and had survived a few of the frenetic Zanuck story meetings. At Zanuck’s behest it had undergone four title changes: Lazy Galahad, Strictly Dynamite, The Magnificent Jerk, and finally, The Magnificent Dope. But though it had been taken from me, its name changed, its shape twisted this way and that, I still loved it.

I WAS BROODING OVER THE INJUSTICE of it all one quiet morning, sitting in my office, some time after Song of the Islands was released and playing nationwide, when the receptionist called and said that a Colonel Williams of the United States Army was here to see me. We were in the war by then. My hearing had earned me a 4-F classification, so what did the Army want of me now? I told the receptionist to send the colonel up. He was in full uniform, an imposing figure of a man. He snapped to attention and saluted smartly.

“Yes … ,” said I, rising uncertainly.

“From the Secretary of War.” He handed me a cardboard tube, saluted again, turned on his heel, and marched out. From the container I extracted a parchment-like scroll, hand lettered and emblazoned with the insignia of the War Department. It was a citation for distinguished service in contributing to the morale of the armed forces of the United States. My name was prominently displayed in Old English lettering.

I called LeBaron. “Funny thing just happened, Bill. Some colonel was here and gave me—.”

“Yeah,” he interrupted, “we all got one of those. Betty Grable was voted the favorite movie star by the soldiers in the training camps all over the country, and Song of the Islands their favorite picture.”