Once upon a time a beautiful little girl of 13 set out from Winnipeg to seek her fortune. Today she’s Hollywood’s newest Cinderella
DOROTHY PATRICK had chosen that day to plant two dozen rosebushes. She had leaped gaily out of bed at seven o'clock, donned the
oldest clothes she could find, skipped make-up, and grubbed merrily for three hours.
At 11 she looked awful, but felt wonderful. She was dirty from head to toe. Her brow was covered with sweat. Her blond hair was flying. Then the phone rang.
“Get over here right away,” Billy Grady of MGM said.
“Never mind. Get dressed. How soon can you be here?”
Mr. Grady is headman in the MGM casting department. Dorothy was and is under contract to the studio. Mr. Grady’s wish was Dorothy’s command. “Half an hour,” she answered hastily.
“Make it sooner if you can.”
The receiver slammed in Dorothy’s ear. She turned from the phone to confront herself in a mirror. And nearly died. It must be important, she thought, but look at me! Just look at me!
Twenty-five minutes later she was bathed, made-up, and dressed after a fashion. (And hers, even in a hurry, is a pretty good fashion.) She jumped into her car, tore to the studio, dashed into Mr. Grady’s office. “Come on!”
He had her by the arm and swung her out the door, down to the commissary.
“Mr. Freed—Miss Patrick. Mr. So-and-So . . .” The rest of the names were lost. Arthur Freed’s was enough for Dorothy. He’s one of the biggest producers on the MGM lot.
They sat around the table, four men. Dorothy found a chair under her. The four men starpd. Dorothy tried not to show that she was aware of the fact. They stared some more. Dorothy smiled—or hoped she did. “Yes. We’ll test her.”
Mr. Freed had spoken. Five minutes later Dorothy was being whisked to the wardrobe department, thrust into a costume. They dragged her to the make-up department, did her hair and face in record time. Then they led her, slightly numb, to a sound stage, turned on thousands of lights, began running a camera.
“What’s all this for?” Dorothy finally managed to stammer.
“Never mind. Just look pretty.”
She looked pretty. It’s hard for her to look otherwise. The cameras ground. An unseen character yelled, “Cut!”
Two days after, they told her she was to play the lead opposite Bob Walker in the life of Jerome Kern, “Till the Clouds Roll By.”
And that, kiddies, is how your Aunt Dorothy from Winnipeg, Manitoba, got to be a movie star.
Began to Model at 12
A FEW things had gone on before that, of course: Dorothy did not just spring, a full-grown movie star, from the brow of Louis Mayer. At 23 she had 11 years of modelling behind her. Her face had adorned the covers of American national magazines. She’d been one of the fabulous Powers G:rls. She’d done some acting in the Little Theatre and on the screen. But nothing had been really big time until the day she was chosen to play Jerome Kern’s wife.
Let me put in a personal note here. I’ve talked to dozens of Hollywood hopefuls, and I believe Dorothy will be a big star. She’s an extremely nice girl—she has her feet on the ground, rare common sense, and natural talent.
Let’s take a look at this girl. She’s beautiful, naturally. She is rather tall, has good bones both in her face and her body, hair which is naturally gorgeously taffy-colored, big brown eyes, and a smile which is at once shy and the sort that used to make
gallants drink champagne out of evening slippers.
She was born in Winnipeg, in 1923, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Davis. Her father, a veteran of the last war, was and remains a conductor on the Canadian National Railway Winnipeg-Saskatoon run. When she was very young her parents separated.
As a child Dorothy was an exceptional swimmer, a good skater and an ardent rider. She grew into an unusually lovely girl. Her teachers at Mulvey Public School can’t recall heras an outstanding scholar, but they do remember her charm and grace. “She was a lovely, unassuming, nicely mannered girl,” one of them will tell you.
She took part, as most children do, in back yard theatricals, and during a visit to her uncle’s farm, near Hanna, Alta., she “directed” a play with farm children in the cast. She was 10 at the time.
At 12 her professional career began— she took up modelling, and loved it.
This started something which is just now beginning to catch up with her. For, in order to work, Dorothy said she was 16. She looked it; she was almost as tall as she is now, was mature of face, and, because much of her time had been spent with older people, she had an adult poise far beyond her years. Therefore she began posing for portraits in college clothes, swishing through the aisles of Eaton’s and the Hudson’s Bay stores in Winnipeg. To this day she feels that she never had any adolescence.
SHE WAS still going to school, first at Mulvey and later at Kelvin High, but, though she got decent grades, books did not. interest her until much later. She and her mother waged a running battle as to whether she should stop school completely. Dorothy finally won when she was in the tenth grade.
She carried on her modelling career in Winnipeg, appearing, among other places, in the sundry garbs and poses of mail-order catalogues. She also started dancing lessons.
At 13, saying
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she was 16 again, she entered a beauty contest.
“Everyone does it,” she says now. “Yes, I won.”
The prize was a set of travelling bags, and they gave Dorothy ideaá. She urged her mother into a “vacation” in New York. As soon as she stepped off the train in Manhattan she called on John Robert Powers, the King of Models.
Mr. Powers took a gander at Dorothy and nodded approval.
“Are you an American citizen?” he asked.
Mr. Powers shook his head.
“Sorry. But Pm not allowed to give you a job until you have at least your first papers.”
That ended the “vacation” for Dorothy. On the return to Winnipeg she heckled with such force that at last her mother gave her permission to change citizenship. The main argument was, of course, the money she would be able to make in New York. It won.
And she did make money when she and her mother went back to the States in 1937. Her first week as a model netted her $100. That, to a 14-yearold gal who had run her legs off in department stores in Winnipeg for $12
every seven days, seemed like a fortune. As a matter of fact, it ain’t tin.
She didn’t always do that well, of course, but she managed to lay up quite a nice pile in the bank. Back in Winnipeg her proud father kept a scrapbook showing her progress. It grew enormous.
Then, in 1938 came “The Gateway to Hollywood Contest,” a trial of unknowns. Jesse Lasky and RKO Studios sponsored it, and from it came such stars as Linda Darnell, Gail Storm, Linda Hayes, Lee Bonnell, and John Archer.
To Dorothy this was a natural. Of course you had to be able to act, sing, and a few kindred things. But those were minor details. She was beautiful. She had taken some acting lessons from John Hutchins, a New York coach. She could whip off a chantey or two in the bathtub. And she was fifteen and a half, without fear.
She entered. She came out New York regional winner over about 2,000 other girls. For Dorothy it was a breeze.
And Then She Married
Then complications — careerwise — set in. For Dorothy was in love. She said “Thank you” to Mr. Lasky, begged to be excused from coming to Hollywood, and married Lynn Patrick, hockey-playing son of Lester Patrick, then manager of the New York Rangers.
She retired completely for two years, and was a housewife—in New York and on the road during the winter and in Winnipeg between seasons. In 1941 a son was born, and named Lester. But—well, who could make sense being married that young? So, after a divorce, Dorothy returned to New York to go on working. This time she did some more modelling and was seen by a talent scout from 20th Century-Fox.
The scout gasped, insisted she make a test on Long Island, and shuddered with her when he saw the result. It was this which proved to Dorothy that she needed experience to be a star, and after flipping a coin she decided to go to Hollywood anyway. There were little theatres in the cinema capital, she knew. She could act, learn something about her hoped-for profession, and if another scout saw her—dandy!
No sooner said than done. She and her mother leaped onto a train and v'ent West, late in 1943, fortified by the knowledge that Dorothy had one of the best agents in town to help her when they reached the Pacific. (Leland Hayward had signed her after the “Gateway to Hollywood” whoopdedoo.)
She modelled for a while, married again, and had another son—Terry— who is 22 months old now. But that second marriage ended the same way as the first. Even now, she prefers to keep secret the name of her second husband. Terry is in the custody of his mother.
After that she continued modelling and did Little Theatre work.
Finally she was cast in the lead of a production of “The Last of Mrs. Cheney.”
This, children, slayed the people. And, luckily for Dorothy, she had a friend in the audience, an actor named Leon Ames. She’d met him in New York several years before when a producer was searching frantically
for a girl for a Broadway play. Leon saw her, dragged her to the producer and shouted the immortal phrase, “Here she is!” In looks, she was. But when she came to read she was so terrified that she lost her voice completely and retired six feet deep in confusion. Leon, however, did not forget her, met her out on the Coast again, and when he saw her as Mrs. Cheney he whipped over to MGM, announced that Billy Grady was losing a bet if he did not sign her immediately, whereupon Billy did.
How To Make Friends
She has been under contract to MGM for not quite a year, during which her only work has been the lead opposite James Craig in an unhistoric drama called “Boys’ Ranch.” And in that year Dorothy has met more people on her studio lot than many a veteran. Every day she trots over, strolls around, pokes into this and that, has coffee with a pal, chats amiably with everyone she meets.
This pays dividends—if it’s done properly. For the guys who work behind the camera, all of whom Dorothy knows like brothers by now, are the ones who can make or break a star. The gents who manage the big lights, the minions who touch up your make-up just before you step out to do your scenes, the script girls who remind you of things you had forgotten, the dialogue directors who tell you little pieces of business, the publicity men who give out with the gossip about who is going to direct such-andsuch a picture—all these can mean the difference between a dropped option and a signed contract to a newcomer.
I stood with Dorothy for two minutes before the MGM commissary. Ten people spoke to her. We went inside, and she said 15 hellos before she got to her table. And she was not buttering up the citizenry. She was merely greeting her friends.
In another way she proved she was no dope, too. The story concerns the house in whose yard she was planting rosebushes that fateful day when the phone rang.
Dorothy and her family lived in an apartment when they first came West. It began to pall about the same moment she got her MGM ticket. And Dorothy decided that she should get herself a permanent place to live if it killed her.
There wasn’t a tremendous amount in the bank for a down payment, but there was some. So Dorothy scouted around in the less social parts of Los Angeles until she ran into an old home on four lots not 10 minutes from her studio in Culver City. A hedge cut off the premises from prying eyes, and, though the house was a little tired, there was a living room so big that it holds three couches with ease, a flagstone fireplace and yards of bookcases. Dorothy saw it and gasped. But when she came to enquire about the price, she found that the elderly couple who were selling it wanted too much on the line. Sighing, she started to retire from the field.
And then the man and wife called her back.
“You’re so nice, Miss Patrick,” they announced, “that we think we should let you have the place on your own terms. We know you will take care of it,”
Dorothy had the rooms redecorated, bought old pieces of furniture and refinished them, and settled down in the house with her two small sons, Lester and Terry. She also planted rosebushes and 47 kinds of vegetables. And then came The Great California Housing Shortage. At this point Dorothy is the
one who sits in her castle and laughs like mad.
She’s not a Hollywood gal. Maybe that’s why I liked her. She’s hep to what she’s doing, has always been more or lass professional, but she isn’t a creature of false eyelashes and mannerisms. She doesn’t call anyone “darling.” And when she says she’s glad to have met you, you think perhaps she isn’t kidding.
She herself is both shy and a bit of an extrovert, if you can get around that paradox. She gives the impression that she can and will try anything, that she has never been afraid in her life.
She Likes Chess
For her age, she’s somewhat on the serious side. That doesn’t hurt in any business. She says quite honestly that she didn’t get enough education and is trying to do something about it. She speaks of just finishing “The Anatomy of Peace” and “Generation of Vipers” and an old tome called “Conquest of Fear” without the usual Hollywood attitude of, “Get me! Am I the intellectual, though!” She also admits to being able to play chess, not realizing that there are probably not more than 20 men and women in all of the motion picture industry who know a knight from a queen. And she laughs about being called a “champion” golfer. “I shoot around 100,” she says. “That’s not terrific. But they say I have a good swing, so I’m still at it.”
She goes out occasionally, of course. Sometimes with Peter Lawford. Sometimes with Bob Walker, her costar.
She is always in hopes—no slight intended to her dates—that she will run into Jimmy Stewart on one of her evenings out. For since she was 12, and saw Mr. S. in his first role, playing Jeanette MacDonald’s brother in “Rose Marie,” she has been quietly screwy about him. She has viewed each of his pictures more times than she could count, has swooned over photographs of him which she sent for (as who didn’t?), and the height of her ambition is to play opposite him.
To date, though she has seen him, she has never met him in the Hollywood social swing. There was one day when she was coming out of a building at MGM, saw a man she knew and shook hands with him, noticed vaguely a skinny guy behind her pal, and walked on. Twenty feet later she stopped dead and did the biggest double-take of the century. She hadn’t even recognized her idol in the flesh!