Nowadays I do my best to live in the present tense, but I can’t help having vivid memories from my 80+ years in show business.
For example: singing and dancing with Bing Crosby in “The Star Maker” at Paramount when I was just eight-years-old… being cast by legendary director John Ford to play Henry Fonda’s kid brother Winfield Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath”… signing a seven-year contract at MGM where my first assignment was acting with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney in “Men of Boys Town.”
By the time I was eighteen, I’d worked at every major studio in Hollywood, and appeared in almost 100 movies like “Keeper of the Flame,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Two Years Before the Mast,” “The Human Comedy,” “The Happy Years,” “Leave Her to Heaven,” “Any Number Can Play,” “Lightning Strikes Twice,” “The Set-Up,” and many more.
Dozens of television shows followed, including Playhouse 90, Studio One, General Electric Theater, Desilu Playhouse, Gunsmoke, Dr. Kildare, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, etc., etc., etc.
Then, in the early sixties, I moved to New York when Frank Loesser and Bob Fosse turned me into a song-and-dance man once again. I took over for Robert Morse in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” playing J. Pierpont Finch on Broadway.
Now, after eight decades in the “biz,” as an actor, singer, dancer, writer for television, writer of screenplays, musical book writer and lyricist, playwright, producer, network executive, teacher of the art of dramatic acting, and author of The Unconscious Actor: Out of Control, In Full Command (a book about the art of performance in acting and in life), I’ve been called “the ultimate Hollywood hyphenate.” A journalist with a sense of humor once asked me, “What do you really want to be when you grow up?” Finally, in my eighties, I think I have the answer: A PAINTER.
To my way of thinking, a true artist, whether acting, writing drama, or painting, is on a voyage of discovery. He (or she) has to allow his higher Self to go where he’s never been before; and more, he can’t know how he’s going to get there. For me, a painting is a visible expression of living vibrations, of in-visible frequencies, through COLOR. It represents a spiritual flow of energy through a material form. Flow through Form. As an artist, for over 80 years I’ve been telling stories with words. Now I’m doing it with paint on canvas!