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An Actor's Life:
Acting with a Fake Mustache:
Summer Stock with Glenda Farrell

glenda-farrell.bmp (1361414 bytes)I performed in the last show of the 1947 summer stock season in a comedy starring Glenda Farrell. She’d originally come from Broadway. She went to Hollywood in the thirties as talkies were coming in and the studios were raiding New York for actors with voices, where she became a star as a wisecracking comedienne.

By the time the war was over, so was her picture career. But she’d done two good things before that. One was to sock her money into a big, fat annuity that started paying off when she needed it. Also, by then she’d been married to a wealthy doctor and had been living in New York on Park Avenue for some time and commuting to Hollywood when a picture came up.

Glenda was a dream to work with. She was in her mid-forties by then, but looked ten years younger. She had a son only a few years younger than I. With a mustache that I put on for every performance with my makeup, even at twenty-four I guess I looked old enough to play second lead. Ted Post directed. He was an up-and-coming fellow, doing a lot of theater and a tremendous amount of live television. We would later work together on Combat!

The mustache that I wore for every performance was made of crepe wool. It came in braids of different colors. I’d buy a color close to that of my hair. To use it, you first unbraided it, then wet one section about a quarter of an inch around, and stretched it out to dry straight. I’d dab the shape of the mustache across my upper lip with spirit gum, leave it a few minutes to get tacky, then place the neatly trimmed ends of the crepe wool against the glue. I’d press it in with the flat of a scissors, cut, and go to the next section. When all was done and the crepe wool was trimmed to an even length, voila! a mustache. Since the individual strands were all separate, I could smile and the mustache would spread with my upper lip. With a little practice I could do a mustache in ten minutes. One night, however, we encountered a slight catastrophe.

Glenda Farrell:
Hollywood's Hardboiled Dame

Glenda and I had a scene on a sofa in which I take her in my arms. As we slide down on the couch, I kiss her. This one night she opened her mouth a little too wide and included all of my mustache in the osculation. As our mouths parted, a warm, moistness surrounding my entire upper lip was all I could feel. My God, I thought, she’s got my mustache in her mouth! I saw her picking bits of dark crepe wool off her tongue as casually as she could while delivering her next line. I hurriedly turned my back to the audience, grabbed my pocket handkerchief and, holding it over my mouth, completed the rest of the scene, patting my lips as I spoke, as if I were perspiring or trying to wipe off the lipstick. Every time I had a line to say, she’d casually pick more bits of the wool out of her mouth.

When I finally got off stage, I put my hand up to my face, and by God, the mustache was still there! Just some loose strands had found their way to another source. Glenda not only took it with good grace, but we had a big laugh about it later.

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