ON REFLECTION by Helen & Sanford Dody Hayes


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With The Gifts of Joy (1965) a successful run-through, Miss Helen Hayes, marvelous moxie-mix of bubbling Babs and Queen Victoria, comes downstage for a full dress autobiography--a book club choice, magazine feature and adornment to the author's forthcoming personal appearances. Precipitously thrust into the theatre by an adored stagestruck mother, Helen floated deliriously upwards from a five-year-old Gibson girl through ""Babs"" (an adaptation of a Mary Roberts Rinehart novel) that boggled Harvard, and went on to stardom in theatre and movies. It was not until, in the midstream of her young career, she met evangelist's son Charles MacArthur that her life suddenly became focused. Writer MacArthur, the ""eternal boy"" whose marriage to Helen was regarded with horror and disbelief by their high-flying mutual friends, was and is her constant devotion. ""We allowed each other to breathe."" Helen Hayes' severe personal tragedies (the death of MacArthur and her daughter) are softened by loving memories: courting Charles pouring out the peanuts, later the emeralds; instructing their rapt daughter on the correct shooting of mashed potatoes; slugging Victor Mature because ""he stood there being Victor Mature."" Remembrances of capering actors and literati pace the recall: John Drew impeccably performing while under the influence with ""eyes locked in mortal combat""; Chaplin doing Hamlet with catarrh; the ""Hello Romeo"" of Laurette Taylor. Miss Hayes never really removes the Max Factor (""I wonder where the original Helen is"") but the greenroom is cosy, the hostess companionable. ""Collaborator"" Sanford Dody has tactfully shaped the appeal, left the enigma, of one of the theatre's last greats. Ladies matinee smash.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1968
Publisher: Evans