Major H for Hollywood
Yesterday morning there arrived from Hollywood a pretty young lassie from Movieland, complete with the usual accoutrement of her kind--a press agent, an advance build-up, and a pair of legs. The photographers swarmed around her; the reporters avidly inquired into her love life; and her Twentieth Century Boswell added zest to the day's occupation by buzzing in and out with little extra facts and side remarks. This morning the news will go out from here to the West Coast that Harvard is mixed up in the movie racket again.
It was back in January of 1941 that the moguls of the movies first heard of the institution on the Charles. In that month Whitman Hobbs in an obscure article buried deep in the Lampoon, gave his impressions of the cinema "worsts" of the year. For a month nothing happened. Then the shrewd press agent of one of the forty or so actors and actresses given the Hobbsian Academy award saw the potentiality of the article. The resulting famous altercation between "Oomph Girl" Ann Sheridan and the 'Poon became known all over the country. It was the only incident that was not staged and pre-arranged. This lone incident in which Harvard was not made to look silly reached a climax when some Hollywood bigwig offered to let Ann's next picture hold its world premiere at the U.T. with 'Poon president W. Russell Bowie '41 as guest of honor and with a great fanfare of publicity. Bowie, realizing that some studio was hoping to clean up on the strength of the 330 year old name of Harvard, finally turned down the offer.
But Hollywood had the Harvard bug. If one actress could get free publicity by making Harvardmen look like asses, so could others. Leila Ernst made a half-hearted attempt when Hobbs placed her in Lampy's Post of Honor last winter, but the second real invasion was made by Marjorie Woodworth. This buxom blonde was trying every known means of getting her name and her picture in the papers last spring, and thanks to a shrewd and enterprising public relations man, one Bernie Kambers, she was doing right well by herself. Kambers himself decided on the Harvard angle and approached Coles H. Phinizy '42, who had succeeded Bowie, with the proposition that the 'Poon invite the second Jean Harlow to its spring dance. She wouldn't come, Kambers promised, but she might do some stunt like sending a plaster cast of her leg as a substitute. Phinizy refused his offer until he became exasperated, and then, in a moment of weakness, which he has since regretted, he accepted. Kambers immediately sent off a wire, and Woodworth, far from sending a plaster cast stand-in, headed Cambridgeward.
The Woodworth visit brought nothing but trouble to Harvard and to the Lampoon. It wasn't her fault. She did what she was told. Kambers dragged her everywhere, condescending to allow her to attend the dance for all of fifteen minutes, just time for the newsreel cameras, undoubtedly run by her home studio, to whirr. As a crowning disgrace. Kambers and the Boston newshounds got her to pause for a luscious bit of cheesecake in the lap of the John Harvard statue. When Marjorie departed from Boston the morning after, the Lampoon knew it was through with Hollywood. The visit hurt Harvard and did her no good, but it made Kambers.
The Advocate reopened the question this fall with an invitation to Miss Sheridan to become an honorary editor, but nothing definite has come of that yet. The next chapter is actually supplied by the young and shapely Senorita Montez, like her predecessors, a semi-star who hopes to let Harvard make her the real thing. The young lady admits to knowing absolutely nothing about the Student Union, the organization which invited her here. Her studio arranged her visit and fixed her invitation. Brought up in a convent, she has nothing in common with her hosts except possibly a longing to see her name or her face in print. Luckily nothing untoward has happened so far. There would have been an unfortunate incident if her press-agent had succeeded in leading her out to Soldiers Field to football practice in shorts and a tight sweater. As it was, the Boston photographers draped the H.S.U. around her, and snapped them in loving posses. Harvard's reputation will not be helped one little bit by those pictures.
If the actresses really enjoyed, themselves, or if the "inviting" organizations did, there might be some excuse for the Harvard-Hollywood axis. But neither does; it's straight publicity, through and through; and from a Harvard angle, all bad. Alumni, friends, and complete strangers look on the University with a renewed contempt when they read how the actresses have outsmarted the gentlemen. If the organizations had a stronger loyalty to the University than to themselves, they would from here on steer clear of Hollywood.