The Silver Scream
Monday May 30th
An Exclusive Lunch With Vera MIles
It’s a sunny California day in the wonderland that is Hollywood; the humidity is suffocating as Ms. Miles and I sit in the garden of her Los Angela’s residence. Around us her three children run around playing in the flowers and rolling in the dirt. Her eldest daughter (Kelly) leading the way as her younger daughter Debbie (Debra) copies her every move, the littlest Miles (Michael) toddlers around after them like a lost puppy. The Starlet in front of me takes a long sip of her lemonade, the ice clinking like wind chimes as she lowers the glass.
“I can honestly say I don’t know whether or not this show will flop, I know everyone keeps telling Hitch (Alfred Hitchcock) he should just release it as a two part episode on his television show, that is that it won’t make anything otherwise… but he always has a habit of doing the exact opposite of what people say”.
The “show” Miles is referring to is the new motion picture Psycho set to release in just under a month. The shows director is none other than the infamous Alfred Hitchcock and in true Hitchcock fashion the nature of the show has been kept under tight wraps.
When I pressed for information actors and workers alike all had the same response, “I’ve been sworn to secrecy”, that followed by a quick look over their shoulder and they are off. As if Alfred Himself is watching them, waiting for them to slip up. Even now more than ever with the release date so close, it seems everyone is taking extra care to be discrete. With all these secrecy and anxiety, it comes as a shock that Ms. Miles would call me personally to offer an exclusive pre-release interview.
I look down at my notes to prepare my next question, deciding to press my luck with the film topic, since she offed up a response so freely before.
“If this film were to succeed, let’s say it skyrockets and wins the Oscar, will you renew your five year contract with Hitchcock?”
Her calm and almost coy nature disappears nearly simultaneously, an air of forced humility seems to roll off her like a thick fog. A deadly smile plasters itself to her face and her back stiffens. It seems I struck a nerve talking about her contract.
“After the Vertigo incident Hitch and I both felt it would be best if we parted ways after the contract was over, not to mention I think Gordon would kill me if I signed for another five. Between you and me”
She leans in closer so the children don’t hear,
“This contract almost ruined my marriage. Gordon felt like Hitch was trying to control me. When Hitch Found out I was Pregnant he resented it, like I betrayed him or something.”
A nervous tick appears to me, she immediately start biting her nails and looking down. I decide to switch gears, talk about something different, something less invasive.
“why did you start acting?”
Her face brightens and suddenly the coy smile is back, she prepares herself for storytelling and begins with the beginning.
“In some sense it just sort of happened. I was doing beauty pageants and I had just placed third at Miss America where I represented Kansas. After the show one of the people working there said I should move to Hollywood and put all this beauty into something worthwhile. I started with small parts here and there, landed a chorus part in Two Tickets to Broadway, and then I did Tarzan and met my wonderful husband Gordon Scott, and it all fell into place after that.”
“The girls like Gordon then?”
She looks surprised by the question and then immediately her face lightens up.
“The girls love Gordon, of course they love their father Bob as well, but George treats them like his own”
The sound of a June bug can be heard somewhere in the garden and immediately the girls start squealing and pointing at it. Vera gets up and walks over through the mud to where the shiny beetle sits playing its song. She picks up and starts showing the girls the beetle. Once the girls are sufficiently calmed down and holding the beetle, she returns to the small white patio set where our interview is taking place. Curios as to how a girl like her isn’t like the average girl; scared of anything with more than two legs.
I ask her,
“How’s a girl like you get to be so comfortable picking up bugs and walking through mud?”
“Well” she says with a fiery glint in her eye, “when you grow up in Kansas, you learn to deal with two things, Bugs, and Tornados. And when you don’t have a father to get rid of the bugs you just learn to live with them.”
Before I can ask her my next question a sound that cues the end of my interview booms out across the yard, making the children scream in delight, “honey I’m home” Gordon calls from the patio door.
She gives me a look that speaks a thousand words, and I know it is time for me to leave, but before I do I need to ask her one more question that’s been weighing on my mind. As we walk through her house down the narrow hallway towards the elaborate glass and iron door. I make my move before it’s too late.
“Ms. Miles if I could ask one more question before I go?”
She stops just as her hand is on the door handle, turning ever so slightly as to acknowledge I may proceed with my question.
You said you won’t renew your contract with Mr. Hitchcock after this movie is released. Why? Didn’t he say you were going to be the next Grace Kelly, don’t you want that?
She moves so she is facing me,
“No. I don’t” she says her eyes are hard and her grip on the door handle is steel. She looks me right in the eyes as she prepares herself.
“I was always the Next Grace to Hitch, I was never his Vera. And when someone puts that much pressure on you, to be so much like the great Grace Kelly it can either make or break you. And more often than not it feels like I’m breaking. Looking back on this contract I can only imagine what Grace felt while working for him. No amount of fame is worth putting up with him for another five years, not another five years of picked outfits and haircuts, and discussions on how many kids I should I have or how I should act in my marriage. He doesn’t get to control that anymore.”
With that she opens the door and ushers me out, I thank her for her hospitality and for the interview.