When Fame Begins to Fade (1932)

When Fame Begins to Fade

by Frederick Russell, special Hollywood Correspondent

It has been estimated that the average life of a picture star’s career is five years. After that, what?
Most actors have been trained from early childhood to do nothing except act. Very few of them have the slightest notion of business. That is how their managers make a living. Once an actor, always an actor.
Stardom, their supreme goal of achievement, is sought by all, acquired by many, and thrust upon a few. Once they have reached the peak, there is no turning back; there is no going farther; it is impossible to remain there long with younger rivals rapidly rising to usurp their envious place in the spotlight. After stardom, what?
There was a time when a week’s salary cheque was tossed to the caterer for a single party. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we may die,” was the theme song of the film colony. Most of them have died, professionally.
Not so any more. The stars of to-day are profiting by the follies of their predecessors. They realise to-day that to-morrow they will become the memories of yesterday. They are planning their futures… and their failures!
Leslie Howard believes in alternating stage and screen appearances to prolong his career in both.
“I believe that every actor, no matter how successful, should make at least three pictures a year,” he told me.
“People may never hear of an actor who devotes his time entirely to the theatre in New York and London. But when they see him on the screen, they will want to see him on the stage. That naturally prolongs his engagements.”
“That is how I account for the success of ‘Animal Kingdom’ in New York during one of the dullest seasons in history,” he explained. “It was a delightful play, but that would not have been enough. I like to make pictures of successes I have played in the theatre,” he told me. “They establish a sort of permanent record.
“It is absurd for everybody to say that I left pictures last automn,” he went on. “I made a picture in England as soon as I returned. That doesn’t look very much as if I had left them, does it?
“The difficulty arose because nobody could understand why I didn’t want to be tied up with a contract to work in the studios exclusively for the next five years. I had other plans. I was going back to New York to do a play. That had been arranged before I went out to the coast. When the play was bought, I returned to make the picture.”
It is difficult to imagine Leslie’s popularity ever on the wane. By some strange chance of circumstance, he is one of the few actors who has not become “typed.” And with his three-pictures-a-year, then-back-for-a-play plan, it isn’t likely that the public will be given an opportunity to tire of him. He too, however, has plans for the future.
“I’m rather keen about writing, you know,” he told me. “I’ve always been a little jealous of acting because it takes so much time. I have been harbouring several good ideas for plays which I never have found time to work out. I hope to… some day.”
[…]

(Picturegoer, December 10, 1932)