Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on March 10, 1940 · Page 25
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 25

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 10, 1940
Page 25
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SUNDAY MAGAZINE THIS MAD WORLD 2S 1 ' d ; : . - - - , . t-'BA "r " - ' S ' V . f A " w -; ' f -.1 - j Am&&tM2s lHvd 111 H tM ID Oscar Levant (radio w!t and author of "A Smattering of Ignorance") and hi new but unmusical missus find a high note in an exciting life with a genius. 1 " j i 1 t - .i t IL Mrs. Confucius al ways say: Only sour-puss like Lord Byron say it's easier to die for a woman one loves than to live with her . . . Sometimes marry a man to mend his ways - Jou may find out e's worth a darn. ' VER since Oscar Levant said, by way of a . LJ proposal: "Marry me and make me the gi . most confused man in town!" June Gale ' Levant has found herself part of a freewheeling Wonderland In which keeping np with this topflight insulter, musical marvel and first wit of the Forties Is a wife-size Job! "When we got back to New York," she says, "after being married in Fredericksburg, Va., last December, we went to see Du Barry Was a Lady" and discovered Ethel Merman answering an almost identical proposal. Oscar was piqued. 'That's MY line!' he heckled." Most women have to laugh at their husband's Jokes whether they like 'em or not. June loves 'em! She's discovered that being married to a quick-quipping musical genius (Seneca said: "There is no great genius without some touch of madness"). Is one of the more pleasant forms of Insanity. And a glance at the petite blond and very charming Mrs. Levant (but recently of the movies) makes one understand how even the partial taming of the shrewd and owlish Oscar hus been accomplished that is, matrimonially. "My Day," done In the terrific "tempo of the lyrical Levants, begins in mid-afternoon when most Man-hattanites are coming home from pasturage and abdicates (but does not die!) about dawn. What is euphemistically called their "private life" Is carried on in an atmosphere almost as soothing as a Presidential rally run up by the Marx brothers with Bound effects from Goldwyn's "Hurricane." This particular afternoon his publisher's representative is divulging the amazing success of "A Smattering of Ignorance," the book Oscar tossed off in an odd moment of financial anemia. Over in a far corner Clifton Fadiman, genial and urbane, runs through some of their radio fan mail. New portraits, fresh from the photographer's, are being selected; phones ring, tall glasses are passed round, coffee Is brewed by the bride, gulped by the groom. Thus the marriage of this couple capers merrily along. Allegro. Once again during his endless perambulations, Oscar seats himself at the grand piano around which their living room radiates. "Do you know what this Is?" he asks as the little woman begins to warble the chorus, pensive and provocative. Then he answers: 'That's 'Jilted.' 'Jilted,' " he repeats. "It's like laughing at death!" Put it down that little Lucifer Levant, aged 32, the wags' own wonder lad, major virtuoso of composing, ivory tickling and music memorizing and one of the Four Headmen of radio's Information Please has added the distinction of little boy benedict to his many and certain accomplishments. For the Levant merger is no run-of-the-scalea romance. It's a sort of Btahms-out-of-Kern affair. The Real Thing. He describes her as "A tyranny of sweetness." Bora June Gilmartin, of San Francisco, a quarter of two sets of Gilmartin twins all girls -she toured Information, Please! Here Ills: How That Lovely Mrs. Levant Solved the Problem of Life with Oscar, Who Figures Wedlock Is Just -a State of Confusion ... By Helen Hale America and Europe In their famous act But the little woman who gave the right answer to the fella who stumps ether audiences insists that "Ever since we met at the Trocadero in Hollywood three years ago I've found myself in a different world my life full of laughs." She didn't attach a great deal of Importance to that meeting though. Next day he phoned. "As we talked I decided not to make a date," she remembers. "Felt I didn't know enough about him. Then he said abruptly, 'You wouldn't go out with, met' Why not?' I asked. 'Well, would you V 'Well, maybe." A few quibbles later they were making a date. (Is it a touch of perversity which eventually makes the whole world kin?) Every night after that Oscar called her up. Not dismayed by his previous unsuccessful marriage to showgirl Barbara Mae Smith, a brief scherzo which came acropper after three months (or was it weeks?) he kept repeating the love theme, playing it against a three-year contract which gave June bigger and better parts. Then, Just before its ex-, piration, she flew East, taking up Oscar's proposal instead of letting Fox take up her option. Their trek to Virginia was typical. Oscar's lawyer met them In Virginia. The first thing Oscar asked him as they drove to the wedding was: "Do you think I'm making a mistake?" A lot 1 , - . . ; - -J t So Oscar changed his boarding place from Lindy't. of women mightn't have thought that funny. But he wasn't marrying a lot of women. June laughed. 1 wore a gray suit," she relates, "and decided for some obscure reason that I wanted violets. Oscar and Charlie Lederer stopped off at dozens of florists. No violets. Finally they emerged from a shop with a bunch of flowers! " 'Here are your violets said Oscar with a flourish, looking pretty pleased. And he handed me a bunch of purple sweet peas!" She thinks they're very different. Oppositea. He loves food, is an avid baseball fan, has an insatiable curiosity and takes an enormous interest in politics. . None of which she shares. Besides, she says she is "unmusical." "I didn't marry her for reasonable reasons!" explains the omniscient Oscar. "Besides," he adds laconically, "she's only legally my wife!" This big brooding boy whose respect for the social amenities runs but quickly from ah to h , who aroused the musician's admiration in Paderewski and Stokowski (the latter of whom Levant says, "He virtually put Bach, for the first time, on the Hit Parade") has always lived in hotels; preferably, as he does now, but a few doors from Carnegie Hall, "so he can steal in free." "I've often torn up my ticket," he boasts, "Just so I could wangle my way In with the help of flowing black tie! "But there I go. Jokes. Silly stories. It's a disease. Beethoven was deaf. Mozart had rickets. And I make wise cracks." When Levant married, the columnists made a big to-do about his life at Llndy's. ."Levant Leaves Llndy's!" Fadiman quips, "It's been greatly exaggerated," Oscar insists. "I dropped in there for breakfast about noon, sat around talking with the boys for a couple of hours and then dropped back for dinner and a talk with the boys for a while. Then, at night. Just before I went home, I dropped in for a little snack and chat for an hour or two with the boys. Do you call that living at Lindys? I boarded there, that's all!" In his book he describes an episode which may perhaps serve as a clew to his marriage. Recounting his close and abiding companionship with the late George Gershwin, his brother Ira and Ira's wife, Leonore, "and those long nights at the Gershwins which found me, at 2:30 in the morning, prompted to make some impossibly stupid and uncalled-for remark. One time Leonore really became angry and said, "Get out of this house!' " 'All right,' I said petulantly, rising and preparing to leave. In the midst of buttoning my Jacket I sat down and said, Tm not going." " "Why ?' she queried. ""Because I have no place to go." "She laughed, and I stayed for another two years." Perhaps these Madhatters have a method! At all events June never makes the Jokes. "He always has me stopped," she laughs, "and I couldn't top him!" "Actually," Oscar insists, "she amuses me more than I amuse her!" 0

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