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SHAVETAIL

Ida Zeitlin


reprint from Modern Screen
September 1943

He’s a shave tail now - Second Lieutenant Tyrone Power of the U. S. Marines ---and the day they pinned the gold bars to his shoulders, he wouldn’t have traded places with a king.

Annabella wasn’t there. She was in California, to be with Ty’s sister, Ann, when her baby came. With a husband in Hawaii and a brother at Quantico, they agreed that Ann ought to have someone to pace the floor for her. So Annabella paced while Ty got his commission. But she saw the whole thing just the same in her mind’s eye, and she smiled softly, knowing exactly how he felt.

These two are as close as husband and wife can be, and the wife is a woman of rare understanding. She’d said good-by when Tyrone went to boot camp at San Diego, fully aware of what good-by meant. San Diego was nothing -- only two three hours away. She would see him again in two weeks. But he was going to a life which she couldn’t share as she’d shared the old life. She was saying good-by, less to Tyrone than to the happy planning of their courtship and marriage and honeymoon. She was saying good-by to dreams -- to something finished that would never be the same again. What it would be like later, nobody knew. Wonderful, maybe. But Ty and Annabella together, day after day through all the years -- that part was over. That was what her heart cried good-by to on the station platform, while she waved and smiled. “I’ll see you soon.” It was hard to be brave.

Both she and Tyrone thought it would be wiser to say good-by at home. So she went to the station -- because she doesn’t always do the wise thing. They were very early. It’s a weakness of theirs. At a party, they were always first to arrive. No matter how many times they circled the block, they were still first. So when it came to something important like a train, you can imagine. And when it was something ten times more important than anything else in the world -- like leaving for the Marines -- well, the train was due to depart at 12, so they got up at six and were down at the station by 11.

Nobody bothered them. Nobody stared or asked for autographs. The place was alive with service men, rushing here and there, hunting luggage, saying good-by to their own. Tyrone Power? So it’s Tyrone Power. The hell with him, I’m looking for my wife --. Ty was already one of them. He wouldn’t have turned from Annabella for more than a passing glance at Solomon in all his glory.

On the station platform he ran into his first skirmish and came out shaken but victorious. “That’s no good, buddy,” said the sergeant, as Ty handed over his orders. “You should’ve changed that at the window for a railroad ticket.”

Ty went white. Here they’d come down early to allow for just some such headache, and look what happened. There was no time to go back. Frantically he pleaded while the seconds slipped by, and happy men with tickets in their fists swung past him up the steps. He’d miss the train, he wouldn’t be there for roll call.

At last the sergeant got tired of the voice in his ear. “Okay, get in, we’ll have it changed on the train.” One last bear hug, then he was waving, stretching his neck from behind a dozen others. By that time there wasn’t a seat left.

Surprised buddies with his fistic ability, gleaned from champ Sgt. Fields. Has medals for sharpshooting and bayonet skill. Left, cleaning rifle at San Diego camp.

Transformation from civilian to Marine took a little while. The first time Annabella saw him at boot camp he was neither one nor the other. It was Sunday, visitors’ day. Boots and their families swarmed over the grounds as she drove in with a friend.

“There he is,” she cried.

“Where? How could you ever spot him in that mob?”

“Easy.” Her laugh wasn’t quite steady. “A pair of eyes, nothing around them.”

His hair was more shaved than cut. His uniform might have been described kindly as a near-fit. It was the lost look in his eyes, though, that really smote her. As he showed her round the camp, she noted a tightness, an abstraction about him. “How do you like it, Ty?” “Oh, all right.” He couldn’t relax, he couldn’t talk about it. He was between two worlds -- cut off from the old, not sure yet that he’d been accepted by the new. For no logical reason. Others could do it. Why not he? But with Ty, it’s not enough to be good. He’s got to be better.

Next time things were different. He was happy, he’d gained confidence, he belonged. He made with the Marine lingo. “Gotta wash the decks before I hit the bag.” He liked his sergeant. Even if he hadn’t said so, it would have been plain to Annabella after meeting the sergeant. He had a special way of holding himself like a ramrod. She noticed that Ty was holding himself the same way.

A boot, running past, yelled: “Got another letter. For myself.”

“I’ll be suin’ you,” grinned Ty.

You’ve seen those don’t-forget-to-write posters, with one kid standing letterless and forlorn when the mail’s handed out. This was the kid himself. One day he’d met Ty bearing a stack of mail. “All those letters from home ?”

“Well -- not from home exactly --”

“Oh, I get it. From fans. Look, I got no letters to open How’s if I open those for you?”

Not only did he open them, he wrote to a couple of the more promising senders -- feminine -- giving them news of his buddy, Ty. Before boot camp was over, he’d promoted himself some mail.

That Sunday Annabella saw her husband in a new role -- Private Power, extra, giving the assignment his all. They’d been asked to a buffet supper at the home of friends -- early supper, since Ty had to be back by seven. There were officers present, and Annabella had them to thank for Tyrone’s superb performance.

If you were looking for a title, you might have called it “Military Courtesy,” un-starring Tyrone Power. He stood very straight and said, “Yes, sir.” He addressed no officer without being first addressed. He was the last to be served, and he got no cocktail -- privates don’t drink in the same room with officers. He stayed on his feet till the officers were seated, and every time one of them rose, up jumped Tyrone. He stood through most of his supper, but it didn’t matter, because food was the last thing on his mind.

This time he talked his head off. But only about the Marines. He didn’t care what was happening in Hollywood -- or in the world, for that matter.

It left Annabella feeling lost, shut out, like a kid peeking through the gates. But she knew it was normal -- she compared notes with other wives. And for Ty she was happy.

If she couldn’t be a boot, at least she could bake cookies. For weeks she had cookies in her hair. She commandeered family, friends and neighbors to bake cookies. Because when Ty opened the box, there were already 15 guys around. And if Ty ate five cookies - which isn’t “much cookies” for Ty or any man to eat -- you had to remember it was really 75. So she mixed and stirred, and if Ty wasn’t there to laugh at the smudge of flour she always got on her cheek, she could see him anyway -- ringed by 15 others, big paws all dipping into the box.

On first leave, Ty visited Annabella on "Bombers' Moon" set, chatted with George Montgomery, Director Edw. Ludwig.

On her second visit, she’d left the station wagon for him, because he was due for a weekend at home. The station wag was built to hold seven, but the boots at San Diego discovered the secret of rubber and stretched it to carry 14.

For the rest, it was a quiet weekend. Ty wanted to see a few people, and he wanted not to get up at 5 A.M. Annabella asked half a dozen close friends to dinner. They were looking forward to hearing things from Ty -- not military secrets, but inside stuff that only a Marine could know. He took as his topic for the evening, how to shine shoes to higher gloss than the next fellow’s. He dived into the pantry, emerged with a box of polish and an old newspaper and gave them a demonstration on the library floor. They said thank you very much and managed to change the subject but continued to catch him at intervals through the evening, head cocked, eyes lovingly on his feet.

Through boot camp training, you’re closely watched as potential officer material. Ty’s heart was set on being a candidate. Annabella hadn’t a doubt that he would be. “I would have given both hands -- I would have jumped in the fire -- so sure I was.” So when he phoned in jubilation one night to say he was in, she couldn’t pretend amazement. For him, it was as if he flew to the moon in a plane. For her it was, “But of course.”


During Officers' Candidate School, he made radio war bond appeal in Richmond, received 400 calls within an hour! Talked with "Sgt." Stuart, 5, afterward.



Ty and his fellow candidates left San Diego for OCS on a Saturday and reached Quantico on Wednesday, having changed trains six times. Annabella felt a little guilty, because she left on Sunday by plane and got to New York Monday morning. She’d finished “Bombers’ Moon” for Twentieth Century-Fox, and was scheduled to broadcast in the east for the Red Cross. (She’d done 23 broadcasts - 20 of them gratis, for the war effort.)

She saw Tyrone twice at Quantico, where he lived in barracks and slept in an upper. They stood together on the beautiful wooded hills of the base and looked down at the quietly flowing Potomac. He showed her the chapel and the rifle range and took her to lunch at the Hostess House -- for wives, mothers and sweethearts. They strolled through the single street of the tiny village and stopped at every shop window that held Marine gear, while Tyrone gazed with such earning as Annabella has never felt before a millinery window. Now he took longer to dress than Annabella. The shoes had to be satin, the trouser crease razor-edged. If one decoration hung a quarter of a quarter of an inch out of line, he fussed over it like a mother, and they might not get dinner till nine, but the guy who sat down to it would be a well-turned-out Marine.

Once he got a weekend pass for Washington. Talking to Ty on the street, you were never quite sure he’d heard what you said. Half his mind listened, the other half was on the alert for officers.

A girl and an officer came toward them down the street. “Oh, Tyrone, what a beautiful clip that girl was wearing.”

I don’t look at the girls anymore,” said Tyrone, O/C. “I look at the bars on the man’s shoulder.”

To tell the truth, he hadn’t much time to look at anything but his books. Ty never went to college, and math is not his strong point. It’s no mean achievement that he was ninth in a class of 142.

Annabella was no anticlimax this time. This time she didn’t have to pretend astonished delight when he phone her the news, after she’d gone home to pace the floor for Ann. He tried to be modest and didn’t succeed altogether. Under his modesty was a little crow.

(Respecting government please, Ty phones rarely, briefly and only on special occasions. Also he reverses the charges to Annabella. He called his sister at the hospital after his little girl was born. The baby got a silver cup from Annabella, who’s her godmother, and a silver knife and fork from Uncle Tyrone, which godmother paid for.)

Though Annabella didn’t see Ty graduated, a close friend did. After months in the South Pacific with a flying Fortress and the kind of service which had brought him his promotion, Colonel Bert Cosgrove was back in Washington. He went down to Quantico for Ty’s graduation. The veteran who knew what war was like, pinned the gold bars to the shoulders of his friend.

That was at ten. At two the new second looeys moved to officers’ barracks. Then they went back to classes, for the first leg of ten weeks of stiff training. Ty doesn’t have time to write home more than once or twice a week. He gives Annabelle a sketchy record of his doings. Nine times out of ten there’s a P.S. -- Please send him some socks or handkerchiefs or that knife he forgot. He works hard all day, and there’s a compulsory study hour from eight to nine at night. But he’s the happiest man in a couple of counties. He gets up at six instead of five, which is a clear gain. He has all his weekends free. He can go to the Officers’ Club. He has gold on his shoulders, and privates salute him.

Beneath these minor satisfactions that he kids about, lies the deeper one, over which he and others like him shut their lips. It wasn’t for gold braid that they joined up. They’re proud to have met with credit the early requirements of a proud corps. If wife and home, friends and work have become secondary for Ty for the time being it’s - paradoxically - because they’re first. It’s his right to the life he and Annabella once planned together that he wants to fight for -- his right to work and live at peace in the home he loves with the woman he loves.

That’s why -- till the war is one -- heart, body and mind, Ty’s a Marine.

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