Two things about this article surprise me very much: first, that readers of Screenland should be interested in the views of an actor on such serious topics; and second, that I have agreed to set down on paper ideas which I long ago swore to myself I would never discuss. People in the acting profession by virtue of the fact that they are in a branch of entertainment, have their followings. It has always seemed to me that what any one of us believes about politics or religion should be his own private affair. Whenever an actor discusses his attitude toward politics or religion, he may alienate a certain percentage of people who feel differently.
However, we are going through a great wave of political and religious unrest. The shooting war is over, but the war in men's hearts isn't. During my three years in the service, I discovered that many servicemen, given more time for introspection than they had ever had previously, were groping about for something in which they could believe. One reason I was so anxious to make The Razor's Edge immediately upon my return from the service was because it seems to me that in Larry Darrell , whose faith in his old way of life was shaken by the first World War, Somerset Maugham created a character similar in his reactions to hundreds of thousands of ex-servicemen today. They, too, are for the most part, not content to go back to their old jobs in drug stores or banks or selling bonds. They are restless and confused. They don't know exactly what it is they are searching for.
The last thing in the world that I want is to influence anyone's religious or political viewpoint. Just as W. Somerset Maugham said he had never begun a novel with more misgiving that when he began The Razor's Edge , so I have never begun an article with more misgiving than this one. Nevertheless, discussing things frankly may help to clear the air.
One of the reasons why we got into World War II is that, for a long time, Americans didn't care what was happening in Europe and elsewhere. We shut ourselves tight behind our delightful delusion that what happened in Europe was no concern of ours. Sometimes we didn't even care very much what happened in America. Many of us often neglected to vote. We paid very little attention to the forces of religious and racial intolerance, which were springing up in various parts of the county.
Today there is a tremendous job that can be done with young people in the high schools and junior colleges. I know that's true, because about a year-and-a-half ago, when I was sent on a speaking tour through such schools to appeal to these young people to buy bonds, I found their response amazing. Here were some of the much-maligned bobby-sockers. I discovered that they were on the whole very intelligent and responsive. They were glad that the nation had at last discovered them and was appealing to them. The moment they were asked to be part of an important movement, they grew in stature. I believe they listened to me not because I was a movie actor but because I was a Marine lieutenant who had something to say to them. These youngsters are in a listening mood. I think that those who are concerned with the future of our country should go out and speak to them on such problems as racial and religious tolerance and on the job they themselves will have to perform when they become voters. I know that Frank Sinatra has done excellent work in this field.
If more Sinatras and others like him had gone about talking straight-from-the-shoulder to the people of my generation when we were in school, perhaps the whole bloody mess of World War II might have been avoided. Anyway, here for what they are worth are my views on the subjects Screenland has asked me to discuss.
I don't believe that I personally have reached a definite philosophy of life. I think one's philosophy changes as one's desires, position, and ambitions change. There isn't any age where one stops growing mentally, and so there isn't any age where one reaches a final philosophy.
Life is trouble enough without worrying about something you don't know anything about. Naturally, the thought of death must be somewhere in our subconscious minds. We know it's bound to happen some day, but we accept it, just as we accept the furniture in our rooms without giving the separate pieces of great deal of conscious thought. Why worry about death? We know it's going to get dark tonight but we don't worry about it.
I believe in one kind of immortality. People live in the people they live behind. There are probably peoples who have passed away who have influenced you. So long as that influence remains, they are alive in you. Just because we happen to "shuffle off this mortal coil" and leave some worm food behind, we are not dead, so long as someone on earth remains on whose life we have left some mark.
In The Razor's Edge Larry's quest for something on which to hang his life and thus find peace went through three phases. He started off with mental reactions, studied music, art and books, and came to the realization that what he was looking for couldn't be found wholly in books. Then he tried the physical path to peace and worked in coal mines, hoping that he would find peace in word and sweat. Finally, he decided to try to find what he was looking for in India, through religious and spiritual paths.
Screenland has asked me in what things I have faith. The question nonplusses me. I'm not sure what faith is. If by it is meant a blind acceptance of "things not seen," then I think that perhaps I am a man without faith. On the other hand, there was a poet who said: "There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me.
Than in half the creeds."
I believe that you should do anything you think right as long as you don't hurt any other person. Shakespeare certainly had something when he said, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
They accomplish a great deal of good. I believe that one of the greatest motivating factors in life is loneliness. In the church and in religion people have someone to turn to. I go to church, not so much at the prescribed times, as at odd moments when it is empty and alone, so it isn't essentially our loneliness that brings me to church, nor is it a prescribed creed. Perhaps it's strange that a man like myself, who professes to be a man of little faith, should find a church so well worth going to. I think that going to church, particularly in those quiet hours, gives you a certain feeling of peace. Many times, you find that peace through meditation and being alone. Sometimes the atmosphere of the church helps you to work out your problems, or you are able to confide in a person or in a force which some men call God the problems you couldn't discuss with anyone else. Confiding your problems thus gives you a great sense of release.
War and Peace
I have been asked whether I believe that World War II is the last war. Let me answer by a question: Do you think human beings are any better today than they have been?
I believe that all young people should be educated in religious and racial tolerance, and that all of them should learn something about how our government works, so that they won't think it's all administered by some vague organization in Washington, DC, which has nothing to do with them.
The Post-War World
I'll be very much interested in seeing it, if it comes in my lifetime. Right now we're living in a post-shooting war America, which is rather pleasant. However, with all the unrest, turmoil and revolution, who can truthfully call this a post-war world? I don't know when that happy day will come.
Work and Success
I think that people who give advice to others should be quietly disposed of. I just can't see myself sitting down and earnestly passing out bowls of advice. I don't believe that there is any set formula for success. The closest you can come to it is to say that it's 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration. That's an old truism, of course, and like many old truisms, it's true. I think that success, particularly in this business of acting, is a combination of fortunate circumstances and work.
Love and Marriage
Whenever I'm asked about marriage, I always think of Samuel Johnson's witty remark, "A second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience." The more you think of it, the wittier it seems.
The same principle that applies to success applies to a happy marriage. You have to work harder to keep it happy than you did during courtship days. You have to be as considerate and thoughtful as during those days. Just as your work in your chosen field can't stop when you become a success, so working at marriage can't stop when you think you've achieved a happy marriage.
I don't know whether peace comes out of happiness or happiness out of peace. It's like asking: Which came first the chicken or the egg? I don't believe that you can achieve happiness through conscious seeking for it. When you do achieve it, it will come out of your subconscious mind.
I believe that we are born alone, live alone and die alone. There is always the seventh veil covering each person's mind. Loneliness is one of the great motivating forces. You can be lonely in a crowd. Many servicemen knew deep loneliness, though they were surrounded by legions of men.
To sum up my beliefs , I believe that one of the great motivating forces is loneliness. I believe that all good and all evil exist in different proportions in all men and women; that good exists in those we all evil, and evil in those we call good. Sometimes the good may be so deeply buried, and the evil so triumphant that we cannot see the good any longer, though there are feeble remnants of it still left.