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Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins, the young Hollywood star, talks to Wallace about unflattering news stories, Hollywood, Manhattan, loneliness, religion, freedom, and the beat generation.

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Guest: Tony Perkins

WALLACE: Good evening. Tonight we go after the story of a young actor who seems destined to become Hollywood's biggest star. He's Tony Perkins and he has a fifteen million dollar price tag. That's what Paramount Pictures has invested to make him our next Clark Gable or Gary Cooper. If you're curious to know what this does to a young man who was almost unknown only three years ago and what Tony Perkins thinks of stardom, of Hollywood's values and of some news stories which picture him as a "brooding misfit", we'll go after those stories in just a moment. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Parliament.


WALLACE: And now to our story, Tony Perkins is twenty-five years old and perhaps the hottest property in motion pictures. His image on the screens seems to intrigue the American public but his private life too has struck a responsive chord with scores of articles appearing to tell eager readers about the real Tony Perkins, the shy Tony Perkins, the searching Tony Perkins. Like some other young men, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, Tony Perkins would appear in his own way to have a social significance over and above his impact as a film star. Let's try to find out why. First of all, Tony, let me ask you this. Out in Hollywood it seems to be generally agreed that you are the "Heir Apparent" to the throne held in recent years by such stars as Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart. In other words, in a few years you may very well be the biggest motion picture star in the world. How does that make you feel?

PERKINS: Well, that question is quite staggering in itself discounting the fact, or the theory I've never been asked it before and I don't have a proper answer for it. I can say that I've never thought in those terms for myself. I think it's a little far seeing and I think it's a little--well I don't have quite that high opinion of myself, I guess.

WALLACE: Well, I imagine it's understandable that you wouldn't but now that I have put it to you in this in this fashion, would you worry about it? Let me quote a couple of people Newsweek in the cover story they did on you just a few weeks ago said that you're classed with veterans like Gable, Cooper, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant. Mike Connolly in the New York Mirror, a year ago, said the fastest rising star in the Hollywood Heavens is a tall, lanky, not too handsome young actor named Anthony Perkins.

PERKINS: Well that's something else again. "Fast rising star", that's a very ambiguous phrase which can have any climax, any ending.

WALLACE: Well let me ask you this, would you like to be the biggest motion picture star in the world?

PERKINS: I don't know that I would. I think it might thrust upon me responsibilities, which I wouldn't be capable of solving.

WALLACE: What kind of responsibilities, Tony?

PERKINS: Well, if you're the number one star, you can't go anywhere except to be the number two star... (LAUGHTER) I mean it's a it gives you a kind of point of no return in your career where you could possibly never - never achieve anything more. Do you follow me?


PERKINS: I think generally, to think or to plan your life or your career in terms like that in terms of being the number one or in terms of being someone like Stewart or Gable or someone of that quality. I think it's dangerous.

WALLACE: Alright let's approach it from a different point of view. Two or three years ago, you were comparatively unknown and I imagine that you've thought about this. What is the quality within you that makes you the valuable property to Hollywood that you are? What is it what quality inside Tony Perkins is it that has made you what you are?

PERKINS: Well, I think as Newsweek Magazine put it a couple of weeks ago, that quality is probably the one in which -- the quality which I portrayed in... the character in “Friendly Persuasion,” which was my first big picture and the one that opened up a lot of doors for me professionally, a rather confused, searching intelligent but seeking sort of youth who is endeavoring continuously to become better to improve his surroundings, his mind, his life -- a Thomas Wolfe like character.

WALLACE: Somebody that a lot of people can identify with.

PERKINS: Oh surely! Well, almost everyone.

WALLACE: Of course speaking about this recently with our reporter, you jokingly mentioned that the late movie mogul Harry Cohn who developed Kim Novak among others, once said: "You want to bring me your wife and your aunt, we'll do the same for them" (LAUGHTER) Now could it be, Tony, that that's what's happening to you? Hollywood needs a new star so it selects a good young actor like yourself, starts beating the drums in an effort to convince the public that here is somebody they must see.

PERKINS: I don't know, I haven't thought about that question. I think probably not. I had made Friendly Persuasion and the picture was completed, and the character was to be seen by the people at Paramount Studios before they hired me to do more pictures for them. I think it probably gave them the idea, I don't think they just started one day and said, well, let's make a star and pick me out of a photograph.

WALLACE: You think you'd feel that way?

PERKINS: Yes, I would.

WALLACE: Then you don't think that's so?

PERKINS: No, I don't because I know they saw some film of me before they ever signed me to my contract.

WALLACE: Well, tell me this, we’ve spoken with Hollywood people before, for instance, the veteran screen writer, Ben Hecht. He told us frankly that Hollywood crushes honest creativity, that pictures aren't made by and large for quality but rather for just plain "box office" mostly by business men who use actors and writers, too, as pawns. Do you never fear that you, Tony Perkins, have been caught up in that kind of thing?

PERKINS: Did he say that recently or some time ago?

WALLACE: He said that about a month or six weeks ago on this program.

PERKINS: Well, these days with picture making and picture grosses and investing being the way it is, you have to take or Hollywood must take a slightly more hard-headed attitude towards the making of pictures and the building of stars than they might have ten or fifteen years agowhen almost any picture -- any quality picture sold. Today not every quality picture will sell. You can make a wonderful picture with wonderful stars and a wonderful story and spend a great deal of money in promotion on itand it still may do nothing at the box office. I'm sure that colored his statement and I'm sure it's a true one.

WALLACE: Let's look at some of the prices that you perhaps have to pay, maybe you're already beginning to pay for stardom. Publicity, for instance, a recent cover story about you in Newsweek Magazine that we mentioned, it was on March 3rd, makes you out to be a "neurotic", "somewhat mean", "vaguely unpleasant character", tell me how do you feel when you read something like that piece?

PERKINS: Well, of course, I'm very grateful to Newsweek for putting me on its cover. Start with that.I guess nothing is perfect, no experience or end result of anything that's perfect, of course I was pretty disturbed at some of the untrue stories in the piece. I guess one thing may balance another. Thinking it over though, for the first time, I've never thought this before but if I could have read the story and seen the cover, and they would've said "Well would you rather not have us print it, and have the story the way it is," I think I would rather they didn't print it.

WALLACE: You say for the first time. In other words, up to now, you have liked publicity?

PERKINS: No, I mean up to now in this specific instance, I've never thought of this before. I don't think it's worth it to me to have my cover my picture on the cover of Newsweek and have the kind of "write-up" inside that was given.

WALLACE: Well, let's take some of the things written in that Newsweek article and I dwell on this because I know that you want to talk about it. It was one of the conditions which we put when we asked you to come on this program. For instance, it says that one day at a posh press luncheon, you set about eating spaghetti with your hands. True or false ?

PERKINS: No, that's false.

WALLACE: Where did they get a story like that?

PERKINS: I don't know. Most of the Hollywood stories in the piece come from Newsweek's Hollywood Research, I presume, and a great deal of it, almost all of it as far as I can see was simply reprinted from other stories, columnists, quotes and even fan magazines.

WALLACE: They said that on location for a picture you were eating at a table and when a technical man, a "grip" sat down at the table you snarled, "Scram, this is the star's table".

PERKINS: Well, that picture was made two years ago and that story came out about at the time that we were on location with the picture. It never happened, not even a variation of that story ever could conceivably happen.

WALLACE: Story! what?

PERKINS: I'm much too... I worry too much a great deal too much about what people think of me and their opinions of me to ever to ever commit an action like that, even two years later with my own personality the way it is, I know I'm just not capable of such a thing.

WALLACE: You mean you worry about people, their reaction to Tony Perkins?

PERKINS: Sure, sure, especially with you know with the press, sometimes misrepresenting you.

WALLACE: Story that you once dumped a bucket of water over the head of actress Shirley MacLaine?

PERKINS: Well, I wish she was here.

WALLACE: Why do you wish she were here?

PERKINS: Well, I could ask her.

WALLACE: Not so?

PERKINS: Not so.

WALLACE: They probably got the story from Shirley MacLaine.

PERKINS: They may have.

WALLACE: The Newsweek article quotes various unnamed Hollywood people sounding off about you, an example, "he's nuts", another example "I think he ought to meet a good psychiatrist".

PERKINS: Well, fine. I wouldn't criticize anybody of their own opinion of me. If anyone thinks I'm nuts or should see a psychiatrist, I'm certainly not going to take exception to a statement like that. It's factual stories, stories like you know, pouring water on somebody's head or eating spaghetti with your hands, that's the kind of thing which kind of hurts and which you take exception to.

WALLACE: Of course, not all of this... articles about you are like this, there the great majority of them have been very complimentary but there are a few similar to this Newsweek story. Now what I'd like to know is your evaluation of why? Why do you think people want to write this kind of story if the material in it is, let's say, somewhat less than completely accurate.

PERKINS: Well, I don't think -- I don't think the magazines or the stories strive to tell stories that are not completely accurate but I think probably, it sells more magazines if you can present a more colorful or controversial picture of a celebrity or an actor or a personality. I think it stimulates reading, I think people enjoy reading that kind of story or mixed kinds of stories rather than they would a completely pleasant piece.

WALLACE: Let me ask you this, do you think that there is any resentment among people in the communications industry or possibly resentment among people in Hollywood itself that a young fellow like you, 25, made is so quick, so big and that therefore they might want to detract a little bit.

PERKINS: I used to hate to think so. Then it seemed to me human nature if some people did think so now I'm more or less accepted as the truth - if - I'm sure some people do. Why shouldn't they - I might myself in the same position.

WALLACE: You what?

PERKINS: I might feel that way myself if I found myself stranded in my career or at nowhere in my career and saw other people zooming ahead of me I think I might feel pretty badly about it.

WALLACE: We talked recently with a young actress by the name of Jean Seberg from Bonjour Tristesse, she told us that ever since her career began she's had to regard the people around her, even acquaintances with a certain degree of suspicion, she said, "Once you're famous people try to use you." Have you found that to be true too?

PERKINS: Yes, I have, not - not a tremendous per cent of people of course try to use you, I think it's bad to be suspicious of people and be not trusting of people. But, I have been burned in this kind of thing, once or twice and it makes you, you know a little touchy, a little wary on the subject yes. Once or twice it's plenty, you know.

WALLACE: Do you have many friends Tony?

PERKINS: Not a tremendous amount, the ones I do have I know I can count on.

WALLACE: I understand that you still live in the same $50 or $55 a month flat here in Manhattan that you lived in before you hit the jackpot is that true?

PERKINS: Yes, I do.


PERKINS: Well, it's home to me.

WALLACE: But you've had no desire to change your mode of living?

PERKINS: No, I lived there for about 5 years before that, that makes about 6 years or 7 years now, I wouldn't move for any, you know I wouldn't move to go to a more fancy place or a more elaborate place. It's a very nice apartment, you should see it.

WALLACE: It has nothing to do with a feeling of insecurity that maybe this just won't last, it's like they used to say don't send out your laundry because the act may not finish the week.

PERKINS: No, I have felt that way and it may color my actions in other departments not as far as where I live goes, no.

WALLACE: I've read that sometimes you wake up at 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning and you drive your car around New York City alone looking up at the buildings and the streets.

PERKINS: Well, I do. Don't you?

WALLACE: I haven't no. Why do you do it?

PERKINS: Well, on Sunday mornings if you drive slowly around you see something you want to look at you can stop your car in the middle of the street if you want to, there's no one around to tell you not to or move on, I don't know I take the top down I take it off, you know removable top and I don't know it seems like a perfectly legitimate and uneccentric thing to do.

WALLACE: Is the life of being a star Tony, for a young man is it an increasingly lonely life?

PERKINS: Well it can be. Hollywood is apt to be a rather lonely place, I don't know why, the people and actors, actresses and people you know professionally in New York and know and see occasionally once these same people get to Hollywood and you're there too, there's a lack of connection even with the people you knew in another place.


PERKINS: I don't know why, it just doesn't happen in Hollywood, people are different, it's a - something I'm convinced of. Hollywood does something small and by small I mean slight to a character or a personality.

WALLACE: Do you feel in any sense isolated from people. Do you feel, does the responsibility of being a star and of having all of this money on your shoulders, does that weigh upon you, does it give you a sense of isolation that you -

PERKINS: No, you mean - no it doesn't. I think that's very dangerous for an actor to isolate himself totally or even partially from human contact. It's important.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you this, then Marlon Brando once said that, "Most of the successful people in Hollywood are failures as human beings," do you agree?

PERKINS: Most of the successful people in Hollywood are failures as human beings ?


PERKINS:I don't know, I don't know many successful people in Hollywood. I hope that isn't so, since I'm becoming more successful.

WALLACE: Well, could it be that the public love that you get, the public not the private love that you get, the glamour the fame become so important that the star will neglect personal relationships and the development of themselves, himself, as a human being.

PERKINS: Well, it shouldn't there's no question that the for instance in the theater the applause and the love that you get from the audience every night is a quite a filling one and quite a satisfactory one.

WALLACE: Sufficiently satisfactory to make up for the lack of the other?

PERKINS: Well, no that's the point it musn't become too satisfactory, it musn't take the place entirely or even it musn't take a large per cent of that love, the need that need, you know it's dangerous to the personality and it's dangerous to the soul if that happens.

WALLACE: Tony, in a moment -

PERKINS: In movies, it's a totally different things since you really do most of your work most of your acting by yourself and with only the camera to applaud you.

WALLACE: Then from what you say your social life can be kind of lonely and isolated in Hollywood,

PERKINS: Yes, it can.

WALLACE: In a moment Tony, I'd like to ask you about something else, in the past few years we have come to hear your generation described as the beat generation. It's supposed to be a generation without roots, drifting, no real social convictions, finding release in jazz, sometimes even immorality, drugs. You told our reporter this week, you said, "I respond to the beat generation, I admire and pity it." In a moment I'd like to know why. And we'll get Tony Perkins answer in just sixty seconds.


WALLACE: Now then Tony, you told our reporter, you said, "I respond to the beat generation, I admire and pity it." Why?

PERKINS: Well, I meant that more or less in connection with the book “On the Road” which is or was supposed to be the Bible or the main expression literary expression of the beat generation, is that true? Is it still?

WALLACE: The Kerouac book, I think so, yes. That's the Testament.

PERKINS: The characters in that book, I do both pity and admire. Their irresponsibility, their lack of inhibition? No, their inhibition, their total freedom with themselves is something which I'm sure everyone at one time or at one time during any day or any week, you know would like to emulate.

WALLACE: Freedom.

PERKINS: Yes, sure. But, of course there - that same lack of responsibility in that same total uprooting from responsibility, family ties or whatever, is also you know can also be a subject of regret and pity from me -

WALLACE: Well, what do you think makes people of your generation beat?

PERKINS: Well, I don't know. I don't think that they're any more or less beat than any other generation in the past, so I guess -

WALLACE: You don't really.

PERKINS: I don't think so. So I guess you could call that a general social question which I'm or at least I would consider it a general social question which I wouldn't be qualified to answer.

WALLACE: Tony, what do you believe in, what makes you passionate, what makes you angry, what conviction do you have. What about your religious conviction, do you have any serious one?

PERKINS: Well, I went to school where we were very strongly bent towards the straight Protestant Reformation church. I admire it and think it's as good an expression of religious feeling as you can find.

WALLACE: Do you go to church?

PERKINS: No, I don't go to formal church here, no. I go in California once in a while.

WALLACE: Does freedom, does justice, if I may use these terms in a sense, does that concern you a good deal?

PERKINS: Of course it concerns me, it concerns me tremendously, it's a - I think an actor must be concerned with things like that. In order to portray a personality who desires freedom and justice for himself as most of the parts I've played have, must have in himself a tremendous feeling for it, I do.

WALLACE: The kind of freedom though that you admire you say at the beach what kind of freedom is that?

PERKINS: That's another kind. That's an irresponsible freedom, that's a lassitude almost, that's a irresponsibility, that's the best way I can state it.

WALLACE: Well, the beat generation do they not feel perhaps the way they do for the reason that they feel maybe the bomb is going to drop, maybe we're going to war?

PERKINS: No, no.

WALLACE: What's the purpose of life?

PERKINS: That maybe an excuse but I don't think that the bomb or social catastrophes or political what have you, I don't think that's any excuse or I don't think the beat generation should accept that, I don't think they have to make excuses for themselves.

WALLACE: Tony, final question. What does having a good time, besides acting, what does having a good time mean to you?

PERKINS: Reading, going to the seashore, swimming far out and lying on my back, just drifting.

WALLACE: You're telling me the truth?


WALLACE: Thank you very much, Tony Perkins for coming and spending this time and continued good luck to you and your career.

PERKINS: Thanks Mike.

WALLACE: Just as it grinds out films Hollywood grinds out stars, sometimes they're glossy, brittle things, made to order, think and behave as they're told, rebellion is resisted in Hollywood, it's often distorted in segments of the press which is the unfortunate price the public property must pay for individuality. In just a moment we bring you the run down on next weeks guest a playwright and star who says that the best humor is subversive. Now though a word on Parliament.


WALLACE: Next week we go after the story of perhaps the brightest new television personality of the season and his reverent and irreverent thoughts on our life and times. You see him here, he's Britains Peter Ustinov, actor, director, playwright, novelist, inexhaustible raconteur. If you're curious to know why Peter Ustinov says that humor is a serious business, what he thinks of the British monarchy, Brigitte Bardot, money and death, and if you want to hear why Mr. Ustinov despite his vast talents was a flop as a student and as a soldier in the British army, we'll go after those stories next week.Till then for Parliament, Mike Wallace good night.

ANNOUNCER: The Mike Wallace Interview has been brought to you by the new high filtration Parliament. Parliament now for the first time at popular price.

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