by Len Lear
I hate to play one-upmanship, but I do have something in common with Mort Paterson, who is profiled this week in Local Life because he is starring in “Country Girl,” by Clifford Odetts, at the Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill, from April 8 to 24. When I was an undergraduate at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, I also starred in “Country Girl,” although it was in the Middle Ages (1961). It was the role William Holden played in the movie. He and Bing Crosby both loved and fought over Grace Kelly. No wonder. (Paterson is playing the Bing Crosby role.)
The guy who was originally picked for the role flunked out of school, and the director asked me to step in. He begged me, and my ego was so flattered to be asked that I could not say no. (He knew my work because I had acted in other plays.) I had to learn all the lines, about a million, over the Easter vacation at home with no one to rehearse with. I just talked into a mirror.
I had to forget about studying for all my courses, although I was a pre-med major and had exams coming up. On opening night there were 14 people in the auditorium, which held about 400. It is because the basketball team was playing its biggest game of the year against Temple. Almost everybody was at the game.
I did forget a line, and for quite a while there was nothing on silence on stage. Finally the director backstage yelled out the line, but there were only 14 people there to see my embarrassment.
I can’t remember, though, whether or not I “got” Grace Kelly at the end of the play. You don’t expect to forget a thing like that.
I do remember that the girl playing the lead looked nothing like Grace Kelly. (Then again, who does?) Of course I could hardly complain because I looked nothing like William Holden (or even Bing Crosby). And still don’t.
I do remember kissing the girl in the play, which was one reason I agreed to take the role. But I felt nothing when I kissed her. I knew it wouldn’t last.
Don’t even ask what she felt.
I do not remember the girl’s name, but I do remember that when she was a senior, she married a law school student. That’s even worse than kissing me.
I guess I should feel lucky that he did not sue me.