Rebellious Romeo Alex Cord


Alex Cord movie starIt was the first day of shooting on STAGECOACH and the two young stars playing the sweethearts in the film were about to be introduced. Ann-Margret, one of the sexiest young actresses in films, and Alex Cord, tall, rangy, one of the most exciting new actors to hit Hollywood in years, were about to meet for the first time.

Both these young stars radiate vibrant sex appeal, which was one of the reasons they were selected for this remake of the lusty movie which years ago had made a star of John Wayne. As Alex sauntered over to meet Ann-Margret, some observers on the set stopped to see what the impact would be, expecting “Wow.”

Instead, as one of them said later, the meeting was decidedly chilly. “Enough to put a frost on a Palm Springs pool,” the observer reported. “Alex was particulary unimpressed; he just extended his hand, mumbled a few words to Ann-Margret, then walked away.”

When I caught up with Alex at a hoedown given by 20th Century-Fox to celebrate the start of the film, I asked him if it was true that his reaction to sexy Annie was on the chilly side. Very few healthy males remain unimpressed upon meeting her.

Alex, dressed in the Western costume and broad-brimmed hat he wears in the picture, smiled sardonically. “The kind of girl who seems to impress every other man manages to leave me cold,” he said. “I don’t go for actresses — they’re too self-centered. The raving beauties like Ann-Margret and Elizabeth Taylor don’t raise my pulse. They’re too studied. They’re great for other men, but I don’t go for calculated beauty of studied sex. And that’s usually what you get with an actress. Her whole life revolves around her face, the way her hair is done and the clothes she wears. They all look alike. Also, they’re always looking around, when you take them out, to see if anyone’s noticing them. Hollywood actresses are so determined to get there that, notwithstanding their beauty, they have a certain masculinity. They crowd a guy out.

“I’m attracted to very feminine girls,” Alex went on, “the kind of girl who looks as though she needs help getting across the street. I like a girl who is not conventionally pretty, who doesn’t think of herself all the time. That leaves out actresses in my personal life.”

Just then, a beautiful girl with dark hair, wide, brown eyes and willowy figure walked over to Alex. He leaned over and kissed her warmly. I recognized the girl as Anjanette Comer, a young actress causing quite a flurry in Hollywood since her appearance in THE LOVED ONE. There was no mistaking the affection between them.

“Are you serious about Anjanette?” I asked.

Alex grinned. “Crazy about her.”

“But this doesn’t make sense,” I said. “First you claim you can’t stand actresses. They bore you, annoy you; are trite, bossy, unfeminine. You said you hate to date one. And now you admit to being in love with one of the most dedicated young actresses in town.”

Alex put his arm around Anjanette’s shoulder. “Whoever said I take my own advice? Sure, I don’t go for actresses. And yes, I do go for Anjanette. She’s my girl. But she’s different.”

If this sounds confusing, then it’s just a tip-off to the free-wheeling personality of a young actor who intrigues Hollywood because he is different.

The rebel in Alex is reflected in his face, which is lean, sharp and intense; in his manner, which is devil-may-care; in his clothes, which are casual; in his attitude, which is non-conformist.

“I had to learn to think for myself,” he explained, “because life tossed me so many curves. When I was a kid in New York, I came down with polio. Everyone was afraid I’d walk with a cane for the rest of my life. But I knew I’d walk again. I also knew I’d have to fight to make it.

“When I came out of the hospital, I wheedled my parents into letting me go to a ranch in Wyoming, where they had some friends. I was only twelve then, but I knew I had to go there. At first my parents were afraid to let me to be on my own. How could they send a half-paralyzed, skinny kid to a ranch where he’d have to compete with husky cowpunchers?

“Finally, I got them to let me go. I wasn’t afraid. I knew I’d make it. And I did. I rode horses and lived in the outdoors. The exercise and outdoor life restored most of my muscles. I became a good rodeo rider and decided this would be my life.

“When I was 19, just as I was doing great as a cowboy, a bull gored me. At the hospital, the doctors thought I was going to die. They operated on me and removed my spleen. I had to lie in bed for months. I had been used to a physical life; now I had to rely on my intellect to see me through.

“I began to read books and plays, and I found a whole new world. I particularly loved the plays, finding myself mentally acting out various characters. That’s how I first got the thought of becoming an actor. It never would have occurred to me if I’d continued as a rodeo rider. It was only when I was stopped by this accident that my life took this turn.

“When I recovered, I went to New York to become an actor. I did little plays, stock, anything I could get around Broadway. It wasn’t easy. I had to work on a construction gang to earn enough money to continue with acting, and I went hungry plenty of times. But I was stimulated by the urge to be an actor. I had finally discovered my goal in life.

“Eventually, with the experience I piled up, I finally received the Hollywood call and did my first starring role in SYNANONSTAGECOACH is a big break, and yet a challenge. I can only hope they don’t keep comparing me with John Wayne, who originally did this role. He is a film immortal, and I want to be judged as myself.”Alex Cord John Wayne

Hollywood had a chance to judge Alex when he first came to town. Instead of the pretty, young actresses who are so popular with newly-arrived leading men, his steady date, to everyone’s surprise, was Shelley Winters.

Alex let Hollywood speculate about the “romance.” Laughing, he explained to me, “Shelley and I are old friends. We met in New York years ago, when I was learning to act and I saw her in A HATFUL OF RAIN on the stage. I went backstage to tell her how much I liked her in the play. We’ve kept up a friendship ever since.

“When we saw each other here, everyone thought it was a red-hot romance. Shelley and I laughed about it. We just let them guess and talk. I love being with Shelley; she’s a remarkable person, one of the most stimulating women I’ve ever known. And she’s also very kind. She’s done more to help me as an actor than anyone else has. But she’s also all woman. It wasn’t fair to her to have all the cracks made about a big star like her going with an actor younger than she. That’s why I’m explaining it here.

“The only girl who’s meant anything to me is Anjanette. A mutual friend introduced us, a blind date, so we expected to hate each other. She’s a strong-minded individual; so am I. But instead of fighting the first night, we fell in love. And that’s the way it’s been ever since.

“One of the things I like about her is that she cares about me. Sounds conceited, but that’s not the point. I’m speaking as a man — and a man loves to feel that a woman cares about him. Anjanette is feminine enough to show that she cares for the man she’s with. Most Hollywood actresses care only for themselves.

“But here we go again. I never thought I could be so gone on an actress; but I am, for this particular actress. But then, I never thought I’d be doing a lot of things I’m doing now.”

And that’s Alex Cord for you — an unpredictable man and a rebellious Romeo.



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