When You Meet Don Ameche, Heaven Can Wait
Sometimes I feel like your crazy Aunt Janet with the stories, like oh my God here she goes with another one. But yes, here I go.
Today’s is about Don Ameche—elegant, sexy, with that deep, resonant voice you can feel right down to the tips of your pumps, and a wonderful sense of the just plain goofy. There was nothing, from the wayward husband in Heaven Can Wait to the lovestruck cab driver in Midnight, that he couldn’t do. (And if you’re looking for a good sleeper film, check out So Goes My Love, in which he drives the genteel Myrna Loy cheerfully insane.)
I was extraordinarily lucky to meet him when I was working for a nonprofit PR firm right out of college and he came to New York to work on behalf of the Diabetes Association. Our company had to set up a meeting with him concerning his appearance at a fundraising dinner, and I volunteered to be the one to go. (Okay fine I bound and gagged all my colleagues in the coat closet and bolted the door. Let’s not nitpick.)
He showed up at the hotel restaurant in a gorgeous, perfectly rumpled white linen suit, setting off his gently tanned face, which highlighted his beautiful, still mischievous eyes. He was absolutely swoon-inducing, in his 80s. When he asked if I had any questions, I almost blurted out, “Yes. WILL YOU MARRY ME?!? REALLY, WE CAN MAKE THIS WORK!!”
First we talked about his movies, because really, he wasn’t getting away without doing that. After we went over the classic ones, and his Oscar for a brilliant turn in Cocoon, I mentioned that I always found Lillian Russell unintentionally hilarious, since his character, a frail composer, is suffering from a weak heart and Alice Faye is constantly plying him with buttermilk. We learn he’s finally succumbed to dairy overload when we hear him plunk his head on the piano keys offscreen. At the memory of this, he let loose that wonderful, rolling laugh and had that twinkle in his eyes, and I felt that “whoosh” you feel when a rollercoaster takes a sharp, heady plunge. I could feel my heart go baBUMP, baBUMP, and then flutterflutter.
But at some point, alas, I vaguely remembered that this was the boring old 1990s, not the 1940s, and I had an actual job to do, so we talked about the fundraiser for a while. I dragged out the meeting as long as humanly possible (“What color do you think the tablecloths should be? How about the napkins? Where do you stand on centerpieces?”), but eventually his assistant cast a rheumy eye over me and said they had to go. As he was leaving, I said, “Thank you so much, Mr. Ameche! I think I have everything I need.” And he turned and said, incredibly elegantly, “You certainly do.” Oh my God. I staggered back to the office dreaming I was Alice Faye. But without the lethal buttermilk.
- Posted in: classic film ♦ classic film stars ♦ The Story Behind the Film
- Tagged: alice faye, classic film, classic movies, don ameche, lillian russell
I love this story. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve always loved his work and “Midnight” is still one of the best/funniest movies of all time. And holds up rather well.
Love your work. Thanks again.
Thank you so much, Hal! I always feel a little self-conscious about sharing stories so your encouragement and kind words are much appreciated. And yes I LOVE Midnight!!
Wow — that’s the best thing I’ve read all week. Thanks!
As I get older I’ve realized that there are a number of performers I never really appreciated when they were alive. Don Ameche is one of them. (When I was a kid he was mainly a guy who hosted a weekly TV show consisting of clips from circuses around the world.)
Every once in a while I go to YouTube and play the clip of him winning the Oscar. Gets me every time.
And by the way, the Syracuse Cinephile Society showed Midnight a few years ago. It killed —
thanks in no small part to Mr. A.
Thank you Mark, and yes, I LOVE Midnight.
I love SC…this is my first time receiving it.
Thanks sooo much!
On Thu, Oct 28, 2021 at 6:19 PM Sister Celluloid wrote:
> sistercelluloid posted: ” Sometimes I feel like your crazy Aunt Janet with > the stories, like oh my God here she goes with another one. But yes, here I > go. Today’s is about Don Ameche—elegant, sexy, with that deep, resonant > voice can feel right down to the tips of your pumps, a” >
Thank you, Camille, and welcome to the Sister Celluloid family!!
The grin on my face may become a permanent thing. I love the way you write and I love the stories you share.
A few years ago I found myself watching nothing but films-noir one summer. I became more than a tad grouchy. I watched So Goes My Love and it is funny how much brighter the world became.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Paddy! And yes I LOVE that movie!! And like Myrna I’d happily throw all my carefully laid plans aside if Don came along.
What an incredibly charming story. I can’t get over it, sigh. It’s a true joy to find out that some of those stars were the real thing and human, too. Thank you for sharing this with all of the rest of us.❤❤❤
Thank you, Kathi!! I’m always happy to share stories!! As, ahem, you may have noticed…
Thanks for sharing this story; I have always loved Don Ameche and this post makes me love him even more. I would watch Don Ameche in anything!
Thank you, Meg! So would I.