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TV Movie Fan (September 1957)

"Hollywood Is Asking: Is James MacArthur the New Dean?"

By Bill Stevens

Out Hollywood way the favorite sport of the year is looking for a hapless youth to crown as His Majesty King James the Second. In other words, the successor to the late lamented monarch of the teenagers, Jimmy Dean.

There are lots of pretenders to the throne. Everyone, it seems, is making like Dean these days. Too many people, in fact. The Dean craze is tapering off, but its after-effects are being felt, and how! Only it's not poor dead Jimmy they're harping on now. It's his successor. Or rather, his would-be successor.

A note of warning. Eager Beavers of Cinemaville! They never found another Valentino. They never found another Harlow. They never found another Lombard. They can look under every bed in the 48 States and they certainly won't find another Humphrey Bogart.
And they're not going to find another Jimmy Dean, either. It's getting so everyone thinks he's Dean these days. Elvis wants to be Dean. Now young Dean Stockwell wants the mantle.

Elvis has Dean's sullen quality -- without his acting talent. (In fairness to Elvis, Dean couldn't sing.) Stockwell has his looks. But the resemblance stops there.

Latest victim of the ape-Jimmy Dean craze, and a most unwilling one, is young James MacArthur, son of Helen Hayes and the late Charles MacArthur, famed playwright.

MacArthur is doggedly fighting the tide. He doesn't want to be the New Dean, he tells one and all. He wants to be MacArthur.

One camp in Hollywood vows the two boys' appeal to the fans is similar. A smaller group declares they are opposites when it comes to essentials.

Jim MacArthur, as everyone knows, just made a big splash in his first picture, RKO's Universal release, The Young Stranger. In this film he portrayed excellently, as did Dean, the problems and heartaches of an emotionally disturbed teenager.

So-o-o-o-o-o. The inevitable has happened. Everyone is calling Jim the New Dean. That is, everyone interested in the Dean Reincarnation. And Jim MacArthur hates it. He loathes the whole idea of it. It makes him sick to his stomach.

Jim expressed his disgust to us up at Harvard recently. We had gone there to interview him. Now Jim has nothing against Dean. He even admired his talent. But he feels there is no real affinity between what he projects and what Dean projected.

Nor do we. And we'll tell you why, kids. James the First was an introvert of the first water. He was broody, negative-minded, mixed-up, chronically restless and unhappy. He seemed to be disoriented in his approach to life in every respect save for his career drive. He portrayed superbly the confusions, the tortured emotional meanderings, the hungerings for affection and a safe harbor that characterize many teenagers, and he did it so well because he lived all that in his own life, day by day.

Jim MacArthur, on the contrary, is a disciplined, wholesome-minded, optimistic, compact, well-adjusted kid in his private life.

Dean portrayed one character-type with complete conviction. We doubt that he would ever have wandered far from that type, for he was essentially a "personality" actor. MacArthur, on the other hand, aims at versatility, wants to lose his own personality in his role, in the tradition of his mother, the great Helen Hayes.

Dean was emotionally immature, even at 24. MacArthur at 19 has matured far beyond his years. He is socially well-adjusted, and though he had the advantages of a moneyed and stimulating environment, he also has an intimate acquaintance with life's sorrows, having lost both sister and father. He is practical-minded, buoyant, forward-looking. Dean was inner-directed. MacArthur is outer-directed. He has widespread interests, including magazine publishing and his Harvard undergraduate studies.

He is the kind of boy who finds solace from his troubles in turning his attention outward to other things, other people. Dean found it difficult to do this. He was self-centered, neurotically self-absorbed. Also, he was unduly concerned with what people thought of him, though he concealed this beneath a bravado that often degenerated into childish rudeness and boorishness. In short, Dean withdrew. He brooded. He seethed. He floundered. He raced cars at reckless speed -- finally to his death.

MacArthur has no suppressed death wishes, feels no need for eccentric attitudinizing, clowning for the gallery. If anything, he is conservative. He takes his Harvard studies (he's a freshman) seriously. His business enterprises are an extra concern. He doesn't flounder around romantically, isn't interested in making "colorful" copy. Love? He's quite contented with his warm companionship with delightful Joyce Bulifant, a cute-as-a-button blonde teenager he has known for years.

Jim has some decided views on teenage problems. "There's a highly romantic, unrealistic view of teenagers abroad in the land," he says. "Actually three percent of the kids are 'rebels.' 97 percent are quiet, well-behaved and constructive. Of course the kids have their problems, and their high spirits -- but they can hold their own with the teenagers of the nineteen thirties or twenties or any era of any century. In fact, they're an improvement!

"I'm not an ostrich with my head in the sand," Jim says. "Sure, I know the guys and girls have rough going at times. That's why I want to help. That's also why I have a business interest in a magazine published exclusively for them. Teenagers are getting too many black eyes, undeserved incidentally, from press and public. Why should the law-abiding, sensible, straight-thinking majority have to pay for the goofings of the wacky minority? I ask you, is that justice?"

"Teenagers," says Jim, "are people. Just people, and like people of all ages, all circumstances, they must live with, and combat, the special problems of their age-level."

Jim added: "I feel that Dean and I have only one real point of resemblance. He in his inimitable way, and I in mine, we have tried to articulate on film the way a teenager feels. Why he or she acts the way they do. I feel the similarity between us stops there!"

So do we.

So all hail to his Majesty, King James the First of the Dynasty MacArthur. The dynasty of Dean had but one king. He died, and that royal line is as dead as the Tudors of England.

James MacArthur, James Dean

James MacArthur, James Dean

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