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The True Story of— Phil Harris linked with Dozens of Hollywood Glamor Girls... but just one girl really counts!

 The True Story of—


HE TAKES the romantic “rap” from Master Kidder Jack Benny on his fictitious “dates” with tawny-haired GingerRogers and wisecracking Carole Lombard, when a Hollywood blonde with a husky voice is the one who really makes his heart turn somersaults. And he’s never met her! That’s the “true story” of curly-haired Phil Harris’ big “dates” . . . that is, it’s almost the story.
The other half has to do with a five-foot, four-inch brunet. A gal who swims and dances and sings and handles the piano ivories in a way that should put her in her husband’s band. You’re right. She’s Mrs. Phil Harris. And has been for nine years. It takes the romantic starch out of the Sunday night kidding that Swingmaster Harris, with the broad, beaming smile, is subjected to. But there’s more to this romance-and-rhythm story than that.
when I saw her.” Good sport that she is, his wife laughed: “Phil, she looked marvelous. I’ve never seen any woman look any lovelier. You have excellent taste.”

Like most civilized wives, Phil’s frau believes in taking competition (even if it’s only in the humble-admiration class) by the forelock, and inviting it to sit down to dinner. There is no room for secret jealousies nor envy in the Harris twosome, because there are so few secrets. If Phil admires Constance Bennett (“Gosh, he voice got me, back when she was making ‘Common Clay’ and a lot of other films,” says Harris, like a big college kid), he says so. And Marcia, 1937-model wife, sees eye to eye with him. Besides, she has a few masculine favorites herself—Ian Hunter, ClarkGable, Leslie Howard.

Beyond Bennett, the other Hollywood dazzlers don’t bother the Hoosier Harris. Phil, which is not short for Phil-anderer, thinks they are grand girls, and lets it go at that. After all, he’s been in the theater all his life, almost, and his Dad, Harry Harris, was a circus man. He knows tinsel for tinsel when it gleams, and how much glamor is worth by the bushel. And publicity, too.

Therefore, he was a little serious, unsmiling, which is rare, when the name of Ginger Rogers entered the conversation. Surely, we prodded, he’d like to be hanged for a wolf instead of the “Philsie-lamb” of the Benny program. He’d really like to go swimming around town, after dark with the delectable Ginger, wouldn’t he?

“Sure, I like Ginger,” said Phil, lighting another cigarette, “but she’s the wife of one of my old guitarists, you know . . .” You could see that the Middle Western code of the bandmaster did not include “swinging it,” not even for publicity, with the wife of one of his boys. “I picked up Lew Ayres in San Diego, you know,” continued Phil, “and he was one of my boys until he went into pictures. Naturally, I saw a lot of Ginger, and I like her . . .”


But—and we read his silent thoughts for you—there’s nothing glamorous about Ginger, ace film attraction, to me. She’s merely a darned nice kid, and the wife—they’re now separated—of one of my old players. It’s the same way with Gable’s Carole Lombard . . . a swell girl, but, my God! where’s the glamor? I know her.
Anyone with half an eye can see the reason for Phil’s indifference to the glamor dispensers. Paraphrasing MaryLivingstone’s famous line, Phil merely asks himself: “What has she got that my wife hasn’t got? The answer, of course, is “Nothing.”

“It’s a funny thing,” says Harris, “if I hadn’t gone to Australia ten years ago I wouldn’t have had my own band, nor would I have met Mascotte. Both were lucky breaks for me, and one led to the other. My band happened like this: One Summer I had a call from a booking-agent who wanted to send a first-class drummer, pianist, saxophonist and cornetist to Australia. Jazz music was just beginning to ‘catch on’ in Australia, and what the impresarios down there would do was to hire three or four good American musicians, and with that nucleus make it into a regular-sized orchestra by filling in with Australian talent.
I WAS down there a few months,” Phil relates, “and I fell in love. I’d been in love before, plenty of times, but it was never like that. I met Mascotte on the beach at St. Kilda with some friends, and after that when I was not rehearsing the band I was trying to ‘catch’ one of the shows that she was playing. She did some of the Ruth Chatterton things down there . . . ‘Up Pops the Devil’ and ‘The Devil’s Plum-Tree.’ As a matter of fact, she was very popular in Australia.

“You would have laughed yourself sick at the way the papers took our marriage on September 2, 1928. Everything is very formal in Australia, you know. English, and all that. Morning coats and striped trousers, and tea at half after four. We were married at the Sydney Court House, which was the first error, of course, to the natives. Civil marriages, unless unavoidable, were not the thing. And then I came dashing in, late, with my street suit on, and a shirt that had collar points that almost reached down to my breast pocket. I had ‘em made that way, purposely. I was the ‘personality drummer,’ and I dressed the part. The papers came out with a story that was captioned: ‘Actress Ralston Marries Yankee.’ That was the dirtiest thing they could say.”

Diffident about discussing his personal life, Harris, a Linton, Indiana, boy who has made good, is much more easy when talking shop—music shop. His is the analytical mind that finds reasons for things, particularly things musical. He will tell you that the current “swing” music is old stuff in the South, and when he was a kid, growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, all the “hot” music was “swing” . . . and then he goes off into a technical dissertation to prove it.

Currently, Harris is pretty busy. Too busy to carry on with the glamor girls, like the dessert program implies, if he wanted to. When he’s not rehearsing with Jack Benny, he’s appearing in Paramount’s Charlie Ruggles starrer, “Turn Off the Moon.”

If there’s one fly in Phil’s ointment it is that his incomparable spouse will not cook. “You can always hire one, Phil,” is the answer he gets from her. But Phil doesn’t really care, because his mother, with her second husband, makes her home with her only child, and Momma fixes up elegant concoctions like cornbread, chicken, thick, creamy gravies, all the southern delicacies that Phil likes. He has a hired cook, too. He calls her his “spare.”

POP, also re-married, lives in Hollywood, works in pictures. “. . . but doesn’t know a thing about them,” says this son of the old circus man. “Toss a couple of handfuls of sawdust on the floor of any set he’s working on and Dad would think there was really something to the film business.”
So there, my fine friends, you have the truth about Phil Harris’ much-publicized ‘dates.’ If you’d ask me, they seem to be all in the family.

Phil Harris may be heard on JackBenny’s program on Sunday over an NBC network at 7 p. m. EDT (6 EST; 6 CDT; 5 CST; 4 MST; 3 PST), and later for the West Coast at 7:30 p.m. PST (8:30 MST).


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