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ALICE FAYE WAS READY FOR HER COMEBACK--EVEN IF IT MEANT PLAYING OPPOSITE LASSIE


When I interviewed Alice Faye for The New York Times in 1977, the former star of Fox musicals made it clear that she would welcome offers to play the sort of dramatic roles Darryl Zanuck refused to let her tackle, despite her impressive performance in 1945’s “Fallen Angel.” Sad to say, she never got the chance to prove Zanuck wrong.
--GUY FLATLEY

"I didn’t get to see Jimmy or Mickey, but I fell in love with Lassie,” says Alice Faye, sounding as huskily velvet as ever on a recent Palm Springs morning. Miss Faye, whose sole film role in the past 31 years was that of Pat Boone’s mother in the 1962 rehash of “State Fair,” is making a comeback in “Lassie, My Lassie,” which stars two of her colleagues from Hollywood’s heyday, James Stewart and Mickey Rooney.

Not that the kindhearted waitress Miss Faye portrays in “Lassie, My Lassie” is nearly so flashy as the apple-cheeked, cotton-haired, wholesomely brassy heroine who wrestled and warbled with the likes of Tyrone Power, Don Ameche and John Payne in “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Rose of Washington Square,” “That Night in Rio,” “Weekend in Havana,” “Hello Frisco, Hello” and “The Gang’s All Here.” Miss Faye refers to her role in “Lassie, My Lassie,” and to the even smaller role she plays in the mini-budgeted “Every Girl Should Have One,” as cameos.

Cameo or not, she still gets a chance to sing. “A truck driver comes into the restaurant where I work in Boomtown – right outside Reno – and he puts a coin in the jukebox,” she explained. “It turns out to be Pat Boone singing a new song called ‘A Rose Is Not a Rose,’ and I just sing along with the jukebox. Actually, I sing to this little boy who has wandered in looking for his dog, Lassie.”

Miss Faye caused her fans, as well as her new admirers among the critical fraternity, to frown when she announced her retirement in 1946, shortly after filming “Fallen Angel,” Otto Preminger’s harsh drama in which she gave a deft, moving performance as the long-suffering wife of the caddish Dana Andrews. “I had a lot of unhappiness around that time,” she recalls. “I really wanted to do more straight drama, but Mr. Zanuck didn’t see it that way. So, I decided what the heck, I’d been working all my life, why not take time out and be with the kids?”

Now that she’s a 65-year-old grandmother, Miss Faye would like to take time out to be on more and more movie sets. “I wouldn’t want to resume my career at a heavy pace, but I do enjoy putting my foot in. It gets my adrenaline going and gives me a lift.”

In general, movies do not give the lift they once gave. “It was hard work then, but it was class,” she says. “Today, it's…nothing. Oh, I guess you might say that what they’ve got now is progress, but I liked it the other way better.”

If there is no flood of Hollywood offers, Miss Faye will busy herself playing golf in Palm Springs and visiting with old-time friends like John Payne, Patsy Kelly and Jack Oakie. And, of course, she is still Mrs. Phil Harris, though she does not pretend that life with the exuberant bandleader-comic has been all roses.

“Whose marriage is all roses?” she asks. “Phil does his thing, and I do mine. You can’t be leaning on someone all the time. I’m not under Phil’s feet, and he’s not under mine. We get along fine.”