The mirrored dressing-room reflected the images of thirteen beautiful women. They presented to the eyes a sight well-worth seeing, thirteen show girls preparing for the first act. Sitting in various stages of undress, they were painting pretty faces with brightly-colored cosmetics. This delicate operation was accompanied by sounds of laughter and loud talking.

 

I could not help wish, while looking at these handsome creatures, that time would stop in its relentless march towards tomorrow -- the tomorrow which would bring the sting of fading beauty, and perhaps the erasure of happy faces. Why should such loveliness wither? Why should these smiles ever forsake blooming lips?

 

All heads turned as a water glass crashed to the floor. All eyes appeared delighted at this accident for it was an omen of good-fortune. People backstage have many superstitions, one of them being that the breaking of a glass in a dressing room foretells good-luck for the person who has dropped it.

 

"Let us all charm our fortunes," exclaimed an excited voice. "We will break thirteen glasses, and fate will gather the pieces and remold them back into shape, and fill each mended glass with a good portion of luck." Within ten minutes fragments of thirteen glasses were lying in the center of the room. Within twelve minutes familiar tones boomed through the door.

 

"Put something on, I'm doming in." The door opened as there was a wild scramble for robes. His majesty, the stage manager, stamped in and screamed, "What the hell is going on in here. Why, you dizzy dames, just for this nonsense you can stay for a two-hour rehearsal after the show. And before you move from this room, make sure that not one splinter of glass remains."

 

Laughing faces turned glum and resentful as the realization came that no dates with best beaus could be kept that evening. Already time in the shape of fifteen minutes had brought them this small sorrow. It seemed that fate had not gathered up the fragments quickly enough. In response to my thoughts, I heard myself saying, "I wonder what fate will pour into the glasses of destiny for the next five years. What will you girls be doing and where will you be?"

 

I was greeted with annoyed glares. What chorus girl likes to look ahead? She lives for today, else she couldn't stand the uncertainty of her chosen vocation. If she does think of the future, she would usually give the answer that these girls gave. In five years, each would be retired, married to a millionaire who was now in the throes of searching for her.

 

***

 

The show has closed, the girls have separated and Father Time has erased five years. As I sit here, my thoughts wander back to the thirteen girls who worked a charm on their lives. Whether or not the fates filled the thirteen glasses with good fortune is the question that passes through my mind, as the girls pass before my eyes, as they are today.

 

I see Barbara first, the most beautiful of all. The three fates have changed her hair to platinum, her accent to British, and her memory to short. She has forgotten all her old friends since she has become one of Hollywood's most glamourous stars. Her birth place has been shifted from Tenth Avenue to a little town in Maine. The motion picture magazines speak of her docile disposition, while I have a recollection of shoes being thrown about a dressing room in spasms of fury.

 

I will never forget Margie, the belle of the show. Every other night would find a new beau waiting for her outside the stage door. She always claimed that if you never give your love to one man you will always be happy. I have to grin when I think of a rather plump and sedate matron living in Jersey. Yes, it's Margie. She is married to a successful lawyer. There are also two babies who resemble a hoydenish Margie of five years ago.

 

Last week a fan dancer gave a command performance before the King of Sweden. She has startled all Europe with her daring. This girl is the same Matt who cried with shame when she first saw herself in the costume that Mr. Ziegfeld designed for her.

 

On Park Avenue live two redheads, who wish to remain unnamed. They are the only ones of the thirteen who married millionaires but who also divorced them. Each lives in a sumptuous apartment with a lap dog to love, alimony to spend and time to be bored. They got what they wanted but did fate fool them?

 

On a back street in London lives sensible minded Eva. Fate put her there to console an unhappily married duke. Her advice on love that she so wisely gave to others passed unheeded by herself.

 

Theresa insists that her glass hasn't yet been filled with her fortune. Yesterday she sailed for Paris to grace the stage of the Folies Bergere. She asked that I leave her part unfinished for she is coming home a French Countess.

 

The years have slipped for Mae. She of the rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes and red lips is bravely fighting death in a sanitarium at Saranac. May fate fill her glass with health.

 

Catherine, whom we called the "Little Angel", walked through the gates of love into the arms of Public Enemy Number One's first aide. Recently there was a gang war and in one week all the participants killed each other off, including Public Enemy Number One. Fate rescued Johnny for Catherine when he escaped through surgery that removed three bullets from his side. He and she are now free of the bonds that held him to his dishonorable work. They seem happily married and starting life anew, far from New York.

 

"Sally of our Alley," who believed sincerely in the institution and sanctity of marriage is about to divorce her fourth husband. She should be an authority by now.

 

Fate played trumps when she cast a break to Jackie. If anyone deserved luck, it was she, for Jackie has worked hard since a little girl to support a mother and blind sister. Last January she was happily cast in one of New York's hit shows and the critics discovered her. She will have no more worries. Her career is in the making.

 

Have you ever seen one of those "don't touch me" girls, one that it takes you a week to start a conversation with? Well, that was languorous Ceil. She had everyone scared to death of her. The last time I met Ceil she was wearing two of the most beautiful black eyes I have ever seen. They were a gift from her husband, who is incidentally one of radio's most romantic singers. Don't you wish you knew who?

 

Ethereal faced Marilyn draws thirteenth place and she drew from fate the thirteenth glass, a glass of ever over brimming liquor which sapped the life from her frail body.

 

Thirteen broken glasses, thirteen laughing girls, thirteen lives make no difference to time passing by. No charm is needed to pacify his workings. No wish will bring back that same dressing-room and so as I feared on that day five years ago, I fear today, what will the future years bring?

 

Circa 1939

 

 

 

Beauties and the Beast