What happened after that?
I walked out of there in such a fury and in tears, and went to see my old friend and vice-president Benny and he said, "You have to go back." And another vice president came and found me. Now those guys were my buddies, and they said, "Sweetheart you have got to go back and apologize." And I said, "What for? He should apologize to my mother I'm not going back in his office. I meant what I said and I don't care if you fire me now. I don't know where I found the independence. I totally winged it on my own and just took my career, with total knowledge and decision, and threw it out the window. Now I had not a clue how L. B. Mayer — one of the great icons of Hollywood history, and slightly mad, and who was frothing at the mouth in a temper — would take this from a pipsqueak. But I didn't care. I knew that he had done something very wrong. As it turns out they must have wanted or needed me. Otherwise they wouldn't have kept me. But that only has occurred to me in hindsight.
Did the studio try to change you in other ways?
My god, I had black hair — it was photographed blue-black it was so dark — and thick bushy eyebrows. And my mother and father had to stop them from dying my hair and plucking out my eyebrows. The studio even wanted to change my name to Virginia. They tried to get me to create a Joan Crawford mouth when I first began using lipstick at 15. They wanted, you know, Joan Crawford, the '40s and everything. Every movie star, Lana Turner, all of them, painted over their lips: and I'm sure that some of them had perfectly fine, full lips — but thin eyebrows were the fad...and God forbid you do anything individual or go against the fad. But I did. I figured this looks absurd. And I agreed with my dad: God must have had some reason for giving me bushy eyebrows and black hair. I guess I must have been pretty sure of my sense of identity. It was me. I accepted it all my life and I can't explain it. Because I've always been very aware of the inner me that has nothing to do with the physical me.
But there is a connection between the two...
Eventually the inner you shapes the outer you, especially when you reach a certain age, and you have been given the same features as everybody else, God has arranged them in a certain way. But around 40 the inner you actually chisels your features. You know how some people have a kind of downward pull, and some people have sort of an upward pull, and look stress free, while the others look as if they're just trying to carry the world on their shoulders. You just want to say, shake your head, shake your body like a dog and just get rid of all that. It doesn't need to bow you down. Life is to be embraced and enveloped. Surgeons and knives have nothing to do with it. It has to do with a connection with nature, God, your inner being — whatever you want to call it — it's being in contact with yourself and allowing yourself, allowing God, to mold you.
Were you always so free-spirited even as a kid?
When I was a child in England they always used to say to my mother — and it used to bother me — that I was an "old soul." I had no idea what that meant, but apparently I used to frighten grown ups, because I was totally direct. I saw my daughter as a baby, before she was a year old, look at people, steadily, with those eyes of hers, and see people start to fidget, and drop things out of their pockets and finally, unable to stand the heat, get out of the room. She was totally tapping into something that she was seeing that they didn't want touched.
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