Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Happy 81st Anniversary

On their twentieth wedding anniversary, July 29, 1949, my parents went all out to celebrate the occasion. As columnist Virginia Safford wrote in the Minneapolis Star, "In this day when we're constantly hearing of unsuccessful marriages in the drama, movie and music world, it is pleasant to think about the Meltons. They really believe in romance, and are sentimental about birthdays, anniversaries and trips together."

The party guests included friends from 1929 through 1949.

The invitation was made up of song titles as follows:

Song Hits


Words by Marjorie Melton Music by James Melton














The party had a Polynesian theme, and was held on the lawn of our rose garden in Weston. There was a Hawaiian band to entertain during the sit-down dinner for fifty. Pink tablecloths and dark blue candles carried the dramatic color scheme set by masses of pink roses and blue delphinium decorating the terrace. Lowell Thomas arrived a bit late, having broadcast his 6:45 radio program that evening from the Melton Museum. After all the guests had arrived, my father quietly left the assemblage in the garden and went up to the balcony outside his bedroom overlooking the garden. From there he sang my mother's favorite song, "Because," and then tossed a Tiffany box down to her, commenting that it was her "service stripes." Inside was a gold bracelet with a large round pendant. On one side was her monogram, on the other side was engraved "Property of James Melton."

It must have seemed to him that the world was "Property of James Melton" too. He'd achieved the musical goals he'd set for himself, he had a family who loved him, he had the money to pursue an expensive hobby, he had the material possessions for an extremely comfortable lifestyle. Once, early in his career, he said in an interview that even if he had the financial wherewithal not to have to work, he would choose to work anyway, because he loved what he did. I wonder if that still held true as he passed middle age. The responsibilities that accompanied all he possessed were enormous. In his own mind, it would seem, he felt that his energy, enthusiasm and talent were equally enormous, and certainly up to the task of maintaining those responsibilities.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The James Melton Fan Club

To fill her long days alone in Hollywood while my father was making movies, my mother had a secret life of her own as President, Secretary and Treasurer of the James Melton Fan Club under the pseudonym Louise Mitchell. This may come as a shock to the loyal fans who corresponded with Louise for many years. But somebody had to do it. My father's fans were clamoring for a club to keep them up to date on the life of their hero. She was his number one fan, and obviously had a strategic post for news. She rented a box at the Hollywood Post Office and got the club under way, keeping busy with thousands of photos to send, letters to be acknowledged, and a monthly newsletter to be published.  My mother really enjoyed her alter ego, and carried on with it for several years until some friendly fans who were visiting New York insisted on meeting Louise Mitchell. My mother decided it was time to rub Mitchell out, so she married her off to an Englishman, and sent her to New Zealand to live. (She's still there.) The sole surviving issue of "Melton Melody News," from February 1938, contains an article about how the Meltons spent Christmas in their new house in Connecticut, playing with the young singer's electric train set. There were notices of upcoming concerts and broadcasts, and a Q&A with pretty prosaic questions. This issue also notes the "retirement" of Louise Mitchell, the club's founder. (The new president was Eloise DuBois, a real person using her own name.)  The cost to mail the 8-page newsletter first class was 1 1/2 cents!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Indianapolis 500

This Memorial Day just past I was reminded of a story about my father and the Indianapolis 500 race.

In 1946, he supplied several antique cars from his collection for a pre-race lap. He also was the first to sing “Back Home in Indiana” before the start of the race that year and in several subsequent years. There's also the story that for one race, with the cars revving furiously behind him, he got flustered, and started to sing “My Old Kentucky Home” instead of “Back Home in Indiana.”