After the Hollywood blacklist ended and my father, Jeff Corey began working in movies again, I had to get used to having a father who was a working actor. It was always exciting when a studio messenger delivered a script to the house. Dad would disappear for an hour or so then come out and ask me if I wanted to run lines with him. I loved it. I got to play all the parts that weren’t his and quickly learned how to be good at it. I knew when to prompt him when he couldn’t remember a line and when to give him a little more time to come up with the words. He always marked up his scripts in his unintelligible handwriting but I learned to read his notes and slowly began to understand where he was going with a character.
One evening when I was thirteen, after dad had spent the day at Paramount working on Lady In A Cage with Olivia de Havilland, Ann Sothern, and James Caan, we were in the living room before dinner. Dad was sitting in one of our vintage Lincoln rockers reading the newspaper. He had on a white Brooks Brothers V-neck undershirt and a pair of baggy brown corduroy pants (his standard attire for relaxing around the house). I watched him out of the corner of my eye and suddenly, a wave of sadness came over me. Without my realizing it, my father had gotten old. His hair, which had once been dark brown was scattered with grey. How had I missed it? How had I not seen that passage of time? My heart was heavy at this realization, so much so I started to cry.
I tried to hide my tears from him but I couldn’t. “What’s wrong?” he said. I didn’t want to tell him. It felt rude to announce to someone you just noticed that he had aged. “Emily,” he said, this time alarmed. “What’s going on?” I took a deep breath and told him what I had observed.
Dad laughed out loud. “It’s makeup,” he said. “I washed my face when I got home but I haven’t washed my hair yet.” He explained that for his role as the Wino in Lady in a Cage the director, Walter Grauman, wanted him to look a little older so Nellie Manley, the hairdresser on the set, and the great makeup artist, Wally Westmore, had worked together to turn his hair “grey.”
I can attest. They did an excellent job. I was so relieved I didn’t even feel foolish.