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"Secret Storm" memories.


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like the proverbial glove.

"I think of Ames as being basically a strong character," says Hobbs of this other man in whose shoes he stands, five times a week, on television. "A man who has not yet settled his problems as well as he might, because he is not completely at home in his surroundings. He came from a poor family and married into wealth and prestige and position, becoming the head of a business. His wife formed the head of a business. His wife formed the link between his two worlds and, when she died, that link was weakened. Without her, he is no longer completely at home in his own home, nor completely at home with his own children. He is going through that transition period which many men find difficult to face, the period when they no longer have the help of a sympathetic wife.

"In addition, Ames has another grave problem. He has to cope with his wife's sister, Pauline, to whom he had been engaged before he realized it was the younger sister he really loved. Outwardly, Pauline has forgiven their elopement, but he cannot be sure of her inner feelings. He knows only that there is something hidden, something baffling, which is hurting his relationship with the children."

Peter Hobbs gets that slightly stern look as he goes on to explain the problems of Peter Ames. "As any father would, Ames realizes how much his growing daughters miss their mother, and with what desperation his adolescent son Jerry must be trying to find a substitute for a mother's love and understanding. He can see why the children began to lean on Pauline's strength - because in his own unhappiness he, too, had allowed himself to lean a little, failing to realize that strength of the kind Pauline has to offer can easily turn complete domination. This is something he has yet to learn.

"I like playing this man, because his problems come close to many lives. What is happening to him could happen in some measure to any other man. It's part of the human drama, re-enaced on TV, with all the impact that medium gives it."

Hobbs seems to have won the part of Ames because everyone concerned with the show had a clear-cut idea of the man who could best portray that character. When he walked in, everyone said, "Here's Peter Ames." Actually, it wasn't quite that simple. He knew The Secret Storm's director, having worked with her husband in summer stock. After interviewing many actors, she remembered him, asked him to audition - and that was it. But he himself had some misgivings about doing a running part on television, with new situations and new lines to be learned each day. It turned out to be fairly easy for him, because of his long years of training in summer stock, on the stage, in radio and TV. "I figured, too, that it might take a while to get inside the character, and that turned out to be easier than I thought. Suddenly, I began understanding exactly how Ames was feeling and thinking and how he came under Pauline's domination, in spite of not being a weak person. Incidentally, Pauline is played by Haila Stoddard, an actress of great talent and fine theatrical background, with a marvelous sense of humor, and with not one trace of villainy in her makeup."

Jada Rowland, the child who plays the eight-year-old Amy Ames on the program, is Peter Hobbs' particular pet...partially because she is an unusual child...and partly because she reminds him of his own little girls - twelve-year-old Ann; six-year-old Jennifer; and five-year-old Nancy.

"Jada has all the charm of the lovely woman she will one day be," Peter says of her. "Yet she is a thoroughly normal little girl, who beats me at tick-tack-toe whenever we have a rehearsal break and who has to admit I can beat her at jacks. We tease each other, but we have a wonderful relationship. Already, she acts like a seasoned trouper. If she makes a mistake, she goes right ahead and handles the situation perfectly. Sometimes, I can hardly believe she is still just a small girl, because she has such an instinctive flair for saying and doing the right thing. I believe there are great things ahead for her."

Peter's own twelve-year-old daughter Ann isn't at all sure she wants to act. In fact, he says, Ann isn't thinking about it at all. Nor do Jennifer and Nancy show any definite inclination to follow in their daddy's footsteps. "They have seen some of the difficult side of show business - at least, Ann has. She remembers when there weren't enough jobs and Daddy wasn't making much money. She realizes this can be a hard life, although satisfying to the one who loves it so much that he can do no other thing. Ann may someday feel that way herself. But, right now, I think she would react as Haila Stoddard's little girl did when she had a chance recently to play a role in a Broadway musical. 'I'll do it,' she told her mother, 'but I really don't want to be away from my school and the other children.' It's a healthy attitude, and it proved that the stage simply wasn't the biggest thing in the world to her, stacked up against her classes and her schoolmates, so it was no disappointment when plans got changed."

Peter Hobbs himself could just as easily have become a doctor, or an engineer, as an actor. He has a decided interest in everything medical, a heritage from his doctor-father who was one of the first to specialize in the use of the X-ray. In fact, Peter was born in France after the end of World War I, while his father was serving as a roentgenologist with a volunteer medical unit at the base hospital at Eterat. Peter was hardly two when his father died in a flu epidemic, but he grew up poring over the doctor's notebooks and fascinated by the little X-ray pictures which documented the case histories, cherishing the blurred baby memory of the big man with strong, gentle hands.

Peter's engineering aptitude was something discovered during his own service in World War II, when the Army test showed he was good at handling tools and had decided engineering ingenuity. He might have subsequently ended up as a bridge-builder, since there are now some twenty medium-size bridges in the Tennessee area which were constructed under his supervision when he was squad sergeant in a combat engineers training group. He still is handy with tools and, even now can set up a kitchen or bathroom, including all the plumbing - as he did in his own house.

"I guess I chose acting because I lived in the atmosphere when I was growing up," is his own explanation. "My mother was always interested in the theater. She acted, she coached others, and she always coached me whenever I had a part in a school or community play, or had to do any public speaking. At our house, many people came and went to whom acting was life itself. At Christmas time, in particular, friends from the world of the theater would gather at little parties in our home would gather at little parties in our home and I would hover close to them, drinking in the fascinating things they talked about, the audiences they had played to, the triumphs and the trials, and the great-name stars they seemed to know so well.

"My mother became drama consultant to the National Recreation Association, working with playground planning and entertainment At nine, I played in a children's production of Shakespeare's 'As You Like It, 'put on by the fifth graders of Friends' Seminary, in New York, where I was a pupil, and my mother was responsible for all of this. It was small wonder that, by the time I was ready for college, I was working with a group called the Surry Players, a sort of cooperative summer venture at Elsworth, Maine. Not as an actor, however. With amazing brashness, I had taken on the job of electrician, learning to cope with the lighting switchboard and the other technical details. I filled in as an actor by undertaking some of the smaller roles, along with my other duties, and managed to earn my five dollars a week, plus room and board!"

Peter continued to do summer stock during his college vacations and has returned to it time and time again. But, after his Army service, there was some doubt whether he would use his brain and his strong hands to make things people needed, or let his face and body and voice portray some man other than Peter Hobbs. There was still a pull toward medicine, too, especially since he had been able to visit his birthplace, Etreat, and talk to some of those who remembered his doctor-father's heroism in that first World War which had devastated their country.

The theater won out, and Peter came back to Broadway plays ("Joan of Lorraine," with Ingrid Bergman, and "Clutterbuck," replacing Tom Helmore, its star), to a tour with Joan Blondell in "Happy Birthday," and to pioneer in the first big nighttime TV dramatic programs - such as Philco Playhouse, Schlitz Playhouse Of Stars, Studio One, Suspense, Danger - many of which he appeared in again and again.

When The Secret Storm came along, however, he had to forego many of these other opportunities. It has its own compensations - such as fan mail, especially from teenagers. He has kept one note from a girl the age of his Susan. "I think you are very handsome," she wrote.

"I take the letter out and look at it on days when I get a little depressed about myself and need some bucking up," he laughs.

Women write warning notes about Pauline. "You get angry with her, and rightly, and then you wind up apologizing to her," one woman scolded by mail. "Can't you see it's that sense of guilt you have, because you married her sister and you think you let Pauline down? You don't owe her a thing, because you're just lucky you had sense enough to elope with the right girl. Now, Peter, stand up to that woman," she finished.

Many letters, some from men, warn him of the pitfalls Pauline is planning. When the idea was first developed that Peter and the children would go to live in Pauline's house, a male viewer wrote, "Please don't move into that woman's house. I did a similar thing a few years ago and I can tell you it's a great mistake."

So far, there have been no proposals of marriage - that is, not out-and-out ones. There have been what might be construed by a vainer man as gentle hints. But Peter Hobbs' plans already include a wife, and painting, in which she has been interested for some time and is now interesting him. The first thing he did was to ask: "How do you start things?" then, without waiting, he promptly did a very creditable oil painting of a room. They both like to watch television. Both like Western movies - in fact, Peter goes so far as to want to act in one. He has made several films, some of them for commercial and industrial use, some for the Army Signal Corps, and at least one semi-documentary - "Lost Boundaries" - in which he began with a good part that gradually got cut down as the picture became over-long.

Both love the theater, although Peter's connection with the stage now is only as stand-by for John Forsythe in the current Broadway success, "The Teahouse of the August Moon." This means that, every Saturday morning, he does a complete rehearsal with the Broadway cast, to be ready in the event Mr. Forsythe should one day be unable to appear. It leaves only Sunday as his one day of complete freedom. "We go to church, and we try to be outdoors if the weather is good. Once in a while, I break away and play baseball, but that's not possible often. There are too many things to be done."

Things like mending a leaking faucet or installing a new sink. Or hanging around a lab somewhere, watching a doctor furrow his brow as he studies an X-ray picture. Remembering how small a margin of three careers. And feeling satisfied to be Peter Hobbs, actor, who plays Peter Ames on television and only wishes that this other Peter's life could be turning out as happily as his own.

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Some great news for SFT and 'Secret Storm' fans! John Cunningham (who was on SFT and Loving) will team up to play with Frances Sternhagen (Secret Storm) will perform 'Comic Miscommunications' at the Sterling Auditorium at the Osborn retirement home in Rye, NY on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 7:30pm. I hope to be able to go. I saw Frances Sternhagen at the Players' Club, earlier tgis year, at the US Postal Service's launch of the new Jose Ferrer Forever postage stamp. Cunningham also appeared in the Broadway musical '1776.' Being the history buff that I am, it is one of my favorites. I performed in a local theater production of '1776,' where I played Samuel Chase, delegate from Maryland. I was seen eating a chicken leg thrughout the play!

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Does anyone know how long Stephanie Braxton played Laurie? I can't find that anywhere.

And does anyone know what month Jada Rowland returned as Amy in 1968? I was wondering if she was back in time for the start of the feud with Belle, with the accidental drowning.

Edited by soapfave06
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