Falling in Love With, and At, the Movies. What I Said to an Oscar-Nominated Actress. To Which Your Reaction Will Be — I Promise You — No, He Didn’t Really Say That. But Yes, I Really Did

Jan 30, 2012

I’m in love with the movies.

I like TV, but I’m in love with the movies.

Ever since I was a kid, the experience of being in a theater when the lights go down and the 20th Century Fox logo appears and its fanfare starts to blare, has been magical for me.

Not only the Fox opening, but any of the other major studios as well.

Even the Embassy Pictures logo.

Especially the Embassy Pictures logo.

In early 1968 I had just turned 16. I was alreadly in love with the movies. But that was when I fell seriously in love with someone in the movies.

The movie was “The Graduate,” and I fell head-over-heels for Katharine Ross. I’d never seen her before, nor ever heard of her. The sister of one of my best friends told me she was a model and had been on the cover of some magazines.

So I went to my public library the next day and did some research and found some magazine covers she had done. I went into the stacks and, with sweaty palms, tore two of the covers off and stuck them in my pocket.

I read as much as I could about her. One article said her birthday was Jan 9. Oh. My. God. That’s my birthdate too. No matter that the year of her birth was 12 years before mine. Clearly we were meant to be together.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. That this was just some schoolboy’s crush, not real love. Are you kidding me? Would I have spent some of the ensuing years going to see “Hellfighters,” “Fools” or “Get to Know Your Rabbit” (starring Tommy Smothers) if this was only a minor crush?

Any movie she was in, I saw. I read that she had been living with Conrad Hall, who had photographed “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which starred Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Ross. Then I read that she wasn’t living with Hall.

I heard she lived in Trancas. No, I didn’t go out there looking for her — though I thought about it.

Fast-forward 10 years or so. I’m happily living with my girlfriend in Santa Monica. I’m on the phone talking to one of my friends — Andy Moore — who had gotten a summer job on the Warner Bros. lot. He’d been there for a few weeks and started reading to me a list he’d written down of stars he’d spotted.

I shot straight out of my seat when he mentioned the last name on his list. Katharine Ross.

“When did you see her?”

“Yesterday. She’s making this movie called ‘The Swarm.’ ”

“Can you get me a pass to get on the lot.”

“Sure. Why?”

“I love Katharine Ross.”

At that point I think he mentioned something about the fact that a number of her movie choices were’t too good.

I wasn’t listening.

Two days later I was on the Warner’s lot. Fortunately, the scenes being flimed that day were on outdoor sets and not inside a closed-to-visitors soundstage.

The scene Katharine Ross was in involved her being in a car that stopped suddenly. After the last “cut” I moved closer and found myself right next to her as she was just standing by the car.

“Miss Ross?”

She turned and smiled at me. My knees buckled. My God, she was even more stunningly beautiful in person.

I introduced myself. I told her I was a fan. I gave her a short story I had written in which she was a character.

I said one more line to her. She laughed.

At that moment the director of the film, Irwin Allen, came up to her. Next to him was man about Ross’ age. Very handsome. Dressed to the nines.

Allen introduced him as one of the top surgeons around.

From that moment on, she only had eyes for this surgeon. I watched them for a few minutes and then walked away.

Though I had included my contact information with the story I gave her, I never heard from her. A few years later I read that her place in Trancas burned down. Fortunately, no one was hurt, as I recall. But I figured my story — which, of course, I had decided she had kept — went up in flames.

Later she married Sam Elliott.

I write about this now because somewhere along the way I read that her birthday was actually Jan 29, not the 9th. So her birthday would have been yesterday.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Oh, yeah, that last line I spoke to her? I looked into those exquisite brown eyes and I said, “You know, if we ever got together, you could be Katharine Ross Ross.”

And she laughed. Swear to God.

katharine ross.jpg

7 Comments

  1. Chuck, you’re a brutally honest and funny guy.
    I worked on ‘Prancer’ with Sam in ’89. Katherine came to visit while we were shooting in Indiana. The first day she came to the set, jaws dropped in unison. Yes she is stunning, and sweet.

  2. That’s sweet.
    We’ve all had people like that in our lives, and many of us still do.
    Nothing ever happens, of course, unless you’re one of the very lucky few (Brad Paisley first became enchanted with Kimberly Williams after viewing Father of the Bride), but unlike most of us at least you get to know that you tried.

  3. yo, javapete and chuck –
    I, too, worked on Prancer with Sam (classiest star I ever met). The lovely and talented Ms. Ross indeed visited the set a couple of times. Both of these Hollywood stars were truly charming, regular people — Sam more than once picked up a broom and helped set the snow for the film’s critical final scenes. Katharine was so tiny, and stunning as ever, even though she wasn’t picture ready (just visiting). I was so young and so proud to be part of a project in which I received no screen credit… alas.

  4. Chuck,
    This is absolutely hysterical! I remember it well!
    Love,
    Karen

  5. Hi Karen. Great to hear from you! Folks, in my blog above Karen is the girlfriend I was happily living with when I got to meet Katharine Ross.

    Chuck Ross
  6. Great story! I’m glad she laughed at your last line. I’ve always loved her, especially in the Stepford Wives. The original, and only version in my opinion.

  7. yo, javapete and chuck –
    I, too, worked on Prancer with Sam (classiest star I ever met). The lovely and

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