The 1951 La Jolla season was a particularly busy one for Mel
Ferrer - perhaps because it was the first summer where he ran the company without Gregory Peck's daily input
and thought he should be more visible.
Besides his overall producing chores (which he
managed while simultaneously acting in the movie Scaramouche) he
performed in two plays and also directed this one - "The Voice of the
Turtle," a gentle romantic comedy by John Van Druten that ran for
four years on Broadway during the war with Margaret Sullavan in the lead. He cast his
favorite La Jolla actress - Diana Lynn - opposite himself and
talked good friend Vivian Vance into coming down to La Jolla to play the
scene stealing other woman role done on Broadway by Audrey Christie.
The story is very simple and sweet and takes place
during World War II. A soldier (Ferrer) has a weekend pass in NYC and is
stood up by his glamorous date (Vance), so her ditzy best friend who's an aspiring
actress (Lynn), agrees to go out with him. When he can't find a place to
stay for the weekend she puts him up, allowing him to sleep on the
couch. She's been burnt recently and definitely isn't in the market for romance,
but the inevitable sometimes happens.
The popular play was made into a movie in 1948
starring Eleanor Parker, Ronald Reagan and Eve Arden, but with a change
of title - "One For the Books" - and an expansion of some of the minor
roles. Ferrer chose to stay with the original Van Druten title and
script. This play was chosen to take on tour after the La Jolla season
closed, and both Ferrer and Diana Lynn stayed with the touring
production, but Eve Arden took over for Vivian Vance.
Hollywood stars frequently made the two-hour trek
down to La Jolla to see whatever was playing, and one of the most famous
La Jolla stories concerns this play. Lucille Ball and Desi
Arnaz drove down to attend one night, and they were both so impressed with Vivan Vance's
performance as the acerbic, all-knowing best friend that they decided to ask her to do the role
of Ethel Mertz in their
new television show - "I Love Lucy." Lucy's only reservation
was that she seemed a little too pretty and rather too glamorous.
The La Jolla Playhouse