Other than that, "Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef" was a very positive experience. I came to admire my co-star Gilbert Roland tremendously. He had come across the Mexican border when he was a boy, accompanied only by a friend named Polo. He began in the business as an extra for $2 a day and a box lunch. He told me that in the mid-20s, he and another young extra named Clark Gable used to stand outside Musso & Frank's restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard, watching the swells eat great food and dreaming of the day when they'd be able to do the same thing.
The dream came true for Gil, just as it was coming true for me, which explains why I felt such an affinity with him. The dream came true for his brother, too, who went by the name of Chico Day. Chico followed his brother to Hollywood and became probably the most respected unit manager and assistant director in the movies. He even worked for DeMille on the 1956 version of "The Ten Commandments," one of the most demanding jobs ever for one of the most demanding directors ever.
Gil began his rise out of the extra ranks when he became the co-star and lover of Norma Talmadge and broke up her marriage to Joe Schenck. A few years after that, he married Constance Bennett. Gil was good in silent pictures as a dashing lover – he played Armand opposite Talmadge's Camille -- but his accent limited him in talkies, although his performances in "The Bullfighter" and the "Lady and the Bad and the Beautiful" were quite good.
I admired the fact that he maintained, and for nearly 60 years – his last movie was "Barbarosa," in 1982! As a man, he had immense dignity, and sustained great loyalty to his friends. He was close with Antonio Moreno practically all their lives. If Gilbert Roland was your friend, you had a man you could count on, in any situation.
"Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef" grossed $4 million - a very big hit. Harry Brand's publicity department claimed that I was getting more fan mail than Marilyn Monroe, although I'm not sure I believe that. I do know that during one month in 1953, I was on seven different magazine covers. My agent negotiated a new contract that bumped my salary from $350 a week to $1,250 a week.
I'm not going to pretend that there were an awful lot of negatives attached to being a young star in Hollywood. The perks are just what you might imagine them to be: every reporter wants to talk to you, and every girl wants you, not that I could indulge. Because of Barbara, I was off-limits to the girls. During the four years we were together, I had a couple of one-night stands on location, but was otherwise loyal.
When you're hot, the good times never really stop coming. Because of my friendship with Leo Durocher, I even got to work out with the New York Giants. Sal "The Barber" Maglie offered to pitch to me. Durocher took me aside and said, "Don't move; whatever you do, just don't move." It was a good thing he told me that, because Maglie's pitches were something else. Initially, the ball came right at your head, so the instinct was to duck down. The problem was that at the last second the pitch would dive down and away and catch the corner for a strike. If you ducked, the ball would nail you on the skull. I can assure you, standing in the box against him took courage, because he was authentically scary – the equivalent of Bob Gibson or Roger Clemens in a later era.