FINALLY THE CENTER OF ATTENTION
Alice Pearce is becoming a celebrity
as a witch's nosy neighbor
Customers coming into Pesha's Framing Studio, a tiny, cluttered shop in West Hollywood, are sometimes puzzled when they see the proprietor's wife. Their expressions say, "Haven't I seen you some place before?" But increasingly they recognize her instantly as Alice Pearce--or, rather, Gladys Kravitz, the nosy neighbor of Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched.
Miss Pearce, who has spent most of her career playing uncouth, unattractive characters--from the cold-plagued Lucy Schmeeler in "On the Town" to a strident mother shrieking, "Chester! You didn't brush your teeth!" in a toothpaste commercial--is actually a quiet, gentle lady of impeccable background, genteel upbringing and artistic bent. Pesha's Framing Studio is a profitable avocation for her and her husband, actor-director Paul Davis, who changed his name from Pesha
Alice Pearce did not change her name. The daughter of a banker, now retired, she asked her father's permission to use the family name professionally. He agreed, although neither he nor her mother has ever entirely approved of Alice's acting. Today, after a dozen Broadway shows and as many Hollywood movies and television programs, Alice says, "My mother still hopes I will give up my idea of going into the theater." Concerning her being drawn to the theater in the first place, she says, "The reasons are probably so complex that we wouldn't even want to know them." But in Alice Pearce's case it was probably the story of the shy, lonely, plain little girl--and, like many actresses, an only child--who found in the theater an extension of her own fantasies, and the applause and recognition she needed.
Her father was sent to Europe to manage his bank's affairs there when Alice was only 18 months old, and the family lived over the years in Brussels, Antwerp, Pome and Paris. Alice says, "I never had much contact with other children, so I lived most of the time in a fantasy world." When she was 8 years old, in Brussels, she starred in a school production of Moliere's "Le Malade Imaginaire." From that moment on, she knew she wanted to be an actress.
At 15, she was sent back to New York, her birthplace, to boarding school. She went on to Sarah Lawrence College, where she majored in drama, spending vacations with her parents in Europe. Now she says, "It's not good to go to Europe when you're young. When I was there, I wanted most of all to go to the drug store and have a soda, and I couldn't."
After receiving her A.B. from Sarah Lawrence, she worked in a summer theater in Maine, painting scenery and making intermission coffee. Back in New York again, she made the rounds of the agencies with no success, finally going to work at Macy's selling bloomers. Although she says, "I always wanted to be part of a shop," she does not remember this part of her life pleasantly, and now, in -Pesha's Framing Studio, she says, "I don't try to impose my taste on customers. I like a plain gold frame-- but, of course, that isn't at all good for the business."
Pesha is her second husband. They were married on Sept. 20, 1964, and have recently bought a small home-- but with a studio--above the Sunset Strip. "It's the first real home I've ever had," Alice says. L'I never even knew about a garden." Her first husband, songwriter John Box, composer of "It's a Big Wide Wonderful World," died suddenly in 1957, nine years after their marriage. Concerning the tragedy, she says,'LIf I hadn't been working, I would have lost my sanity.':
There probably isn't an actress who has worked more steadily. After selling bloomers at Macy's and doing a season of summer stock, she got her first important break in "On the Town," in which she played Lucy Schmeeler on Broadway and in the motion picture. Then came a tour with Tallulah Bankhead in "Private Lives," and leading roles in "Look, Ma, I'm Dancin"' and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." More Broadway shows and movie roles folloured, as the "Alice Pearce type" became known and in demand. When director William Asher needed a neighbor for Miss Montgomery in Bewitched, she got the job.
She likes the job, her first series role. "I like earthy parts," she says. "They're a rebellion against my background." But most of all--like the homely little girl in Brussels long ago--she seems to like the recognition, of a sort she never received in all the years of plays and movies. Now people come into the frame shop and recognize her, and their faces light up and they say, "Won't you come to our house and hang the pictures?"
*Article from TV GuideDecember 25, 1965
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