< Return to Adherents.com's Guide to Movies
< Return to Famous Catholics
< Return to Famous Foursquare Gospel Members
The Religious Affiliation of Actor
Anthony Quinn was born in Mexico to a Mexican mother ("Nellie," sometimes imaginatively referred to as an "Aztec princess" in studio publicity writing) and an Irish father. Quinn was born and raised in a Catholic family. While growing up he was a devout churchgoer. From the time he was 6 years old, Anthony Quinn regularly attended Catholic church services by himself. For a time, Anthony longed to become a Catholic priest.
Early in his career, Quinn played the saxophone and translated sermons (English into Spanish) at the Los Angeles worship services led Amy Semple McPherson, the charismatic Pentecostal preacher who founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. For a time, Quinn had hoped to become a great preacher within this movement.
From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, Little, Brown and Company: Boston (1972), pages 3-4:
I was living in New York, surrounded by possessions, family and position. I has three pictures running simultaneously on Time Square and I was appearing in a play at the same time. Everywhere you looked on Broadway you saw my name in lights...
After Quinn lost his voice for no apparent reason, he had an appointment with a doctor (an analyst, apparently) in Los Angeles. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 8-9:
I started for the town house I owned on Seventieth and Park Avenue. I had paid a fortune for it. It was six stories high, and each floor was filled with fine period furniture, with paintings, sculptures, and rare books. The thought of these possessions gave me no comfort. As I walked down Fifth Avenue, the towering buildings seemed to be falling in on me. I crossed over to Central Park. I began running. With each step my panic increased. I ran until I thought my lungs would burst. Exhausted, I fell down on a grassy mound overlooking the reservoir.
I longed to cry, but my throat wouldn't respond. I felt the greatest sorrow I had ever known, but I couldn't produce a tear. On my knees I called God for help. There was no answer. I waited with my eyes closed. I waited but He must have been busy elsewhere.
When I opened my eyes the lights of the city were blinking on all around me.
...That night when I went to the theater, my voice was gone. I couldn't speak above a whisper. We sent for a doctor. He hurried to the theater and examined my throat. He said there was nothing physically wrong.
"Then why the hell can't I speak?"
"I don't know," he said. "Either you have a growth on your cords which I can't see, or you have a lie caught in your throat."
A lie caught in my throat!!!
There were a thousand lies caught in my throat! Which was the one that was crippling me?
Somehow I managed to get through the performance that night. I tried to deal with the truth, the whole truth of my life, though the audience heard only a man rasping awkwardly on the stage. They couldn't know with how much pain.
I had watched the clouds gather, ever more menacing, and now the storm was fast upon me. I was out in the wilderness alone, and there was no place to hide.
"What profit hath a man of all the work which he taketh under the sun?"
I saw that all the work that I had done was vanity and vexation of spirit.
Suddenly I realized that the doctor was not merely a movie fan.
Quinn told his mother about his sessions with the analyst. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 19:
"Do you believe in love, Mr. Quinn?"
The question stunned me. I wanted to get up and go. The whole thought of analysis was painful and embarrassing. I felt boxed in, claustrophobic. I wasn't at all sure I was going to like this man. He was too ruddy, too healthy-looking. Probably a square.
"Do you believe in love?"
That's what it was all about.
That was why I was sitting there like an idiot.
If he'd asked me, 'Do you believe in God?" I could have dug into my bag of theological arguments and substantiated them with my reading and personal experiences. I had dabbled enough in the subject to run that obstacle course. But "Do you believe in love?"--that was the big one. The biggest.
I thought, yes . . .
I love the first days of spring when new leaves appear.
I love the sun and the sea.
I love the sound of children's laughter.
I love the rustle of trees.
I love the pungent smell of earth after rain.
I love the innocence of the first snow.
I love Mexican music.
I love Puccini.
I love learning.
I love a good night's sleep.
I love discovery.
I love the smell of incense in church.
I love Thomas Wolfe.
I love Rouault.
I love Michelangelo.
I love my children.
Of course I believe din love, the kind Jesus was talking about, or Gandhi. But had I ever been able to love unconditionally? I certainly loved my children, and yet, I had imposed laws even on them.
With women I had failed utterly. There, my conditions were unbending and archaic, the result of my religious training and heredity. The Indian blood in my veins was too strong to allow for any jazzy modern concepts. With women no flexibility was possible.
"Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."
The doctor had waited patiently for my answer.
"The kind of love I believe in is too complex to answer with just a yes or a no," I said. "But for the moment, let's say yes, I do believe in love."
"Then don't worry. Everything is going to be fine."
He tried to make a joke. "Any man who believes in love can't be too sick."
"Does he give you drugs?"
Quinn's mother told him about his ancestors. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 20-21:
"Then what do you do in that office?"
"We just talk."
"And for that you pay him all that money?"
"Why don't you go and talk to a priest, someone who is close to God? And it costs much less."
"Maybe that will come later."
"Your great-grandparents on my side were Indians, Juan Pallares and Pilar Cano. The Pallares had seven children... Maria [one of their daughters] became my mother, your grandmother... [At the age of 14, Maria got pregnant with the child of the owner of the mines where she worked. She gave birth to her baby (Anthony Quinn's mother) out of wedlock] ...My poor mother suffered enough shame being disowned by her own family. The only one who took pity on us was my uncle, the priest. He took us into the Sierras to live with the Indians, the Taraumares. Sometimes I think those seven years were the happiest of my life. We spent our days hunting and fishing... Because I was blond and had green eyes, the village all treated me like something special. I really felt loved by them."
An excerpt from the passage of Quinn's biography in which he recount's his mother telling him how she met his father. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 25:
"I was about fifteen when I heard that a new family had moved into one of the better 'barrios' up near the cathedral. I went up to ask them if they had any washing to be done. I had heard that the new family was well-off. Their name was Quinn.
Anthony Quinn's father - Francisco Quinn - was one of the Quinns who had just moved into the area. He was seventeen year old at the time. He decided to fight in the Mexican revolution on the side of Pancho Villa, and although he barely knew he asked Anthony's mother to go with him as his soldadera. So they met at the train station and boarded a train heading to the front. They were married on the train. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 28:
"After a while we were speeding south again. The sun was going down behind the mountains and the air was getting cold. People started covering themselves with their rebozos and serapaes. A few lit kerosene lamps. In the car someone was singing softly and other people were preparing to go to sleep.
Anthony Quinn's parents fought together in the Mexican revolution. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 30-31:
"it occurred to me that soon I would have to do the same. I would have to go to sleep near this boy whom I hardly knew, this boy who had never said pretty things to me and who just took me for granted.
"He saw me shivering there in the cold. 'Come on, get under the blanket.'
"I said, 'I can't sleep with you.'
"'That's crazy. I'm not going to touch you. Just get under the covers. It's cold.'
"I shook my head.
"'You think people can only sleep together when they are married?' he laughed.
"'Of course,' I said, knowing that it wasn't true.
"At the other end of the car was a priest.
"Francisco called to him, 'Father come over here. This girl and I want to be married.'
"The priest was a very young man. I don't think he'd ever performed the marriage ceremony before.
"'Well, I don't know . . . ,' he said.
"Francisco became annoyed. 'Look, we're in a war and this train could be dynamited any second. This girl and I want to be married before we die."
"The first thing Francisco said after the simple rites was, 'All right, get under the blanket.'
"Those first few battles changed all my girlish ideas of love. We were not characters in a fairy tale. I wasn't waiting for my knight to come on a white charger. I was constantly afraid that the next charger would be black and that he would take my man.
Anthony Quinn's father loved him very much, but his paternal grandmother still did not approve of the marriage. She moved to the United States, to El Paso, Texas, taking her son (Anthony's father) with her, leaving Anthony and his mother behind. She managed to travel to El Paso and find her husband's family. Anthony's mother happened to run into her Uncle Braulio, who finally intervened and helped the couple to reunite despite the objections of Anthony's grandmother.
"Love was ugly hours of waiting and fears. Love was cooking for your man as he went off to battle, mending his clothes when he returned. Love was giving thanks to God that your man was still alive.
"One night, a few months later while we were all packed down on the train--this time shuttled farther to Zacatecas--I told him I had felt the first stirrings of you [her unborn son, Anthony Quinn] in my belly. He laughed.
"A few days later, we women were washing clothes on a riverbank when a sergeant rode up. 'Any of you women pregnant?'
"A few of us held up our hands, and we were told to go to camp and gather our belongings. We were being sent back to our homes because they felt the men didn't fight as well when they had to worry about their pregnant women... I wanted a man-child. After all my mother had suffered and I myself had experienced, I decided a man-child was better off. I begged God each night to make it a man-child... I prayed to God that my child would not be born in the middle of the night. I wanted a child to be born with the sun in the sky. I wanted a child of hope, not darkness.
"Outside I could see the sawn beginning to appear. I relaxed finally. Now my child could be born if God wished. He must have heard me, because I felt a huge wrench inside of me... [She passed out.]
"When I woke up, our neighbor was holding you in her arms. You were a huge child, son. From the beginning you looked like a Quinn. You were so white. Only with time you became dark.
"When you were two months old, Francisco came back. His turn had come up to leave the lines..."
During the narrative provided by Anthony Quinn's mother, she frequently refers to God and His intervention and watchfulness. It is clear that she was a woman of great faith, and raised Anthony to be the same way.
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 37-38:
"Thank God I had been able to wash. My boy and I looked very clean as we walked into America. That was on the second of August, 1915. You were not yet four months old.
Anthony's mother left the church, went to the poorer part of town, and found a very inexpensive room to rent. She began looking for work, and then she saw Francisco (her husband) and Sabina (Francisco's mother) in a restaurant. Francisco was very happy to see Anthony, but Sabina hardly said anything. (The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 40).
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 43-44:
"El Paso seemed to me the biggest city in the world. I couldn't imagine anything bigger.
"The first thing that occurred to me as I crossed the border was to go to church. I wanted to thank God for having brought my son and me safely this far. I also wanted to ask Him to help me find Francisco.
"I walked around until I found a church. I was very lucky to find it empty. The priest was fixing some candles on the altar. I went up to him and asked if I could talk to him. He took me into his chambers. He took the roll from me and put it on the floor. I was ashamed of my roll because I hadn't had time to wash it. He didn't seem to mind. He listened to my long story very patiently.
"When I finished, he said, 'Don't worry, my daughter. God will help you. In the meantime, I will ask Dona Julia if she can use you in the kitchen to cook for the students here in the seminary. She is very strange and doesn't like many people, but I think she will like you. In any case, I'm sure she will like your little boy.'
[Anthony's mother helped Dona Julia do some kitchen work, and she spent the night at the church. The next morning, however, she was asked to leave.]
..."'Have I done something wrong?'
"'No. You are a hard worker and a good girl. I can see that. But you are very young. We have many young men here studying for the priesthood. I think having you around will disturb them.'
"She walked across the courtyard to the church where the priest lived. A few minutes later, they came back together. He seemed sad. I was still sitting at the table. I hadn't moved since the woman had spoken. I was so stunned.
"The priest told me to take my roll and my child and follow him. At the church he reached into his pocket and pulled out a fifty-cent coin.
"'I'm sorry, my daughter -- perhaps Dona Julia is right. Take this and may God bless you. You will always find me here if you need me.'
"...my uncle said to your father, 'Well, Mr. Quinn, you have a beautiful wife son and apparently another one on the way. My wife and I will be delighted to walk to church with you right now and be your best man and bridesmaid.'
Francisco came to see his wife, his son Anthony and his daughter Stella occasionally. Sometimes he would arrive (always unannounced) and stay for a few days, then be gone again for weeks or months at a time. (The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 44-45). Anthony's mother eventually to be very close to Sabina (Francisco's mother) and visited her often.
When a smallpox epidemic hit El Paso, Anthony's mother took him and his sister from their condemned apartment to live under a tree. Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 50:
"He said it in such a decent tone that Francisco couldn't get angry.
"'But we're already married,' he protested.
"Braulio nodded. 'But this time you'll have witnesses.'
"So we walked to the church with you in your father's arms and we were married again.
"After the quick ceremony, Francisco went back to his mother. I went with Otila and my uncle to their house. I felt very comfortable knowing that I was really married. I could breathe easier. If he didn't want to see me again, that was up to him. At least my children were now legally his, too.
"I would say we lived there for three or four months. When it started to cool off at nights I went looking for a new place for us to live. Eventually I found a nice room. God has always looked after me. I'm not a religious person but I believe in God. He is very good and all-powerful. I know He looks after me. That's why life has never frightened me, I can walk unafraid because God is with me, but I am not religious."
Some time after during or just after 1918 Anthony's mother began working with Francisco on the railroad (laying down tracks), and they began living together regularly as man and wife. (The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 55). Later Anthony Quinn's family moved to Los Angeles (The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 59).
After Anthony Quinn visited his mother, he noticed Angelus Temple, the home church and headquarters of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, where he had "dreamt of becoming a great preacher." From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 50:
It was dark outside when I left my mother's house. Poor woman, I had made her dig deep... On the right, the lake shimmered from the lights on the hill. Beyond, I could see Angelus Temple, where I had dreamt of becoming a great preacher.
Anthony Quinn's therapist discusses the cultural beliefs of Quinn's background. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 100-102:
"You know, Tony, your father was a patriarch. But as you've taught me yourself, the Mexican is in constant struggle between a matriarchal and a patriarchal society. Even in his religion he is much closer to the Virgin Mary than to Christ. Here in America we all tend to romanticize our mothers. I mean, a boy can say he hates his 'old man' and be forgiven -- but God help him if he calls his mother a c---. And let's face it. I'm sure many men have mothers who deserve being called that.
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 102-103:
"Historically the world's societies have had this struggle. The Jewish religion -- the Old Testament is devoted to a patriarchal concept. But momism has been making inroads for centuries.
"A matriarchal society is romantic and sentimental. It makes little demands on us. As with our mothers, we have unconditional love by just being. We have to do very little to deserve mother love.
"The patriarch demands more from us. We have to deserve God's love. The God of the Old Testament is a demanding one. He wants obedience -- He demands perfection on all levels.
"'Gird up thy loins like a man, for I will demand of thee and answer thou me.'
"Then God goes on to list all that he can do. He asks Job if he himself is prepared to challenge God.
"'Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?'"
The doctor put down the Bible from which he'd been quoting.
"He's a pretty tough guy, this God. He says, 'Okay, son, if you want to challenge me you're going to have a hell of a fight on your hands. But, boy, you'd better gird up your loins like a man.'
"Well, I think the moment has come. The 'unforseen complication' is that you're looking for the unconditional love of the mother. Of course, she loves you even if you are full of sh--. But your father doesn't accept that. He says, 'Boy, if you want my love, you're going to have to deserve it. You're going to have to fight for it. Gird up your loins like a man.'"
I knew what the doctor was talking about. When I'd started working with the "Holy Rollers" [i.e., the Pentecostal followers of Amy Semple McPherson, in her fledgling International Church of the Foursquare Gospel] I'd read Job. That God of vengeance had scared the hell out of me. He made you feel so insignificant. Sure He could shake mountains and shut up the sea with doors, when it breaks forth. He could bind he sweet influence of the Pleiades, and loose the bands of Orion. But He was God. He had a head start. And who was His father? Whom did He have to beat?
"As you know, Tony, it isn't my practice to prescribe, but tonight, if you'll forgive me, I'm not your doctor. I'm your friend and I'm treading on dangerous ground. You have made your father your God. He demands perfection from you. Now what do we do? Do we take him on?
The tenth of January, 1926, was a lovely crisp Sunday morning. I'd already been to church. I had started going myself when I was six years old. I can't remember ever having gone with either my mother or my grandmother. Certainly I never went with my father. I never heard of his going to church.
With his therapist, Quinn discusses how his younger self seems to judge his older self. This passage provides further insight into the degree to which Anthony Quinn was devoutly and actively religious while growing up. Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 107-109:
Sometime around the age of six I discovered that I could make a small fortune on Sunday mornings shining shoes in front of the Catholic church. Men liked to walk with nice shiny shoes. I could usually count on picking up forty or fifty cents. My enthusiasm occasionally extended itself to shining a man's socks. I remember looking down and seeing that I had stained his white socks.
"Thanks, boy. Here's a quarter -- I'll pay you to stop."
From then on I used to put a piece of cardboard between the shoes and the socks. But one day, after I had run out of customers, I stood in the doorway of the church and watched Mass. I loved the candlelight, the smell of incense, and the ritual of the priest. How I envied the altar boy his long red robe with the long white lace surplice. I felt that he had an inside track to God.
A young priest standing by the door invited me in. I parked my shoeshine box by the door and he led me inside. He seemed like the kindest, most understanding man I'd ever met.
People that I knew in the neighborhood knelt all around me. They had changed from their everyday selves to something different. They behaved like little children full of hope and wonder. As they crossed themselves I saw their yearning to be good. I wanted to be part of that world of hope, faith and love.
After Mass I asked the young priest if I could come back the following Sunday. He said of course. For years we were close friends--later I was to hurt him, but that is another story.
Now it was four years later and I had just come back from church. My father was out in the yard with two of his friends...
"I hate his 'holier than thou' attitude. I mean, all that church business, first as a Catholic wanting to be a priest, and then with the 'Holy Rollers' [i.e., Pentecostals in the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel]. It was an escape. He was afraid of life and wanted to retreat into some kind of sainthood so that no one would challenge him. He was terrified of losing, so he avoided fighting. He never put himself out on a limb. He felt if he got close to God maybe he could hide under His robe."
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 122-132:
[The doctor asks:] "In other words, if you could go back you'd change him?"
"I owe the boy a lot. But goddamnit, I've paid him back tenfold. Yes, there are a lot of things I'd change about him."
"Like the fighting, like all the crap he took from the other kids and turning the other cheek. I think he took Jesus' advice too literally."
"But the boy believed it at the time, didn't he?"
"He believed it for the wrong reasons."
"You think he was yellow?"
[Anthony Quinn recounts an incident from his childhood that illustrates how he was meaker than he now wishes he had been. Then he says that his younger self "wants things" from him.]
... "Besides that I want him to leave me alone. He keeps wanting things from me."
"Like wanting me to go back to religion, being some kind of saint. He wants me to -- oh, Christ -- the sonofabitch wants me to be Napoleon, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Picasso, Martin Luther and Jack Dempsey [the famous Latter-day Saint boxer, a childhood hero of Quinn's] all rolled up into one. He wants me to read every book that was ever printed and be able to sing every song ever sung... Nothing I ever do satisfies him. He wants perfect love--from me, from my friends, my enemies and my women..."
THE DOCTOR looked up after entering his notes in our growing folder.
A passage from the part of Quinn's autobiography in which he recounts his short-lived career as a boxer. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 151:
"That's straight out of the Book of Revelations, isn't it?"
"There's a similarity."
"Do you often have such vivid dreams?"
"Practically every night."
"Do you have a recurring dream?"
"Several. One is about a house I am constantly building on top of a hill. It overlooks a magnificent emerald bay. Another is about a huge house divided into two parts, like a duplex. I live on the side which is musty and dark. I can't find the door to the other more cheerful side."
The doctor was having a field day with his pen. "What about the dream you had last night? Have you had anything like it before?"
"Yes. In fact, it recurs more often than any of my night visions. Part of it, I mean. I very often dream of the world coming to an end."
"Is it always the same?"
"More or less. I always hear the trumpet, and the host of angels coming down the never-ending purple carpet from Heaven."
"When did it start?"
"When I was about eleven years old. After my father died, my grandmother became very sick. I started going to the Catholic church more frequently. I seriously thought of becoming a priest. I went to study with Father Anseimo, who was quite young himself. He talked to me a good deal about fate and God's will, and I accepted what he said. He told me that my father was not dead, that he had gone to Heaven. I was relieved to hear someone say this, since I had never accepted the death of my father. I was glad he was in Heaven because he was certainly deserving of a much better life than we had had in that terrible neighborhood.
"Whenever I wasn't working or at school I would go to see Father Anseimo. We would talk about what it meant to be a priest. 'It's not an easy life, Tony,' he would say. 'Don't have any illusions about it. It's very hard work.' I wasn't frightened by hard work. I also liked the thought of the robes, the incense, the music -- detachment from the hard ugly material world.
"One day, I came home to find several strangers in the house. My grandmother had terrible stomach pains. She could hardly breathe. The people were from a Protestant group we called the 'Holy Rollers,' the popular name for the Foursquare Gospel Church of Aimee Semple McPherson. They were praying for my grandmother.
"To me, it was like seeing the Devil; anybody who wasn't Catholic was anathema to me. I became furious, pushing them and shouting, 'Get out of my house. You're evil, you're disciples of the Devil. . . .' One man held me and said, 'Tony, we're not doing anything wrong. We're praying to the same God, maybe in a different way. We know you're a Catholic, that you have aspirations of being a priest, but your grandmother is going through great pain. She believes that we can help her. Please let us stay here and pray for her.'
"My grandmother lifted her head from the pillow and said, 'Tony, they're not doing anything wrong. They want to help me. I have terrible pains.'
" 'Grandma, I'll go to the church and have a Mass said for you. The priest will come and pray for you.'
" 'Tony, I've heard that these people can do miraculous things. I want them to stay.'
"I ran out of the house. I went straight to Father Anseimo and told him what had happened.
" 'Tony, I don't worship like the Protestants, but we mustn't be so narrow as to think they are devils. There are many ways to reach God. If your grandmother believes these people are the way, fine. Let them come.'
"I relented and got used to seeing them at the house. They would arrive in little groups of three or four. They called each other 'brother' and 'sister.' I began to see they were nice people. They weren't allowed to smoke or drink. They never went to movies, and generally didn't believe in worldly things. There was a kind of communal feeling about them. Slowly I began to accept these Protestants. My grandmother gradually felt better.
"One day, a young man from the group said they were forming a band at the church and would like me to play the saxophone with them. I said, 'Look, I don't mind your coming to my house, but I'm not going to your church, let alone play my saxophone for you.'
" 'Tony,' my grandmother intervened, 'I don't have the pains anymore. These people have helped me. I want to go to their church, and I'd like you to come with me.'
" 'Grandma, I'm not going.'
" 'We owe them something,' she persisted. 'I think we should both go and give thanks. I promised that if I got well I'd give testimony.'
"My grandmother and I went to our first revival meeting. To my amazement I found it tremendously moving. The crowd was different from what I was used to at Mass. There, it was all quiet and cautious. Everybody tiptoed around as it apologizing for being human, as if God would not forgive them if they made noises.
"Here, everybody was laughing and seemed to be at a picnic. People were patting each other on the back -- 'Hello, brother' -- 'Hello, sister'--'Glory, Hallelujah!'--and smiling. I recognized several Negro boys from Belvedere Junior High. I'd always seen them with a chip on their shoulders around the playground. Here I saw them smiling and grinning. They felt at home, accepted.
"Then the singing and shouting started. I had never seen five hundred people happy at the same time. The preacher was talking about the usual things -- sin, redemption, angels, hell and the Devil--but he also threw in a lot of 'Glories' and 'Hallelujahs' and every time lie spoke, five hundred people would roar back, 'Glory, Hallelujah!'
"One moment he'd be scaring the life out of them with images of brimstone and hellfire; in the next breath he was shouting, 'It's all right because the King of Heaven, who loves us so, is going to let us sit at His right hand. Behold, He cometh through the clouds and every eye shall see Him.'
" 'And they also which pierced Him.'
" 'His head and His hairs are as white as the first snow and His eyes a flame of fire!'
" 'Glory, Hallelujah!'
" 'Brothers and sisters, in His left hand He holds seven stars! And in His right hand a two-edged sword, and His countenance is as the sun.'
" 'Amen! Glory be! Glory, Hallelujah!'
" 'And he that cometh and keepeth my works, unto the end, to him I give power over the nations! And I shall give him the morning star!"
"The Negro families had their arms over their heads, as if they wanted to catch the stars when they started falling.
" 'And the stars of Heaven tell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind!'
" 'Yes, brother!'
"The band began to play. The trumpets blew loud.
" 'And white robes were given unto every one of them and it was said unto them: "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes!!" '
"The music rose to a crescendo. Five hundred people were raising their arms to Heaven. Every soul was waiting for the skies to open. Unafraid of seeing the wonder of Heaven, they were ready for that voice of thunder!
"I caught sight of my grandmother. She wore a beatific smile as she looked up toward Heaven.
"The preacher yelled over the wailing of the congregation, 'And He said unto me, it is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. And He carried me away in the spirit, to a great and high mountain!!!'
" 'AND I, TOO, SAW THE GLORY OF GOD!!!'
"My grandmother jumped to her feet. 'Brothers and sisters, I was sick,' she began. She talked about my father, about me and about the great miracle that had been performed and how she had believed. She seemed illuminated from inside; the congregation hung on her every word.
"When we went home that night, I knew there had been a transformation in me. I had witnessed something enormous. It had brought me to a point of decision in my life, but I still couldn't accept having Protestants in my house. The next day I came home and a group of them were sitting around eating and laughing. A madness came over me. I started yelling terrible obscenities at them. I picked up a knife, threw it at one of the men, but hit my mother in the back instead. She fell. I thought I had killed her. I rushed up, took her in my arms, and burst out crying. The group surrounding me started praying. A man put his hand on my head and said, 'Brothers and sisters, let us pray for this boy. He has the spirit of a leader. He believes, but in the wrong thing, and we're going to pray that God shows him the way. We're going to pray, brothers and sisters, here and now. Everybody kneel, please, and pray for this boy.'
"Suddenly I was the center of attention.
" 'Brothers and sisters, you have just seen the evidence of a beautiful soul, one who believes in the blood of Christ. We want this boy as leader--"And a Child shall lead us," says the Good Book!'
"The following Sunday I went to the Catholic church; I was an altar boy at that time, helping the priest during Mass. I suddenly knew it was the last time I would go there. After the service, in the vestry I helped the priest take off his robes.
" 'Father, I have to talk to you.'
" I think I know what you are going to say.'
" 'You do?'
" 'I've watched you wrestle with this problem for a long time. I know your mother and grandmother are going to the other church. I can only tell you that you must follow your heart. Try it for a while if you wish. I know that you will return a better Catholic than ever.'
"I went back into the deserted church and prayed for hours. I felt a tap on my shoulder. A cleaning woman asked me to get out. She had to sweep the floor before the evening Mass. I was furious. I said this was my church and that I would stay as long as I pleased. She called the sexton and he asked me to leave.
"The following day I told the people from the Foursquare Gospel that I would be happy to play my saxophone in their band.
"While I worked at a variety of odd jobs and attended school sporadically, I became deeply involved with the Foursquare Gospel Church. I started going out into the street, playing my saxophone with three or tour of the younger people. We'd stand on corners and play hymns. Crowds would invariably gather round and we would take turns preaching, mostly in Spanish.
"I was fourteen when I met the most magnetic personality I was ever to encounter. Years later, when I saw the great actresses at work I would compare them to her. As magnificent as I could find Anna Magnani, Ingrid Bergman, Laurette Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo and Ethel Barrymore, they all fell short of that first electric shock Aimee Semple McPherson produced in me.
"I sat in the orchestra pit of the huge auditorium at the Angelus Temple. Every seat was filled, with the crowd spilling into the aisles. Many were on crutches or in wheelchairs. Eventually the congregation settled down, the lights dimmed, and a hush came over the assembly. Even the whimpering of children stopped.
"A spotlight illuminated a lectern with an open Bible. We waited for what seemed an eternity. One could hear a feather drop in that huge auditorium, which seated about twenty-five hundred to three thousand people. I could actually feel people holding their breath. Suddenly a figure with bright red hair and a flowing white gown walked out to the center of the stage.
"She lifted her arms in that immense silence. Then that rich melodious voice began slowly, 'Glory! Glory! Glory!' I could feel the audience exhale. We shouted, 'Glory!' She smiled and the congregation felt truly blessed. She closed her eyes, leafed through the Bible, and let her finger fall. She read the passage, caressing each word. She began to interweave sudden bursts of emotion, 'Hallelujah! Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!' All the congregation replied, 'Hallelujah!'
"The orchestra got its cue and we started playing. In a very few minutes the audience was rocking. People were screaming, fainting. Finally, with the audience at the height of frenzy, Aimee raised her hand and stillness descended. In a soft voice, almost a whisper, she said, 'Brothers and sisters, is there anyone here who wants to be cured tonight? Let him come up and if he has faith he will be cured. Those who are blind will be able to see; those who are deaf will be able to hear; those who are crippled will be able to walk. I beg you to come up now if you have faith. If you have faith, brothers and sisters, come up, come up. . . .'
"They started getting up all over the audience, shouting, 'Hallelujah, hallelujah, sister. Hallelujah!' Long lines formed to reach her. She stood center stage and greeted each one. 'What is your name, brother? What is your name? What is your name, brother? What is your name? What is your ailment, brother?' One man said, T can't see out of one eye.' 'Do you believe, brother?' she asked. 'Do you believe that I can make you see? Do you believe in the Lord, my brother? Do you want to see?' Transformed, the man started shaking with emotion. 'You can see, brother!' Can you not see, brother?' And suddenly, the man cried, 'Yes, sister, I can see, I can see!' And the audience went crazy.
"To a woman dragging herself across the stage on crutches she said, 'You don't need a crutch, sister. You can walk. The Lord wants you to walk. The reason you needed a crutch was that you weren't walking in the way of the Lord, sister. But if you want to walk in the way of the Lord, if you want to follow his footsteps, you can throw away the crutch. Throw away that crutch! And follow me!' Suddenly, the woman threw away her crutch and ran into Aimee's open arms. I left that service exhilarated, renewed.
"This was all during the height of the Depression, when hunger and poverty permeated America. Many Mexicans were terrified of appealing for county help because most of them were in the country illegally. When in distress, they were comforted by the fact that they could call one of Aimee's branches at any time of the night. There, they would never be asked any of the embarrassing questions posed by the authorities. The fact that they were hungry or in need of warm clothing was enough. No one even asked if they belonged to Aimee's church or not."
The doctor nodded. "Back in the Middlewest we'd heard about Mrs. McPherson, but of course we only read criticisms of her, and gossip."
"I remember all that horsesh--. I couldn't have cared less about her private life. To me she was a good woman and gave people faith."
My voice started to rise in anger. The doctor held up his hand. "Whoa--whoa--I didn't say they were right. When did you meet her personally?"
"She had been at several of the band rehearsals. She always had a warm smile for everyone, but I could never look into her eyes. I knew she'd be able to see through me. One day, I was tooting away on my saxophone when I felt someone's eyes on my neck. I knew it was Aimee. I tried not to turn around but the pull was too great. During a pause I turned and there she sat behind me. Our eyes met for the first time. I felt no fear, no embarrassment, no awe--just complete acceptance. She smiled as if to say, 'I know you. I like you.' It was so simple.
"When she walked over to me I was amazed that she knew my name. 'Tony, I understand you've played with the band the way I did when I was a young girl. My mother used to make me play on streetcorners standing on an apple box. I'd gather people around so that she could preach to them. Tony, I have the feeling that the Lord has singled you out to become a great preacher. It's a wonderful calling, and people need help. I want to work with you. Next Saturday, we're going into the Mexican district; we want to build a temple down there. Will you go with me?'
"I said I would be honored and delighted.
"Saturday afternoon I arrived at the temple. There was a long line of cars. She asked me to ride in hers. She had a way of making you feel so wanted, so needed, so accepted. It was as it I'd been waiting an eternity for such acceptance.
"When we got down to the East Side of Los Angeles, an enormous crowd lined the streets and surrounded the tent. We got out of the car. There was no applause, only respectful silence and obvious awe. She very sweetly held me at her side as we walked through the crowd.
"On this particular night, after the congregation had quieted down, she thanked them and said she was very happy to be among her Mexican brothers and sisters. She apologized for not being able to come down more often, but noted that she didn't speak Spanish. She said she felt that the preachers who were handling the congregation were doing an excellent job. And then she said, 'I've asked a young boy, who I think is going to be one of our great preachers, to translate for me for the benefit of those who don't speak English.' She called me to her side and I found myself translating tor my goddess. Miss Aimee Semple McPherson. At first, I was terribly frightened, but she put her hand on my shoulder and an electrical charge went through me, dispelling fear or embarrassment. I spoke out loud and clear. I was her voice that night, the extension of that great power."
I looked at the doctor to see how he was taking it. He had that impassive look. I had learned that it was not a lack of interest on his part but a way of digesting information. Trying to fit the jigsaw puzzle together. I waited. He picked up the pen and put it in his mouth. He had given up smoking recently and was going through the withdrawal pangs.
"What's bothering you?" I asked.
"I was thinking about the kid. I wondered why you pinpointed him as being eleven. It seemed that the period with McPherson had a tremendous effect on him -- I mean you."
"No," I insisted, "the boy is definitely eleven."
The doctor started putting away my folder and tidying up the desk so I knew the session was over.
We both put on our jackets and started down the deserted hallway. The doctor seemed lost in thought. We were talked out. When we got to the sidewalk in front of the building he surprised me by putting his arm around me.
"Good-night, Tony. Sleep well. We're doing fine."
He headed for his car and I walked across the parking lot. It was late and my car was the only one left.
I was shocked to see "the boy" sitting in the front seat, waiting for me. I looked back to see if the doctor was still in sight. He wasn't. There was nothing to do but climb in beside the boy.
I drove out of the lot and headed for Sunset Boulevard. Crossing it I almost collided with another car.
The kid laughed. "Hey, take it easy. You want to kill us both?"
"What the hell do you want?"
"I came to see how you and your pal are getting along. Has he straightened out your head yet?"
"Watch out," I said. "We're getting closer."
"Exit the ghost, huh?"
We were driving west toward Pacific Palisades now. The boy looked out at the big luxurious homes lining the Boulevard.
"Christ, back there you never thought we'd get this far," I said. "Why can't you be satisfied? Why don't you stop bugging me?"
The boy didn't answer. I had turned on the radio and Peggy Lee's haunting voice filled the car.
"What did you tell him tonight?" the boy asked.
"We talked about Aimee."
"Oh." He nodded noncommittally.
MAN. Did you really ever think of why you changed religions?
BOY (quickly). For my grandmother.
MAN. No, I've thought about it for a long time. You had already been to Aimee's and you liked the uniforms the orchestra wore. You liked the idea of sitting in front of that huge crowd blowing your horn.
BOY (starting to protest). That's not . . .
MAN. Sure, sure, I know you were religious, kid. I'm not saying you were a complete fake. It might surprise you to know that I've done a lot of soul-searching myself. I often wondered where the acting bug hit us. I know now.
BOY. Go on.
MAN. Aimee Semple McPherson influenced your life. She really rocked you. I don't mean the way she rocked everybody, but you knew you were seeing the greatest actress of all time.
BOY (smiling). Remember how she'd walk down that long ramp and stand there in the middle of the stage and hold that crowd?
MAN. What did you call it?
MAN. You called it a stage. That's what it was to you. Not a pulpit, but a stage. That's why you changed religions. There was a chance for you to get on that stage. As a would-be priest it was doubtful you'd get to say Mass for years. But with Aimee all you needed was the guts and you could get up on the stage with her.
BOY. She was a good person.
MAN. Nobody is saying anything about her. She was fine. We're talking about you not seeing it for what it was. She was the biggest star you'd ever met!
BOY. And probably the biggest you'll ever meet.
MAN. I think you're right. God, how I'd love to be on the same stage with her now.
MAN. I know you'd rather have me be an evangelist than an actor.
BOY (sarcastically). How humble you sometimes are.
MAN (angrily). Oh, I've been eating humble pie for so long I've decided to try the other. Maybe it's sweeter!
As I pulled into the driveway of the house the boy jumped out. I saw him start down the street and disappear into the dark night.
Next day, I went to Spring Street and waited in a long line of aspiring pugilists [boxers] to be interviewed by a big heavy-set man sitting behind a desk. The walls were covered with idols of mine -- Newsboy Brown, Mushy Callahan, Bert Colima, Dynamite Jackson, Gentleman Gen del Monte, Tunney, Dempsey [i.e., Jack Dempsey, the famed Mormon/Latter-day Saint boxer]. I couldn't wait till my picture would grace the wall.
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 155:
As I climbed into the [boxing] ring my friends started applauding and yelling and the crowed decided it liked me. I must have learned some kind of showmanship from Aimee Semple McPherson.
Quinn talks about the rearing of his own children, and his desire that they have religious experiences. Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 172-173:
On this Sunday morning I'd taken my kids high up into the Malibu mountains. Katie and I had long argued about the children's upbringing. I had wanted them brought up in some religion -- I didn't care which -- but I felt strongly that they should at least know the form of some faith. Later they could change if they wanted. I knew that you can only change the form if you know the form.
Quinn's therapist asks about what happened with Quinn and Aimee Semple McPherson, the founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 175:
Katie, on the other hand, felt that she did not want to impose any creed on the kids -- they would choose one when they grew up.
I had given in. I was rationalizing that I was too busy forging out a career to fight her.
How easily we men slough off responsibility for our most important creations, yet accept it for far less significant ones.
Once the children were growing older, I felt it was important that they should commune in some way with God, or nature, or the life force, or even themselves. I used to take them out on Sundays to some lonely spot, either at the beach or to a mountaintop, and ask them to just sit and think about anything they wanted to think about -- preferably about God.
"You told me some amusing stories about the dance contests but I was wondering about all the lives you were juggling. As far as I can figure out, you were boxing, dancing, going to school, and working with Frank. What was happening to Aimee Semple McPherson during all this?"
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 183:
"Are you Spanish, Tony?"
A close of Quinn's named Evie introduced him to a number of philosophers/religious writers which he had heretofore been unfamiliar with, as he had mostly only learned about more religion in a Catholic and Foursquare Gospel context. Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 184-186:
Oh, Christ! Here it comes, I thought. Here comes the demand for my pedigree. I remembered the time when I'd brought home a questionnaire from school. My father was supposed to fill it in. In the blank space after "nationality" he'd written: Turkish, Italian, Chinese, Hindustan, Japanese, Mongolian, Mexican, Irish, Aztec and Scandinavian. I had been called in by the principal, who was furious. But my father had refused to budge. He resented the question and said the principal should prove that I wasn't all those nationalities.
In five minutes I was drunk and started crying... I lost control. "Those bastards... they think they're better than me just because they've read a lot of books... What the hell do they know about painter? I could be Michelangelo if I wanted to. I feel as much as Shakespeare way down inside of me. Have they ever read the Bible? I can quote the Bible."
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 205:
I went into a long recitation of Ecclesiastes. I must have talked for an hour, saying things I didn't even know existed in me...
[The next day, Evie] talked about how superficial mere knowledge was; it was what you did with it that counted... She was sure that once I had sufficient knowledge I would put it to good use...
"All right, Tony, let's start. What do you like to read?"
"The only thing I know about is religion."
"Well, that's the most important subject of all, isn't it -- at the basis of everything. So, maybe we'll start with some metaphysics. There's a philosopher I love very much, his name is Santayana. Why don't we start by reading Santayana?"
...That night I started reading Santayana, but he was too theoretical for me, not practical enough.
"Well then," she said, "we'll read Schopenhauer. He is certainly practical."
I liked Schopenhauer. His ideas fitted in with my background somehow. I liked his patriarchal attitude, and the clear line of definition between man and women. And he said life was precious; you shouldn't waste time; you should spend every minute of your waking day advancing yourself.
Sylvia insisted that whenever I found an author I admired I must live as he preached for a week, or a month--as long as I could apply his thoughts to my life. And I did, with Schopenhauer, then Nietzsche, with Thoreau, and then on to Emerson. I suddenly found myself avariciously devouring philosophy and literature... I read Fielding and Smollett, Baudelaire and Balzac, Dante and D'Annunzio. I read Ford Maddox Ford, Sinclair Lewis, Scott Fitzgerald, Wolfe, Hemingway. . . .
[John] Barrymore had an amazing quality. He could make you feel at home immediately, give you the impression that you were the most important person in his life. I've only met three other people who had that ability -- Greta Garbo, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Katharine Hepburn... He wanted to know all about me. I told him a bit of the story. He was intrigued by my involvement with Aimee Semple McPherson, whom he had gone to see at the Tabernacle. He agreed with me that she was one of the greatest performers he had ever seen. He said no actress had ever been able to hold the stage like she did, with the exception perhaps of his sister, Ethel Barrymore.
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 207-208:
[John Barrymore asked Anthony Quinn:] "Have you read the Bible?"
In Quinn's conversation with his older self, he refers to a time when he believed in reincarnation and attended Theosophist religious meetings. Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 217:
"Holy Christ, you're kidding! I guess it's just you and me, and the Pope, who ever read the Bible anymore. Do you know the Song of Songs?"
"'There be fore things I know now of--'"
He stopped in midair, waiting for me to finish the quotation. I continued the rest timidly: "'--the way of the eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on a rock--'" But he finished the last two lines. "'--the way of a ship upon the sea and the way of a man with a maid.'" For at that moment he was Solomon.
...I remember exactly the day you got screwed up. You even had me believing it for a while. It was the day when Mrs. Tanner was talking about Michelangelo and Florence. I saw your face... You thought you were a reincarnation of Michelangelo. Come on, you even got me believing it so that for years I read everything about him. Of course, you wouldn't let me really try because you were afraid I'd fail and your childish fantasy would come to an end. Later you had me go to that Theosophist group because they believed in all that crap about the aura and the seven stages of reincarnation.
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 274:
"I had always met Katie away from her own apartment... I took her on several tours of the East Side, where I had grown up... I'd taken her to meet my mother, Sylvia, Evie. We had gone to the Angelus Temple [headquarters of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, where Quinn had helped denomination founder Aimee Semple McPherson preach] together. It was as if I wanted her to share every drop of my experience.
Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 278:
BOY. Was that wedding your idea of reality?
About Anthony Quinn's wife Katherine DeMille ("Katie", the daughter of director Cecil B. DeMille). From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 296-297:
MAN. I agree that was a slight mistake.
BOY. A slight mistake/ All that horse-sh-- with those limousines and the police escort. Guests sitting in the church, not because two people were promising to love and obey each other forever, but because it was their duty to make an appearance for the old man. Were all those photographers there to record love everlasting or merely to shower the country with pictures of the peasant who had married royalty?
Her [Katherine DeMille's] bedroom was decorated completely different from the rest of the house. It was almost monastic. She had very few paintings on the walls. Those she had selected were pictures of saints and philosophers. On her night table beside her narrow bed she had photographs of the children and me when we'd all been young. The books beside her bed also were evidence of the world she'd retreated to; Gandhi, Krishnamurti and endless books on Moral Rearmament...
From one of Quinn's sessions with his therapist, towards the end of his autobiography. Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, page 300:
[Katherine and Anthony Quinn discussed his younger self.] "'And a child shall lead them . . .'" I quoted.
Katie laughed. "Certainly you don't think that boy has any similarity to the Bible?"
"Why not? He believed it. He tried to live by it. Why can't he be right? From what I've seen, age does not necessarily mean wisdom. Maybe children are closer to the truth."
The doctor nodded. "In the dream you just told me about, you were very happy cavorting down the hill beside your father and the boy."
The last two pages of Anthony Quinn's autobiography. From: Anthony Quinn, The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait, pages 310-311:
"Ecstatic. It's the only time I feel complete, when the three of us are together.
"Does that have anything to do with your early religious upbringing?"
"You mean the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?"
"Oh, come on, Doctor," I said... "I have no illusions about being God. I'm not that crazy!"
"But aren't we all part of God? Isn't God us? Isn't that basically what religion wants us to feel? That we are all gods within God? Aren't we supposed to strive for His attributes, His goodness, His understanding, His love? If He is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, then aren't we also striving for the same entity?"
..."Doctor, you've certainly changed since I first came and sat here that first day. I thought you were strictly Freudian; there's a little bit of Jung creeping in."
"Where shall we head for?" I asked him, as we turned into Brooklyn Avenue.
"When was the last time you were in the desert?"
"About a year ago. The Jordanian desert."
"How was it?"
"I felt God was there."
I didn't have to go into details. He understood. Perhaps he'd been there with me on that afternoon when I'd gotten lost among the sand dunes and felt for a few frightening moments the full meaning of eternity.
He smiled. "Let's head for the desert, man. Let's see if God is there."
I turned right down the dark boulevard. As we passed the boy's house I could see the kerosene lamp still burning. The boy remembered that the saxophone case was still lying down there in the ditch. I was beginning to read his mind.
"Forget the sax, kid. You'll never be a Rudy Vallee."
I revved the car engine and sped along the empty avenue. Through the rearview mirror I could see the streetlights flickering in the distance. I could have sworn I saw a big enormous black cat sniffing at the pavement where my father had died. I thought I saw it start to run after the car, then it was swallowed up in the dark night.
I looked at the boy beside me. He had gone to sleep. I reached over and caressed his unkempt head. There was a smile on his face.
When we reached the desert I saw the first flicker of dawn over the Sierra mountain range. The boy woke up as the car came to a halt on top of a bluff. Down below, the multicolored desert stretched out for miles and miles. There was no sign of life.
I jumped out of the car and started down a long sandy hill, hoping to get to the floor of the desert and watch the sun flood the baked earth with its light. The boy ran past me, his little legs churning up the sand.
When we got to the hard bottom of the desert, the sun made its majestic appearance over the ridge.
I knelt down before the awesome power of the birth of a new day and asked God to light the way. When I finished I looked up and saw the boy standing beside me.
"Anybody that can still be brought to his knees by the miracle of a new day can't be all bad, mister."
"Yeah," I had to agree, "I feel better."
"Say it, man."
"Love," he said simply.
I tried to get the word out but it wouldn't come.
"L . . . ," I started, but the doctor had been right; there was something caught in my throat. I had to disgorge it before I could say the word.
I felt my body begin to heave and the dam of tears came pouring out. When the tears were done I tried to articulate the word tentatively. At first it came out as a hoarse whisper -- "L . . . ove" -- then clear and louder -- "Love" -- "LOVE."
The canyons all around me reverberated with the only answer to all pain--"LOVE!"
The boy was suddenly gone. But I knew I'd never again be alone.
I shouted out joyously, just for the hell of it -- "LOVE!"
Webpage created 10 July. Last modified 13 July 2005.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org.