Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Monday, December 20, 2010

"Out, damn'd spot! Out, I say!"

The above words sound like a frustrated dog owner sending his Dalmatian out of the house. But we all know it’s a quote from “Macbeth,” Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy.

You might know that Olivia de Havilland is an Academy Award winning actress and the sister of Joan Fontaine, also an actress. Olivia de Havilland played Melanie in “Gone with the Wind”, and starred in other major films.

But you might not know that she and her sister, Joan Fontaine, both went to Los Gatos High School. Miss de Havilland was an honor student at Los Gatos High School in the early 30’s and gave up a college scholarship to go into acting.

If you were lucky you may have met her at the 100 year celebration in Los Gatos or on some other occasion. But I had the honor of meeting this wonderful woman when I was attending Los Gatos University Avenue Elementary School. I think I was in the seventh grade. That was my big acting break. I was a star. Yeah…riiiight.

Miss de Havilland was directing a stage production of Macbeth at the high school auditorium and, because I played the trumpet, I was “conscripted” to dress in tight pants, the traditional dress of the period for my particular character, and play a fanfare on my trumpet to open the play.

I want to make it clear that the play was the only time in my life I ever wore those tights; you know…those Tinkerbelle things or Robin Hood pants or whatever they are…Honest! And I made sure that on my entrance I walked like John Wayne. It’s a little tough to picture John Wayne in tights as depicted by a 13 year old, but I tried my best.

I had to walk into the auditorium, along with a drummer from the school, and play some kind of a trumpet call and then announce the arrival of a particular king. That was it. That was all I did. They just needed a horn blower with skinny legs. I was also in a crowd scene on stage, mumbling inaudible words or raising my fist in protest or whatever the scene required. It was a memorable experience and it was actually fun, except for those funny pants.

At the time I didn’t realize what an honor it was to be associated with a production directed by Olivia de Havilland, even though all I did was make some noise on my trumpet. I didn’t even know who she was back then.

Now when my wife and I are watching a movie or movie previews and Olivia de Havilland is mentioned, I always say, very casually of course, “Did I ever tell you that I was directed by Olivia when I did Shakespeare…?”

It’s become a standing joke between us and now when her name comes up I don’t even have to make the announcement. My wife immediately says, “Yes. I know. I know. You were directed by Olivia de Havilland and you’re world famous. And you’ll probably get an academy award for wearing leotards when you were thirteen and blowing your stupid horn.”

It’s easy to train a wife. You just use repetition.


  1. That is so cool that you did a play directed by Olivia. What year was your production? Have you had any contact with her since then? This is such a great story. Thank You for sharing.

  2. Angela - Thanks for your nice comment. That must have been in 1951 or '52. I was just some little kid in the 7th grade who could play a fanfare on the trumpet. I'm sure Olivia had no idea who I was before or after, but it was fun turning that little incident into a story.