Tag Archives: Dorothy Kilgallen

Francis Got It Right 54 Years Ago


Perhaps some advice is time-sensitive, and others are timeless.

FrancesPicture1Frances Book CoverI found this to be the case when reading Arlene Francis‘ epic that she published in 1960 entitled That Certain Something:  The Magic of Charm (New York:  Messner, 1960).

If you are not familiar with Arlene Francis, you can read a great biography about her by clicking here.  She was married to television producer and director Martin Gabel.  For many years, she had a radio program in New York City, starred in movies and Broadway plays, and was a staple panelist on the Sunday night CBS television game show, “What’s My Line?”  She was idolized by many Americans, and represented the best in refined taste and culture.

I watched that game show every Sunday night, live at 10:30 p.m. CST.  In the picture below,  you see Francis (L), with panelists Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen, and moderator John Charles Daly.   Francis was also a panelist on the syndicated version of the show which lasted through the mid-70’s.




But, this book is about charm.   To Francis, “genuine charm is an unmotivated interest in others” (p. 13).

These are profound lessons from the book:

The more you try to analyze the elements of charm, the more you come to realize that it is a reflection of the entire person” (p. 21).

There is charm in courage – there is only failure in fright” (p. 33).

If you become interested in the person you are talking to, you automatically begin an Operation Bootstrap which lifts both of you up and out of boredom.  Both of you become more charming, and charm is a mutually generating thing” (p. 45).

Charm on your shoulder will get you a lot further than a chip on your shoulder” (p. 77).

Charm begins at home – but it never stops wherever you go” (p. 131).

In Chapter 15, she gives twenty shortcuts to charm:

1.  Get up happy.

2.  Get organized.

3. Make sure you’re well groomed.

4. Face the day without fear.

5.  Forget past recriminations.

6. Do one special thing for someone else as a surprise.

7. Be a Sunday specialist – in just one subject.

8. Break down your work into small bits.

9. Do one thing a day to make your home more pleasant.

10. Wipe out one prejudice a day.

11. Force yourself to do one thing you’ve been embarrassed to do in the past.

12. Read something worthwhile for at least fifteen minutes each day.

13. Think about someone you dislike – and wish him well even if it kills you.

14. Practice looking at a person directly in the eye and concentrate wholly on what he is saying.

15. Spend five minutes analyzing your guilts and fears and check them for reality.

16. Clean up one job that you’ve been putting off doing for a long time.

17. Have faith in a power beyond yourself.

18. Resolve to hold your temper completely for just one day only.

19. Practice laughing at your own mistakes.

20. Practice forgetting yourself completely.

The book even ends with a “charmometer,” where you can take a series of questions and determine where you stand.

As you suspect, this book is long out of print.  If this blog interests you, you can obtain the book from third-party sellers.  Unused, mint-condition editions sell for as much as $450 each.  I got mine for $14.95.  Its cover is worn and its pages are yellowed.

However, that’s not very important is it?  I can still read the words, then close my eyes, hear her voice, and imagine I am right there listening to her tell the story about charm.

Maybe no one ever did it better.