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All Of A Sudden My Heart Sings—Pier Angeli & Vic Damone

The way Pier Angeli and Vic Damone got engaged was really incredible—even to them. And it was romantic and unforgettable.

Vic and Pier were dancing to juke-box music, “September Song,” in The Retake Room, a bar and grill across the street from MGM.

“Let’s get married,” Vic proposed.

Pier giggled. “I can’t. I have a date tonight.”

“I’m serious,” Vic protested. “On the level, let’s get married.”

“You’ve been drinking too much champagne.”

“I had less than you,” Vic said.

“But I haven’t been out with you for almost a year,” Pier explained. “Now all of a sudden, you want to get married. You are kidding, Vic? No?”

The crooner shook his handsome head from side to side. He said he’d never been more serious in his life.

“By tomorrow morning,” Pier insisted, “you will forget what you said. You are tired this afternoon. Just tired.”

“Tell you what,” Vic Damone suggested. “You have to come to the studio tomorrow?”

Pier Angeli nodded.

“On your way, stop at the driving range in Westwood. Say ten o’clock. Is that a date?”

Pier gave Vic a little smile, and in the juke box “September Song” faded out. The young lovers edged over to their booth. They sipped another small glass of champagne. Across the table they looked into each other’s eyes.

Gene Kelly was in The Retake Room at the same time. “Hi, kids,” he greeted.

How strange, Pier thought. What a coincidence that Gene Kelly should be in the same place as they on this very afternoon. Strange because in 1952 Pier Angeli was in Munich with Gene. They were making a picture called The Devil Makes Three.

Pier was twenty at the time. She was chaperoned by her mother. For the length of the production they had a double room in the Bayerische Hof Hotel.

One night a call came from a Pfc. Farrinola, Damone’s real family name. “This is Vic Damone.”

“Yes?” said Pier.

“I’m stationed over here with the Army,” Vic explained. “And I heard you were in town.”

“Yes?” repeated Pier.

“Well, we’re giving a show tonight, an Army show. You know, for the soldiers. I wonder if you’d be kind enough to come.”

Pier hesitated. “My mother is with me. Wait a second. I will ask.”

“Fine,” Damone said. “She’s invited, too. Tell her that.”

In a few seconds Pier was back on the line. “I am afraid,” she began, “that I, that we . . . You see, I must . . . Well, I have to work tomorrow early in . . .”

“That’s great,” Damone interrupted. “We’ll be around to pick up you and your mama about seven-thirty.”

“But my face is filled with make-up,” Pier said. “And I—”

“Come just as you are,” Vic said. And then he hung up.

“I changed quickly into a skirt,” Pier recalls. “And in a little while Vic rode up in a jeep. Mama and I got in. Was our first jeep ride. And we went to the show. It was wonderful. When it was over, Vic introduced me to the crowd. I was scared. It was the first time I’d been on a stage. I told him not to. He didn’t listen.

“But he said to the soldiers, ‘There is A young actress from MGM.’ And I went up on the stage to take a bow. And all the soldiers, oh! They began whistling. Gee! I was so embarrassed.

“Then he said, ‘Would you like me to sing a song for you?’ And I said yes. And then he made me sit down and he sang ‘September Song.’ Everybody, all the said hm-m, something’s going on! But this was the first time I had ever been with Vic. Then he turned to the audience and said, ‘Now I will sing a song for all the mamas in the world.’ And he looked at Mama and sang that song, ‘Mama.’ But first he dedicated it to ‘a lovely woman in the audience tonight, the mother of lovely Pier.’

“It was a wonderful night. And after this night, we went almost every day for two months. I had my own ear, and Vic would get off from the Army every night. But then I was so young, only twenty, and I was not yet ready for anything really serious. But on the last night when we were together, Vic said, ‘Let’s get married.’ And I did not know if he was serious. But I knew I was too young. And I did not think Mama would say it was all right. So I said, ‘There is always plenty of time.’ ”

Sitting there in The Retake Room with Vic, Pier reconstructed the Munich phase of her life. And she wondered if she hadn’t always been in love with Dameone.

After Vic, there had been Kirk Douglas, and after Kirk, so many other boys, just dates, nothing serious or memorable until Jimmy Dean came along.

Jimmy was gone on Pier and she seemed to be gone on him. He’d flown back from New York after Pier had finished her picture, The Silver Chalice. She had met him and they’d gone to Arrowhead with another group. Only last week she’d attended the preview of A Star Is Born with Jimmy.

“Jimmy Dean, the Brando-type of T-shirt actor,” one columnist had written, “hopes to take Pier Angeli for his wife just as soon as he establishes himself.”

On the evening of the day Vic Damone proposed to her, Pier went out with someone else. “I am sorry. I am not going to tell you his name. He is a friend. Just a friend. Besides, I really did not know if Vic was fooling or not. All that night I thought of him.

“Next morning I went to the golf course—the one on Wilshire Boulevard—it is funny that Vic and I should play at the same course. Vic was there. He was waiting for me. ‘I’m feeling the same way,’ he said. ‘I haven’t changed my mind. Let’s get engaged. And I am not drunk.’

“Well, I have always felt very strong about Vic. There was always much love in my heart for him. So I said yes.

“That night when I went home, I was wondering how Mama would take the news. How should I tell her? So I said like a joke, kidding, ‘Mama, I am engaged to Vic Damone.’ And Mama said, ‘Ah! You are crazy.’ And she did not think it was serious. But at least I had mentioned his name. It was to prepare her.

“The next night Vic came to my house and he gave me my engagement ring. It’s a beautiful diamond. It was seven o’clock when he gave it to me. And he said, ‘Let’s get married right away, right away.’ I said, ‘But we will have to tell Mama. When are you going to tell Mama?

“Vic said, ‘Don’t worry. I will tell her tomorrow. But I don’t want you around. You stay in your room, and I will do the talking.’ And when it came tomorrow, Vic drove up with a big box of spumoni.

“Mama was surprised. She had not seen Vic for five or maybe six months. The last time he had called for my sister. He had taken Marisa out on dates. Anyway, Mama began to eat the spumoni, and Vic began to talk. He said, ‘Mama, I am going to marry Anna.’ (Pier Angeli’s real name is Anna Maria Pierangeli.) Mama got so excited she couldn’t stop eating. For one hour she ate the spumoni. Not maybe an hour. But she was so shocked, so surprised.

“Finally, she said, ‘Are you sure, Vic? Are you sure Anna is for you? You must be sure because this marriage is for good. Does Anna know what she is doing? She is really a child.’ I am twenty-two, but to Mama always I am a child.

“ ‘I am sure,’ Vic said. Then he came to my room and got me. In front of my mother he asked me again, ‘Do you want to marry me? Are you really sure?’ I was glad to get out of my room. I was so nervous waiting there, wondering what they were saying. I said, ‘Yes, I want to marry you.’ And Mama began to cry. She said, ‘Oh, I am so happy.’

“By then it was very late. After Vic went home, Mama and I—we had a woman-to-woman talk. It was four in the morning. Mama told me many confidential things about marriage. She told me Vic was a nice boy, a good boy, but that I must be sure. I said I was very sure. I did not go to sleep until five-thirty. Before I did I woke up Marisa. I told her Vic and I were going to get married. She shook her head and went back to sleep.”

On October 4, Pier Angeli announced her marriage to Vic Damone on November 24 in the Church of the Good Shepherd.

“But I thought,” one columnist said to Pier, “you were going steady with Jimmy Dean. Isn’t this whole thing with Damone rather sudden? How did it come about?”

“I tell you,” Pier said, “I met him in Germany two years ago. When he came back to Hollywood, I was going around with Kirk Douglas.

“Vic thought I was in love with Kirk. I know many people thought that. Just because we made The Story Of Three Loves. Anyway, it was never love. We are still good friends, Kirk and I. Anyway, Vic did not ask for any dates although in Germany we had plenty.

“I never drink here but in Munich Vic and I used to take a little champagne. Well, on this day I was working. I had finished early, and I just wandered onto Vic’s set. He was making Hit The Deck. He was very happy to see me.

“ ‘Let’s go across the street,’ he said, ‘and have a little champagne like we did in Germany. I’ll be finished in half an hour. Will you wait for me?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ So then we went to The Retake Room, and he ordered champagne, and he put a nickel in the juke box. Gene Kelly was there in the restaurant but we danced—Vic and I—we danced to ‘September Song.’ While we were dancing he proposed. Gee! I was surprised. I didn’t know what to say. I thought maybe he had been drinking champagne on the set. I asked him. He said no. He was very serious.”

Pier was asked if Vic hadn’t been dating her twin sister. Wasn’t Marisa angry?

“No, no,” Pier explained. “Everyone is happy for me, even our parakeets. Between Vic and Marisa was nothing, a light friendship.”

How about Vic’s parents? Had she ever met them?

“Two years ago,” she said, “Vic introduced them. They are fine people. Vic has three, maybe four sisters. I am so excited I don’t remember. After our announcement, we called them on the phone. They are very glad Vic is marrying an Italian girl. They say we have a lot in common.”

Vic, at twenty-six, is not only a show business veteran but a young man of sensitivity and understanding.

One night, a week after he and Pier had become engaged, he and his manager went over to his fiancée’s house. Vic explained that he had signed to sing in a Las Vegas hotel starting December 1 and as a result some of their honeymoon would have to be spent there.

Pier was agreeable. “Anywhere you say. Anything you like.”

“I’m a lucky guy to have you for the rest of my life,” Vic said. “Honest! And you know, Anna, I’ll do anything to keep you happy. People ask me if you’re going to keep your career after the wedding. I don’t know how you feel about it. But anything you want to do is fine with me. You’re very talented. You’re a fine actress. I know you like to work. And at times, you get moody. I’ve seen you. There are times you like to be alone, away from everyone. I know that, Anna, and believe me, I’ll never bother you. I understand you.”

By the time Vic was finished, tears of joy were trickling down Pier’s cheeks.

Later when she told about it, Pier said, “It is so wonderful to find a man who understands. Vic will not resent my career. There will be no jealousy between us. Only understanding. And after the babies come, I can make my own choice—stay at home or continue my career.”

In the weeks preceding her marriage, Pier was the busiest and happiest girl in Hollywood. Helen Rose, MGM’s stylist, designed her wedding dress. Her “dear Mama” went shopping for her trousseau. Her sister helped with the wedding invitations. And all the while, Pier and Vic drove up and down the countryside looking for a house to rent or buy.

One real estate agent who saw the small, slim, green-eyed beauty with her tall, thin, wavy-haired Vic, said, “I’ve seen a lot of young couples in my time, tried to fix ’em up with homes, but I’ve never seen any pair more in love than those two kids. Must be their Italian blood. And

they’ve got the most soulful eyes. One look and you melt.

“I ain’t much on Hollywood marriages, but if these two can keep it up, they’ll never fall out of love.”





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