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An Engagement The Long And Short Of It

Marry in haste, repent in the divorce court. Just how true is this truism? Bud Abbott met his one and only bride on the overnight boat to Albany and married her the next morning. That was thirty-seven years ago. Marilyn Monroe went steady with Joe DiMaggio for two years and they fizzled after nine months. Ann Blyth took three years to make up her mind about Doctor Jim McNulty and I expect to dance at their diamond wedding anniversary. But I’m just as convinced that Pier Angeli and Vic Damone will make a go of it despite the fact that they were married within weeks after discovering they were in love. I guess there is no golden rule, but there is a law of averages. So gather around all you boys and gals about to take the plunge. Here are facts.

Grace Kelly met Oleg Cassini at a party five years ago. Afterwards Oleg confided to a pal that he couldn’t see what people saw in the socialite blond actress. Then he saw what Clark Gable saw in “Mogambo.” Time out for a long, low whistle. And now it’s last spring—exactly a year ago. Oleg is now divorced from Gene Tierney. He meets Gracie in a New York restaurant and wants to marry her right away. But Kelly is the cautious kind. When she marries, it’s for keeps. It has to be. The columnists announced their engagement and the date of their marriage for last October. They’re still a woosome twosome, but Miss Kelly of Philly and Fillums is a spinster, as of going to press.

Before Ann Blyth married her Doctor Jim McNulty, she used to pray to her patron saint, “Please, Saint Anne, send me a man I can marry.” Hollywood tried to hustle her into marriage with Tom, Dick and Harry, but Annie smiled that sweet smile and kept right on praying. And then one lovely New Year’s Eve Dennis Day introduced her to brother Jim. They dated and dreamed. Two years later, Ann said, “I’m sure.” They were engaged for a year, and they’ll be married forever.

Jean Peters is the faithful kind. And she was in love with a bachelor Hollywood producer for a long, long time. But when she decided to marry, it happened before anyone here even knew she knew wealthy young Stuart Cramer. They met on a TWA plane in the sky between Rome and Paris. Jean was on her way home after filming “Three Coins in the Fountain.” And who knows what her thoughts were for her wish when she tossed her dime into the Fountain of Trevi. Stuart got off in Paris. She came back to the USA. A week later, he followed her to California and popped the question. She made him wait nine months. Then, one Saturday morning in May, my phone rang with the wedding bells in Washington, D. C. But now there are rumors of trouble in the marriage. Maybe Jean didn’t wait long enough to be sure her heart was hers to give.

Jane Russell is a big girl, in every department. And she’s slow to get angry. But how Russell ranted at rumors affecting her marriage. “Look,” she told me not long ago. “I met Bob [Waterfield] in high school and it was love at first sight for me. He was a football hero even then and he didn’t know I existed.” Jane was hard to overlook during Bob’s UCLA days. It was at the beach and Jane was in a swim suit. But they went steady for five years before tying the knot—twelve years ago. I’m betting on them for another fifty.

I thought Mitzi Gaynor would never marry Jack Bean. Here was a girl with time on her hands and a man in her arms, but she kept postponing the happy day, with the flimsiest of reasons. Nothing like, “We want to be sure.” They were sure, said Mitzi. It was just that, “Every time we try to buy a house to come back to from our | honeymoon, they recognize us and raise the price eight to ten thousand dollars.” So they finally rented a house, went off into the wild blue yonder and left this skeptical reporter with egg on her typewriter and respect for Mitzi who was previously engaged, if you remember, to lawyer Richard Coyle for four years, which is longer than some marriages you and I know about last.

The prize for the most rushed marriage of recent Hollywood history goes to Vera-Ellen, who broke devoted swain, Richard Gully’s heart, when she suddenly produced Victor Rothschild as her imminent husband, after a fast game of tennis at store magnate Jerry Ohrbach’s estate. Gully goo-gooed over Vera for years and years and while she didn’t seem to be madly in love with him, he was with her, and they seemed real cozy together. So here comes the Victor and within weeks she’s flashing his diamond engagement ring, and the wedding is set for December, but Vic couldn’t wait and they dash into matrimony five days before Thanksgiving. We’re hoping that time will tell that they really should give thanks.

Suzan Ball and Dick Long told a sympathetic, admiring world they were engaged in the fall of 1953. And it was wonderful that she walked up the aisle on her own steam and courage to marry him April 11, 1954. They knew each other for eighteen months. But this was no ordinary year and a half. Suzan was on crutches the first time they talked across a crowded cafe at U-I where both were under contract. Suzan left the table on crutches. Which Dick, fresh out of the Army, was surprised to see belonged to the pretty dark-eyed brunette. He followed her to the door and asked, “What’s the matter?” thinking she’d just stubbed a toe or something. She told him cancer. No tears, just a plain statement of facts. He admired her bravery. She admired his kindness. Very soon they were in love. And when her leg was amputated, faith in him pulled her through the dark portal and into the bright wedding day of the pretty bride and the handsome groom. And the whole world wishes them long life and happiness together.

It was three weeks from the first meeting to the nuptials of little Maggie McNamara and TV producer David Swift. And they’ve already chalked up three years of all hits, no errors. Dave, who produces Eastman Kodak’s “Norby,” saw Maggie’s picture in the William Morris office in New York. And it was love at first photo. He asked to meet her and they are more in love now than then. When Maggie was here recently starring in “Prince of Players,” Dave called her two and three times a day. And when the picture was canned, she didn’t wait. She went flying to her mate in New York. When Maggie had to go to Italy for “Three Coins in the Fountain,” David joined her there and they went sight-seeing all over Rome on a motor scooter. That’s living, boys and girls. They only had three weeks of getting to know each other, but that was long enough for them to know what they wanted.

If Olivia de Havilland means what she has been saying, her name will be Madame Pierre Galante as you read this. As of writing, Livvy and her very charming Frenchman have been engaged since August 14, 1953. They met in April of the same year at the Cannes Film Festival. Pierre told me in Paris last year that the marriage would take place after his fiancée completed “That Lady” in Spain. The last bulletin had the cautious characters planning marriage when Olivia finished “Not as a Stranger,” which they certainly are not. Don’t get me wrong. If there is the shadow of doubt in Olivia’s mind about the match, then she’s a smart girl to take her time. It’s much less heartbreaking to break an engagement than a marriage.

Gloria Grahame and Cy Howard love to fight. They fought happily for two years before they finally fooled us in August 1954. Gloria wore a black dress at the wedding, which I hope was not symbolic. They’re still arguing. But Cy doesn’t breathe right unless he is. And Gloria, for all her vague ways, is hep where her man is concerned. And as Cy said in answer to the trouble talk, “Of course the marriage will last—I never write on spec.” The introvert Gloria and extravert Howard seem to need each other. And they had two years before their marriage to find out why.

When a girl is lonely and used to a man around the house, the California marking time of a year from the granting of the decree to the final papers of freedom are great insurance against another marriage mistake. No one was more in love than Jane Powell with Gene Nelson. He never did get his divorce. And now it looks like he’ll swap it for a reconciliation with Miriam. But Janie has to be in love. Fortunately, she had an enforced nine months of meditation before she was free to marry Pat Nerney. Janie, who sure isn’t, always played dumb when she was asked, “Are you and Pat going to marry?” Who knows, maybe she really didn’t know until right at the end. Lord knows she had a lot of figgering to do. She’s a great mother to her two children. She had to be sure that Pat would make a great father. I’m holding a good thought for them all.

There were rumors about Jack Webb and Dorothy Towne, even before Julie London, who was separated from Jack at the time, brought her divarce suit against him. But nothing doing with Dorothy until after the slow measured tread of the twelve months prescribed by law. And even then, Sergeant Friday may take more time to close the case with a wedding band.

Even impetuous John Wayne had to wait. The lady judge who knows her man, made him promise, “No quickie divorce in Mexico.” John knew Pilar’s predecessor Esperanza for four years before they married. And he met his first wife, Josephine Saenz, when he was in college and married her three years afterward. He would have married Pilar the day after he met her in Peru if he had been free. It makes no difference with the Duke whether he waits ten minutes or ten years. If that’s the Duchess he wants, he gets her. And he’s usually in too much of a hurry to care whether they have tastes in common. But this time, Pilar had a year to adapt her ways of life to his. He likes people around. She learned to like them. John plays cards until dawn. And now Pilar, to please Duke, just loves those aces, jacks and queens.

I was against the long engagement of Arlene Dahl and Fernando Lamas. There’s such a thing as turning caution into suspicion. I thought Fernando was selling himself too dear and I told him so. And it’s lucky Arlene tired of the Long Wait, broke off the “understanding,” and took off in a romance with another guy. Or they’d still be unmarried. I was always convinced that the redhead and the Latin were made for each other. Like a lot of intelligent career women, Arlene likes to be dominated. Fernando has to be the boss. I’m betting that their marriage will last at teast ten times as long as their engagement.

Fred MacMurray and June Haver didn’t wait very long. This marriage was made in Heaven and they didn’t need time to prove it. Two lonely souls meeting at a Gay Nineties New Year’s party. It isn’t true that all the world loves a lover. But the world and his wife certainly rooted for June and Fred. They waited six months to marry. They robbed themselves of six extra months of wedded bliss.

No one in this town had a longer courtship than Aldo Ray and Jeff Donnell. With this couple it wasn’t caution, it was dollars and cents. People think that because a man is a star he makes a lot of money. Even now, after “Battle Cry,” Aldo’s salary is under $500 a week. And after taxes, agents’ fees, supporting his mother, putting his brother through USC, there isn’t much take-home pay. But “Battle Cry” convinced Aldo he had a future, so he leaped into marriage with Jeff and tried not to look at his bank account. The net dividend so far is happiness, and I hear a rumor of a raise.

Robert Taylor’s ricochet romance with Ursula Thiess started in 1952, but she didn’t get the ring—I mean the wedding ring—until last May. It wasn’t that Bob wasn’t impressed with Ursula; the fact was Ursula wanted to be sure. Bob and Ursula are sure the waiting was worth it—especially now with a baby on the way.

And while we’re waiting, isn’t it great that Debbie Reynolds won’t let anyone, not even the impatient columnists, rush her marriage plans. “It’s not until June”—the wedding with Eddie Fisher, Debbie told me definitely at the Pier Angeli-Vic Damone reception. “A good thing can always wait,” said Debbie. I’d say she’s about seventy-five per cent right.





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