BIG CHIEF TAKE SQUAW! RING-A-DING
During the heat of the Frank Sinatra-Juliet Prowse engagement announcement, I remembered what an epigrammatic wise guy said some years ago: “A man who marries for the second time doesn’t deserve the first divorce.”
Sinatra beat the rap. The epigrammatic fool didn’t say anything about the third time. Following Nancy and Ava, Frank is going for take number three: Juliet Prowse, who’s quite a female, to the best of my knowledge and judgment.
My knowledge of Miss Prowse consists mainly of talk in the 20th Century-Fox commissary, quick dialogue on the set of “Can Can,” and meeting her at a particular party in Beverly Hills a year ago last Christmas night. I’m not counting the party for Nikita Khrushchev. I don’t think Mr. K. will be angry. He’s spread his anger throughout the world and outer space, and he hasn’t too much anger left for just people.
I met Juliet soon after she checked into 20th Century-Fox. She’d be alone at a table in the commissary, after the rush lunch hour. Starting at 1:30, a studio commissary belongs to the bashful and the eaters. I’m an eater. Juliet Prowse belongs to both categories.
She appreciates food. Also, she was adjusting to the strange community. Juliet, a well-constructed female from Bombay, India—Johannesburg, South Africa—London, England—Barcelona, Spain—San Remo, Italy—hides her aggressiveness. She uses her femininity to cover up her ambitions (protective coloration).
I liked her from the word go. I never thought of her and Frank becoming a thing, although I knew they were to be in the same picture. (So call me stupid!) But Miss Prowse is a Juliet worthy of Shakespeare and Sinatra. By any other name she’s still a doll.
Their personal drama began about ten days after the filming of “Can Can” started. Barrie Chase, playing the Gwen Verdon stage role, revolted when two of Gwen’s dances were assigned to Shirley MacLaine. Barrie sat and didn’t move a toe. Choreographer Hermes Pan informed Producer Jack Cummings of Barrie’s Ghandi tactics. Cummings solved the cold war on Stage Eight by allowing Barrie to release herself from the picture. Juliet Prowse, third place dancer in “Can Can,” moved up in the dancing line-up and added Barrie’s dance routine to hers. Everything solved. Right? Right! Except for Frank Sinatra. He couldn’t understand anyone not wanting to be in a movie with Frank Sinatra. He’d show Barrie Chase. He’d see to it that the unknown Juliet Prowse would become famous. Romances have begun on a lot less.
So it wasn’t sex or love that first attracted Sinatra to Miss Juliet Prowse.
After “Can Can,” Frank put Juliet on his TV Special, following the pattern of Fred Astaire with Barrie Chase. Frank had a good show, even though it wasn’t quite a Fred Astaire classic.
However, Frank started to date Juliet. At first, she was only one of a mob scene. Frank had plans for his own movie company, he had ideas for his own recording company. He was the Leader of the Clan. He owned a percentage of The Sands, a profitable Las Vegas nightery in a profitable town.
About the only thing he didn’t give attention to that year and the next, was that he wasn’t getting any younger. (I don’t know anyone who is!)
His years were to become important to their romance. Read on, Macduff.
I’m setting the stage for the Love Story of 1962. “To write a play,” George M. Cohan once said, “in Act One you present the principal characters. In Act Two, you pull the rug from under them. In Act Three, you pick up the characters from the floor and have them standing on the rug before the curtain falls.”
It’s Act One. That Christmas night party I mentioned. Something happened here that revealed Juliet’s character. And it also ties in with a statement Sinatra made after the engagement was publicly proclaimed.
I was at the party half an hour before I noticed Juliet. I waved a hello. Juliet motioned to come over. I did. Juliet introduced me to her mother (Phyliss), her stepfather (George Polte) and her brother (Clive). They’re warm, friendly people. I sat with them for twenty minutes. I learned George Polte is a building constructor; Clive is a doctor in Johannesburg. About an hour after leaving them, Juliet sought me out to say: “I’m going to Frank’s. He’s having a party. I want him to meet my folks and brother. Come along with us.” I thanked Juliet, but declined. I walked with Juliet to the foyer to say goodnight to her parents and brother. I asked her to give my regards to Frank.
Juliet convinced me she is thoughtful and considerate. And Sinatra, in an interview after the engagement, said, “I met her family. They’re fine people. Her brother is a doctor.” That meeting, a year ago last Christmas, must have been a factor in Frank’s decision to experience marriage in triplicate.
Juliet and Frank were dating more; then steady dating. After this, it became what Juliet termed a “romantic friendship.” Spelled P-l-a-t-o-n-i-c?
Let’s inspect these phases. Juliet was Frank’s date at parties, premieres. Then I she acted as hostess when Frank entertained at his Coldwater Canyon home. In the “romantic friendship” phase, Juliet Prowse was Elvis Presley’s leading lady in “G.I. Blues.” She occasionally dated Elvis. When asked what Frank thought of this, Juliet answered: “Well, Frank and are mature people. We don’t go for the going steady routine.”
She was being her feminine self and not saying too much. It’s a tough parlay to figure correctly.
During the filming of “G.I. Blues,” Juliet spent time with Elvis in his portable dressing room on the set. Often an assistant director or one of Elvis’ chain of followers would stand outside the dressing room door and pretend Sinatra had just come on the set. “Why, hello, Frankie. How are you?” he’d say loudly. Fun on I the set department. Plenty of laughs.
One day it became for real. An assistant said, “Why, hello, Frankie. How are you?” Elvis and Juliet opened the door, laughing. The one and only Frank Sinatra was standing there. Contrary to what was expected, Frank gave them both a big grin. He showed no jealousy.
The truth is there was no reason for Frank to be jealous. Elvis and Juliet were thrown together because of the picture. Their “romance” ended when the filming did. Frank and Juliet started dating again. Then, suddenly, no more dates. The thing really cooled.
Frank had a big thing going with Dorothy Provine. He also dated Marilyn Monroe. And he also dated others.
Juliet Prowse worked at her career. She starred in the play “Irma La Douce” in Las Vegas for about three months. Her agent, young Eddie Goldstone, left his job to become her personal manager. He was always present. escorting and running interference. Eddie blocked all passes.
He was in love with Juliet. She played it honest. She told him she didn’t love him; she liked him and appreciated the extra interest in her career.
Several times during this Las Vegas engagement, Frank snubbed Juliet. She took this in stride. Perhaps she had a European attitude, but Juliet Prowse reacted differently than Frank’s other girls. She never became angry. She didn’t annoy Frank. She didn’t run after him. She just kept the door open.
Miss Prowse believes a mature couple can date for just so long. Then it’s marriage or then it’s the end.
Here we pull that rug from under Juliet. She’s had it.
Now, to turn to Frank Sinatra. New Year’s Eve.
Frank and friends are welcoming 1962 at his Palm Springs house. His date is Princess Soraya. New Year’s. Big deal! Every night is New Year’s for him.
Fun isn’t fun this night for Frank. The string on having a good time has run out. Frank is jittery. He is restless. He suggests the group go to Vegas in his private plane to continue the party there.
To the guests, Frank is a wonderful host. Who else would give a party starting one year in Palm Springs and finishing up the next year in Vegas? They don’t know he is restless.
Frank isn’t hip to himself . . . yet.
Las Vegas is Frank’s town. Like I said, every night is New Year’s for him, and every night is New Year’s in Las Vegas. So you can imagine what that town’s like on a real New Year’s Eve.
The fake gaiety, the chicks, the booze, the music, the meaningless talk, the flip good wishes. A prescribed holiday is very depressing . . . ask Frank.
The prescribed holiday is for Clydes, is for the squares, is for the birds.
Frank took stock of himself. He remembered during the week telling a business associate: “I’m mellowing. I’m forty-six now.”
Whatever made him say that?
For one thing he is forty-six. His life has been changing. He is no longer Frank Sinatra. He is Frank Sinatra, Inc. He is becoming an institution.
The Clan has disintegrated. It exists in name only. That’s ironic. He always insisted they didn’t call themselves The Clan. Now, only the name remains.
What about The Clan when it was riding high? Take any night. When the laughs get sleepy, and there’s no more booze, and there’s no more hours to the particular outing. Dean goes home to his wife, Jeanne. Lawford goes home to his wife, Pat. Sammy goes home to his wife, May. Frank just goes home.
The longest New Year’s
He was going to go home now, as soon as New Year’s Eve was over. How many nights was this New Year’s Eve? It seemed longer than the others. Finally, it was over. Frank knew it was over. He was back in his handsome house in the hills of Beverly, alone. The following day, the swinger made his rounds. To his offices. To the studios. To Romanoff’s. He stayed until there was no place to go but home.
He said to Mike Romanoff: “Why do I put off going home?”
Romanoff squinted his eyes and smiled. As if he knew this past New Year’s Eve was going to help Frank make an important decision.
Sinatra switched on the hi-fi set immediately after entering his house. He always does. He took off his shoes and put his feet into comfortable slippers. He took off his tie and let it fall. He unbuttoned his collar. He felt better now.
Frank looked at the phone. Then he thought . . . I’ve got to stop telling people I’m mellowing. He was closer to the phone. The album was spinning. Frank Sinatra was singing to Frank Sinatra. He laughed at that. He picked up the leather-bound book with his personal phone numbers. He knows more chicks than any man in America. Three months ago he’d have picked a number and phoned and this would have massaged his ego.
He didn’t open the book of numbers. He didn’t pick up the phone. Odd? Not at all. He is hip now. On to himself.
He wants a wife. Not a girl. Girls he could always get. He walked away from the phone. He paced the floor as he had done many nights, fighting loneliness. He can tell you about the magnificent view from his window. Los Angeles stretches out in front of him. He knows the hour the Street lights are turned off. He knows the hour the traffic starts. He knows the respectable hour to pick up the phone and start the action. Action is needed to fight loneliness. Anybody knows that.
Tired of chasing . . .
It was time for the right action. This running around was okay for the newcomers, the young singers. Fabian. Tommy Sands. Hey, what’s the matter? Tommy Sands is in love with and married to Nancy Sinatra, Jr. Fabian isn’t a chaser, either. He studies, wants to be a good actor when he grows up.
The Street lights are still on. Frank Sinatra is singing to him: “My funny Valentine” . . . “But don’t change a hair for me . . . Not if you care for me . . . Stay little Valentine, stay . . . Each day is Valentine’s Day.”
It sounds square, but the hip people have “our song,” too. He remembers Juliet Prowse . . . Juliet.
He remembers his recent visits to President Kennedy in Washington, and then at Hyannis Port. He went alone. It could be that President Kennedy asked, smiling, “Why are you alone, Frank? Where’s the dancer you had with you at the Inauguration?” And maybe Jacqueline said: “She was a nice young lady, chic and smart looking. What’s her name?” “Juliet Prowse,” Frank would say.
Here, we pull the rug from under Frank.
Okay! Ready for Act Three. We’re going to pick up both our principals, Frank and Juliet, and place them upright on the carpet. They’ll become engaged. What a Third Act! It’s enough to make headlines.
Juliet was in New York at the beginning of the year, to tape a Perry Como TV show. Frank phoned her four times.
“Please come back,” he said.
Then Frank met Juliet at the airport when she did.
No scenes with photographers or reporters. The meeting, strangely enough, went unnoticed.
At about 8:30 P.M., January 8, 1962, Frank and Juliet were having before-dinner drinks at Romanoff’s. A waiter hovered about the couple, hoping to be of some service. Soon after the first sip of his drink, Sinatra reached into his pocket and took out a ten carat diamond engagement ring. He took Juliet’s hand, slipped the ring on the significant finger, and said: “Juliet, we’re engaged . . . to be married.”
“Crazy,” said Juliet.
She was using his language. This dancer from Johannesburg, South Africa, had been using words like “Clyde,” “Charlie,” “gasser,” and the whole bit for more than a year.
Frank and Juliet kissed right then and there. The waiter quietly exited.
Some minutes later, at irregular intervals, Mike Romanoff, Murray Wolf, Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn and a few more of Sinatra’s close friends, who could be reached, arrived at Romanoff’s with their wives and dates and the party started. It was about 9:30. At midnight, the group left the restaurant for Frank’s place.
The official announcement of the engagement was made the next morning by Juliet, via her press agent. Frank had to tell her to make the announcement. Juliet was not going to pull a Lauren Bacall, ring or no. (That was when Lauren, without Frank’s consent, told a columnist they would wed. Angry, Frank stopped seeing her.) Ring-a-ding Juliet.
The first editions of the afternoon news- papers (Herald-Examiner and Citizen-News) had it in headlines. A friend of mine phoned Peter Lawford in his New York hotel suite about a business deal. At the end of the conversation, my friend asked, “What do you think of Frank and Juliet getting engaged?” Lawford answered: “You’re kidding.” My friend said. “I’m not. It’s in the papers and on the radio.” A pause. Then Lawford said, “It’s difficult to believe. A big surprise.”
The news was also a surprise to Dean and Joey (Bishop). Not to Sammy. He said he “watched closely” and “expected” it. But the Leader hadn’t told the front line members of The Ex-Clan.
It could be that Frank didn’t want to tell people (friends and business associates) of the engagement until the ring was definitely on Juliet’s finger. Rejection would be a private affair.
However, Frank did phone his children. all three of them, and tell them of his plans to marry Juliet. Nancy Jr. was particularly pleased. She and Juliet have been friends, really good friends, since they first met on the “Can Can” set.
Frank said: “The kids are all very happy for me and I wanted to be very sure that they heard it from me first.”
Opened—a new chapter
A day after the announcement, the gracious and sensible Nancy Barbato Sinatra told a newspaper woman: “Frank and I are a closed chapter. He wants a new life.”
Frank and ex-wife Nancy get along fine. Frank has said: “I love Nancy, but I’m not in love with her.”
Without a doubt, the majority of Frank’s friends and business associates, admirers and fans, didn’t believe the news of the engagement when they first heard it. Among the most stunnned, I’d say, were his girl friends. I spoke to a few. I will quote them, but not use their names:
“I didn’t expect this. Why, Frank never mentioned her name to me. But if it’s what Frank wants—and it must be—I wish him happiness. He deserves it.”
“The right girl came along at exactly the right time.”
“I don’t understand the whole bit. But Juliet must understand him and I have only good wishes for them.”
“Don’t ask me to explain it. If I could explain it, I might be wearing the ring.”
Every former date had only high hopes for Frank. There wasn’t any resentment. Juliet wasn’t important to them, except that she turned out to be right for Frank.
The afternoon that the engagement news made the headlines, Juliet went alone to soothe a defeated Romeo. She sat in her car in the parking lot near Eddie Goldstone’s office. As arranged. Eddie entered Juliet’s parked car. They sat in the car for more than half an hour, talking. Juliet didn’t want him to take it hard. She tried to ease the situation as much as she could.
Eddie didn’t return to his office and he wasn’t at his apartment for a day-and-a-half. Then Eddie was back at work with a “business-as-usual” appearance. Eddie’s comment to several friends was: “I’m accepting it in a mature way. I had it figured wrong. I’m not the only fellow who made a mistake in love.” He is still her manager.
So there we have it: Juliet Prowse—- cool, shrewd, independent, kind, confident of her sex appeal and her ability to handle men. She is as provocative as her face. She loves Frank, perhaps since she first met him.
“I guess it all happened,” Juliet replied, when asked why she thought she had won him, “because I was always ready to lose him if I had to, no matter how much I loved him. I think that is the sacrifice every woman must be ready and willing to make, if she really loves a man. A woman must learn to wait. The reason Frank and I get along so well is very basic. We just enjoy each other. It’s as simple as that.”
Frank Sinatra—very talented, very smart. very charming, very moody, becoming more important every day. Frank is a very complex man. He is crowded with people and he is lonely.
“She’s the nicest girl I have ever known. She’s talented, she’s so much fun. I can’t resist her. It was when I discovered that I loved being with her that I knew she was the girl I wanted to marry. Because, when you love being with someone, you know t hat it’s not a question any more. And when that happens between a man and a woman, the smartest thing the guy can do is ask her to be his wife.”
This is the end of Act Three. Frank and Juliet and the rug are in their proper positions as—The Curtain Falls.
But . . .
Often good players present afterthoughts. There’s the morning after when you remember a comment you heard, a bit you read, an off-beat idea you got.
Frank Sinatra Engaged. Frank, a nonconformist, doing such an old-fashioned conformist thing as being engaged. It went out with high-buttoned shoes. Except for those Society People whose photos are on the Society Page. Did Frank and Nancy announce an engagement? Did Frank and Ava announce an engagement? Did Jack and Jackie announce an engagement? I must look at the clips sometime to find out—maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t.
It doesn’t really matter.
The fact is, Frank must marry. Look at the script. Look at his life. He’s forty-six, a little too old to he carrying on and whooping it up every night. He’s an institution, a Corporation, a power, a king. He must marry to remain a man, to keep his humanity, to keep from being swallowed up in his own legend. And Juliet may have been the last woman for him.
At forty-six, Frank knows that a love for all women is a love for no woman. And Romeo Sinatra learned the most important lesson of all from his Juliet: True love is not an endless argument (as life with Ava was) nor is it ever outgrown (as it was with Nancy). True love is making a woman happy and her making you happy—for the rest of your lives.
Frank had to marry her or he would have lost her. The rumor was out, she was thinking of marrying Goldstone, and Frank was worried. He knew that if he lost her maybe he’d lose his last chance at love. Yes, Frank had to marry his girl.
I like Frank. I like Juliet. As far as I’m concerned, this year Romeo and Juliet will have to take a back seat to Frank and Juliet. I wish them the best, the very best. The wedding has been announced for June. At this writing, to coin a cliche, all anyone can do is wait. The year and the play belong to Frank and Juliet and they’ll do as they please . . . and that’s how it should be.
Frank’s films are UA’s “Sergeants Three” and Columbia’s “Manchurian Candidate.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1962