Divorce Ahead?—Gregory and Greta Peck
Last May when Gregory and Greta Peck, married ten years, stepped aboard the Queen Elizabeth with their three small sons and secretary, it was the understanding of their friends and business associates that none of them would return to the United States for at least a year and a half.
Today, of the entire entourage that sailed for Cherbourg on that May 19th, only Eldred Gregory Peck remains in Europe.
His wife and the three boys, Jonathan 8, Steve 6, and Carey Paul 3, are all back in Hollywood living in the Peck ranch house overlooking Mandeville Canyon, while Dame Rumor, led by Walter Winchell and a small army of other columnists, suggests to the world the erroneous possibility that the Pecks have separated because Greg might be unduly interested in the welfare of a fascinating Schiaparelli model in Paris named Julienne. He isn’t, not in Julienne, anyway. All the same Hollywood insists that something in the man-and-wife relationship between Greg and Greta must have gone awry in Europe, or why, after eight months abroad, should Mrs. Peck have suddenly bundled up her flock, moved out of the villa she and Greg had rented near St. Germaine, take the boys out of the American School in Paris, and sail back to the good old U.S.A.?
Greta Peck says, “Greg and I are not separated, there will be no divorce, we may even fly over to see him this summer, and frankly, all those rumors make me sick.
“The children and I came back to California, because it’s just too difficult trying to raise them abroad under Greg’s schedule. He’s in Italy for a few months, France for a few months, England for a few months. He likes to have his family with him, and we just can’t keep moving all the time.
“When we first arrived in Europe, we caught the Rome express to Italy. We had a villa ready for us outside of Rome in Albano. We hired an English tutor, Mr. Ticknor, for the boys, and he was wonderful. Greg was acting with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Comedy, and of course, all of us picked up a little Italian.
“When we moved up to France, we spoke a little French, and while learning new languages for Greg and me was very good, it only confused little Carey. He’s just a little more than three, and after a while his language became such a mixture of different tongues that the only ones who could ever understand him were Greg and myself.
“Europe is a very wonderful continent and all of that, but a winter in France can be pretty wet, and when I thought of what we had waiting for us back in California, the sunshine and the house we’d had refurnished—well, I just decided that it would be best for everyone if I came back with the boys.
“Greg has a restless nature, and I felt it would be good for him, too, if he didn’t have to worry about us. As soon as we were gone he went on a publicity trip for Snows Of Kilimanjaro. He was in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Helsinki. I have dozens of relatives in Finland, and they gave him a tremendous welcome. He called us up on the phone and told us all about it. And another thing, he leaves soon for India. He’s making a picture for Arthur Rank. I think it’s called The Purple Plains.
“It sounds very romantic, but how would it be dragging three small boys to India for a couple of months, enrolling them in school, getting everything set up and then just when you’ve got your household organized, start packing and return to France?
“That’s what I was faced with. Greg wanted us to remain with him. No matter what anyone tells you, he is a very strong family man—after all when he was making Captain Horatio Hornblower a few years ago, didn’t he insist upon bringing the whole family over to London, even Carey and the nurse? But really, it wouldn’t have been fair to the boys. That’s why we’re back in California.
“About-Greg and that model Julienne—that’s no big secret. I’ve met the girl. She’s a very lovely person. I believe Gladys and Eduard de Segonzac—he’s the Paramount publicity man in Paris and his wife is a designer—were the people who first introduced her to us.
“So Greg has taken her out to dinner once or twice, and she has shown him around Paris—that’s no great crime. I have never expected Greg to live the life of a hermit.
“When he’s away he’s entitled to a little companionship. There is nothing wrong in that, nothing in going out with two or three couples or having a dinner partner.
“What is wrong and really unpleasant are those wild stories which spring up from these things. But honestly I’m used to them. The first time—it wasn’t long after we were married—two years or so. I was pregnant with Jonathan, and I think Greg had gone to New York for some exploitation or something, and the stories began to come back. He was dining with so and so, or such a girl. I was very young, I believed everything I read, and really, it made me sick. I believed all that divorce talk until I found out it was something the newspapers had just made up.
It is really a funny world. Greg can be doing David And Bathsheba or any other picture in Hollywood, and he’ll be having lunch with an actress, and no one will think anything of it, but let him sit down at a café in Paris and take lunch with a girl, and right away, it’s a big romance, and we are getting a divorce.
“I’ll tell you again and then we won’t talk about it any more. Greg and I are not separated. There will be no divorce. We are on the best of terms, and if you don’t believe it, you can talk to him at the Hotel Lancaster in Paris.
At the Hotel Lancaster on the Rue Berri, a hotel which Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy introduced to the Hollywood colony about six years ago, Greg Peck blew his top when he was asked if he contemplated dropping Greta in favor of some younger woman.
“How in heaven’s name do these things start?” he exploded. “I’m not separated. I’m not getting a divorce, and I’m very happily married. Right now I’m between pictures, but I’m scheduled to leave for India around April 1st. Then I’m going to do one called Assignment In Stockholm and probably another comedy that Willie Wyler has in mind. After that I’ll probably go home.
“Greta and I had a great time and I wanted her to stay, wanted her to stay very much, but she’s a wonderful mother—she’s always thinking of the boys—and she figured they would be better off in California.”
Gregory and Greta Peck are both honorable people, and under the circumstances their protestations are understandable and of course, completely believable. But where there is so much smoke there is usually a little fire, and in this particular case it has been said of tall, dark, gangling Gregory that he is suffering from a disease common to many husbands and known as The Roving Eye.
In Europe the story persists that Greg’s roving eye has settled on a beautiful, 21-year-old half-French, half-Russian journalist named Veronica Pasanie.
According to this story which has been hushed about every European capital, Greg was introduced to Veronica last Summer in a café outside Rome by Papashou, the French chanteuse and night club entertainer.
At the time Veronica, according to friends, was representing a French evening newspaper, the Paris Presse. These same friends say that it was love at first sight for the young girl, that she became infatuated with Peck, stayed on in Rome to be near him, and later followed him to Paris after—he had finished Roman Comedy.
Allegedly, Mrs. Peck knew nothing about this infatuation. She took little side trips with Greg to Saint Moritz where they in-dulged in winter sports. Last September she came to Paris, registered at the Elysée Park Hotel, made arrangements to register her sons at the American School in Paris.
Newspaper reporters in Paris say that two weeks before she returned to the U. S., Greta Peck found out about Veronica. Supposedly she and Greg had one of those heart-to-heart talks which culminated in a verbal battle royal.
Greta Peck insists this is nonsense, but the gossip in Europe is that Greg continues to see an awful lot of Veronica who was 21 on February 10th.
In some quarters there is talk that the onetime journaliste for the Paris Presse may even follow Peck to Stockholm, Morocco, and India.
It is possible, of course, that the friendship between Veronica and Greg is nothing more than a platonic relationship, that Greg is flattered by the hero-worship of a young, intelligent, and avidly admiring female, that she has somehow touched his vanity.
Certainly they are never seen together at night clubs, cafés, and restaurants, but still they have seen a good deal of each other in quiet, out-of-the-way places.
Not that anything too serious will develop out of this affinity. A year or so ago, a notorious blonde who worked for a short while at several studios and was later involved in one of the most highly-publicized marriages in Hollywood history, gave Peck a bad time of it.
She made a strong play for the boy from La Jolla, but Peck refused to succumb to her not inconsiderable charms, and this was an admirable demonstration of self-control on his part, and good luck, too—for a few months later, this predatory temptress hooked a well-known actor who divorced her when he somehow managed to come upon a rather sensational photograph.
In all probability Peck’s friendship with the Pasanie girl will dissolve as harmlessly, for Greg is one actor who will never have his children suffer the agony of a broken home.
He is the product of such a home himself—his parents were divorced before he was ten—and he was passed around to various relatives, and he knows that such an existence makes for an unhappy, insecure childhood.
As a matter of fact, it has been suggested many times that a contributory reason behind Greg’s falling in love with Greta Konen, the girl he married, was her secure family life.
Greta came to the U. S. with her large Finnish family when she was 12. The family eventually settled in Jersey City, and after Greta left New York University, she got a job as hairdresser for Katherine Cornell.
In 1939 Miss Cornell’s husband, Producer Guthrie McClintic, signed Gregory Peck, an ex-Radio City guide, for a last-act bit in The Doctor’s Dilemma, a play his famous wife was taking out on the road; and it was during the course of this tour that Greg first met the tiny, attractive, wide-faced Greta. When the tour was over, she took him to meet her family in Jersey City, and from that point on, it was love all the way.
They were married in 1942, and the marriage brought Peck great luck. McClintic gave him a part on Broadway in Emlyn Williams’ play, The Morning Star, and while the play flopped, Greg got good notices and was seen by Hollywood producer Casey Robinson.
Brought out to Hollywood by agent Leland Hayward, he was shy, uncertain, not too sure of his acting ability, but this was during World War II when Hollywood was practically manless and since he was draft-proof—he had hurt his spine while rowing on the crew at the University of
California—Peck was sought by every studio in town.
For a very little money he was soon split up between David O. Selznick, MGM, and 20th Century-Fox. Hayward turned him over to an assistant, an affable Australian named Roy Myer, and each Friday, Myer would pick up Peck’s weekly check of $1500.
Fortunately for Greg he was never cast in a series of B pictures, the fate most apprentice actors must endure. All of his pictures were top budget jobs. Keys Of The Kingdom cost $3,000,000. The Yearling, The Macomber Affair, Spellbound, Duel In The Sun, Gentlemen’s Agreement; all of these were budgeted at $1,500,000 and over, and all were major productions; so that Peck was never type-cast and was always given a big buildup.
In all fairness to him, it must be said that success never went to his head. At 36, he is still one of the most unassuming of all Hollywood stars. Before he left for Europe, he liked nothing better than to spend his spare time at home with Greta and the three boys or to take family trips. Other than for the aforementioned blonde, gossip never touched him.
He dislikes night-clubbing and the high-pressure social life, but likes to spend money now that he gets upward of $100,000 a picture. His wife is on the thrifty side.
Taxes being what they are, he doesn’t get to keep too much of what he earns, which is one reason why he decided last spring to make films outside of the U.S. (Citizens who work outside of the U.S. for 18 months don’t have to pay any Federal income tax).
When the Pecks arrived in Rome last May, the first thing they did was to leave their boys at the hotel and take a moonlight ride to the Colosseum and the other famous Italian ruins. This is a pretty romantic way to spend a first night in Italy, and it shows that after ten years of marriage, Gregory and Greta can still light the spark.
Having been in show business herself, Greta Peck realizes that actors, particularly handsome leading men, are constantly beset by temptation in the form of designing females.
She knows that many women have figuratively thrown themselves at her husband’s feet, but she is a sensible woman with calm Scandinavian blood in her veins—“I don’t get alarmed very quickly”—and she has boundless faith in her husband’s moral character.
When asked about Greg and the various “divorce” and “separation” stories emanating from Europe, Mrs. Peck holds her head high and says in words that come from the heart, “Greg is a good man. He would never do anything to hurt his family.”
Whether that statement is fact or merely wishful thinking the next six months will tell.
—BY MARSHA SAUNDERS
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE MAY 1953