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    Exclusive Interviews With Miss Stevens & Mr. Clarke

    CONNIE SAYS:

     

    “Our engagement is over! Our wedding is indefinitely postponed. I love Gary Clarke very much and probably will for years and years. But only time will work out some kind of answer. Yes, I still wear my engagement ring—Gary won’t take it back right now. I’m wearing it on my right hand though—and I am not engaged. It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make—but I’m beginning to feel happy for the first time since we were engaged. Gary and I get along fine now—the way we used to before we were engaged and started battling. He came over the other night—we had a beautiful time.

     

    “It’s possible that what happened to us was just an overdose of pressure and we broke under the strain of it. Now we’ve both backed off to try analyzing what really did happen and just why it did.

    “I really can’t pinpoint the trouble. I think back, trying to remember and can’t. All I can remember is an argument that began on Christmas Day. I’m not quite sure what the argument was about, but we had a terrible Christmas. What happened, I’m sure, is that we were both under a great deal of strain. Gary’s working very hard on ‘The Virginian,’ he has problems. I was in the middle of a hassle with the studio. I hadn’t worked for twelve weeks and I’d run into all those legal complications when I tried to work in Australia. Every day some new aspect of business pressure was added and Gary and I just naturally took it out on each other. It was as if I couldn’t yell at anyone but Gary, and he couldn’t yell at anyone but me. It was awful.

    “Here it was Christmas and I had my lovely ring and we should have been on Cloud Nine. The nicest part of the day was that we spent it with Gary’s three little boys—it was lovely—we enjoyed it thoroughly. It was the one part of the day we weren’t fighting. But after that it was like ‘Whose relatives are we going to see first?’ and ‘You mean you forgot Uncle Charley’s present?’ Ridiculous things that kept snowballing until we were in so deep we couldn’t get out. I finally suggested that we call it a day..

    “We didn’t talk for three days. And just then, the news of our engagement (which up till then had been strictly a family secret) leaked out. It was in print that we were about to marry—and there we were—not even speaking to one another.

     

    “Well, everyone wanted wedding stories. One reporter told Gary, ‘Listen, I have a deadline.’ Gary told him off. Oh, he’s a quiet boy but when he say s something; watch out! ‘Look,’ he said to the reporter, ‘we aren’t getting married to meet any deadline!’ Oh, I was so proud of him!

    “But how can I tell you what this time was like? We were constantly on the phone, the thing never stopped ringing. Everyone knew I had my wedding dress and wanted pictures. The pressure was on and Gary and I, who needed more than anything in the world to sit down and talk quietly, never got to talk at all. There was a new problem every minute before we could solve the basic problem—ourselves.

     

    “That weekend we decided we’d go away—separately—and think things out. We did. We both had horrible weekends. My cousin Carol and I went to Palm Springs and froze. Gary went hunting with a couple of friends and the fog was awful.

    “We came back as confused as ever. Our life was at stake. I think I got scared. I talked to so many people, I became a composite of everybody, so did Gary. We just weren’t ourselves and every time we were together it was like two sticks rubbing. We’re both the same temperament and we fly. Once we do, there’s no way of getting back to the level of talking. We break the sound barrier!

     

    “But, we had the sense lo take a step backwards and say, ‘Gee, if this is going on now, what’s going to happen later?’

     

    “We broke our engagement.

    “Don’t think it was easy! It wasn’t. I lost twelve pounds doing it. What I’ve always wanted more than anything in the world is a woman’s life and it was almost mine. The one boy on earth with whom I’ve felt totally in time is Gary. But something has gone out of it, all the youthful enthusiasm and fun. I have always said, and I’m a great believer in this—if it’s to be, it’s going to be. If it’s not, it’s not.

     

    “My first womanly reaction was it’s over . . . not another minute will I spend on this boy and this relationship. Since then I’ve had quite a few surprises.

    “Several columnists suggested that the reason for our break-up was a religious problem. This floored me. Gary and I are of the same faith, we had planned a beautiful church wedding, a religious difference is the last thing we’d have. Someone even suggested Gary had never even been divorced! That’s just ridiculous. Maybe it was one of the most prolonged divorces on record (filed March 25, 1957—finalized August 31, 1960)—but it was finalized and his first wife has remarried. Someone else suggested Gary’s financial status had something to do with it. From my point of view Gary’s financial setup is just fine. But worst of all were the rumors that my returning to the studio was the cause. Someone went so far as to remark, ‘Is it coincidence that Connie’s romance with Gary blows cold just as her romance with Warners blows hot?’ That really got to me.

    “For Gary I was ready to quit chugging for a career. I was going to have ten babies. Yes, ten babies. We figured we’d have five of our own and adopt another five, children of different races. I was going to regear my whole life. But it sort of bounced back. And now my plans have changed—you know, you can’t just stop living.

     

    “I called the girls back in New York and sent them some money so they wouldn’t get stuck paying for the wedding clothes. I told them the truth. we’d postponed it indefinitely. It was a relief to have that off my mind. I was so worried about them, they (and some of their husbands) were all wangling vacations to come here and I couldn’t just leave them up in the air.

    “Two plastic bags . . .”

    “Everybody goes on. It’s only been a week and a half since we reached a decision, although it seems like months, and everyone goes on.

     

    “I’ve put my lovely dream dress in a plastic bag and the veil, all that lovely ivory tulle, in another. I’m saving that because eventually I’ll marry . . . somebody . . . someday I hope . . . before it gets to be too long. Unless I become one of those movie stars who never marry. But that will never happen, not to me! I’ve got too many names for children stored up in my heart. God forbid that I should ever become a sterile, celebrated, successful star without a woman’s life or a woman’s touch. I dread that more than anything. I work in this town, I’ve met some wonderful women who were lonely, who were also authoritative, almost masculine in handling their business problems. Sometimes I’ll go out of my way just to be sure I’m not guilty of the same thing. I’ll know exactly what’s to be done but I’ll hold back and wait rather than put myself in that spot of a dominating woman.

    “Of course, with the career bit—it reminds me of when I was a kid and we used to climb up an escalator that’s going down. Have you ever tried it? I would say that next to climbing Mt. Blanc, this is the toughest thing of all the tough things in this world. Try it sometime. And the career business is just like it. You just get started and something comes along that takes you down again. You’re determined to get to the top, and down you go. But sooner or later you acquire a second wind. I guess that’s what I’ve acquired because I feel resigned and happy.

     

    “Partly that’s because Gary and I are able to breathe, get together and talk about it. I honestly don’t know if we can work this out. A great deal of something awfully special would have to happen to replace the glamour and verve . . . the pace. If it’s meant to be, sooner or later, it will be. But perhaps this marriage is something that would be right for me and not for Gary. If that’s the way it is, good enough, I wouldn’t want to hurt him. I really believe that there are many people who love each other very much but aren’t meant to marry. This may be true of us.

    “Gary’ll always be in my life in some way or another. Perhaps we’ll be lovers all our lives at a distance. It happens to some people. Anything is possible now because my life is an open book. For a while I was in a forest and kept running into the trees, but not now.

     

    “Gary, of course, is more stable than I to begin with. Less emotional. I’ve always wished I could be like him. I’ve envied people like him. They sort of relax into things while with me it’s a mighty trauma. Yet at this moment, when I feel much better, people tell me Gary is moping around, very blue. I say, you’re kidding.

    “Last week we heard the strangest thing. The house Gary’d bid for and couldn’t get, well, last week we heard the seller was willing to give it to us at our price. Not before, mind you, when we were ready to be married and had made our honeymoon reservations and all the rest. Then we couldn’t have it. But now, the owner was willing to come down after he’d read in the papers the wedding was postponed.

     

    “So here we stand. You might say it’s like the status quo. Gary and I are very, very good friends. There’s the same amount of stimulation on both sides. It’s always been this way, as if we reacted to everything like one person. But if it’s not to be, well, I’m a big girl now. If I don’t marry this boy whom I certainly love, it’s good enough for me that we’ll have a fine relationship the rest of our lives. At least that’s the way I think about it.

     

    —JANE KESNER

     

    Connie’s new film is Warners’ “Palm Springs Week-End.” Watch her on ABC-TV’s “Hawaiian Eye,” Tues. 8:30 EST.

    GARY SAYS:

     

    “I want to marry Connie! There is certainly nobody else. I love her more than anything or anybody. I love her enough not to marry her now and risk putting her through what we could possibly go through later.” Breaking his silence about why he felt they should postpone their marriage (scheduled for February 9th), Gary went on to say, “There’s a great lack of communication and understanding between Connie and me. Why? That’s what we must find out. The whys. Until that’s settled, I just felt we shouldn’t marry, we should wait.

     

    “We have to find out why we can’t seem to communicate and why we have constant arguments over nothing. I feel there should be more maturity and more emotional stability at this point. We have problems, sure. But there are always going to be problems. The problems don’t bother me—but our inability to cope with them does. If we can’t handle them—what can we handle?

    “Maybe it’s a lack of awareness of Connie on my part. Maybe I don’t understand her as well as I thought I did. Or maybe it’s the career pressures we’ve both been under. Whatever it is, whatever is causing the friction—we’ve got to find out what it is and learn to cope with it.

     

    “You know, this is the first time since I’ve known Connie that I’ve been financially able to marry her. This is a whole new situation for me—it gives me a feeling of obligation, a sense of responsibility.

     

    “I hate to hurt anyone—especially Connie. I’ve hurt her in the past, I know—many times. And I can’t stand to hurt her, it rips me apart inside. I’m not going to risk hurting her for life.

    “So if there’s a chance that we can’t solve whatever it is, we should find out before we marry. Connie could never marry in the church again—and there’s the possibility that children would be involved.”

     

    Gary, then, was the one who felt they should postpone their marriage. Connie disagreed. She had no fear about their church wedding—nor of risks involved. She felt they should marry and work out their problems together. She knows her problem—she admits she’s a dominating girl. But she feels that if she’s willing to give a bit, Gary should be willing to give, too.

     

    Connie has told Gary, “Either we marry now or we don’t because this way we’re only hurting each other.” Gary wanted to remain engaged but Connie felt it was too late for that. She felt, “Either Gary’s sure and he loves me enough—or he doesn’t.”

    And Gary was sure, sure he loved her enough—loved her enough not to marry her now. “In our present situation,” he says, “no matter how much two people love one an- other, the pressure is just too much. Suppose, for instance, we set a date like the week after Easter. In the back of your mind you keep thinking, I’ve got to find out now. I’ve got to know now, because it’s only thirty-three days away.’ Under this strain, you’ll keep arguing. You can’t think clearly enough about anything to find out what’s wrong.

     

    “Doubtless it’s a lack of maturity on both our sides. Connie and I keep arguing over nothing. Situations come up that just shouldn’t.

     

    “In the past we’ve often blown up at one another and had bitter arguments over some slight thing. And there’s been a lot of hurt and a lot of pain. But I always thought a lot of things would dissipate themselves and no longer be a problem by the time we finally got married. And I still think we can.

    “Everything seemed fine”

    “For a while we were very close to doing this. When I gave Connie her ring three months ago and we started making plans, everything seemed fine. We got along great. Then, all of a sudden, it was all back again. There was no reason that I could see. And this non-communication—we were like two strangers.

     

    “Maybe, as Connie feels, it’s because of a lack of awareness on my part where Connie and her problems are concerned. If that’s the case I’ve got to find out why. Anyway, we keep blowing up over nothing. Or rather, over what I’ve felt was nothing,” he adds.

     

    Then, on Christmas day,they had a veritable quarrel-a-thon. That was the argument to end all arguments. Plus ending, in all probability, immediate plans for their wedding. As Gary says, “I think that was the argument that started everything. That one started . . . the reaction.”

    Connie and Gary were making Christmas visits, and the first was the home of his former wife and her husband.

     

    “But we started arguing before we left Connie’s house,” Gary says now. “I don’t even remember what started it. That’s irrelevant anyway. But it was just nothing. Connie was in a very low mood Christmas day, and I tried to pull her out of it. I really tried—but I just couldn’t do it.

     

    “We left the house and went over to see my boys and take car coats and gifts we had for them. Connie was fine with them. The boys love her. We took pictures of Connie with them, and she was laughing and everything was apparently fine. We left the house, and she was right back in the mood again. We got out to my Dad’s place, and she was the life of the party. Laughing, you know, and hugging everybody. Then just as soon as we got back in the car, back in the mood. We went on to my brother’s house, and my mother was there, and Connie started telling her about the argument. And exaggerating everything, and I was saying, ‘Wait a minute, it wasn’t that way at all,’ and she kept needling, and I finally exploded and said, ‘Forget it.’ ”

    Connie feels Gary’s thinking about them has been influenced by his first marriage. “That’s been one of our big arguments,” she says. “I’ve told him again and again, ‘Please don’t compare me with anyone else. I’m not like anybody else.’ But Gary’s confusing our problem with all the other troubles he’s had in his life. Instead of being optimistic about us and remembering, well gee whiz, it’s already lasted six and a half years.’ ”

     

    “I am probably influenced by my former marriage,” Gary agrees, “but I know the heartache that was caused by the split-up. And I’m not comparing Connie with anyone. I’m making no personality comparisons at all. It’s the end result that concerns me. I saw what could happen. I know the sadness that was there. I’ve seen how much the hurt can be. And I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to Connie and me.”

    But Connie says “now or never.” This seems like an ultimatum to Gary. Especially since they had set the date, gotten the bridesmaids’ dresses, and even received some wedding gifts.

     

    But with his concern for their future, “I didn’t feel we should let a diamond or a dress, or the press, influence us at this time. We’d made no official announcement about the wedding, and it was unfortunate that the news leaked out. For at that time we were still trying to iron things out between us, and the pressure from the press, added to the rest of it, only made it tougher. Neither of us could really think.”

    “Close to Valentine”

    Ironically enough, the columns announced a wedding just when they’d reached an impasse. They’d been making plans since Gary had given Connie her four-carat triangular shaped diamond in October. They’d chosen picturesque St. Francis de Sales Church in Sherman Oaks for their wedding. And they had decided to be married on February 9, which, as Gary says, “Was the closest date we could get to Valentine’s.”

     

    Contrary to the items printed, a church wedding presented no problem, other than their own awareness of the binding vows they would be exchanging there. “Connie wants a church wedding, and so do I,” Gary says. “Why would two people who love each other be married out of the church with the thought . . . ‘Well, if it doesn’t work, we’ll get a divorce.’

    No religious problems

    “There was no problem with the church. My first marriage was performed by a minister of another faith in a wedding chapel. But we had to get all our certificates and things in order, and we couldn’t announce a date until then.”

     

    But there were outside pressures. Connie was being sued for half a million dollars. Gary’s contract with a major record label had hit a snag. His ex-manager was suing him for $25,000 to settle their contract. And he was working virtually around the clock on the set of “The Virginian,” at Revue Studios.

     

    “Connie says part of our trouble is the whole thing is too much responsibility for me now,” Gary goes on. “True, there would a be studio problems, our problems and financial problems, and whether or not I can cope with all of them now is the important thing. With her sensitivity, am I going to make Connie’s life miserable because I’m too involved with my own problems and career?

    “Our problems are within each of us, and they have to be solved individually. Connie can’t help me with mine. This is something I have to do by myself. Which is what I have done all my life.

     

    “I’m hoping the realization that we’re so close to spending the rest of our lives together will help provide the answers for whatever has been wrong between us. Provide a more solid basis for a better understanding. And one thing sure, I think our love is going to last.”

     

    As this is written their official status is fairly indefinable. By Gary’s decision the wedding is postponed. By Connie’s, they’re no longer engaged.

     

    Connie and Gary are together a lot. And getting along. And Gary still has marriage very much in mind.

    “Connie and I are seeing one another and it’s all very pleasant,” he says. “We’re not arguing, and I hope we can keep our relationship this way. That’s the only way it will work.

     

    “I know we love each other. We’ve started again now—fresh. And I’m going to try and just make this thing bloom all over again. Then when it’s right—for Connie—for both of us, I’ll say, ‘All right, next Thursday is a very good day for a wedding.’

     

    ” What if Connie has another date?

     

    “Well, if Connie’s going to have those ten children,” grins Gary,” she’d better be there.”

     

    —MAXINE ARNOLD

     

    See Gary on “The Virginian,” via NBC-TV, every Wednesday night at 7:30 EST.

    It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1963

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