Welcome to Vintage Paparazzi.

Forbidden To Love?—Robert Wagner

Bob Wagner is single by choice—but whose choice?

He has never made noises like one anxious to settle down quickly although he does take out eligible girls. Recently there have been fresh rumors that his bachelorhood is enforced by contract. That nice, new contract of his that pays him thousands every month.

Last year when he was earning $350 a week, Bob Wagner suddenly began to draw more fan mail than any other player at his studio—with the exception of the exceptional Marilyn Monroe. R. J. Wagner, Jr., had developed a tremendous following, mostly among teen-age girls.

When contract renewal time rolled around, Wagner’s agent was in an enviable bargaining position. He blithely suggested to Fox that “we give my boy a new deal.”

Knowing that R.J.’s rise in popularity was no fluke, the studio agreed. How much did Mr. Wagner’s agent think young Mr. Wagner was worth?

“I think,” came the answer, “that the kid is entitled to a thousand a week for the next six months. After that he should get $1500 a week and then yearly options until he hits $4,000 or $5,000 a week.”

The studio executive took a deep breath and whistled.

“Now, look,” he began, “I agree the kid is hot right now and deserves more money. But who knows how long he’ll stay hot? Most of his fans are bobby-soxers. Let Wagner get married tomorrow, and they’ll drop him in a minute.”

“You don’t have to worry about his getting married,” the executive was told. “He’s a smart kid. He’ll stay single until he’s thirty!”

The studio man grinned. “Can you guarantee that?”

“Of course not,” R.J.’s agent admitted. “But I know this boy, and I can tell you that he’s strictly married to his career. You’ve got the privilege of renewing his contract—or not renewing it—every year.

“If he elopes or does something crazy and loses his fan appeal by 1955, don’t pick up on him. Let him out.”

The Fox executive nodded. “Wagner’s a shrewd young man,” he said. “He’s got a level head on his shoulders. We like him and we think he’s going to be around a long time. You’ve got your boy a deal.”

That’s the inside story of R. J. Wagner’s $1,000-a-week contract, a contract about which there have been many rumors, the outstanding one being that it contains a clause forbidding Bob to get married for the next seven years.

It is no secret that studios like to keep their young and upcoming stars single. Janet Leigh, for example, was asked by a prominent producer not to marry Tony Curtis lest she injure his drawing power at the box office. Janet told the producer to go whistle and eloped to Connecticut with Tony.

Similarly, Marilyn Monroe’s studio is wondering whether or not her recent marriage to Joe DiMaggio will cost her any fans. Marilyn was married while she was suspended and there are many who insist that she would not have married if the studio had quickly come to terms on a new contract and a rewrite of Pink Tights.

When Bob Wagner was asked if anything in his contract prevented his getting married, he declared, “Absolutely not. I can get married any time I want to. Only I don’t want to get married. Not right now, anyway. And for a very good reason.

“I just don’t happen to be in love.

“When the right girl comes along, a girl I can’t do without, someone who’s the greatest—then, that’s it. I’m done and gone. No one’s holding me back.”

“No one but yourself!” someone remarked. “Let’s face it, R.J. You know that. any man can stop himself from falling in love. Just as soon as he finds himself slipping in a certain direction, he stops seeing that particular girl. Isn’t that the way you’ve been operating? Isn’t that what happened between you and Debbie Reynolds?”

R.J. furrowed that smooth, unlined forehead and a look of meditation came into his hazel eyes. He’s not one to talk first and think later.

“No,” he said after several moments. “I don’t think I’ve been operating that way at all.

“Right now my career happens to come first with me. I’m twenty-four years old and I know that I’ve got a long way to go to become a good actor. So I’m concentrating on that for the time being.

“What I’m trying to do is to live a decent, balanced, respectable life. I’m trying to avoid entangling alliances. That’s a pretty difficult job in this town, because you start taking a girl out and right away the papers have you headed for the altar.

“About Debbie, all I can say is that it never was serious. No matter what they say, I’m pretty sure she’s still my friend.

“I don’t think I’ve ever antagonized any girl I’ve dated. I never build the friendship into a big romantic thing because I’m just not ready for the responsibility that love and marriage demands.”

If any girl is sore at R.J. one would expect it to be Debbie Reynolds, whose fondness for him allegedly went unreciprocated.

Debbie was asked if she thought R.J. had put a check rein on his emotions, whether he was going high hat, whether he was fickle, and about the other gossip circulating about young Prince Valiant.

“I think I know R.J.’s character pretty well,” Debbie said, “and he’s as sweet a guy as I’ve ever met. He doesn’t make false promises, and he doesn’t hold himself in, and all that stuff about high-hatting old friends is just a lot of bunk.

“I know that they’re saying something about him and Jeff Hunter, but those two are still very close friends. Jeff was originally slated for the role of Prince Valiant, and then R.J. got the part, and I guess it was sort of strange because R.J. likes to visit with Jeff and Barbara and I guess he was embarrassed. But Jeff understands and I know Barbara does.

“You hear people say that R.J. doesn’t have time for old friends any longer, and they make it sound as if he’s grown snobbish. But what they don’t realize is how hard he works. He has been in one picture after another—he’s had to learn to fence for Prince Valiant, to brush up on his riding for Broken Lance—and I’ve seen him when he has rehearsed every Sunday for two or three months. I remember one time in particular that will give you some real insight into his character.

“I was having a shindig for the Girl Scouts over at my house, and I asked R.J. to come because one of the Girl Scouts thought he was the most. She was simply dying to meet him.

“R.J. said he would try to make it, and I knew he really would. But Sunday came along and we had the party and no R.J. But you know what he did?

“He phoned me and apologized for not showing up—‘I’m awfully sorry,’ he said, ‘but I’ve got to stay home and practice my fencing.’ And then he asked to talk to the Girl Scout and he explained everything to her—that he had to turn up on the set the next day and that he had difficulty in handling the swords. He talked to her and treated her as though she were his closest buddy.

“That shows you the kind of consideration R.J. shows everyone. And it’s not affectation, either. It’s genuine with him.”

Would Debbie classify R.J. as the “love?em-and-leave-’em” type?

“No,” she went on, “R.J. is completely honest. He doesn’t shoot a line or pull any fast passes or anything like that. A girl knows right away that he’s tremendously enthusiastic about his work.

“I remember one time over at my house I was trying to teach him a dance step. He just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. He was really impatient with himself.

“He has a bad eardrum, you know, and he suffers from terrible headaches because of his water skiing accident, but he just kept going until he got it.

“I don’t think anyone in Hollywood can say one disparaging thing about R.J.”

From a girl who has drifted out of Bob Wagner’s life that’s praise indeed. But it tallies with what other girls say—Terry Moore, for example, who was linked with Bob in a phony engagement story.

“He’s strictly a fun date,” Terry explains. “Never gets serious, never discusses marriage, loves his golf, his Jackie Gleason records, his hardtop Mercury and, of course, his work.”

Asked the secret of his success in handling girls, Bob grinned boyishly and said, “I’ve got a sister and I’ve been brought up to treat other girls with kindness and respect. That’s all I try to do.”

“But isn’t it on the level that you won’t let yourself go, that you won’t permit yourself the pleasure or danger of falling in love? After all, R.J., you’ve dated a lot of girls in and out of Hollywood. Haven’t you met a single girl who’d make a good wife?”

“I’ve met a lot of girls who’d make fine wives,” Bob answered. “Only not for me.”

“How about Jean Peters? Wouldn’t she make you a fine wife?” That one stopped Bob cold. He’d just finished making Broken Lance with Jean. They had been on location together in Arizona. He had taken her to the preview of Prince Valiant, and they’d managed several dates.

“Sure,” he said, “if I could find someone like Jean I’d think about marriage pretty seriously. There’s a girl who’s got everything: a sense of humor, brains, looks, ability, the whole works.”

“But you’ve found Jean! Why look for a copy when you’ve got the real thing?”

Bob changed the subject.

Hollywood Jean Peters is known as the mystery girl. When she first hit town, Jean (who is three years older than R.J.) was completely candid.

She had won a popularity contest at Ohio State. The prize had been $200 and a trip to Hollywood. The studio had tested her and given her a contract, and Jean didn’t mind telling all about her past.

Her father had died when she was ten and she and her mother had run a tourist camp. Jean had learned how to lay bricks and sew her own clothes and repair electric lines and refinish furniture.

In Hollywood she moved into a small bungalow with a grandaunt, Cis Francomb, and was cast in her first movie. And then bang. No more news about Jean Peters.

The story is that while Jean was on location in Mexico, one of the most powerful men in the movie business flew his own plane down there just to see her.

An attempt was made to hush the story of this trip, but it was impossible because just about that time Lana Turner went AWOL and flew down to Mexico to visit Tyrone Power, also in Morelia.

The reporters and photographers had a field day, and the story wafted back to Hollywood that Jean Peters and the producer were extremely affectionate. That belief still exists—which may be one reason the friendship between Bob Wagner and Jean Peters is probably destined for nothingness or, at best, pleasant memories.

Of course Jean might drop her producer and Bob might stop playing the field. But such a change is not likely.

R.J. is having a ball these days, and he doesn’t want romance or marriage to slow or complicate the amazing progress he’s made. But he’s facing a dilemma about which he says, “They’ve got me in the middle, and it’s kind of puzzling. If I go out with one girl a few times, I become a romance item. If I go out with several girls then I’m a regular Romeo. It’s one of those heads-you-win-tails-I-lose deals.

“I’ve got to be careful, so I date in out-of-the-way places and I stay away from parties, or if I do go to some affair like the “This Is Your Life” party honoring Prince Valiant, then I show up by myself. That way there’s no talk.

“Funny thing, when you’re just beginning in pictures everyone wants to help you—your old friends, the grips, even the commissary waitresses. Then you get a little success and something happens.

“Guess you’d call it responsibility. People expect you to change. Suddenly you find yourself on the defensive. Right away you’re accused of being snobbish and deserting old pals and every date becomes a great love affair.

“Barbara Stanwyck, who’s one of the nicest women ever, told me when we were making Titanic that the more successful an, actor becomes, the bigger target he makes. She sure was right.

“All of a sudden I’m protecting myself from rumors and gossip and enterprising press agents who try to marry me off in print to their clients. Me, who’s nothing!

“They say I’m playing it careful, that I’m ducking marriage, that I’m afraid of love. All bunk.

“I’m counting on marriage—not right now, but in the future. And I’ll probably wind up marrying some girl who’s in show business or some girl with a goal in life.

“I like girls who’re enthusiastic, who know what work is all about, but they’ve gotta have a sense of humor and like outdoor sports. I’m golf-happy, you know.

“But before I can think of marriage, I’ve gotta save some dough. That’s why I’ve got a business manager who limits me to a few bucks a week and stashes the rest of it away. After taxes and agent’s commission and a few of my ritzy sports coats, there’s not too much left.

“But I’m not complaining. No, sir. I’m the luckiest guy alive and I’m grateful to everyone who ever gave me a helping hand.

“And it’s not true that anyone has forbidden me to get married. I’d never put up with such a silly ruling. But neither am I going to let anyone stampede me into a wedding.

“I’ve seen what fun the Hunters get out of life—Jeff and Barbara and little Chris—and that’s for me. But the time’s got to be right, and I’ve got to find the right girl.”

“How about Jean Peters?”

R. J. Wagner grinned. “The most,” he said. “Absolutely the most.”





No Comments
Leave a Comment

Advertisment ad adsense adlogger