Here Comes The Bride—Debra Paget & David Street
The beautiful, red-haired girl, radiant in a white wedding gown and a tulle froth of a bridal cap, stood next to the handsome young man and repeated softly: “I do.”
Debra Paget had decided only three days earlier to marry David Street.
And she had decided to marry him on their first date!
Up until this time, Debra was known all over Hollywood as dateless Debbie and the girl who had never been kissed. From childhood, she had made up her mind that she would not date the field, but that the moment she met the right man she would know it—and marry him.
Was Debra wise or foolish in carrying out such a plan?
All over the country teen age girls are facing the same question, the same problem: shall I go out with a lot of boys, or shall I stay home most nights waiting for that glorious moment when the right boy walks into my life?
Is it good for a girl to go through her teen years unkissed, not dating the field—can she possibly know her own mind when it comes to marriage?
Debra says yes.
She says ‘Yes’ because Debra is convinced that “You can go for ten years with a man, and not until after you marry him find he’s all wrong for you!
“I have to go by instinct. I believed it right to marry David. I didn’t have to go with him for years. I’m in love with David. I know it.
“Besides, when people go together they put their best foot forward—so how can a girl really learn to know a man through dating?
Another first-date marriage
“My parents decided to marry each other on their first date, too, and they’ve been married for thirty-three years!”
Her mother says, “I hope this marriage lasts as mine has. Debra didn’t have to date the field. In her work she has met a variety of men, and so she knows as much about men as other girls who have dated a lot. David is a fine boy.”
Debra says, “Maybe some people think we were crazy to marry on such short notice. I’d think I was crazy if I didn’t marry David. I didn’t have to shop around to know my own mind. I think this romance was right for us, and that this marriage will be right, too.”
Not every one is that optimistic about it: she married a man who made Debra his fifth wife. Can a man who has already failed at marriage four times really be the right husband for such a bride?
And even the first days of their life together were spoiled by his life in the past. While Debra and David were honeymooning in northern California, two of his ex-wives were conferring with their lawyers. His first wife, Mary F. Payne, was complaining because he had fallen $4,845 behind in child support payments, and his fourth wife, Sharon Lee, was suing him for $3,000 she claimed she had lent David.
It was a difficult situation for love’s young dream.
While Debra was on her honeymoon, her mother, Mrs. Margaret Griffin, told how David and Debra met. “I’ve known David for a long time,” she said. “He used to come to our house casually, and neither he nor Debra paid any attention to each other.”
And when her mother said “casually”—that’s just what she meant. David hadn’t even been coming around to see Debra particularly!
About ten years ago, David had come backstage at the theatre where Debra’s mother was doing a vaudeville turn—“ ‘Bubbles’ was her stage name,” David grins today. Every couple of years, they’d run into each other, and Debra’s mother remembered him, remembered how sweet he had been to take the trouble to come and tell an unknown that he, for one, thought her act was good.
Recently, when Debra was doing her act at Las Vegas’ Flamingo, David was singing at the El Cortez, also in Las Vegas.
One night Mrs. Griffin said to Debra, after her show, “Let’s go to the El Cortez to hear David sing.”
A whole group sat at the same table and watched David’s act. Afterwards he came to their table, but no sparks flew. Except maybe the spark of affection Mrs. Griffin felt that prompted her to say, “When you get back to Hollywood, David, drop over some Sunday. We hold open house.”
So he did; a couple of times.
No sparks flew.
In fact, no sparks ever flew between them till one night recently when he dropped in, still just a family friend, and emerged as Debra’s groom-to-be.
They had sat on the sofa watching a TV show. Mysieriously, in the manner of young people all over the world, they were drawn to each other. All of a sudden Debra knew that David was her man, and he knew this was the girl he wanted to marry.
A simple proposal
“Will you marry me?” he asked, simply as that.
She turned and looked at the boyish-faced man, who until that moment had been just a casual visitor at their home.
Her heart pounded. Her cheeks flushed. She no longer heard the announcer spilling his commercial message. What she heard—though David wasn’t singing—was an immortal song of love. To such a song, when it reaches right into a girl’s heart—a melody without words—there is only one reply. Debra made it.
And so they were married, in Debra’s fantastic family home. Debra has her own apartment within that home—a playroom, kitchenette, boudoir and a dressing room with a marble bath. It has its own private entrance. She and David will live there when they’re together. For there are times when they will necessarily be separated by their careers. Debra has no intention of giving up hers. Right now she is planning a trip to Mexico, for From the Earth to the Moon. David is in New York for a TV show. They will go wherever their careers pull them.
Is this a perfect marriage or a terrible example of a young girl’s mistake?
But there’s no denying that all her life Debra has been preparing herself for just such an impulsive marriage as this.
When she was fifteen she was a movie star with independence, a mink coat and a chance to play passionate love scenes with stars like Jimmy Stewart. When their film, Broken Arrow, was finished, her mother asked Jimmy, “Would you be surprised to learn that your leading lady is only fifteen?”
“Impossible!” said Jimmy. “No girl of fifteen could play love scenes this passionately.”
Though Debra’s love scenes on the screen practically set the film world on fire, off the screen there were no kisses, no passionate love making, no love making of any kind.
And not because there weren’t plenty of men who were eager to date and woo Debra.
One theory around Hollywood was that her mother objected to her dating.
“That’s nonsense,’ Debra laughs. “I don’t date for just one reason: I don’t want to date. Why should I waste my time with a lot of young men who mean nothing to me? When I meet the right man I’ll know him. Till then, my career means everything to me.
“And I have enough fun with my family.”
Only once in a blue moon did Debra break her dateless state of existence. Once, at the insistence of her studio, she went out on a publicity date with a young actor named Bob Arthur. The magazines and newspapers printed so many shots of them together that she was embarrassed.
“No more dates for publicity purposes or otherwise,” she decided.
The great love
Then things changed. Debra was twenty-one. And she was madly in love. There was a diamond ring on her finger, and a sparkle in her eyes greater than the light of any diamond.
She wouldn’t say who the man was but she admitted, “I’m no longer dateless. I have been kissed thoroughly and delightfully off screen as well as on. I have found the right man, and have fallen deeply and genuinely in love. He is wonderful and everything I have hoped for.”
The man she loved was wealthy, older than Debra, and publicity-shy.
When newspapermen besieged Debra and her mother for the details of their romance, her mother fiercely defended Debra’s right to keep the name of the man she loved a secret. “He doesn’t like publicity,” she said. “Please don’t print anything about this romance, or it might end and you’ll leave Debra without a life-raft.”
But it turned out that besides hating publicity, the man Debra loved was marriage-shy. Debra, who had believed that love and marriage went together like the proverbial horse and carriage, was heartbroken.
She lost her man and went back to her dateless existence.
She was surrounded by all the trappings of glamor, and by none of its realities.
She drove around town in a pink Cadillac covered with hundreds of dollars worth of fake jewels. The car glittered and so did Debra.
At home, she lived in splendor of a strange sort. The home, with its twenty-two rooms, is one of the largest and most bizarre in Beverly Hills, but actually she lived like a home girl with her mother and father, her brother, Russell Shane, a young sister, a married sister and her husband and two children, and two dogs, a Siamese kitten, parakeets and even a chimpanzee.
“I’m too busy for love,” she told friends. “I’ll marry when I find a man I’m truly in love with and not marry just for marriage’s sake. The same thing goes for dating. I refuse to go places with a man just to go places.”
If her laughter was a little shriller than before, her voice artificially gayer, her work far more frenzied, who was to know it but Debra and her mother?
Who was to say that Debra wasn’t the happiest, luckiest girl in Hollywood? If she was carrying a flaming torch, no one saw it; she just laughed a little harder, and put more jewels on her Cadillac.
A child she wasn’t. She proved it when she went to Las Vegas and wore such gasp-provoking gowns that the town began to wonder at this new Debra who was outdoing even Marlene Dietrich in glamor and daring.
“Why haven’t you married?” they asked her. And Debra just smiled slowly. “Why, I haven’t found the right man. I’m not in a hurry.”
Then David dropped in—and they felt, only two hours later, that they were in love. How explain Debra’s conviction that she was madly in love after only one date—so madly in love that she decided to marry him?
“How does anyone know?” Debra’s mother answers. Perhaps it’s just a matter of chemistry.”
Good luck, Debra
But is chemistry enough? Does the hot leaping of a young girl’s blood at the sight of the man she thinks right for her prove that he is right for her? Is the answer of the instincts enough for today’s teenagers? Or did Debra fall into the deadliest trap of all—mistaking infatuation for love because she has dated so little that the sound of her own heart pounding seemed proof enough that she was in love.
Perhaps, by happy accident, Debra, in one thrill-filled evening, felt a love that passes all understanding—a love that can survive everything—separation, different careers, competition and a long history of previous marriages on the part of the groom.
It would be wonderful if this marriage overcame all obstacles. It would also be a miracle.
David Street himself seems bewildered by the situation. “Debra is the most wonderful girl I’ve ever known,” he says. “My last marriage failed because it was too impulsive.”
To objective observers, it might seem that this marriage is also more than a mite impulsive.
Debra has been ready for love for a long time. Once she was denied the right to marry the man she loved, for his love was not great enough for marriage.
This time, the wedding ring is on her finger, her heart is aglow with fervent feeling, and her head is in the clouds. And perhaps this time it is enough to create a lasting happiness.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE MAY 1958