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How God Saved Our Marriage—Pier Angeli & Vic Damone

I am glad to tell you my story here. There has been so much gossip, so much misunderstanding about what happened to Vic and me.

We had a quarrel. He did leave: but the stories I have read made my hair stand up. They were so distorted. I cannot go from person to person and explain, so I will do it here, to MODERN SCREEN readers.

Vic and I had a real spat recently. We are both very high strung Italians. Usually when we have a misunderstanding Vic goes to his study, and I go to our bedroom. After we cool off, I knock on his door and we kiss and everything makes sense again.

That’s the way it usually is. We have been married four years. During those years we have had arguments, just like almost every other couple. Sometimes I think our quarrels are a form of love making. I often wonder if we don’t quarrel for the joy of making up.

Besides, no one can be in seventh heaven all the time. Vic and I have many problems. We can’t sit still and say, “This is heaven,” even though our beautiful modern new home on top of a hill in Bel-Air, secluded, with only one neighbor across the road, is the closest thing we have known to heaven. We call it Our Paradise, but still we must work for our paradise.

One night in May I forgot all this. Vic and I had a dinner date with our dear friends, Helen and Fred Mortensen, the neighbors who live across the road. She is an art supervisor and he is a builder. They are charming, warm people and are like a mother and father to us.

Our dinner date that night was for seven. Vic had left early in the day to play golf but he said

he would be home in plenty of time. I did not worry then, but this is what happened. . . .

By seven I am all dressed up. I had taken an hour and a half to dress so that I would look just

right for Vic and our friends. I was wearing a beautiful grey Italian suit, my hair and my make-up just so. We do not go out often and I was looking forward with great eagerness to going out this particular evening.

It is time to leave, but Vic is not home yet. It is hard for me to wait, especially when I am all dressed up and expecting to have a wonderful time.

Seven thirty, and still no Vic. I am beginning to get anxious, worried—then upset and angry. It is eight and still no Vic. How can he do this to me! I am beside myself.

It is after eight when I hear Vic’s footsteps in the house. “Here I am darling,” he calls. Instead of greeting him with a kiss, I am so mad I begin to cry and shout at him. I have an Italian temper. So does he. I feel like a mess by this time. It is late; I do not feel we can go any more. I feel that he has forced us, by his lateness, to disappoint our dear friends.

Vic cannot understand why I am so upset merely because he is late. But I feel there is no reason for him to be so late. I begin to blabber in Italian. For me it is very important to keep a promise to be on time. He says, “Let’s go. I can dress in a jiffy.”

I say, “No. I cannot go out any more. You have ruined my evening. You have ruined their evening. You have ruined everything. How can you do such a thing?”

One word leads to another. He says, “Calm down.” But by this time I am hysterical and cannot control my feelings.

This time he does not go to his study. I do not go to my room. We do not can down, think things over and cool off.

We are both too upset. Finally, Vic looks at me and in a tired voice says, “We cannot be together tonight. It will only bring more words, more quarrels. I will go to a hotel. We will think better that way.”

So he packs a bag and leaves. And there is no Vic in the study, no door to knock on, no lips to kiss mine. When I hear him close the front door, I fall on my bed and cry my eyes out.

I cannot sleep. I call my mother and she says, “You are being very foolish,” and she gives me comforting words encouraging me to make up. Poor Vic, he has no one to go to. He stays in the hotel room alone.

The next day Vic calls. He says, “Darling, I could not sleep all night.”

I say, “I could not sleep either.”

He says, “I am coming home.”

When he comes home, I call my mother to come over to help us settle our disagreement. When she arrives, we all go to our bedroom and sit and talk. We straighten it out—the three of us. All together. She makes a lot of sense. Vic likes to talk to her. He calls her Mama. She told us what she felt. We all opened up to one another. Italian people can’t keep things to themselves, and in some ways that is very good. There are no tensions after we are through talking.

How it is with us

People do not understand about my mother and Vic and me. There are so many things that they do not understand, and that is why some horrible stories have been printed.

It is true, my mother was unhappy when Vic wrote a story in a national magazine which said that my mother had brought me up to be a creation—a big movie star and not a happily married woman. My mother was very upset about what was said about her. And she is very direct. She never goes through two bends, but comes out straight with what she wants to say. So she came to our house very hurt and talked frankly to Vic. He explained that he did not mean it the way she took it. He had been reminiscing about a time when they did not understand each other—but now they do.

In the beginning it was very hard for Vic to understand my mother’s attitude toward me.

You must understand what it is between my mother and me. For my mother it was an adjustment hard to make when I got married. All the years before that, it was she who had lived with me, traveled with me, been part of my life and my work.

Every mother, when her daughter gets married, is lonely for a while. Mine was more so than the rest because she had been with me all the time. And she was in a new country.

You see, we are a European family; she is a European mother. In Europe, the family is very close, even after marriage. Here a child is apt to be independent at the age of fourteen or fifteen. At sixteen many children go off on their own. Although his parents are Italian, Vic was raised in New York, and Vic was on his own since he was a boy.

In Italy it is not like that. It is hard for a mother to make her own life after her daughter marries. My mother still calls me my little girl and my little Anna.

People say Vic dislikes my mother and my mother dislikes him. That is not true. They do like each other, but it was hard for my mother to accept the fact that once I got married, my husband came first in my life.

I told Vic, “We must have a heart, try to understand my mother, see her side.”

The Italian mother

In the beginning of our marriage, when Vic and I lived in our former home, my mother lived close by and came to the house or phoned every day. It was hard for Vic to see my mother this way—how would you say it in English?—possessive. He did not understand. My mother does not understand either. In Italy, the mother is still very important in the household, even when the daughter gets married.

But Vic understands her much better now. And she understands him much better. She understands now that we should have some privacy, because we have so little time to be together.

When we bought the new home we live in now, my mother bought one fairly close to us. When Vic is away, she is with me all the time. But when Vic is here, she stays away so we can be together—alone with each other and our little boy Perry, who is now three.

The outside world does not know how we live. It breaks my heart that people should think there is anything seriously wrong. We live quietly. We stay home most nights; we want to be together.

And so when we have disagreements, like most married people do, they say Pier and Vic are getting a divorce!

This shocks me terribly. Out here in Hollywood there is so much divorce. Divorce to many people is as casual as smoking a cigarette.

But in our religion, marriage is a sacrament. To Vic and me there are three people in every marriage—the two who marry and God. So when two people decide on a divorce they are separating themselves from what God wants. Vic and I hate the very thought of divorce. We would not even think of it. As long as you believe in God, you will work things out.

When you have a religion, as Vic and I have, you work at solving your difficulties and problems. Vic and I always pray to God for help.

The phone call

This is what happened when Vic and I came back together after that night when he was at the hotel.

A reporter called the house. Vic answered the phone. The reporter was surprised to hear Vic’s voice.

The reporter said: “What are you doing here?”

Vic said, “What do you mean what am I doing here? This is my home. This is where I want to be.”

The reporter asked, “Aren’t you getting a divorce?”

Vic said, “Of course not. Here is Anna.” (He calls me by my real name.) “Do you want to talk to her?”

I got on the phone and said, “It’s terrible to have so many people talk about us. We had only an argument. How many people have arguments? Vic does not have a mother or a sister to go to out here so he went to a hotel to cool off. Is that so terrible? Why do people try to break us up?”

Even though the rest of the town was still repeating the rumors that Vic and I were separated, we knew in our hearts how much our marriage really meant to us.

After the telephone call, Vic says to me, “Darling, let’s do something special tonight. Let’s dress up and go out, just the two of us, and celebrate. Where do you want to go?”

Almost as of one mind, we both said, “Romanoff’s!”

You see, it was at Romanoff’s that Vic first proposed to me. What better place could there be in which to rejoice in our getting together again?

I wanted to look my most glamorous for my husband. I get all dressed up, in a beautiful dress with the new trapeze line, an elegant black satin with electric-blue roses painted on it.

As we walked to our table at Romanoff’s I could see the people turn around and stare. They must have been surprised. It. was so funny to see their expression when we walked in together, the happiness just shining from our faces. They had read so much about how unhappy we were!

The next afternoon, I went to a shower which our good friends, Jean and Paul Trousdale, were giving for their daughter. When Vic came to pick me up afterwards we sat around talking. Suddenly, Paul said, “You two have been through a lot of strain this week. Why don’t you go to Palm Springs and forget everything. We would love you to stay in our home there and relax.”

Second honeymoon

That night, Vic and I are in our station wagon on our way to Palm Springs. I felt exhilarated, as though it were our second honeymoon. We were able to be away for only a few days—Vic had to leave for New York in a week—but I packed like for five months.

It was so wonderful. Jean and Paul have a beautiful modern home in the middle of the desert, and there is a Chinese couple to take care of the house and of us.

Vic and I got up early and played golf; then we’d come home and swim and have lunch by the pool. Then we golfed again. Vic is a wonderful golfer, but I am not. It seems to take me three hours to make one hole, but Vic is patient and waits for me and we laugh at the way I swing my club.

That afternoon I found a wild baby blackbird on the golf course. I picked it up; it was half dead and I talked soothingly to it. He is now my pet at home, no longer sick, no longer wild, but a darling pet who likes to perch on my finger.

When I picked him up that afternoon, so weak, he was like a symbol to me of how we can take the things that are weak in ourselves and build them into strength.

That is what Vic and I must do—take our faults, win God’s blessing on them—and turn them into strength. I try all the time to work on my faults so that I can be a better wife and better also in the eyes of God.

When we were in Palm Springs some good friends of ours, Abe and Muriel Lipsey, called and said, “We are having a big party and we want you to come. You will have a wonderful time and see good friends. Frank Sinatra will be there and many other people you know.”

We like the Lipseys. We like Frankie. But Vic and I wanted to be alone. This was indeed our second honeymoon. So we said, “Thank you very much. We would like to go to your party, but we have so little time to be alone together. The time is so precious. Vic must go to New York soon. Tonight we want to be alone with each other. Please do not mind. It means so much to us.”

They understood.

The sky and the stars

So we spent the night alone. I dressed up for the evening—just for Vic, no one else. We sat in the patio in swing chairs very close together and swung back and forth. We looked up at the sky and tried to count the stars. We almost fell asleep in our chairs.

Then Vic touched me gently on the shoulders and said, “Are you asleep, Anna?”

I roused myself and said, “No, darling. But on such a night as this, asleep or awake, it is like being in a dream.”

And then he put his arm around my waist and we walked into the house.

And we knew again an excitement and happiness such as had touched our marriage on our first honeymoon. We knew the wondrous peace you can feel in the desert, very close.

We thought at first we would stay till Vie was ready to leave for New York. But the third night I looked at Vic and he looked at me and again we had the same thought.

“I miss Perry so much,” I said.

“Isn’t it funny? I was thinking the same thing just now.”

It wasn’t long before we were in our station wagon and on our way home.

The next morning, Vic and I and our little son went to church to pray. It was not on a Sunday—just a regular day in the middle of the week. We dressed the baby up and the three of us went to St. Victor’s Church near our house. We kneeled in adoration of God—all three of us together.

We were very still—and sensed the presence of God in the great stillness. Vic and I were praying to the third Partner in our marriage.

We were a family together, praying that we would never be broken up.

Vic and I know so well what our closeness to God has done to bring us together.

A wonderful Retreat

The other night, just before Vic left for New York, we went to a dinner at Danny Thomas’ house and Jane Wyman was there. We talked about our experience and Jane Wyman (who has embraced the Catholic faith) told us about a wonderful Retreat she has gone to. When Vic and I drove home from Danny’s house we talked about it. We decided that we would go to this Retreat together for a week, where we would pray all day and think of our lives together, of how we want to make our life as perfect and blessed and happy as possible.

When Vic comes back from his singing engagement we will go to the Retreat. It is something for the soul. We will even leave the baby for a week—it is that important to us. When you are at a Retreat you hear the nuns singing, listen to the priest talk. It is purifying and wonderful. Everybody in life should have some retreat—if not a Catholic Retreat then a retreat to find peace of mind, to discover yourself again.

Life is short. We want to make every moment of it important. We know many young couples who must be on the go every night. We don’t do that. When Vic and I are together there is so much for us to discover about each other.

Vic must go to London this summer to do some TV shows there, and I am going to Italy to be at the christening of my sister Marisa’s (Pavan) baby, Jean Claud. I will join Vic in London and take the baby with me. We will all be together.

Soon after this, a separation faces us. I expect to make two, perhaps three pictures in Europe. Vic will probably have singing dates in Europe—in Rome and Paris—so that we can get together weekends. But then he leaves again to sing in Australia and back to America. Maybe this will make for more talk.

But we are determined to keep our marriage a holy sacrament, blessed by God. We pray to God for help. All things will work for the good of our marriage, and for our good, as good is reckoned in the eyes of God.

We have to live our own lives and not care what people say. We have to close our eyes and ears to gossip. The main thing is to believe in each other and in God. And we do.


by Pier Angeli as told to Helen Weller

Watch for Pier in MGM’s MERRY ANDREW, and in THE SHORT WEEKEND for United Artists.



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