How The Ladds Reconciled?
The Rock of Gibraltar marriage of the Alan Ladds suffered a shattering tremor when the gossips first hinted, then said right out loud, that Alan and Sue were having trouble!
To say there was no crisis in the Ladd family would not be telling the truth. Alan and Sue don’t say this.
Because these two honest and straightforward people are among my close friends, I know how much this has hurt them and how much they regret all the publicity. Not so much for themselves, but for the children.
But one bright and shining thing has come of it all:
They have weathered this storm and they are closer than ever. They have a new and stronger sense of what their marriage of fourteen years has built. And they love each other with even deeper devotion.
I know what I’m talking about because I am the only reporter to talk to both Sue and Alan at their “reconciliation house,” the charming place they took where they can be completely alone for a month, at Rancho Santa Fe.
The reason I didn’t travel south to get the story from Alan and Sue is that he had chicken pox!
But, I have talked with them many times over the telephone, both separately and together, at Rancho Santa Fe, and before that at their Holmby Hills house when all the gossip started flying thick and fast.
Oh, it was hot and heavy in the beginning, first as blind items, then out openly:
“Which happily married couple of many years (their names will surprise you) are straining at the leash?”
“It’s very cool between the Alan Ladds and the Dick Powells.” “Alan has left the Holmby Hills house and gone to the ranch, all by his lonesome.”
Most cruel of all was another blind item: “What wife, who completely dominates her husband’s every move, is sitting home alone? The worm has turned.”
These were the hurtful things being printed and said.
But the topper came when Alan himself, in a fit of pique, told a newspaperman that he and Sue had been having trouble ever since she made him go to Europe for over a year to make pictures. It was this that jogged me into getting Alan immediately on the telephone at Rancho Santa Fe.
When he came to the phone, he sounded like a chastened little boy, and not because he had chicken pox, you can bet! He said, “I don’t know what ever made me say such a thing. It’s ridiculous, of course.
“Sue has never in her life made me do anything I didn’t want to do. Anything as important as that trip to Europe we first talk over pro and con and then make a mutually agreeable decision. We both thought it was the right thing to do then.
“I made that comment to a reporter because I was upset and angry that Sue had gone to Las Vegas with her relatives from the east instead of joining me here.
“My anger made me say the first impossible thing that came to mind. It was a stupid thing to do and I’m sincerely sorry.”
Alan’s voice was very meek when he suddenly said, “Louella, wait a minute. Here’s Sue.”
“Everything is all right, believe me, Louella,” Sue began. “There isn’t a chance of our marriage, which has been so perfect for fourteen years, coming to an end.
“I love Alan and he loves me. What was a personal and temporary problem between us—and will remain that—could easily have been solved in privacy and would have been forgotten by both of us now—if it had come at a different time.
“We had a quarrel when both of us were nervous wrecks. Looking back on everything, maybe our jangled nerves were the cause of our misunderstanding.
“Alan had been working too hard. He made too many pictures in too short a time. When he should have taken a rest because he was tired, he signed to do the physically and emotionally difficult The McConnell Story,about the hero pilot who was killed. His nerves were on the jagged edge—and so were mine, but for an entirely different reason. I was the mother of a bride-to-be!
“At a time when we both should have been having peace and quiet, our home was a madhouse getting ready for the 500 guests who had accepted the invitation to Carol Lee’s wedding to Dick Anderson.
“Everything was topsy-turvy—electricians, florists, carpenters, caterers were underfoot twenty-four hours out of twenty-four at least ten days before the wedding. The comfortable home I’ve tried to make for Alan and the children all these years was completely disrupted.
“So we blew up! Right after the wedding we had a quarrel, a serious one, about something that is still our private affair. And we both acted impulsively, each of us guilty of feeding the gossips.
“I suppose I shouldn’t have gone to Las Vegas when Alan and I were having a quarrel—but again, timing played a big part in the decisions made.
“Before my aunt and cousin came out here from Chicago for the wedding, we had talked about going to Las Vegas on a visit. We had made the reservations—which aren’t too easy to get—and Alan was going to Rancho Santa Fe to get in some golf. I was to join him there after a few days. I really believe that these simple plans, made well in advance, looked doubly bad because they were carried out while we were quarreling.”
It certainly is true that when Sue went one way and Alan another, the gossips felt free to proceed at full speed.
When June Allyson, Alan’s co-star in The McConnell Story, admitted openly that she and Dick Powell were also having family problems, the lid blew off the kettle. What had been behind-the-hand whispers about Alan and June shouts. The breaks between the two prominent and popular couples were played up on the front pages in one story carrying serious innuendos.
Now, let me tell you about this, the truth about it, I mean.
Nothing would have been made of this, the if the Powells hadn’t hit a snag the same time the Ladds did!
When I called June she admitted to me honestly that, like all married couples now and then, she and Dick were having problems.
“But as for another man’s being in the picture, that’s absurd,” June told me indignantly. “I admire Alan Ladd as a fine man, a fine actor and a gentleman. Dick and I have had some problems but it doesn’t involve anyone but ourselves—no other man.”
When I asked June what the trouble was, she said, “Ask Dick.”
I did. I’ve known him a long time and he’s always been very square with me.
“If June and I were quarreling about Alan, we’d hardly have been at the wedding of the Ladds’ daughter,” he began.
“Our difficulty is purely family-style. I’m upset because my daughter Ellen (by Joan Blondell) isn’t doing well in her grades at school. I’ve been stern with her and—well, June thinks maybe I’ve overdone it. They’re good pals, you know.
“And, I’ve been touchy about. not being able to get to Howard Hughes to show him the finished picture of The Conqueror, my first big directing effort. A lot of hard work went into the picture. I have high hopes for it and it’s aggravating not to be able to get to headquarters about something so important to me, into which I’ve put so much time and effort and heart.
“But you know us, Louella, well enough to know that all this will pass. It’s just a family matter, believe me.”
I tell you all this because of its unfortunate bearing on the Ladds at a vulnerable time, but it’s the Ladds we are talking about. There was still another point I wanted to take up with them while I had them on the telephone.
I asked Sue, “Didn’t Alan go out to his ranch by himself more than usual?”
For the first time during our conversation, Sue seemed to be amused.
“Alan always goes to the ranch by himself a few times when he’s working on a picture,” she explained. “Don’t forget that we have a household of children of staggered ages, none of whom are very quiet around the place.
“Frequently, it’s hard to concentrate and if Alan has a big day or a big scene coming up he’ll take off to the ranch to hibernate.
“The most ridiculous thing printed about us is that I protect Alan so much and keep him so tied to my apron strings that he didn’t even know how to turn on the heat at the ranch and had to come home at nightfall!”
Even though she made light of it, I know that Sue was, perhaps still is, deeply hurt over the talk that she runs Alan’s professional and private life.
I’d like to say that I know of no woman who has done more to make a happy home for her husband—one where he is free from petty cares, but where he most definitely is the boss—than Sue Ladd.
If she made a mistake, and she has a tendency to blame herself for everything, it is because she has tried to be too perfect as a wife.
I know that if anything as trivial as a leaky tap goes wrong in the Ladd home, Sue has told the servants not to bother Alan with it.
Everything Sue can spare Alan she does, which may or may not be right, but believe me, he was never so helpless he couldn’t turn on the heat!
Ever since they met, when Sue was a well-known actors’ agent and Alan a struggling young actor, he has wisely followed her advice.
Sue had been a big screen favorite herself and she had much experience. She could and did warn Alan of the pitfalls.
She is also a very smart girl in money matters. As Evelyn Lederer, she had been the daughter of a wealthy Chicago family and after she came to Hollywood more than one producer was heard to remark, “Sue Carol can handle her own contracts better than anyone else can handle them for her.”
It was natural that after their marriage, Alan should seek her guidance in both his career and business matters.
If this sounds as though Alan Ladd is henpecked or dominated by his brown-eyed wife, it is the most mistaken impression in the world.
In the first place, Alan is very much a man’s man. Despite his great fame—and he led the popularity poll of this magazine for six years running—he has no conceit or actor-type vanity.
He loves motion pictures and is grateful to Sue that she makes it possible for him to give himself completely to the job at hand when he is working.
Between pictures he isn’t “tied” at home. He plays golf, tennis, and rides with his cronies, Van Heflin and Dick Anderson. And while he is not crazy about big social events, he likes having people at his home for dinner, and all this is okay by his wife!
Make no mistake about it, he adores his Susie and he has often told me or anyone else who cares to listen:
“I couldn’t get along without her. A lot of guys ask me why I never go anywhere without her. It’s simply because I don’t want to be anywhere without her. She’s my best friend as well as my best girl.”
Sue is the one who decided to end her many visits to the studio where Alan was working. She did this sometime ago because, as she says, “I have a big job at home with the children. The studio part is Alan’s job.”
She did admit to me while we were talking, “Maybe we shouldn’t have gone to Europe for such a long time—although at the time we were enthusiastic about it. It seemed to be a wonderful way to see the world and at the same time for the children to have the educational advantages of living abroad for a while.”
And you can bet your life that if Alan hadn’t wanted to go abroad, the Ladd clan never would have made the trip. It is Alan and Alan alone who is boss in matters of this kind and he was the one who rented the house at Rancho Santa Fe for a month. “Where we can be alone,” said Alan.
Sue laughed. “So here we are. I’m doing all the cooking and the housework—and Alan’s got the chicken pox!’ She had all of her old humor back when she added, “Louella, isn’t this whole thing ridiculous?”
Even the much-subdued Alan was laughing when he got back on the telephone. “Our happy second honeymoon with chickenpox,” he chuckled. “I’m a mess.”
I sincerely believe that as unfortunate as this trouble in their life has been, it has made them realize more than ever how very, very much they mean to one another.
—BY LOUELLA PARSONS
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE MAY 1955