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Is Her Love Life Jinxed?—Vera-Ellen

As one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor girls, Vera-Ellen is sometimes inclined to yearn for the privacy of the good old days when she was just plain Miss Rohe of Cincinnati, Ohio. For wherever she goes, the spotlight follows. And though it certainly has its professional value, this very same spotlight has a way of playing havoc with her private life.

Now it’s hardly practical for a star to be a recluse unless she’s Garbo. And if she’s a young lady who likes to go dancing, she can’t very well shun the bright lights. Consequently, Vera-Ellen may be seen and duly reported in the better-known nightspots with any one of a number of escorts. Upon each occasion, she obligingly poses for the lensmen and the photographs become the property of her public.

But if you look closely, you’ll see that in the pictures the laughter is only on her lips—not in her eyes. For her heart is in hiding these days.

Some claim that it’s a broken heart. Others say it’s a fickle one. “It’s cautious,” says Vera-Ellen herself. “And it’s getting more cautious all the time.”

But why should this be? Is she afraid of love? Or has she never known what real love is? Or is there some mysterious jinx at work?

One reason for her caution may be an actor named Dean Miller. It’s believed that her romance with Dean brought her as close to matrimony as she has come since her arrival in filmland. Although they had dated off and on for nearly a year, few columnists gave their courtship serious thought until it was almost over, for they were rarely seen together.

Most of the time, it seems, they were making the long trek to and from the Los Angeles International Airport, where Dean was either meeting her plane or saying goodbye as she left for a personal-appearance tour. There were long-distance calls while she was away. Eventually, there were the inevitable stories of an approaching wedding. And then there was the breakup. “Actually,” says Vera-Ellen now, “we only went steady—saw each other exclusively—for about two months. We were never formally engaged. We hadn’t set a date . . .”

The trips? “I don’t think I would have gone on them if I’d actually thought that things could have worked out with Dean. But when you don’t feel sure, you sort of try to get away from what’s troubling you.”

Was it love? “We felt very deeply about each other,” Vera-Ellen admits. “But we didn’t think there were all the ingredients for a lifetime marriage. We didn’t feel it would last. We’re both cautious types—which is a good thing.”

They’re still good friends. But, Vera-Ellen is a popular girl. She has a number of friends who happen to be men. And they’re truthfully “just friends.” Despite this fact, she could paper a room with inch-long column items . . . each one linking her name with that of a different escort and announcing that she’s falling in love, she’s fallen in love, she’s on the verge of becoming engaged, or that she’ll be making a dash for City Hall almost any hour.

And thereby hangs her problem—or at least part of it. It caught up with her of an evening while she was dining with one Hollywood gentleman. It was their second date. As they finished their coffee, he gave her a long, appreciative look and said, “You know, you’re the nicest fiancée I’ve never proposed to.”

Vera-Ellen glanced up from her coffee cup, her eyes as wide as the saucer. “I’m . . . you . . . what?” she choked.

He went on, still playing it straight. “But where were you when we were seen pricing wedding rings?” he asked.

“Depends on which paper you read,” Vera-Ellen grinned, getting the picture.

It was good for a grin and a couple of chuckles. But to Vera-Ellen, it was somewhat less than hysterical. It brought to mind the time she’d returned from a trip to read that she’d been going steady while she was three thousand miles away. The only trouble with that one was that the fellow mentioned in the items had been at home in Hollywood. She frequently has dinner with her agent, Henry Willson. If the discussions appear to be serious it’s because they’re talking business. Yet, every so often columnists declare that Henry has popped the question.

And why is Vera-Ellen unable to shrug off the gossip as many stars do? Perhaps because there’s a protective barrier that the gossip builds or perhaps the answer to her caution and her concern lies in her past. Miss Rohe became Mrs. Robert Hightower while still in her teens. She and Bob had worked together in several Broadway musicals. When they were married, they sincerely believed it was for keeps. It wasn’t. Possibly youth mistook infatuation for love. At any rate, the marriage didn’t work out, and the couple was already separated when Vera-Ellen’s show-stopping part in the stage revival of “A Connecticut Yankee” brought her a movie contract.

To others in the show, a Hollywood contract sounded like a reasonable facsimile of heaven. They dreamed out loud of Vera-Ellen living on mink-lined Cloud Number Seven, wined and dined by a succession of handsome leading men, caught up in a glittering and glamorous social whirl. They knew about the High-towers’ separation. So why not off with the old, on with the new?

They didn’t reckon with Vera-Ellen. She moved into a small home in the Valley, with her parents. As far as she was concerned she was a married woman and she made up her mind to behave like one. She was new in the community and, whether it was Hollywood or East Overshoe, she wanted that community’s respect. The telephone rang often after her arrival. She refused all dates for over a year. And finally the telephone gave up and stopped ringing. Eventually, when she was certain that her marriage was finished, she filed for divorce. And not until she was free to do so, did she accept her first Hollywood date.

She went with Farley Granger for a time. She was seen with Rory Calhoun before his marriage to Lita Baron. They had fun together. Rory’s a sportsman. And Vera-Ellen’s perfectly at home on the beach or in a sailboat. When she’s dressed to go dancing, she’s a fragile doll. Small wonder that her datebook is always full. A. C. Lyles, Ernie Byfield, John Hart have all been among her escorts. Rock Hudson was supposed to have been a serious romance. They dated for over a year. In those days, Rock was meeting her planes . . . seeing her off. “We’re not able to think about romance now,” said Rock at the time. “Perhaps when my career is established… .”

Vera-Ellen, as usual, said little. No one was able to tell whether it was for love or laughs. The columns settled for love. But the principles knew it wasn’t quite the real thing.

The Dean Miller-Vera-Ellen idyl took about the same turn. But by the time Hollywood realized its existence, it was over.

After her breakup with Dean Miller, Vera-Ellen refused all invitations for a long while. The old bugaboo. She was afraid that she would be romantically linked with someone again and that people would be saying that she was trying to break some sort of Hollywood romance record. But if her heart is more cautious than ever, so are her words. “I date a lot of men,” she told an interviewer recently “Some are in the industry, some are not. There’s a doctor. Then there’s a man in the sales end of the movie business. And there’s a director. . . .”

“Grand,” said the eager writer. “Wonderful! Now let’s have the names.” She might as well have asked for the moon on a platter of sunshine. There was a long silence. “Uh . . . er . . . how do you spell those names?” the scribe asked cagily.

Vera-Ellen grinned. “You don’t,” she said firmly, and no amount of coaxing could persuade her to reveal identities. “They’re just good friends,” she said. “But even if she does like someone, a girl doesn’t want to be rushed—by the press.”

Columnists would have had a speculator’s field day if they’d been along when Vera-Ellen was filming “The Big Leaguer” in Florida. The number of telephone calls she received from admirers was staggering. They were also rather public. She was living in one of the cottages a few yards from the hotel. The buildings were new and no telephones had been installed. Consequently, she took her phone calls in a booth in the hotel lobby. There were calls from her doctor, from a fellow she had met in Denver, from singer Russ Severin who was in Billings, Montana. fulfilling a night-club engagement. However, speculators might have been disappointed in the conversations. “I understand they’re awfully impersonal,” complained one cast member teasingly.

“How can you say anything personal when you’re shouting from a phone booth in the middle of a hotel lobby?” Vera-Ellen wanted to know. And she sounded almost grateful for the lack of privacy that helped guard her tongue—and her heart.

As for the doctor? “No comment.”

The man in Denver? “I met him only recently,” she says. “I’m not going with him. Yes, he’s phoned. But . . .”

Russ Severin? They met in St. Louis while she was on a personal-appearance tour. He was working in the same show. When she returned to California, he wired and wrote to her. Later, he appeared in Hollywood. “We’ve been dancing quite a lot,” says Vera-Ellen. And that is all.

While Vera-Ellen tries to lead a life of her own, Hollywood wonders about her marital future. “Nothing has interfered,” she vows. “My career, my mother . . . nothing. Every girl wants to get married. But I’m not going around looking for marriage unless it can make me happy.” The question is, what can make her happy?

“The kind of man? I’ve never had a set picture. Honesty and sincerity are two qualities I’d hope to find in him. He’ll be someone who doesn’t say ‘I love you’ all day. I’d already know that. He’ll be someone who would sacrifice anything for me. And I’d do the same for him.

“I go through periods when I think I’d like to marry someone outside of the industry. If it would be necessary to give up my career, I would, though it would be nice to make a picture a year . . . providing it didn’t confuse things.

“Of course, my career is important, but not so important that if the man comes along I couldn’t go right into the kitchen.”

And what of her numerous dates? “I have a lot of men friends,” explains Vera-Ellen. “I like their company. I enjoy having dinner with them. Period.”

While Vera-Ellen continues to be seen at premieres and parties with various escorts, she laughingly imparts a clue to her romantic future and the press might well take note. “People you date the most . . . well, you go with them to little places . . . where no one sees you!”

And so, dear reader, if by chance you should be dining in a secluded little place which members of the press would find hard to locate with road maps and St. Bernards . . . a place where the walls have no ears and the waiter wears a discreet look upon his face . . . survey the scene closely. If you catch a glimpse of a hand- some young man slipping an engagement ring on the finger of the blonde and lovely Miss Vera-Ellen and you note, with glee, that her heart is in her eyes—please don’t break the spell. However, do slip quietly to the telephone and call your nearest Photoplay office. Vera-Ellen is one of our favorite people. And we’d like to be the first to wish her happiness once the jinx is off her love life.





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