Marriage Is Swell! Love, Nick Adams And Carol Nugent
Hi! I told you Photoplay would be the first to know when happened—and you are. We eloped—Carol and I. Do you remember Carol? Carol Nugent. I don’t know whether you met her when you were out here. She’s in the movies, too. I can hardly believe it myself—but we got married just twenty-nine days after we first met! In Las Vegas. And, folks, married life is just great. How’d it happen? Well, it’s a long story, but here goes . . .
I guess it all started that Saturday in April when I decided (at first) to stay in (Carol, by the way, is leaning over my shoulder as I’m writing, and says she wants to fill in parts of the story herself). Anyway, that day I had a lot of work to do and, besides, it felt good to stay home once in a while. Somebody—I can’t remember who—had invited me to a big party in town, but I didn’t feel like going out.
Then, about eight that evening, just as I’d settled down to study a TV script, with my new Frank Sinatra record crooning lazily at me from my new hi-fi, the doorbell rang. It was two actor buddies of mine—John Ashley and Bob Conrad, both obviously dressed up for a night on the town.
“Say—aren’t you coming to the party?” John wanted to know.
“Nah—I’m too busy right now.”
“You can’t say that—out of the question!” And with that, Bob took a dark navy suit out of my closet, and, before I could protest, they’d both convinced me to go to the party. Fifteen minutes later, I found myself sitting in the front seat of John’s car.
When we walked in, there weren’t many people around. Then gradually, as it always happens at parties, the room started to get noisier and fuller, mostly with people I didn’t know. About an hour after we’d arrived, I decided I couldn’t take it any more. I wanted to leave. But try as I might I just couldn’t find friends John and Bob—they’d been completely swallowed up by the crowd. I began pacing up and down, looking here and there. Then finally I decided to give up the search for a while and get something to drink.
I headed for the punch bowl, and it was then that I saw Carol. Something real cute, I thought, and I did a double take. A wisp of a girl with sparkling blue eyes, dressed all in white and looking just like a doll. I couldn’t imagine how anything so lovely could have escaped my notice all evening.
She had her chin high in the air and seemed to be looking for someone over the heads of all the people. I wanted very much to speak to her, so I decided to use an old standby I always try when I see a girl I want to get to know. I just stare at the girl for a while, and this invariably acts as a cue for her to turn and smile—in surprise, if nothing else. Then we talk.
But with Carol it didn’t work. She was obviously not typical, because she didn’t even glance my way—not once. Something’s got to be done, old Nick, I told myself, and it’s gonna require thought. I reached into my pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes; but it was empty. Before I knew what I was doing, I’d crumpled the paper and cellophane in my hand and aimed it at her head.
A few seconds later she reached up, and without so much as a look in my direction, gracefully removed the wrinkled package and placed it in an ash tray. She didn’t seem angry—just startled, so I moved nearer to her and was about to strike up a conversation when, for what I believed to be the first time in my life, I just couldn’t think of anything to say. Minutes, embarrassing minutes, passed while she smiled at me, expecting me to start speaking. Finally I blurted out, “I’m Nick Adams. Can I get you something to eat?”
She shook her head. “Thank you—but I’m not hungry.” Then she smiled and said, “I’m Carol Nugent.”
“You . . . you looking for someone?” I said, remembering how she’d been looking around on her tip-toes.
“Yes. My sister. I wanted to leave but I don’t see her anywhere. We came together.”
Well, I’m sure the expression of relief at her mentioning her sister must have shown all over my face. I’d have been disappointed if she’d come with a date.
“Don’t you like the party?” I asked her.
“It’s not that,” she began, speaking quite softly, tilting her head a little to one side. “It’s just that . . . that I guess I’m not used to huge parties. I don’t usually go to them.” Then she gave me a wonderful smile and added, almost in a whisper, “I didn’t really even want to come at all.”
“I didn’t either,” I confided, feeling immediately a bond of friendship.
“Really?” She looked at me wide-eyed.
“No,” I added. “I’d planned to stay in, but some guys dragged me out . . . I don’t usually go to these parties either.” Then, the wonderful way she was looking at me, out of her saucer-like bright blue eyes, made me add, “But I guess I’m glad I didn’t miss this one.” And I think she knew what I meant because she looked down for a moment, and I think she blushed a little.
“Like to sit down?” I offered. She shook her head, yes.
Carol and I talked on and on and on. We seemed to have so much to say to each other about our likes, our ambitions, the way we both felt about a lot of things . Then a girl walked up to Carol.
“Oh, there you are,” she said. “Where in the world have you been? I haven’t seen you for hours.” She was slim and attractive, and looked a little like Carol.
Carol smiled, introduced me to her sister, Judy, then answered, “I’ve been sitting right here in this one spot for hours . . . I . . .”
We chatted for a while, Judy left and it was then that Carol said—to no one in particular, “I’d like to go home.”
Although she hadn’t been speaking directly to me, I found myself saying, “Gee, Carol, I don’t have my car with me. I came with a couple of friends. Then before I could finish, John and Bob had strolled over.
John looked surprised. have you been for the past two hours?”
“I’ve been sitting right on this spot . . .”
They both smiled at Carol, and I introduced her.
“John,” I said finally. “I want to drive Carol home, but you’ll have to take me to my car first.”
“Sure thing, Nick.” John agreed.
The four of us piled into the car, and when we arrived at my place, Bob and John came in, stayed a polite few minutes, then said goodnight. It was nearly one o’clock and, picking up my car keys, Carol and I went straight out after them.
Fifteen minutes later, we had stopped in front of Carol’s home. As before, we began talking and talking . . . as though we’d known each other for years.
I discovered that Carol and her sister had been in the movies since they were kids that their family was in the industry too. Her father’s an M-G-M prop man. I realized I’d even seen Carol on the screen—in “Green Dolphin Street.” She’d been a child then, and had played Lana Turner’s daughter. We laughed when I told her about going to the show near my home in New Jersey and seeing the movie over a couple of times because I’d liked it so much.
Then we stopped talking, and I turned to Carol, put my arm around her gently, and drew her close to me. We sat quietly, not speaking, just listening to music coming from the car radio, just sitting together. I don’t think either of us wanted the evening to ever end. Finally, I took my arm from around her, put my hand under her chin, tilted her face up towards me and said softly, and very seriously, “Carol, I have something to say to you. But I want you to promise me first that when I get through you won’t say anything. I want you to just sit and listen and take my words for what they’re worth and remember them. Carol, I love you. I know it may be hard to believe; we’ve only known each other a few hours; but I swear to you that I love you. I want you to believe in me and to trust me. I want you to give me a chance to prove my love. I. . .”
Carol started to speak but I silenced her playfully with a kiss. Then, getting out of the car, I went around and helped her out. We walked up to the porch, holding hands, still clinging to each other.
When we got there, we kissed goodnight, but before she went in, I said, “I’ll pick you up tomorrow and we’ll spend the day at the beach. Okay?”
She nodded a yes and then said, “Nick . . . this, this has been a wonderful evening for me too.” And she leaned forward, placing a tiny wisp of a kiss on my forehead.
At noon, the following day, John Ashley and I came by for Carol. For the past few years, I’ve always gone places. with friends; double dates, triple dates, always part of a group. I guess I invited John out of force of habit, but I knew that for the first time I didn’t have the same need to be surrounded by a lot of people.
Then, that night, after John had left us, we came back for dinner at Carol’s house. We walked into the living room, hand in hand, grinning like a couple of lovesick calves. Carol introduced me and we all sat down and started talking. I could see Carol was watching for some reaction from her folks—particularly her dad. He was always courteous and polite, but never over-friendly.
Suddenly Carol noticed her father getting up from the couch and leaving the room. She seemed upset. Then before she had a chance to think further, her dad came back, a stack of records under his arm. Try as she might she couldn’t conceal a feeling of delight as her father put the records on the turntable and said to me, “Nick, you look like the type that appreciates good music. Well, here are a few of my favorites.” And for the next hour, we all sat listening to a succession of Irish folk songs. Carol told me later that her father only takes out the Irish records when he really likes someone.
From that day on, we were together constantly. Every time we saw each other it became harder to say goodnight, and every time, there seemed to be more and more to talk about.
On Saturday, May 2nd, I picked up Carol as usual. We weren’t planning to go anywhere special—except that when we were together anywhere, it was always someplace special.
It was a magnificent day, not too hot, with the sky a deep, clear blue and bright sunshine. We cruised along by the shore, relaxing, both of us rather quiet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Carol look more beautiful. She had on a simple cotton dress of pale pink-and-white candy stripes and the sun was shimmering over her blond hair, making it sparkle.
Suddenly I pulled over to the curb and stopped the car. Then, I said simply, “Carol, let’s get married.”
She turned to me, looking startled for a moment. Then she just said “yes.” I kissed her and then put my hand into my jacket pocket and pulled out a ring. I took Carol’s left hand in mine and put the ring on her third finger. It was a little too large and kept slipping around on her finger.
“Oh, darling . . . it’s beautiful,” she said, holding up her hand. “It’s a lovely ring . . . I always wanted one just like this . . . how did you know?” The questions came pouring out.
“It’s my mother’s . . . my mother’s engagement ring,” I said, a little nervously. “She gave it to me a few years ago and told me to keep it until I found the right person.” Tears started streaming down her face. “Oh . . . Nick . . . I’m so happy,” she whispered.
It was a moment we’ll never forget.
A few minutes later I started the engine. “Let’s go straight home and tell your folks . . . and I’ll put a call through to New Jersey to mine,” I said.
She moved across the front seat and sat close up next to me.
“When would you like a wedding?” I asked her softly. “Today?” I joked. But I knew that if she had said yes I would have married her right there and then.
“July’s a nice month—and let’s have a church wedding, Nick. I’ve always dreamed of one . . . of walking up the aisle in white.”
“We’ll have my family fly out for it too.”
“And I’ll devote all the rest of my life to making you a wonderful wife. No more acting for me.”
“Nick,” she said, gently pushing back a stray lock of hair that had fallen over my forehead. “All my life I’ve had opportunities to really move ahead in pictures but it’s never meant much to me. I’ve always wanted a home and a family. And I want to make the day we get married the last day of my career. I want to spend my time making a home for you, being there when you need me, raising our children . . .”
“I’d never never thought about children before . . . but I’d like some . . . I’d like a little son.”
“What would we call him.”
“Algernon Adams,” I laughed.
“Montmoncery Adams,” joked back Carol.
“Honey, I’ve got it!” I said suddenly. “We’ll call our first son Reb . . . Reb Adams after the title of my new series, ‘The Rebel, that’s going to give us all the money we need to raise an enormous family.”
“Reb Adams,” she repeated quietly.
If it hadn’t been for a phone call I got four days later from my agent, telling me that filming for my new TV series had been scheduled to start at the beginning of July, I don’t think we would have ever eloped. But when I heard this, and I told Carol that evening, we both knew we didn’t want to put off the wedding.
“Honey,” I suggested, “let’s get married right away instead—this week.”
She looked thoughtfully at me for a minute, just a minute, before she said, “Yes, Nick. Yes . . . I’d like that.”
And we were both so happy because her family was pleased about it all, too. They came with us to Las Vegas that weekend. There were her mother and father, Judy, and Bob Conrad, an old friend of mine who was going to act as best man; and my partner. Andrew Fenaday, who also produces my TV series, “The Rebel,” and his wife, Mary Frances.
And the first thing we did when we got to Vegas airport was to ask about a license bureau. “What time does it close?”
The clerk must have been used to this question because he grunted, “They never close, buddy, they’re open twenty-four hours a day.”
The family all went off to a hotel while Carol and I walked downtown to get the license. But when we got to the bureau we found a “Be Back in Fifteen Minutes” sign, tacked on to the door.
“Let’s look around for a church while we’re waiting,” Carol said, “And see if we can order some flowers . . . I’d like to have flowers, Nick.”
“We could stop for rings on the way, too,” I suggested.
And we found a little jewelry shop where we bought matching gold wedding bands, then we went back for the license. Next, we searched for a chapel, but even though there seemed to be dozens—everywhere, we couldn’t find anything we liked.
Suddenly Carol screamed, “Nick! Look! Over there.” And following the direction in which she was pointing, I saw a picturesque, old-fashioned church with a neatly printed sign set on the lawn which read: Little Church in the West.
We crossed the street and went inside, looking around for someone who would make arrangements for us. We found a fellow, but he told us, “I’m sorry—you’ll have to come back in two days.
Well, we couldn’t do that—I had to get back to town because I was right in the middle of a TV series, and the Nugents couldn’t stay that long either. So finally I persuaded him to let us marry the following day at one in the afternoon.
Saturday evening flew by, but . . . well, Carol would like to tell you this part.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited. In the middle of the night I sat up in bed and said, “Mother.” She grunted sleepily and then opened one eye. “Mmm?” she said.
“Mother, I just can’t get married in that dress I packed.” Everything had happened so fast that I hadn’t had a chance to buy a new one and suddenly the dress I had brought with me seemed so inadequate for a wedding.
“Well, Carol,” she was saying, “there’s nothing much we can do about it. Tomorrow the shops are all closed. Besides, Nick hasn’t anything special with him either. He’s only got his blue jacket and gray slacks. It doesn’t matter, Carol . . .” as long as you’re both together and happy. . . .”
I leaned over the adjoining bed and kissed my mother goodnight but somehow I just couldn’t stop thinking about that dress. Everything else was in keeping with tradition: a borrowed slip from my sister; an old handkerchief from my grandmother; a blue half petticoat . . . but nothing new.
So the next morning I got up before everyone and slipped downtown. I knew the name of a friend of an old girlfriend of mine who had a dress shop in Las Vegas and I looked him up. When I told him my story he promised to get straight down to his store—and about half an hour later I walked out with a heavenly white organdy dress with a full pink underslip.
By the time I had arrived back at the hotel everyone was up and scared a little
as to where I’d gone. We only had an hour left before the ceremony . . . but at exactly one o’clock everything was just as planned: I was walking down the aisle, hugging onto my father’s arm, with the organ music playing. Then soon followed those words, “I now pronounce you man and wife . . .” But let Nick finish . . .
We had a champagne lunch back at the hotel and there was one thing left to do before we all went home: I wanted to call and tell my mother. It was Mother’s Day and I knew she was expecting a call from me anyway.
“Mom—Happy Mother’s Day!” I shouted, when she came onto the line. “I’ve got a special present for you this year!”
“Never mind about that, Nick,” said, before I could continue. “How’s Carol—when’s the wedding?”
“Well—that’s the surprise. That’s the present. We just got married . . . I’ll let you speak to my wife now . . .” It sounded strange saying “wife” for the first time. But it felt good.
My mother seemed to be crying at the other end and Carol had tears in her eyes too. “He’d better be good to you . . .” she was telling Carol.
We managed to slip away for a few days’ honeymoon to a wonderful spot called Lake Arrowhead. It was still early in the season and we had the entire lake front to ourselves. We rented a tiny cottage overlooking it—a small, rustic cabin with a huge fireplace for a log fire.
And we talked about the future . . . about how we’d met . . . about how it had all been so quick, and so perfect, almost as though it had been a movie we’d both been in . . . about how happy we . . . were . . .
We’ve found a wonderful apartment, in the San Fernando Valley. Bedroom . . . and a pink kitchen just the color of Carol’s dress that day I asked her to marry me . . . and it has a balcony overlooking a turquoise pool . . .
That’s where I’m writing this letter . . . we both want you to know we think marriage is just swell!
WATCH FOR NICK IN A NEW SERIES, SCHEDULED TO START BY FALL, ABC-TV’S “THE REBEL.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE AUGUST 1959