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Marriage Musts For Robert Wagner

No matter what you hear, Bob Wagner hasn’t yet started his search for a wife. And for very good reasons. Romantically, he’s no playboy. His marriage musts for himself are astonishingly sensible.

Bob talks and plans in an adult manner. He has no desire to be a slick operator with every girl he meets, doesn’t hand out a glib line nor want one in return. When he dates, he’s all for relaxing and sharing an uncomplicated good time. “This doesn’t mean insincere promises on either side,” he says. “It doesn’t mean pairing off to the exclusion of everyone else.” If you don’t relish the company of friends, you’ll be too self-centered for him.

“I don’t go for pseudo-sophistication. A girl who’s bored ought to stay home until she decides what she’s interested in, because her weary air will never attract me. I think a girl can go way overboard on trimmings. A fellow isn’t as impressed by the latest styles as some women fancy. I don’t like false beauty, and heavy makeup doesn’t appeal to me. Too much jewelry annoys me. A gold pin, one nice thing like that, is distinctive. I think it’s a mistake for a girl to try to alter her own personality. It’s better to be what you really are from the beginning, than to have it turn out a disappointment later on.”

He has no special feminine looks in mind. Appearance alone won’t halt him. It’s the whole personality that he notices. Recently he has been dating Lori Nelson fairly often. But he’s still taking out Kathleen Crowley, Charlotte Austin, Susan Zanuck, Melinda Markey (daughter of Joan Bennett), and Barbara Darrow. A date doesn’t have to be in the movies. He asks out girls who aren’t. But he’s firm in his belief that a smart girl does no chasing after a fellow. She’ll get nowhere with such tactics.

“I’m going to marry a girl who-isn’t that aggressive,” he vows. “What man wants a domineering wife? I’m not the night club type. A girl who has to be at a ringside table would be the wrong wife for me. Social snobbishness never has awed me. I couldn’t be interested in a girl who must be seen in a certain set. It’s who and what you are, not your society column standing, that matters in the marriage I want. I would much rather drop in informally at the home of some friends than get involved in any big social deal.

“I want to be ready for the sort of marriage I’d like to have someday,” Bob says, his intelligence standing out promptly. “Being prepared is one of the important steps in love, or in anything else you want to do your best in, it seems to me. I’m optimistic. I suspect there’ll always be opportunities, wherever we are. It’s just up to us to recognize them. What I worry about a lot, though, is whether I’m actually getting ready to take thorough advantage of a great break. I don’t want to leap blindly into something significant. I hate to fail. Moving too fast, without watching out for what you’re up against, is a sure way to fumble badly. My hunch is that if I figure out what I’m trying to do, what the situation requires, and then prepare to deliver what’s expected of me when I finally get a chance, the odds for clicking will be better.

“My idea of marriage is a genuine, lasting love that benefits a whole family. My folks have had this. I think it’s because they were ready, as human beings, to take on all the problems that happen after any wedding. I’d like to do as well as my father has. Which always reminds me of the distance I’ve got to travel! It strikes me it’s up to a man to be qualified for all that marriage means before he proposes, and now I’m certainly not. I don’t want to fool any girl I date, or myself, on this score.

“Take only one of the elementary necessities—money! Today I don’t have enough even to speculate about marriage. It takes time to have any money left from what you can earn as an actor.”

Bob financed his first, trial year of tackling the movies by borrowing from his father. He repaid that loan with a glow of achievement, since it was his choice when his dad could have set him up safely in the steel business. Like all newly famous faces, he is by no means in the large salary class. He lives on a strict budget administered by a business manager, so he can begin to save and invest. “I appreciate a luxury, but I’m not Boing into debt to put on a phony front in Hollywood. I’m not jumping with joy about it, but I accept the fact that it’ll take me years to make enough to buy a house and the comforts and security I want to give a wife,” he says.

“I’m sure of the work I want to excel in. I never had any doubt about wanting to get into acting, and what I’ve seen in Hollywood only backs up my theory that this is the place where I can be happy. I know it’ll never be a snap here. There will always be tough competition. But I couldn’t take a guaranteed routine. I’m excited by change, and having to stretch my imagination takes care of my curiosity. I’ve found that show people can be as wonderful as I thought. They have so much heart and humor with their colorfulness.

“I’m not deceived by star billing,” Bob says. “It’s a thrill! But how many real STARS are there? Someday I want to be among the few who are up in that rare group. You are positive they will furnish first-rate entertainment because they always have. Aside from ability and technique and the cooperation they give and the fine luck they get, it also takes time. I’m not going to wait until I’m that old to marry,” he adds with a grin. “But I want to build towards such a reputation. I’m glad I must somehow be better in each role or else. Nudging an audience with more than it bargained for seems a logical ladder to climb.”

A date can see that Bob isn’t out merely to capture enough immediate cash to thumb his nose at the demands of a career. Nor does he presume that developing a trademark personality is all he has to do. A date gathers he’s anxious to act—on the screen, not off it.

It is a pleasure to find there is nothing silly in Bob’s attitude. He gives you a jolt because it is soon evident that he is as bright as he is handsome. Perhaps you think he’d be content to get by on his appearance and winning personality. That guess couldn’t be more wrong. He isn’t the type of fellow to be satisfied with coasting, and he’s smart enough to realize that the easiest way is not for him. He is one of today’s fastest rising favorites because he makes his big decisions with a steadfastness of purpose, and then isn’t half-hearted in his efforts.

At twenty-three he has already accomplished a rare feat. He has earned the respect of Hollywood’s solid citizens. They know he receives star billing for the third time in “Titanic” because he’s proved a draw at box-offices. That he is not overshadowed when cast with highly polished performers like Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb impresses the most discerning casting executives, too. Altogether, his future as an all-around leader among the new stars is shrewdly predicted by the insiders.

When you meet Bob you can’t help responding to the unaffected friendliness in his wide, warm smile. There is nothing standoffish about him. He’s never too busy to toss a merry greeting to a passing pal, and he is complimented when he’s affectionately kidded in return. His instinct to be with people, rather than to be alone, obviously can carry over into the love he’ll be able to feel as a husband.

You have no trouble noting his swift enthusiasm for any strain of hot jazz. Bob likes to sing and dance, since he’s bursting with vigor. He’ll stay up late discussing everything friends can crowd into fascinating talk, which makes him most welcome at a party. He has a passion for learning, so he listens eagerly instead of being a show-off. The sun attracts him as well, and if you swim, water ski, ride, play golf or tennis, or hunt or fish you’ll see his outdoor side.

But with all his contagious aliveness it is plain he can tell the difference between enjoying spontaneous fun and self-indulgence. He’s all for the former, and is having none of the latter, thanks to his good judgment. Bob’s basic earnestness is evident in all his moves. He is very serious about making one’s own particular dreams come true. Anybody who selects sterling goals and goes after them is all right in Bob’s book.

I credit his complete seriousness about worthwhile ambitions to his background. His father is a self-made success, and yet never has been the least forgetful of his family in the process. Bob and his dad are devoted friends. His mother has lived up to the high ideals she believes in without losing the understanding and light touch that make her charming. Bob’s deep regard for strong character and kindness isn’t all he’s been blessed with, however. He’s inherited an exceedingly realistic viewpoint. That’s why his thinking about what he eventually hopes to experience in marriage is as mature as is his clear concept of his present career challenges.

He grew up in Detroit and Los Angeles, but being a city lad didn’t doom him, when he was offered his first starring part if he could be convincing in a Western. He practiced driving a six-horse stagecoach until he could careen it thunderingly in one of his cowboy stunts. I think it noteworthy that he resisted any temptation to be cute. The script declared he was earnest and he seldom even smiled.

Bob didn’t stop on his path into the movies to go to college, either. Yet he plays a Purdue University tennis champion in “Titanic” as though he’d stepped right off the campus.

The variety he relishes continues in his next picture. “Twelve Mile Reef” centers around Bob in the role of a Greek American sponge diver. It’s been filmed entirely on location in Florida, with the divers Bob’s patterned after watching critically on the sidelines. He not only mastered the art of wearing a diving suit nonchalantly while walking the bottom of the ocean, but he let the studio dye his hair coal black so he’d look as though he had Greek ancestry.

“Filming it in CinemaScope has been such a marvelous adventure,” he explains. “The wide screen with the 3-D effect will pull you right into the action! It’s fantastic to be in on the birth of the new movies. I think an actor should know every angle of the business. At least, that’s my excuse for being as awed as I am with everything important for a film production. You know, close-ups are no longer necessary! Sets have to be built in a new way to fit the new manner of photographing. But the same cameras can be used by adding a small device. There’ll be no distortion in the theatres with the new screens that/ll be two-and-a-half times the old size. You can sit in the front row or at the sides and be in the story with the players! The sound comes from the exact spot it should, too, another startling switch.”

When Bob was a freshman in high school he was mentally old enough to chum with the seniors and this tendency persists. He’s still intrigued by the experience and ease of older people. That is why a date of Bob’s is liable to accompany him to Dan Dailey’s, or to the home of Dick and Mary Sale.

On his last birthday Bob expected to drive a hundred miles for dinner with his parents in their new house near San Diego. Then Lita Baron Calhoun phoned. She and Rory wanted him to drop by that night. Bob telephoned his folks that he could still be counted on, but they insisted he stay in town since the Calhouns had asked him over. When he strolled in there the lights all suddenly blazed and happy birthday cries rang out from all his other pals who wanted to celebrate with him. Among those who conspired to be present were Dan Dailey, the Sales, Clifton Webb, the Dale Robertsons, the Jeffrey Hunters, the Andy Russells, and Debbie Reynolds. It is a fact that Bob and Debbie are no longer dating, but they’re remaining mighty good friends.

“I don’t believe I’ll be ready, emotionally, for marriage until I’m about thirty,” Bob estimates. “I want to see much more of the world, and know myself as I actually am. Then I can be fair to the girl who’ll say yes. I’m nowhere near ready to settle down now. My notions about the girl for me probably will change half-a-dozen times in the next few years, and I think this ought to occur before I marry, not afterwards. I imagine a California farmhouse type of home out in the San Fernando Valley, where we could keep horses, might be an ideal house. But that’s way off in vague space yet!”

Meanwhile, he’s living in his first bachelor apartment in Westwood. Its fireplace is the center of his hospitality. The place is large enough for his parents to visit him for four or five days when they want to come into the city. He won’t have it photographed because he feels publicity wouldn’t be considerate of their privacy.

When wedding bells do ring for Robert Wagner and the bride he chooses, don’t you predict mutual happiness ahead?