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Meant For Each Other—Suzan Ball & Richard Long

Climaxing Hollywood’s nicest love story, Suzan Ball became Mrs. Richard Long on April 11, when they were married in El Montecito Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara. There was an audible gasp from the assembled guests as Suzan entered the church without her crutches and walked firmly down the aisle, with but a slight limp, on the arm of her father. She had practiced walking only six days without her crutches, and she put them aside only a few minutes before the ceremony.

Later Suzan said, “I always knew I would get married without crutches, although no one else did.” It was but one more example of the matchless faith of the girl the whole movie colony admires as one of its bravest.

In the traditional way of weddings, there was something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. The something old was Suzan’s grandmother’s antique diamond earrings; something new, her wedding gown of white rose point lace over pink satin; something borrowed was a handkerchief; and something blue the ribbon on Suzan’s petticoat.

When the announcement of their prospective wedding first appeared in print, Hollywood was stunned.

True, they’d been seen together in public, and vague hints about a romance between Dick and Suzan had appeared in columns from time to time. But their friends and even their families hadn’t taken them seriously. Dick’s own mother heard about it on a radio broadcast. His sister Barbara, who is married to Marshall Thompson, read it in a column. Suzan’s father was told about it by a friend, who had heard or read it somewhere. In a way, it even came as a surprise to Dick and Suzan!

Dick—still in uniform—first became conscious of Suzan in the summer of 1952, when he saw her in “Yankee Buccaneer,” at the Ernie Pyle Theater in Tokyo.

After the show, one of his pals asked him how he’d liked the picture. “Frankly, I don’t remember what it was all about—but the girl who played the lead was wonderful!”

Although the picture was made by Universal-International, the studio to which Dick was under contract before he received his president’s greetings, he had a “detached” sort of attitude toward the film industry, and actresses as well. As to any other G.I, they were intangible. Any thought of ever meeting Suzan didn’t even enter his mind.

He saw her again in July of last year when she briefly visited the set of “All I Desire,” Dick’s first picture after his discharge from the Army in November, 1952. But several more months went by before they were introduced to each other by one of their co-workers.

The day after they met, Dick found her by herself in the studio commissary. “Do you mind if I join you?”

She didn’t. And what started as a quick lunch turned into a three-hour session during which—over about ten cups of coffee—they got acquainted as if they’d known one another all their lives.

Dick was immediately impressed by Suzan’s attitude about her recent injury. As the result of an earlier automobile accident, in which she hurt her leg, and a later fall during a dance routine which aggravated the same wound, a cancerous tumor had developed in her right leg to a point where—when Dick met Suzan—she not only walked on crutches, but her doctors feared that her leg might have to be amputated. Yet in spite of her critical condition, Suzan was cheerful and confident. By her expression, Dick would have never known the physical agony that had become part of her every-day life. Only when she showed him her knee, badly burned by the radiation of her many treatments, did he get an idea of what she had gone through during the previous months. But most important, neither at the time they met, nor during any of their subsequent dates did Suzan give Dick a chance to feel sorry for her. Instead, her just-as-usual attitude forced an admiration that grew into a deep and moving respect.

They saw each other frequently from then on. For dinner at her house (“She’s an artist at fixing a meal,” Dick claims), baseball games, movies, concerts, the sort of dates most couples usually have.

They had fun in each other’s company, discovered similar interests, tastes, likes and dislikes.

A relatively short time after they met, Dick thought about proposing many times. No doubt, Suzan would have accepted—if they’d ever gotten to the point!

Both are honest and impulsive. Little differences of opinion turned into heated arguments. Result: Every time Dick got into the mood to propose, something invariably led to a fight that made them split up for a couple of days. This on-again, off-again romance continued till the day Suzan’s fall brought her injury as well as her relationship to Dick to the decisive stage.

One evening—just about the time her treatments had started showing results and it began to look like the malignancy was at least contained—Suzan asked Dick over for dinner, to the apartment she shared with her father in North Hollywood.

Settling down in the comfortable armchair in the living-room while Suzan headed for the kitchen to fix the meal, Dick suddenly heard a scream, and rushed into the kitchen where he found her lying on the floor, in terrible pain. Suzan had stepped into a puddle of water, slipped, and fallen.

Dick instantly realized that her leg—the same one that had been exposed to the cancerous tumor—was broken. He picked her up and put her on the couch, then rushed to the phone and called the doctor.

Twenty minutes later, an ambulance attendant and the driver carried Suzan downstairs, and carefully lifted her stretcher into the ambulance. While the doctor drove Dick’s car to Temple Hospital, the attendant and Dick himself rode in the back of the ambulance, steadying Suzan’s stretcher to make her ride more comfortable.

That night was the only time she ever lost her spirit. But it wasn’t long till her despair gave way to her faith and fighting spirit to one day walk again.

Later, when a studio spokesman called to inquire about Suzan’s condition, Dick told him that they had decided to get married. As a result, an announcement was released to the press that Suzan and Dick would elope to Las Vegas, Nevada, the following Sunday. This report, however, proved a bit premature. The doctor nullified their plans for a quick wedding.

The date for the amputation was set for the following Saturday morning. The days in between were the most trying hours of Suzan’s life. Dick’s mother, who visited her the night before the operation, said, “I’ve never seen a braver girl in my life. Only a tear or two rolled down her cheeks while I was with her. Dick couldn’t have picked a finer girl. . . .”

Until the operation, Dick spent as much time as possible with his fiancee. During the day, he called her whenever he could get away from the set. Every night he rushed directly to Temple Hospital to have dinner with her.

On the morning of the operation, Dick was at the hospital before sunrise. The attendants understandingly let him hold her hand until she was under the anesthetic.

Neither Dick nor Suzan had any illusion that the weeks which followed would be easy. For three to four months, she would have to be kept in a cast. But in anticipation of their life together, this was easy to take.

Almost immediately after the operation, they started making plans for their wedding. Instead of an elopement, they now decided on a local wedding. Dick left the details up to Suzan, who had ample time in the hospital to do the planning, while he was busy working in “Playgirl,” at Universal-International. His efforts were reduced to ordering the wedding ring—Suzan didn’t want an engagement ring—a replica of one she once admired in a jewelry store: a gold band with a diamond studded triangle inserted in the middle.

For the first few months—until they can build or buy a place of their choice—they will stay in a furnished apartment near the studio. That’ll be most convenient for Suzan as well as Dick, for she plans to resume her career as soon as possible. But first came their honeymoon drive up the California coast.

“Her temperament and zest for life feed on the activity a career can provide,” Dick says fondly. But he adds, “I know she wants a family as much as I do, and that she is capable of giving the right amount of importance to her career, our children, and our marriage—she’s amazing.”

There is no doubt in the minds of their families and friends that their marriage will be a happy one. They have already proved that they are meant for each other. . . .