Mrs. Jim Hutton’s Own Story: “Hollywood Killed Our Marriage!”
On December 1, 1962, Maryline Hutton returned to Los Angeles from a week in New York. Jim Hutton met her at the railroad station and asked for a divorce.
The Huttons had been married slightly less than four years. Their daughter was three years old, their son exactly one year younger. They had both wanted “lots of children quickly.” Heidi and Timothy were to be the first of six. And only a miscarriage had prevented them from having a third child.
They had never discussed divorce: yet Maryline found that she was not surprised. “He was no longer the man I’d married,” she says, “and I thought, ‘Why not?’ That’s exactly what I said to Jim—‘Why not?’ ”
In the final minutes of his marriage, Jim Hutton’s impregnable cockiness was missing. He found it hard to remember that he was making $1,200 a week and had co-starred in five movies. And he found it hard to forget the ex-GI who—two days after his Army discharge—had married a girl he hardly knew and two weeks later had flown to California because he wanted to become a movie star. Now they were slashing at each other with distortions and half-truths. They accused and counter-accused. “You’re not capable of giving me what I need,” he taunted. “You’re right, Jim.” Tears salted the sarcasm. “I don’t give you what you need. But no one could. You need too much.”
They tore open wounds that had been tacitly out of bounds until that moment and got pleasure from each other’s pain.
“Maybe you should stop pretending to he so important,” she shouted. “You’re still just an actor. You’re not a star yet.”
When they were too exhausted to fight any more, he left their rented beach house and slammed the door behind him.
A week later he came back.
“I’m sorry, Maryline.”
“If we try again, do you think it’s going to work?”
In a few months, the divorce that began last December 1 will be final. They will be as free of each other as people who share two children can be. At the moment they feel relief. Or, at least, Maryline feels relief and thinks that Jim does also. “You can only guess how Jim is feeling because he never tells you how he is really feeling.”
Why are they divorcing
They are no longer angry at each other, but their divorce was not started in anger. Nor was it started in lust. There is no other man waiting for Maryline. There is no other woman for Jim to marry the day after his divorce is final. Neither Jim nor Maryline are people who dabble in adultery. They are decent people, the kind who volunteer to keep your dachshund and the two canaries when you go on a month’s vacation. The kind who worry about their children and collect for the Community Chest. The kind who get at least some of their kicks wading in the ocean at sunset with two children riding piggyback on their shoulders.
“Hollywood destroys marriages,” Maryline Hutton says. “The system of treating actors as gods is responsible. After a few years of pampering, an actor has to change, to become a worse person. You’re entitled to so much because you’re a star. ‘Can I bring you a cup of coffee, Mr. Hutton?’ ‘Is there any errand I can do for you?’ ‘Your coat’s a little wrinkled, I’ll press it for you.’ Until finally you throw your coat to somebody without being asked and say, ‘Press it.’ ”
Maryline and Jim Hutton had other problems, of course. Their personalities clashed a half dozen times a day. He is extravagant. She is frugal. She uses leftover roast for hash. He buys lunch for fifteen people. He is moody—higher than the wind or enwrapped in suffering. She is less happy and less sad. She is less complicated, too. He is never very sure of who he is—and she is very sure indeed.
There are flaws in nearly every marriage, but they are not great enough to cause disaster under ordinary pressure. When the marriage is subjected to the overwhelming pressures of Hollywood, it breaks. Just as water pressure will crush a man into jelly at 1,000 feet below sea level, the pressures of Hollywood crush a marriage until there is nothing left hut fragments of dreams.
“Overnight stardom has a lot to do with ruining character,” says Maryline Hutton, bitterly.
Jim Hutton’s ego will always be hungry. Maryline Hutton will always step back too far, rather than take a chance of being consumed. In a quieter time, in a more stable place, a proper balance could have been achieved. And so the destruction of their marriage began on its fifteenth day—December 29. 1958—when they got off the plane and stood blinking in the 80° warmth of Los Angeles International Airport.
In the sea of sun-tanned flesh that swirls outside the motion picture studios, Jim Hutton was too tall, too thin, too slightly askew for instant acceptance. Motion picture executives buy well-known brands of refrigerators and television sets. They buy recognizable brands of people, too. Jim Hutton was not sleekly golden like Troy Donahue or Tab Hunter. He was not burning with the fires of the city jungle like John Saxon or Tony Curtis. He was not a big-chested, manly American like Rock Hudson. Even after M-G-M bought him, in April, 1959. they were unsure why they had fished him out of that sea, along with half a dozen others. He was assigned to one or two small parts and then forgotten for a year.
He was happy that year. He and Maryline slept until noon, then lay in bed until 4 P.M. talking of all the past and all the future. He put his hand gently against the baby in her stomach, remembering his own father whom he had seen only once, and a mother from whose dominating personality he had been forced to run away. He rarely said. “I.” He rarely even thought “I.” We went swimming in the Pacific Ocean at 2 A.M. and ate onion sandwiches as a late snack just before dawn. If, occasionally, he asked, “I’m going to make it, aren’t I?” Maryline’s “Of course, Jim,” was answer enough to satisfy him.
Where the boy was
Then—in June. 1960—producer Joe Pasternak found him among the rows of actors eating lunch in the M-G-M commissary. Mr. Pasternak needed a tender comedian for “Where the Boys Are,” and Mr. Pasternak’s thirty years of movie making had given him an expert eye. Hutton was sent to wardrobe, makeup, publicity, then deposited in Florida for a week—all expenses paid. And the reviews of his performance were more than he could have hoped. The years of flattery, of love-hate, of pressure had begun.
Power corrupts. Fame corrupts also. Actors, by the very nature of the sensitivities that make them actors, are more susceptible than other people. Their balance is fragile and delicately precarious.
The first taste of fame made Jim Hutton ravenous.
The changes were hardly noticeable at first, but they were there. He never went to the commissary for lunch any more; a steak was brought to his dressing room. The first item in a newspaper column mentioning his name was a windfall, something joyously shared with Maryline and topped by a bottle of champagne. A few months later he was nervously searching the papers each morning, only to be upset if his name was missing. Maryline couldn’t understand what was happening to him. And he couldn’t understand what was happening to her.
It was near the end of their second year of marriage now, and Maryline settled back into some of the patterns of her life before she had met Jim. She was a private person—too private a person for his needs. She needed time of her own, hours of being rather than “We.” He wanted, needed, to share everything with her and he was hurt because she would not share everything with him.
She was hurt, too. She had fallen in love with Jim at first sight, had fallen in love with his charm and his attentiveness. “He was marvelous with a woman, someone to lean on.” Now, with the painful knowledge of flaws that comes to everyone who learns enough about another person, she discovered that he also needed to lean on someone else. She learned of his vulnerability and his distrust of all women.
It was a time for readjustments. But Hutton had an easy way of avoiding painful readjustments. From the moment he left the beach house in the morning until whatever time he returned at night, he hardly had to be human at all. He was superman. He was a movie star, pampered, flattered, awesome.
For a wonderful four months he was the house pet of a famous movie star clique, encouraged to join their games of insult-the-waiter and make-the-loudest-noise.
But eventually Hutton had to return home—to toys and noise and crying children. He hated himself for getting angry at this. He hated himself for wanting to be treated like a movie star. He tried to figure out what he was going to do about pressures he couldn’t cope with, but he could only cry, “I just don’t know who I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to be one thing with the studio, another with my agents, another at home—and I can’t.”
He was already learning some bitter Hollywood lessons. He discovered that the movie star and his friends were flattering him only because one of them hoped to become his manager. When Jim refused, he was dropped.
He was halfway up the Hollywood hierarchy. He was snubbed by people more important than he was, and found himself—to his revulsion—starting to snub people less important than he was. He became suspicious of meeting new people. If he was not sure how important they were, he had to fight against becoming boastful, a name-dropper, a movie star. Only if he were sure they were more important could he relax. For a few dreadful months he was even suspicious of his old friends, afraid that they liked him only because he was “in the business” and that, paradoxically, they looked down on him because he was an actor. Like a fever, this phase, at least, came to an eventual end.
“He was difficult to live with when he wasn’t working,” Maryline says. “I understood this. But it was worse when he was working. Would the next day, the next scene, be all right? It was as though the quickness of his success made him realize how quickly it could end. When he was working, nothing was right. Dinner wasn’t right. The house wasn’t right. The children weren’t right. Actors have such tremendous egos. They have to be built up constantly. At first, it’s enough to have them built up by their agents and the studio. Then they demand it at home. I’d get exhausted saying to Jim, ‘That was great.’ over and over and over again. His ego kept demanding just a little more. Finally I had no more to give.”
In the middle of last November they took a trip they had been planning for a long time. With another couple, they went to New York for two weeks. By choice, they traveled by train. It was dirty, the service was bad—and everyone except Jim adored it. He seemed to ache with the pain of the last three years. He couldn’t eat or sleep.
In New York they were crammed—via sleeping bags and cots—into the apartment of an old Army friend. Jim expected to be the leader—after two years as a movie star he was used to being the leader. Maryline watched his anger grow.
There was a long walk and his bitter anger came out. “Perhaps you belong with these people rather than with me.” Then he flew home. She came home a week later and he met her at the station. . . .
The enormous waste
The children don’t seem to be curious about whether their father will come back. Jim and Maryline, like all decent people, are trying to do their best for the children. “It’s a great temptation to buy them things,” Jim admits, “but I restrain myself.” Heidi is old enough to use the situation. When Maryline is strict, she says, “I want my daddy.” If Heidi is perhaps more tense because of her father’s absence, Timmy is more relaxed. He can suck his thumb now, away from the pressure of his father’s standards for a son.
Maryline is a den mother for neighborhood children, something that Jim would never have allowed because it invaded his privacy. She has her thoughts and her time to herself. She says, “I’m glad I’m not married any more. And yet I have no regrets that I was married to Jim, because we have two wonderful children and we had a great time and it was a great learning experience. I only regret that we couldn’t stay married. I never thought that I’d be a divorcee.”
Jim, who “had a ball” during his first month of freedom, is finding it less enjoyable now. He resents the necessary caution of checking on all girls he dates to make sure they are not merely out to blackmail a movie star. Quite often he comes out to the beach “just to talk.” He and Maryline find that they can be friends now that they are not under the pressure of living together. It is an enormous waste that this is the most that can be said of them and of their marriage.
—BY JAMES EARL LINT
Jim’s in “Period of Adjustment,” M-G-M.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1963