My Daughter Was Ready For Marriage—Pier Angeli & Vic Damone
My daughter Pier was married to Vic Damone at a morning ceremony at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in Westwood on November 24. The service was beautiful. And despite the fact that three hundred of our friends were present, I could not help crying a little when I saw Pier, looking so lovely in her wedding gown of lace and chiffon, walk up the aisle on the arm of our old friend Edward J. Mannix, who gave her away. Like any mother, I cried a little because it is sad to lose a daughter, but I cried a little more because I was happy and proud of my Anna Marie.
Many times since I came to Hollywood I have been accused of being too strict with Pier, but I think to understand my attitude you must take into consideration not only Pier’s background and European upbringing, but also some of the unusual problems she faced.
Pier had just turned eighteen when my husband passed away. Aside from the grief for all of us Pierangelis, I was confronted with the difficult task of taking over the full responsibility of bringing up my three daughters. In a way, Pier was my biggest problem.
Patrizia, the smallest, who is only six today, was just a baby and was willing to accept authority from anyone.
Marisa was more mature, more susceptible to suggestions than her twin Pier, who was high spirited and independent. When Marisa and Pier were little, if I said something was red, Marisa would take my word for it. To Pier, I had to prove it. Sometimes, I still have to.
All along, Pier has been the most affectionate, the most demonstrative and the most impulsive of all my children. This frequently led to misunderstandings.
For instance, when Pier would meet an acquaintance, she would think nothing of throwing her arms around him and giving him an enthusiastic hug. That sort of behavior was all right in Italy, where an “in braccio” was customary. But in America, this was not the case. I tried to impress this upon Pier.
Just a few weeks before she was to be married, a reporter came to our home. Pier had known him since she first came to this country, but hadn’t seen him for many months. “It’s wonderful to see you again,” Pier burst out the instant he entered the house, and with arms spread out, rushed toward him. About two feet away, remembering my advice, she came to an abrupt stop, meekly stuck out her hand and said, “How do you do?”
The reporter looked dumbfounded.
Tied with her demonstrative nature is a feeling of sentimentality, which Pier had difficulty in completely outgrowing and which made it unusually hard for her to take some of the everyday disappointments that are so much a part of life.
When she lost Kiss, her pet Spitz dog, which was a present from her godfather, Pier was heartbroken. Always affectionate toward animals, Pier treated Kiss like a friend. She’d walked with him and talked to him, and the mere thought of leaving him behind in Italy when we went to the United States was almost more than she could bear. Yet, there was no choice.
She was consoled a little, however, when her grandmother, who lives in Pesaro, a resort on the Adriatic, offered to look after Kiss. We took him to her two weeks before we left for the United States. The week before, grandmother called us in Rome with the sad news that Kiss had sneaked out of the house, and in running across the street, had been crushed beneath the wheels of an oncoming truck. When I told Pier, she cried harder than she’d ever in her life. For three days she wouldn’t touch any food, and neither begging, warning or threatening could make her take a bite. Four days before we left, and we almost postponed the journey, she started to take a little broth. With the excitement of the flight itself and the promise of another dog, she finally got over it, though for many months she could get tears in her eyes when anyone mentioned Kiss and even today hasn’t gotten completely over his loss. But I am proud to say Pier has learned to understand her emotions, and because she is so sensitive, is understanding of other people’s problems. She should make a warm, understanding wife.
Although I will be forever grateful for the happiness and opportunities which the United States, and Hollywood, have provided my daughters and myself, moving to a new country, with all the difficulties and adjustments we faced, added to my concern about Pier.
When we settled here, she was only eighteen—and young for her age even by Italian standards. Because she trusted and believed people regardless of whether she had known them for years or just met them, Pier was always personally vulnerable to being taken advantage of. At the same time, curiously enough, she was adult beyond her years. When it came to helping friends, both professionally and in personal matters, she had great understanding.
Getting into the film industry in Hollywood was in itself a challenge and an education for Pier. For this world of make-believe, of compliments and promises can easily turn a young girl’s head. Pier has learned these past years to appreciate all sorts of people and, in turn, to evaluate herself.
It may sound as though I had been against Pier’s career in the beginning. On the contrary, I was very much in favor of a career for Pier—even in opposition to her father’s wishes.
My husband, who was an engineer, opposed any theatrical career for his children. Knowing how strongly he felt, when Mr. De Sica, who directed “Tomorrow Is Too Late,” happened to see Pier and mentioned she might qualify for the lead, I didn’t tell a word of it to Mr. Pierangeli. I knew that Pier’s heart was set on a movie career and, for eight months, while she was testing and preparing herself for the part, I connived with her, with Marisa and even the servants to keep the news from my husband until we knew if Pier would be chosen.
After eight strenuous months, Mr. De Sica decided Pier was right for the part and I had no choice but to tell my husband.
I vividly remember the evening I sent Pier to her room and went into the living room to speak to my husband. “I have news for you, dear,” I said.
“Mr. De Sica wants Pier for a picture and . . .” I got no further. I thought the roof would fall in, my husband was so angry. But since I had already signed the contract, there was little we could do about it then. In time, Mr. Pierangeli did overcome his conservatism, and since her career made Pier happy after her terribly hard time during the war, he didn’t object long. I only wish he were still with us today and could see how much acting means to his daughters.
When we settled in California one of my biggest concerns was to establish a proper balance between Pier and Marisa. This was difficult not only because Pier, being peppier than her sister, makes friends more easily, but because from the very beginning, her career zoomed ahead quickly, while Marisa’s didn’t really get started till just a short time ago.
My number-one ally was the love of the twins for one another. I can’t recall a single instance of jealousy between them—not when they played together as children, nor in their teens, nor during their first days of being courted (although at times both liked the same fellow). Nevertheless, the situation had changed when we came to Hollywood, with all attention suddenly focussed on Pier. Keeping the necessary equilibrium called for diplomacy.
For instance, when Pier bought a new dress, I made certain that Marisa had one just as nice. When Pier got a car, as soon as possible, I saw that Marisa had one comparable to it.
I’ll never forget Pier’s expression when we celebrated the twins’ nineteenth birthdays at the Beverly Hills Hotel just a few weeks after we had arrived over here. “I have something to show you,” I told her after dinner, and took her and Marisa to the front of the hotel. The girls got so excited they had a hard time to keep from running through the foyer. And when Pier found the brand-new car parked right in front of the entrance, she broke into tears from happiness.
We couldn’t afford a second car for Marisa at the same time, but on their next birthday, by which time Marisa’s own earnings had increased, we repeated the procedure. This time after dinner it was she who found a brand-new car at the hotel entrance.
And the year after, in spite of the fact that Pier’s earnings were bigger than Marisa’s, for their birthday I purchased the home in which we are now living, and had the deed registered in both their names.
In another respect I had to watch that one of my twins wouldn’t lag behind. Pier makes friends easily. Marisa, more quiet and selective, has a harder time showing affection and getting acquainted with people. So she wouldn’t be left out of social activities, often when Pier was invited for an evening she would ask Marisa to go along. I remember one invitation Pier received when everyone was asked to bring something along. The hostess, who had referred to games, was more than a little surprised when Pier answered, “Sure, I’d love to bring along my sister.” I was happy to hear this, for Pier has learned to share—which is so very important in everyday life and important in marriage.
It has been said that I wouldn’t permit Pier to go out alone on a date till she was twenty-one and that I carefully screened the fellows she could date. I might have done this if we remained in Italy but I didn’t once do this in the United States. It is true that I have been very particular about the persons with whom Pier and Marisa associate. I have always emphasized the importance of marriage and insisted that both of them take care in the selection of their friends. But I have never insisted upon whom they could or couldn’t see. From their nineteenth birthdays they have been permitted to go on dates without a chaperon. The only restriction at that time was they be in before midnight.
I feel very strongly that a girl should prepare for marriage. With Pier’s all-important interest in her career she had little inclination to run a household. She had little taste for cooking, and the first time she tried to be of some use in the yard, she thoroughly sprayed everything from the house to the cars, everything except what she was aiming at—the flower beds.
Little by little I explained the satisfaction of being a good homemaker, a good hostess, a good wife. Pier may not have mastered household arts—for she’s still busy with her career—but she does have a sincere and enthusiastic concern to improve in this category.
Another big problem—one of Pier’s biggest—had always been her difficulty to handle finances. If she had money in her purse, she spent it. I finally had to give her just enough money to see her through the day. If she wanted to buy something special, she’d come to me and ask for more. Then I tried a new approach. Instead of giving her just pocket money and having her come to me with all the bigger expenses, I put her on a regular monthly allowance out of which she had to take care of all of her personal expenses. It worked. Given the responsibility of managing her own budgetary affairs she learned financial responsibility and budgeting—although I don’t think Pier will ever be a financial wiz. But with Vic’s business mind she won’t have to worry.
Before her marriage, Pier was satisfied to let me make all her social engagements and arrangements. She would simply say she’d like to have her agent over for dinner one evening and ask me to handle the invitation and preparations. I used to warn her that she should be learning to take over these functions herself. However, since her marriage, Pier is delighted to handle these tasks and is proud to have guests in her home. And I must admit that her rather informal and relaxed manner might even make her a more enjoyable hostess.
Pier has always done things good-naturedly, without too much concern. This is how she bought her last car, took up golf as if nothing else mattered and talked about getting a horse. Unfortunately, not all her whims were as inconsequential as her craze for golf or horses. My biggest concern was the romance department.
I know it’s not unusual for a very young girl to get constant crushes and get over them as easily and quickly as new ones come up. But Pier used to worry me. She had never outgrown that stage. Until she met Vic, I don’t think she had ever really been in love. I used to tell her, “That’s not being in love, just liking to be with someone, having a wonderful time. Love is more than that.” It took Pier a long time to find out I was right, but she understood and told me so, when she met Vic again. She was able to recognize love.
Pier first saw Vic four years ago when he sang at a party given at the Waldorf-Astoria in her honor by Arthur Loew to celebrate her eighteenth birthday and her arrival in America for “Teresa.” I remember at the party, Peggy Ann Garner asked Pier if she would like to meet the young singer, Vic Damone. Pier was aghast. She couldn’t speak a word of English, besides, even if she could, she wouldn’t want to meet him. She didn’t know what to say, she had never even had a date. Her reply was a good strong, “Oh, no, no!” They did not meet.
About a year and a half later, we were in Germany for the filming of “The Devil Makes Three” with Gene Kelly. One evening after work, Pier received a telephone call from Vic Damone. He explained that he was stationed nearby with an Army entertainment unit and that he, too, was under contract to Metro. Pier was delighted to hear from someone from her studio and her new home in America, but she declined his invitation to be his guest at a show they were giving that evening for the boys. She said she was very tired. But Vic protested and Pier had a little conference with me. I reminded her that Vic was the charming Italian boy she had seen in “Rich, Young and Pretty,” and who sang at her birthday party. Pier agreed to join Vic if she could bring me along.
It’s funny now to remember it, but when Pier opened the door later that evening to let Vic in, her face must have shown her disappointment. He looked quite different from the romantic boy in the movie. “All dressed like a soldier,” says Pier. Vic sensed her disappointment, too, and he apologized for his khakis, “I’ve got many suits in America,” he said.
The taxi that evening was a jeep and Pier and I and another GI got into the jeep for one of the bumpiest rides we’ve ever had. It took about an hour to ride to the camp. On the way, Pier reminded Vic that he had sung “Happy Birthday” to her at a party. Vic was surprised, “Oh, no, you mean that was you I was singing for, and I didn’t even know it?” He hadn’t remembered Pier at all.
Before the program started, Vic was very nervous and worried about how he was going to sound to all those entertainment-starved soldiers. Pier removed a little gold chain and medal she was wearing and gave it to him for luck.
Vic had to leave us so we settled in a dimly lit corner of the makeshift stage where we could watch the show and yet not be seen. Vic first sang “Mama” for me, then announced that he wanted to sing “September Song” especially for someone who was there that night. He asked the boys if they’d like to see that “someone” and he walked over to get Pier. I’ll never forget Pier’s expression. She was frightened to death and begged Vic not to make her go out in front of all those people. She’d never been on a stage before, she told him, she wouldn’t know what to say. Vic took her hand and gently led her out onto the stage. With his arm around her, he sang what later was to be “their” song, “September Song” to Pier.
During the following three months that Pier was locationing in Germany, she saw Vic almost every night. Along with a friend of Vic’s, the four of us would go out to dinner and dancing. Whenever Pier and Vic heard “September Song,” Vic would order glasses of “just a little bit of champagne” (since neither of them drinks ordinarily). Before we left Germany, Vic asked Pier to marry him. But Pier said no. She was young, and there were so many things to think about, her career, her new life in a new country, the eight months more that Vic had to serve in the Army.
When we returned to America, Pier became involved in her career and soon began dating other boys. When Vic came home from overseas they met occasionally at the studio and were friendly but nothing more was said about marriage. Often Vic would come over to visit us at home. I have always been very fond of him and he was always welcomed, whether Pier or Marisa were home or not. I’d cook his favorite Italian dinners for him and he’d always bring the dessert—spumoni, which is my favorite.
Then last September—the thirtieth to be exact—Pier came home and I knew something had happened. It was just a slow Friday afternoon, she explained, so she decided to drive around the Metro lot. Noticing a picture was in progress on one of the stages, she decided to see what was going on. When she walked onto the busy set, Vic was singing a beautiful Italian lullaby. Pier stood and watched and when Vic finished the number he noticed Pier and dashed over to her. He invited her to stay a while. She did, for about fifteen takes. When the shooting finally wound up, Vic asked Pier to go across the street to the Retake Room for a Coke. When they arrived at the cafe, Vic put some money in the juke box—and played “September Song.” He brought over two glasses with “just a little bit of champagne.” Pier says, “Nobody ever dances there,” but they did for about an hour. “Everybody was staring at us; Gene Kelly and some other people from the studio were there watching. I knew I should have been home, getting ready for a date I had that night, but we just kept dancing.” Suddenly Vic said, “Let’s get married.” Pier “couldn’t believe it.” “You’re kidding,” she answered. “You just don’t do things like this! You must be drunk. He assured her he wasn’t, but to no avail. Since Pier already had a date for that evening, she declined Vic’s date, but promised him she would stop by at the golf course the next morning on her way to work, and see him before he played.
I knew when Pier got up a half hour earlier that morning that Vic meant more to her than she realized. When Pier met Vic that morning at the course, he ran over to her and said, “You know I’m sober this morning. Let’s get married!”
Pier’s answer was the same as the night before. “Well, let’s get engaged?” Vic then suggested. Pier’s answer was still “No.” But she did say yes when Vic asked her if she were going to a party that night. And she agreed that although she was going with her agent and his wife, she would look for Vic there.
Pier was on pins and needles before she went to the party that evening, but she didn’t tell me why. When she arrived, Vic was net there and for the first hour and a half al] she can remember is sitting, with her eyes glued to the door (“It seemed like an eternity”). When Vic finally walked in, “beautiful in a dark blue suit,” Pier said to herself, “This is it!” Wanting to get away from the crowd they went to Pepe De Lucia’s to have dinner with Vic’s agent. Pier says Vic just sat there and stared at her for a long time. Then he said, “I want to talk to your mother.”
First, though, he called his family in New York, yelled, “Mama, Papa, I’m engaged.” Then he telephoned me. I was so surprised, I didn’t even know Pier was going to see Vic that evening. Then Pier got on the phone and said Vic wanted to talk to me. Then Vic got back on the phone and excitedly said, “Mama, I want to see you tonight. Will you be up at twelve? I’ll bring you some spumoni.” I really didn’t know what was going on, and the children weren’t much help, but I agreed I’d stay up till they got home.
When they finally arrived Pier went upstairs and Vic came in to speak to me alone. (He and Pier had agreed: she’d come down only after he whistled.) I thought to myself: Something is wrong because usually Pier comes in and chats madly about what she did and who was there and what everyone wore.
Pier changed out of her party clothes, studied her script for “Green Mansions,” which she already knew by heart, paced the floor and waited and waited. Still no whistle. “It seemed like fifty hours.” Finally she couldn’t stand it any longer and come downstairs. There Vic sat, calmly talking to me, and I sat, tears running down my cheeks, gulping spumoni. A ridiculous sight, no? When I finally caught control of myself, I asked them when they wanted to be married. Vic said, “Right away, next Saturday.” But we had so much to do that we finally set the date for November 25th, Thanksgiving Day, but then we changed our minds again and fixed it for November 24th because we felt it would be best not to have it on a holiday.
The following Monday, the studio announced the engagement. Vic picked out a beautiful emerald-cut diamond ring for Pier and she bought him a star sapphire ring and a small gold cross on a chain—very similar to the first gift she had given him, the small cross she presented him for luck in Germany. Vic’s wedding present to Pier was a similar cross necklace of diamonds.
We had so many, many things to do. Pier and Vic had to look for a place to live, then Pier had to choose her bridesmaids and her gown and theirs’. Pier decided she wanted an all-white wedding. Her gown was designed by Helen Rose and was a bouffant lace and chiffon, trimmed with tiny seed pearls and her headpiece was a Juliet cap. The bridesmaids’ gowns were all white with just a touch of soft pink trim. Their dresses were designed in Italy. Pier’s entire trousseau was also designed and made in Italy. Every day sketches were sent over for her okay—they were most lovely. Marisa was maid of honor. Her bridesmaids were Sandra and Elaine Farinola, Vic’s sisters, Lupita Kohner and Taina Elg. Little Patrizia and her friend Simonette Giaroli were flower girls. Vic chose for his best man, Bo Roos, Jr., and the ushers were Dean Martin, Tony Martin, Joe Pasternak and Bob Sterling. Then we made arrangements for a luncheon reception at the Bel Air Hotel and began the hundred and one things that must be done for a wedding.
During these weeks, Pier and I and Vic had many times to talk about the future. Vic could see I was a little overwhelmed by their sudden decision. “You don’t have to worry about your little Anna Maria, Mama Pierangeli,” Vic told me the day after their engagement. “You are not losing a daughter, you are gaining a son.”
Then added with a smile, “Confidentially, do you know what sold me on married life with your daughter?—your cooking. If she’ll do half as well as her mother, I’ll never have a word of complaint.” Later, in a more serious mood, “I just know when we celebrate our golden wedding anniversary, I will love her as much as I do today.
Pier, too, was sure. And I knew by the way she talked about Vic that for the first time in her life, Pier was really in love. “This is a wonderful thing we have together,” she said one day just before the wedding. “We understand each other. Our moods are together. He even seems to know what I’m thinking. It sometimes scares me to death, though I won’t ever have any secrets.”
Two young people willing to share the good and the bad, the present as well as the future, their thoughts and their goals—this is true love, this is what marriage is created from, I said to myself. Pier is happy. Vic is happy. I, too, am contented.
I had tried hard to prepare my daughter for the most important role of her life: to recognize love, to know it completely, to be a good wife. Many times I had been accused of being too strict with Pier. Many times I had asked myself if perhaps this were not true. But on her wedding day, both Pier and I knew I had been right.
—MRS. INRICA PIERANGEL
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1955