My Romantic Mistakes—Robert Hutton
I’m the luckiest guy in the world and I could have been the unluckiest. I made blunders that almost cost me my future happiness but fate, for some reason, gave me another deal. I’m married to the girl I love and I still can’t believe my good fortune. It isn’t every guy who gets another chance. I did. But that’s the kind of girl Cleatus is. Mrs. Robert Hutton now.
I first saw her one afternoon at the Santa Anita race track. It was one of those clear, clean days when California seems one huge Technicolor set. Girls in their bright sport dresses gave everything a festive air. Even the horses were running in my favor. I stood talking to some friends between races when suddenly I saw her sitting at another table in the clubhouse with Mrs. Van Heflin. That’s the most beautiful girl I ever saw, I thought to myself and went over to speak to Frances Heflin who introduced me to “Mrs. Murray.”
It was the next morning I saw her picture in the papers and realized she was Cleatus Caldwell—wife of actor Ken Murray. It seemed a coincidence that her divorce from Ken and mine from my ex-wife Natalie were both granted that day.
Three weeks passed before I saw her again. She was sitting with some mutual friends at Mocambo and I went over and asked her to dance. We had a dinner date the following night and practically every night after. I fell in love with her almost at once. She was the realest, most sincere person I’d met in a long time and it was a constant source of amazement to me how any girl in Hollywood could be so beautiful and so unselfcentered. So many girls here are interested only in their careers and themselves. They don’t have time to listen to what anyone else has to say.
But Cleatus was different. She’d go over to Romanoff’s and try to find out how my favorite dishes were prepared. If I were ill with a cold she’d drive over to my apartment with special home-cooked food. She listened earnestly while I talked of my work, offering intelligent suggestions. When I became friends with her two little sons, Kenneth who was four and Cort, just two, and found they liked me, too, there seemed to be no reason why we shouldn’t be married as soon as our divorces were final. There wasn’t one thing to mar our happiness and I’m sure no two people were happier or more contented than Cleatus and I the night we set off to Mike Romanoff’s costume party over a year ago.
And then in one brief hour I threw it all over. It was that night I met Lana Turner.
I guess outside Hollywood it’s difficult to realize the status that exists among players. The very definite line that stands between the bit player and the feature player, and the feature player and the star. To be a star, to attain that coveted goal that only a comparative few reach, is the ambition of every young player. And Lana was one of the favored few. She was not only a star—while I was a young actor struggling to establish myself—but one of the most glamorous women of Hollywood. In her snug-fitting black matador costume she looked extremely small as she joined a friend and me at the bar. She was friendly and gracious when we were introduced and seemed pleased when I asked her to dance. This was the first big star that had been kind or taken the trouble to treat me, a young nobody, as a friend. That Lana Turner could be interested in me as a person went right to my head. What followed was nobody’s fault but my own. It was not Lana’s and certainly not Cleatus’s fault that I behaved badly. I confess I behaved in an unforgivable manner in devoting myself to Lana, forgetting Cleatus. I didn’t blame her when she finally left the party alone. I had lost my head to such an extent I didn’t feel chagrined that she’d gone.
Next morning I telephoned. She did not weep hysterically or hang up the phone as she should have. She didn’t blame Lana either as most women would have done. And she didn’t really blame me—at least she understood—but there was a note of finality in her voice when she said goodbye that told me more than words she would never trust her love with me again.
I couldn’t have expected anything else.
After all, she had just come through one disillusionment in her divorce from comedian Ken Murray, whom she had married when she was not quite eighteen.
I also was very young—just twenty-two—when I married Natalie Thompson. I had come out to Hollywood the second time—after the heartbreak of seeing my own parents part. The emotional blow seemed to serve as a turning point, for during the following season of summer stock I was tested by a Hollywood agent and Warners finally took me. I was lucky in my first picture, “Destination Tokyo,” to have Cary Grant’s help and encouragement. I’ll never cease being grateful to him.
It was during this time that I met Natalie. Our courtship was brief. From the start we knew our marriage was a mistake. We were never deeply in love and we were too young to carry our marriage through. After a year and a half we gave it up.
All this I reviewed as I went on my way without Cleatus—bewildered, cut off from my existence, sore at myself.
I had no one to turn to, for naturally no one sympathized with me. Why should anyone? At that time Lana had no one in her life, as her engagement to Turhan had been broken off. I became infatuated. And then Lana left for South America and I began to see things clearly. I came to know that in Lana I had a good friend and one I would always have. And that there could be nothing but friendship between us. I realized, too, my personal and professional life was at a standstill. I was restless, unhappy and a little afraid to face facts, I guess, for deep down there was a truth wanting to be recognized—that I had never loved anyone but Cleatus and I had lost her through my own blundering.
I guess it was just more running away when I asked a friend for June Haver’s telephone number. June is fun and that’s what we had together. We got in the news more than I liked, but then June is very popular and it was natural any date she had would be news. That’s all there was to it—my heart still belonged to Cleatus.
One night I walked into Macombo and my heart leaped. Cleatus sat with friends near the dance floor. I summoned my courage and asked her to dance. She smiled sweetly and graciously but she declined. Again I didn’t blame her. I knew it wasn’t pride that caused her to refuse. She just didn’t want to misplace her trust again.
The truth of it hit me like a blow as I went back to my table. It dawned on me, too, as I sat and watched her that Cleatus had grown more sure of herself, more beautiful, if possible. She had become one of the most popular girls in town. I heard from sources that seemed to like rubbing it in of her sincerity and kindness. In a town of sophisticates she neither smoked, drank nor used off-color language. I sat and looked at her, loving her as I never thought possible and that night I determined to win her back if possible.
I telephoned for dates and got nowhere. My friends invited her to the same parties hoping I could somehow take her home. Finally she told me over the phone that several of her friends had said they’d never speak to her again if she went out with me. And then the very next night she agreed to attend a party with me.
Almost a year had passed since that fateful night and we were welcomed like long-lost friends. I had learned my lesson and I never felt so humble in my life.
The two boys and I became friends again. In fact it was little Kenneth one night at dinner who suggested before us that his mother marry Bob Hutton.
Cleatus learned to love me all over again and when the doubts and fears that I would ever flaunt her love again were allayed, we decided to be married at once. And somehow with our reunion everything that had seemed to hold me back gave way and my career zoomed. I was given the juvenile lead in “Love and Learn” at Warners and loaned to Universal for “Time out of Mind.” With the two pictures overlapping we decided against waiting for free time for a honeymoon.
As though fate were with us, we found a house out in the Valley almost immediately with huge fireplaces, a cozy den, a large living room and rooms for the boys. Almost a year to the evening of the night we parted, we were married.
Don’t expect a groom as happy as I to talk about his wedding. I can tell you this much—it was at Las Vegas and Cleatus was the most unbelievably beautiful bride! It still seems like a miracle.
Looking back, I’m truly grateful for all the romantic blunders I’ve made. They’ve caused a lot of pain to me and others but I feel that having committed them has made me more worthy to be a husband to the girl I love and a father to her children.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1947