Rediscovered Love—Alan and Sue Ladd
January 29, 1955 was the first time in their thirteen-year-old marriage that Alan and Sue Ladd had ever been apart. The reason for their separation then is now completely known. It can be told in a few words: Gossip—never truly confirmed—about June Allyson.
But the reason for their reconciliation isn’t so well understood and you can say it in one word: Love. Just love, that’s all. Old-fashioned, isn’t it? But also true and wonderful. And, of course, behind it, there is a story—a very poignant story.
With Alan and Sue, when they rediscovered their love, there were no big scenes, no headlines, no recriminations. On Sue’s wrist, there is now a new gold bracelet which inside has such a sentimental message she refuses to let anyone see it. In the garage there is a handsome new car, a gift from Alan. She had new diamond earrings, too. And every hour, almost on the hour, every day, she gets flowers from him. He calls her constantly from the set at Warners. He says, “I didn’t want anything. I just wanted to hear your voice, to know you’re all right.”
Over the weekend now, with Carol Lee married and in her own home, with Laddie at school, with Alana and David in care of the help, most of whom the Ladds have had during their entire marriage, Alan and Sue are down in their new Palm Springs home. “Doing the things we used to do, just the two of us, as we did when we first met,” Alan says.
So to understand how this all came about, you have to know what happened those days of January 29 and 30 and 31, and for a week or so before that, and a week or so after.
In a way it’s crazy, because it shows how two people who had virtually everything in the world can get all mixed up.
Alan Ladd and Sue Carol fell in love at first sight, literally, and for thirteen magical years after their marriage they shared every waking moment, every sleeping night. They shared dreams. They shared plans. They shared fun. They had children. They had adventure.
Alan, who had been poor and unknown became rich and famous. As a kid, he practically never had a home, so he and Susie built a virtual palace in Hollywood, bought a fabulous ranch in the Valley. Alan loved horses, so Sue loved horses. Alan loved camping, so Sue loved camping. Like a lot of other rich people, they bought oil wells, but unlike a lot of other rich people, theirs came in. They traveled. Their kids were all handsome, healthy and intelligent. The whole family made numerous friends.
Perfect, that’s what it was, the life of Alan and Sue Ladd. Absolutely perfect, until June Allyson and Alan began making “The McConnell Story” at Warners last winter.
When Hollywood first began hearing the whispers coming off that set they just didn’t believe them. It was a good marriage between June and Dick Powell, everybody said. However the marriage between Alan and Sue had been so absolute in its fidelity and devotion, no one thought there could be “another woman.” But the whispers persisted, grew louder, finally became common talk.
To complicate matters even more, radiant, young Carol Lee Ladd, who had been born Carol Lee Stuart, was about to be married to handsome Richard Anderson. Sue Ladd wanted her daughter’s wedding to be perfect. She knew how the. girl adored Alan. Thus, no matter what shadows were gathered around her personal life, Sue was determined that none of them should darken Carol Lee’s most romantic ones.
As you undoubtedly remember, it was the wedding of the Hollywood winter season. The lavish Ladd garden and pool were transformed into a wedding chapel. Alan, incredibly handsome in white tie and tails, gave Carol Lee away. Small David Ladd was the sturdy little ring bearer. Alana Ladd was maid of honor. And there were ushers like Cary Grant and Laddie, Alan’s handsome older son. There were pretty bridesmaids by the score and it was all vivid and exciting.
Because of the whispers, all eyes after the ceremony were upon June Allyson and Dick Powell, among the hundreds of elegant guests.
June and Dick danced together, congratulated Carol Lee, and still the gossip was not stilled.
There was, of course, a receiving line after the ceremony. Very erect and much slimmer than she has been for years, Sue Ladd stood next to her daughter, receiving congratulations and good wishes. Hours later, Sue saw the last guest to the door. She saw her daughter off on her honeymoon. A couple of days later, Alan gave out the statement that, yes, there was trouble between them. Which was why, by that following weekend, he and Susie were apart for the first time in more than thirteen years.
That weekend each of them behaved in quite characteristic ways, though they weren’t aware. of it at the time. Before parting they had not “agreed to disagree.” They had not decided to get a divorce. They had reached only one decision. They would have a “trial separation.” What they meant by that, neither knew. But in their most romantic hopes and fondest memories of the love they had shared, they little dreamed the separation would be only a matter of two days.
Sue went to Las Vegas. She was accompanied by her aunt and Alana. It was like Sue that she went to Las Vegas because she had always promised her aunt this trip and had not, until then, had the opportunity to get around to it. For herself, she would just as soon have been at the bottom of a well. She only knew she had to get out of her own house. Where out, she hadn’t thought about. She had been avoiding thinking. But her instinctive practicality, combined with her equally instinctive thinking of other people’s pleasure, made her take her relatives with her.
Alan went down to Rancho Sante Fe, to the home of two of his and Sue’s closest friends, the Chester Roots. He didn’t stop to think, either, that Rancho Sante Fe was where he and Sue had spent their honeymoon thirteen years before. He didn’t stop to remember that he had never seen Lois and Chet except when he was in Sue’s company.
Thus, while the Roots tried to be polite and not probing about the reason for this solo visit, Sue’s name kept popping into the conversation. Just as at Las Vegas, Sue, running into the Bill Bendixes, the Dean Martins and virtually everybody she knew in show business, kept hearing Alan’s name.
They had separated on Saturday. That dragged by. Sunday dragged by. Monday morning, Sue’s room phone rang. The moment she heard Alan’s voice, she asked the matter with you? You sound sick.
“I feel like hell,” Alan said. He waited. Then he asked, “Would you come down here, Susie?”
Alan has always done everything on impulse. Their new house in Palm Springs he bought, for instance, one recent morning while he was sitting in a drugstore finishing breakfast, while Sue was across the store buying magazines. He just got the notion to own a Palm Springs house, after one week of living in that resort. He just happened to be sitting next to a realtor. And that was that, even though it did involve many thousands of dollars.
So now he wanted Susie beside him on impulse. And Sue rushed down to Rancho Sante Fe, not on impulse, but with love, just as she has always rushed with love to do anything he wanted to do.
Always. Let me digress one moment to smash a couple of statements too often said about Sue, which have never been true. She does not rule Alan or rule his life. But he does rule hers—and always has. What he wants to do, they do. Where he wants to go, they go, sometimes in the middle of the night on a moment’s notice. He doesn’t like parties, for example, so they stay home. ile does like guests, so they have them in scads. He hates telephoning, so Sue does all the phoning for him. He loathes detail, of any sort, so Sue has taken that over always.
And another thing: Sue was Alan’s agent before they married and it was her belief in him that got him his first big chance at Paramount. But the very day they married, she gave away the contract she had with him. Literally and deliberately gave it away to a much bigger agent. The reason for that was, first, because she believed Alan needed a much more important agent than she could ever be. The reason she made the contract a gift is because she did not want to be in the position of earning money from her husband.
What further happened was that the second agent still insisted upon giving Sue a major piece of cash for this gift. She banked it and kept it, until several years later when she and Alan were building their Holmby Hills house.
Like most home builders they spent too much. They would have had to borrow at very stiff rates if Sue hadn’t then come up with this chunk of dough. She did though, most happily, tossing it into their homestead.
Thus, rushing to Rancho Sante Fe (where so a ago she and Alan had stayed on their honeymoon, with Bing and Dixie Crosby), Sue took one look at her husband and said, “We must call a doctor.” She had little more than gotten those words out, when long distance called her, a call following her down from Las Vegas, which had originally been put in in Los Angeles. It was the news that David had come down with chicken pox—which, of course, was exactly what Alan had.
But, if you have ever been truly in love, you know this was actually a happy augury. For would anyone but a devoted wife love a man—and love him with extra tenderness—when he was running a fever, breaking out in blotches and unable to shave for a week?
They couldn’t stay with the Roots, of course, with Alan not terribly ill but completely miserable. They snatched at the only house that was available and moved into it within the hour.
And there they talked while Alan’s fever waxed and waned. They talked as they hadn’t talked for years, with no children, no servants, no producers, no phones, no neighbors, no friends to interrupt them. And they discovered how wonderful it was to be alone, together once more, eating the simplest food, having only a bed and a couple of chairs to dust, doing nothing really except falling in love again.
As soon as Alan felt up to driving, they headed to Palm Springs for their second honeymoon. Since it was the height of the season at that fashionable resort and since Alan still wanted to be alone with Susie, they had to take what they could get by way of housing, and what they could rent was the living end in nothing. Except that they were alone.
The house wasn’t on a fashionable street in the swank district. It had no furniture except a stove and an icebox, and the first night all they could rent was a couple of folding beds and some linen. They didn’t have so much as a chair, and the only drawers in the place were in the kitchen, so that’s where they put their extra clothes.
But that thing called love made it look beautiful to them, regardless.
“Shall we go out to dinner?” Susie asked, the first night.
“Do we have to?” asked Alan.
“You relax. I’ll go marketing.”
She came back, with grocery bags up to her chin. She thought she had everything Alan could possibly want—so he asked her for creamed chipped beef. And she knew him well enough to have bought chipped beef, but along with the cream and the milk and the butter and the eggs, she had forgotten flour.
“Fry the beef,” said Alan, laughing. Which, of course, is what Sue did, and they ate it in bed, the simplest and most comfortable meal they had had in ten years, eating off paper plates with paper forks.
There is nothing quite so beautiful and still and timeless as a desert night. The scent of petunias and oleanders rises on the air and it is all enchantment.
Sometime in the middle of the night, several days later, Alan said, in that black-velvet voice of his, “I knew it wasn’t any good after one day away from you, Sue. Everywhere I looked, down there at Sante Fe, I saw you. Everything I started to do, made me think of you.”
The silence fell again, for a long time. Then Alan spoke once more. “You know, don’t you, Susie, that you are the only person who attracts me, that there will never be any one but you?”
Sue couldn’t speak for a while. There were too many tears choked back. Tears of happiness, tears of recovery, tears of faith restored. Finally, she whispered, “There could never be anyone but you with me, Alan. Never.”
“Let’s go home tomorrow,” he said.
Back home a new production was waiting for Alan at Warners. He went over to the studio and discovered he had to fly to San Francisco to okay a location.
Sue has a weakness for Royal Copenhagen china. On that fast trip he saw a couple of Royal Copenhagen figurines in a shop window and went in to buy them. The dealer refused to believe he was Alan Ladd and wouldn’t cash his check. So Alan dug into a secret compartment of his wallet and pulled out two $100 bills.
“They’ve been his good luck tokens for years,” Sue says. Her eyes alight with happiness, her figure slim as a teenager’s. “He always felt as long as he had those two bills nothing could ever harm him. But that day he spent them on a gift for me.”
You see it’s all right with the Ladds now, don’t you? And isn’t it crazy and wonderful that it is?
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE AUGUST 1955