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Rosemary Clooney’s Fantastic Romance

“The idea of Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney falling in love and being altar bound, is as farfetched as trying to place a rose and a cactus plant in the same flower vase. They are that opposite—in everything that makes them breathe, live and perform. However, love, like Nature, sees strange miracles happen.”

That puts into words the consensus—from the noisy purlieus of Broadway’s Tin Pan Alley to the jittery 3-D labyrinths of the movie world of Hollywood—at the startling news that the Number One Girl of the Ballad World and the First Actor of the American Stage have discovered one another.

Fantastic is the word tied to this romance by one of their closest friends. “What started as.a devil-may-care, take-it-or-leave-it acquaintanceship, ripened into a torrid I-can’t-live-without-you romance that has astonished equally the principals concerned.”

“I can’t understand what he sees in me,” says Rosemary.

“I’m a lucky guy,” says Jose.

Coast to coast, show business is watching this fervent romance with more than unusual interest, wondering not only what makes it tick, but what the future will bring. When success story meets success story, and a merger of both is planned, a lot of things can happen. Especially when the fields of endeavor and achievement are as widely separated as those of Mr. Ferrer and Miss Clooney.

Each in his own sphere has achieved the zenith, with plenty more to come. They can well be proud of the niche they have carved for themselves in their respective spheres. But what of the final mixture—can the rich and alien ingredients made up of strictly individual personal characteristics be whipped into a palatable and lasting recipe for happiness?

That is the pungent question that show business—from Broadway to Vine Street, Hollywood—is asking. The answers could be very interesting. Currently, it is said that Jose Ferrer only awaits his divorce decree from actress-dancer Phyllis Hill to become final before he pops the big question.

As for Rosemary, she says, “I love Jose, but I don’t want anyone to he hurt.”

Perennial authority on such matters, Hollywood columnist Louella O. Parsons reveals, “When he is finally in a position to ask her, I’m sure that Rosemary will say yes.”

Be that as it may, the question that most everyone is asking is, how well are they suited to one another? And if they do get married, will it last? Or will the marriage be a repetition of the Ava Gardner-Frank Sinatra rigamarole where their divergence of interests creates one spat, one misunderstanding, one clash after another?

Let’s take a good, inside look at both personalities, and let the comparisons fall where they will. Jose is 41, Rosemary is 25. Can the 16 years difference in ages make a trouble spot? While they may not feel it now, how will it be ten years from now? The answer to that one is that many successful show business marriages have prospered despite a wide discrepancy of ages.

Career-wise, Jose Ferrer is a perfectionist, determined to excel in everything. Rosemary Clooney has a calmer approach to her career—and against Jose’s fluent knowledge of music—admits she can’t read a note. “I can tell whether the tune goes up or down, but I can’t tell how far!”

Jose Ferrer will work for months at a role he intends playing, at the rate of some 16 hours a day—rehearsing, researching, perfecting, fashioning not only his voice but his body for the role. When he played in “Charley’s Aunt,” one of the most arduous of stage parts, he went into training as if he were about to meet Rocky Marciano.

Innocent of all musical training, Rosemary will tackle a song without even trying to read the notes beforehand—she gets the hang of the tune more by intuition than anything else. When someone suggests that she should warm up before a recording (something that all great and established artists do), she sighs, “What have I got to warm up?”

Question: When they get married, will Jose attempt to instill in Rosemary some of the seriousness with which he tackles anything he attempts? The gruelling hard work, the long hours of study, the tortuous rehearsals to make the final, small touch as near perfect as it can be. Will he, in other words, attempt to change Rosemary’s simple and fresh delivery for a more polished, dramatic product that might spoil all its charm?

Or will Rosemary open Jose’s eyes to the fact that it’s a short and beautiful world, and that too much work and no play is not good for any man? Not that Rosemary plays at her work, but she takes her career in her stride—effortlessly, easily, dusting away the problems as she would a speck of cigarette ash on a Ceil Chapman gown.

Jose lives like a tautly wound-up motor. Rosemary runs through life with an innocent breeziness, the like of which has not been seen in show business in a long while. And both have got to the top, and are likely to stay there. Will these opposite methods continue in the final welding of the two talents? Will the motor run slower, and will the breeziness become a whisper rather than a purr of easy ebullience?

A master of good diction, doing rich justice to everyone from Shakespeare to Maxwell Anderson, Jose Ferrer will have to listen to many of Rosemary’s records. “What will he think,” asks a well known New York voice teacher, “about Rosemary’s delivery of song? She has a malocclusion of the jaw, which gives her voice an occasional lisp. If you listen carefully, words like ‘kiss’ and ‘caress’ come out as ‘kish’ and ‘caresh’.” This might be part of her charm.

Chances are that Jose Ferrer will listen very carefully. But love plays many tricks, overlooks many faults. It is doubtful, fine actor and great director that he is, that Jose Ferrer will attempt to correct the faults that have, so far, not hampered the career of the possible future Mrs. Ferrer one bit.

As for Rosemary telling Jose how to act, Broadway or Hollywood has no fears about that. No one can tell Mr. Ferrer how to act. He has got that down to a fine art. While Jose can teach Rosemary a lot of things, it is doubtful that Rosemary can give Jose anything but love. And that, of course, may be enough.

As regards Broadway and appearing on the stage proper, Rosemary has been a failure and Jose has no use for failures. Her failure has been that she doesn’t have a “stage” voice, but is a microphone hugger, and her flair for acting is merely passable. What she lacks in both departments, she makes up in personality, as anyone will quickly admit who sees her in Paramount’s “The Stars Are Singing.”

Broadway sighs at what may happen if Mr. Ferrer attempts to mould, after his own ideas of an acceptable pattern, a new Rosemary Clooney. Broadway remembers all too well the fine acting partnership of Jose Ferrer and Uta Hagen, and how the marriage finally broke up after a few blissful years, when Jose had to have things go his way—career-wise.

There is no question in anyone’s mind that Rosemary would like to get married, and as soon as possible. After all, she is already 25, which is just five years from 30. But whether Jose Ferrer is the right man for her leaves a lot of people furiously conjecturing. When two people fall in love and get married, background counts for a lot.

Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, January 8, 1912, Jose Vicente Ferrer Otero y Cintron was brought to the United States at the age of 6, and no child could look forward to a better education. Son of a brilliant attorney with vast holdings, he started at a Swiss boarding school and ended at Princeton.

Maysville, Kentucky, saw Rosemary Clooney come into the world on May 23, 1928. One of three children, she was old enough to be heartbroken at the separation of her parents. She found that full schooling would have to be sacrificed for a possible career as an entertainer. The daughter of a house painter, her early years were spent in a singing act with sister Betty, playing dance halls, Italian socials, college proms, and barn dances in tobacco warehouses until 2 a.m.

As a Princeton man, Jose Ferrer towers above Rosemary Clooney, if not in stature, at least intellectually. He is five feet 11 inches, but doesn’t look it because, “I always stand crooked, never straight. I have short legs, and a big head.” Rosemary, at 5 feet 4 inches, is considered long legged, and willow-like. The illusion is interesting, but there is no question that they look good together.

But—and the but is a big one—what the turbine motors of an ocean liner are in energy to the outboard motor of a small fishing boat, so is Jose Ferrer to Rosemary Clooney. The list of things with which he occupies himself is staggering. He dances, fences, paints, sings, plays tennis, cooks, does caricatures, and speaks five languages.

At 104 pounds, flashing blue eyes, and sporting a fair complexion, against Jose’s 170 pounds, swarthy skin, and athletic build, Rosemary is not an outdoors girl. She takes an occasional plunge into a swimming pool, bats a tennis ball listlessly, and diets carefully. However, she collects phonograph records as a hobby.

Their mutual love of music will bring them close. Once an exponent of hot jazz, Jose limits himself to Haydn, Mozart, and Bach. He sings rather less well than George Sanders, which is to say, he shouldn’t sing at all. But in various shows, on Broadway and elsewhere, his talents in that direction have passed muster.

While in the past he played piano duets with Uta Hagen, his first wife, Broadway—especially Tin Pan Alley—sees him teaming up, privately, and it is to be hoped, not professionally, with Rosemary Clooney. All of which goes to prove, that while their professional endeavors may never clash, their private achievements may well be a helluva lot of fun.

That they have much in common is an accepted fact. Rosemary likes to eat, and Jose is a perfectionist even at that. She can dispose of a 7-course Italian dinner with gusto, and Jose loves to cook. He is a master at turning out the tops in spaghetti dinners, but because he wants to be a perfectionist at that, too, he also makes the bread!

Few women, and Rosemary Clooney should count her blessings, can love a man and tell her closest, most intimate friends, “What’s more, my man can cook too!”

For most people, and all doubting minds notwithstanding, the alliance of Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney is an enviable one. Whatever else is in store for them, there’s lots of fun ahead. It may easily work out—this fantastic romance of show business—and most everyone hopes that it will.