Sandra Dee Tells
PHOTOPLAY’S roving correspondent, Fred Robbins, called on Sandra Dee in her Drake hotel suite in New York while she was there to publicize “If A Man Answers,’’ the film she did with her husband, Bobby Darin. Fred and Sandra had a long talk, and she gave him her own story of her special fears, the true reason why she is afraid to show baby Dodd Mitchell to the waiting world—why she’d like to, why she nevertheless will not. Sandra is a great believer in the old-fashioned kind of marriage. İn an old-fashioned marriage, the husband is the undisputed boss of the house and a good wife would no more dream of Crossing him than a patriotic Citizen would of disobeying the laws of the land. But let Sandra tell it in her own words. . . .
The fact that there are no pictures of my son, I get knocks—and you wouldn’t believe this—letters written to me in magazines saying, “Dear Sandra, Please show a picture because the world thinks he’s deformed.” Now, I’m sorry, but God forbid, you don’t say this about a little young baby. Problems like this have to cause arguments, because I have a different point of view than my husband. I say, “Photograph him.” And Bobby says, “No.” He is the boss of the house; I must say this. Openly he is; I’m not ashamed; I’m proud of it. I know that my husband must be head of his family, if we’re going to have a family.
Compromising—in the little things it’s easy for me to do. It’s in the big things —and I don’t want to bring them up, personal things—that it’s harder. And I fight like cat and dog, three and four times a day. We explode for three seconds, and then it’s over. I don’t say we’ve never had a fight, or that we’ll never have another fight. I fought yesterday with him, over the phone. Now I haven’t even seen him in ten days, and I can still fight with him. It’s amazing. We made up two seconds later, and it’s all over. Now, I’m glad of this, because there’s nothing that’s bothering me. I can go to sleep at night not worrying because I’m harboring some kind of—you know, some people keep it inside; I’ll never have an ulcer, I know that. I love Bobby, I’m very happy, I know he’s very happy. He is head of the family. I must say that when I first got married, I leaned on Bobby like I used to on my mother. I’m not an independent person, yet. Now, yes. Since the baby, I’ve had to become one, because Bobby can’t have me leaning on him, plus the baby. İn big matters, yes; but not in everyday little things. In the beginning of my marriage, that’s exactly what it was. Now that I’m a mother. I think I’m less selfish; that’s the main thing. I think I really am less spoiled and less selfish. They say when you’re married you become one, it’s not “me” anymore; it’s “we.” I didn’t find this true. I really found it came I finally true when I had the baby. Because now I say—now, if he’s well, I’m happy, which has never been like that with me; I’ve never been like that before. I’ve always been “I” first, and now it’s the baby and Bobby first. And it’s only since the baby that I realize this.
I think mainly now, for my son, for our son, to keep him sensible and to go to public school like other kids, and not to be something different. Every mother wants the best for her children. He will have the best. I know this, because we live very well, thank God. God’s been very good in that respect. We do live well. We work very hard sometimes, but we do. We have a crazy kind of life, and unfortunately we don’t get to do things that most people would like to do, like go to a picnic. If you go to a public place. you’re known. We’ve decided now, we just don’t go. It’s more simple than getting into a hassle there. My kid’s got a rough road ahead of him. He has a doubly rough road, because be has parents who are in this business, and are well known. His friends are going to read about the parents; truths or untruths, they’re still going to read about them. It’s going to be kind of hard to go up that road straight, but I guess God really balances it out. He will have a rough road because of his parents, and yet he will have the material things of life more than most, let’s say, “average” people.
The friends Bobby and I have together— there’s not one of them in show business. The people that we pal around with are people actually that Bobby has grown up with. I’ve never really had friends before; I was working, I was the only child at Universal who went to school. Bobby has grown up with these people. They are friends because they work with Bobby; one is his conductor, the other is his arranger, his manager. They’re all young people. These are the people that we’re with constantly.
When I read about Bobby—before we were introduced—I hated everything he stood for. I never met him but I had read articles on him. I met him and I still didn’t like him. He was to me still cocky and brash. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t cocky and brashness, actually; Bobby has a great honesty. He’s never lied to a publicity man. He’s not afraid to announce to any kind of reporter: “I will not have a picture taken of my son. I will not talk about my wife.” This is what he believes in. He’s often condemned for it.
There’s a way to say “I don’t like the color black.” You can say. “I prefer blue,” or you can say, “I hate black.” He says, “I hate black.” Unfortunately, he should have been a little bit more diplomatic, maybe. Not changed his basic ways. A little more diplomatic. lnstead of saying “I don’t like your dress.” maybe say “I’ve seen you look better.” He can’t color anything. Since he’s married they say he’s more mature. because, I think. he’s learned to be a little more diplomatic. And I try to say. “Oh, honey, you shouldn’t have done that. You know they didn’t mean anything by it. Because he loves me. and he’s out with me, let’s say we go to a party, he won’t do it because he knows it hurts me. And he will not change his way of looking at things; but I think he’s learned now to be a little more diplomatic. And I think I’ve learned to be a little less afraid to open my mouth. Which, as I said before, kind of rubs off one another.
Bobby won’t tour Europe now. The baby’s too young to visit Europe because of the milk and water and all. and now it’s no more getting into a car like we used to and going; it’s the baby to nurse, the bottles, the crib, the dogs to make him happy, It’s all a whole entourage, all revolving around him. I want another one this year. Bobby’d he shocked, but I do.
Still, I enjoy working, which is why I’m doing it. It’s a pleasure; it’s a kick: it’s fun. I don’t know what I ever did before I was married. I really don’t. I don’t know what I did—I shouldn’t say “married,” because that sounds like a State of being or change or something; I should say, “before I met Bobby” and had the baby. I don’t know what I did at night; during the day I know very well: I was always busy working. But, after six, I don’t know. I don’t ever like to see plays any more without him. Really, I have no ambition. He’s coming in tomorrow, and I couldn’t be happier; I haven’t been out of the hotel.
Bobby’s marvelous in one respect—and I guess a lot of people reading some magazines, whatever kind of press they read, wouldn’t believe this—but he’s never objected to anything that I do or wanted to do, as long as it makes me happy. I’m not that “giving.” yet. I’m still a little selfish. because I’ll say, “I don’t want to go here.” Even though he really does want to go very badly I can still say this. If I say, “Bobby, I want to do this, I want to go here,”—if he’s free for the evening, if he doesn’t have to go to a club—of course, I don’t say that he’d leave his work—he’ll go, because he knows that it makes me happy. He would never say “quit”; not in a million years (and I’ve asked him for his opinion) and he’d rather cut his right arm off than give his opinion to me. And there’s no truth to those stories that he’s a “little dictator,” making me sit there when he’s working—oh, God, none.
This separation, this is the first one in two years of marriage. And it is the last. I say very matter-of-factly, because it is. We understood we’d have to separate for this tour. It’s been bearable because we agreed to it. A promise is a promise.
Of course, we’ve had more rumors of split-ups and divorce—which everybody in this business has. Now I take it in my stride; I don’t get upset. This is not a problem to us any more. publicity-wise. It doesn’t even bother me. But now that it’s here—Bobby’s traveling on one coast, and I’m on the other. It’s kind of difficult. He misses the baby terribly. The baby’s with me because I’m in one place for two weeks.
Advice to young marrieds
You add all these things with two young people married only two years, adjusting to one another. And there have been a great many difficulties that have to be ironed out; but they’re not anything unusual, really. Two young people adjusting—I think that everyone who has ever been married or hopes to be married should realize that it isn’t all roses; because it sure ain’t.
For instance, Bobby was brought up almost without any money whatsoever—in fact, they didn’t have money to eat. He is older than I am; much more mature. He went to a regular school. I was the opposite. I never went to school, I had money, I had a tutor.
And these two people get married. I knew Bobby only six weeks before I married him, actually. And we were married, and here we are. I’d never been away from my mother. He’d never before had only one steady girl, really. He used to date all the time.
He has worked for what he’s got; and, boy, he sure appreciates it. He is my stabilizer. Which is why we’re very good for one another. I think. We’re opposite. So very opposite it’s not to be believed. I don’t think there is one thing we really agree on. Food, taste, houses, clothes, the way to raise the baby. But it’s good. in the sense that all his sensibility, and being stable. and knowing where he’s going —I bring the little bit of nuttiness that he needs. Don’t think that he’s real nut, or a kook. He isn’t. He basically is not: he has such basic values that, you know—a man of forty doesn’t have them yet; actually, he’s that mature. But yet he can be like a little boy. I’ve learned to accept some of Bobby’s ways. and kind of grow a little older. I think it’s been very good; it’s been good for me. I know that.
I love him very much. Although I don’t like rock-and-roll I listen to it because I know he likes it. He loves me very much. Although he hates roller coasters—I just love to go on them, he’ll go on them with me.
We really usually eat in typically American restaurants. They serve a variety. When we’re at home, I go with Bobby; I have to say it. He wins out. Because he loves food, and I don’t. I mean. I eat because I’m hungry, but it doesn’t matter that much. He appreciates what he’s eating.
I kind of cater to him in that department. But I think it’s marvelous when you learn that you’re doing something not because you have to, but because you love a person. And you’re making him happy.
Career vs. marriage
As to my career, I’ve been without Bobby, and I’ve had the career before Bobby, and since him. And I know what’s important. I really think I’ve learned this. I don’t think I can combine both over a long period of years. I think eventually I’ll kind of outgrow this phase of loving to work. I think when it comes to the point of having more children. of having the children go to school—this may be off the top of my head, I don’t know; I haven’t gone through it yet—I do know that if I see something affecting my son, my future children, or my husband, there must be a stop. The baby didn’t ask to be brought here. He’s here; he’s living a life which is different from other kids. And Bobby must work; it’s not a question of who’s going to give up what. He is head of the family; he must work. I don’t; I don’t have to.
But I won’t give up my career easily. I couldn’t just do it, so to speak, like cutting something off, a thread. It will be a long, hard thing for me to do. What I can say is, either the husband must be a bigger star, or the husband and wife must be equal. Now, I’ve been fortunate in motion pictures. There is a tally—whatever you call it, a “box-office”—and I’ve been fortunate enough for the past three years to be in the top ten. The only other woman I’ve known of in it is Doris Day. I’m in good company. Bobby, to me, is number one in the night club world. I am about as well known in a night club, as, you know, Jane Smith across the Street.
He is now starting motion pictures. He has done six pictures; he’s gotten a nomination as the Best Actor of the Year by the foreign press—I never even had that. I must say that I don’t think that that will ever be a problem in our house. Fortunately, because I don’t think that a marriage can survive when the wife is the head of the house, so to speak; and she must be, if she is the star of the house.
Unfortunately, I think that this business is a great farce; it’s a great make-believe, and you know you’re only as good, really, as the last picture you’ve done. That’s been said; it sounds corny. But it’s true. You’re only good as long as you can bring money in, and make money for a studio. It doesn’t matter, really, if you can bring millions of dollars in the box office, if you spend more than the millions you’re bringing in working. I guess one of the major things in this business is to have responsibility. Evidently a lot of girls don’t. I think maybe they never mature. It’s hard. And I find it hard also at my age, because I am taken care of by the studio. My make-up is done, my hair is done, and my clothes are done. If I need anything, they’re there to give it to me. It’s a great shock when that day—when it starts slipping. And yet, I haven’t come to it yet; I’m only twenty. But maybe by the time I’m thirty, it will happen. Now if you’re constantly having people doing things for you, and all of a sudden you find yourself not as popular, not as in demand, it’s a large shock. Because it isn’t a minority that— it’s not like most people have a mother that does this for them. and a father, and they get married and they learn. This is like five hundred people you work with—and I’ve grown up at Universal. I know them like I know my family. And when the day comes that I don’t bring money in, and I’m—let’s say “fired,” so to speak, it’s going to be a hard thing to take. I only hope I’m large enough—a large enough person—inside—to be able to accept it.
I do know that nobody else is going to believe that you’re good if you don’t believe it. If I can’t believe I’m a good actress, how can I ever sell me? You can’t sell toothpaste unless you really believe in the toothpaste. It’s funny. You can’t sell it believably. If you don’t believe in yourself, and have confidence in you, you’re not going to make anyone else have confidence in you. And that is the basis of this business; this business is selling the talent you have, the face you have if you’re modeling, or the figure if you’re doing fashions. It’s selling yourself. And you must have confidence in that person.
Divorce and children
You know, if I were unhappy, I would certainly get a divorce. I’m not saying I’ll never be divorced, because I can’t say it. I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. I don’t know how I’m going to change, or Bobby, or the whole world. I can never say this. Of course, divorce is very hard on children. But it’s worse to live in a house of discontent, of fighting, of quarrels and of bickering, yes. So you get a divorce, and you think it’s better for the baby.
Take Lana Turner. I know her well; I’ve worked on two pictures with her, and I’ve had a ball with her. I absolutely worship this woman as an idol of mine. She has been since the time I saw “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” and when I worked with her I was tongue-tied the first day. She loves her daughter Cheryl like anyone else in this world loves their children. The kid had a beautiful mother; she had to grow up with it. Unfortunately, the mother had one divorce, then two. The first is the hardest; it’s not her fault. The first is the hardest and unfortunately it’s very hard in this business, because they make a big to-do about it. Do you know how many fathers this little girl’s had? Through no one’s fault.
I’m from a broken home myself. It was much better for me, because I can remember quarrels. Fortunately, I had a wonderful mother, and she married a wonderful man. He was beautiful to me; he is my father. I don’t even know my real father. actually. My stepfather died. My mother has never remarried. I was fortunate in that respect, that I only had one father whom I really remembered; and I was very young. But this kid’s had five, and it’s pretty hard. And especially the way the whole thing came out, with Cheryl and the accident that happened. I hope my son would do it for me; if someone was hurting me, I hope he’d stick up for me, as this kid did.
I must say, I’m so proud of him, my son. When I’m on a picture, I bring him to the studio; that I have to do during the day, because it’s impossible—I can’t go twelve hours without seeing him. When I’m on tour like this. I see him in and out, like no w. I’ve only been gone since 11 this morning and he was with me. I had such an easy time carrying him. And I was such a happy person then. I was with Bobby all the time, and I knew my baby was going to be born soon. It was lovely. It was easy carrying him, and it’s lovely now.
I have everything I love: my career—I do love it. I do love my husband more, and then I love my son.
Sandra and Bobby appear together in U-I’s “If A Man Answers.” Sandra’s next will be “Tammy and the Doctor,” for U-I. You can hear the writer, Fred Robbins, with the stars on “Assignment Hollywood.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1963