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Scared Of Marriage?—Rock Hudson

There is little that love-happy Hollywood follows with more fascination these days than the romantic fortunes of lanky, easy-going Rock Hudson who would, from all appearances, seem to have been waging a long and frighteningly successful battle to preserve his bachelorhood against a relentless onslaught of irresistible women.

Thus it was a matter of more than passing interest when the bushy-haired, boyish darling of Universal-International’s star roster showed up in Paris before reporting for “Captain Lightfoot” in Ireland, on a sightseeing safari with his co-star, Barbara Rush, Barbara’s husband, Jeff Hunter, and the U-I script girl assigned to “Lightfoot.”

It was the identity of this girl that gave the incident more than pedestrian significance. For she was Bud Abbott’s non-acting niece, Betty Abbott, the slender blonde who had been cornering the highly covetous Rock Hudson market until he sailed for Erin. As one wry observer of l’affaire Abbott-Hudson remarked, “If she doesn’t make it now, she never will.”

Rock, of course, returned from Europe as unattached as when he had left, and the comment about Betty’s s big chance might well prove prophetic. For since Rock’s homecoming, he has continued to date Betty, to be sure, but just as she failed to monopolize his attentions on the Continent, she has put no brand on his heart back in Hollywood.

European beauties from Ireland to Italy behaved as if it were open season on Rock, and he did nothing to discourage their charming aggressions. During a three-day London stopover en route to the Paris reunion with Betty, Rock renewed acquaintances with a lovely and composed English actress named Jill Clifford. But expected—and, in some quarters, hoped for—romantic repercussions didn’t come off. Whatever Jill’s Elizabeth Taylor-like allure, Rock managed to tear himself away.

Back in Hollywood, he provided new grist for the gossip mills by showing up at bistros like the Moulin Rouge, Ciro’s, Villanova, and the Captain’s Table with a sparkling, blue-eyed doll named Phyllis Gates. Rock didn’t have to wander far to discover Phyllis. He found her in the office of his agent, Henry Willson, where Phyllis toils as an assistant agent and secretary. Because of her work, she is in a position to understand Rock’s professional problems, and to share in, rather than compete with, the excitements of his career. She hails from a small town with largely the same midwestern background as Rock. And since these assets are wrapped up in a fetching, poised package, the area of potential would seem wide indeed.

Rock, and those in whom he confides, insists, at least at this stage, that it is nothing more than friendship with the willowy brunette, a former airline hostess with a breezy personality and a gay sense of humor, two virtues very much to Rock’s taste.

But while Phyllis has caught Rock’s eye, Betty Abbott has not gone into eclipse, total or otherwise. So the seemingly endless see-saw for Rock’s affection goes on.

But the time has come—in fact it has been long overdue—to examine the truth about Rock Hudson’s bachelorhood.

Does he start running every time he sees the marriage gleam in a girl’s eyes, or is he merely waiting to recognize that gleam in the right set of distaff peepers? Does he actually flit in and out of every amour with a sandwich sign proclaiming: “Intentions Strictly Frivolous?” Or could it be that this fundamentally uncomplicated guy has no preconceived notions whatever, frivolous or solemn, when he dates a fair young maiden? Has he really declared a moratorium on marriage, or has Marriage declared a moratorium on him?

Does he have to be brainwashed of bachelor habits before he is ready for wedding bells? Does he fear marriage as a trap that’d rob him of his freedom? Are there any remaining phases of maturing he feels he has to go through? Or is he merely waiting for—and willing to let—marriage find him?

Rock, like any other man with the wisdom to learn as he yearns, is the sum of his experiences. And his experiences with Hollywood women, at least one of whom he had sought for his bride, had caused him to reach the rather painful conclusion that for him marriage to an actress would be disastrous.

Rock may not have a long face, but he does have a long memory. His attitude toward actresses is colored by his recollection of Hollywood dolls who wouldn’t be caught dead looking at him when he was a newcomer, but who made spectacles gushing over him as soon as he made his mark as a star. It is colored also by recollections of disillusionment when in good faith he went on dates with Hollywood beauties only to discover that he had been trapped into publicity parties or other ballyhooed expeditions. And it is colored perhaps most of all by his ill-fated romance with Vera-Ellen.

For a year, he paid exclusive, warm-hearted court to Vera. Rock was about as gone as any goose gets, and although it might not have been a matter of wide public knowledge, marriage was very much on his mind. It would be difficult to pinpoint just where disintegration set in, but there was no overt break between Rock and Vera. When the romance was not resolved, as Rock devoutly wished it to be, in marriage, they began drifting apart until they didn’t see each other anymore.

While Rock seems to have survived this great disappointment of his life with no visible scars, it can scarcely be doubted that it must have left a mark on his thinking, and must have contributed to his low opinion of the capacity and willingness of actresses to adjust adequately to the demands of marriage.

Rock shapes up not so much as a man hell-bent on bachelorhood as a man hell-bent on the right kind of marriage. He kept leading with his chin, and as time went on he suffered other jolts. He became tremendously enamored of a well-known Hollywood divorcee, a few years older than he, but human nature being the sad mess it sometimes is, this woman lost Rock when she fell into the trap of her own insecurity. She made the fatal error of doubting Rock’s sincerity, and accusing him of feigning affection for her because of what she could do for him.

Bitterness did not overtake Rock. He lost none of his fundamental gentility. He did not moralize or blame people for being what they were, and what, manifestly, they could not help being. Nevertheless, the impact of these disappointments helped him to crystallize what it was that he wanted in a woman and he naturally gravitated in that direction.

The truth about Rock Hudson’s bachelorhood, in short, is that it is as vulnerable as a sitting duck in a shooting gallery. It will topple when the right girl comes along. The idea of marriage in itself holds no terrors for Rock. The thought of a bad marriage scares the daylights out of him.

Any girl who aspires to relieve Rock of his bachelor identity would first have to relieve herself of any notions of reforming him. She’d better not be possessive. Jealous females are anathema to Rock. She’d better share his enthusiasms for casual dressing and casual living. She’d better not be horrified at seeing her husband romp around the house in shorts or less. He’s not much for night-clubbing. She’d better share his love for listening to records—and music on radio, for killing an evening lounging around the house. She’d better not have any ideas of making him jettison his old friends.

Big star that Rock now is, she’d better not try to persuade him that it’s beneath his station to wash his own car. She’d better not flirt with any plans of fitting him into domestic routine. The only routine he’s willing to submit himself to is studio routine. He doesn’t want to be pinned down to hard and fast dinner hours, or to suffer any regimentation. And he’ll brook no suppression of his personality. Rock Hudson’s woman will not make the sad faux pas of jockeying him or pushing him around.

The inescapable conclusion is that the days of Rock Hudson’s bachelorhood are numbered. There is no question but that he is inexorably headed for the altar. The question is what fair damsel will take this coveted husky by the hand and lead him to the preacher.

Rock Hudson’s attitude: Let marriage find me. And it will!