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    The Dangerous Years—Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Hunter

    It was a great day when his studio announced that Jeffrey Hunter would play the lead in “Sailor of the King.” It was the chance of a lifetime, but somehow Jeff didn’t feel like cheering. The picture was to be made in England and September 5th had been set as the date of his departure. Film schedules have little respect for Stork schedules. Certainly, the baby would arrive before September, Jeff assured himself. Wouldn’t it? “Of course, it will,” Barbara kept reassuring him.

    Suddenly it was Friday, August 29th. The clock had barely finished striking noon when Barbara felt the first pains. “This is it,” she told Jeff.



    “Are you sure?” he asked anxiously.

    “Very sure,” she grinned.

    “Well, keep calm,’ babbled Jeff. “Don’t get excited. Easy does it. Calm, girl. Stay calm.”

    Barbara calmly adjourned to the bedroom, tossed one last item into her suitcase and closed the top. “Dow lift it!” shouted Jeff, as she reached for the bag. “Here I’ve got it. Let’s go!”

    Jeffrey doesn’t remember exactly how events went after that. Somehow he got Barbara to the hospital. Then he saw her again at two-fifteen. At four, the heavy labor started. Waiting, the prospective father ignored his own advice and paced the floor muttering, “How can anybody keep calm at a time like this?”



    At five-fourteen, Jeff became the father of a son, weighing six pounds, six ounces. Christopher Merrell, by name. And on the following Tuesday, Jeff proudly brought Barbara and Christopher home from the hospital. But Friday, September 5th, came too soon. He was unhappy. about the three long months that stretched ahead—the long absence from Barbara, and all he would miss in the development of little Christopher from a newborn babe to one of three months. However, both Barbara and Jeff recognized the great opportunity for Jeff. And so he left.

    With the arrival of Christopher, Jeff’s and Barbara’s happiness seemed complete. What more can a young couple want than a good marriage, a family and a future together that promises to last forever?






    The definition of “forever” is hard to pin down in the Hollywood marital dictionary. It can mean a week, a month, possibly a year or two. Too often, marriages are built on whirlwind courtships and wishful thinking. There are problems to be faced, and many times star temperaments are not equal to coping with them. There are financial worries that plague movie newcomers who try to live up to their newly-found fame, even though it wrecks their incomes. There is the one-family-two-careers jinx when the husband complains, “My wife wants a career. That’s first in her life. She doesn’t seem to have time for me.”



    And when there are two careers, there are separations caused by two sets of location trips and personal appearances. These are but a few Hollywood problems. However, these are problems that couples like Jeffrey and Barbara Hunter have faced and are facing. And these are the problems that bring the dangerous years into filmdom marriages.

    Now that they have passed the first, and supposedly the hardest, year of marriage with flying colors, Jeffrey and Barbara have no fears about their future. Their feet are firmly planted on good solid ground and they’ve sensibly kept their heads out of the clouds. “Separations?” says Jeff when the question is put to him. “Ha! That’s the story of our courtship, honeymoon and marriage!”



    “Enforced separations, that is,” Barbara adds.

    Their courtship was hectic—but necessarily so. They met when Barbara, one of the members of Paramount’s Golden Circle group, had been assigned to make a test with Jeff. Unexpectedly, she had to leave on a location trip. The introduction had been brief, but Jeff couldn’t quite forget her.

    Although he signed a Fox contract and went into “Fourteen Hours” (still another location trip), “Call Me Mister” and “Take Care of My Little Girl” in quick order although Barbara, too, was busy, they managed to get together. They dated whenever they could, and soon they began talking in a vague sort of way about weddings.






    First, Barbara was to go to Sedona, Arizona, to make “The Flaming Feather.” When she returned, they would set a definite date. Before she left, Jeff broke some news. “I’ve got a good part coming up,” he said. “Found out today.”

    “That’s wonderful. But you could look a little happier,” Barbara said.

    “We’re going to make the picture on location,” he told her. “In the Virgin Islands. I’ll be leaving about the time you get back.”

    So Barbara went to Arizona. And the Hollywood-to-Sedona phone bills began to resemble the national debt. It was then that they made up their minds. Jeff went to Boulder City, Nevada, where he looked up an Episcopalian minister he had known back east. He was ready, license in hand, when Barbara joined him.



    Returning from Boulder City after the wedding, they had two hectic weeks together before Jeff took off for the Virgin Islands. There was a lot to do . . . in those two weeks . . . consolidating their belongings, finding a house.

    Their first home was a furnished house in the Valley. But there were finances to consider, and the house was too expensive. Being sensible people, they took a furnished apartment in Hollywood, but alter a while they began to yearn to have their own things around them. Eventually, they found a charming apartment in Westwood, and happily went shopping for the Early American furniture they had decided would suit the ranch-type house they plan to buy or build someday.



    However, for now the apartment will do nicely. When Jeff and Barbara first moved in they were delighted with the fact that their new home. boasted an extra room. Jeff, a camera enthusiast, does his own developing and printing and is particularly proud of his camera portraits. He promptly moved a ton of equipment into the room and set up shop. Then Barbara came home from the doctor’s with news for her husband. “The darkroom has to go, I’m afraid,” she told him.

    “Nonsense,” said Jeff with a straight face. “The baby can sleep in the tank where I wash the prints. Plenty of room.”

    You wouldn’t know the darkroom today. It is now filled with handsome baby furniture. The particular delight of the mechanical-minded Jeff is a bathinette with a foot pedal which raises the cover.






    Before terribly long, Barbara may be going back to work. And, despite the two-career bugaboo, Jeff is more than willing. There is a contract at M-G-M in the offing, but nothing has been definitely settled. “However,” says Jeff, “there will be plenty of opportunities, when she is ready.”

    Jeff has definite ideas on his wife’s career. “I want her to do what she wants to do,” he says. “I don’t think a husband should ever say, ‘You mustn’t do this or you can’t do that.’ That isn’t my idea of marriage! A couple is made up of two individuals and I think that each should always respect the other’s individuality.”

    Jeff is out to refute the idea that marriage and career are incompatible. “Right now,” he grins, “she thinks and talks nothing but ‘baby’ and I have a hunch it will be like that for quite some time.”



    The Hunters work together. They have a tape recorder which they use to help them rehearse their roles. And they share other interests, among them, swimming and skiing, Jeff’s favorite sports. They share household tasks, friends and families. And they share their problems, too. They both find time to attend church with regularity. “We like to go to church,” Jeff explains, “because we always get so much out of it. Any trouble seems lighter, if you take it to church.”

    Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Hunter seem to have something. Something that will endure whether they’re at home together or separated by time, miles and ocean. Now what could Hollywood problems ever do to a marriage like this?

    THE END

    BY MIRIAM ROGERS

     

    It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1952



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