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Together Again—Shelley Winters & Vittorio Gassman

It was late the night of May 13 when visitors to the Los Angeles airport saw a volatile blonde, bubbling over with happiness, shouting, “Where is the man who looks like the father of my child?”

For Shelley Winters, The Big Moment had come. At long last her husband Vittorio was coming home to her and to their tiny daughter Vittoria Gina, whom he had never seen.

Vittorio’s return—he was in Italy when his daughter was born—had been many times delayed. At first he had planned on flying home to be there at the birth of the baby. The journey was postponed; twice thereafter reservations were secured and then canceled. And each time Shelley grew more impatient for Vittorio’s return. She was not upset by the whispers in Hollywood that Vittorio wasn’t ever coming back.

She was home alone one evening when the jangling of the phone startled her; she reached for it absently. There was no hurry, there was still plenty of time. Only there wasn’t—it was a telegram. Vittorio had arrived in New York, would be in Los Angeles at 8:00 P.M., instead of 11:00 P.M.

Shelley carefully donned a new blue linen with pearl and rhinestone trim, a Howard Greer original, combed her hair, and carefully lipsticked her mouth. She was surprised to note that her lips trembled, but was sure she was completely calm when she headed for the airport.

Then at last she was tumbling out of the ear, dashing through the waiting room. The plane was in, people were milling about, someone, “tall and dark and handsome,” was waving wildly . . .

The hair she had so carefully combed was tousled now, and most of the lipstick was on Vittorio’s face. Shelley wiped at it energetically, conscious of photographers and reporters. She and Vittorio both still find such a reception embarrassing—all the more now, with this feeling of strangeness suddenly upon them. Shelley mopped at his face again—“I wanted him to look his best for his first pictures,” she explained—and he caught at her hand. Their eyes met—and they knew it was all right. Time and distance were erased. The separation had never been.

“People act as if we wanted to be separated,” Shelley exclaims indignantly, “but this was a very important time for Vittorio. He gets financial support from the government for his repertory company, and he would never have gotten it again if he had walked out on them. And see how things have worked out—if I had not listened to my doctor, had insisted on going to Italy, I might have lost my baby. She was two months premature as it was, and the winters in Italy are very cold, they don’t have the facilities—”

One thing Shelley was determined on, during all the weeks of waiting, and that was a second honeymoon. She hadn’t had a first—married in Juarez, Mexico, they had had to leave almost immediately for New York, where Vittorio made his first American picture, “The Glass Wall.” Now, he had been gone so long, there had been so many delays, the latest caused by the fact that when at last his theatre closed, M-G-M sent him all over Europe for location scenes for “Rhapsody.” And now, too soon, he would have to report to the studio.

Time was her enemy, Shelley thought. There would be little enough at best. This went through her mind that night as she beamed at the newsmen, the cameras, and clung to her husband’s arm. She looked soft and dreamy-eyed, like a girl in love, which was exactly what she was. There was so much to talk about—if only she could get him away!

But once more, Shelley was doomed to disappointment. After one night at home, they did get away, to Laguna, where they planned a lazy time on the beach. But after their first dinner there Shelley noticed with alarm Vittorio’s flushed cheeks, and insisted on taking his temperature. It was 101°. “Okay,” she said quietly, “home we go.”

At least they could pretend to be away, ignore the telephone, forget the persistent questioning of the press. But some questions must still have rung in their ears: How does it seem to be together again? What are your plans? How long will Vittorio stay this time? What will happen when he has to go back to Italy? Do you really think you can make your six-months-here, six-months-there plan work? And back of them all, the important question: Can this marriage possibly last?

“Of course our marriage has greater hurdles to get over than the ordinary ones,” Shelley says earnestly, but with a sparkle in her eye and a lilt to her voice, “but to me, those very hurdles, the differences between Vittorio and me, make our marriage more interesting! Nothing could be more romantic than the way we fell in love, but the important thing is that we approached our marriage in an adult way, did not let ourselves be carried away by the romantic aspects.”

The baby, whose hold on life was so precarious at first, is healthy and adorable. She looks perhaps more like her daddy than her mother, with what Shelley calls “slanty” eyes and dark hair. Ordinarily a rather solemn baby, she gave her parents a thrill when she first saw her daddy and after regarding him seriously a moment, broke into a wide grin—“just like on cue,” Shelley laughs.

To the accusation that Vittorio made use of her to get to Hollywood, she gives a straightforward answer. “People have it in reverse,” she says. “He did not want to come to Hollywood at all, but he wanted to see me, and I was here! He did not at first even want a Hollywood contract, but his very reluctance won him one he couldn’t refuse.

“As for money, I have been living on his, not he on mine. After all, I haven’t been working for a year! Money isn’t too important to either of us,” she says.

“Naturally, we don’t agree on everything —we wouldn’t be quite human, would we, if we did? But you’d probably be surprised how much we do agree, on all important things.”

Readily admitting to being jealous at times, she goes on to say, “Not of the people he works with, but of gals at parties sometimes—the ones who pay too much attention to him. Vittorio gets jealous, too—but not of Farley. He likes Farley.”

The question of Farley came up because just before Vittorio came home, Shelley went out night-clubbing with her former boy-friend. With her usual directness, Shelley explains that it had been a long time since she had been anywhere, she was bored, and she was bitterly disappointed because Vittorio had been delayed once more. “But Vittorio knew about it—he was in Paris, and I talked to him that day. In fact he suggested that I go ahead.”

That there will be more problems, no one, least of all Shelley, will deny. But she says quietly, “We are adult—and any marriage requires compromise. I believe it is the woman who should give in—that is part of her duty as a wife.”

That is the Shelley no one knows. The Shelley who runs when her baby whimpers in the next room, who worries because her husband has lost thirty pounds, whose face lights up so beautifully when she says “Vittorio” or “Vittoria.”

“Maybe,” she says softly, “people will understand that we try to solve our problems intelligently, that our marriage is more important to us than anything else—maybe they’ll understand that we’ve got a few hurdles to get over, but we’ll get over them all right because we are two people in love—so very much in love!”

One thing’s for sure, Shelley Winters—Mrs. Vittorio Gassman—means this with all her heart. 





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