Tony Custis Takes An 18-Year Old Bride
Tony Curtis sat on the edge of the bed, waiting. In five minutes he would marry a girl twenty years his junior. Gossips had had a field-day with their romance, had even implied that she didn’t really love him. One thing he had learned from life was patience, and he was glad he had waited until Christine was sure. Now the time was right, their time to be man and wife. Faintly he could hear the chatter of the girls in another room down the lush corridor of the swank Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. He imagined he could hear one particular voice over the rest. He smiled to himself, got up and walked over to the mirror. He stared quietly at the reflected image. Carefully he regarded the man who stared back. The man wore a black suit, a white shirt and a large white carnation. But it was the face and the eyes that demanded most of his attention. He was almost thirty-eight, but except for the iron gray at the temples, he could have been taken for five years younger. His eyes, a deep but brilliant blue, revealed an expression of a man who had learned to suffer through gossip and live with it, had learned that two people in love had to choose their own way, no matter how it seemed to others. A friend, well-dressed and beaming with happiness, came in and slapped Tony on the shoulder. “That guy staring back at you looks like a man who might be reconsidering an important decision. In five minutes you’ll be a married man, a husband, a breadwinner. Too late now, Tony,” the friend quipped. Tony laughed. “Not me,” he said. “I’m the eager bridegroom and you may quote me.” He looked at the ceiling absently as his friend checked the knot of his tie, the position of the carnation, the roll of his coat lapel.
“Tony, you really look like a bridegroom. You’re ready, all right.”
“I’ve been ready for months,” Tony said. Another friend walked into the room to announce that it was almost 6 P.M., the time for the ceremony. It was 5:57 P.M. February 8, 1963. In three minutes Tony Curtis, one of the ten most popular movie stars in the world, would be a husband for the second time in his life.
Down the corridor a milk-skinned girl of eighteen chattered with her matrons of honor. Only a fine ear could detect the German accent in her English words. Suddenly Christine Kaufmann stopped talking.
She fussed silently with the stray strands that came away from the pouf of hair encircling the crown of her head. Then she carefully examined the bangs that covered her forehead, parting them first at one side and then the other.
“I think I’ll just let it hang naturally,” she said, finally, with a sigh.
She fluffed the bangs again, stood back from the mirror and smoothed her skirt down over her hips. Then she turned to her matrons of honor and said, “All right, I’m ready.”
In the other room Tony’s nerves had started to work on him. Restlessly he balanced first on one leg, then the other.
“Is it time?” he asked of Kirk Douglas, the best man.
“No, no. We’ll tell you. As soon as Chri—”
One of the men in the wedding party stuck his head through the doorway. “Okay, Tony, let’s go.”
Kirk took one last look at Tony’s clothes, opened the door wide, bowed slightly and said, “You’re on, Tony.”
Tony walked down the short hallway. He was calm now. He entered the large living room of the Royal Suite and took his place with Kirk beside Superior Court Judge George Marshall, who performed the ceremony.
A few seconds later, preceded by the Matron of Honor, Mrs. Kirk Douglas, Christine quietly walked in. As she came before the Judge, she smiled at him and then, still smiling, turned to Tony. He stepped to her side. In the simple words of a civil pronouncement, the Judge made them husband and wife.
When it was over there was one almost imperceptible instant of silence as Christine gazed tenderly at the wide gold wedding ring Tony had slipped on her finger. Then she looked up at Tony. They kissed and Tony’s love for her was in his lips and in his arms.
As we observed the new Mr. and Mrs. Tony Curtis it was difficult for us not to think of Janet. None of the guests had spoken her name, and if any memory of Janet crossed their minds, they did not mention it. But it is hard to believe that Tony’s friends could have resisted a few thoughtful comparisons.
You can compare Christine to Janet, but there is really only one quality which the ex-wife and the new wife have in common. They are both beautiful women.
Understanding Christine is not easy. She is almost devoutly European, but because of her start as an actress at the age of four and the long years of mingling with many nationalities in making movies, Christine, on the surface at least, has reflected little of the rigid Germanic points of view in her philosophies.
She is warm with her friends yet cool to strangers. When she is introduced to someone new, you can see in her eyes the speed and efficiency with which she asseses an individual. Her opinions of others are not irrevocable, but they are made quickly and not easily revised.
Her love for her mother, for example, according to one member of the wedding party, “is pure devotion.” It was this relationship, incidentally, that figured prominently in her yearlong courtship with Tony, but it figured not at all the way the public was led to believe.
During the romance, rumors of Tony’s disagreements with his future mother-in-law were roundly discussed among his friends. The assumption, however, that the disagreements concerned Mrs. Kaufmann’s objections to the match were quite erroneous. It was very much the other way around. Mrs. Kaufmann was all for the marriage.
The problem was Tony’s hesitancy in naming the date. He wanted to wait until Christine was as much in love as he was. He refused to rush her. Mrs. Kaufmann’s concern was based on her European point of view, which was in several respects stricter than the American attitude.
Christine was seventeen when Tony fell in love with her. In the eyes of European parents and European law, she was still a child. German law is so strict on this score that it permits parents to confiscate fifty percent of a daughter’s income until she is eighteen. And German parents who allow an underage daughter to be alone in the company of a man, let alone an older divorced man, are very likely to suffer social censure.
To add to the delicacy of the predicament, it was fairly well known that Tony and Christine, although sharing completely separated apartments, did live in the same building. This arrangement, regardless of its innocence, was just not in accordance with German old-country standards. Of course, it is only the most liberal of American families who don’t also share this Standard.
But Christine was in the U.S. and she cherished the most tolerant American view. In addition, it guaranteed the maturity Christine yearned for, both for her own sake and for Tony’s.
And Tony wanted no part of a marriage-in-haste with repentance-at-leisure. He had been “emotionally shaken” by Janet’s request for a divorce and had hoped until the last moment in court that she would change her mind. Some of his friends say “the shock is still in him.”
When Tony was again a free man and fell in love for the second time, he wanted time to think, to examine his motives, to know Christine, to consider every aspect of a second marriage and most of all to be positively certain that his intense love for Christine was not based on the violent rebound of his divorce.
Tony denies it, but those close to him say that during the romance he was aggravated when Christine, in discussing her romance with Curtis, would not let interviewers talk her into admitting love for him—though she would speak of marriage.
Love and marriage
“You see,” explains a Curtis buddy, “it is quite common in Europe for a young girl to marry without being in love with the bridegroom. Parents understand this and assume that the daughter will learn of love and the meaning of love from the man. Tony, being one-hundred-percent American male, did not want Christine in a situation that might have turned into a terrible trap for her. There was no doubt about Tony’s feeling. He is madly in love with his new wife. But he’d have given up every soul-happy moment if he thought that Christine didn’t love him completely, with no reservations.
“You cannot imagine the tremendous pressure Tony and Christine withstood from the outside and from within themselves. Tell you one thing. No two people ever tried to be more certain of their love for each other than these two.”
The friend’s insight proved remarkably accurate almost the instant the wedding was over. Tony, customarily a nervously tensed man, seemed to melt after kissing Christine. It seemed that not only his mind but his body was swimming in the luxury of the relief that the pressure was gone.
His smile, as he turned to look at the guests, seemed heady with the ecstacy of his triumph. He was so happy he almost cried.
Kirk Douglas kissed the bride, grabbed Tony’s hand and said, “You’ve had all the luck. Now have all the happiness.”
The phone rang. “Tony,” someone said. “Associated Press is on the phone. They want a quote.”
Tony nodded. He picked up the phone and listened for a moment.
“Yes, yes, I know it was almost a secret,” he laughed, “but you knew it was going to happen, didn’t you? I just couldn’t wait any longer, I was too much in love, and you can tell everybody I’m the happiest man in the world, I’m deliriously happy. We thought about it for a long time. I owed it to myself to be sure, but more than that I owed it to Christine.
“Yeah, how about that? Only two days for a honeymoon, I have to be back at the studio Monday . . . Sid Korshak’s yacht on Lake Meade. He’s a good friend, isn’t he, to do that, even though he is a lawyer . . . Yes, we’ll be happy . . . Thanks. We both appreciate your good wishes . . . G’by.”
The wedding party toasted the newlyweds. The women encircled Christine cooing and dabbing at their eyes, while the men shook Tony’s arm like pump handles offering congratulations.
“Thank you’s” were warm and sincere, but it was not hard to see that Christine was waiting for something very special she had to do. Finally, after she had acknowledged the good wishes of each member of the wedding, she excused herself, went into the bedroom and called her mother in Munich, Germany.
She came out in a few moments and said to Tony, “Please, dear, come and talk to Mother.” Tony rushed into the bedroom. When he came out he said to Christine, “It’s wonderful. She wants to talk to you again. I want you to tell her how happy we are.”
When Christine returned she was smiling radiantly, as happy tears rolled down her cheeks. “Oh, Tony,” she said, almost sobbing. “Mama sends her love and she is crying with joy, as I am.”
She stared at him for a moment and then, as though the familiar words were new and wonderful, she whispered softly, “I love you. I love you.” She put her arms around him and laid her head adoringly on his chest. Mrs. Tony Curtis was with the man she loved.
See Tony in “40 Pounds of Trouble,” U-I, and Christine in “The Victors,” Col. They co-star next in “Monsieur Cognac,” U-I.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MAY 1963