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Trouble On Cloud

Barbara Rush was on the other end of the telephone saying, “There isn’t a word of truth in it, Sheilah, but come on over and Jeff and I will talk to you about it.”

Fifteen minutes later, watching these two serious youngsters as they attempted to explain away a rumor that there was trouble in their marriage, I was struck by the fact that no matter what happened in the future, here were two people earnestly trying to stay married to each other. Barbara and Jeff had married for love and they were hanging on for dear life to that love.

These two have everything that it takes to make their marriage work. They are mad about each other, love their little boy Christopher. Day by day they are attempting to finish furnishing their home. Both have wonderful careers—and along with these careers come the same problems confronting most young marrieds who are struggling to work and raise a family. In common, too, with the rest of us, they have the same shortcomings.

“Of course, we have arguments,” admitted Jeff.

“We’re normal people,” said Barbara, determinedly.

“And all this is a bit frightening,’ Barbara continued, her big brown eyes wide open. “We can’t let ourselves down—and sometimes it seems that no matter what we do we have the added responsibility of not letting anyone else who believes in us down. Not just our family and our friends—but total strangers, too!”

“Tell Sheilah about the letter you received,” Jeff urged her.

“I had a letter from a woman who said she was glad to read we were so happily married,” Barbara continued. “She hoped it was true, and from now on, she’d be watching us like a hawk. That’s the part that’s so scarey to Jeff and me.

“With everyone watching you, you smile outwardly when maybe you don’t feel like it and that makes your behavior in public kind of unreal. And Jeff and I have to be careful that at home we don’t carry on the same way and make our marriage equally unreal.”

Jeff nodded solemnly.

“We believe in talking things out, in not hiding things from each other—and that includes our anger as well as words of affection. In Hollywood, one cross word, one angry gesture of husband toward wife or wife toward husband and the whole town has you seeing the family lawyer. It’s just plain crazy!”

Jeff’s right, it is just plain crazy. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. In the same way as there’s no such monster as a perfect human being. But there is such a thing as a satisfying, wonderful marriage relationship. And Barbara and Jeff are among those movie couples who achieve a happy marriage under some of the most difficult conditions two people ever had to cope with. Barbara and Jeff are among my neighbors and my friends, the stars I talk with on the set and in their homes, who are, oh, so bewildered on how to cope with the idealization of the perfect marriage which is built up in so many minds.

Jeff just about broke his heart when the picture he was making in England ran into bad weather and he couldn’t be with Barbara during the first months of their son’s infancy. Barbara, alone in Hollywood, hated it and there were plenty of people around to point out to her that it wasn’t “right” for her husband not to be at her side. But Barbara is a woman of emotional fortitude and she understood. There was a time when Jeff’s career was forging ahead and Barbara was awaiting her break.

Just prior to this, however, Jeff didn’t make a picture for several months and there was tension at home. This is the same sort of tension any family is under when the head of the household doesn’t work. And these two are the first to admit they are human beings first and movie stars next. Now that Barbara has had her break in “Magnificent Obsession” and been assigned to “Captain Lightfoot,” being made in Ireland, it is Jeff who is cheering her on, supervising the household while Barbara has her turn at stardom. Through it all, no two people are fighting harder for a perfect marriage.

I must confess I was shocked almost out of my skin when June Allyson and Dick Powell had a spat recently in public—The Captain’s Table—a restaurant of all places. But that’s because I forgot for a few moments that Dick and June are human beings like the rest of us. But June reminded me.

“I had just arrived back in town from location in Florida,” she explained the next day. “I was terribly tired. But I asked Richard to take me out to dinner. He was tired too. He’d been working for weeks preparing a picture, and you know how tough that can be. So we go to dinner, and of all things, we start to argue about where we shall send Pammy (their six-year-old daughter) to school. It’s the first time we’ve had an argument in the nine years we’ve been married, and I have to have it at The Captain’s Table! Anyway, I rushed out to the car, then I went back, but Richard was so mad, he rushed out. Then I rushed out. Thank goodness we both have a sense of humor and we started to laugh. But from now on, I do my arguing at home.”

The happy marriage of Dick and June has always pleased me, because I sat in on a conversation at Metro when June was dating Dick, many years her senior, and I listened while a big shot assured her the marriage couldn’t possibly succeed. He pointed to the difference in their ages, and the bigger difference in their temperaments. He was right. They are different. To me, Dick resembles a colossal Great Dane, with June a frisky little puppy. But Dick is a patient guy. And he waited patiently for June to grow up. And she did, the day in the hospital, when the doctor told her that Dick was dying. She didn’t leave his bedside, just sat there hour after hour, praying him into recovery. These are the things you don’t forget in marriage. And a flaring of tempers, either at home or in public, is just a ripple in a placid pond. (By the way, they still haven’t decided on a school for Pammy!)

Janet Leigh had been married twice when she met Tony Curtis, who was real scared of women. Tony was raised in a tough part of the Bronx, and he was shy in the presence of movie actresses. Shy? He was terrified. And thrilled when Janet fell for him. It’s been one of those unexplainable things that while Janet and Tony have been writing about their perfect marriage for the magazines some of their best “friends” have worked overtime, trying to sabotage the most attractive romance in Hollywood. Talk of Janet’s being flirtatious—it’s true, but not the way it is interpreted by some people! This was the way she was when Tony married her, and he wouldn’t have her squelch her naturally high spirits for any gossip in the world.

No two people are more in love than Tony and Janet. He wasn’t important as a star when they married. But Tony has managed to reach her rung of the ladder without putting their marriage on a precarious footing. They even like working together. But Janet and Tony are as different as ham and eggs, which also go together. And their happiness isn’t a haphazard affair. They work at it.

I was at the party Universal gave for Janet and Donald O’Connor after they completed “Walking My Baby Back Home.” And Tony, wanting to take his baby back home, came on the sound stage where the party was going great guns, about two hours after it started. “Jan,” he whispered. “I called the house and dinner is ready. The maid is waiting.” “I can’t leave now,” she hushed him, “this party is for me. You go on and I’ll come home when I can.” Tony cased the merrymakers, then looked seriously at his wife. “All right,” he said, “but promise me you’ll drive very carefully.” Janet laughed aloud and said, “I promise I’ll drive carefully (then added with a serious face) but on the wrong side of the road.” This time Tony laughed. Which was exactly the right thing to do. Janet left as soon as she decently could—to join Tony at home.

Janet is a sharp girl. She’s the Joan Crawford of this generation—very co-operative. Loves to dress up and go to parties. She has a soft exterior and a whim of iron. Tony lives by his heart. Whatever Janet wants, he wants. She wanted to dance with a broken ankle, so they danced. But it takes two to tango. And two to make a happy couple. Janet does her share.

She’s obsessed with the idea—erroneous, but wifely nonetheless—that Tony is delicate and underweight. She has long confabs with his mother, whom she adores, and the two ladies concoct fattening foods for the man they love. And when he’s working in a picture, the most exciting party isn’t exciting enough to lure the Curtises from early to bed. This, my friends, makes a marriage healthy, wealthy and wonderful.

And you can say it again for Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger. When Stewart is making a picture, even if the Queen of England were to call them for a date, I’m sure Jean would reply, “I’m sorry, Jimmy (his real name) has to relax so he’ll look nice in the morning for the camera. And he’s going to bed instead of going out.”

At the beginning of this marriage I wouldn’t have given any odds for its lasting. Jean was miserable. She wasn’t working and she couldn’t adjust to the California climate. This latter sounds impossible, but it happens. Stewart always seemed to be bawling Jean out. But I understand him better now. And I should have known better. It’s sometimes the habit of English people to pretend to insult those they love. Now when he calls his charming wife an old bag, and she calls him something stronger in return, I know they’re not fighting, they’re just prefacing some conversation.

Jean can’t boil water. But hubby is a good cook. At first he would chide her. Now, on cook’s night out, Stewart takes over in the kitchen. At the beginning of their marriage, he expected perfection from Jean. He realizes now she’s perfect for him. He didn’t even wince when an undiplomatic autograph hound took Jean’s signature, then turned to Stewart and demanded, “Who are you?” “I’m Jean Simmons’ husband,” he replied gravely. And that’s how he signed his name. But if there were any doubt about the solidity of this marriage, it was erased, from my mind anyway, when Jean lost her great sense of humor and almost her mind when she couldn’t join her husband in England while he was making “Beau Brummell” over there. Her tangled movie situation with Howard Hughes kept her home. I’ve never seen a girl miss her man so much—even after the story was printed that he wasn’t missing her, but having a ball with Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Wilding, who by the way seem to have solved the riddle to happy marriage in Hollywood by staying home with books and music, appearing in public only when they absolutely must.

The fightingest-married female in town is Lita Baron, married to handsome Rory Calhoun. Lita has a Latin temperament. And she gets mad at Rory because he won’t get mad.

When Rory went to Canada on location with Marilyn Monroe, Lita packed her bag and joined him there. It wasn’t that she mistrusted Monroe. Besides Joe DiMaggio was there. She just believes in being with her husband. And Rory was delighted to see her. He adores this bundle of temperament. And he knows he isn’t a saint to live with. Rory’s bad habit is forgetfulness. He can make a date at nine a.m. for twelve noon, and unless you call him at 11:30, he’s just as likely to go somewhere else. But he’s striving to cure the annoying (especially to Lita) blackouts with scribbled messages to himself at strategic points in the house.

And Lita, an indoor girl from ’way back in Mexico—or is it Spain?—has learned to hunt, shoot and fish because these are Rory’s sports. And he’s very wisely interested in her career. When Lita opened at the Mocambo in a dance act with Billy Daniel, Rory packed the place with his pals. And during her engagement at the Maisonette Room in New York, Rory was on hand, leading the applause. It’s these little mutual considerations and kindnesses that make a marriage last longer.

The Van Johnsons fight at the drop of an adjective. But this is the way they get the petty irritations out of their system. And brother, how this Eve protects her Adam. She won’t let anyone rib him. On the first day of “The Caine Mutiny,” Humphrey Bogart kidded Van with, “What’s all this so and so about you liking the Navy.” Van wilted. But Evie flew at Bogey like a tigress with a cub in danger.

They have an arrangement about parties. Van goes home early. Evie stays to the end and gets a ride home. I remember when Van took fright at the Screen Writers Dinner where he was to entertain. He saw all the important faces and he couldn’t go through with it. Evie quietly steered him through the crowds, got his car, sent him home, then she came back to explain—and went home by cab to comfort him. That’s what I call working at marriage.

To go back to Mr. Bogart, the only serious disagreement with his wife Lauren Bacall in their nine years of marriage was when she was for Adlai Stevenson and he supported Eisenhower. But Bogey didn’t hold out long. He switched in mid-election to Adlai, proving once again that the woman he marries wears the pants. He’s been married four times, but the last time took. Bogey called his previous wife, Mayo Methot, “Sluggy,” because they were always slugging. But Bacall has a better system. He calls her baby. But that’s how she treats him—like a baby. When he’s naughty, a la that panda incident, she scolds him. She doesn’t drink herself, in the way we talk about drinking. And she’s realistic about her man. You see him very often at night clubs and cocktail parties without her. Just as long as Bogey comes home, that’s all that counts with Miss Bacall.

And mostly he tries to please her. She wanted the big house in Holmby Hills. So he shelled out more than $200,000 for the beautiful mansion. But she gave up her acting ambitions to be a better wife and mother of his two children. Nowadays, she’ll do a movie occasionally, but only when it doesn’t interfere with traveling to Europe when Bogey has to make a picture there.

There are nonstop rumors about Linda Christian and Tyrone Power. But the marriage goes marching on. Perhaps because they are so considerate of each other. For instance, when Ty is on tour and Linda promises to call him, she does, come hell and high water. Once she was in the middle of a panel show on TV, and she remembered that Ty, in Florida with “John Brown’s Body,” was waiting for her call. This was one time Ty had to wait. But she put her call through during the commercial!

There are a lot of happy couples in Hollywood who don’t seem to be working at being happy, it comes so naturally. And I do mean the Alan Ladds and the Jimmy Stewarts. No one could be more right for Jimmy than sweet-tempered, calm Gloria. But nothing happens by itself. Especially a wonderful marriage. Sue Ladd is Alan’s right and left arm. She was a professional. And she understands everything that keeps an actor in the top flight of popularity. Sue is more than a good wife and a good mother. She’s a genius. And she can cook too!

If Jeanne Crain and Paul Brinkman ever fight, which I doubt, no one would ever know. She’s so poised, so controlled. He’s always smiling, always ready to escort Jeanne to the parties and premieres they both love. So you see, marriages are made in Hollywood as well as Heaven.




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