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Two On A Marry-Go-Round—Russ Tamblyn & Venetia Stevenson

“I, Russell, take thee, Venetia, to be my wedded wife . . .”

Throughout the months of their engagement, Russ Tamblyn had looked forward to meeting Venetia Stevenson at the altar and speaking those most treasured words. Together, they had dreamed of how they wished to make their wedding beautiful, solemn and “serene.

“We thought we had everything worked out,” Russ ‘said as he and Venetia, husband and wife at last, sat in their honeymoon suite at New York’s Hotel Plaza. “But as it turned out . . .” 

The hectic wedding scene in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”—in which Russ played the lively youngest brother—was quiet in comparison with their real life experience, he intimated. “In the picture, they had only one chase. Venetia and I found ourselves involved in three.”

Shy and lovely Venetia’s gentle manner presents a direct contrast to Russ Tamblyn’s high-charged intensity. She smiled as she made a slight amendment to his statement. “It wasn’t that crazy, really. But the things which happened were rather unexpected, and we had wanted it to be just perfect. We were trying to be dignified and—well, older.”

Acting “older” had been their main objective ever since last summer when their engagement was announced and there was much frank comment about their extreme youth. People had wondered whether the two weren’t much too young to marry.

Russ, who was often called “perpetual motion personified” wouldn’t turn twenty-one until December 30, 1955. His boundless enthusiasm for everything from hot rods to catsup sundaes had made good copy for the columnists and had also caused people to lose sight of his very real accomplishments in a great number of pictures. He had become virtually a prototype of the effervescent adolescent.

Venetia, who looks delicate enough to blow away in a breath of perfumed air, seemed even more the child. She had to wait until March 10 of this year to celebrate her eighteenth birthday.

Cheerfully acknowledging that their extreme youth was their most oppressive problem, the two lovebirds had set out to convince their families and friends that they really were more responsible than they looked. Show business, they insisted, had given them a maturity beyond their years.

Russ had given his first impromptu theatre performance at the age of six. He inherited his talent and his love of the entertainment world from his parents, Edward and Sally Tamblyn, who were a vaudeville team before they settled down to give their three sons a secure and happy home in North Hollywood.

Venetia’s parents, too, had trod the boards, first in England and then in the United States. Her mother is actress Anna Lee and her father, Robert Stevenson, is a motion picture and television director. They separated when Venetia was eight and each has since remarried.

Venetia, who has been a photographic and fashion model since childhood, won her first argument for independence at fifteen. She then convinced her father and mother that she was mature enough to have her own apartment. She chose one conveniently close to both her high school and the studios where she worked.

When Russ and Venetia fell in love, they carefully marshalled the arguments which might win their parents’ approval for an early marriage.

Russ took the lead by stating he was ready to take on a husband’s responsibility. He could finance a home, he pointed out. On his twenty-first birthday, he would be entitled to claim a nest egg of $19,000 in bonds which had been set aside from his earlier motion picture earnings. His career, too, was going fine. As soon as one picture was finished, M-G-M was casting him in a better role in another. As a final clincher, he cited the fact that he already had shown an interest in having a place of his own. He had taken and decorated an apartment near his studio. “And I’m already a do-it-yourself fan,” he had added. “I like to build my own furniture.”

Venetia, too, had emphasized her domestic accomplishments. “I think a girl who has been on her own, who has had her own apartment comes to marriage better equipped,” she had said. “I like modeling, but I’m not fired by ambition. I want a home of my own, a husband and a family. I think that’s the best thing a girl can hope for.”

Both had wanted people to know they understood the sanctity of marriage. Venetia had said, “I want a real wedding, one we’ll remember forever, not a slapdash elopement to Las Vegas.”

Each marriage plan they made was aimed toward having a traditional, dignified wedding. They wanted to stay clear of the commotion which so often attends show-business marriages. In the end, however, Russ and Venetia found their show-business training became their greatest personal resource, a resource on which they drew to take difficulties in their stride and carry out their plans despite all problems.

Their way had seemed clear enough at first. Having won their parents’ approval, they selected Valentine’s Day, February 14, as their wedding date. It fit both their romantic feeling and Russ’s work schedule. At M-G-M, he was told that he would finish “The Fastest Gun Alive” in plenty of time for comfortable marriage preparations.

But then things began to happen.

Russ ticked off the obstacles. “First it was the floods. They held up shooting, so Venetia and I agreed to a postponement. Then we made up some lost time. so we went back to our original date. Another delay came and we called off our own plans. Honestly,” Russ laughed, “that wedding of ours was on and off so many times that I told Venetia it was beginning to look like a publicity stunt.”

Many a bride-to-be of more than Venetia’s tender seventeen years might well have flown into fidgets and hysterics. Instead, the little blond beauty proved that she, too, was a trouper. In such spare time as she and Russ could manage to spend together, they found an apartment. They also designed the gowns she and her bridesmaid were to wear. When the delays came, she regretfully but calmly instructed the dressmaker there was no need to hurry. She also solidified some career plans of her own and, during the first week in February, signed a contract with RKO.

The days were running out when suddenly their luck changed. On the Friday before Valentine’s Day, a Tuesday, Russ learned that the shooting of “The Fastest Gun Alive” would wind up in time for them to marry.

“Right away I phoned Venetia,” Russ says. “I told her to be ready. We had only a few remaining hours in which to get our license. I picked her up at her father’s, and away we went, racing for the courthouse.”

Venetia took up the story. “Then suddenly I remembered. table the paper my father had prepared, testifying to his consent. So I shrieked and Russ turned the car around, right in the middle of traffic.”

Her stepmother rescued them. Just as they turned into the family’s street, they saw her car speeding toward them. “Neither of us came to a complete stop,” Russ says. “It looked like a scene from a Western. We passed that paper between the two cars as though it were the mail pouch carried by the riders of the Pony Express. Venetia and I got into the marriage license office with just minutes to spare before their closing.”

Into the next few days they crammed all the once-careful arrangements which had been made and unmade so many times. They notified the minister and reserved the church. They invited their friends. The gowns were rushed to completion and, on the evening before the wedding, they transferred their personal belongings from their two old apartments to their new apartment. They were at Venetia’s place, picking up the last box of records, when the phone rang.

“It was my folks,” says Russ. “They were calling from the hospital. My kid brother had been shot in the eye with a BB gun—a gun I had persuaded the folks to let him have.”

Frantic, Russ and Venetia took off for the hospital. There is a close bond of affection between the three Tamblyn brothers, and Russ was sick with worry. “It looked awful at first. Fortunately, however, the doctors soon found that the pellet had just glanced off. It was a painful, awful mess, but his eye will be all right.”

Having spent a large part of the night at the hospital, it was no wonder Russ was far from being at his best when he went to pick up the wedding flowers the next morning. Venetia’s bouquet, her bridesmaid’s bouquet, and their mothers’ corsages were ready. “But the florist must have thought I was an awful dope. When he said, ‘That will be one-fifty,’ I pulled out a dollar and a half. He informed me he meant one hundred and fifty. I had only forty dollars on me. I had the needed money, but it sure was hard to take time to go get it.”

Breathless, as if he had just completed a dance on film, Russ finally arrived at the Wayfarers’ Chapel at Palos Verdes. Their families and a group of forty close friends were present. Fred Fraley and Robert Six were the ushers. Loren Kopp was Russ’s best man.

Through one of those miracles made for young lovers, flustered Russ suddenly was calm. “It’s a beautiful chapel,” he says, “all glass. Frank Lloyd Wright designed it, and you feel good as soon as you walk in.

Venetia’s maid of honor was Marlene Pomerantz, and when Venetia entered on the arm of her father, she was serene and lovely in her gown of pale blue peau de soie. It was ballerina length, with a full skirt and a short bolero. Her finger-tip length veil floated from her chignon cap. The Rev. Mr. Kenneth Knox pronounced them man and wife.

At the wedding reception at the Stevenson home, there was wedding cake and champagne toasts and all the happy excitement of good friends to congratulate them. “We thought sure we were ready to start living happily ever after,” Russ says. “But—”

They were headed for the bridal suite which M-G-M’s Dore Schary had engaged for them at the Bel Air hotel when Russ suddenly groaned, “Oh, my overcoat.”

The overcoat, as he well knew, was a matter of utmost importance, for young Mr. and Mrs. Tamblyn had consented to combine their honeymoon trip with a personal appearance promotion for the studio. Early the next morning they were to catch a plane for Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the premiere of Russ’s picture, “The Last Hunt.” And the temperature at Sioux Falls, they had been warned, was sixteen below.

The recollection of the ensuing hours is still painful to Russ. “It was like a bad dream,” Venetia explains. “We had left Russ’s coat in our new apartment, had given the keys to his parents and they were away out at the hospital. The manager of the apartment house also was gone and there we were, in our wedding clothes, locked out. Finally, we hunted up a tiny little key place and the man came over and let us in. It wasn’t quite the romantic situation one would choose on one’s wedding night.”

After such a hectic day, the personal appearance trip seemed almost an anti-climax. Russ and Venetia basked in the acclaim of the crowds at Sioux Falls and also in Boston. In New York, between sightseeing and theatre-going, they were full of plans for their new apartment.

“We’re starting with what we consider the bare essentials,” Venetia said. “We both wanted wall-to-wall carpeting. We chose a gray, for that will go with everything. We have a bed and the dishes and books and such things from our former apartments. And then we have Russ’s coffee table.”

Proudly she described it. “It’s a beautiful long piece of mahogany, cut in a free-form design. Russ did a wonderful job making it. We’ll suit our future furnishings to that.”

The next Tamblyn do-it-yourself project is also under way. “Russ is making me a sewing cabinet,” Venetia added.

It was Russ’s turn to point with pride. “Venetia sews beautifully. She makes many of her dresses, and she is going to make all our drapes and things like that.”

Young Mr. and Mrs. Tamblyn happily show every sign that they are going to enjoy being domestic. They also say that for all its hectic turmoil, they found in their wedding day that one moment of exquisite beauty which they will remember forever.

“The day had started out dark and cloudy,” Russ relates. “I was particularly conscious of the weather, for when you are in what we call ‘the glass church,’ it is almost like being outdoors. Then, just as Venetia reached the altar, the sun broke through the clouds and the shaft of light touched her. It seemed almost as though it began shining just for us.”





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