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Unfinished Business—Rita Hayworth & Victor Mature

To tell the honest, unadulterated truth, 40,000 people in and around Hollywood get married and 35,000 get divorced. It happens ever year like the Fourth of July—only the fireworks are more spectacular.

Now, you take Rita Hayworth and Victor Mature.

They get married and divorced, but not to and from each other. So, together they are not a statistic, and apart it doesn’t seem to make sense.

Rita is just about as wonderful a dream girl as you’ll find in a life’s living.

She could drive a man right out of his mind.

Vic is about as spectacular a guy as there is alive and kicking. He could drive a woman right out of her mind.

I think Rita and Vic have cultivated a special sort of insanity for each other, and that until this utterly unforgivable exposé by me, a depraved writer, the fact has passed almost unnoticed in the booby hatch that is Hollywood.

As for me, I’ve known them from the time they were so unknown that neither could scare up a group of autograph hounds with the aid of a brass band.

This Mature was once practically engaged to Rita Hayworth. Some people thought they were going to get married. It could have happened, but along came the war and a good many thousands of young men decided to wait and see how things played out.

It was while Mature was still a Coast Guard enlistee, waiting in Boston for a cork called the Storis to take him back and forth to a place called Murmansk and other spots nobody in their right minds would ever go, that Rita came to see him.

They said goodbye, Rita and Vic. And what they said to each other I wouldn’t be knowing. Along about this time, the same thing happened to several hundred thousand other guys and girls. Then the men shoved off, thinking war thoughts, with half their minds back home.

Of course, it had to happen. Sometimes the girls fell in love with someone else. This was temporarily rough on the guys. When the news came, they were lower than barnacles on.the bottom of a transport tub. And when the minor tragedy occurred on board the Storis, some two hundred shipmates tried to take the curse off the lad’s suffering by singing, “I wonder who’s kissing her now?”

One day came news that Rita Hayworth was about to wed Orson Welles.

Everybody but Mature took a deep breath and let go with the song. It echoed all over the North Atlantic. For seven ‘days, Mature walked the rolling decks like a blind man. Then he announced that he was a well man. And he was, except for the small furies that disappeared into his subconscious.

Later, when a city editor got him on the telephone and asked how he felt about Orson Welles marrying “his” girl, Vic snapped quite cheerfully, “Well, I guess the best way to a woman’s heart is to saw her in half.” This flippery made all the headlines. So did Rita’s marriage.

But why go into all that?

What has been happening recently is like watching two people try to live twice. It’s a good trick if you can do it. The reunion began with a telephone call, the day Rita Hayworth arrived back in Hollywood from her European trip. The time was around midnight. Vic was studying his script of Ballad of Furnace Creek.

When the phone rang, he yanked the receiver up and said, “Yeah?”

A voice replied, “This is Rita.”

And a half hour later two people were sitting in a parked convertible on the Pacific Palisades, but it wasn’t so romantic. Or was it? After all, they don’t build glove compartments in cars large enough to hold reporters.

This actress and this actor had a lot to talk about, so it was around dawn by the time he took her to her Brentwood home. Then he went back to his house which is four and eight-tenths miles away measured with a speedometer, but on the other side of the world under certain circumstances.

It’s a funny thing about Hollywood. A romance is not a romance until you take a girl out in public and expose yourselves to that flash bulb tan. I could have scooped Louella Parsons at the time, because I was having a drink with the actor when the phone rang, and Rita said she would like to be picked up from a business conference. I went along, like a fifth wheel.

As Vic eased his cream-colored convertible down Sunset Boulevard, I suggested we stop in somewhere for a cup of coffee or whatever.

Rita said, “That’s a good idea—where’ll we go?”

“Let’s go to a nice quiet place,” I said. “Let’s go to Mocambo.”

I felt that the best was none too good for these friends of mine, and besides, maybe Gus Gale and Bob Beerman would be around to take some romantic pictures. I’m scoop-happy.

Rita is a very bright girl. She said she didn’t want to go to Mocambo. So they wound up on their first date in the polo lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel. A couple of nights later, it was Ciro’s. I tried to pay close attention to them like I knew the boss editor would like me to, but I had a beautiful blonde problem of my own. (Reporters got to live, too.)

Then, all of a sudden, Rita asked me to dance. Rita’s very sweet, but she knows I dance like a tired banker. I excused myself from the celestial blonde, and was about to take Rita in my arms, when the music stopped, so I never did get to hear what she wanted to say.

I didn’t have to hear. I got the general idea.

Vic was giving her several brands of merry old hell in a quiet sort of way. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought he was being a sadistic so-and-so. Anyway, Rita was saved by the bell because Harry Richman got up in the spotlight and sang a lot of wonderful songs. Afterwards, Rita and Vie danced together for awhile.

When they came back I said, diplomatically, “How can you stand to dance with the guy? All he knows is the Charleston.”

friendly enemies . . .

Rita said that was a lie. She said that Mature was a very good dancer, indeed. Then eight photographers came up, and the two of them posed like they were strangers and wanted to stay that way. Only it wasn’t so, and I can prove it.

That afternoon, Vic had spent three hours playing with Rita’s little girl, Rebecca.

Rebecca calls Vic “Man.”

He calls her “Peeks” because she always does.

It’s darned near a romance.

The other night, several of us went to a party. The emotional content of the evening was so normal and like old times that I couldn’t stand it. I went out and jumped into the swimming pool, putting on a pair of trunks first, of course. I talked with the spectacular blonde some more. She had stars in her eyes, and was enjoying a vicarious thrill from what was going on.

“Those two are so perfect together. Isn’t it wonderful that they can forget everything that happened before and pick up where they left off?”

I don’t know. Is it?

I remember when I lived in a mausoleum of a house in Beverly Hills during war time. Vic moved in with my family while he was on leave. Somehow, they couldn’t understand his habit of forgetting his key at night, and putting his fist through French window panes so he could get in. He broke about eight windows that way, and gave other indications of violent feeling, including almost marrying a couple of girls on the rebound.

Some people might say he was carrying a torch, but it wasn’t that so much. He’d just misplaced his incentive. Let’s put it this way. Consciously, Vic and Rita were definitely through with each other, but in their subconscious minds the pulsations had merely gone into a coma. Anyway, it makes a nice plot.

And it could happen, you know. Even if you read in a gossip column that Rita and Vic didn’t resume their romance after all. It could simply be that more living is prescribed before that wrong chapter can be torn completely out of their book.

It seems to be pretty well established now that Mature is a solid actor with an important future. Kiss of Deathdid that, just as My Gal Sal was a turning point for both Rita and Vic. Both of these people have grown up considerably on the screen. There’s some talk of putting Rita into Carmen. My suspicion is that she would be exceedingly unhappy if Vic were to be ruled out as her leading man in that one, whether for personal or business reasons.

That’s the trouble. Life has its fly-in-the-ointment department. Vic has been more than casually interested in a girl who is not in the movie business. He doesn’t want to do an adagio dance into the wrong person’s life, and neither does Rita. The bright boys like myself who interpret Hollywood lives would like to see Rita grab a six week Las Vegas or Reno divorce and then marry Vic. Would be a whale of a good story.

But if they go for it, I’ll be surprised.

As I write this, Mature is still whipping up an occasional rough attitude during which he gives Rita what-for. He has to get it all off his chest. Rita mostly sort of takes it on the chin. Enjoys it a little, too, I think.

It’s like she feels she has it coming to her, and in the process her mistake, if it was one, will be completely erased.

And since neither one of them will probably ever speak to me again, after the going over I’ve given this situation, I might as well say a couple more things:

When Vic was hung up in a conference with his agent, he asked me to please call Halchester’s and have them send Rita a dozen gardenias. I took the risk of over-egging the pudding. “Make it two dozen,” I said. After all, it was the first time he’d sent her flowers in more than four years.

Also, that weird sound that howls through West Los Angeles every now and then these days is not a new type of fire siren. It’s Mature calling Rita on the phone in a pet way that seems to make sense to both of them.

“Sweeeeeeeeeeeeetie!” he hollers. “SWEEEEREEEEEETIE!”





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