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What Is Glenn Ford Hiding From Debbie?

When this picture was snapped, did Debbie know, then, what Glenn Ford was hiding?.. he was standing not very far away from Debbie, and yet suddenly he seemed to her to be miles away in thought. His mouth became set. and his eyes brooded intensely, as though he were deeply absorbed in a difficult problem.

Evidently, trying to attract his attention, Debbie cocked her head to one side and snapped her fingers. At this, Glenn suddenly shook his head, smiled across at her and began chatting gaily, as they walked off toward their own table after having stopped for just a few seconds to greet Maria Schell. She had been working on a film recently with Glenn.

There’s always a big turnout of glamorous stars when the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents present their Golden Globe awards, yet Maria stood out; her manner was poised and elegant, her exquisite blond hair shining under the brilliant lights; her smile gentle yet provocative and her blue eyes deep-set and compelling; in fact the whole impact of someone with a remarkable personality.

There had been gossip about Maria and Glenn, ever since they had begun working on “Cimarron” together. But if a look of concern crossed Debbie’s face, even for a moment, as they had greeted Maria, she quickly found her smile again and obviously seemed to dismiss the gossip lies.

And yet . . . was there any truth?

First, just one week before “Cimarron” began shooting, Glenn’s wife Eleanor was granted her divorce suit, ending their sixteen years of marriage.

Second, Glenn had been spending three months in the almost-daily company of a very special woman, a woman as different from Debbie as any you could imagine. These crucial days began under the warm winter sun of Arizona, where “Cimarron” went into actual production. Glenn had met Maria Schell only briefly more than two years earlier, when the European star came to M-G-M to make her first American movie, “The Brothers Karamazov.”

However, he must have heard stories and perhaps was wary about the prospect of working with Maria. She was hard to work with and the unhappy crew of her French movie “Une Vie” (“A Life”) nicknamed her “The Monster.” Over in Hollywood. “Karamazov” director Richard Brooks had just barely managed to keep the upper hand. “Maria,” he said, “fought me all the way.”

A girl like Debbie . . .

Maybe Glenn Ford has his moods about the house, but on the job he has no time for temperament, his own or anybody else’s. His idea of a model leading lady is a girl who is brisk, business-like, and good-natured. Perhaps (if a fellow’s lucky) she even behaves as if she enjoyed working with him. A girl like . . . well, like Debbie Reynolds. And here on the wide prairie, forty miles from Tucson, he was face to face with something else instead.

Not a very promising start. Being wary of Maria beforehand, Glenn was also strongly aware of her. She didn’t look much like a monster, standing there in the sunlight, ready to rehearse their first scene together. Funny, few people realize how small Maria is. Only an inch taller than Debbie, Maria is more sturdily built, and she sometimes has a commanding presence that adds to her apparent height. Now her figure looked tiny-waisted, pressed into the prim corset of her 1889 “Cimarron” costume. Her head was bent; her face, slightly turned away from him, was sombre in concentration.

Then she looked up and said, ‘I’m ready.” And she smiled at him. “The golden smile,” as her German fans call it, hit him with full force.

‘I’m ready,” she repeated and her soft voice and the play of emotions across her sensitive features wove a magic circle around them. That is the keynote of her character; intensity. She recognizes it herself, even admits it may be a fault. But the drive has been in her from the beginning. It made her a star when she was sixteen. in the Swiss film “Steinbruch.”

Some people compare the similarity between Debbie and Maria. Debbie also went into her first picture at sixteen, but let’s not forget—not as its star. And she never had the hellbent-for-fame manner. All through Debbie’s early career, no matter how hard she worked, everybody had a hunch that something more important was on her mind. And for Debbie, love—the love she was looking for—was an emotion entirely apart from her job.

But not for Maria. From the start, love was very thoroughly involved with the Schell career. While she was working on her first big hit, “The Angel with the Trumpet,” all Germany heard the news: Maria Schell was in love! She was in love with producer Ernst Lothar. No . . . she was in love with actor Attila Horbiger, famous in the German theater. No . . . the man was cameraman Gunther Anders.

Two years later, European fans thrilled to the tender young love story of Maria Schell and Dieter Borsche. True, they just happened to be co-starring as on-screen sweethearts in a series of weepy pictures. But even when they were off the job, they were seen whizzing around the countryside in an open sports car, while Maria laughed, her golden hair blowing in the wind. Dieter and Maria were seen hand-holding and whispering at sidewalk cafes in the spring.

Publicity? No, in Maria’s case the motive ıuns much deeper. Listen to her own words, spoken to a Photoplay writer years later, when she came to Hollywood. Of acting, Maria said: “There’s something very strange about our profession. Everyone else has tools of his trade, But we have only one soul; we have to use the same soul to live with and to act with. If you love, you love with the same soul you act at love with . . .”

Of her fellow players, Maria has said, “My feeling is that they should share my intensity in trying to make each scene as perfect as possible.”

And Maria has said, “Without love, I can’t glow.” And that glow, “the golden smile,” is her chief stock in trade.

Debbie never has had this attitude toward acting. Talk to Debbie for ten minutes and she’ll be telling you about her house, her children and how happy she is to loaf with them. When she works, she’s gay and fun but business-like toward her leading man. This was her attitude toward working with Glenn.

With Maria, it was different.

For three weeks, the “Cimarron” company worked on those outdoor scenes. On location, troupers live much more in each other’s laps than they do in Hollywood, where each person can go home at night, to a separate life. From Arizona, the rumors began filtering back. A technician wrote to his wife about the two co-stars: “They act as if they really mean it. They can’t hide it—the way they feel about each other.” In the meantime, rumors still circulated about Debbie and Glenn, and in the end, all three ended up saying separately, “We’re all good friends.”

Besides, “I am married,” Maria protested.

She hadn’t married her leading man but a dark young man named Horst Haechler, who was doubling as assistant director and as actor, in a minor role. His prematurely receding hairline gave him a serious look that Maria liked, and he was plainly dazzled by the star. She was twenty-eight then (just the age that Debbie is now), and yet three more years went by before Maria made up her mind about Horst Haechler in 1957.

Her wedding day, April 27th, seemed a nightmare. Fans and photographers mobbed the church. The bridegroom was elbowed aside, lost in the crowd, treated as a nobody. And when Horst and Maria finally retired to the quiet of their room, the phone rang.

Kurt Frings, Maria’s agent, and Benjamin Thau, M-G-M’s administrative chief, were calling with the news that the part of Grushenka in “The Brothers Karamazov” was hers. The bride had to report to Hollywood immediately. And the groom went along, hoping wistfully for a romantic California honeymoon. It turned out to be a matter of snatched weekends.


Rumors of trouble

The whispers that had started while “Cimarron” was on location grew louder when the company moved to the Metro lot and to nearby outdoor locations (the San Fernando Valley, Thousand Oaks). It was hinted that Glenn and Maria were seeing each other oft the job, too. “Positively. I heard it on the best authority. They were having dinner at Jack’s at the Beach—and looking very chummy.”

“They were drinking beer at the Beverly Hilton Rathskeller—a real tete â tete.”

If any of these stories reached Debbie Reynolds, she didn’t betray her hurt with public outbursts. But she should have guessed, because she knew from her own experience, what daily, close association on the set can mean to an actor and an actress—especially when there is a background of emotional upheaval. On the very day that Eddie Fisher and Liz Taylor were married, Debbie and Glenn were doing the crazy, hilarious, love-under-the-shower scene of “It Started With a Kiss.” The wild clowning and Glenn’s friendly cooperation covered-up Debbie’s secret heartache on the day that had put a final end to her first young hopes.

Glenn’s separation from Eleanor and her suit for divorce came soon after that. No matter how the newspapers prattled about “the ideal marriage,” Hollywood knew it hadn’t been. There had been rumors of trouble as much as ten years earlier. And yet Debbie, with her strong sense of propriety, would not date Glenn until her own divorce decree had become final.

“She won’t date him openly, that is,” cynics added. For just the same sort of rumors that now follow Glenn and Maria once trailed Debbie and Glenn. “They didn’t come to the party together.” said one eager reporter, “but I saw Glenn leave—alone—right after Debbie had left—alone. And after that . . .?”

As soon as Debbie was completely, legally free in her own eyes, she did begin going out with Glenn, and they seemed utterly relaxed together, frankly enjoying each other’s company. His divorce had come through by this time; he, too, was free of other entanglements.

But was he? wags asked. For he had met Maria Schell. Six years older than Debbie, she has a worldliness that widens the gap even further.

Though Debbie has put on the air of the gay sophisticate since her divorce, nobody doubts that at heart she remains the young American housewife and mother, longing for security in her home. In a genuine duel of romantic strategy, would she be any match for the high-powered Maria?

From Hollywood, Maria went to New York, to rehearse for Garbo’s old role in the TV-special version of “Ninotchka.” Between sessions of turning on the intensity and the golden smile, she relaxed with solitary whims—like turning out the staff of the furrier Maximilian for some midnight shopping. Pirouetting before mirrors, draping a black broadtail scarf around her shoulders, smiling at her own image, what was she thinking about?

Horst? He would be joining her in New York any day, but he was busy on a new German picture, busy seeing to the completion of their dream farmhouse, on a lake near Munich.

So everybody waited, waited for a new dramatic climax in this strangest of “friendships,” while Glenn and Maria were suddenly called back, weeks later, to Hollywood for re-takes, following the end of the actors’ strike. The talk started up all over again. Some people even said that Glenn had asked M-G-M to co-star Maria with him in “North of Rome,” the picture he was set to make in Italy. What will happen then? Hollywood is watching and waiting with intense interest, for, in this triangle, almost anything can happen.





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