What’s Behind Those Recent Hollywood Marriage Breakups?
JAMES ARNESS & VIRGINIA CHAPMAN
NEWS ITEM: Less than a month after Virginia Arness, wife of “Gunsmoke’s” James Arness, announced in March that her lawyer was starting divorce proceedings, she tried to end her own life by taking fifteen sedatives. They have three children: Craig, twelve, Jenny Lee, ten, and Rolf, eight. And they had been married for as long as thirteen years.
FACTS: It’s a tragic story of a woman who will stop at nothing—even death— to regain the love of a man she lost.
Arness moved out of the house in the spring of 1959, and in July of that year they signed a property settlement for a legal separation. However, Jim wasn’t completely out of Virginia’s life. He was in the house more than when they lived together. He’d come over to visit the children either during the day or in the evening.
“I will always love him,” Virginia once said. “But he thinks more of the children than he does of me.”
Virginia tried acting to forget Jim. She starred in a local company doing “Streetcar Named Desire.” This didn’t work, and she went to Europe. On her way back in October of 1959, she stopped off in Honolulu. From there she telephoned Jim, begging him to come back. He refused and she slashed her wrists in a suicide attempt.
Her friends thought she had really resigned herself that Jim wasn’t coming back when she announced, in March of 1960, that she was planning to file for divorce. Less than a month later, she tried to take her life again. This time by taking fifteen sedatives. “I want to die,” a note read, addressed to Jim. “Life is not worth living.”
The exclusive story behind the second attempt is this. Jim had told Virginia’s mother that he was willing to give their marriage a second try when she returned from Europe. However, he said when she tried to commit suicide in Hawaii he didn’t want anything more to do with her. Her mother unfortunately told Virginia this the weekend in March when she tried to end it all.
She has been released from the hospital, but is under close supervision of her psychiatrist.
Cal’s Comment: The tragedy that ended this marriage, was seemingly brought about by one of Hollywood’s cruelest masters: the work itself. When Jim began his series, he found himself with less and less energy and time left to devote to his family until he found the marriage falling apart. And, after having struggled together for so many years, Virginia found it impossible to give him up. He was her life. She had worked and fought through difficult times only to find him leaving her behind when he finally became successful . . . as is so often the case.
HOPE LANGE & DON MURRAY
NEWS ITEM: Don Murray and Hope Lange have announced their separation. They were married on April 14, 1956, after they appeared in “Bus Stop” together. They have a son, Christopher, three, and a daughter, Patricia, who’s seventeen months.
FACTS: Even the crew members on the set this spring of “One Foot in Hell” could see that Don Murray had more than a dramatic interest in curvacious actress Dolores Michaels. She plays a prostitute in the picture and he plays her lover. The shooting of the picture was one of eight films caught in the middle by the strike. Don and Dolores used to spend a lot of time together on and off the set at 20th Century-Fox while the film was in production. They claimed that they were rehearsing their lines.
But after the filming had been stopped by the strike, Don paid daily visits to Dolores. It surprise many around town, because Don had never appeared as the playboy type. He’s ofttimes naive and even shy. The Dolores Michaels-Don Murray romance undoubtedly led to his marriage breakup but whether he told Hope that he was in love with Dolores and wanted a divorce is purely speculation.
Dolores, who’s very popular around the studio, has, in the past, dated most of the young eligibles in town and while going to dramatic school last year, met John Duke, a young actor. They were reportedly engaged, but that was before Don stepped into the picture.
She’s been married once—to Maurice Martine, an interior decorator who owns a small art shop in Laguna Beach, California. She once worked with him in the shop but claims that it was boring and left him for a movie career. They were divorced a year ago.
Oddly enough, earlier rumors of a rift in the Murray-Lange marriage had started over Hope’s attentions to the dashing, young Stephen Boyd when they became close friends while co-starring in “The Best of Everything” last year. They were inseparable on the set and a daily twosome lunching in the commissary. Several columnists began to infer that Hope had fallen in love with Boyd and wanted a divorce. She became so upset over these rumors that she nearly suffered a nervous breakdown.
Boyd said, at the time, that he liked Hope very much as a “good friend.” He made no bones about it that he would certainly seek her affections if she were single.
“She’s very happily married,” he confided to me, “and I would never even attempt to break up a happy marriage. I think Hope is the greatest girl in the world and I respect her very much.”
At that time Hope and Don vehemently denied the rumors. They even quelled the gossip by going to Europe together.
Just before their announcement, I saw Hope and Don at a party for Shelley Berman at the Crescendo. Both seemed jolly (even though at that time they knew of their decision to separate but hadn’t announced it). I remember Hope kept complaining that there was no room to dance in the place. Don wasn’t too talkative, but he never is.
Cal’s Comment: This was a surprise all around!
VERA MILES & GORDON SCOTT
NEWS ITEM: Vera Miles, who married Gordon Scott in April of 1956, flew to Juarez, Mexico, to divorce him on March 3, 1960. The 28-year-old actress retained custody of their son, Michael, two, and she has two daughters by a previous marriage, Debra, ten, and younger sister Kelly, seven.
FACTS: Vera married her first husband, Bob Miles, when she was only eighteen-years-old. She divorced him in 1954 and received her final papers in April of 1955. She had already met Scott, now 32, while filming a picture with him, and they dated off and on for a couple of years.
On March 2, 1956, he proposed to her via long-distance telephone from London where he was making a Tarzan picture. Previously she had told the press, regarding marriage rumors to Scott, “I want to make very sure before I marry again.”
The marriage breakup with Scott began last summer and came as a surprise to Hollywood. There hadn’t been one indication that anything was wrong. Both their careers were booming. However, Vera confided to a close friend that Gordon had been going out with other women, and that she had put up with it as long as she could.
It was the second marriage for both. The six-foot, three-inch “Apeman” previously married Lea Duarte in March of 1954. She was a switchboard operator at the Sahara hotel in Las Vegas. Gordon worked as a lifeguard at the same hotel. It wasn’t until Gordon became a movie star that this marriage came to light. He claimed that they only lived together less than a year following their overnight marriage in Tijuana, Mexico. The brief marriage produced a son, Eric, born in December of 1954. They were divorced in 1955.
Cal’s Comment: Long separations and conflicting careers seem to be the cause of the breakup of this marriage. In so many Hollywood marriages, such lengthy separations have usually been the prelude to divorce, even if the divorce was won for other reasons. Theirs is a story repeated over and again: the struggle for love which finally ends in disappointment and break up, because of a greater love: the screen.
NEWS ITEM: Brigitte Bardot is reported to be seeing her lawyer about a separation from her husband Jacques Charrier, whom she married last summer. Friends say they have been fighting over her career. In February of this year, they had a son, Nicolas.
FACTS: When Brigitte married Jacques in a secret ceremony a year ago, rumors began spreading immediately that she was pregnant. They were both annoyed at the time and denied them but, when it turned out to be true, and, at the same time Jacques was drafted in the army, close friends were already saying that all was not running smooth in the Charrier family. Brigitte seemed upset at being pregnant and soon became disappointed at her husband’s lack of adjustment to Army life (which finally won him a deferment on medical grounds). After the baby arrived, further squabbles took place—this time over Brigitte’s insistence on continuing her career. Some say Jacques, two years younger than Brigitte, resented her success. He, too, is an actor.
Brigitte was married once before when she was seventeen—to director Roger Vadim. It lasted four years. And it was reported that it broke up because she never settled down. For Jacques, it is his first marriage.
Cal’s Opinion: This seems to be a perfect example of a marriage where the woman outshines the man so much that, as Brigitte herself said, “You cannot love a man 24 hours a day—you also have to respect and be able to rely on this.” And she did not find this with Jacques. He became resentful and jealous (particularly when she did love scenes with other men). And, like many women stars, she refused to give up her career to save her marriage.
NEWS ITEM: Audie Murphy, 35, and his wife Pamela, 37, have announced their second separation within a year. No divorce action has yet been filed, and friends believe that this separation is not final. Married in April, 1951, they have been separated before. The couple have two sons.
FACTS: When Audie Murphy married Pamela Archer on April 23, 1951, it was his second marriage and her first. Only three days before, his divorce had become final from actress Wanda Hendrix.
Pamela was an airline stewardess, an employee of Braniff International Airways. The wedding of the World War II hero was quite an occasion in his home State of Texas. They were married in Dallas by the chaplain of Audie’s Texas National Guard outfit, the Rev. W. H. Dickinson.
They separated briefly eight years later—in 1959. At that time they gave the reason as a conflict between Audie’s career (he has to be away many months out of the year) and his home life. On March 24, 1960 they announced a second separation.
Audie married his first wife Wanda Hendrix, in January of 1949, and they separated in February of 1950. They had no children. Wanda charged, in her divorce action, that Audie “constantly criticized . . . even to the expression on my face and any opinion I had.”
Wanda since married again, this time to Jim Stack, the brother of actor Bob Stack. This marriage has ended in divorce.
Neither Audie nor Pamela will give the reason for the second separation. But one friend remarked, “Audie is married only to his career and a horse.”
Cal’s Comment: Career versus marriage: a story that is told time and again. But it is a story whose ending is almost always assured . . . the career wins, breaking up the home. Maybe not this time, though. Most of their friends insist that the separation just doesn’t look final.
NEWS ITEM: Actress Debra Paget, 26, whose first marriage lasted only ten weeks, is reported to have separated from her second husband, Budd Boetticher, 43, only 19 days after they eloped.
FACTS: Before Debra married her first husband, crooner David Street, 40, in January of 1958, she was always known as the starlet who’d never been kissed. Her romance with David Street was a fast one even for Hollywood—they knew each other only a few days when they married. He proposed to her on their first date. The wedding, which took place at Debra’s parents’ home, was surrounded by gossip about David’s four former wives and a suit his latest “ex” had filed for money she claimed he owed her. With this mixed-up beginning, many people weren’t at all surprised when, ten weeks later, there were rumors about a separation and plans for a divorce in Mexico.
After this experience Debra steered clear of marriage until this spring when she eloped with movie director, Budd Boetticher, also after a hasty romance—three weeks (they got together during the actors’ strike). At the time she said she was blissfully happy. However, just nineteen days later, came reports that she moved back to her mother’s home, saying that she hoped to patch things up, “but there are a few adjustments to be made.”
Cal’s Comment: Who can tell what this girl will do next!
NEWS ITEM: Only five days after Yul Brynner’s first wife, Virginia Gilmore, divorced him in Juarez, Mexico, the actor married Doris Kleiner, 32, the director of a fashion salon in Paris. It’s her first marriage.
FACTS: The marriage took place March 31, 1960, in a Mexico City hotel. His second wife is Yugoslavian-born, emigrating to Chile with her family before the outbreak of World War II. She returned to Europe after the war, working as a model. Brynner met her in 1955 while making a movie in Paris. Brynner married his first wife Virginia, on Sept. 6, 1943. They have a son, Rocky, now 13. Both now have joint custody of the boy, who currently is living with his mother in New York, but will attend a school in Lausanne, Switzerland, next year. Brynner plans to build a home for his bride in Lausanne so he can spend as much time as possible with his son.
Miss Gilmore, a one-time big star, is planning to resume her acting career.
His first marriage, I am told, went on the rocks shortly after he met Doris. But both Yul and Virginia never discussed their problems with the press. They maintained that everything was all right up until a month before Virginia winged to Mexico to divorce him. Terms of the property settlement were kept secret, but it was estimated that she got over a million dollars, in addition to their beach home at Balboa, California.
Cal’s Comment: This marriage seems about par for the course, and following the trend of those which seem to break up not too long after the husband achieves real success. His goal achieved, the world’s most glamorous women anxious to meet him . . . and . . . he goes.
NEWS ITEM: Suzy Parker, the famous fashion model and actress, is reported to be separated from her French journalist husband, Pierre de la Salle. Wed five years, they have an infant girl.
FACTS: For about there years now, Suzy Parker’s name has appeared regularly in gossip columns, although she was a top-flight model long before that. Always known as an unsympathetic offbeat character who loved life and high-living. She even made a mystery of her marriage—denying it until after a tragic auto crash which took the life of her father and got her headlines—because, friends say, she wanted to protect her image of the gay bachelor girl. Once it was proven, she took on a new line—that of a woman who had very unconventional ideas about marriage. “In France you never see your husband—French couples believe in ‘separateness,’ ” said Suzy, who added almost in the same breath, “but I never expect to get a divorce. Why start going through the whole thing over again?”
Suzy denies that there’s been a “separation,” insisting that she’s in the States because of her career, while Pierre’s in Paris because of his. But people close to the couple say that these conflicting careers could eventually become the cause of a real breakup.
Cal’s Comment: It may be just a matter of time. Anything can happen.
NEWS ITEM: Laraine Day, 39, and Leo Durocher, who’s 54, announced their separation on March 17, 1960. They have stated no immediate plans for a divorce, although Leo engaged Chicago attorney Sidney Korshak and she, attorney Edward Rose, to work out terms of a property settlement, thus paving the way for divorce action. They’d been married thirteen years.
FACTS: Laraine obtained an interlocutory decree from her first husband. James Ray Hendricks, an airport manager, on Jan. 20, 1947. The next day she and Leo flew to Juarez, Mexico, where she obtained a Mexican divorce in less than an hour and they were married the same day, Jan. 21, 1947. However, this marriage wasn’t legal in the eyes of the California courts. So, on Feb. 15, 1948, they were married again in a small Mormon (she’s Mormon) ceremony in their Santa Monica, California, home.
Her second marriage, like her first, was childless. This disturbed the non-smoking, non-drinking actress because her faith calls for large families. So on Oct. 2, 1946, she adopted a boy, Chris. She and her husband, the following year, adopted a girl, Michele, in Texas, and later another girl they applied to adopt was returned to the adoption home due to physical handicaps.
Following the marriage, the two were inseparable. Laraine even announced, in December of 1948, that she would give up a million-dollar movie contract with RKO if it meant she couldn’t be with her husband, then managing the Brooklyn Dodgers. She joined him in New York, telling the press: “I do not intend ever to be separated from him ”
Everyone knew, including Laraine, that the marriage was not a happy marriage for the last year. But Laraine refused to admit it. Leo was seen in the constant company of dancer Larri Thomas, the estranged wife of actor John Bromfield. Leo had even met her family and reportedly was going to marry her as soon as he divorced Laraine. But he denied this.
But everyone knew it was just a matter of time before they would publicly announce their separation. And I hear now from a source in New York that Leo and Miss Thomas have since broken off.
Cal’s Comment: Thirteen years seems a pretty lengthy average for a Hollywood marriage, and it was hoped by close acquaintances that this one could be saved. Is it simply that the couple seems to have lost interest in each other? They have evidently tried hard at their marriage. They adopted children, moved around the country together when one of them had to move . . . but this didn’t seem to help. There seems no hope for reconciliation.
—BY CAL YORK
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JULY 1960