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You Can’t Keep Out Of Scandal—Glenn Ford

“Don’t believe everything you hear, Peer,” cautioned Glenn Ford. “In Hollywood you simply can’t keep out of scandal.”

He was referring to my inquiry about the recent headlines which heralded that he and Ellie had once again called it quits, that their marriage this time was hopelessly on the rocks, that he had stormed out of their Beverly Hills home never to return.

“But what about you and all those beautiful girls in London and Paris while you were abroad?”

Glenn only smiled. He wouldn’t confirm and wouldn’t deny it.

“And in Vienna,” I continued, “I saw pictures of you and three beautiful Viennese frauleins at the Opera . . .”

Glenn looked at me quizzically.

“Tell me, Peer, how long have you known Ellie and me?”

“Oh—about six years . . .”

“Do you think we’re unhappy? About to separate?”

Before answering I looked around the room.

Glenn, obviously, was his usual friendly, contented, cheerful self. Ellie, as always on Thursdays—the couple’s day off—dressed like a hausfrau but looking very attractive, was busy cleaning, cooking and had been chatting about the house, school, church and neighbors. And Pete, sitting on the floor in the corner, was weaving pot holders he hoped to give his mother as a birthday present.

This was not the picture of a family about to break up.

“Ridiculous,” I admitted.

“That’s your answer. But unfortunately, in Hollywood you can’t keep out of scandal . . .”

Glenn refilled his pipe. “In other cities,” he went on, “a wife quarrels with her husband and no one cares—except the husband! A fellow gets drunk—and that’s his business. And, unless a person gets divorced at least five times, no one ever seems to hear about it.

“But here—if an extra gets into trouble, or a guy spends one night at a Hollywood hotel, on his way from Honolulu to Kansas City, and commits an indiscretion, or a doctor who lives in Glendale, fifteen miles away, gets into professional difficulties, Hollywood gets the entire blame. What’s more, the better known you are, the more likely you’ll appear on page one headlines. Out here everything from a parking ticket to a black eye is a nationwide scandal!”

Glenn wasn’t bitter about it. A veteran of nine years in the industry, he’d gotten used to it like a mail carrier does to barking dogs.

Glenn’s recent “marital difficulties” are typical of the magnified importance given an ordinary every-day household tiff.

It started at a garden party at Glenn and Ellie’s house. Among the ten or twelve people invited was a writer, whom Glenn had mistakenly considered a friend.

During the course of the afternoon, the conversation turned to television. Before long, Glenn and Ellie were arguing whether their son Peter was or was not seeing too much of it—the same kind of dispute that is a daily occurrence in seven out of eight homes where both kids and television are found. By the time the guests departed, Glenn and Ellie had forgotten their differences. The writer “friend” had not.

He called up one of the leading columnists who, anxious for a scoop, printed the story of the “battle and separation” the next day. From there it built up horribly till Hollywood was whispering, “isn’t it too bad about Glenn and Ellie. This time they’ll never get together again.”

Later, the columnist found out the truth and wrote Glenn a letter of apology. But the news had actually spread and been embellished all over the United States. Reports soon had Ellie about to sue for divorce—Glenn was involved with co-stars, night club entertainers, society girls in almost every capital in Europe—he was said to have moved to at least twelve different addresses at the same time!

This sort of piercing publicity isn’t new to Glenn. Almost from the very beginning of his career, his name had been news. Before he met Ellie, he was romantically linked with just about every actress from Marie Dressler to Margaret O’Brien. Even the day after he got married, one columnist wrote an open warning to Ellie about having married a serviceman.

Ever after, periodically rumors about their impending separation appeared in print. One Eastern columnist has stated for the past three years, always in her August 26 column, that the Fords would separate. “If there is no other news, she probably digs out last year’s files and uses the same stuff over again,” Glenn commented. “And as long as I am in pictures, no doubt she’ll keep on using Ellie and me for quips!”

The better known you are, Glenn found out, the more apt you are to get involved in scandals. “It’s part of the acting business, just as it is in politics, I guess. Sometimes I’m really fascinated by what I’m supposed to have done . . .”

Glenn confessed that, if instead of the fictitious, sensational stories that are being published about him, the truth would some day come out, he might be much worse off. “Do you know that the average man who lives a perfectly normal life becomes involved in enough crimes during his lifetime to be put in the penitentiary for at least three years?”

Of course, the crimes he referred to are traffic violations, making out income tax returns too liberally, burning trash after ten a.m., walking your dog without a leash and the like.

How does a rumor usually start? In most cases—like the television quarrel about Peter—there is some incident that can be turned and twisted into news. For instance, the rumors about Glenn and Rita Hayworth.

One evening, when they were out at the Columbia Ranch, shooting “Affair In Trinidad,” the director anticipated working late and decided to break for dinner before continuing to work on a scene.

Co-stars Glenn and Rita drove to a nearby dimly-lit Italian restaurant for a bite to eat. Quickly rumors started. They were meeting secretly in hideaway roadhouses! Since neither Rita nor Glenn bothered to deny them, within two days they were magnified to scandalous proportions.

Or Glenn’s’ trips abroad, which gave more than one opportunity for wagging tongues.

Because Ellie felt it was her obligation to stay home and look after Peter, Glenn made the last three trips to Europe without her. On these journeys there are, of course, numerous opportunities to meet and be seen with beautiful women—particularly when you are a handsome movie star and everyone wants to “show you off” or “fix you up.” The Captain’s table on board ship is a perfect setting.

On each crossing, customarily on the last night, a big party is given for all passengers. Usually, the “celebrities” are invited to the Captain’s table. Single men, and men traveling by themselves, are teamed with unattached ladies, which, in Glenn’s case, resulted in some sensational stories by the time word about it came back to Hollywood.

Once, in London, Glenn attended a party which lasted till two am. When he left, the hostess asked if he’d mind taking home one of the unescorted young ladies. Always a gentleman, Glenn accepted. The resulting headline the following day about “Glenn’s New Romance” embarrassed the young woman a great deal more than Glenn, who had grown used to this type of insinuation.

What about the incident at the Vienna Opera House? Glenn and Moe Sakin had gone to see “Boccaccio.” Next to them sat three extremely attractive Austrian girls. A candid picture snapped by an enterprising photographer was used all over the world. “I didn’t know I could be that popular,” Glenn laughed when he saw himself with three girls. “Just wait till Ellie gets hold of this!”

Ellie did—long before it appeared in the press. And from a most reliable source: husband Glenn Ford himself!

In his daily letters or phone calls, Glenn always describes every detail of the day. Luckily, Ellie isn’t disturbed by the constant break-up rumors about Glenn and herself. In show business since childhood, she too, has learned about gossip the hard way. Now she doesn’t even bother to read it anymore.

On the other hand, when Glenn started in his career, he didn’t take rumors and scandals lightly. The first time he was accused of something he hadn’t done, he stormed into the office of the columnist who’d started the rumor, and demanded a retraction—which he finally got. As his reputation grew and Glenn got more and more into the limelight, rumors became ‘almost a daily occurrence. Not only did he waste much time telephoning and seeing reporters, but he also learned that, in many instances, a denial proved the strongest confirmation.

His second approach—to confirm everything, no matter how ridiculous—didn’t fare much better.

Once when called to confirm a quarrel with Ellie he said, kiddingly, “Sure, it’s true. I chased her with a meat cleaver. The blood’s all over the house. Want to come out and see the mess?”

“What time?”

“ ! ! !”

That system discontinued, Glenn resorted to the only tactics he knew he could best keep up. No comment at all! “Did you and Ellie have a fight?” He’ll smile at you. “What about that blonde in Paris?” A shrug of the shoulders. That’s all.

Rumors don’t upset Glenn anymore. To stop them, he will not change his way of life and become a hermit. His family and friends—real friends—know what he’s like, and that’s what matters most.

“There’ll be many more disturbing stories about me in the future,” Glenn said as I left. “And you can be sure that I’ll neither confirm nor deny them. You see, I’m not complaining. In Hollywood, no matter how righteous a life you live you simply can’t keep out of scandal, because you’re forever being maliciously misconstrued.”





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