Britney Spears’ rapid walk down the aisle and subsequent annulment continued a long line of wild marriages in Tinseltown.
The legendary union that began it all was between Silent Film Icons Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Beneath the glamorous veneer was a troubled relationship. The agile and athletic Fairbank’s idea of a good time was walking fifty yards on his hands on the beach. Or having pool party contests to see who could hold their head underwater the longest. He loved hitting baseballs with Babe Ruth, playing tennis with Bill Tilden and sparring with Jack Dempsey. He would never use a door if he could climb through a window or walk around a park bench if he could jump over it.
The dashing matinee idol who did his own stunts in movies like The Mark Of Zorro (1920) and Robin Hood (1922), wrote journals advising children how to stay physically fit. Conversely, Mary Pickford’s idea of a good time was sitting around the Pickfair mansion getting bombed out of her mind by noon. Fairbanks, whose father had given him many lectures on the evils of drink, frowned on her inebriation and that led to their divorce. She outlived him by forty years.
If a couple has different levels of tolerance for mind altering substances, the marriage is likely to be short-lived. Two years before his breakout role in Easy Rider (1969) struggling actor Jack Nicholson was finding too little time to spend with his wife Sandra Knight. They went to see a marriage analyst who suggested they both take LSD. While Sandra found the experience terrifying, the always experimenting Nicholson felt that the drug trips opened a whole new world of exploration.
After his marriage ended, the often moody and withdrawn actor continued to get high during his working relationship with the out of control Easy Rider star Dennis Hopper. The film’s producers had hired Jack to be a calming influence, fearing that Hopper was going blow all their money and kill co-star Peter Fonda. One morning while filming in Taos, New Mexico, Jack and Dennis woke up in a tree and neither could remember how they got there.
Sometimes even a little partying is too much. When Dean Martin announced that he was divorcing his wife Jeannie he joked,” She’ll get the house. Doesn’t matter. I could never find it anyway.” One sore point during their union was Dean’s unwillingness to have any company over, his main concern was getting up early to play golf. One time Martin reluctantly acquiesced to his wife’s request to have a social gathering at their house. At ten pm Dean excused himself and went upstairs to his room. A half hour later Jeannie knocked on his door,” Dean come out! The police are here.” An apologetic officer explained that they had received several calls about another loud obnoxious party at the Martin household. “But we never have parties,” said Jeannie. “Never mind that Jeannie. You heard the officer. OK, everybody out.” The next day after rising early and playing a nice round of golf, old Dino confessed to her that he had made the phone calls using several different voices.
A Hollywood couple can interpret the dissolution of their marriage differently. When Jim Carrey’s acting career seemed to move ahead of his wife Lauren Holley’s, he implied that her ambition and jealousy regarding his success had led to their divorce. But Holley claimed that a sticking point in their relationship was Jim’s problem with mirrors. He was incapable of passing one without making several funny faces and it scared her.
Gossip about a star’s marital state can be used to draw moviegoers to the box office. After several very short, very public relationships which included leaving Keiffer Sutherland at the altar, Julia Roberts seemed to have the perfect reputation for the title role in the movie Runaway Bride (1999). What was less known was that Sutherland had an affair with a stripper three days before the marriage and Roberts didn’t buy his story that he was doing research for a movie.
Ultimately, star temperament may be the ultimate factor that drives Hollywood couples apart. Betty Davis met her fourth and final husband Gary Merrill on the set of All About Eve (1950). She would later say that he was a tough guy, but none of her husband’s were macho enough to be Mr. Bette Davis. When they divorced in 1960, a tearful Davis told the judge that the two had gotten into a fight while driving through Connecticut. Merrill had stopped the car, picked her up and thrown her out. She had landed face first in a snow drift. “I might be there still, if I hadn’t been rescued by a local farmer.” Merrill had stood up and said angrily,” Your honor, you’re not going to believe this malarkey, are you? I never threw Bette out of the car in Connecticut. It was Vermont where I threw her out!”
Later, Bette stood out on the courthouse steps, brandishing a long cigarette as she spoke with the press. She was asked if she’d ever marry again. “Well gentlemen, it’s tough with my career and all, but never say never. I do however have three conditions.” She took a puff from her cigarette. “First he must have at least fifteen million dollars. Second, he must immediately sign half it over to me. And finally,” she paused for dramatic effect “he must promise to be dead within the year!” Her criteria were never met.
About the author
Want to hear more stories? Stephen Schochet is the author and narrator of the audiobooks Fascinating Walt Disney and Tales Of Hollywood. The Saint Louis Post Dispatch says,” these two elaborate productions are exceptionally entertaining.” Hear RealAudio samples of these great, unique gifts at http://www.hollywoodstories.com.
Marriage, Hollywood Style
By Stephen Schochet
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