Feb 14, 2008

Love, Hollywood-Style

It has long been said that love in Hollywood is but a celluloid reality: the fast pace and fickle nature of the celebrity-studded Dream Factory have never been considered an ideal environment for true and lasting romance to flourish. (With demanding bosses, studio politics, career competition, contract stipulations and on-location shooting, how could playactors of the past hold down a casual boyfriend, much less a husband and household?) So while it's true that perhaps most people never find sweet, lifelong, An-Affair-To-Remember sort of love, these Tinseltown twosomes have managed to evade the downfalls of fame and celebrate record numbers of anniversaries:

Cyd Charisse (1921-) and Tony Martin (1912- )
Married 59 years, 1948-present
Children: son Tony, Jr.

Perhaps MGM's most famous dancer next to superstud Gene Kelly is elegant, effervescent Cyd Charisse, the Texas-born ballerina who took a French stage name and traveled with the Ballet Russe before becoming hot property at her home studio in the 1940's. Terrifically talented, Cyd starred in some of the biggest musicals ever made - 1952's Singin' in the Rain, 1953's The Band Wagon, and the lush The Harvey Girls (1946), to name a few - and continually proved her popularity was owed more to substance than sequins (though her costumes were dazzling, to say the least).
Singer Tony Martin had less of an impact on the film world, though he's made his share of appearances in nearly three dozen feature films of the 1930's and 40's, such as Ziegfeld Girl and Till the Clouds Roll By. As a popular singer in the 1950's, his film contributions consisted mainly of soundtracks or cameo appearances.
Cyd and Tony currently live in Las Vegas, Nevada, and still frequent various celebrity functions and film retrospectives near their home.


Hume Cronyn (1911-2003) and Jessica Tandy (1909-1994)
Married 52 years, 1942-1994 (her death)
Children: daughter Tandy and son Christopher

Serious stage actress Tandy should be remembered as the Blanche DuBois she created in the original theatre run of A Streetcar Named Desire, but her chance to immortalize her role on film was ruined with the casting of fellow stage star Vivien Leigh in the part. She continued to hone her theatre craft until experiencing a major resurgence in film popularity in her seventies; she won an Oscar for her performance as the titular character in 1989's Driving Miss Daisy.
Cronyn had his own modestly impressive movie resume, with minor parts in films like Ziegfeld Follies and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Younger generations will probably recognize the duo from their collaborations in 1980's films like Cocoon and batteries not included.

Paul Newman (1925-) and Joanne Woodward (1930-)
Married 50 years, 1958-present
Children: daughters Elinor, Melissa and Claire

When Newman and Woodward were married in a hasty Las Vegas ceremony straight after wrapping their sizzling drama The Long Hot Summer in 1958, hardly anyone was surprised - their onscreen chemistry was, and still is, devastatingly electric. But three daughters, a dozen film collaborations and a sprawling philanthropical enterprise later, the tireless twosome are still forging a profound partnership with each new joint venture (last we checked, it was their work with their beloved Westport Country Playhouse) - and causing every jealous fan to wonder if Paul and Jo alone hold the copyright to married bliss.

Ruth Gordon (1896-1985) and Garson Kanin (1912-1999)
Married 42 years, 1942-1985 (her death)
No Children

Perhaps Ruth Gordon isn't among the best-known of erstwhile actresses, but the feisty filly should be an A-Lister for the longevity of her contributions to classic cinema. First lauded on the stage, she eventually drew notice for her turn as Mary Todd in 1940's Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Shortly after, she married second husband Garson Kanin (her first husband died in 1927), and the couple gravitated towards the other glitterati of the stage and film world, collaborating and carousing with the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and Moss Hart and wife Kitty Carlisle Hart. Gordon and Kanin co-wrote several memorable film vehicles for the formidable Hepburn and Tracy, namely Pat and Mike and Adam's Rib, and separate from his wife, Kanin crafted comedies like My Favorite Wife and Bachelor Mother, both of which he also directed. Gordon experienced a resurgence in film popularity with her award-winning forays in Rosemary's Baby (1968) and the cult favorite Harold and Maude (1970).

Anne Bancroft (1931-2005) and Mel Brooks (1926-)
Married 41 years, 1964-2005 (her death)
Children: Son Max

Though the world will forever remember Anne Bancroft seductively draped in leopard and clutching a mixed drink, denizens of classic filmdom can recall myriad movies of the Italian beauty's resume that add dimension to her Graduate legacy, including her first foray into film, 1952's Don't Bother To Knock (alongside Marilyn Monroe and Richard Widmark, no less). Between this incendiary role and her 1962 Oscar win for The Miracle Worker were numerous B-movies that her screen presence elevated to worthwhile-viewing status, but she remained just out of the echelon of Big Box Office Success until the 1960's, when she met a persistent comedian named Mel Brooks. The two were married in 1964, and she proved to be a foil as well as a fan of her ambitious husband's, encouraging him to pursue the film concept that would eventually develop into The Producers, the 1968 hit that launched him into and set the standard for zany epic comedies to come. While Bancroft became more discerning in selecting movie work and lessened the number of roles she took on, Brooks continued to create his own outrageous brand of film, including Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and History of the World: Part I. Though Anne died of cancer in early 2005, Brooks is currently working with a musical version of his Frankenstein on Broadway.

"I'm married to a beautiful and talented woman who can lift your spirits just by looking at you." - Mel Brooks on Anne Bancroft

Blake Edwards (1922-) and Julie Andrews (1935-)
Married 38 years (1969-present)
Children: daughters Amy and Joanna

When one takes into consideration the amazing films churned out of Tinseltown in the 1960's, one has to ask: is there anything Blake Edwards didn't do? The jack-of-all-trades filmmaker created, wrote, scripted, and otherwise re-formatted some of the decade's biggest titles, a decadent slice of his resume wedged between television success in the 1950's (Edwards created, produced, and directed Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky) and a series of fantastically popular satirical comedies, and inventive muscials in the 1970's and 80's. Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pink Panther Series, the confection that is 1965's The Great Race - they're all owed to Edwards (well, that first one is truly Capote's and Hepburn's), along with frequent collaborator, conductor Henry Mancini. 1969 saw the mighty Edwards merge paths with another 60's icon, the inimitable import Julie Andrews, and for life, it seems - the two have been cheerful co-conspirators throughout their nearly four decades of marriage, with each still involved in film ventures. Andrews, plucked from the British stage practically in her Eliza Doolittle ensemble, experienced immense and immediate popularity in her film debut (she scored her biggest hits with back-to-back musicals in 1964 and 1965 with Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music), and enjoyed successes in later films that were tailor-made to showcase her considerable singing abilities - Edwards-crafted gems like Darling Lili (1970) and 1982's Victor/Victoria. The couple remain active in their respective careers and still attend celebrity functions near their home; Julie recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.

"There's nothing better than working on something you love with someone you love." - Blake Edwards on collaborating with Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria

Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) and Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989)
Married 20 years, 1940-1960

Turbulent and tempestuous as their union may have been - Leigh suffered from bipolar disorder that showed itself several years into their marriage - the lasting ardor between classical actor Olivier and British-born Leigh reads like a scene from one of the couple's many stage and screen partnerships.
Olivier began his stage career opposite the likes of august Shakespearean great John Gielgud in 1935, and within two years, was sharing the spotlight with future wife Vivian Hartley, soon to be known as Vivien Leigh. Though each was married to another at the time, the two sparked an unmistakable onscreen rapport in 1937's Fire Over England; after separate stellar successes in the States - he in Wuthering Heights, she in the epic Gone With the Wind - they obtained divorces from their respective spouses and became one of Hollywood's handsomest and most popular husband-and-wife teams. Her devastating mental health issues proved a recurring strain on their marriage, though Olivier remained committed and frequently steered his wife's career on the occasions that her personal life proved unmanageable. The two did end their illustrious offscreen partnership in 1960; Leigh, unmarried thereafter, reportedly kept her former husband's framed photos throughout her house until her death of tuberculosis in 1967.

"Apart from her looks, which were magical...she also had something else: an attraction of the most perturbing nature I had ever encountered." Laurence Olivier on Vivien Leigh


Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) and Lauren Bacall (1924-)
Married 12 years, 1945-1957 (his death)
Children: Son Stephen and daughter Leslie

Perhaps the most iconic love story in Hollywood history is that of aged actor Humphrey Bogart and lithe, lovely Lauren Bacall. Grizzled, year-worn Bogart, in the midst of gaining his legendary trench-coat-and-tough-talk screen reputation, met naive newcomer Betty Perske on the set of the girl's first film, 1944's To Have and Have Not. The attraction was not instant, but Betty - renamed Lauren Bacall by her personal Svengali, director Howard Hawks - soon became enchanted with the kind, lonely Bogart, entrenched as he was in a quickly-dissolving marriage to his third wife Mayo Methot. The two began a secretive friendship on the set, and, after taking the appropriate steps to divorce himself from his alcoholic wife, Bogart forged a romance with Bacall that horrified her mother, scandalized Hawks, and delighted American audiences who rooted for the unlucky-in-love Bogie to find elusive happiness with the bright and brilliant 19-year-old, newly a sensation with the release of To Have and Have Not. The couple were wed in 1945.
After a decade of marriage and two children Bogart never thought he would get to father, the Bogarts satisfying home life was permanently marred when Humphrey was inadvertently diagnosed with cancer. Though he underwent radical treatments and artfully erected a stoic facade against the ravaging disease, his condition deteriorated quickly in 1956, and he died in early 1957. The gradual unhinging of this iconic man is a heart-wrenchingly sad process described by Bacall in her 1978 autobiography, By Myself, which is highly recommended to all fans of the duo.
What audiences so love about Bogie and Bacall is the way their unabashed attraction to, amusement with, and respect for each other is so readily read in each of the four films they starred in together. After three scathing, scarring failed marriages, film fave Bogart had found his ideal match in the quiet, contemplative New York girl who eschewed career pursuits and reigning social mores for married life with him. It was as if the sweet domesticity that their film relationships lacked was made up for in their very home; even Howard Hawks, resentful or not at his protegee's flight, couldn't have directed a better love story.
That, after all, is Hollywood magic.

"They never wrote a romance the way we lived it." - Lauren Bacall on late husband Humphrey Bogart


Was your favorite classic celebrity couple profiled above? If not, who are they?

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