"How Sandy and Bobby Fell in Love"

This article, written by Beverly Ott, appeared in the March 1961 issue of Motion Picture Magazine.

In the Italian village of Santa Margherita Ligure, they roll up the sidewalks early. Still, Italians love music and they smiled as the song drifted their way through the warm, starlit night. From their windows, they could see the group of young people ambling along the deserted cobblestoned street. The boy who led them was singing. Then, suddenly, he glanced down at the small blonde at his side and grinned, "You're on!"

The girl sang the next few lines in a clear, sweet voice and, finally, the rest of the crowd joined in. For all the citizens of Santa Margherita knew, the kids might have been a group of carefree, touring collegians from the States. No one recognized them as a part of Hollywood's Come September cast, nor did anyone know that the boy was Bobby Darin and the girl whose hand he held was Sandra Dee.

They hadn't known each other long, these two. Back in California, it would have been hard to imagine a pair of co-stars less likely to be found together off the set. Yet, Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee had met when they needed each other most, when each could give the other something no one else could give.

A few days earlier, Bobby had arrived from Rome by train, the quickest way to reach Santa Margherita. As the wheels had clacked their way north, he had tried to relax. But he hadn't been able to control his nervousness. Come September was to be his first movie role, a lead at that. Hardly anyone knew it, but he'd wanted to act since his days as a slum kid—long before he'd fallen into the music world. Now, he really had to produce the goods.

He sat staring out of the compartment window, seeing little, and knowing he should look. He'd wanted a change of scene, a change of pace. He'd been told that Italy had a kind of magic, a way of making people forget. Well, maybe. . .

When Bobby reached the location, the Darin grin came as readily as ever—for friends, for fans, for photographers. But there was no trace of laughter in his eyes. . ..

Sandra and her mother, Mary Douvan, drove from Rome. "Oh, Mom, it's beautiful," Sandra had said, stepping out of the car. "I've never seen anything so lovely. . .."

Her glance fell on a crowd of young people, clowning it up nearby. Her eyes lingered on the boy in their midst. "That's Bobby Darin," someone told her. "The guy who's going to be in the picture with you."

She thought, "He looks so smug." Then, "He seems to be so at ease with those kids, so self-assured . . . the way I've always read he was."

"Sandy . . ." The porters had gathered up the luggage. Her mother and the studio people were waiting. "Coming," she smiled, and they went into the hotel.

Sandra Dee was a girl who'd had everything. Almost. She'd lived in a world of glamour and grownups. From the day she'd chosen modeling, she'd never really had a chance to belong, to be a part of a crowd close to her own age. She'd never known how. Now she was 18 and the months were slipping past . . . 19 next . . . then 20. . . . Her life was wonderful, yet she knew she was missing something important and soon it would be too late. She knew she could never go back. . . .

"It's time you two got acquainted. . . ." Producer Robert Arthur started to make the introduction, but Bobby took over. "I've always enjoyed your pictures. Miss Weld," he told Sandra, his face straight, his voice earnest.

Without blinking, she answered, "And I always buy your records, Fabian."

"She's all right," Bobby thought. "This kid's all right!"

They went into rehearsals almost immediately—Sandra, Bobby and the four other boys and five other girls playing their pals in the film. Bobby seemed as self-assured as the magazines always said he was.

"This must be awfully different from making records and personal appearances," she said to him one day. "Oh, I've been acting for years," he told her. "I was a smash from the start." "Oh?" Well! "And just where was the start?"

"I played a wicked Indian chief, touring the elementary school circuit for a children's theater," he explained loftily. "I knew I was great because the kids used to line up at the stage door to kick me in the shins after performances! "

"The brash Bobby Darin!" she thought.

The weeks passed. As the film progressed, Bobby found himself thinking, "She's a real pro." And again, "And a nice kid."

That night Sandra picked up her script and started to say good-by. "Hey," he called. "Aren't you coming with us?" "Well, I. . . ." He'd taken it for granted that she knew she was included, but maybe she'd been thinking of the lines, hadn't heard when they'd made the plans. "We're going to scout around for a cafe for dinner, maybe go to Portofino..." Still, she hesitated. "Won't mother let you come?" Bobby teased. Sandy did look like a beautiful child, and he'd read about how close she and her mother were.

"I haven't needed written permission since I left grammar school." "How many days ago was that?" he asked softly. She couldn't help laughing.

That was the way it started. He took her by the hand and led her into a world she'd only watched before. She held his hand, sometimes shyly. sometimes tightly, and followed.

There was no romance, not then, not even a hint of it. They were always with others. "It was the first time in Sandra's teen-age life that she'd been with a lot of young people," one of her friends from the location remembers. "The first time she'd had a chance to realty know anybody. And she was tearing--around all over the place, having a ball."

It was true. Until she was 18, her movie making hours had been carefully supervised by the Child Welfare Board. The hours were limited by the law, but they were jam-packed. When she wasn't in front of the camera, she'd studied lines, gone to school, given interviews, posed for pictures, rested. Then, home, where there were other things to be done. When she'd made Romanoff And Juliet, she'd learned what it meant to be of age in movies, especially on a foreign location . . . long hours, crazy hours, 5:00 a.m. calls, exhaustion.

Now, the work was just as hard, but she seemed to have energy to spare, energy no longer sapped by shyness. She wanted to see everything, do everything, go everywhere. "Let's take a boat ride . . . let's explore . .. let's. . .." Now, even her dates were different. Of course, they weren't actually dates, were they? She didn't brood, "What will I wear? What will I talk about? Will he like me? Will I get along with his friends?" She was With Bobby and they weren't really dating and she didn't have to worry.

Sandra Dee, the little lady of the Thunderbird, Cadillac and Just-Stepped-Out-of- Bandbox fame, became Sandy Douvan,real live teen-ager, apt to come tearing past on a motor scooter, her hair flying. Apt to have beside her, on his own Lambretta, Bobby Darin. With Bobby and Joel Grey, she made up the trio who'd launch into song evenings at the hotel when Mr. D. got out his guitar. She was one of the record addicts who'd sit around on the floor, quietly listening. Bobby had brought a record player. At first she'd thought, "I love the company, but can I take the music? It's bound, to be Rock and Roll!"

Bobby had already put a record on the machine, when he turned to her, "I should have asked what you like."

"Something with lyrics that mean something," she'd answered. And promptly paniced. "Oh, dear, now I've put my foot in it," she thought. "It probably is R & R". She'd hastily added aloud, "I like profound lyrics," she smiled. "Like Splish-Splash." There, now the whole thing was a joke,

He grinned. "No words on this one, but. . . ." He started the disc spinning. She blinked. Why, he'd chosen a piano concerto! And to her surprise and delight, she discovered that he had a large collection of classics. "I have a lot to learn about Bobby," she thought.

Some nights, they'd all go to the little place in Portofino after dinner, for guitar music.

Sometimes, as the guitarist played, Bobby would glance at Sandra and think, "This is living. Here we are and I've never really asked her for a date." He'd always hated the formalities of dating, the big before-the- evening buildup that two people always gave each other in their minds, the let-down when they'd both get so worried over making an impression that they'd forget to relax and have fun. He'd hated the ties that dating could lead to, the taking for granted. And he had the funny feeling that somehow Sandy had understood from the start!

Sometimes, as the guitarist played, Sandra would glance at Bobby, the expression he wore when no one seemed to be looking.

Was it the music? A memory? She'd read about him and Jo-Ann Campbell, too. She knew how hurt he must have been. "I'll cheer him up," she thought. "Make him laugh. It's the least I can do. . .."

She kept him jumping. Both of them had cameras and took pictures of each other like crazy. He was napping between scenes one day, the guitar on his lap when he heard her laughter. He looked up. "You didn't!"

"Yes, I did! It's a priceless shot!"

"You wait. Just wait," he warned her.

She waited until he fell off his Lambretta. Click. He waited until some wag had taken a broom and made a ridiculous sunshade for her. Click. And until the wind combed her hair with the care of an eggbeater and she'd eaten off her lipstick. Click!

Came the night of the big storm, when the lights went out just before dinner. The management placed candles in the rooms and every few feet along the hallways. Lightning zigzagged its way through the sky and the thunder roared, but it was nothing to the eerie scream that pierced the walls of the Douvans' room. Sandra grabbed a candle and headed for the door, her mother a few steps behind her. They discovered that the other guests had done the same. And they saw, careening down the hall, a ghost. It stopped before Sandra and Mary. "Evening, ladies," it wailed and took off again.

"Oh, that Bobby!" Mary howled with laughter.

Sandra smiled. In the candlelight, she'd been able to sec the eyes through the two holes cut in the sheet. They were full of the devil. Her smile broadened. And they were happier. Much, much happier!

When the company was ready to move back to Rome, Bobby took the train again. "Got some business to take care of," he explained. "Got to get there fast." It was the next day- when he called Mary at the Hotel Excelsior. Sandra was at the studio. "Where in the world have you been? We've been worried," Mary told him.

"My fast train was ten hours late," he groaned. "All the rain . . . there were floods! What's new after all these years?"

The kids of the cast were scattered now. all living at different hotels. When Bobby and Sandra weren't busy at Cinecitta Studios, they were doing publicity layouts. They rode through the park in an open carriage... dined and danced at the elegant Hosteria dell'Orso. . . drove to Ostia Antiqua to explore the ruins.

They were in Rome for several weeks before they had their first date alone together. They went back to the Dell'Orso, for dinner and dancing minus the flashbulbs. They found other spots. Bobby could always come up with a new and fascinating place. They listened to music. They talked about their backgrounds, so completely opposite. Bobby told her of the flat on 135th Street, the cardboard crib, the shame he'd felt at having to live on relief through his boyhood, "Show business," he said, "I figured as the best and fastest way out of our neighborhood.", She told him of her childhood, with her mother and Eugene Douvan, the stepfather who'd made living like a fairytale. She talked of the happiness of her mother's second marriage, of the loss they'd felt when he died. "He was so protective," she said. "He'd always made the decisions."


"He was boss," Sandra said gravely.

"Mother wouldn't have dreamed of objecting. He was boss, you understand." "A wonderful one, I guess." "Oh, yes... . ." "That's the way it should be, if a man's going to feel like a man," Bobby said, almost to himself. "But I guess there's a difference between being boss and being bossy, isn't there?"

"Daddy knew that, too," she answered. "I . . . I think I read he had a heart condition." "Yes, for a long time. For years. Then the doctor told him he had only two years to live...." "But he made them full years?" "All of them, Bobby. He wouldn't have been Daddy . . . he wouldn't have really felt alive if he'd given up. He lived all those years the way he had to live them. . . ." "A man has to . . ." he said. Their eyes met. "She understands," he thought. "She understands the way it has to be. She's been there."

Opposites they were, yet it was strange how they had mutual memories. They'd reacted differently, but still. . . . There was the shyness that made Sandra withdraw, made Bobby lash out in a frenzy of clowning. "They laughed and I belonged," he told her. "Then one day I decided I didn't want to be a clown all my life and I took up drumming," He grinned. "Our little group never played the Waldorf, but I got to be a pretty big wheel at school!"

She grinned back. "I didn't do too badly when we lived on Long Island . . . but in New York. . . well, once I started modeling I was so busy that there just wasn't time for friends. Oh, I guess there were other things, too. The girls I seemed to meet . . . they all pushed so hard. It was all so cut-throat...."

Bobby smiled at the girl to whom everything had always come easily. He hoped it always would. But he said, "Sometimes you have to push, honey. Push or stay put. And when you think of staying put in a kind of hell, you push all the harder. . . ." "I didn't understand then, Bobby. . . ." No, not then. She giggled. "It's funny. . . . I've always been shy about dates, too. You know, what'll I say? All that. And here we are, me talking my head off, and if this isn't a date, what is it?" "A date," he announced. "Miss Dee and Mr. Darin are definitely out on a date. I pronounce it official."

"Then why are you looking so bewildered?" she smiled. He didn't smile. His face was more serious than she'd ever seen it. "Sandy, are you afraid of love?" "No," she said. "I want to love. I want to be loved. Oh, I know about the heartbreak it's supposed to bring, especially in the movie business. I hope I won't be hurt by love, badly hurt. But to be afraid, not to let yourself love, know love. . ." "Yes, Sandy. . . ." "If it comes, I'll pray that it will last the rest of my life. But I won't question it, or sidestep it, whatever it might bring. . . ."

The candle flickered. It had burned low. A guitarist was playing "Arrivederci". Finally, she said, "It's late. We've 5:30 calls in the . . . this morning." He paid the check and they left, hand in hand.

At the studio, there were denials of romance from everyone. No,Sandra wouldn't give an interview on Bobby exclusively. Nor would Bobby talk about Sandra exclusively. "You know how people build these things up into big romances." Yet, Bobby's name crept into Sandra's interviews. Sandra's name found it's way into Bobby's conversation. Casually, of course. When one did a scene, the other was more than likely just outside camera range, watching. To provide encouragement, or to learn—naturally.

There was the look that passed between them when the director called "Cut" on the love scene and they came out of their clinch. There were the tender glances . . .fleeting, but undeniable. There was laughter.

There was the good-by, when Bobby wound up his role and flew to Washington to accept an entertainment award. There was the hello at Idlewild when she flew-in from Rome and Bobby was there to meet the plane when he brought the fantastic emerald-cut diamond engagement ring.

There were the wiseacres' wagging tongues, the tsk-tsks which began so shortly after her first call to a friend in California to say, "I'm engaged. I'm going to marry Bobby Darin."

There were the pronouncements. "How could it happen? How can it last? Emotionally, they're both still children." ..."Look what happened with Jo-Ann. That guy only thinks he knows what he wants— for a while." . . . "What happens when he's out belting around the country on p.a. tours and she's stuck in Hollywood on a picture?" . .. "What goes when he figures he's had enough of the career caper—her career, that is?" . . . "How will Miss Sunshine handle those blue moods and dark brown studies that lad goes into?" - Sandra knew what they'd be saying. Sitting in her New York hotel room, somehow she knew. But there were things "they" didn't know . . . that with love and understanding and trust,two complete opposites could find a middleroad and walk it together, hand in hand, with hope,

"I'm not afraid," her words came back to her. Now she murmured, "Who needs a bed of roses anyway!" She reached for the telephone and asked the operator for Los Angeles again. She listened to the buzzing and crackling on the line. Then she said, "Hi . . . it's Sandy. I'm back. I wanted to tell you the news myself. I'm engaged. I'm going to marry Bobby Darin. . . ."

She looked down at the diamond on her third finger, left hand. There was a smile on her face. "Yes, it's really true." She thought, "It's really true." And there was no fear in her eyes. No doubt. In her eyes and in her heart, there was only room for happiness and love.

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