Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin

Marriage a-Go-Go-Gone

This article, written by Liddon Fraser, appeared in
the August 1966 issue of Motion Picture Magazine.

Only their closest intimates saw the split coming. There had been so many false alarms. First, the news from the set of Sandy's This Way Out, Please (prophetic title!) that she was in the family way again. (When the rumor proved untrue, friends expressed the opinion that it was particularly unfortunate because a baby would have been good for the marriage. Why the Darins should have been in need of something "good for the marriage" was never clarified.) And then, only a week before the split, Sandy and Bobby had allayed suspicion by showing up together at Hollywood's annual star-studded Share party.

Even when Bobby thereafter began showing up stag at various Hollywood and Beverly Hills night spots, it was given scant heed. The obvious assumption was that Sandy wasn't along because she was busy with her picture -- which she was.

As matters stood after the baby-bubble burst, it was beside the point whether or not Sandy was expecting. The atmosphere around the usually warm two-story Spanish Mediterranean reconciliation home was very pregnant -- not with impending birth -- with gathering strife.

It was open season for quipsters. Even in Hollywood it is not unusual for a girl to go home to mother after a falling out with her husband.

"Sandy doesn't have to go home to mother," was one acid comment. "Mother is there."

As Hollywood flung itself into a frenzy of conjecture, there was an immediate attempt to blame Sandy's mommy. But there was little evidence to support this tired theory.

But the separation, once acknowledged by Sandy, didn't promptly deteriorate into a public name-calling brawl. Both Sandy and Bobby scrupulously avoided any comment. Nor did they go dashing for their attorneys.

Sandy refused to characterize the split as a trial separation or a permanent break, or go into the reasons for it. Publicly, that is.

As little as Sandy said, Bobby said less. Nothing, in short.

Privately, however, Sandy had been cooking up a head of steam for several weeks before the lid blew off. Without going into details -- presumably they were too painful -- she confided to a friend that things at home were awful.

"I'm not going to put up with his shenanigans any more!" Sandy fumed. "I've had it. I'm not going to give in to him any more. Our home life is miserable. It's nothing!"

Although Sandy was hopping mad, she left her confidante and others to guess at just what Bobby's shenanigans might be. The supposition is that they amount to personality conflicts -- because no matter how deeply Sandra and Bobby may love each other, they never have been able to get down to a basis where they resort to sweet reason instead of knock-down-and-drag-out verbal fireworks.

The chance that either could conceivably be interested in a third party is not even considered. It may be on every check list when lovers flounder, but in the case of Bobby and Sandy it is an unworthy consideration.

Yet if Sandra and Bobby have not fallen out of love -- and no one can believe they have--something has gone very wrong.

Until the break came, everything seemed to indicate harmony and serenity. Many old sources of friction seemed to have been removed. Sandy has been known to be impatient to cast off her contractual yoke at Universal, for example. Just a scant month before the separation she finally served out her contract there, and went to work at MGM as a free agent for the first time in her career. That should have disposed a lot of professional tensions.

It now seems questionable that it did. For a long time Sandy's mother, attractive Mary Douvan, who had such trouble accepting the marriage in the beginning, seemed to be getting along beautifully with Bobby. In recent years Mary has often boasted that when Sandy and Bobby argue she invariably sides with her son-in-law. Mary thinks her Sandy is a living doll, but she knows she is not an angel.

Rumors -- and they're only that -- have been persistent that lately Bobby has been balking at having his mother-in-law underfoot so much -- even if she is around to help lighten Sandy's load, to babysit with Dodd, and so forth. In a situation like this every rumor commands consideration, but rumors are not proof.

Once Bobby's out-of-town nightclub engagements were a fly in the marriage-ointment. Prior to their first big bust-up, Bobby tailored his career more to films and less to nightclubs. His travel was reduced to a minimum, governed by long-standing contracts to play Miami, Las Vegas and New York.

The result was a great surge of togetherness, including two more co-starring movies with Sandy, whom he met on their first co-starring picture, Come September.

Togetherness started oozing out of Sandy's pretty ears. She came to some sensible realizations and made some intelligent statements on the subject.

"Being together 24 hours a day," Sandy concluded, "is ridiculous. We tried it, and it just didn't work. In fact, being inseparable had a lot to do with our first separation. At first when we were married, I thought you had to be with someone constantly if you were in love. I was on the set with Bobby every day, and that's how we got on each other's nerves."

After the great reconciliation, Sandy wisely tapered off. But apparently she and Bobby are quite resourceful. They found other ways of getting on one another's nerves, They also found nice ways of kissing and making up.

"My husband is courting me these days," Sandra explained enthusiastically at the time. "Whenever we feel like we're getting in a rut, which is every few months, he starts sending me flowers, picks me up at the studio, and we go out on a date -- just like before we were married."

Even when Sandy and Bobby teamed again for their last picture together, That Funny Feeling, Sandy had a funny feeling that she ought to put distance between them.

"Now," she declared with her newfound wisdom, "I realize how foolish I was. We don't have to be near each other all the time to know we're in love. I rarely have lunch with Bobby, and he isn't even allowed in my dressing room without being invited. I can't even stand myself 24 hours a day."

Which may be all right as far as it goes. It's when people can't stand the sight of each other that they're in trouble. That was one problem Sandy did not anticipate.

"Our separation," opined Sandy, "is the best thing that ever happened to us. It made us grow up, particularly me. Sure we still fight, but about something we can solve right then and there."

Given time, Sandy and Bobby managed to find things to scrap over which they couldn't settle "then and there." It remains to be seen whether their marriage can be salvaged eventually.

Perhaps Bobby and Sandy will not achieve smooth sailing until they realize that they can't change one another any more than they can change themselves in any fundamental ways. The elusiveness and difficulty of their problem was detected in a moment of unusual insight when Sandy once observed, "We have a tremendous conflict of personalities. We never argue about anything tangible. That's why our problems always seem insoluble."

Put more succinctly, both seem incurably accustomed to getting their own way. One has to be denied for the other to get his or her own way. This is something neither Bobby nor Sandy have had great practice at -- or great taste for.

Maybe their marriage will be on solid ground when Sandy stops trying what for her may simply be impossible -- growing up. She can no more do without her mother and entourage of studio attendants now than when she was 14. Maybe she needs to be strong enough to face it and serene enough to be able to live with it.

Sandy usually says it's her mother who finds ways to be near her. She seems convinced that she is indulging her mother, being a dutiful daughter, by having her around.

"My mother couldn't bear to be separated from me," Sandy says. "She used to get jobs around school just to be near me. (Is it different now? Didn't mother get a job at Universal as a talent executive just to be near Sandy?) They had to put a curtain over the window in the kindergarten door so she couldn't watch me. She used to stand there and just cry."

Maybe that invisible umbilical cord is tied just as securely at one end as at the other. Maybe Sandy, for her part, can't bear to be separated from her mother.

The simple fact is that Mrs. Douvan never is long gone -- or too far away to be summoned. During the latest separation she was on the set constantly with her estranged daughter. The probability is that Sandy insisted.

The question is -- has Sandy faced the degree of her dependence on her mother. Maybe Bobby recognizes the dependence while Sandy can't bring herself to either face or accept it. How, then, can she and Bobby even begin to communicate on such a touchy subject?

There is evidence, however, that Bobby, too, is adept at fooling himself. When he married Sandy, Bobby was full of noble -- but perhaps naive -- resolve. "I have a strange desire to reform," he said. "Suddenly my values have changed. I have now met a human being who is more important than I am."

There is nothing to suggest that at heart anything has happened to Bobby's basic affection and respect for Sandy. But strange desires -- especially strange desires to reform -- have a strange way of stealing away, like Arabs who fold their tents silently in the night.

Bobby has the same need as most people to be accepted as he is. Perhaps a little more so. There are many ways in his marriage where he has been tripped by his own ambivalence. Sandy's stardom and stature are a source of pride to him. But he also has a strong need to assert himself as the traditional male figure in marriage. He can't come home and expect Sandy to commiserate over his problems at work when she is so busy fretting over her own.

Early in the marriage Sandy said, "After I met Bobby I resented my career because it robbed me of time I could be spending with him. During the six months we were apart I felt even more miserable as I came to realize that my career was chiefly to blame for our problems."

Sandy's resentment of her own career seems to have been as shortlived as Bobby's desire to reform.

She had the opportunity to chuck her career permanently when her Universal contract expired. But career apparently was too powerful when showdown time came. Sandy hotfooted it to MGM, and licked her chops at the prospect of not being peddled by Universal on loan-outs.

"Now," she gloated when she said farewell to Universal, "I can keep the money for my pictures."

Again, maybe both she and Bobby have to be honest with themselves -- Sandy on how much her career means to her, and Bobby on how much it would mean to him to have a wife who's not always competing.

There was a time when Bobby was adamant about keeping Dodd out of the limelight, especially not having him photographed. One way or another, Sandy managed to break the photographic barrier, and to induce Bobby to go along with not keeping Dodd under glass. She has not only had the boy constantly with her on the set at Metro, but even before this separation a tri-cornered togetherness had emerged.

The Darins -- Sandy's picture commitments permitting -- had begun to move en famille. They even traveled as a family unit on Bobby's flamboyant new personal railroad car. Sandy and Dodd were ringside at Bobby's recent Las Vegas opening, and they were there again at his triumphant Cocoanut Grove opening in Los Angeles.

Who could ask for anything more idyllic? Bobby, maybe?

There have been knowing whispers around town that Bobby feels any time spent in a show business atmosphere, is time that could be better spent by Dodd with playmates his own age.

Nothing means more to Sandy or Bobby than Dodd. But they do hold sharply divergent views about what is best for him.

Obviously, from what Sandy has told friends, Bobby has been increasingly difficult to live with lately. The storm signals were up at least two months before they separated.

Marriage has been credited with making a new man of Bobby -- of mellowing a once angry young man, of gently removing a chip from his shoulder. Some of that old anger -- accompanied by the old Darin bravado--has been unmistakably brewing.

Seven weeks before the separation, Bobby abruptly ended his business association with a friend of long-standing, Dave Gershenson. There were no public recriminations, but Bobby's statement nevertheless was revealing -- and a little disquieting.

"As for my direction in this business," he said, talking like the Bobby Darin of old, "nobody knows more about that than I. Therefore, I just don't need a manager."

There is reason to believe that Bobby has been upset by the way his career has been going. And it seems reasonable to suppose that some of that anxiety has been spilling over to his home life, finding expression in displaced, undetected, ways.

One can't escape the impression that Sandy and Bobby -- each waiting for the other to give in -- were hoping that their separation would blow over before anyone noticed it. Sandra seemed to have been caught in an unguarded moment when she admitted the split.

Once -- especially after their first separation was patched up -- Sandy and Bobby might have been voted the married couple most likely to succeed. Now there are many who have come to believe that they are the couple most likly to secede.

The answer should not be long in coming and we're still betting on their success.

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