Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin:
"How He Told Her Off In Private"
This article appeared in TV and Movie Screen Magazine November 1963
Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin had fought more bitterly than usual. While their infant son, Dodd Mitchell, lay sleeping peacefully in his crib, Bobby stormed out of the house and headed for the studio. During that day, while he was working, Sandra called her own studio and asked them to change the locks on all the doors of their house.
That was one version of how they broke up. Another goes like this: that after umpteen fights and outbursts of temperament with Sandra, Bobby said not a word but simply packed his bags and moved out.
Still another version, and probably the most accurate of all, purports that Bobby told Sandra off in private by saying: "I love you, Sandy, I really do. But I won't go on with our marriage until you see a psychiatrist and straighten out some of your personal problems....I will never return to this house until you grow up."
They had been dizzy in love. They had been drawn to each other at almost at first sight, had a whirlwind romantic courtship in Italy while co-starring in Come September, were engaged but a few weeks before their surprise elopement.
Sandra was everything Bobby was not. She was a sheltered, fragile, delicate little butterfly; shy, sensitive, an incredible beauty. He could not--and would not--use the typical Darin approach to win her affections. In the past when he was
interested in a girl he'd simply tell her: "Baby, I go for you. Let's swing." Sandra he approached timidly, like the bee who sips gingerly at its honey before draining off all of its sweetness. He courted her by sending a dozen yellow roses daily. They toured Rome marveling at all the ancient Italian historic sites. And long before Bobby told Sandra of his love for her, he told her mother, also there, "You're going to lose your daughter some day and you may as well get used to the idea of losing her to me." During the last week of filming Sandra knew she loved Bobby in return. She came back to the States a week after him, desperate with loneliness for him. They tumbled into each other's arms and amidst kisses and tears Bobby slipped a 3 1/2-karat emerald-cut diamond ring on her finger. Newspaper reporters on the scene were quick to print the news of their engagement and the couple's ecstatic comments about their new status. "I'm delirious with happiness!" Bobby told all; "I'm on Cloud Nine!" raved Sandra. But their bliss was destined to fade. And soon.
Sandra's mother, Mary Douvan, did not disapprove of the then twenty-four-year-old-singer as a husband for her eighteen-year-old daughter. But she did insist that Sandra have a big white wedding befitting the star that she was. Impulsively, the couple gave her their promise to wait until such a wedding could be planned. Instead they eloped, marrying at 3:00 a.m. December 1st at the home of a music publisher in Elizabeth, New Jersey. People were to busy imagining their dizzy-dazzling ecstasy to pay much attention to Sandra's sardonic comment about their elopement: "We just wanted to get it over with."
Both were at the peaks of their careers, and those who expected Sandra to commit herself to wifedom and immediate motherhood were surprised to hear her say instead: "I will not give up my career. Being a motion picture actress is more important to me than ever because Bobby is so proud of me."
That's what she said. But it was apparent all too soon that Sandra was going to staggering lengths to stay in the shadow of her husband. Hovering around on the sidelines while he toiled on Too Late Blues, she almost apologized for her presence by saying: "I may be around a lot but I never butt in andI don't feel I'm taking advantage of my visitor's privileges. I say less than some tourists. I think Bobby's doing fine and won't be a wifely distraction by making him self-conscious."
Bobby kind of took their love for granted. He was not one to be demonstrative in public and refused all interviews pertaining to their private life. Sandra, even while playing a single girl in Tammy Tell Me True, refused to work without her engagement ring. Not even her deep-rooted fear of flying could keep her from Bobby's side. When his first singing engagement threatened to separate them for the first time she swallowed hard, shut her eyes and boarded the dreaded plane just to be there at his opening.
"The secret of our success," Bobby boasted at the time, "is that Sandra keeps out of my things and I keep out of hers." True, perhaps. But this wasn't exactly Sandra's idea of marriage where togetherness in all ways meant everything. A baby seemed like the answer to it all. Their secret, at first, was a well kept one. It was months before Sandra wore maternity clothes and announced that she would make no more movies until the birth of their child. The happy news temporarily made a changed man of Bobby. He had always maintained that a woman should be concerned only with her wifely duties. Now, when Sandra was ailing during those first few months, he even did the cooking and was so overly-protective that Sandy was to beg him: "Darling, please--I'm not made of glass!"
They had fought often, almost from the day they married. And even now with their blessed event just around the corner, the squabbling continued even while Sandy ringsided during Bobby's engagements. "Isn't it better to battle in public than in private?" Sandra tried to make light of their arguments. But all too soon it was apparent to close friends that these weren't just the cute little love spats of a newlywed couple-that they were far more deep-rooted and meaningful. It's true that Bobby complained she had her hair done every day and changed her nailpolish seven times during every twenty-four hours. But these were only the little things that annoyed him. The bigger things he simply wouldn't discuss as openly as Sandra, who confessed:
"We have about two fights a day. After a year of marriage the fights are louder but not as long. As for working together, as we recently did--it isn't particularly that you fight or anything. It's just that, let's face it, you get bored. If you're with each other all day you come home at night and what's left to say? You talk in grunts or yawn or worst of all you don't feel like talking about anything, The whole thing is very trying and if I have anything to say about it Bobby and I aren't going to make a practice of working together.
"Oh, yes, we're different-very different," she went on to say, "I'm the temperamental one. Bobby and I have a fight and I just blow my top and start to pack my bags. Bobby stays calm and tries to calm me down, too."
The arrival of Dodd Mitchell did little to change their emotional climate. They were delirious with joy, of course, and at first too absorbed with his care to bicker. When she couldn't care for him herself, while picture-making, Sandra
hired a competent nurse. A few times she bundled Dodd up and flew him along on one of Bobby's singing engagements.
Motherhood had transformed Sandra into a raving beauty. Her figure was nothing short of sensational. No longer was she the sweetly naive Tammy of yesteryear. In a current movie, 20th's Take Her, She's Mine, she wore a Cleopatra costume geared to make audiences gasp. Yet she was more of a homebody than ever, it's reported, and only returned to movie-making to combat loneliness because Bobby was away on tour so much.
After they separated, they were miserable apart. But all the while a reconciliation was being predicted Sandra had consulted a lawyer for a divorce and Bobby had negotiated for a bachelor apartment in Manhattan. It really seemed to be the end. And yet it seemed not to be, too. When Sandra checked into the Cedars of Lebanon hospital recently for observation because she wasn't feeling well, Bobby phoned every day to see how she was.
She turned twenty-one the very day she began work on Take Her, She's Mine. Nine baskets of flowers arrived at her dressing room to fete the occasion. The note with them said simply: "From a personal friend." Sandra didn't know if they were from Bobby but insiders guessed they were.
A happy ending is what friends would like to predict for Sandy and Bobby. More realistically, it doesn't seem likely to happen. The first clue comes from Bobby's own statement, "I will never return until you grow up." The second comes from Sandra's quote' "Divorce is very hard on children but it's worse to fight and bicker and live in a house of discontent and if I am that unhappy I will certainly get a divorce."