"Sandy, Is Bobby Right For You?"

This article, written by Helen Hendricks, appeared in
the March 1961 issue of Screenland Magazine.

Sandra Dee made A Summer Place and her studio coyly hinted that she and attractive Troy Donahue were "that way about each other." In Rome she made Romanoff And Juliet and word was flashed that a sizzling romance with attractive actor Rik Von Nutter was underway. Next, again in Rome, harried press agents for U-I's "Come September" spread the glad tidings that Bobby Darin, her co-star who was making his very first movie, had come, had seen, and had conquered the beauteous Sandra. A cynical Hollywood, too used to the cry of "Wolf"---or "O, Love" ho-hummed at all three "romances" as it had at earlier stories that attractive co-star Johnny Saxon was panting for little Miss Deedledum.

And then, only two months after Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin had met, came the formal announcement of an engagement between the 18-year-old actress and the 24-year-old ex-rock 'n' roller. Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin? It seemed hardly believable that Hollywood's dewy-fresh, doll-like little sweetheart and the brash, finger-snapping, love-'em-and-leave-'em ladies' man actually planned marriage.

All the same, Bobby presented Sandy with a gorgeous emerald-cut diamond ring in New York when they flew in from Rome. "I'm still floating on Cloud Nine," bubbled the champagne-blonde beauty. "To think I didn't want to go back to Rome for a second picture; I wanted to stay home for a while. Just think," she sighed, wide-eyed at the notion, "if I hadn't gone back, I'd never have met Bobby and I wouldn't be engaged now."

As for Bobby himself... "We've set no actual date for the wedding," grinned the talented crooner. "We admit all this came up suddenly. But we're not fighting it now because we know it's the real thing."

But is it the "real thing?" There appears some doubt in the hearts of those closest to Sandra and Bobby, yet certainly no doubts assail the love-birds themselves.

Just after the formal engagement announcement, rumor had it that Sandra's pretty young mother, Mary Douvan, viewed the romance with "mixed emotions." There never was a closer relationship between mother and daughter than between this pair. So it's hardly surprising that Mrs. Douvan was still confused at the prospect of losing her only daughter, even though she was to "gain a son." There were hints of tears in Mrs. Douvan's pretty brown eyes as she admitted she had not fully accepted the idea, but hoped it was all for the best. No doubt she had urged caution to the impetuous Sandy, but Sandra, caught like a feather in the winds and whirlpools of her very first love, was heedless.

But most of all, what did the astute "boy wonder" producer, Ross Hunter (he is Sandra's discoverer, closest friend and trusted career adviser) think of her engagement to Bobby?

"Sandy phoned me from New York twice that day and was pretty hysterical about it all," Hunter smiled. "She wanted to elope right away, but I talked her out of it. Naturally, since Sandra had never had a normal teenage dating life, all this was so much more amazing and exciting to her than it would be to any other 18-year-old. On the phone, she hardly paused for breath, telling me how happy she was. I begged her to delay the engagement announcement; in fact, I asked her not even to wear her ring in public until she had time to think it all over thoroughly. But Sandy shrieked, 'I'd rather cut off my right arm than not wear my ring!'

"I confess, I'm not too certain it's the best thing that has happened to Sandy," Hunter continued thoughtfully, "but if this is what she really wants, then naturally I'm all for it. No one deserves true happiness more than she does, and I hope that her decision is wise, and that Darin will be truly good to her. Of course, Sandy was amazed that I didn't oppose the engagement. 'Why should I, if that's what you want?' I told her. Her next picture for me, Tammy Tell Me True, is set to begin right away and will be completed early in the Spring. I made Sandra promise that she wouldn't get married until the picture is completed. This, at least, will give her time to think things over a bit."

But apparently, Sandra felt there was very little to think over, for a few days later, while at a party, she and Bobby suddenly decided to get married. After much scurrying around for a license and a magistrate, they were united in wedlock in a 3 a.m. ceremony at the home of a friend in Elizabeth, N.J.

Another production executive who has known Sandra since she first arrived in Hollywood and who watched the surprising romance burst into flower in Rome, took a cynical view of the marriage.

"There must he more than sheer coincidence in the fact that the words 'Rome' and 'romance' begin with the same three letters," this man remarked. "This lonely, terribly lonely, little movie princess, shut off in that dark, stifling world of adult glamour, of beautiful clothes and no one her own age, suddenly was confronted by an experienced, aggressive young man under the soft moonlight of a heady Roman night. So, wham! Sandra not only found her first real boy friend, but a husband as well.

"My feeling is that to Sandra, the 'sophisticated baby,' marriage is just 'a huge diamond ring,' or maybe even only another role to be played in a new picture. It's all so unreal, because she has had so little experience with life and love.

"I think what happened is that Sandra's little hormones really began working after all this time. She was having a ball on the fabulous Italian Riviera and in Rome with the five other young girls in the film, and so she released many of her inhibitions. It's understandable that, like so many repressed youngsters, she'd finally break loose when those hormones really started working. Sandra might have fallen for any boy under the same circnmstances: strumming guitars, love songs, flowers, perfumed night air. I'm just wondering if she has had enough experience to cope with Darin, a lad who has known lots of dolls. If their marriage turns out to be a mistake, well, they'll probably split up and a sadder but wiser Sandy will continue her career--and perhaps with no great harm done."

Everybody who has met the bubbling and ingratiating Sandra loves her on sight. They want to protect her from emotional storms. Her countless friends among the press call her "an adorable child," and are all for her ever since she first hit Hollywood, a skinny little 14-year-old with huge velvety chestnut eyes swimming in a makeup-plastered face. These true friends are as interested in Sandy's happiness as if she were a baby sister, or a beloved daughter. Frankly, they don't feel too friendly toward that newcomer, Bobby Darin. And some press people would look askance at having this controversial young man as brother, son, or even friend. Right or wrong, they are naturally entitled to their prejudices.

Bobby and Sandra are, in reality, so dissimilar in temperament, interests, background and experience of life that one must perhaps attribute the quick-flashing romance to the climate and the atmosphere: Rome's always golden haze, the electric excitement of the Via Veneto, the full Italian moon over the millionaire's villa, high on a hill at swank Portofino, where much of "Come September" was filmed. Yes, Sandra and Bobby did have many love scenes in the film (it also stars Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida), but after all, Sandra has played countless movie love duets with many young men.

Just how do the most popular teen-star of Hollywood and "the potentially greatest performer since Jolson" differ? Everyone knows that Sandra Dee has had little time--and even less inclination-to date than almost any other girl her age in Tinseltown. Until the surprising and sudden engagement, the question mark in Sandra's life has always been: When is the Dee-Day coming on which she'll meet a boy she really cares for?

Once, for instance, a studio press agent confided to this reporter how few real dates Miss Dee had had during the last three years. Most of her so-called "big evenings" had been arranged by the publicity department. "Not too long ago," said this studio worker, "I thought Sandra ought to go to a very big premiere. So I called a certain young actor and asked if he wouldn't take Sandra. He said he would, but I impressed on him the fact that there were to be no passes at Sandra, that she was to be treated like a lady. The young actor was so cowed by my solemn admonitions that he said, 'Tell me, will it be all right if I sit in the back of the studio limousine with Sandra, or will I have to sit up front with the driver?' This was typical of poor little Sandra's dates."

Now contrast this with Bobby Darin's love life. As he tells it, "Well, I'm only 24, but believe me, I'm no kid. I was 17 when I began going around with Gloria, a 31-year-old dancer. That romance really hurt me. I've got the scars yet."

This, and a second unhappy romance (this time with singer Connie Francis, whose parents dissuaded her from continuing with the cocky, unpredictable young Darin), as well as a number of other fleeting attachments, all added to Bobby's "male call."

In the not too distant past, Bobby had a two-year, off-and-on romance with a second tiny blue-eyed singer, Jo-Ann Campbell. They had met when he was still an unsuccessful songwriter and singer without even money for a haircut or a dinner. Yet just this past summer Bobby was saying of Jo-Ann, "She's the girl I want to spend my life with; I love her more than anyone." But after a strange "postponed engagement," they broke up.

Bobby went in for some romances in Hollywood--Judi Meredith, June Blair, Cara Williams, and others.

"It's easy to understand how Sandra Dee fell in love with Bobby," declares one petite, blonde, blue-eyed starlet who dated him last summer. "When he meets a girl who reminds him of his mother in looks--and Sandra does--he makes an all-out effort to charm her. But Bobby was pretty universally known around town as an unpredictable boy friend, late for dates or forgetting them entirely. He might not write or phone for weeks, then suddenly he'd call for a date without explanation. But," she sighed, "I must say he's exciting and electric and fun to be with."

A marriage counsellor would scarcely consider charming Bobby an easy man for an inexperienced girl to mold into a good husband. Sandy is a highly dependent only child--dependent to an amazing extent on her beautiful young mother. "Ever since I was born," Sandra once said, "Mother couldn't bear to be separated from me. She gave up her own life and her hopes of re-marriage to share my every thought. I'm terribly dependent on her and I don't know how to end it so she'd be free to make a life for herself, unless I found a strong character for a husband--someone I could lean on."

Is Bobby Darin that strong character? As his former girlfriend Jo-Ann pointed out, "Bobby is really very insecure. He hasn't yet recovered from the shock of his mother's death last year. They had such a close relationship that he even confided his love affairs to her. His mother had devoted her life to him, felt the sun rose and set for him. Bobby needs that same kind of devotion in a wife."

Will he find it in a star who has been rushed from one movie to another with hardly a day off? Will he find it in Sandra who confesses, "I love acting. I wouldn't give this up for anything; it's my whole life I would rather work than do anything else. I'm always sick when I'm not working. The minute I'm through with a picture, I'm practically dying, but when I'm working I pay no attention to how I feel. Usually I get up at five and I don't get home until about 8:30. When I'm working, I'm never hungry. But Saturday, when I don't work, is the only day I try to eat a little. My eating is the only thing I ever argue about with Mom. She gets very mad because I won't eat. My waist is 19 inches; I weigh 99 pounds and I mean to keep it like that."

Sandy's weight, clothes, hair-do were always the most important things in her young life until Love Walked In. But for Bobby Darin, life was always an overpowering drive to succeed. This Young Man In A Hurry has said, "I've got it made now as a singer, but I want to make it-faster in movies and on the stage than anyone ever did it. I'd like to be the biggest thing in show business by the time I'm 25. I got this feeling I'm gonna die young--so what I've gotta do, I gotta do fast. I was a sickly child. Rheumatic fever left me with a heart condition. So what? Everybody dies of heart failure eventually, don't they?

"When it comes to planning my life I've got a mind like an IBM computer. Nearly everything I do is part of a master plan to make me the most important entertainer in the world."

Bobby is obviously well on his way to his goal. Called the greatest young rhythm singer in the business, he has fabulous contracts for motion pictuces, night club appearances, TV and records. Last year he earned a quarter of a million dollars; this year it will be more.

With all this money, Darin's only real extravagances are his dozen $250 silk suits and his huge supply of custom underwear. As he tells it, "Back in the Bronx when I lived on milk and rolls 'liberated' before dawn from neighbors' doorsteps, I had a recurring dream: that I was all dressed up with torn underwear underneath. I'm no spender. When it comes to money, I hate to let it out of my hands. When I was merely Robert Walden Cassotto, Mom, Sis and I were on relief. My Dad, a cabinet maker born in Italy, died before I was born; my Mom, of English stock, was never well. We lived in a cold water flat in the switchblade and blackboard jungle section of the Bronx. So I have a healthy respect for money."

In this he is vastly different from child-woman Sandra Dee who always lived in a world of luxury as a child, and who now fills enormous closets with glamour clothes, fur coats of all kinds, and costly jewelry. Sandy and her equally extravagant mother get a big charge out of living like royalty in their fabulous all-white house. "If you're a movie star," Sandra says, "you must live like one."

This difference in outlook--and in their approach to the value of money--between Bobby and Sandra could lead to giant emotional storms. Darin's extremely extroverted behavior may also cause major problems. When Bobby is amused by what someone says, he laughs until he falls flat on the floor. He's even done this on the street with dates. He likes to buy dozens of bags of peanuts, and let them fly at astonished secretaries as he enters offices. "Candidly," he admitted, "sometimes I go overboard by pushing too hard. I've got to watch that streak of the fake in me. When I walk into a strange room I usually try to cover my nervousness by shouting and playing up to the entire room."

Baby-faced, rather prim Sandy is always correct in action, and in dress, and forever fearful that she may unwittingly offend someone. But Bobby, as self-possessed as an H-bomb, has an unsureness in handling people which has caused him to antagonize important contacts, and alienate fans and the press alike. Is he losing sleep over it? "I like people to dislike me," he quips. "It gives me great pleasure to get bum-rapped. I thrive on it. I say what I feel. I can't tell anyone I didn't have a fight with Frankie Avalon, because I did. There is a constant struggle inside of me because there are two Darins--the one the public sees and the scared Robert Walden Cassotto from the Bronx. I have to struggle to make Cassotto come home and smash his fist into the wall instead of into some newspaperman's face, because he said something I didn't like."

Before he left for Rome and his first film he quipped. "I'm going to woo Lady Luck, no other. And I'm going to avoid marriage. It's not that I hate girls--what am I saying?--but that I love my profession more."

After that, of course, Bobby found himself acting out a love story in a movie with lovely little Miss Dee. He took her riding a few times in a horse-drawn carriage while he hummed love ballads to her as they slowly jogged over the old Appian Way, and past the historic sights of the Eternal City. He sent her a dozen yellow roses daily. He strolled with her and her dogs, Pom-Pom and Melinda, along the romantic Via Veneto while bold-eyed Italian men sighed "beauuutifool Sandra" at the sight of her blonde upswept hair, her delicately curved body in exquisite dresses and furs. But there was really so little time for Sandra and Darin to get acquainted. "It couldn't have been much of a romance," remarked a crew man. "The Roman moon rises late over the Seven Hills of Rome and the time for lovers is after midnight. Little Miss Dee had lines to learn every night and a date with a makeup mirror every a.m. at five."

But no doubt as Sandy cuddled up in her regal bed at the Hotel Imperiale in Portofino or in the luxurious Hotel Excelsior suite with its ten-foot high doors, she was awake to the noises of Rome's Via Veneto below, awake to her heart beating wildly in the realization of first love. And though baby-faced Sandra chatters on like a magpie over trivialities of the day, she is reticent when it comes to her innermost dreams. As her mother put it, "I'm an open book, while Sandra is reserved and rarely shows any outward emotion. She keeps her thoughts to herself and it drives me wild." That is undoubtedly why studio press people privately admit they saw no real potential for a developing romance in the fact of "two kids having a lot of fun together," while the two kids acted out a make-believe love story for the film.

It's quite possible that Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin can--and will--make a good marriage. Possibly, too, they'll be together long enough to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.

Nevertheless, lingering doubts and questions crowd into the minds of those who love her. Could it be that Bobby Darin, awesomely ambitious for movie stardom, has selected Hollywood's resigning princess for a mate because of her publicity value to him? We don't believe that. But one is reminded of Eddie Fisher, reportedly hopeful of dating a big movie name for publicity when he arranged that first date with Debbie Reynolds. He had little in common with her, as he later unhappily admitted. Bobby is a very bright, brainy lad, self-educated after one year of Hunter College, while Sandra's interests are limited narrowly to her own immediate life.

Sandra knew her fiance only scant weeks before they announced their engagement--and then only under the most unreal circumstances. Marriage counsellors believe that a girl should know many, many boys before she settles on one. They stress long engagements so that the young pair may really get to know each other well as a prelude to a sound marriage.

When this reporter first met Sandra, she wondered if Hollywood had discovered another Elizabeth Taylor--a blonde one. I compared Liz' colossal violet eyes with Sandy's equally colossal brown ones and was aware of the same delicious sensation of drowning in a pair of magnificent eyes. And I wondered what lay ahead for this dainty little peach-melba Miss with the long, taffy-colored, carefully-tended tresses. Would she, while still in her teens already know the heartbreak of divorce and the string of wolves who lie in wait for a beautiful young divorcee--as Elizabeth Taylor tragically knew it?

Sandra Dee, for all her seeming sophistication, is a highly vulnerable youngster. Marriage isn't for children. And because of that, we ask her, Is Bobby the right one for you, Sandy, dear?

But, Sandra, if you find that marriage is really for you, we're all for it. From a lovely child you've become a beautiful teenager who'll turn into an equally beautiful woman in a few years. Talented now, you'll become one of the screen's best actresses as you attain maturity.

We hope, devoutly, you'll be a happy married woman, too.

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