Modern Screen, July 1948
You laughed at the two-year-old Maureen making out her grocery
list: "We need five eggs. We need artichokes." Or singing her favorite
song: "Mamazelle from Armateere, won't you wash my underwear? Hicky, dicky,
pol-ly voooo." . . .And you cried at the two-year-old Maureen getting her
first spanking, even though she deserved it, because she wouldn't eat her soup,
she wouldn't even begin to eat her soup, and she said, "I won't!"
. . .
Birthdays, Christmases -- you shared them all with the Reagans. Christmas of '43, when it was hard to get ornaments and the tree looked skimpy, partly because the star for the top had been used to trim a tiny tree in Maureen's room, and Maureen coming into the living-room Christmas morning, and walking quietly over to the big tree and saying sadly, "Poor tree. There's no star on top."
Left: The break-up that shocked Hollywood was
the Reagans' (here with Maureen, 7.)
Jane's career, Ronnie's outside activities, were blamed.
Yes, we shared the good times and the bad times with Ronnie and
Jane, and finally the war was over, and Ronnie was home, and it should have
been all clear from there. But who's got a crystal ball? If you'd asked me,
for instance, a little while back, I'd have said this was one of the best years
in Jane's life. She got some real career breaks. The role in Lost Weekend.
Ma Baxter in The Yearling. But Ma Baxter got her the Academy Award nomination,
and people who like to talk about trouble say that's when the trouble started.
At the completion of Johnny Belinda, Jane came to New York "for a rest" and left the family at home. I saw her, but I didn't ask any questions then. You don't pry into your friends' private lives. You just sit tight and hope.
I kept reading reports of quotes from Ronnie, and they were encouraging. "We'll be married fifty years," he told reporters. Still the talk went on. "Jane lost her baby girl last June -- that's what made her neurotic." And, "Jane should see a psychiatrist." Everybody was getting into the act.
The fact is that Jane did start Johnny Belinda too soon
after losing her baby. The role of a deaf-mute was a tough one. It's hard to
show your emotions with your eyes and your face, never having the use of tongue
and ears to aid the impression. Jane lived that part by day and night all the
time that picture was shooting. After the picture came the New York trip, and
when she came home from New York Ronnie went to an apartment, while Jane stayed
on in their house with the children.
I have a feeling that Ronnie had a great faith in time, and love, to make things right again. To all the questions asked, he said, "Why doesn't everybody leave us alone?" But it's one of the prices of fame that nobody ever wants to.
I was thinking all this, broodingly, when the Flamingo loudspeaker brought me down to the Nevada earth again. The voice on the loudspeaker was paging Jane Wyman. I got up and walked toward the lounge and bumped right into Jane.
"Hello, Jane," I said.
"Hello, Al," she said. "Here for a little sun?"
I said, "Yeah." I was embarrassed; my next words came out in a rush. "You, Jane -- are you here for a divorce?"
She forgave my crudeness. "I don't know, Al," she said. "Yet."
I left her alone. I told myself they'd probably have reconciled if the world had left them alone.
And then it began to look as if I'd been right. Jane checked out
of the Flamingo and went home, which means no divorce for the moment. (Residence
for divorce in Nevada means an uninterrupted stretch served within the state
limits.) When I read that Jane had asked Ronnie to come home, I called my wife
long-distance. "I just got a million dollars," I said. She knew what
I meant before I'd explained. She'd seen the same news items.
Well, the reconciliation lasted one week. Somebody took my million dollars away. At the moment, there isn't too much information available. Ronnie's in an apartment; Jane's going to move to a family hotel; there's no other man in her life. She's filed for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.
Jane'll have custody of the children. "I believe children are better off with their mother," Ronnie said, "and Jane's a wonderful mother. I'll have the privilege of seeing them."
The statement gives me a lump in my throat. I guess there's nothing more to say. When a beautiful dream is over, you wake up reluctantly, you face the real, harsh world. If the Reagans are through, I'm sorry. They meant a lot to me.
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