Please see Part 2 of this series, which features multiple acting couples.
This post was updated on Feb. 15, 2017, to note that Jeffrey Hayden, Shirley Temple Black and Joan Leslie had passed away since this post was published in 2013.
Last Valentine’s Day I reviewed the many unsuccessful relationships of actress Lana Turner. This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to look at some of the successful Hollywood relationships. As I started making my list of couples I was dumbfounded to find I had a list of over 60 long Hollywood marriages! Though this isn’t everyone and some of the marriages have a sprinkling of infidelity, here are a surprising amount of lengthy Hollywood couples of the Golden era.
With each marriage I tried to add some back stories or quotes. Some of the relationships have little information, due to the fact that I couldn’t find anything online.
Charles Buddy Rogers and Mary Pickford: (Married June 1937 to her death in May 1979) Adopted two children, Ronnie Charles (1937) and Roxanne (1944-2007). Mary Pickford and Roxanne were estranged when the daughter eloped with a man her parents didn’t approve of. “Wings” (1927) star Rogers said actor Clark Gable said that the marriage wouldn’t last 6 months since Rogers was 11 years younger than Pickford, America’s Sweetheart of the silent era. However, their marriage lasted 42 years. Rogers and Pickford met in 1927 on the set of “My Best Girl” and hit it off. However, Pickford was married to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and she was trying to hold their marriage together, which ended in divorce in 1936. After Pickford’s death, Rogers remarried. He passed away in 1999.
Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis: (Married Feb. 1923 to her death in Aug. 1969) Three children, Harold Jr, Gloria and Marjorie. Silent film actors Harold Lloyd and Davis met in 1921 while filming “Grandma’s Boy.” After the couple married, Davis retired from films.
Bobby Troup and Julie London: (Married Dec. 1959 to his death in Feb. 1999) Seven children in between them from previous marriages but three children together: Kelly and twins Jody and Reese. London, a jazz singer, and Troup, jazz piano player, were both in the music business. They met in 1955 at the Celebrity Room and he encouraged her career and produced her “Cry Me a River” record. The couple starred in the 1970s medical TV drama “Emergency!” from 1972 to 1979. London played Nurse Dixie McCall and Troup played Dr. Early. Troup said the series was ideal for raising their children.
Bob Hope and Dolores: (Married on Feb. 1934 to July 2003) Adopted four children: Eleanor, Anthony, Linda and Kelly. Though Dolores wasn’t famous like Bob, the couple could be compared to American figure heads like a president. As of 2004, the Hopes hold the record for the longest Hollywood marriage at 69 years.
Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon: (Married June 1930 till her death in March 1971) Two children, Barbara Bebe and Richard. The couple met in 1925 and Bebe didn’t like Ben until they met again in 1928, according to an article by Phil Watson. From 1950 to 1961, the couple had a radio show about raising their family called “Life with the Lyons.”
Fred MacMurray and June Haver: (Married June 1954 till his death in Nov. 1991) Two adopted twin girls, Laurie Ann and Katherine Marie. Musical star Haver left a nun convent to marry MacMurray, who was 18 years her senior. Haver retired from film in 1957 and MacMurray continued on a successful career on television and Disney films. Haver died in 2005.
Phil Harris and Alice Faye: (Married May 1941 to his death in August 1995) Two daughters, Alice and Phyllis. Faye’s career with Twentieth Century Fox ended in 1946. From 1948 to 1954 the couple had a radio comedy show called the “Phil Harris Alice Faye Show.”
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward: (Married Jan. 1958 till his death in Sept. 2008) Three children, Melissa, Nell and Claire. The couple met early in their acting in 1953, but Newman was married. They married after his divorce. Newman was once asked how he stayed true to his wife while being surrounded by beautiful women. He said, “Why go out for hamburger when I have steak at home?” He said their long marriage can be attributed to correct amount of lust and respect.
Cyd Charisse and Tony Martin: (Married May 1948 until her death in June 2008) One child, Tony Jr. The couple met while Charisse’s fame was still growing at MGM. “She stepped out of a dream,” Martin said about Cyd.
Mitzi Gaynor and Jack Bean: (Married Nov. 1954 till his death Dec. 2006) The musical star married talent agent and producer Jack Bean; he called her Yummy and she called him Daddy. Bean helped Gaynor secure her memorable role in “South Pacific” (1958). Bean managed her career with successful television specials. His death nearly ended any desire she still harbored to resurrect her public career. However, Gaynor went back on tour in 2008. The couple had no children.
Gracie Allen and George Burns: (Married Jan. 1926 to her death in Aug. 1964) Two children, Sandra and Ronnie. The comedic couple met in 1922 and Allen first played the “straight-man” and Burns had the jokes. Burns switched it he realized Allen was getting all the laughs.
Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys: (Married Nov. 1951 until his death in May 2006) Three children, Jeffrey, Dana and Tyler. The couple acted on the television series “Topper” from 1953 to 1955.
Joel McCrea and Frances Dee: (Married Oct. 1933 until his death in Oct. 1990) Three sons, Jody (1934), David (1935) and Peter (1955). The couple met on the set of “The Silver Cord” (1933) and he had a crush on her since seeing her in “An American Tragedy” (1931) and requested that she be cast in his movie. Joel and Frances began dating after the movie was completed. It was her relationship with McCrea that compelled her to sign with RKO. In 1935, Dee and her McCrea separated, but soon reconciled. Then in 1966, McCrea filed for divorce, charging Frances with cruelty, but they stayed married until McCrea’s death.
Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond: (Married June 1937 till her death in Jan. 1965) No children. The couple made one movie together, “Smilin’ Through” in 1941.
MacDonald said in 1943, “I can’t believe how blessed I am! I’m married to the most wonderful man, Gene Raymond, whom I’m deeply in love with, and, my career is right where I want it to be. I can live like this forever!”
Raymond said in 1972, “We had 28 glorious years. Jeanette and I respected and loved each other, very deeply. We put one another before anyone or anything. I am blessed to have known her, loved her and been loved by her – absolutely, an incredible lady!”
Ann Rutherford and William Dozier: (Married Oct. 1953 to his death in April 1991) No children together. Rutherford, “Andy Hardy” series actress, married producer Dozier, who later produced and narrated the 1960s television series “Batman.” After their marriage, Rutherford retired from films to be a wife and raise her daughter Gloria, from a previous marriage.
Jean Porter and Edward Dmytryk: (Married 1948 to his death in July 1999) Three children: Richard, Victoria and Rebecca. Jean Porter was a teenage star of the 1940s who usually played Shirley Temple or Virginia Weidler’s friend. The couple had a difficult time during the 1950s when Dmytryk was blacklisted as one of the Hollywood Ten who refused to testify before Joseph R. McCarthy’s House of Un-American Activities Committee. Dmytryk was in jail for 6 months. In the mid-1950s he was allowed to his direct again and he worked with Jean in her last movie, The Left Hand of God (1955). After her acting career, Jean became a real estate agent in the San Fernando Valley.
Bonita Granville and Jack Wrather: (Married Feb. 1947 to his death in Nov. 1984) Four children: Molly, Linda, Jack and Christopher. Wrather produced some of the former child star’s young adult films such as “The Guilty” (1947) and “The Lone Ranger” (1956). ‘The Guilty” was the first film he produced. As Bonita began to have children, she took a step back from acting. Wrather produced television shows such as “Lassie” and was convinced by Walt Disney to build the Disneyland Hotel.
Rod La Rocque and Vilma Banky: (Married June 1927 until his death in Oct. 1969) Their wedding was paid for by producer Samuel Goldwyn and was considered one of the most extravagant of all Hollywood parties at the time. La Rocque retired from films in the 1940s and worked in real estate, and Bánky established an educational fund called the Banky – La Rocque Foundation.
Maureen O’Sullivan and John Farrow: (Married Sept. 1936 until his death in Jan. 1963) Seven children: Michael, Patrick, John, Mia, Tisa, Prudence and Stephanie.
Helen Hayes and Charles MacArthur: (Married Aug. 1928 to his death in April 1956) Adopted two children: James (of Swiss Family Robinson fame) and Mary (died in 1949 at the age of 19).
Kay Kyser and Georgia Carroll: (Married June 1944 until his death in July 1985) Three children: Kimberly, Carroll and Amanda. Carroll was the singer for Kyser’s jazz band, and he fell in love with her. The couple met during World War II and married two years after Carroll started singing for his band. After World War II ended, Kyser retired to Chapel Hill, N.C. with his wife in 1951. The couple remained there for the rest of their marriage.
Eva Marie Saint and Jeffrey Hayden: (Married Oct. 1951 to until Hayden’s death in 2016) Academy Award winning Best Supporting Actress for “On the Waterfront has been married to director Hayden since 1951. The couple has two children together, Darrell (1955) and Laurette (1958) and three grandchildren. Saint gave birth to Darrell two days after winning her Oscar. Jeffrey Hayden passed away on Dec. 24, 2016.
Jeanne Crain and Paul Brooks: (Married Dec. 1945 to his death on Oct. 2003) “State Fair” actress Crain met Brooks, real name Brinkman, in 1943 while he was a young actor and engineer graduate. The couple eloped in 1945, a marriage her mother was against causing the two to be estranged for several years, according to Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. The couple had seven children together: Paul (1947), Michael (1949), Timothy (1950), Jeanine (1952), Lisabette (1958), Maria (1961), Christopher (1965). Though the couple remain together for many years, some of it was rocky. Crain filed for divorce in 1956, but they reconciled. Despite the fact that they remained married for so long, from 1978 to 2003, the two live separately remaining friendly and stay married, because of their Catholic beliefs. Brooks dies two months before Crain does.
Rosalind Russell and Frederick Brisson: (Married Oct. 1941 to her death on Nov. 1976): “His Girl Friday” actress Russell and producer Brisson were married until Russell’s death and had one son, Lance in 1943. Brisson died in 1984
Priscilla Lane and Joseph A. Howard: (Married May 1942 to his death on May 1976): “Arsenic & Old Lace” actress Priscilla Lane met Howard, an Army Air Force lieutenant, in 1942. After World War II ended, the couple lived in New Mexico and then moved to California where Howard was a building contractor. Lane retired from movies, a decision her husband left to her, in 1948 and the couple had four children together: Joseph (1945), Hannah (1950), Judith (1953) and James (1955). The couple later moved to New England where Lane was a Girl Scout troop leader, went to church and volunteered at hospitals. She said she never regretted leaving Hollywood. Howard died in 1976, something Lane never got over. He was buried in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia and Priscilla was buried with him when she died in 1994.
Shirley Temple and Charles Black: (Married Dec. 1950 to his death on Aug. 2005): On their way to get married, Black admitted he had never seen any of the child actress’s films. Shirley Temple said it’s corny but it was love at first sight when they first met in Honolulu where he was working for a shipping company. Black served on a Commerce Department advisory committee and National Research Council panels. He co-founded a Massachusetts-based company that developed unmanned deep-ocean search and survey imaging systems. He also served in the Navy during the Korean War. The couple had two children together: Charlie (1952) and Lori (1954) and Black adopted Temple’s daughter from her marriage with John Agar, Linda (1948). Shirley Temple passed away on Feb. 10, 2014.
Claudette Colbert and Dr. Joel Pressman: (Married Dec. 1935 to his death on Feb. 1968). The “It Happened One Night” actress Colbert married Pressman, a surgeon at UCLA, and were married for 33 years. The couple had no children.
Joan Leslie and Dr. William G. Caldwell: (Married March 1950 to his death on April 2000): “Yankee Doodle Dandy” actress, Joan Leslie, married the UCLA graduate and retired from acting when she had her twin daughters Patricia and Ellen. Caldwell passed away in 2000 and Leslie passed away on Oct. 15, 2015.
Irene Dunne and Frances Dennis Griffin: (Married July 1928 to his death on Oct. 1965) “The Awful Truth” actress married a New York dentist and kept a long distance relationship with him in the first few years of their marriage. Frances finally gave up his dental practice and joined Dunne in Hollywood. The couple adopted their daughter named Mary Frances 1936.
Dorothy McGuire and John Swope: (Married July 1942 to his death on May 1979): The “Old Yeller” actress married LIFE Magazine photographer Swope in 1943 and the couple had two children: Mark and Topo. McGuire died in 2000.
Ann Blyth and Dr. James McNulty: (Married June 1953 to his death on May 2007) The couple had five children:Timothy, Maureen, Kathleen, Terence and Eileen. “I picked the right man. He has a great sense of humor, and has always been very supportive,” she said about being able to keep a successful relationship in Hollywood.
Fredric March and Florence Eldridge: (Married May 1927 to his death April 1975) Adopted two children: Penelope (1932) and Anthony (1934). Though Florence was not as big of a star as her “The Best Years of Our Lives” acting husband, the couple acted alongside each other in films, on the radio and in plays. These include The Studio Murder Mystery (1929), Les Misérables (1935), Another Part of the Forest (1948), An Act of Murder (1948), Christopher Columbus (1949), and Inherit the Wind (1960). On TV, she appeared with him in the “Producers’ Showcase” (1954) presentation of ‘Dodsworth’ on April 30, 1956.
Robert Mitchum and Dorothy: (Married March 1940 to his death on July 1997) Three children Christopher, Trini and James. Though the couple was together for many years, unfortunately Robert had several affairs throughout the 60 year marriage.
Don Ameche and Honore Prendergast: (Married Dec. 1932 to her death in Sept. 1986) The couple had 6 children: Ronald, Dominic, Thomas, Lonnie, Bonnie and Connie.
Dan Duryea and Helen Bryan: (Married April 1932 to her death on Jan. 1967). two children: Peter (1939) and Richard (1942). Though Dan Duryea usually played a slimy character in movies, he was a friendly fellow in real life. He enjoyed gardening and was active as a Boy Scout master and in the school PTA. His gravestone even reads, “Our pop-A man loved by everyone.”
Walter Brennan and Ruth Wells: (Married Oct. 1920 to his death on Sept. 1974). Three children: Ruth, Arthur and Andy,
Walter Pidgeon and Ruth Walker: (Married Dec. 1931 to his death on Sept. 1984) Ruth Walker was Pidgeon’s secretary when they got married in 1931. They had no children together.
Danny Thomas and Rose Marie Mantell Thomas: (Married Jan. 15, 1936 to his death on Feb. 6, 1991). Three children: Tony, Terre and Marlo, of “That Girl” fame. Danny met Rose while performing on the radio show “The Happy Hour Club.” His children continued to work as actors and producers.
Robert Stack and Rosemarie: (Married from Jan. 1956 to his death in March 2003). Two children: Charles and Elizabeth. Both acted in Hollywood, but Rosemarie was not as successful in acting as Robert. Rosemarie gave up her acting career temporarily while their children were young. The couple enjoyed outdoor activities such as sailing and riding.
Basil Rathbone and Ouida Bergère: (Married on April 1926 to his death in July 1967). Adopted one daughter, Cynthia in 1939. Swashbuckling actor Basil Rathbone met scriptwriter Ouida in 1923. They fell in love and Rathbone had to divorce his current wife before they could marry. Basil and Ouida enjoyed reading books and watching boxing, baseball and golf. Ouida gave up her writing career to help Basil manage his acting.
James Cagney and Frances: (Married on Sept. 1922 to his death in March 1986): Two childre: Casey and James Jr. Cagney married dancer Frances after meeting in the chorus line of “Pitter Patter.” Though Merle Oberon tried to seduce Cagney, he never cheated on his wife.
Charles Boyer and Pat Paterson: (Married on Feb. 1934 to her death in Aug. 1978) One child, Michael. The couple met at a dinner party in 1934 and married after a three month courtship. Pat had a few small roles in Hollywood while Charles was more successful in acting. Boyer was described by friends as a “happily married book-worm and a stick in the mud.” Boyer committed suicide two days after his wife died of cancer. Their only son died in 1965 by committing suicide after having a fight with his girlfriend. At the time of Michael’s death, Charles was filming a movie in Europe. Pat and Charles never recovered from their son’s death.
Joseph Cotten and Patricia Medina: (Married Oct. 1960 to his death in Feb. 1994) In Cotten’s autobiography “Vanity Gets You Somewhere,” he said Medina was the love of his life.
Joseph once said: “My wife told me one of the sweetest things one could hear: “I am not jealous. But I am truly sad for all the actresses who embrace you and kiss you while acting, for with them, you are only pretending.”
Louis Jourdan and Berthe Quique’ Frederique Jourdan: (Married March 1946 to present.) One child, Louis Henry who predeceased his parents in 1981. Louis met Berthe through the Underground with the French Resistance. The couple married in Paris, which was a day Jourdan said was “the happiest day of his life.”
Gregory Peck and Veronique: (Married Dec. 1955 to his death in June 2003) Two children, Tony (1956) and Cecilia (1958). The couple met while Veronique, a young journalist, was interviewing him in 1953 for France Soir in Paris. Veronique became a U.S. citizen in 1976. The couple raised over $50 million for the American Cancer Society in the 1960s and were actively involved in politics.
James Stewart and Gloria Stewart: (Married Jan. 1949 to her death in Feb. 1994) Two children, twin girls Judy and Kelly. Stewart adopted his wife’s children from a previous marriage as well, Ronald and Michael. Stewart married Gloria, a former model, after returning from serving in World War 2. “I pitched the big question to her last night and to my surprise she, she, she said yes,” he said. Their son Ronald was killed in action during the Vietnam War. Throughout his time in Hollywood, James was always faithful to his wife.
Jack Benny and Margaret Livingstone: (Married Jan. 1927 to his death in Dec. 1974) One child. Jack met Mary Livingstone in Vancouver British Columbia when he was appearing there, at the Orpheum there as well. Ten years younger than him, Benny feared Margaret was to young to marry him. However he eventually proposed. The two performed on the radio together. The comedian delivered a rose to his wife almost every day until he died.
Dennis Morgan and Lillian Vedder: (Married Sept. 1933 to his death in Sept. 1994) Three children. “It’s not the easiest thing in the world to be a success in Hollywood and still be the ordinary husband and father,” Morgan said.
Dana Andrews and Mary Todd: (Married Nov. 1939 to Dec. 1992) Three children: Stephen, Katharine and Susan.
Kirk Douglas and Anne Douglas: (Married May 1954 to present) Two children: Peter and Eric. Douglas married the German producer, Anne, after ending his first marriage with Diane. This past Thanksgiving, the two helped serve Thanksgiving Dinner to the homeless in Los Angles.
Ricardo Montalban and Georgiana Young: (Married Oct. 1944 until her death in Nov. 2009) Four children: Victor, Laura, Mark and Anita. Georgiana was the sister of Loretta Young, making Montalban her brother-in-law. Ricardo nicknamed his wife “Georgie.”
Paul Henreid and Elizabeth “Lisl” Camilla Julia Gluck: (Married Jan. 1936 until his death in March 1992) Two children.
Eddie Cantor and Ida Tobias Cantor: (Married June 1914 to Aug. 1962) Four children: Marilyn, Marjorie, Natalie, Edna and Janet. The comedian had a running joke in his jokes about his “five un-marriageable daughters” which didn’t always please his daughters.
Donald O’Connor and Gloria Noble: (Married Oct. 1956 until his death in Sept. 2003) Three children: Alicia, Donald Frederick and Kevin.
Charlton Heston and Lydia Clarke: (Married Mach 1944 until his death in April 2008) Two children: Frazer and Holly. Charlton married Lydia the same year he joined the military. After the war, the couple tried to find work as actors in New York until they decided to manage a theater in Asheville, NC, before Charlton became famous in Hollywood.
Robert Young and Elizabeth Louise Henderson: (Married 1933 until her death in April 1994) Four children: Betty Lou Gleason, Carol Proffitt, Barbara Beebe, and Kathy Young. Young, 17, met Elizabeth, 14, when they were in high school, according to his New York Times obituary. Though Young played the perfect father and husband, he also had alcoholism problems and bitterness towards Hollywood. With the help of his wife Elizabeth, he was able to overcome it.
Pat O’Brien and Eloise Taylor: (Married Jan. 1931 to Oct. 1983) One child, three adopted: Sean, Terry, Brigid and Mavourneen.
Though this is not a complete list of long Hollywood marriages, this is a pretty good example that some acting marriages can survive. Others not included are Harry Carey Jr. and Marilyn Fix, Randolph Scott, Harry Carey and Olive Carey, and Nancy Davis and Ronald Reagan.
Who are some long marriages you can think of?
You can read the 2018 follow-up post of more married actors here: https://cometoverhollywood.com/2018/02/14/for-better-or-worse-long-hollywood-marriages/
Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page