by Helen Weller
Hollywood | May 1942
“Shall I elope?”
Every day girls throughout the country sit down and pour out their love problems on paper and then send it winging off to an apple-cheeked, baby-faced young girl of 21 just starting out on life herself, name of Gene Tierney.
Certainly no Hollywood marriage every created the furor that the elopement of Gene Tierney and her lean-faced young Count did. Immediately after Gene and Oleg Cassini said their “I do’s” in the old-fashioned parlor of a Las Vegas justice of peace last June, the pose-elopement storm broke with a tremendous thunder. Then we all learned that Gene had run off and married the man of her choice over the screaming objections of her family.
Gene eloped over the parental black-balling – and now thousands of other girls want to know if they should do likewise. So they write to Gene. Obviously, a movie star cannot personally answer the flood of letters that pour into her every day, but in this case Gene has made an exception. She has taken the time to answer the troubled queries of love-torn girls who have laid their problems before her. Gene wants it understood first that she does not pretend to be an oracle on such affairs, nor does she presume to interfere in family problems. But she does feel, rightly, that as a famous Hollywood personality she may have set a trend in elopements, and may have given other girls similar ideas. Perhaps wrong ideas. So with an understanding and sympathy unusual in a girl her age, she has tried to set them right.
“What I have told most of them,” she said, “is this: that in spite of my own elopement, I personally don’t favor elopements at all! Marriage is the greatest step in a girl’s life and that’s the time when her family should be with her. But some girls have the ga-ga notion that elopements are romantic, that it’s exciting to slip away from your family and tie the knot in secret. Like this girl, for instance. Here is what she writes . . .”
“My boy friend and I are planning to be married,” wrote the girl, “but so many movie stars elope to Yuma or Las Vegas that we’re planning to run away some night and do the same. It sounds much more thrilling than a regular wedding. You’ve done it – what do you think?”
“I think she’s all wrong. There’s nothing beautiful about sneaking off in the dark and going through a hurried ceremony in a strange place with none of your loved ones around. I think it’s far more romantic to be married in a white gown and have your family and friends there. I’ve always wanted to be a ‘white bride’ – in fact, I used to dream of being married in my aunt’s rose point wedding gown and having bridesmaids and lots of fuss surrounding my wedding. It would have been much more memorable than a hasty elopement. But then, my case was different. I couldn’t have a conventional wedding. My family was opposed to my marrying Oleg and my brother was on his way to Hollywood to try to dissuade me from marrying him. I was afraid he might succeed, and that in years to come I would always regret having lost the one man I wanted. So, lacking family approval and co-operation, I eloped. I haven’t regretted it. I know I married the right man and that is the important thing.
“There are times when it is the propitious thing to elope, and there are times when elopements are foolish. Like this girl – ”
“We’ve been going together for two years,” the small feminine scrawl read, “but my parents don’t think he can make me happy. He’s not perfect; no one is, but he’s good and decent. We love each other and I can’t get interested in any other boy. I’m thinking seriously of doing what you did.”
“There’s a girl,” said Gene, “who’s given herself the acid love test. She’s gone with the boy a long time, knows him well, is aware of his faults and accepts them, and she’s tried to become interested in other boys but can’t. She has apparently made a genuine effort to reconcile her family to him but they’re stubborn. Since they refused to give the girl the pleasure of their presence at her wedding, she’ll have to get married without them. I think her case is like mine. I, too, knew Oleg well, I couldn’t get interested in other and I too couldn’t get my family’s okay – so I found the answer in eloping. If this girl does the same, I hope she is as happy as I am!
“Now,” said Gene, pointing to another letter, “when this girl wrote and asked me if I thought she should follow in my footsteps, I told her I thought not.”
“I’m madly in love,” gushed the words out of this letter. “I’m 18 and I haven’t gone out very much with boys. When I met Bob a month ago it was love at first sight and we’re dying to get married as soon as possible. My parents want me to wait, so we’re thinking of eloping.”
“This girl,” said Gene, “has two strikes against her which would make an elopement disastrous. For one, he’s the first real beau she’s ever had and girls who haven’t had many boy friends can’t possibly recognize the right man so quickly. Before I met Oleg I had had many beaux and I knew what I wanted. I was able to compare Oleg with the other boys and I knew that the way I felt about him was something special. Then again, this girl hardly knows the boy. It’s ridiculous to say that you can know someone in a few weeks. You must go through the various stages of courtship, of being companionable, of splitting up after squabbles and realizing desperately you can’t live without him. I went with my husband for seven months and we passed through all those phases. This girl ought to wait. Time and association will tell if the boy is right for her, and if he is, her family will no doubt give her their blessings and she won’t have to resort to an elopement after all.
“Right now so many girls write asking if they should elope with their soldier beaux. One girl wrote me that she and her fiancé had been planning to marry as soon as he got a raise. Came the draft and he was called, so they want to be married right away. But her mother wants them to wait until the war is over because of the uncertainties involved. The mother is adamant, the girl is heartbroken. What to do? I would say: try like anything to persuade the mother to agree to the marriage. If she still refuses, then elope. The girl has the right man, it’s really love, they know their own hearts – so follow through.
“On the other hand, another girl wrote me that she fell in love with a handsome soldier boy when she was a volunteer hostess in a service camp near her home. Now they’re talking of running off and hunting up a justice of peace. This girl hardly knows the boy, doesn’t know his family or surroundings, hasn’t seen him in his normal civilian background. She has fallen in love with his uniform and has no way of knowing if he is the right man. Elopement here would be only a thoughtless move, a marriage taken on the run by two people who are strangers to each other. That is elopement at its riskiest.
“In the majority of cases, I think elopements are a grave mistake. To the girl-on-the-rebound who suddenly meets another boy and wants to elope with him to show her ex-beau that she is still in demand, I’d say whoa! And to the girls whoa re becoming panicky about the lack of available males and who, in desperation, want to run off with the first boy who is willing, my advice is to put the brakes on the elopement urge. Also to the girl who thinks that a speedy elopement will solve some of her other problems, I’d say stop!
“In other words, an elopement must have the same thought, understanding and love that a conventional wedding would have. Marriage shouldn’t be performed on the sly; a hasty hit-and-miss idea contrived on the spur of the moment. It is much too sacred to be made sneaky or fugitive. Give it the dignity of a conventional ceremony whenever you can, and resort to an elopement only when it is the last measure left open for you to marry the man you love.”