Lessons From Hollywood: Never Marry Someone In The Same Industry As You

We’ve all seen A Star is Born, right?

Aspiring actress meets established alcoholic actor whose career is on the downward turn. He helps her get her break. They fall in love and get married. She gets more famous as he gets drunker and less famous. She tries to help him unalcoholify.1 He fears that he is holding her back and goes for swim in the Pacific Ocean. A very long swim.

Moral: there can only be one! No marriage can support two actors or two writers or two artists or two anything that can lead to fame. THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE FAMOUS ONE IN A RELATIONSHIP! Otherwise there will be long non-returning swims in the ocean. And tearful declarations of undying love from the one who doesn’t go for a swim as the credits roll.

There’s the 1937 version, the 1954 version, and the 1976 version.2 Then there’s What Price Hollywood? from 1934, which is the exact same movie except instead of the swim the washed-up actor shoots himself.

My favourite is the 1954 version because JUDY GARLAND! The singing! The emoting! The clothes! It is hilariously divine. Though it defies anyone’s imagination that anyone could ever fall in love with James Mason. I mean, come on, the guy is super creepy. He was born to play super creepy bad guys, not heroes. Even washed-up alcoholic loser actor husband heroes. In 1954 I would have cast Robert Mitchum even though he was way too hung, er, I mean, young. Just because I really like young Robert Mitchum. Oh, okay, how about Henry Fonda. Can you imagine? No, me neither. How about Jimmy Stewart? Actually, Jimmy Stewart would have been perfect. Think of his performance in Vertigo. Totally neurotic and unhinged. Not sure there would have been much chemistry with Garland but, hey, there was zero chemistry between her and Mason so it could hardly be worse.

Wow. Now I want to recast all my favourite films that have casting issues. Oh, oh, oh! Dorothy Dandridge as Maria in West Side Story. She was too young enough! She still looked plenty young in her 30s. And unlike Natalie Wood she could sing.

*cough* I digress.

Where was I?

Right. The lesson from this much re-versioned3 film. Never get involved with someone who’s in your industry. Only one of you can be successful. There has never—in the history of the world—been a couple who were both well-known in their industry and had a happy marriage. Seriously I am sitting here trying to think of a single example and I’m failing.

Well, phew. I’d hate to think that anything I learned from Hollywood was not true.

If you feel the urge to name some of these non-existent couples you’re only allowed to pick dead ones. Or at least one of them dead. Otherwise they will break up within the week. Please, no jinxing happy relationships! Not that there are any happy artistic relationships.

  1. Yes, that’s a real word. Oh, hush. []
  2. They tried really hard to get Elvis Presley rather than Kris Kristofferson. Can you imagine? Maybe he wouldn’t have died in 1977 if he’d starred in it. Or maybe he would have died sooner. We’ll never know. []
  3. I can too make words mean anything I want them to mean. []


  1. David Moles on #

    It’s also not too far from the plot of The Artist.

  2. Justine on #

    David Moles: Indeed. It’s the plot of a gazillion movies. But I’m saving these broken arms for writing me books and blogging. Someone else can do the multiple keystroke research. #itsnotcauseImlazy

  3. Heath on #

    My wife also has special feelings about the young Robert Mitchum. 🙂

    Um, how about Nick and Nora Charles? Or Ralph and Sue Dibny, for the comics fans?

  4. Aleta on #

    I am trying to decide if you’re joking. Does it matter if they’re in the same artistic area ? Does it matter if they’re artists at all? Or, does it matter only if they are both successful enough to achieve fame, even if one is a scientist and the other a doctor? Is your real name Abby? I suppose if they are both confident enough in who they are, it *shouldn’t* matter. I like to think that one could be happy supporting the other’s success and that it wouldn’t undermine his own sense of “self”, but maybe not. I can’t come up with a good example of the scenario you’ve described, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

  5. Carol on #

    Well…Just ’cause its true for me, won’t mean it’s true for EVERYbody…no long swims tho’. Don’t like water.

  6. Tim Keating on #

    Urm… this whole post is meant to be ironic, yes?

  7. Melody on #

    Aleta and Tim: Think about who Justine’s married too. That should answer your questions about whether it’s a joke/ironic.

    Maybe there are some industries where this holds more truth than others. I can think of many examples of modern musical or acting couples with whom the pressure of fame (or perceived competitions of fame) take their toll – Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes (him being so controlling), Delta Goodrem and Brian McFadden, etc. But there are also those that seem to work (though I can only think of living couples at the moment, so I won’t mention any names!). So maybe it has nothing to do with the industry and everything to do with the individuals concerned.

    That said, I have heard some arguments that, if you’re going to marry someone famous, it is better if they are someone who’s fame is from a different area than yours. Then there is no jealousy or competition (i.e. a singer and an actor). Sadly, I can again only think of living couples as examples here, so I won’t give any, though I’m sure everyone can think of several for themselves.

  8. Justine on #

    Heath: Well, Nick and Norah be fictional. How about Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett?

    Yes, young Robert Mitchum was, um . . . . YUM.

    Melody: Yes, as you say, I was indeed joshing.

    A quick tip for those of you who are confused: have I filed it under the “Ironical this is writ” category?

    A while ago I wrote a more serious post about the notion that two artists in a relationship must necessarily be in competition with each other. Can’t find it now. (Too many bloody posts on this blog. 1,790 of the buggers. Sheesh.) The shorter version: that has never been my experience.

  9. Janice on #

    Oh oh, I’ll play this game. Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne. And one of them is dead. Ha.

  10. Mike on #

    Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.

  11. Paroma on #

    I don’t really know much about the personal lives of Hollywood stars or other American artists, but I can name at least a half dozen now-dead couples (probably unfamiliar to everyone here) who’ve worked and succeeded in the same fields in my country and yet somehow managed to stay married. And not because of societal pressures either.
    But I’ll name a movie instead (much easier to look up!) that was made in the early 70s.
    ‘Abhimaan’ which means (in this context) anger fueled by pride. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhimaan_(1973_film)
    A singer marries a pretty girl with a beautiful voice and later becomes jealous of the unexpected success she finds in his field.
    But no one dies. In the end they get back together. I liked that end. =D

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