Firsthand Accounts From People Who Dated Old Hollywood Stars

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Vote up the most interesting ex-files on these old Hollywood legends.

The classic Hollywood era, much like modern-day Hollywood, included a lot of fast love and even faster break-ups. Many of these old Hollywood stars have impressive black books of equally famous people they've dated or married. Of course, not every ex-partner is the most reliable source of information. While some of these storytellers might be Bitter Betties, others remember their past loves with a great deal of respect - perhaps more than they gave them during the relationship.

Outside forces drove some of these couples apart, such as studio execs, illness, or diverging career paths. But however the relationship ended, these couples weren't afraid to jump back on the wagon and go after love again. Whether surprising, petty, sweet, or tragic, vote up the most interesting tea these exes had to spill.

  • No One Wanted Lauren Bacall And Humphrey Bogart To Get Together, Particularly Bogart's Wife
    Photo: National Motion Picture Council / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Lauren Bacall was just 19 years old when she met future husband Humphrey Bogart, who was 25 years her senior. The young Bacall had recently been taken under the wing of director Howard Hawks, who planned to make her the next big thing. One step toward that goal was casting her in her first film, To Have and Have Not, opposite Humphrey Bogart.

    At the time, Bacall had little interest in the leading man. Recalling their first meeting in her memoir, By Myself and Then Some, Bacall wrote:

    There was no clap of thunder, no lightning bolt, just a simple how-do-you-do. Bogart was slighter than I imagined - five feet ten and a half, wearing his costume of no-shape trousers, cotton shirt, and scarf around neck. Nothing of import was said - we didn’t stay long - but he seemed a friendly man.

    It wasn't until they started filming that sparks began to fly between Bacall and the married Bogart:

    Bogie came in to bid me good night. He was standing behind me – we were joking as usual - when suddenly he leaned over, put his hand under my chin, and kissed me. It was impulsive - he was a bit shy – no lunging wolf tactics. He took a worn package of matches out of his pocket and asked me to put my phone number on the back. I did. I don’t know why I did, except it was kind of part of our game.

    Bogie was meticulous about not being too personal, was known for never fooling around with women at work or anywhere else. He was not that kind of man, and also he was married to a woman who was a notorious drinker and fighter. A tough lady who would hit you with an ashtray, lamp, anything, as soon as not.

    The affair was kept secret from Bogart's wife, Mayo Methot, who had once stabbed him with a small knife, and the possessive Hawks. Neither reacted well when they finally learned of the news, particularly Methot, who Bacall says called her one night to say, "Listen, you Jewish b*tch, who’s going to wash his socks? Are you?"

    Still, the pair weren't swayed. Bogart divorced Methot and he and Bacall were married in 1945. They were together until Bogart passed from cancer in 1957. Bacall remembers in her memoir:

    That night was a night never to be forgotten of total restlessness - of Bogie picking at his chest in his sleep - of his feeling he had to get up and then not - of constant movement. I was awake most of the night and could see his hands moving over his chest as he slept, as though things were closing in and he wanted to get out.

    The only thing that became more apparent to me that night was an odor - I had been noticing it as I kissed him. At first I thought it was medicinal - later I realized it was decay. Actually I didn’t realize it - I asked the nurse what it was and she told me. It was a strong odor almost like disinfectant turned sour. In the world of sickness one becomes privy to the failure of the body - to so many small things taken for granted, ignored, I reacted not with revulsion but with a caving in of my stomach.

    Bacall considers their romance as the best time of her life, telling Vanity Fair

    I married a man who adored me and who taught me everything about life and movies and people and exposed me to the best part of living, which was talented, creative people. And all of his absolute devotion to the truth, to honesty, to honor, and to laughter - to everything. How could I not find that the years that changed me completely and that gave me a life were the happiest?

  • A Former Boyfriend Recalls Rock Hudson As A 'Gentle Giant'
    Photo: Unknown photographer for Photoplay Magazine / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Thirty years after Rock Hudson's passing, former boyfriend Lee Garlington gave a rare interview on what the leading man was like outside of the limelight. Garlington described the broadly built Hudson as a "gentle giant" and a "sweetheart" whom he adored. The pair dated in secret from 1962-1965, for fear of the impact a homosexual relationship would have on Hudson's career.

    Garlington told People Magazine about the first time he met Hudson, while working as an extra:

    He was the biggest movie star in the world, and the rumors were that he was gay... So I thought, "Let me get an eye on him." I stood outside his cottage on the Universal lot, pretending to read Variety, which was probably upside down at the time. He walked out and down the street. He looked back once. That was it.

    Garlington described the secret nature of their relationship, saying,

    I’d come over after work, spend the night and leave the next morning... I’d sneak out at 6 AM in my Chevy Nova and coast down the street without turning on the engine so the neighbors wouldn’t hear. We thought we were being so clever...

    Nobody in their right mind came out. It was career suicide. We all pretended to be straight. Once we met Paul Newman and his wife [Joanne Woodward] at a premiere. He looked at me and smiled. I just read in his face – that maybe he knew Rock and I were together. We kind of laughed about it.

    According to Garlington, Hudson had a laid-back nature:

    Rock had no pretense. He was always casual. He liked to wear chinos and moccasins around the house and hang around and watch television.

    The two actually broke up because Garlington wanted someone with a stronger personality. Garlington says he didn't realize the impact the relationship had on Hudson until he read the star's posthumously published biography, where it says Hudson called Garlington his "true love." Garlington told People

    I broke down and cried. I just lost it. He said his mother and I were the only people he ever loved. I had no idea I meant that much to him.

  • Rita Hayworth Struggled To Find Someone Who Understood The Real Her
    Photo: Dell Publishing Company / Associated Press / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    While famous for her alluring, femme fatale characters, Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth was quite shy in reality, and dealt with a turbulent personal life. She had a number of rocky marriages, once saying that she was a "gentle person" attracted to "mean personalities."

    Actor Kirk Douglas described the real Hayworth as "beautiful, but very simple, unsophisticated." Douglas wrote in his autobiography:

    I felt something deep within her that I couldn’t help - loneliness, sadness - something that would pull me down; I had to get away.

    Hayworth did seem to find someone to understand and appreciate her with Glenn Ford, her Gilda co-star, with whom she had a 40-year on-again, off-again relationship. Ford said, "To the world, she was a sex symbol, but with me, she could just be herself."

    One of her most famous relationships, however, was with actor/director Orson Welles. The two were married from 1943 to 1947. While Hayworth said that Welles never wanted the commitment of married life, Welles also spoke of Hayworth's illness, which seemed like alcoholism. Hayworth was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and her family believes her alcohol use masked some of the disease's symptoms. Welles remembered:

    It certainly imitated alcoholism in every superficial way... She'd fly into these rages, never at me, never once, always at [studio head] Harry Cohn or her father or her mother or her brother. She would break all the furniture and she'd get in a car and I'd have to get in the car and try to control her. She'd drive up in the hills suicidally. Terrible, terrible nights. And I just saw this lovely girl destroying herself.

    Running into her later in life at an event, Welles said: 

    When it was over, I came over to her table, and I saw that she was very beautiful, very reposed looking, and didn't know me at first. After about four minutes of speaking, I could see that she realized who I was, and she began to cry quietly.

    The night before his passing, Welles recalled his ex-wife as "one of the dearest and sweetest women that ever lived."

  • Joe DiMaggio Reportedly Blamed Himself For Marilyn Monroe's Death
    Photo: Now Magazine / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Though the marriage between Marilyn Monroe and former Yankees player Joe DiMaggio lasted less than a year, they continued to see each other, both romantically and as friends, for the rest of her life.

    DiMaggio was reportedly a quiet man who loathed the kind of publicity that was central to Monroe's career. Monroe wrote in her unfinished memoir, My Story, that though they both knew it wouldn't be easy, the two "decided that since we couldn’t give each other up, marriage was the only solution to our problem." Despite their differences, Monroe wrote:

    The truth is that we were very much alike. My publicity, like Joe’s greatness, is something on the outside. It has nothing to do with what we actually are. What I seem to Joe I haven’t heard yet. He’s a slow talker. What Joe is to me is a man whose looks, and character, I love with all my heart. 

    During their marriage, DiMaggio was controlling and possessive, and other reports say he was physically abusive. When Monroe was  battling psychiatric issues later in life, though, it was DiMaggio who got her released from the hospital and cared for her. He had hopes of remarrying Monroe, and supposedly had never moved on from the relationship.

    After she passed, he planned her private funeral service and sent flowers to her grave every week until his passing. Of her death, DiMaggio's friend and biographer Rock Positano, author of Dinner with DiMaggio, wrote that the baseball player said:

    I always knew who killed her, but I didn’t want to start a revolution in this country. She told me someone would do her in, but I kept quiet... I’ll go to the grave regretting and blaming myself for what happened to her... Sinatra told me later that "Marilyn loved me anyway, to the end."

    Positano claims DiMaggio's statements refer to the people she surrounded herself with prior to her passing being detrimental to her mental health.  

  • Kim Novak Found Guards Outside Her House After A Newspaper Reported An Affair With Sammy Davis Jr.
    Photo: Bert Verhoeff / Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In 1957, Sammy Davis Jr. was at the height of his career. But as a Black man in a time when large parts of the country were still deeply segregated, his power and freedom as a successful entertainer had limits. That limit turned out to be dating a white woman.

    Kim Novak, originally from Chicago, had made it big in Hollywood by becoming the pet project of the notorious head of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn. Cohn had wanted a blonde movie star to rival Marilyn Monroe, but one whose career he could mold and craft without pushback. So when Cohn heard reports of his next big thing dating Davis Jr., he went ballistic. Of first meeting Davis Jr., Novak recalls:

    I was making Vertigo, and he called up my manager and said, "I’d like to do a photo session with her." I guess he did photography on the side. They checked and I said, "OK." So he’s shooting and I said, "Did you ever think of taking off the lens cover?" He had the lens cover on the whole time.

    Speaking on her feelings toward Davis Jr., Novak said, "He’s such a delightful person. You know he was fun and had a great sense of humor." According to her, while she suspected Davis Jr. had romantic feelings for her, she was in love with someone else at the time. Still, the two would frequently have dinners, and when he came to Chicago to visit her family, the story of their "love affair" broke in the newspaper. Novak remembered:

    Harry Cohn said, "You’re not to see this person again"... When someone says something that definitely, it makes me want to do exactly what they don’t want me to do.

    But Cohn reportedly was so enraged, he told his mob connections to break Davis Jr.'s legs and take out an eye. Hearing this, Novak realized the danger of the relationship, saying, "That's when I, for his sake, thought, 'I'd better not see him.'" Sammy Davis Sr., who had his own connections with the mob, was allegedly informed by gangster Mickey Cohen that his son had 24 hours to marry a Black woman to avoid the hit. He married a woman named Loray White.

    As for Novak, in addition to the guards placed around her house to prevent her from seeing Davis Jr., she remembers, "My agent told me my career would be over if I continued to see Sammy. Some of my friends wouldn’t even return my telephone calls." She later told Larry King in an appearance that she hadn't previously witnessed or understood that kind of prejudice, saying:

    I thought, "This is ridiculous, I don't want to live like this"... I couldn’t see what was wrong. What was so terrible?... I just saw this great sense of humor and a tremendous talent. And I just felt, just wonderful, just to be around someone that great.

  • Frank Sinatra Had The Initial Spark, But Not Necessarily The Follow Through
    Photo: William P. Gottlieb / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Ol' Blue Eyes certainly had a way with the ladies, dating (and marrying) a number of famous women over the course of his long career. Actress Angie Dickinson has described having a 20-year on-again, off-again relationship with Sinatra, and just how captivating she found him. Dickinson remembered the crooner as "one of the most charismatic men that ever was - and he had that amazing voice, too... He was just magic - he said it like it was, walked the walk."

    Dickinson said the pair nearly got married in 1964, but Sinatra was reluctant to marry a movie star (perhaps due to his previous marriage to Ava Gardner, though he later married Mia Farrow). Dickinson said:

    ...I said, "Well, I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody"... And I actually didn’t want to marry him. So I didn’t want him to ask me to marry him. Because I didn’t want to say no to Frank Sinatra.

    Another movie star remembered Sinatra as hot and cold with his affections. After the passing of her husband, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall found herself leaning on Sinatra, a longtime friend who began to heavily woo her. The two soon began a relationship, which Bacall said was marred by her own vulnerability after Bogart's passing. Sinatra was capricious in his affections, and she described him as "adoring one day, remote the next."

    Sinatra and Bacall's relationship came to an end not long after he asked her to marry him. According to Bacall's memoir, By Myself and Then Some, when a friend leaked news of the engagement to the press, Sinatra blamed Bacall. He suggested they take some time apart in a phone call and then ghosted her. Bacall described running into him at a dinner not long after:

    We had one person between us at dinner, but Frank didn’t acknowledge my existence. He did not speak one word to me - if he looked in my direction, he did not see me, he looked right past me, as though my chair were empty. I was so humiliated, so embarrassed. Nothing would bring my sense of humor back - it deserted me that night and for some time afterward. I would have preferred him to spit in my face, at least that would have been recognition...

    No one just drops someone without discussion. It was such a shock, that cold slap in the face in front of everyone.

    Still, Bacall admits Sinatra did her a favor in the long run, writing:

    Actually, Frank did me a great favor - he saved me from the disaster our marriage would have been. The truth is he was probably smarter than I: he knew it couldn’t work. But the truth also is that he behaved like a complete sh*t. He was too cowardly to tell the truth - that it was just too much for him, that he’d found he couldn’t handle it.