Celebrity weddings in the 1950s and '60s

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June 17, 2021
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Celebrity weddings in the 1950s and '60s

Celebrity weddings were truly glamorous affairs in the 1950s and 1960s, and the public ate up every detail. Fans swooned over images of stunning brides and handsome grooms as they exchanged kisses and cut elaborately decorated wedding cakes.

Wedding gowns like those worn by Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Bouvier were endlessly copied, as were the choices of pearl chokers, veils, and flowers in the bouquets of countless others. The glamour whisked us away into a glittering world of big diamond rings, limousines, yachts, and exotic honeymoons.

Of course, all was not so shiny behind the scenes.

Some of the most closely followed romances were scandalous, riddled with adulterous affairs, jilted spouses, and children born out of wedlock. Many of the era’s marriages were short-lived. Some fell apart in a matter of months, collapsing under the weight of alcoholism or professional jealousy. Others ended up rife with accusations of cruelty, violence, and ugly custody battles.

Nevertheless, romance did prevail at times. Some of the love stories lasted until death did them part.

Stacker took a look at celebrity weddings in the 1950s and 1960s, drawing from news accounts, biographies, fan sites, photo archives, and historical accounts.

Take a look for a glamorous step back in time.

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Conrad Hilton and Elizabeth Taylor — May 9, 1950

Elizabeth Taylor was 18 years old when she wed Conrad Nicholson "Nicky" Hilton, who was 23. He would be the first of her seven husbands. She wrote in a 1965 memoir that her happiness with Hilton was brief, quickly replaced by “disillusionment rude and brutal."

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Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini — May 24, 1950

Actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini married in 1950 after a scandalous affair in which Bergman, who already was married, had a child by Rossellini born out of wedlock. They had two more children, twins born in 1952, but the rocky marriage ended within a few years.

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Bette Davis and Gary Merrill — Aug. 2, 1950

Each of them already married, actress Bette David and actor Gary Merrill fell in love while filming the 1950 movie “All about Eve.” During their 10-year marriage, the couple adopted a son and a daughter, but their relationship struggled under Merrill’s alcoholism.

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Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh — June 4, 1951

When Janet Leigh married Tony Curtis at age 23, she had already been married twice before. She had eloped at age 15, although her parents had that marriage annulled, and married again at age 19. It was the first time at the altar for 26-year-old Curtis. The couple had two daughters, Kelly and Jamie Lee, who became actresses.

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Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner — Nov. 7, 1951

Frank Sinatra married Ava Gardner in 1951, a week after his divorce from Nancy Sinatra, the mother of his three children, became final. Gardner was still married to actor Mickey Rooney when they met. The singer and the actress separated within two years, and they were divorced in 1957.

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Joan Collins and Maxwell Reed — May 24, 1952

Joan Collins and Maxwell Reed were married for four years. In a 2014 documentary, she revealed that the actor, who died in 1974, had drugged and raped her at age 17 when she was starting her Hollywood career. She said she went on to date and marry Reed because he had taken her virginity. “I really hated him, but I was so filled with guilt,” she said.

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Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis — March 4, 1952

Actor Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood playboy and president of the Screen Actors Guild and actress Nancy Davis briefly dated Clark Gable before the couple married in 1952. She published a book of their love letters in 2000 called “I Love You, Ronnie.” Their marriage lasted 52 years until his death in 2004.

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John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier — Sept. 12, 1953

John F. Kennedy, at the time a U.S. senator, married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in Newport, Rhode Island, before more than 800 guests, and the reception was held on the terrace of a 300-acre oceanfront estate belonging to the family of her stepfather Hugh Auchincloss. They honeymooned in Mexico. Daughter Caroline was born in 1957 and in 1960, the year Kennedy was elected U.S. president, their son John Jr. was born.

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Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio — Jan. 17, 1954

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio married less than two years after the baseball star had asked a friend to set him up on a date with the movie star. The marriage ended after just nine months, and Monroe cited “mental cruelty" in her divorce filing. Years later, DiMaggio cared for Monroe after she split from playwright Arthur Miller. He also arranged her funeral in 1962 and sent roses to her grave regularly for years afterward.

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Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens — May 30, 1954

Anne Buydens turned down Kirk Douglas’ first offer of a dinner date in 1953 when she was a publicist, and he was shooting a movie in Paris. She told him “No, thank you, I think I’ll go home and make myself some scrambled eggs,” the star recounted later. When they did marry, the union lasted 65 years, until his death in 2020. The German-born Buydens died in April 2021 at age 102.

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Anne Bancroft and Marty May — July 1, 1954

Actress Anne Bancroft was married to lawyer Martin May, who came from a wealthy Texas oil family, for four years. Bancroft, who played such notable characters as teacher Annie Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker” and Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate,” later married actor Mel Brooks. They stayed married until her death in 2005.

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Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer — Sept. 25, 1954

Movie stars Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer went to great lengths to keep their wedding in Switzerland a secret to avoid the crush of the press. The pair first met on Broadway on the set of the play “Ondine.” Ferrer already had been married twice and had four children. They stayed married 14 years and had a son, Sean.

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Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly — April 19, 1956

Grace Kelly was one of the most successful and admired actresses in the world when she met Prince Rainier III of Monaco at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival in France. Once married, the actress who had starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s films “Rear Window,” “To Catch a Thief,” and “Dial M for Murder,” gave up acting. Kelly’s iconic wedding dress, designed by costume designer Helen Rose from MGM, reportedly inspired Kate Middleton’s choice of her gown when she married England’s Prince William.

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Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe — June 29, 1956

Marilyn Monroe and playwright Arthur Miller were married five years after they first met. Monroe converted to Judaism to wed Miller, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1949 for his play “Death of a Salesman.” During their marriage, Monroe used her celebrity influence to help Miller clear his name after he was convicted of contempt by the House Un-American Activities Committee, for refusing to name literary figures suspected of Communist sympathies. The couple divorced in Mexico on grounds listed as “incompatibility.”

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Henry Fonda and Baroness Franchetti — May 9, 1957

Actor Henry Fonda married Italian baroness Afdera Franchetti, his fourth wife, two years after his divorce from Susan Blanchard, the stepdaughter of theater producer Oscar Hammerstein II. Fonda, 51, and Franchetti, 24, had been introduced in Italy by Audrey Hepburn when she and Fonda were filming “War and Peace.” Fonda’s son Peter, who also would become an actor, served as best man. The marriage lasted four years.

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Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi — Oct. 11, 1957

Marlon Brando and Indian actress Anna Kashfi separated in 1958 after just 11 months of marriage, during which time they had a son, Christian, and they divorced in 1959. But she battled the movie star over custody for almost 15 years, once slapping his face in front of the press. Later in life, Christian Brando spent five years in prison for killing his half-sister’s boyfriend Dag Drollet, in an argument in 1990 over whether Drollet had been abusive to the half-sister, Cheyenne Brando.

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Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood — Dec. 28, 1957

Natalie Wood and actor Robert Wagner first married in 1957, subsequently divorced in 1962, and remarried in 1972. During their first marital stint, she starred in the films “Splendor in the Grass,” “West Side Story,” and “Gypsy.” Infidelity was blamed for their breakup. While married to Wagner the second time, Woods drowned in 1981 when she was staying on a yacht off the coast of California with Wagner and actor Christopher Walken.

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Sammy Davis Jr. and Loray White — Jan. 10, 1958

Sammy Davis Jr. married Loray White, a Black singer working in Las Vegas, in an effort to appease Hollywood moguls, studio bigwigs, and mobsters who threatened to ruin him if he continued his interracial affair with actress Kim Novak. He reportedly paid White several thousand dollars to marry him. The marriage ended in less than a year.

 

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Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay — Jan. 15, 1958

Actor and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay was actress Jayne Mansfield’s second husband. They appeared together in several movies including 1960’s “The Loves of Hercules.” They had three children, including actress Mariska Hargitay, who stars in the popular television series “Law and Order: SVU.”

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Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman — Jan. 29, 1958

Paul Newman first met Joanne Woodward in 1953, when he was making his Broadway debut in “Picnic” and she was an understudy. They married five years later, after Newman was divorced from his first wife, and they remained married for 50 years until his death in 2008. Among the movies they made together were “The Long, Hot Summer,” “Paris Blues,” and “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” and Newman directed Woodward in “Rachel, Rachel” in a role that earned her an Oscar nomination.

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Jacques Charrier and Brigitte Bardot — Feb. 18, 1959

French actor Jacques Charrier was the second husband for Brigitte Bardot and her co-star in the 1959 comedy “Babette Goes to War.” They were married at a registry office in a small town in France. The couple had a son Nicolas, who lived with his father and was estranged from his mother following the couple’s divorce in 1962.

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Dorothy Dandridge and Jack Denison — June 22, 1959

Actress Dorothy Dandridge’s marriage to restaurant owner Jack Denison, her second trip down the aisle, was over within three years. They had no children, and their bitter divorce proceedings included allegations of domestic violence. Dandridge is best known for her role in the all-Black production of “Carmen Jones” in 1954 and later for her appearances in “Island in the Sun” and “Porgy and Bess.”

 

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Betty White and Allen Ludden — June 14, 1963

Betty White had already been married and divorced twice before she tied the knot with Allen Ludden, a widower. They met in 1961, when she was making frequent game show appearances, and he was the host of television’s “Password.” Ludden died in 1981.

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Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — March 15, 1964

The glamorous Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton met on the set of “Cleopatra,” when each was married to someone else. After getting their divorces, they married in 1964, divorced in 1974, secretly remarried in 1975, but broke up again within a year. Throughout their turbulent love affair that never failed to make headlines, they starred together in 11 films.

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Elvis Presley and Priscilla Ann Beaulieu — May 1, 1967

Priscilla Beaulieu, the daughter of a U.S. military family, was just 14 when she met Elvis Presley when he was 24 and stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany in 1959. They were married in 1967 and had daughter Lisa Marie in 1968. They divorced in 1973, and Elvis died four years later.

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