David McCallum Loses His Wife to His Best Friend!
Since the day David McCallum hit it big as a TV actor, his front door has
been closed to the public, the press and all those other people who come on
strong when a star makes it. David made no bones about the decision, no excuses--he
just shut the door and let everyone else be hanged. He had a wife and a family
to protect, he had his own peace of mind to guard, and if this meant doing things
the public or the press or anyone else didn’t approve of, then he’d
risk their wrath. Surprisingly, no one objected, not even the studio, when David
insisted his contract include clauses that his family must travel with him.
People felt that here, at last, was a man who was master of his domain, a man who would protect his loved ones at all cost. How lucky his children were to have a father like David! How lucky Jill Ireland was to have a husband who would risk so much to protect her. And across the country people were warmed by the thought of all that happiness behind that locked front door in Hollywood. And whenever the McCallums did venture out, it was only for work or to attend some shindig at which David was nominated for an award, or to have a quiet dinner wit their pal Charles Bronson--one of the few Hollywood people they’d known for years. And if David were too tired to go, Jill and Bronson dined alone with David’s blessing Yes, the McCallums led a very quiet life but it was the life they wanted--or so everyone thought until one day last May. That was the day the world learned David and Jill were separated. That was also the day Jill told a PHOTOPLAY reporter that the closed-front-door policy was all David’s doing, that she had never wanted the island of isolation David had built for his family.
“He placed us in a protective shell that his weary judgment and calculation dictated was for our own good,” Jill said after revealing to friends that she and David not only had separated, but were going to be divorce3d. And, further, she was going to marry Charles Bronson, the buddy whom McCallum had not only introduced to his wife, but sanctioned as her business partner.
“It was only for his own convenience that he designed this shelter for his children and his wife,” Jill went on, speaking partly in bitterness, partly in relief that finally she could set the record straight. “In a large sense, he abandoned us for the career that consumed increasing amounts of his time and took him away from us for painfully long periods.
“It was bad enough that we hardly saw him when he was home, working as he did Monday through Friday. In between he’d be with us to eat and sleep--and learn his lines. Then came the tours and finally his movie-making commitments abroad And all the time we were restricted, tied to the homestead like a feudal baron’s kith and kin. It was unbearable.”
When Jill told the world she’d decided to cross the “moat to freedom” she was in her native London visiting her parents. Not too surprisingly, Bronson happened to be in London at the very same time. David, meanwhile, was doing what comes naturally. He was in Rome filming “Three Bites Of The Apple,” and still, as always, besieged by the surge of feminine fans.
How did he take this startling news, initiated by Jill’s friends after they had been taken into her confidence? “Jill and I have maintained a formal separation for some time,” he offered magnanimously. “I think it wise I make no more comment on this situation until I return to Los Angeles to talk to Jill personally.”
McCallum implied that the separation was precipitated by his film assignment in Italy, but this was open to wide dispute. According to their friends in Hollywood, the McCallums had been “separated” for many months before David’s departure for Rome. “They may have been living in the same house,” said one friend, “but the discontent was beginning to curl his hair
Detecting the rift
“He had set up such a formidable screen of isolation around his family that it was almost impossible to detect the rift that was in the making. But those of us who were close to them knew it was coming. David was aware of our awareness, and he tried all the harder by isolating himself from us. But a good many of their friends are closer to Jill than they are to David. And the extraordinary circumstance is that many of the most observant of these friends came to know the McCallums through David--in happier times.”
The first early rumblings to filter out to the world came when Jill and Bronson were seen together in public. Their initial outing didn’t cause a stir, but when they were spotted a second, third, and fourth time, tongues began to cluck.
Outwardly, David played it super cool, like Illya Kuryakin on “The Man From U.N.C.L.E., ” with characteristic detachment.
Then something happened that all at once caused many of the family’s intimates, who knew about the rift, to make a mad rush for the psychology manuals. It was so unusual, in fact, that they seriously tried to equate this episode with David’s characteristic attitude when he’s asked for his reaction to the screaming adolescent mobs who follow him around.
As a rule he’ll shrug it off, as if to say, “It’s the price you pay for being a pop culture hero.” He barely ever allows himself more than a vague look of pain when idolizing fans ruin his sports coat. One must look deep into David’s fact to see the tiny signs which betray the truth--that sometimes David McCallum finds the price of fame a bit too high.
David’s attitude toward Jill and Charles had the same misleading emotional reticence as his feelings on his career. He pretended there was nothing wrong between him and Jill. But then came a discovery.
A PHOTOPLAY reporter was walking past a show in Los Angeles that was being prepared for its gala opening as an art studio. There was no particular reason to look into the window other than ordinary curiosity. The prime source of attraction was the slender, blond young man standing on a ladder just inside the entrance, slapping gobs of paint on the ceiling. Impossible!
The man on the stepladder? None other than David McCallum! And there wasn’t a TV or movie camera within miles. This was no film. It was the real thing. Jill and Charles were opening the art gallery--and David was helping them to get started
Was it any wonder when our reporter consulted the McCallums’ friends, he found them consulting the psychology books?
Those who weren’t aware of the rift in David’s and Jill’s private life looked upon the opening of the art gallery as another commonplace phenomenon of Hollywood, where partnerships between unlikely persons are extremely commonplace But the McCallums’ friends knew otherwise. They saw it as an open break--the beginning of the end of their marriage.
The handwriting on the wall became news printed stories a short while later, when David went off to his movie-making in Rome and Jill popped over to London with sons Paul, nine, Jason, four, and Valentine, three, on what ostensibly was a visit to her parents Whether by design or by accident, Jill’s visit to the British capital occurred at precisely the same time that Charles Bronson was filming “The Dirty Dozen.”
Just days later newspapers broke the story of the McCallums’ pending divorce and Jill’s rumored marriage to Charles Bronson.
A PHOTOPLAY correspondent in England, who spoke to David in Rome by phone and learned that he and Jill were separated, also spoke to his beautiful blond wife. After Jill had explained why she had decided on the “amicable” divorce, she was asked if she had seen Bronson in London.
“Bronson? Of course I’ve seen him here,” she trilled. “He’s a charming man.”
And Bronson, who was apparently taken aback by the explosive situation that had sprouted so suddenly, burst out with, “I don’t give a damn for myself, but I do care about the effect all of this is having on Jill!” Not a word of concern about what effect all this was having on his best friend David McCallum
Who is to blame for the breakup? Can it be the marriage was to hast to begin with? It’s silly to ask, but what was it McCallum said about how it happened?
“I knew her only for seven days before we were married…ordinarily I would consider that very risky, but it has seemed to work out so far.”
Why did David have to put in that added bit--so far--when he was telling us how successful the marriage had been? Was he uncertain whether it would last? There are some who say that Jill, although she betrayed no outward regrets at having given up her career as an actress of no small fame in England, secretly felt she had made too great a sacrifice for marriage.
David himself admitted that Jill “had a far, far bigger reputation in England than I have here now.” He added, “I appreciate everything she’s done for me--including my haircuts. She is also an extraordinarily kindly, vicious critic of my work, which is very helpful.”
But life in a four-story, ten-room house in the picturesque Hollywood Hills, plus all the wonderful joys that three young sons surely provide, may not be everything that Jill Ireland had bargained for when she married McCallum. For one thing, she hadn’t counted on David’s instant success that swept him away from the home and hearth.
And all the time there was that “screen of isolation” which Jill talked about. Was Jill the type of person, after the freedom of life and the stardom she’d enjoyed, to sit still for long--”tied to the homestead like a feudal baron’s kith and kin” with the children?
Evidently, from what McCallum had said, he thought it would work. “I look upon my acting as the career that brings the bread in. Jill looks upon her work as something she doesn’t have to do in order to be economically stable. In Hollywood, usually if the man is doing what I’m doing, the wife cannot be a successful actress in her own right. But we have been trying it, and Jill is becoming very successful independently.” So successful, that she was selected for the coveted female role in this season’s new TV series, “Shane.”
Yet there’s going to be a divorce. Despite all the time and intensity that David McCallum had invested in a marriage that fit into his own private design, it failed
The home McCallum had said was for him, “to sleep and eat and learn my lines,” was not the home he’d hoped for.
As a wiser man has said, “Many a man who pays rent all his life owns his own home; and many a family has successfully saved for a home only to find itself at last with nothing but a house.” Be it house or home, it is without a wife--lost, of all things, to David McCallum’s best friend.
Watch David on “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” Friday, 10 P.M., EDT,
NBC-TV. Be sure to see his two movies: MGM’s “Around The World Under
The Sea,” and “Three Bites Of The Apple,” coming soon