Once Happiness, I try to remember

Unknown source – circa 1958

Overhead the sky was blue as only a summer Paris sky can be. The Orly Airport was thronged and bustling as usual. Most of the travelers wore excited, happy smiles, talking rapidly, laughing gaily. Some had just arrived and were feeling the thrill of everyone who comes to Paris. Others were leaving for new places and were perhaps a little sad, but also looking ahead to the thrills to come.

The lonely red-haired woman who sat with the two little girls in a far corner of the waiting room seemed almost out of place in that happy atmosphere. She looked lonely and a little sad, though there was a determinedly gay tilt to her chin as she spoke to the children. “Now girls,” said Deborah Kerr gently, “it’s really time we left. After all, Daddy’s plane left half-an-hour ago!”

“Please,” begged one little girl, “just a minute more!” “The Airport’s so busy!” said the other, not taking her eyes from the hurrying crowds.

It took Deborah another few minutes to persuade Melanie and Francesca to vacate the exciting bustle of the Airport lobby, and still another few to find a taxi. All the way back to the Paris hotel, the little girls chattered together – about how exciting it was to have Daddy come over from England every weekend, how much fun it was when Mummy took them to the Airport Sunday afternoons to say goodbye.

Deborah listened, smiling, but her heart was winging toward England with her husband, Tony Bartley. These were the times when she missed him most, when the weekend reunion ended and she had to say goodbye to him. During the week, he worked in England on the TV series and the movie he was producing while she was in Paris finishing up her new picture, “Bonjour Tristesse.” At least now it was better than it had been earlier in the summer when she’d been on location in the south of France. Then the reunions had been even rarer, while now Tony managed to get to Paris every week.

While she was working, there was much to keep her busy – filming during the day and at night the quiet evenings with her daughters or with her co-star, David Niven, and his wife. David was an old friend from England, and they had a lot to talk about. There were times, of course, when she longed for Tony – but always there was the picture and her little girls to keep her busy. And after all, she and Tony had known there’d have to be separations when they chose their present way of living. It hadn’t always been their decision, though. When they fell in love and married, for instance . . .

Tony was an R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) flier when they met during the war in Brussels, so right from the start they had had to become used to being separated. they were married the winter after the war was over, and when Deborah came to America, Tony came with her. At the time, he’d been in the aircraft industry in England, but when Deborah knew she wanted to continue acting in America, the Bartleys spent long hours talking over their future. Finally, tony decided that he’d like to put his executive abilities to work in some phase of motion pictures, so they could be together as much as possible. Not for them, this business of being continually separated because of careers!

For a while, he turned to writing, doing some screen originals and even working on a novel. Meanwhile, when Deborah took off for locationing in England and Africa, and Rome, Tony simply packed up his typewriter and went along for the ride. But it was on the trip to Africa that Tony came up with the idea of doing an on-location TV series about a white hunter – and found the niche in show business he’d been searching for.

As it turned out for Deborah and Tony, they also found a new kind of life, one far different from the other they thought they’d have. Tony made a success of his producing ventures and soon his work took him from New York to England to Spain and back to Africa, with Deborah “going along for the ride” as often as she could. But when her first Broadway play, TEA AND SYMPATHY, was a smash hit, she had to stay in New York while Tony continued flying all over the globe. They had a house in New York, though, and as often as possible they lived a happy family life, with Melanie and Francesca enrolled in New York schools.

It was about this time that the first rift rumors started, probably brought about by the separations and – Deborah laughs – “my sexy role in “From Here to Eternity.” But the Bartleys continued their way of life with dignity and frequent reunions and by now they don’t have to bother to convince anybody that they’re still romantically in love and that their marriage is a success. “It isn’t bad to be apart,” said Deborah recently. “In this modern day when you can dine in London and breakfast in New York, we really aren’t ever separated for very long. Living apart occasionally is good for people. It’s essential for a person to fulfill himself and that’s what I’m doing and that’s what Tony’s doing.”

Yes, there may be times when Deborah wonders whether she and Tony have made a mistake in their way of life, when she misses him too much. But the happy times come oftener, when they are together, bursting with the excitement of news to tell, the happiness of their wartime reunions lived all over again. These are the moments that make up their love and their marriage, and Deborah knows in her heart that there is no danger in this kind of love. For them, this is the perfect way of life.

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