However, this resulted in an unnatural co-dependence between mother and daughter. Their rapport was intense, combative, yet loving. For all the yelling back and forth, they would defend each other with every breath in their bodies. So, when Bette found herself pregnant with first husband Harmon Oscar Nelson's child, it was the idolizing Ruthie who convinced her rising star daughter to have an abortion. Bette's career was just starting, and both she and Ruthie feared that any hindrance in her progress would be irredeemable. Bette deliberated the options, but she concurred with her mother. Oscar was not told about his unborn child until much later. It is alleged that Bette would have multiple abortions over the years, including one resulting from her affair with William Wyler, but the majority of claims are pure speculation. When Bette later had daughter, B.D, (above left) with William Grant Sherry, it is said that the same mother-daughter relationship continued. Bette took Ruthie's place; B.D. took hers. The cat fights continued.
Unfortunately, in the midst of their brief fling, Marlene got pregnant. As a married woman, in a very open relationship with husband Rudi Sieber, she could at least play the child off as legitimate. On the other hand, Jimmy-- according to her recollection-- was a nervous wreck! Firstly, he had committed adultery-- although Rudi didn't seem to mind a bit about his wife's infidelities, while he was openly living with his own permanent mistress Tamara Matul. More importantly, Jimmy was disconcerted at the idea that he was going to be the father of a child he couldn't even claim! Marlene said that Jimmy became the exact, stuttering replica of his onscreen persona: "W-Well, what-what, what're you gonna do!?" Marlene would state on the record that the baby just "went away," implying a miscarriage, but since she had already decided that she didn't want to have anymore children-- she had one daughter, Maria-- it is more likely that she chose a more forbidden solution to the problem. After this altercation, the romance between Jimmy and Marlene was finito.
Then, there is the much more sorrowful case of Patricia Neal and Gary Cooper (who ironically is also rumored to be the real father of Lupe's tragic baby). Coop had been a notorious womanizer, as his "aw, shucks" prettiness was like catnip to the ladies, who reacted to him much the same way as they did Mr. Stewart. However, while Jimmy's appeal was more accidental, Coop's was instinctual, and he didn't seem to turn away any prospects. He'd had intense relationships with Clara Bow and Lupe, and multiple other flings while enduring his loveless marriage to "Rocky" Balfe, but his final great love affair was with his Fountainhead co-star, ingénue Pat Neal. A Kentuckian with an atypical, assertive beauty (left), a wonderful, deep voice that seemed to be coated with good Southern liquor, and an education in the more modern style of acting, Patricia didn't seem to be a good match for Coop. When he saw her testing for the role of "Dominique Francon," he thought she was "awful." However, once filming began, their attraction was immediate. Patricia fought her more primal urges until filming had completed, then on the night of the wrap party, the duo's affair began.
Friends of Gary would say that it was the happiest that they had seen him in years. Patricia was also in love and fascinated by the classic, older actor (25-years her senior) who had a quiet intelligence, elegance, and an astounding hold on his craft. So smitten was Gary, that he started attending Pat's classes with her, watching younger thespians developing a new take on acting. The pair's relationship endured its ups and downs, including Patricia's guilt, their inevitable lack of future, and Coop's continued philandering-- Pat once returned a pair of earrings that Coop had given her only to find that he had bought two more identical sets for other women. The final nail in the coffin was her pregnancy. Needless to say, despite her strength and determination that she could raise the child on her own, the resulting scandal would be something from which both performers would be unlikely to recover. In Pat's own words: "For over 30 years, alone, in the night, I cried. I cried over that baby... I had not allowed him to exist." Pat would eventually marry her only husband, Roald Dahl, and have five children during their 30-year union. She saw Coop alone only once more after their split. Much time had passed, and they were able to bury the hatchet and depart as friends. Their passion for each other had died with their child.
Yet, there has been at least one torrid Hollywood affair and adulterous conception that ended with a birth. I speak, of course, of Ingrid Bergmann and Roberto Rossellini. Ingrid's soft, ethereal beauty (right) and her emotional, instinctual performances had made her the new golden girl of Hollywood in the '40s, as well as Alfred Hitchcock's latest obsession. A woman in constant search of a father, she often found herself confusing her on-screen attraction for her co-stars spilling into her private life. Her marriage to Dr. Petter Lindstrom, who actually used to ration her food (!), had offered her little comfort over the years, so she consistently took solace in the most familiar men in her life-- her leading men. Unfortunately, as soon as her films wrapped, so did her feelings. It seems the final call of "cut" always brought her back down to earth where she was confronted by her guilt over what she had done. Gary Cooper would recall falling for her during For Whom the Bell Tolls, but after filming ended, he "couldn't get her to return [his] calls."
At the end of the day, it was Ingrid's art that meant the most to her. Her work was the most honest thing she could give to the world or herself. However, when she traveled to Europe to begin shooting Stromboli with hot (married) Italian director Roberto Rossellini, there was no confusion about her feelings. She fell in love with the brilliant man who was changing the face of foreign cinema. Hitchcock was a bit burned when his top actress kicked him over for another director, but his anger was just the tip of the iceberg. When Ingrid got pregnant, she opted to keep her child, divorce her cold husband, and marry her dream man. Son Robertino "Robin" Rossellini was born, (joining his half sister Pia), and chaos ensued. The world's reaction was more than harsh; it was devastating. Ingrid was literally shamed out of Hollywood-- simply for being honest-- and virtually blacklisted from American work. Yet, as time heals all wounds, six years would repair the damage. She would return with a career comeback in her Oscar-winning performance as Anastasia. Once again, Hollywood was groveling at her feet. The sturdy Swede had made her point. Her marriage to Rossellini didn't last, nor did her final marriage to Lars Schmidt, but she still triumphed personally and professionally: she had a combined brood of 4 beautiful children from her first two unions-- including her final twin daughters, Isabella and Isotta-- and a career that any actress would envy.
It is a dangerous thing and a heavy burden to play God, which we do when we act as our own creators and make new life. It is a sacrifice to which some of us cannot commit for various reasons. No road is easy. For those that travel the path of parenthood, the struggles are difficult, stressful, but (one hopes) ultimately rewarding. For those who do not, the grim reality of their dismissal of nature's call and the resultant guilt is often punishment enough-- no stone throwing necessary. As ever, in such dark and multi-faceted subject matter, our stars act as our martyrs, just as they do on the big screen-- magnifying the life experience and providing the many, varied shades and examples of survival we all make, have made, and will make in our collective history. No one's story is the same, but we are all tragicomics. My heart goes out to the women who had to endure the harsh scrutiny, strict control, and ridicule that they suffered under the mighty Hollywood microscope. Ladies, let it be known, in your incredible work, you were mothers to us all.