Famous Hollywood Lavender Marriages
Rock Hudson with his bride of three days, former Phyllis Gates, 25, his agent's secretary, prepares to board a Pan American Clipper in Miami, Nov. 11, on the way to a honeymoon in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Source: (gettyimages.com)
During the early days of Hollywood, a gay actor or actress had to keep their sexual preferences hidden for fear of ruining their careers. To give the appearance of being straight—and often at the insistence of their agents or studio—homosexual entertainers would sometimes marry a person of the opposite sex in what was known as a ‘lavender marriage.’ Around the turn of the century, the color lavender was often associated with homosexuality, so the term was adopted by Hollywood to mean cover-up marriages arranged to keep up the façade of heterosexuality. Let’s look at some famous lavender marriages from Hollywood.
Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova
In the 1920s, actor Rudolph Valentino was rumored to be bisexual which could pose a public relations problem for the handsome leading man. His acquaintance, costume and set designer Natacha Rambova was in a lesbian relationship with an actress, Alla Nazimova, which put her in the crosshairs of studio execs. The solution? In 1923, Rambova married Valentino in an attempt to show their fans that rumors of their homosexuality were unfounded. The marriage lasted only two years.
Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine
Although he was a popular entertainer, Danny Kaye was never the rugged, strong, leading man type. In fact, he was often cast in roles that showed him to be weak, cowardly, easily intimidated, and effeminate. Kaye was romantically involved with other men, particularly during his Vaudeville days. In 1940, he married Sylvia Fine, a piano accompanist. The couple had one child together, a daughter named Dena, even though most people believe their marriage was a lavender one.
Rock Hudson and Phyllis Gates
Rock Hudson’s sexuality was one of Hollywood’s worst-kept secrets. The box office star was a heartthrob leading man that had women swooning over him. In 1955, reporters at Confidential magazine threatened to publish an article exposing Hudson’s closeted behavior. His agent, in an attempt to squash the story, hastily arranged for Hudson to marry his pretty, young secretary, Phyllis Gates. Gates always insisted that it was a legitimate marriage, not a lavender one. But most people maintained that Rock Hudson was legitimately gay, and it is unfortunate that he had to exist in a time when that wasn't okay, but that's an ugly part of history that is thankfully almost behind us.
Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor
The bedroom escapades of actress Barbara Stanwyck were the subject of rumors and conjecture. Although the actress had contracts with Warner Bros. and Columbia, she also worked for MGM. Robert Taylor had a contract with MGM. When it became clear that the stories of Stanwyck and her female lovers and Taylor and his male lovers were more than rumors, the MGM executives called them both in for a meeting. To preserve their careers and reputations, MGM ordered them to get married, which they did on May 13, 1939. At the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, Taylor refused to kiss Stanwyck and went home to his mother’s house for the night.
Tyrone Power and Annabella
In all likelihood, Tyrone Power was bisexual. Rumors have persisted for years about romantic trysts with some of Hollywood’s other leading men. Unlike other Hollywood lavender marriages, Power chose to marry the French actress, Annabella, without pressure from his agent or studio. In fact, the couple seemed to have a happy marriage, despite Power’s roving eye and affairs with both men and women. After his affair with Judy Garland ended in an unwanted pregnancy and abortion, Power and Annabella divorced.
Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli
Judy Garland’s husband and the father of her only child, Liza Minnelli, lived as an openly gay man in New York for a number of years before hitting it big in Hollywood. It was the restraints of Hollywood’s morality clauses that forced Minnelli back in the closet. Apparently, Garland was well-aware of his lifestyle when she married him and had a child with him. Years later, she encouraged her daughter to marry gay men, stating that they make the best husbands.
Janet Gaynor and Adrian
Actress Janet Gaynor’s third marriage to costume designer, Adrian Greenberg—known professionally as just Adrian—was a lavender marriage to cover up Adrian’s homosexuality and to quell rumors of Gaynor’s lesbian activity. The couple had one child together, Robin Gaynor Adrian, and remained married for twenty years until Adrian’s death in 1959.
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