Marriage Is a Laughing Matter

by Ruth Waterbury
August 1938

The Gene Raymonds have successfully hurdled that first year of matrimony—that supposedly awful, awful first year. This is how they did it!

It was suddenly quiet in the Raymond-MacDonald living room as we all stopped to catch our breaths from laughing. That was what gave me the hunch.

“You two have been married almost a year now, haven’t you?” I asked.

“Lacking exactly twenty-seven days, four hours and nine minutes.” said Gene.

“And you are still laughing all the time?” They obliged by laughing again and nodded their heads in assent.

“What about laughter as n basis for a perfect marriage?” I persisted.

“Would you be making a noise like an interviewer?” Gene demanded.

“Well, why not? I might as well admit that I was pretty suspicious of all that sweetness and light published about you two a little over a year ago just before you were married. You sounded simply too happy to be true; but, after all, no people in your position stay married unless they really have a good time of it.

“So far you have solved the problem that has broken up almost every Hollywood romance— two stars, two careers, all that handicap stuff, and getting through the first year, that supposedly awful first year of marriage, and you both still looking so beamingly content and …”

Miss MacDonald spoke from behind those lovely teeth of hers in the sinister voice of the villainess in the old melodramas.

“And me laughing all the time,” she muttered darkly. “And at what things?” She swung an enormous orb in the direction of her lord and master.

Mr. Raymond set his teeth. “You laughing?” he hissed, sounding just like Basil Rathbone on a clear day.

“What about me, my fair beauty? Would you like me to tell about the time we went searching for sunshine, searching it in Arizona, the state which you selected to find it in? Shall I tell that to let our friend here know how we laughed and laughed that time?”

The loveliest voice on the screen suddenly honied over like the voices of all the obedient wives in the world.

“Yes, dear,” purred Mrs. Raymond.

“And you won’t interrupt?”

“Yes, dear,” she purred again.

“You mean you will interrupt?”

“Oh, yes, dear.”

Gene turned his back on her with what was intended to represent sternness. “Ignore her,” he said to me. “That search for Arizona sunshine happened this way . . . and it will give you a fair idea of what I have suffered for this marriage. “My wife, that redheaded woman over there, desired sunshine. We have it in Los Angeles, you know In fact, the place is famous for it.

But that brand wasn’t good enough for her. She had to go away and get sun. I suggested a place called Palm Springs. Thousands from all parts of the country migrate there seasonally just for the sun. But no. That sunshine wouldn’t do for her, either. We had, by chance, been in Palm Springs once before when it rained down there. It does rain there, very, very occasionally. But she had to act as though it always poured in Palm Springs. And she had heard somewhere that the sun absolutely positively always shone in Arizona.”

Gene turned back toward Mrs. Gene.

“You had heard that, hadn’t you. darling?”

“Yes, dear,” answered Miss MacDonald.

“And you really planned the whole trip?”

“Yes, dear.”

“And I consented to go because . . .

“Yes, dear.”

“Hey. what is this?” demanded Gene.

“A sound track,” announced Jeanette’s voice in deep tones.

She was stretched out on the couch by now and her eyes were closed so that you couldn’t be positive but what she might be talking in her sleep.

“Ignore her,” said Gene, turning back to me. “This is the way it happened. We packed up and left Los Angeles on a beautiful balmy afternoon but as we were coming into Flagstaff I heard a low gasp from my bride. It seems it was morning. Of course I wouldn’t know that for you know where I was, don’t you? Yes—in the upper. My bride, being down in the lower where the windows are, had pulled up the shade and was looking out. ‘Oh. Gene,’ she was asking. ‘What do you think I see?’

“Well, what do you see?” I asked. ‘From my vantage point I can’t see a thing. I’ll bet you’re seeing beautiful sunshine.’

“No,” she said, “I’m seeing snow.”

“Now that made everything dandy because, since Los Angeles is in the semi-tropics and Palm Springs the desert and we were supposed to be coming into even brighter and warmer sun than either of them offered (at least according to what my bride said), I had packed neither overcoat nor woolens.

“But there we were, and since my wife had planned for us to go to some nearby ranch, and since that was as far as our train went anyhow we got out.

“And it was indeed snowing and the temperature was somewhere within friendly distance of about nine below zero. There was the man to drive us to the ranch, too, hut. after a little chat with him, my wife found out that the real place for sunshine wasn’t Flagstaff, anyhow, but Prescott, a mere drop of 3,500 feet in altitude from where we were.

“Did you ever drop 3,500 feet in altitude in a matter of just a few hours? And did you ever make the drop in a rickety old car, with the driver taking his hands off the wheel every little while to point out the scenery? No? Well, I assure you it is a thrill, but a honey you could get along without very nicely.

“I must say for my bride, though, that she never said a word. Of course, perhaps she was merely trying to keep her teeth from chattering.

“We just rode along mile after mile and both of us tried to appear absolutely fascinated by the scenery. All I could think of was that I hoped we could get to Prescott alive and find a nice, hot meal somewhere.

“Finally, however, we did get to Prescott and I trust I never hit a place that is damper and chillier than it was there that noon. But by this time Mrs. Raymond had learned, somehow or other, that the place for sunshine wasn’t Prescott, after all. The place was Phoenix. So we kept our teeth clenched and said we must laugh, we must laugh, over and over to ourselves and discovered that we could get a bus to Phoenix. It was leaving almost immediately but we had time for a bite, they said, at the restaurant across the square.

“We rushed over there, with visions in mind of sizzling chicken, great piles of vegetables, steaming coffee and discovered that today’s dish was cold roast beef. They did have the coffee, though. So we climbed up on twin stools and ate that roast beef washed down with weak coffee. Then we made a run for the bus.

“Another joy I’ll bet you’ve never had, you lucky girl, is to go down a mountain road in a bus. Do they rock you! We sat back in our seats with that cold roast beef sliding from side to side and made up our minds we wouldn’t be sick and pretended that we were going to sleep. But the man in back of us had asthma, so that was that.

“Eventually, after what seemed a month, we did get to Phoenix. I had only one idea. To get into the hotel and go to bed.

“Upon arrival in our rooms, however, my bride decided that the bed wasn’t wide enough for her. I never looked at my bed, but no. she had to have a double bed. So finally we got that put up in the other room and I crawled into my single cot and off to slumber I went.

“But not for long. I had been asleep for what seemed two weeks to me when I became conscious of a flashlight being flashed right over my eyes, I sat up, expecting to see at least a burglar. but you know who it was, don’t you?”

“Me, the heavy,” supplied Jeanette.

“Ignore her,’ ordered Gene. “But that is who it was.

“‘What on earth?’ I demanded of her.

‘I can’t sleep,’ she said.

“’Well, what am I supposed to do about it?’ I asked.

“‘You are supposed to wake up and tell me a story that will put me to sleep,’ she said.

“I just gazed at her for a moment and then I remembered that we were the wonderful Raymonds. We always laughed. So I said then I would tell her about the history of Arizona.

“You see, knowing we were coming to Arizona to seek sunshine, I had looked up a book on the place.

“‘Well, the history of Arizona ought to put me to sleep,’ said Jeanette. So I launched forth…

Gene got up and began strutting around the room in a magnificent burlesque of himself telling the story.

“Well, I began talking that history big,” he said. “I told her about the winning of the old West. I told her about the Indian wars and our brave boys fighting to make it free for us.” He waved his arms around in mock bravado. “Was I terrific? I’ll say I was. I put Mrs Raymond to sleep almost at once. She slumbered like a babe, lying on the bed that had been too narrow for her.

“But me! Ah, there you have something. I’d got myself so excited over those Indians that I couldn’t go to sleep for hours.”

“He did, though,” murmured Jeanette from the couch. “He got to sleep around six but I woke up around eight, not knowing that, and I wanted to go horseback riding and I woke him up to tell him, didn’t I, dear?”

Gene gave her a look. “You did, indeed, dear,” he said.

He sat down, shaking his head in mock sorrow, his expression woebegone. “You see what my life is,” he murmured.

“You can’t tell me your days go on like that,” I said. “You can’t have had many more experiences like that.”

They both sat forward with a jerk. “Not have more?” they said in unison. “Have you got all evening free to listen?”

Gene consulted Jeanette. “I could tell about the time you wanted to take the ride around New York’s Central Park in one of those open hacks and we did and had fans follow us for miles, yelling at us, because they could walk faster than the poor old horse could. . . .”

“And I could tell about the same time in New York when you had to have chicken croquettes with white sauce and green peas at Childs’,” said Jeanette.

She turned to me. “Ignore him,” she said, “but up until the time we had to go to Childs’ it had been a lovely evening. We were vacationing in New York at the same time that Irene Dunne and Dr. Griffin were there and we had made up a foursome for the evening.

“We had consumed a divine dinner and seen a fine play and had gone afterward to the Plaza and seen that wonderful Paul Draper dance. It was about one o’clock in the morning and all the rest of us wanted to do then was go home and to bed. But my husband had been brought up in New York, as you know, and he remembered with greatest joy the chicken croquettes with white sauce and green peas that they served at Childs’.

“It seemed he just had to have some and we had to have some with him. Well, we couldn’t get into the first few Childs’ restaurants we tried to make because of the autograph fans following us, but we eventually outdistanced them and found a Childs’ which was open and where we were safe. Only it seemed that it was too late in the evening for while sauce.

“I don’t know why white sauce should have a bedtime but that’s how it worked out. And the waiter said they never had peas at that season of the year so Gene ended up with the plain croquettes and green beans. Dr. Griffin and I had scrambled eggs and I don’t remember what Irene had but it gave her indigestion, too.”

“And I could tell about the time we were going to the wedding of General Pershing’s son in New York, at a church just two blocks away from our hotel,” said Gene, “but you had to hire a limousine so we wouldn’t get caught in any crowds but you forgot that our hotel was on a one-way street, the wrong way, so the car had to park on Fifth Avenue and by the time we got to it we were caught in the crowd anyhow so that the chauffeur never did find us. . . .”

“And I could tell,” started Jeanette, but at that moment she began really to laugh and she rushed across the room and sat on Gene’s lap and he started to laugh, too, and turned to kiss her. So I thought it was high time that I went away from there.

But I could tell these things: about the very rare moments when I have talked to both of them and they have been serious and have told me about the little town house they hope to have some day in New York. Not that they ever have any intention of deserting Hollywood and their home there, but just so that they can get the feel of living in both cities.

And I could tell, also, of how they hope some day to make their careers a combination of music-radio-pictures because they see no reason why those three arts should be antagonistic and because they love all three of them. I could tell you, too, and quite truly how they have never had, since the day of their marriage, the slightest thing resembling a quarrel and how, under all their bright mockery and merry teasing, their eyes constantly seek out each other’s and how their fingers entwine always about each other’s hands.

From all of which things, if you add them together, I hope you can tell that they are terrifically, sincerely, and permanently in love. Because, you see, no couple could kid itself and each other so constantly, could laugh so genuinely, unless they deeply adored and understood one another’s foibles. If you haven’t received that impression from all of this, then I’ve failed, because, I assure you, they are two of the most truly-in-love people I have ever seen. If any marriage underneath Hollywood’s blazing sun has a chance to last till death-do-them-part, this MacDonald-Raymond marriage, now one year old, is that one.

And despite all the odds against it, I’ll give you any odds that you wish that it will last forever and ever, amen.