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Wedding Bell Blues: 100 Years of Our Great Romance with Marriage

Chronicle Books LLC

Wedding Bell Blues: 100 Years of Our Great Romance with Marriage Overview

Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, as the classic croon... But in twentieth-century America—hang on tight—the horses have run wild and it's one bumpy ride! Welcome to the world of Wedding Bell Blues, a romp through our endless fascination with that most august of domestic institutions: marriage. Celebrated (and bemoaned) in every medium imaginable, weddings and marriage are as much a part of life as birth, death, and taxes. Hundreds of nostalgic images, from advertisements to magazine covers to movie posters, display the full range of romance and allure of actual and fictional brides and grooms. Seasoned advice from the likes of Archie Bunker to turn-of-the-century marriage manuals lend a note of unsolicited, and often absurd, guidance to the uninitated. Whether you're already hitched, have been, or vow never to be, tying the knot will hardly look the same again. Michael barson has been married once, but it feels like three, or maybe fourteen (and he means that in the most positive sense). With Steven Heller he wrote Teenage Confidential, and has authored or edited nine other books. He lives with his family in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.

Wedding Bell Blues: 100 Years of Our Great Romance with Marriage Table Of Content

Prologue A Century's Worth of Fun Facts about Marriage in
America—and Its Aftermath 16
1 Words of Wit, Wisdom, and Remorse
The Sages of the Ages on Marriage 22
Professor Harold Bloom Presents the Five Happiest
Marriages in Shakespeare 32
2 Expertise from a Century's Worth of Marriage Manuals
Through the Years with a Whole Bunch of Know-It-Alls 34
Our Choice for the Marriage Master of the New Millenium 50
3 Whom the Gods Would Betroth
Part 1 The Most Epochal Marriages of the 20th Century 52
Part 2 A Century of Hollywood Honeymoons, Marriages, 55
and Divorces—Plus a Few Really Tawdry Affairs
Part 3 They Never Married: Hollywood's Most "Almost"
Couples 64
Part 4 The Gospel Truth: Hollywood Fan Mags Give Us the
Low-Down 66
Eight Exquisite Comic Books Devoted to the Agonies of
Marriage 70
4 Screen Dreams
Part 1 Those Awful Truths: The Ten Best Film Comedies
about Marriage 72
Part 2 Those Cheatin' Hearts: The Ten Best Films about
Illicit Love 80
Part 3 Dysfunction Junction: Ten Films That Will
Persuade You Never, Ever to Get Married 84
Part 4You're Not Paranoid, You're Just Married! 90
Part 5 Sixty-six Flicks about Fidelity, and Other
Marital Motifs 92
Our Twelve Favorite True Tales of Matrimony from the
Confession Magazines 106
5 Songs for the Simple Life
Part 1 Ten Time-Tested Tunes about Getting, Being, or
Un-being Married 108
Part 2 Rock'n'Roll's Most Harmonious Married Couples 112
6 T.V. Travail Fifty Great, Near-Great, and Practically
Forgotten Television Shows about the Institution of Marriage 116
Epilogue Just in Case It Doesn't Work out After All 128
Bibliography 130

Wedding Bell Blues: 100 Years of Our Great Romance with Marriage Excerpt

Chapter One

Words of Wit, Wisdom, and Remorse


You think you're mixed-up about the ins and outs of wedlock? (Wedlock—now, there's a compound noun that carries certain implications!) So it has always been for the great minds of each age of humankind. If four thousand years of civilization's Alpha thinkers and philosophers couldn't figure out what marriage means, what chance do we have of cracking the code? So be our guest—jump in, and drink from the fountain of wisdom that follows. And then, after quaffing this heady brew, be prepared to get really confused!

Wedding Bells



MUSIC BY SAMMY FAIN With Ukulele Arrangement

* It is better to marry than to burn.


* Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing.

Proverbs, 18:22

* A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.

—Proverbs, 12:4

* By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy.

If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.


* Two days are the best of a man's wedded life

The days when he marries and buries his wife.

—Hipponax (Sixth century B.C.)

* The bachelor is a peacock, the engaged man a lion,

the married man a jackass.

—German proverb

* The comfortable estate of widowhood is the only hope that keep's up a wife's spirits.

—John Gay, The Beggar's Opera

* Never marry a widow unless her first husband was hanged.

—Old English Proverb

* Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasure.

— Samuel Johnson, Rasselas

* One fool at least in every married couple.

— Henry Fielding, Amelia

* Composed that monstrous animal a husband and wife.

— Henry Fielding, Tom Jones

* They took from me my wife, and to save trouble I wed again, and made the error double.

—John Clare, The Exile

* Wedlock, a padlock.

—Old English Proverb

* There is but one hour a day between a good housewife and a bad one.

—Old English proverb

* Woe to the house where the hen crows and the rooster keeps still.

—Spanish proverb

* Wives rarely fuss about their beauty To guarantee their mate's affection.

— Molière, The School for Wives

* One was never married, and that's his hell; another is, and that's his plague.

—Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

* Oh! How many torments lie in the small circle of a wedding-ring!

—Colley Cibber, The Double Gallant

* A light wife doth make a heavy husband.

—Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

* Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.

—Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

* We will have no more marriages.

— Shakespeare, Hamlet

* A young man married is a man that's marred.

—Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well

* Men in single state should tarry; While women, I suggest, should marry.

— Samuel Hoffenstein

* Though women are angels, yet wedlock's the devil.

— Lord Byron

* In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved.

—Samuel Butler

* Well-married, a man is winged

—ill-matched, he is shackled.

— Henry Ward Beecher

* Marriage is a feast where the
grace is sometimes better
than the dinner.

—Charles Caleb Cotton, Lacon

* Marriage is like life in
this—that it is a field
of battle, and not a bed of

—Robert Louis Stevenson

* Times are changed
with him who marries;
there are no more bypath
meadows, where
you may innocently
linger, but the road lies
long and straight and
dusty to the grave.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

* Strange to say what delight we married people have to see these poor fools decoyed into our condition.

—Samuel Pepys

* Have you not heard When a man marries, dies, or turns Hindoo, His best friends hear no more of him?

—Percy Bysshe Shelley, Letter to Maria Gisborne

* As the husband is, the wife is: thou art mated with a clown,

* And the grossness of his nature will have weight to drag thee down.

* He will hold thee, when his passion shall have spent its novel force,

* Something better than a dog, a little dearer than his horse.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Locksley Hall

* Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

— Benjamin Franklin

* The men that women marry, and why they marry them, will always be a mystery to the world.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

* Divorce is of probably the same date
as marriage. I believe, however, that
marriage is some weeks more ancient.


* Marriage is a science.

—Honore de Balzac

* It is a truth universally acknowledged
that a single man in possession
of a good fortune must be in want
of a wife.

—Jane Austen, opening
line of Pride and Prejudice

* Marriage is a lottery in which
men stake their liberty and
women their happiness.

—Madame de Rieux

* Every woman should marry—and no man.

—Benjamin Disraeli

* It is most unwise for people
in love to marry.

—George Bernard Shaw

* Men marry because they are
tired, women because they are
curious; both are disappointed.

—Oscar Wilde

* Don't wish me happiness ... wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor—I will need them all.

—Anne Morrow Lindbergh (just before her marriage)

* How marriage ruins a man. It's as demoralizing as cigarettes, and far more expensive.

— Oscar Wilde, Lady Windemere's Fan

* If couples did not live together, happy marriages would be more frequent.

—Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

* The only really happy folk are married women and single men.

—H. L. Mencken

* If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead, get married.

—Katharine Hepburn

* Marriage halves our griefs, doubles our joys, and quadruples our expenses.

—Vincent Lean

* Separate bedrooms and separate bathrooms.

— Bette Davis

* To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it,
Whenever you're right, shut up.

—Ogden Nash

* I lost a good secretary and found a lousy cook.

—Fiorella H. La Guardia

* I personally adore marriage ...
I even cry at weddings, especially my own.

—Zsa Zsa Gabor

* A man in love is incomplete until he's married.
Then he's finished.

—Zsa Zsa Gabor

* Marriage is the death of hope.

—Woody Allen

Professor Harold Bloom
Presents the Five
Happiest marriages
in Shakespeare:

1) THE MACBETHS, in Macbeth.


3) PETRUCHIO AND KATE, in The Taming of the Shrew.

4) CAESAR AND CALPURNIA, in Julius Caesar.

5) BRUTUS AND PORTIA, in Julius Caesar.

Chapter Two

Expertise from a
Century's Worth of
Marriage Manuals


TALKS ON NATURE: A True Marriage Guide by J. H. Greer, M.D. (1888) Let no married lovers think of habitually occupying the same bed. It can do no good ... What one may gain in vitality the other loses ... Aside, and above all other reasons, is the one that separate beds will in great measure help overcome sexual excesses. The close bodily contact under a common bed-clothing is a constant provocation to amorous ideas and sensations. It is the purely sensual that needs to be put to one side that the spiritual may have a chance for growth.


Wedding Bell Blues: 100 Years of Our Great Romance with Marriage Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

True Confessions

While most of you reading this don't know me, I will ask you to take my word for it that, whenever I bump into someone I do know, one of the first things they ask me (after remarking on my weight gain) is, Are you still married? And it's been -- what, 16 years? And even though I have to think for a moment or two, the answer I inevitably give is "yes" and "yes."

But, truth to tell, I am just as surprised to utter that fact (or is it now a statistic?) as they are to hear it. Because these people who know me were amazed when I told them I was going to get married, amazed when I went ahead and did get married (May 19, 1984 -- at least, that's what these matchbooks in the kitchen drawer say), and amazed six weeks later to hear that the union was still on. And so, frankly, was I. (My wife, Jean, who sensibly uses her own name, might feel exactly the same way, but naturally we don't like to talk about that stuff.)

That marriage mystery is at least part of what motivated Steve Heller (who also is married, another of life's great mysteries) and I to create Wedding Bell Blues. This (if I do say so myself) rather gorgeous production -- all in full color, natch -- gathers a century's worth (the one we just finished with) of information about the many ways we in America have learned about, celebrated, and sometimes wept over the institution we all think of as "being married." (The institution called "being not married" requires its own, separate book -- but Steve and I wouldn't have the faintest idea what to say about that, since we no longer can remember what living in that state was like, except when we rent movies at Blockbuster like "Bachelor Party," "Alfie," and "Shampoo." Come to think of it, we do miss that sometimes, especially the part when the mother and daughter both come into the room, and...)

But back to Wedding Bell Blues. As we like to do with all of our little popular culture odysseys, we wanted to go right to the source. That meant delving through enormous stacks of vintage movie magazines like Photoplay and Silver Screen, with their complete coverage of each Liz Taylor marriage from soups to nuts; finding the posters for classic films about marriage such as Two for the Road, My Favorite Wife, and Suspicion (well, I didn't say they were all happy marriages); poring over old love comics like Romantic Marriage and Wedding Bells and confession magazines like True Romances and True Confessions; studying antique marriage manuals along the lines of Sex and Marriage Problems, When You Marry, and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen's 1953 classic Three to Get Married (for some reason Steve had a whole bunch of these in his library!); listening to all the great tunes that taught us everything we needed to know about matrimony, like "We've Only Just Begun," "Chapel of Love," and "Band of Gold"; and watching endless reruns of such marriage-centered TV shows as The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Newlywed Game, and thirtysomething. (Luckily, most of this stuff was sitting in enormous heaps on my third floor, which is another story entirely.) Then Steve and I analyzed it, distilled it, and ultimately served it up in glorious color for the benefit of mankind in general, and ourselves in particular. The proud result is Wedding Bell Blues (just in case your attention has wandered).

There's so more I could tell you about this book -- I didn't even get into the fabulous retro-wedding fashions and the nifty old ads for diamond rings we show -- but I've just been informed that it's time to take the garbage cans down to the street, besides which I left my socks on the floor again and forgot to buy the kind of frozen pizza the kids like -- and why exactly am I keeping that huge stack of Victoria's Secret catalogs in the basement? So if you'll excuse me....

—Michael Barson

Publisher's Weekly

a cheeky look at marriage...full of hilariously dated advertisements, paperback book jackets, movie posters and other ephemera, this is an ideal wedding shower gift and a must-have for pop junkies.

Publishers Weekly

From pop culture aficionados Barson and Heller (Teenage Confidential) comes a cheeky look at marriage in the last century, for better or for worse. For the most part, they shy away from much of the recent past in favor of the visually rich and amusing marriage culture of the 1940s, '50s and '60s, revealing a trove of images of blushing brides and men in skinny ties. It's a wise move, as too many sendups from the later part of the century might hit a little close to home. But who won't chuckle at a list of "Those Awful Truths: The Ten Best Film Comedies About Marriage"? Other highlights include "They Never Married: Hollywood's Most `Almost' Couples," "Harold Bloom Presents the Five Happiest Marriages in Shakespeare" and "Ten Time-Tested Tunes about Getting, Being, or Un-being Married." Perhaps the most enlightening section picks words of wisdom from marriage advice manuals from 1888 through 1999, proving that although our attitudes might change, our need to know if we are doing it the way everyone else does it will never go away. Full of hilariously dated advertisements, paperback book jackets, movie posters and other ephemera, this is an ideal wedding shower gift and a must-have for pop junkies. (May) FYI: Barson is associate director of publicity at Putnam. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Clarissa Cruz

In chapters that cover everything from weary star advice ( Woody Allen once said, "Marriage is the death of hope") to exerpts from hilariously antiquated sex manuals to the top 10 Hollywood couplings, Blues manages to both skewer and celebrate in a lively, fresh way. We think we're in love.
Entertainment Weekly

Michael Neill

…amusing and gloriously illustrated…
People Magazine

Readers' Reviews