As timing would have it, my life was a bit similar to the character I was playing. I had recently become engaged to my first husband and I was very happy. I was twenty-two years old, looking forward to being a wife and a mother. I had so much enthusiasm about my future that I was like a sugar addict who gets the first piece of birthday cake with the giant rose made of frosting. I was buzzing with excitement.
My best friend, Patty, was along with me as my traveling companion. When I wasn't on the set, Patty and I would go out and explore each city where the boat docked. We called it sightseeing. It was more like sighting the best stores and seeing how many we could get to before we had to be back to the ship. Let's just say the two of us have always done more than our share when it comes to stimulating the retail economy wherever we visit! She's the only one I know who can power shop at my pace. About half way through the week of filming, we were in Rome, Italy. I found the most beautiful christening gown I had ever seen in a small specialty shop. The handmade lace and the embroidered satin were breathtaking. I had to buy the gown to hopefully bless my own baby in someday.
I took it back to the set with me and was showing it to some of the friends I had made doing the show when Shelly Winters came over to see what everyone was oohing and aahing over.
Shelly had been on edge with almost everyone equally, both cast and crew, the entire week. Now, for some reason, she flew into a rage over my purchase. I didn't understand and the crew stood stunned into silence as she ranted on about my "sentimental stupidity," scoffing at the baby gown. I didn't even know how to respond. In total embarrassment, I gathered up my shopping bags and went to my room.
That night the cast and crew traveled on to Venice. I spent the entire trip trying to figure out what on earth I had done that made Shelly Winters so furious. I thought that she had no reason to be so crabby. She had a great career and had won every award available in show business: an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy. In her younger years she was a Hollywood beauty. Now, she was a first choice for a lot of high-profile, challenging character roles. It seemed to me that fortune had been generous to Shelly.
I decided it would be best to just ignore the incident and do whatever it took to get through the filming schedule. She obviously didn't like me at all.
The next evening, following a day of filming, there was a knock on my door. I wasn't expecting anyone, so I was even more surprised when I opened it to see Shelley standing there, cocktail in hand. It seemed, by the way she leaned on the doorframe, that it wasn't her first one of the evening. After I invited her in she asked: "Can I see that baby gown you were showing everyone?"
I was actually afraid she would try to destroy it, but I handed it to her anyway. She sat down in a chair with the dress in her hands, looking it over closely, not saying a word for the longest time. When she finally looked up, her eyes were full of tears. I didn't dare speak, until she said, "I have a daughter, you know."
I told her that I didn't know that.
Then Shelley scoffed, took a long gulp of her drink and said, "I have so many awards I don't know what to do with them. I use them for doorstops. I could have had any man in Hollywood that I wanted."