There was a waiting period to get married in California. But there were no such restrictions in Nevada or Arizona, so young, impatient lovers in the 1930s would head for the the state line. And that included impatient Hollywood stars.
Hello Everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, back again with more filmland lore. Years ago, when Joe was interviewing much married bandleader Artie Shaw, he was told: Then Lana and I flew to Yuma and got married.
Excuse me, Mr. Shaw, interjected Joe, weren’t you married in Las Vegas?
Are you trying to tell ME where I got married? Shaw bellowed.
Well, responded Morella, I’ve got an newspaper clipping here and the AP dateline says Las Vegas.
Oh, said the chastened Shaw. But then he rebounded. Well, you can’t expect me to remember everyplace I got married!”
Actually, Shaw’s confusion was understandable. Back in the 1930s Yuma (Arizona) did rival Vegas as the place for L.A. couples to elope.
Loretta Young had gone there to wed (over her family’s objections) Grant Withers. Mary Astor went there for two of her unions. Eager lover boys John Barrymore and Errol Flynn had taken their brides to Yuma. Why even evangelist Aimiee Semple MacPhearson had eloped to Yuma. It was the “In” place.
And all the stars were wed by Judge Earl A. Freeman. Claudette Colbert, Alice Faye and Tony Martin (pictured above), Jean Harlow. He’s seen all the beauties in person. Why he’s even met Tom Mix.
Yuma, now a city of about 75,000, was just a border town of a few thousand back in the 30s. It was about a five or six hour drive from Los Angeles, about the same distance as Vegas but and much quieter — if you were looking for quiet.
Of course most of the film stars didn’t want to endure a a long drive through the desert, and besides, it was much more glamorous to fly.
An enterprising young pilot, Paul Mantz , had started a new business. You could charter his plane, often known as “the Honeymoon Special,” and fly to Yuma, or Vegas or the really posh place at the time, Reno.
Yuma was closer. And Freeman was soon known around tinseltown as ‘The Marrying Judge.’
Reno could be saved for the divorce.