by Trudy Wise
Motion Picture, July 1970
Six weeks after they wed, Kim Darby and James Westmoreland split. Heartbroken Kim now sobs,

"He Was Like a Stranger to Me"

"Our marriage was so short, there's hardly anything to say, except that it was a mistake."

Thus Kim Darby, her lovely young face trying to be cheerful, but her eyes betraying a sense of sadness, summed up her brief second marriage to erstwhile actor James Westmoreland.

The marriage certainly was short--lasting from February 6 of this year until the last week in March. But why? Why should two young, attractive persons who seemed so completely sure of each other and their love decide so soon that there was no hope of their continuing as man and wife?

‘‘One of our problems was a lack of interest in the same things," Kim told me quietly, sitting in the living room of her home. "We are interested in exactly opposite things . . . and our values are so different. Politically, we are at opposite ends of the pole. And our tastes--everything--are not in the least bit compatible. Right away, we were growing apart, instead of together."

The very nature of their meeting and courtship, perhaps, caused Kim and Jamie (as she and her family call him) not to realize their vast differences before the wedding. The two had met less than a month before they said "I do." This is a short time under any circumstances, and even shorter under their particular situation. Kim was finishing a movie, and Westmoreland had to be out of town part of that time on business. Obviously, the newlyweds didn't get to spend too much time together.

They did not have enough time to discuss deeply, seriously and at great length many matters which were to prove disastrously divisive between them, once they were spending 24 hours a day under the same roof. But Kim and Jamie were young, fascinated with each other, and caught up head over heels in romantic rapture.

The very day after Kim's divorce from first husband Jim Stacy, of TV's Lancer, became final, she became Mrs. James Westmoreland.

It was a small, private ceremony held in the beautiful seaside home of one of Kim's good friends. The guests were few, as they both wanted. The only relative in attendance was Mrs. Mabel Zerby, Kim's adored grandmother, who had the primary responsibility of rearing her after her parents' divorce.

It Was such a happy day that it seems almost impossible to realize that it's all gone. Both Kim and her new bridegroom were utterly blissful, as anyone could see by looking at the dozens of pictures taken after the ceremony.

Certainly, those who were close to the couple were wishing both of them every good thing they desired. Both Kim and Jamie had had a previous unsuccessful try at matrimony. Westmoreland's first marriage to Allison Kimball, a native of Tennessee, had lasted less than a year, and, reliably reported, he received a monetary settlement at the end of the marriage. But all that was in the past. Now, their friends felt that Kim and Jamie had found each other and all would be well.

But it was not, as Kim herself pointed out. As she talked about her broken second marriage, there was none of the terrible agony in her face as there had been when she and Stacy first began having trouble. Regret, yes. Sadness, yes. But not that tearing, awful pain she could not hide all the time she was trying to maintain her home with Jim Stacy. It was a different thing entirely, and Kim recognized it.

Shrugging hopelessly, she did manage a small smile and said, "I think it's really impossible to fall in love with someone in two or three weeks . . . truly impossible. We really did like each other, but it was not enough.

"I think I rushed into it because I had a thing about being with someone," she conceded gamely. "I wanted someone to take care of me, and he gave me every indication that he could and would--emotionally and financially. I needed the emotional caring very much, so it was mostly that.

"And," Kim sighed, "I liked the idea of being married--of being very close to someone. . . . He seemed to feel that way, too. So we got married."

Closeness . . . Warmth. . . Sharing . . . Being taken care of. . . .These, of course, are qualities every woman wants. But perhaps, as Kim indicated, she had a greater yearning, a greater need for these things than many others do. Perhaps her first experience had so devastated her that she was more prone to act now and think later.

Kim's own present insight seems to give credence to that idea. "I guess when someone gives me affection--which I need very much--I exaggerate it in my own mind. I exaggerate my own response and think I'm in love."

Westmoreland certainly gave Kim the attention and affection. He had been attracted to her, so their friends say, even before he met her in person--just from seeing her perform as an actress. In fact, Jamie had asked to be introduced to her, the story goes, and from their first meeting, he seemed determined to win the hand of this lovely lady. The fact that Kim had a toddler daughter not only did not deter him, but seemed only to add to her attractiveness. He was entranced by small Heather, and she seemed to like him, too.

But love for a lifetime? Not really, Kim now sees that clearly.

"I realize now that my thinking has been adolescent," she bravely admitted. "And, I really think I've grown up on that level now. I think I can be truly fond of someone, without thinking I'm in love. Just because I would like to be really in love with someone, and have someone truly love me, I'm not going to love an image any more. I'm going to go slowly in my own mind, and wait for the true person to emerge."

Kim tried to do that in regard to Westmoreland. Really tried. Only two weeks before that marriage, she had told me firmly, "I'm not ready to jump into any marriage."

But youthful eagerness, romantic excitement and--by her own words--deep need, got in there and made her change her mind almost overnight. And her own normally good judgment got momentarily suspended. All Kim saw was a handsome, affectionate man who clearly wanted her, not just for a playmate, but for a wife. And she succumbed.

Now, with a regretful, ‘Oh, if I had only" tone in her voice, Kim says, "I think I've had enough of marriage for a while.

"The truth is I've never been really married. Oh, it's been legal and all that, but I never have had a true relationship in a marriage. Maybe I've just been too young for that. Having a ceremony doesn't mean that people are really married."

But even if Kim does not recognize that both her marriages were not what she believed they would be, or what she most wishes for her life, she does realize that one of them, at least, was based on a deep, true love on her part.

"There was only one person, actually, with whom I was truly in love," Kim said unhesitatingly, "and that was Jim Stacy. And I'm not afraid to say it," she affirmed, that small chin coming up proudly. "Jim was my first love, and he always will be a big part of my life. He is the father of my daughter.

"We are friends now," she smiled, "very much so. We have Heather to think about, and we want her to really have a father and a mother . . . even if we don't live together. She can be aware of having two parents who truly love her. Jim comes to see her and spends time with her. She's very aware of having a father.

"Jim and I are close now in a certain special way," Kim continued in a musing tone. "We can say hello and we can say goodbye to each other . . .it's all very friendly. No discord and no complications. We talk a lot about Heather--which is quite natural. Jim's been very understanding and very kind."

Nor, insists Kim, has there been any big blowup with Westmoreland. "There hasn't been any trouble at all," she reiterated. "In fact, he's very friendly, too...so I'm friendly. He calls to see how I am, and I know he misses Heather. He had become quite fond of her."

Even with all that, there apparently is not the slightest possibility that Kim and Westmoreland will get back together. She doesn't say this implicitly; she doesn't have to. Her demeanor and her tone of voice say it for her. Besides, her attorney has already begun the necessary legal proceedings which ultimately will result in divorce.

"You know, we've never had a fight," Kim exclaimed suddenly, as if that were as surprising to her as it would be to anyone else who heard it. Not even one rousing fight in a dissolved marriage? Incredible. Yet true, she repeated, saying, "We've never fought once. He left quietly and quickly. . . and it's been very friendly.

"We just sat down and talked about it," she explained. "There simply was no communication between us. There was no solid thing at all. And . . . well . . . we were unhappy. So we just sat down and talked about it, and decided that a break was the best thing for both of us . . . friendly and very sane and straight.

Friendly . . . Sane . . . Straight. . . More than any other words, these could sum up Kim Darby and her approach to life. Oh, there are others, such as sensitive, young and talented. But, most of all, she is a young woman whose attitudes and actions always have been noted for their warmth and candor. She's not a game-player. And she doesn't want to be. Although Kim now recognizes that being born and brought up in Hollywood--and now a big part of the motion picture industry--has its built-in hazards.

"This is a bad town to grow up in," she commented thoughtfully. "There are a lot of vicious people around. There is so much ego . . . so much selfishness . . . so many people who want to use you. . . . You really have to protect yourself because there are people who are so destructive. . . who will just hurt you. . . .

"You know," she grinned, "I didn't think I was quite as vulnerable as I used to be. But I am. I put a little anaesthetic over myself, which is a shame. It's a shame to have to have guards. . ."

Then, as if to make it perfectly clear that she wasn't sinking into any personal morass of self-pity, Kim hastily added, "This business is so crazy! There are no rules. A lot of tensions . . . anxieties . . . and the ego thing. Eccch! One minute you're here, and one minute you're there, and most of the time you're in between. You don't know what's going to happen to you."

Kim came from a show business family. Both her parents--her father still teaches the art--were dancers. And she began attending acting classes while still in her early teens. Almost by the time she was out of high school, her talent had been recognized--and she was being cast in leading roles on TV. But her truly big break came when she won the female lead in True Grit. She followed it up with Generation, and by now is generally granted to be one of the most exciting new talents to emerge in Hollywood in a long time. Kim works hard at her craft. but otherwise pays little attention to the whole actress bit. And that may have contributed no little to the difficulties in her marriage to Westmoreland. His ideas about actresses evidently were not at all the same as Kim's.

"I don't think Jamie ever really knew an actress like me," Kim laughed ruefully. "Or my type, at least. I guess actresses to him were something different from what I am. You know . . . I wear a pair of jeans and a sweater sometimes. That seemed to be particularly unusual to him. I guess he thought I should be wearing minks . . . or something. . . ."

Shaking her head Kim added, "And I'm certainly not of the New Left or anything, but I am a liberal. And I believe that it's democratic--what this country is all about, truly--to dissent and to criticize and to want things improved. I don't believe in going along with things I don't believe in.

‘But Jamie," she sighed helplessly, "well males with long hair were bad people to him. We'd have long discussions about that. I'd say, ‘Hey, hair is a thing that grows out of your head, and that's all there is to it.' I don't care," she chuckled, "if somebody's hair is to his knees, if that's how he wants it. If he's groovy and kind and doesn't hurt anybody, that's all that matters.

"Look, I don't mean to put him down. Jamie has his own thing. If he believes, say, that somebody's hair makes the person, well, that's his thing. But it's not mine, and that's only a minor thing to explain what I mean. It was just a complete case of utter incompatibility about EVERYTHING!

"And," Kim continued, "I think another thing that didn't help our relationship was that I was so busy during the day. It was one of the most productive periods of my life--I haven't always been that productive. I was really busy, taking strenuous exercise classes every day. And I was going to Yoga lessons for two hours every afternoon and in the evening. All this had to be done, because I was getting ready to do a picture."

With a shrug, Kim said, "I wasn't home very much, you see, and, of course, when I was, I spent a certain amount of time with Heather. I would make it my business to take her somewhere. Consequently, I wasn't around very much.

"I think that was somewhat devastating to my husband," she confessed. "Perhaps it hurt his ego that I could find so much to do without him, even though there were certain things I had to do. I don't know. But I was enjoying it . . ."

Perhaps if Westmoreland had been intensely busy himself, at this time, none of it would have become a problem. But his own business interests were marking time awaiting financial arrangements. And as for his acting career, that has appeared to be pretty much inactive since he had a regular role on the TV series The Monroes a few years ago. True, Westmoreland knew he had married a popular, much-in-demand young star, but perhaps he did not expect her to be quite so occupied with activities in which he could not participate. It could not have been easy.

In fact, as their abrupt separation proved, it became impossible for the two to continue together.

Kim's immediate future is pretty clear. She will continue what she has been doing working at her career and devoting as much time as she can to her beloved little girl.

It is clear, too, that Kim does not intend to become a recluse. She showed up--beautiful and smiling--at the Oscar awards with actor Bruce Davidson, with whom she stars in her latest, as yet unreleased film, Strawberry Statement. She and Davidson dated before she married Westmoreland, but nothing more, Kim hastily insisted.

"Bruce and I have a real friendship," she averred. "We like each other, and I find it a great comfort to be able to talk with him and be with him. We understand each other.

"There's no romance at all," Kim repeated forcefully. "We like each other as friends and talk things out a lot. It's an honest, easy, functioning relationship. We have a lot in common and we like to do the same things-- movies, whatever--but we do things the way friends do. There is no romantic involvement, only a friendship involvement. I find that great. We've been friends ever since we did the picture together, and I hope we always will be."

Nor did Kim seem to have any other interest at the Oscar event than sheer delight that her aging True Grit co-star, John Wayne, won as best actor of the year. "Oh, I'm so glad that Duke won!" she burbled like a little girl. "Very glad. It couldn't have been nicer. . . ."

That's the way it is these days with Kim Darby. She's keeping her cool completely in the midst of her latest problem. Most of all, she now seems to be able to look at what went awry with almost a removed objectivity. Oh, sure, she's wounded, and sad that it didn't work out. But she thinks she understands why. Most of all, with her new-found maturity, she is absolutely determined not to make such a major mistake again.

"Everything has happened to me so fast," Kim said. "I think things happened to me in 18 months that haven't happened to people in 18 years."

Too fast, she implies clearly. And Kim doesn't want anything else to happen in that fashion. "I truly think I'm grown now," she smiled. "I think I have become more wary emotionally, and I don't feel that huge need to be married. Nor that I have to have somebody or be terribly lonely.

"From now on," Kim stated unequivocally, "I'm going to go slowly in my own mind. I want a real marriage next time."

And everyone is hoping Kim finds one.

Back to Articles List