I was engaged.
I don't think there was a girl in all the world who looked and acted happier than I did. His name was James Hanson and I had met him at a party in England. Love? No woman who ever lived could have been more honestly betrothed to a man. I could not have dreamed of a more perfect match than Jimmy and me. We had picked a beautiful ivy-covered English church for the marriage, and on the third finger of my left hand was the most grand of all engagement rings - mine. I scoured the courtiers of Paris and London for the wedding trousseau which I had pictured in my mind since I was a little girl. I had secured one whole week free from the shooting of Roman Holiday.
On the evening of my last day's work, I went back to my apartment in Rome and, with a kind of gloating that only a woman can understand, I got out the entire trousseau : the wedding gown, the night gown, the unmentionables, the suits, the shoes, the hats, the hose, the gloves. My little flat looked like a dress shop. Wherever I looked in that room were clothe. I spun around the room in happy pirouettes until I was dizzy with pleasure.
And then, for no reason at all, I sat down in the middle of the floor and cried. I tried to stop, but I couldn't. The tears poured down my cheeks and as I sobbed, three words kept coming to my mind. This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong.
At first, I thought I had gone crazy with happiness. Then I looked at the wedding dress and felt nothing. No love, no pleasure, no joy.
In that split second, a beautiful dream had ended.
The next day, I talked with Jimmy and told him I couldn't marry him.
To this day, I do not honestly know what changed my mind.
The time I remember was a beautiful bright, sunny day on the patio of my home. If it hadn't been for the sparrows - well, I get a chill in my heart just thinking about it.
Maureen, our first baby, was then about seven weeks old. Every morning, I'd bring her out in the bassinet and let her bask in the sun. Then I'd go back into the kitchen to get a napkin full of crumbs for the sparrows. They were a noisy lot and I'd laugh at the way they scrambled and fluttered about trying to get the food.
It got so that the moment I'd come out on the patio each morning, the sparrows would come seemingly from nowhere and perch patiently on the rose bushes and trees, just waiting for my morning handout.
On this particular morning, I set Maureen in the sun, as usual. She was gurgling happily, squirming her little body, kicking her legs and waving her arms. I fed the sparrows. Then I leaned back on the redwood chair and closed my eyes. Then sun was warm and soothing and I fell asleep.
Suddenly, I was awakened by a terrific chirping and flapping of little wings. I opened my eyes and there were sparrows all around me. They'd swoop down close to me, fly over to Maureen's crib, then come back to me. At first, I thought they were trying to peck at me for more food. I was a bit irritated by this and I tried to shoo them away, but they only screeched louder and flapped their wings harder.
I don't know why, but in that split second I knew something was wrong. Then I realized what the sparrows were trying to tell me. I jumped up and ran to Maureen's crib. She had turned over, and her small face was buried deep in the blanket, which she had worked around her head. She was completely still. Quickly, I picked her up and turned her over. She was limp and there was an unnatural blueness in her white skin. I was terrified. Then Maureen took a big deep breath, as if she were sobbing.
Pretty soon, she was breathing regularly and opened her eyes and smiled. I hugged her to me as if I had just seen her for the first time. And then I cried.
After a few minutes, I looked around for those wonderful sparrows. There wasn't one in sight. I waited and waited for them, but they never came back again.
This post is Part Two of our republication of the 1957 Motion Picture magazine article that featured seven actresses sharing stories of moments of intuition. We hope you enjoyed reading it. Please be sure to check out the first post here and stay tuned for the third part!