Husbands & Lovers

Carole was a hopeless romantic and she spent her life searching for true love. She married four husbands and was engaged three times. Carole also dated some of Hollywood's most eligible bachelors. Here are some of the men she loved ....

Here is Carole's first husband Irving Kay Wheeler. He was a twenty year old civilian conservation corps worker. Irving eloped with fifteen year old Carole on January 14, 1934. When her mother found out she had the marriage annulled. On August 25, 1934 the couple got married again. This time they had the consent of Carole's father. She and Irving only lived together for three weeks before they separated. Irving eventually went to Hollywood and became an actor using the name Jack Roberts. In 1938 he sued Carole's boyfriend Busby Berkeley for $250,000 claiming "alienation of affection". The suit was dismissed and Carole officially divorced him in 1939. She said "I didn't think anyone knew I'd ever been married. I thought Irving had forgotten our marriage, too. We lived together for three weeks and then had an argument. I've only seen him once since then, and that was when he told me he wanted a divorce." Carole got Irving a job as a stand-in on her 1942 film A Gentleman In Heart. In 1954 Irving was arrested outside a nightclub on a narcotics charge. At the time he was on parole for another drug charge and was using the name Irving Decker.

Here is Carole with Willis Hunt Jr, her second husband. Willis was a twenty-seven year old yacht salesman from a wealthy family. He was divorced from heiress Dolly Brewer and had a reputation as a playboy who loved to party. Willis proposed to Carole two weeks after meeting her. She said "We like to do the same things. I think it will work". On July 4, 1940 they eloped in Las Vegas. He became abusive and she walked out on him two months later. They were divorced in November 1940 and Carole claimed it made her suffer a nervous breakdown. She told reporters "There I was being so happy, so ecstatic, so delirious, so willing to forsake all others. To stop being Miss Big and try being the Little Woman. He didn't want a Little Woman." Surprisingly Carole and Willis remained friends and continued to go out together. In December of 1969 Willis was stabbed to death by his wife at the age of fifty-five. His wife, Willia Dean Hunt, was charged with murder but she was acquitted.

Here is Carole with Horace Schmidlapp, her fourth husband. Horace was a twenty-nine year old Broadway producer from a rich family. Carole called him "Poppie". They were introduced by her friend Jacqueline Susann. Carole and Horace were married on December 8, 1945 and honeymooned in Cuba. She said "He's my definition of an ideal husband. In Horace I've found a man instead of a boy". Carole lived with him in New York City for a while but they spent much of their marriage apart. In an interview she said  "I have now what I've always wanted in a marriage. I have the feeling of a deep security which will insure a permanent future with children of our own. I have a home now, not merely a house. My husband has a solid sense of values and brings out the best in me. We're already planning a home in the East with at least three children. When this happens, I'll commute to Hollywood for my picture assignments." Carole began having an affair with Rex Harrison and filed for divorce in March 1948. After Carole's death Horace fought with her family over her estate. He later dated Lana Turner and Sheree North. Horace died in 1987 at the age of seventy-one.

Here is Carole with her fiance Busby Berkeley. He was one of Hollywood's most successful choreographers. They met in 1937 when she auditioned for a role in Varsity Show and he helped her get a contract with Warner Brothers. Busby was twenty-three years older than Carole and had been married several times. Although their romance got her a lot of attention she publicly claimed they were not dating. Carole said "Mr. Berkeley and I are good friends, but we certainly aren't in love". Her first husband, Irving Wheeler, sued Busby for $250,000 for "alienation of affection" but lost the case. Busby was an alcoholic and his mother did not like Carole. He broke up with her in 1938. She would later comment "I think Busby is a very grand person and I have the highest regard for him. I do hope someday he'll meet the right person to bring him happiness as a life companion. I wasn't the right person." Busby died in 1976 at the age of eighty.

Here is Carole with her fiance Gene Markey. He was a screenwriter and producer. Gene was twenty-three years older than her and had been married to Hedy Lamar. Carole started dating him in early 1941 but she continued to see other men.  She said "Gene Markey gives me books of plays to read, books about the theater; he talks to me about the theater and gives me the feeling we are talking about it". Gene gave Carole her beloved Great Dane Donner. Their relationship got serious in 1942 and they were engaged for a short time. When the press announced they were getting married in Washington Carole told them "I'm going to Washington for a visit, that's all. Mr. Markey is there and of course I will see him, but there are no immediate plans to announce." Soon after they parted as friends. In 1946 Gene married Myrna Loy. He died on May 1, 1980 at the age of eighty-four.

Here is Carole with writer Kenny Morgan. They were engaged for a few months in 1939 and stayed friends.

Here is Carole with actor Franchot Tone. They had a serious romance in 1940 and remained close friends.

Here is Carole with movie legend Charlie Chaplin. They went out a couple of times in early 1941.

Here is Carole with art director Cedric Gibbons. They dated for several months in 1941.

Here is Carole with actor George Montgomery. They had a short-lived romance when they worked together on Cadet Girl.

Here is Carole with her attorney Greg Bautzer. They had a brief fling in 1942.

Here is Carole with actor Tony Martin. They went out on several dates in 1942.

Here is Carole with entertainer George Jessel. They had an on-again off-again affair that lasted for years.