Most of would feel more than a little uncomfortable at the idea of a man in his early forties dating a girl not yet sixteen – especially if she insists they’re “just good friends” and he says he wants to marry her. Seems a bit…creepy.
But rugged Hollywood actor John Ireland was happy to admit to a relationship with teenage starlet Tuesday Weld, as the October 1960 edition of Photoplay magazine reports in its feature “Should a girl be sexy at 15?”.
Tuesday Weld is no ordinary girl, it must be said. John Ireland was far from the only older man she dated. By the time Tuesday 17 – and perhaps well before – she had also stepped out with Frank Sinatra (aged 45 in 1960) and band leader Ray Anthony (then in his late 30s). Tuesday appears to have been an unusually precocious teenager with a lot of sex appeal, who knew what she was up to.
As the article says
Some say she is a precocious, publicity-seeking brat in need of a good spanking…but there are others – and they are in the majority – who say she is a frighteningly mature teenager who has more sex appeal than most girls well into their twenties.
Weld and Ireland never tied the knot, and both went onto have long and successful movie careers (Weld’s last feature was a bit of a let down – the none-too-successful film Investigating Sex from 2002).
What does it tell us? Clearly the mere fact that Photoplay ran the story was because it was something odd; and then as now Hollywood stars seem to play to different rules than the rest of us when it comes to sex and romance.
But what I found particularly interesting is the attitude to taken to the men in the story. The reporter, Pat Gledhill, discusses Tuesday at length, looks into her background (did her father dying when she was three contribute to her interest in older men?), her smoking and drinking, her exhibitionist streak and so on.
At no point does the article suggest there’s anything wrong in the activities or desires of the older men – Ireland, Sinatra and Anthony – in dating a girl of Tuesday’s age when they were in their late 30s or 40s. It’s difficult to tell from just one article, of course, but might it be that the biggest change this piece highlights between 1960 and today is the attitude society takes towards older men with an interest in teenage girls?
The article is slightly confusing in that is written throughout as if Tuesday Weld was 15 at the time of writing and refers to her age over and over again. However, Weld was born in August 1943, which would make her late-16 or just-turned-17 at the time the magazine was published.