Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin:
Custody Battle For Their Child

This article, written by Sharon Hart, appeared in Movie Mirror Magazine October 1963

"We are afraid," Sandra said less than a year ago...."We are afraid of what might happen to our son if we allowed pictures of him to be printed. There are so many kidnapping scares in Hollywood that Bobby and I have agreed that it's wiser not to put him into the spotlight. Besides, Bobby feels strongly, and so do I, that Dodd Mitchell is going to grow up, not as the son of Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin, but as the son of Mr. and Mrs. Walden Robert Cassotto, because that's who Bobby and I really are. Dodd's not going to be a movie star couple's child. He's going to go to school on the school bus. He's going to have to do the same sort of chores around the house that other boys do. He's going to have a normal childhood."

He's going to have a normal childhood. But, as of the summer of 1963, it appeared that little Dodd Mitchell was not going to have the same sort of childhood that Sandra and Bobby once dreamed of for him; the sort of happy, carefree growing up that millions of other little boys have because--unless his parents change their minds about the divorce plans that have been rumored to be breaking soon, Dodd will, instead, become a movie star couple's baby like those children of unfortunate Hollywood marriages that by ending in divorce, thus begin for their children, a life of partial separation from one parent.

There was a rumor going around, only recently, for example, that since their separation, Sandra was trying to keep their baby away from Bobby. The truth is that she's gone out of her way to let him have the child whenever his work permits. In fact, when she went to New York this past June, she checked to see if Bobby would still be in town so that the three of them could see one another. This, of course, didn't mean a reconciliation for the couple. On the contrary, from what we've been told, Sandra is reportedly quite bitter about the abrupt ending to her marriage, and it will take quite a bit of time before the hurt is gone.

As for that hurt...she's been disillusioned terribly. No one will probably ever know the real reason for the split, but whatever the cause, when a marriage sours, it leaves a bitter taste in everyone's mouth for a long time to come.

There is one thing however, that Hollywood fervently hopes doesn't happen--over and above the actuality of the divorce going through. That is, Hollywood prays that there will never be a custody fight over little Dodd. The history of these courtroom battles has been a tragic one, often leaving both parents as the losers. Always leaving the children as the losers.

Many times, if a child is old enough to understand what is happening, he lives with the memories of those heartbreaking days for the rest of his life. He recalls being made a pawn in a fight between two adults whom he loves. He remembers losing one of his parents forever... and, if he's lucky-enough, only occasionally seeing that missing person for a certain set number or visiting hours. Sometimes, he never sees that parent until he's grown up.

That was the case with Ingrid Bergman's oldest daughter, Jenny. After Ingrid and Jenny's father were divorced, Jenny, who remained with her dad in California, had to wait until she was a teenager before she saw her mother again in Italy (where Ingrid was living at the time she was wed to Roberto Rossellini). It was, a tearful reunion. Jenny remembered that as a little girl she said: "My mother left me. I never want to see her again." She didn't mean it of course, but at the time, a child reacts to any rejection with bitterness.

Sandra and Bobby, who love their son, no matter what happens to their personal married lives, could hardly bear the thought of him ever growing up feeling rejected and disillusioned.

Will there be a custody battle? They both, of course, would give anything to keep their boy, but if they are divorced they know, obviously, only one parent could retain custody. The other would have visiting rights, naturally.

There have been rumblings in the press that Bobby might demand custody. There have been inklings of gossip that Sandra is getting ready to fight any such demand Bobby might press. However, this is still in the rumor stage as we write.

Sandra and Bobby's marriage began in a blare of headlines. The two youngsters ( she was still a teenager) took the world by surprise when they wed. Within a few months, the gossip columnists insisted that "all was not well within the Darin household."

Both Sandy and Bobby immediately denied these gossip items. "Sure, we fight," they said...."doesn't every normal married couple let off steam a couple of times."

Then, news that Sandy was expecting a baby brought an immediate brake to the raft of separation rumors.

When little Dodd was born, Bobby, who had paced the floor of the hospital waiting room for hours, rushed in to see his wife. Their love for each other was clearly apparent in that touching moment when two young people suddenly discover that together they've created a new life.

Dodd was hardly a year old when the separation rumors began again. Once more they were denied. Bobby had been booked into New York's Copacabana in the spring of 1962. Sandy flew to New York with him, and with the baby. Didn't that togetherness bit prove that the gossips were, for the umpteenth time, proved wrong?

Then, what about the times ( Sandy herself admitted it was so ) when the couple spatted, and Sandy would pack bag and baggage and take the baby with her to her mother's home until they "kissed and made up again." However, the couple, while admitting that this event occurred "once or twice," put it down to "the normal sort of argument between married people"...Again ! ! !

What sort of a man is Bobby Darin? Why is that rumor so strong about his possibly demanding custody of the baby? After all, in most marriages that go wrong, it's often a foregone conclusion that the mother will get the child. No matter how great the love of a father for his son, past decisions (except in extreme cases) have dictated that the off-spring of a marriage be awarded to the care of the mother in event of divorce. Bobby must see the wisdom of this judgment. His own deep devotion to his mom is something wonderful; something he doesn't talk about for print because it's so sacred to him. But, friends who knew Bobby Cassotto back in the days when he was growing up on the "wrong side of the tracks" in New York City remember how close he and Mrs. Cassotto were. Bobby was a baby when his father died. His mother became for him the two parents he needed. She managed to combine the sweetness of a mother, with the strength of the male parent. Yet, to this day, he sorely remembers the lack of a dad. That's why his love for his son is such a strongly paternal one. That's why he could ask for Dodd's custody... but that's why he probably never would...because he knows, more than anyone, how important it is for a child to have a mother who loves him, even if he can't have a full-time dad around the house.

Some of Bobby's and Sandy's closest friends have hinted that Sandra could change her mind about a projected divorce. Only a child in years when she wed, she was still so young when she gave birth. For some girls, being a teenage mother presents no problem. But, Sandy was an only child, used to many of the pamperings and caterings-to that often become the one child's lot in life. It may be that her sudden responsibilities, which came fast upon her spectacular rise in career proved a little too much. Perhaps the couple should have waited a while before they had a baby; and perhaps they would have been able to iron out those first-year blues that do beset many newlyweds. Be that as it may... they are parents now, and good parents to boot. Maybe they still can work out a reconciliation... for Dodd's sake, at least.

Whatever they intend to do about their own lives, they will think of Dodd's future.

Chances are the last you'll ever hear of a custody battle is in this article. Chances are that Bobby and Sandy will work something out that will prove to be of minimum distress to their baby.

They will never allow him to be hurt. He will grow up knowing that both parents always did, and always will love him. If he must be parted from one for a while, at least he'll know that the absent parent never, for one moment, forgot about him.

To know one is loved is more than half the battle of living. Dodd will always know that.

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