Six years after Sally married Ernest Spagnoli, the love of her life, he annulled the marriage due to bigamy. She’d never divorced her previous husband.
How did Ernest even know she’d been married before? I asked myself. The marriage had been brief, probably lasting only a few months, if that. They were married in Los Angeles, so that when she married Spagnoli two years later in Ventura, no one in the county clerk’s office would have recognized her. On the marriage certificate to Spagnoli, she claimed this was her first marriage.
Ralph Byham, the previous—and as it turns out, current—husband never even got a mention in her autobiography, published decades later.
In the autobiography, she claimed that Spagnoli’s sister had broken up the marriage, claiming Sally was a gold-digger, after Ernest’s recent inheritance. In the movie, based on the autobiography, the story line was that Ernest should cut all ties with her. He shouldn’t adopt the child Sally (then known as Marciea) brought into the family because Sally had a disreputable and criminal past.
At first, when I became aware of the annulment ending her Spagnoli marriage, I assumed that Ernest, being a good Catholic wanted to be allowed to marry again. They’d been married for nearly six years; it would be hard to contend that the marriage had not been consummated. Spagnoli was known for his courtroom antics and the ability to maneuver around the law, so I imagined that maybe he slipped a few dollars to some needy fellow who would claim to have married her earlier. That is, I assume that Ralph Byham was created from whole cloth to serve Spagnoli’s purpose of disentangling himself.
Then, I discovered that Ralph Byham really did exist, and they really were married.
How would Ernest Spagnoli have ever heard of him? It’s possible that a private detective unearthed the story. It’s also possible that during a moment of anger, when she felt vulnerable or betrayed, she blurted out that Ernest wasn’t so special as he thought he was, that she’d known other men, had other husbands.
With some embarrassment, I will admit that I came to this insight in watching TV coverage of Donald Trump, as he fended off competitors on the way to become the Republican nominee for President. I’ve already admitted to my Sally obsession. That said, pretty much everything I see is through my Sally Lens. It filters everything.
While I watched Donald Trump, like many observers, I found my brow creasing, incredulous. What? What? What did you just say? And now, are your really doubling down?
I hate to make the comparison—in her worst moment, I believe Sally was never as psychologically unhealthy as Mr. Trump—but trying to understand the candidate has helped me try to understand Sally. The characteristics they share include being bossy, willful, quick-tempered, resourceful, energetic and charismatic. They fear being controlled by others, and ironically, when they lose their tempers, they become vulnerable and lose control.