A lavender marriage is a marriage of convenience in which one or more of the couple are not heterosexual. These “lavender marriages” came about to provide cover for a number of gay and lesbian actors.
The 1923 marriage of Rudolph Valentino with lesbian costume and set designer Natacha Rambova disguised her relationship with actress Alla Nazimova as well as his homosexuality .
Actor Rock Hudson, who worried about rumours about his sexuality, married Phyllis Gates, a young woman who worked for his agent.
The British diplomat Harold Nicholson and his wife Vita Sackville-West were both bisexual and were monogamous early in their marriage. But, after the birth of their two sons, they acknowledged their preference for their own sex and then had their own love affairs.
The marriage of Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyk was to disguise her bisexuality and was characterised as lavender for that reason, but it was prompted by the need to protect both their reputations after a Photoplay magazine article reported they had been living together for years while unmarried.
The famous American composer Cole Porter married a rich divorcee from Kentucky, a Linda Lee Thomas. She was aware that Porter’s homosexuality could potentially harm his career. They remained together until her death.
The poet WH Auden married Erika Mann, the daughter of Thomas Mann, the author. Oddly enough, this was not as a cover for his sexuality, but to enable her to get British citizenship. They never lived together, but they remained friends and married until Erika died.
The openly gay Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester were married for over thirty years, but according to Lanchester they never had sex. Her preference for women was widely known. However, in 1930, whilst they were living on Percy Street in London, she came home to discover Laughton with a rent boy and appeared to have suffered a psychosomatic reaction to the incident. She went deaf for three months.