Around the marriage of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas has grown a certain lore, heavy with echoes of Hollywood nostalgia and enlivened by a touch of corniness.
When they were wed in 2000, Michael was the ripened star and Catherine the blossoming showgirl, and although they were separated by 25 years and a big pile of dollars, their love was real and their union was going to last forever.
So far, so old-fashioned, but last week came a discordant modern development, with an announcement that they are "taking some time apart to evaluate and work on their marriage".
Soon afterwards, Michael was spotted, smiling broadly, in the South of France, having chugged over from Sardinia on a private yacht, while Catherine remained at the couple's home in New York State.
The feeling among celebrity fortune-tellers is that they are headed for divorce, and that it is Michael who wants it most. Seasoned pro as he is, he realises that movie-star splits tend to feature a third party known as public opinion, and that even if you win in court, you can lose badly on Oprah.
Harvey Levin, of the showbusiness website TMZ, explains: "Couples used to put up the wall of silence, but now the stuff gets out there anyway, so they are jumping into the fray early on. If a party doesn't look good at the end of the divorce, regardless of the financial settlement, they've failed."
If the marriage of Ms Zeta-Jones, 43, and her 68-year-old husband is really over, the hurt will be felt not only by the couple, but also by lovers of Hollywood fairy tales. It hasn't been looking good for the Douglases for some time.
He had a battle with throat cancer, and his eldest son from his first marriage was jailed for drug dealing. She made a string of flops, and spent time in a psychiatric clinic. And then there were the embarrassments.
In an interview earlier this year, Michael suggested that his illness had been caused by performing oral sex on his wife. "Without being too specific about it," he said, "this particular cancer… actually comes about from cunnilingus." Apart from raising the question of what - to Douglas's way of thinking - might be "too specific", this information exposed poor Catherine to torrents of ridicule.
Not that she could complain too much, for the pair have long played on the fervour of their sex lives. "See the man over there," she shrieked at an awards ceremony three years ago.
"He's a movie star and I get to sleep with him every night!" She met the man over there at the Deauville Film Festival in 1998. When the first whiff of romance emerged, it was unkindly suggested that Catherine had been stalking the marquees for a big-name catch, but everything else suggests Douglas made the running.
He was in a career trough, his looks were shot, and having been dumped by his wife Diandra, was humiliatingly tracked down to a sex-addiction clinic in Arizona.
He perhaps recognised a key moment in a man's life when the future starts to look less fun than the past, and into the lonesome void, coal-eyed and devastatingly upholstered, tottered a woman hailed as "the Celtic Sophia Loren". Catherine Jones — she added the Zeta later — had grown up in Mumbles, a seaside suburb of Swansea, where her father, David, worked as a cake maker.
At 10, she was dancing in the finals of a Welsh Butlins Star Trail junior talent competition, and at 13 on the West End stage in Bugsy Malone. To an already impressive repertoire she soon added curves, and cascades of raven hair, and in 1990 had her first taste of stardom as the mouth-watering Mariette Larkin in ITV's The Darling Buds of May.
It would have been easy to have carried on in the semi-stardom of British light entertainment, but she wanted more and figured she might find it in Hollywood. The years that followed mostly consisted of not-quite-breakthrough parts in TV dramas. That all changed when Steven Spielberg cast her opposite Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro. The film was a big hit.
"The most spectacular newcomer is Catherine Zeta-Jones," wrote the influential New York critic Rex Reed, "whose dark eyes, porcelain skin and meltingly radiant smile reminded me of Natalie Wood."
It was on the back of Zorro's success that she arrived in Deauville. How many ways could Douglas show his love? Well, he agreed to consider South Wales as a wedding venue, but backed off after apparently having to spend hundreds of pounds upgrading the couple's Swansea hotel suite. Eventually, they opted for a pounds 1.5 million ceremony at the Plaza hotel in New York, with a Welsh choir and a 10-tier cake.
They already had a baby son, Dylan, and three years later, when along came a daughter, Carys, it seemed the fairy tale was complete. "I will never get divorced," Catherine once said.
"Divorce repulses me. I grew up in a small, strictly Catholic fishing village, where people have a different attitude to those in Hollywood." They might yet surprise us, these two old stagers, and we should surely wish them well with their evaluations. It can't be entirely hopeless.
Later this month, Michael will be back at the Deauville festival. Fifteen years older, alone again, and facing another of those key moments.