For a special 1956 issue on the state of the American woman, LIFE commissioned the National Field Service to poll young women about the qualities they sought in a husband. “A basic occupation of virtually every woman is choosing a man to marry,” LIFE explained, and the editors must have known that many of their male readers would be interested in data that would help them find a wife.
The women returned a long list comprising their perfect spouse's physical, intellectual and emotional attributes. Tall and blue-eyed, honest and involved in civic affairs, athletic and helpful around the house, well-read with a steady profession. They also named the qualities that turned them off: men who were bossy, possessive, domineering, egotistical, rude, stingy and unwilling to visit friends and relatives. A long and detailed list, to be sure, but the women were describing their ideal husbands, not necessarily the ones they would land in real life.
When asked to name a public figure who embodied these characteristics, singer and TV host Perry Como topped the list. Other front-runners included William Holden, Rock Hudson, Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, James Dean and several presidents: John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Como, who was married to his teenage sweetheart Roselle for 65 years, until her death at 84 in 1998, made the cut despite falling short (in some cases, literally) in a few categories:
Como was chosen in spite of the fact that he does not fit all of the requirements nor all of the personal characteristics girls rate high. He is 5 feet 9 ½ inches tall instead of 6 feet. His eyes are brown instead of blue and he is not 23. He almost never washes dishes.
Though he wasn’t much help in the kitchen, Como was willing to participate in one of the respondents’ top demands: dancing. More than two thirds of the women didn’t mind if their imaginary husbands had two left feet. “All she requires,” LIFE wrote, “is that he try.”