LUGERLANDARTS

July 8, 2019
Sondra Luger

Story

One hundred years ago there was a language of hand-held fans that men understood. Here are the messages they communicated.

With Handle To Lips   -   Kiss me

Placing It On Left Ear   -   You have changed

Fanning Slowly   -   I am married

Fanning Fast   -   I am engaged

Open Wide   -   Wait for me

Dropping   -   We are friends

Drawing Across Forehead   -   We are watched

Carrying In Right hand   -   You are too willing

Drawing Across Cheek   -   I love you

Carrying in Left hand   -   Desirous of acquaintance

In Right Hand In Front of Face   -   Follow me

Drawing Through Hand   -   I hate you

Twirling In Left Hand   -   I wish to get rid of you

Twirling In Right Hand   -   I love another

Closing It   -   I wish to speak to you

Drawing Across eyes   -   I am sorry

Letting It Rest On Right Cheek   -   Yes

Letting It Rest On Left Cheek   -   No

Open And Shut   -   You are cruel 

 

NOTE: My thanks to the Victorian Trading Company ( 800-800-6647) for the above message code. It came along with my purchase of fans.

 

June 6, 2019
Sondra Luger

Story

Grace Kelly was born into a family where being athletic and outgoing were prized - and Grace was neither. Her father had been an Olympic swimming champion and her mother had a degree in physical education which she taught, but Grace was a quiet and sickly child who spent lots of time recuperating in her room, reading  books, writing poems, and playing with her dolls which she enjoyed dressing as ballerinas. Here's a sample of her poetry:

"I hate to see the sun go down/And squeeze itself into the ground/Since some warm night it might get stuck/And in the morning not get up."

Neither parent expected Grace Kellly to be a success at anything. She wanted her father's approval , but he basically ignored her. He had three other children who were a better family fit. Her mother loved all her children, but was not demonstrative, and Grace needed affection. Perhaps this is why  Grace later said that as a young woman she was always falling in love. Her brother called their mother "the Prussian general,"because she was the family disciplinarian. In addition to learning sewing, cooking, dressmaking, gardening and the like, she taught her daughters to control themselves, to hide pain and disapproval, to suppress their emotions in public, to disguise effort, and to strive for perfection without seeming to do so. She was most successful with the quiet Grace.  Grace's father figure and guide was the family chauffeur and all-around helper, Godfrey Ford. He planned their parties, washed their cars and taught Grace to drive. Grace's affection for him instilled in her a lifelong hatred of racism. Years later, when the black American actress and entertainer Josephine Baker, who had become the rage of Europe, was denied entrance toThe Stork Club in New York City, Grace, who was dining there with friends, walked out. Still years later Grace gave Baker a villa in Monaco when social activist Baker was in financial straits and unable to support herself and the family of "Rainbow" children of all races and creeds whom she had adopted. Grace and Jackie Onassis  also hosted an evening with Josephine Baker in Paris with royalty in attendance, an event which garnered glowing reviews, and when Baker died soon after, Grace had her body brought to Monaco where she is buried. 

But that was down the road. At home in Philadelphia Grace attended the Stevens School, basically a finishing school for wealthy girls .She joined the school's drama society and local amateur groups and decided she wanted to be an actress. Her parents were horrified. Her father thought that acting was only a step above streetwalking. But there were two theater people in the family. One uncle, a vaudevillian, who engaged in blackface skits, popular at the time, was not someone to emulate, but Uncle George Kelly was. He was a respected playwright, but also a homosexual, which did not endear him to Grace's parents, but which dd not bother Grace at all. She wanted to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, and Uncle George was in her corner persuading her parents to allow her to do so. They finally agreed, believing their shy daughter would be  back in a week. She stayed at the very  proper Barbizon Hotel for Women and got modeling jobs to support herself. She preferred to be independent of the family fortune. She performed in two plays in summer stock at the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania. One of them was Uncle George's. Her Broadway debut was in Strindberg's THE FATHER, which caught the attention of film executives.  Her first film was FOURTEEN HOURS. Her part lasted two minutes and 14 seconds, but the screen test for the film brought her offers of more work. Broadway was always her preference, but she went where the work was. She didn't like the studio system, which "owned" you or Hollywood behavior, and she distanced herself as much as possible from the reprehensible behavior that  abounded there. She enjoyed the acting challenges in pictures like HIGH NOON, REAR WINDOW, DIAL M FOR MURDER, THE COUNTRY GIRL, MOGAMBO, BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI, TO CATCH A THIEF, THE SWAN, AND HIGH SOCIETY. But she was now in her mid-twenties. Friends were marrying and she wanted to marry too. Her most notable lover was designer Oleg Cassini. They wrote passionate letters to each other when they were apart, but Cassini's jealousy was overwhelming. He was even jealous when she had dinner with Cary Grant and his wife! The charming actor Jean Pierre Aumont was the  next man in her life. After her Academy Award- winning performance in THE COUNTRY GIRL she had been invited to appear at the Cannes Film Festival. She was inclined to defer, but Aumont was to be in Europe for an extended period of time and said that if she accepted they would have more time together. She agreed to go. Meanwhile Pierre Galante, movie editor of PARIS-MATCH was looking for a good Festival story for the magazine. He was married to actress Olivia de Havilland, and that was his entree to Grace Kelly. They had reservations on the same Paris train to Cannes, and Galante urged Grace to find some time to relax, particularly in the principality of Monaco.  He would arrange for her to meet the prince, tour the palace and unwind. She hesitated, but finally agreed. She met Prince Rainier, who was extremely late for the meeting, but very apologetic. They thought well of each other, but that was that. However, when Grace returned to the States she and Rainier began a lengthy correspondence, at first nothing more than pleasantries concerning their meeting, but then about what each wanted in life. They seemed to want the same things.

At a stopover in Majorca on their honeymoon on Rainier's yacht, he bought Grace a set of pearl jewelry. He gave her one piece a day: a necklace, a bangle, earrings and a ring. Later, in Monaco he was informed that Majorcan pearls were made from seashells. He had wanted to gift her with real pearls - from the oyster. He secretly borrowed his gift and had them remade using real pearls, and proudly presented them to her. Grace was dismayed. She rarely wore them. The Majorcan pearls were her wedding gift, so they were meaningful to her. She wore them often.  Another special gift Grace wore often was a Sweet Sixteen gift from her first love. Her boyfriend had given her a pair of simple pearl earrings which she wore throughout her life on occasions great as well as small. she wore them to the Cannes Film Festival, to the Academy Awards and to her wedding. The company authorized to replicate her jewelry tried to find out where the teen bought the earrings. They determined that he probably bought them at Woolworth.

Grace found her new position as princess challenging.  Little changes caused an uproar. "I thought it was ridiculous that a woman would have to go out and buy a hat just to come to lunch. So I abolished that custom - and what a stir that caused. People were just appalled!" Her lifestyle changed as well. "I had to separate myself from what had been Grace Kelly, and that was very difficult for me. But I could not be two people, an American actress and the wife of the Prince of Monaco. So, during those first years I lost my identity. My husband and his life absorbed me until the children came, and it helped when I began service work in Monaco Then, gradually, I joined up with myself again." Soon "her close collaboration with her husband on every project (which he came to welcome) changed everything....In 1954 95% of Monaco's budget came from gambling;by 1965 that contribution was less than 4%,for the Grimaldis together had shifted the income from the casino to tourism [which increased ten times], banking, real estate and culture.She personally directed the principality's Red Cross and supervised the building of a first-grade hospital. She regularly visited patients and the elderly. "There was nothing glacial about her," and she was warmly loved by both her adopted countrymen, her husband and her children. She said, "I am content in life, in a way. I understand myself, but I also argue with myself all the time. So I guess I'm not really at peace. But I have many unfulfilled ambitions in life, and if I can keep my health and strength and manage to pull myself out of bed in the morning, some of them may be realized." Alfred Hitchcock adored her, and they and Ranier agreed that she could appear in the film MARNIE, but film delays and one of Grace's miscarriages (she had several) prevented  this. She had the Garden Club of Monaco, the International Arts Foundation and the Princess Grace Foundation, all close to her heart, but she never returned to the acting career she loved, with one exception. She had an idea for a film for international television about the annual Monaco Flower show. She would star in a case of mistaken identity. The Monaco audience that saw it loved it, and plans were made to extend the 27 minute film to an hour , as a U.S. television network wished, but Grace's fatal car accident put an end to this. The film, REARRANGED, resides  to this day in palace vaults. Grace Kelly, sustained by the friends she'd wisely made and never abandoned, and her deep faith lived to be age 52, never completely fulfilling her heart's desires, but accomplishing much. By inclination, training and experience she had been able to get along well with people, without which she would not have been able to achieve much. But most important, Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco had ultimately made peace with and been able to get along with herself. 

Note: The quotations and information above come from HIGH SOCIETY, by Donald Spoto, Three Rivers Press (Random House), 2009. Mr. Spoto was Grace Kelly's biographer of choice.

 

April 2, 2019
Sondra Luger

Story

Dan Monteiro is a Brazil-based travel writer who grew up raising Alpine goats. From his knowledge of their lifestyle and behavior, he has created advice from them to us. Samples of their guidance appear below.

"if you want to learn a lot, MAKE FRIENDS WHO ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU."

"YOU MIGHT  BE SCARED. YOU MIGHT DOUBT YOURSELF. BUT TAKE THE LEAP."

"FROLIC EVERY DAY."

"SOMETIMES ACTING CRAZY MAKES PERFECT SENSE."

"MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK."

"LET YOURSELF BE PAMPERED."

"LOOK WHERE YOU'RE GOING, NOT WHERE YOU'VE BEEN."

"YOU CAN'T GRAZE THE PASTURE IF YOU DON'T LEAVE THE BARN."

Note: All quotes are from QUOTES FROM GOATS, by Dan Monteiro, Castle Point Books, 2018, published by St.Martin's Press. Each quote is accompanied by a picture of a goat doing his/her thing.

February 9, 2019
Sondra Luger

Story

The mind tells the brain what to do. Make the mind's messages constructive, not destructive.. Below are quotes from Dr. Caroline Leaf's book SWITCH ON YOUR BRAIN.

*  "Thoughts are real things. When we think on something we build it into the structure of our brains."

*  "We are designed to do our own brain surgery and rewire our brains by thinking and by choosing to renew our minds."

*  "The choices you make impact your health, mentally and physically and the world around you --  for generations."

* "When you smile with your eyes and mouth [deeply], the part of your mind involved in decision-making, intellectual pursuit, shifting   between thoughts and thinking things through rationally becomes stronger and more effective" - and it's contagious!

*  Thoughts create your mood....Toxic thinking and stress have been shown to reduce the size of certain structures in the brain." Negative thinking makes "your body vulnerable to other diseases and illnesses."

*  75-98% of the illnesses that plague us today are a direct result of our thought life."

Dolores Cannon tells of a man with a serious problem. Every time cancer in one part of his body was healed it popped up in another part. She asked him if he was angry about anything. He replied, "Yes! I hate my ex-wife! She has the children and she won't let me see them." Cannon told him his anger was affecting his health. to let it go, to forgive his ex-wife. He said, "I can't forgive her. If I forgive her, she wins." Cannon replied, "If she kills you she wins."

What are you thinking?

NOTE: Dr. Caroline Leaf is a cognitive neuroscientist who has been researching the Mind-Brain connection for decades.The above quotes are from her book SWITCH ON YOUR BRAIN. Her latest book is THINK, LEARN, SUCCEED.

Dolores Cannon was a past-life regression therapist who periodically met historical characters and situations when working with her clients.

 

 

January 5, 2019
Sondra Luger

Story

In a book review of THE REVOLUTIONARY GENIUS OF PLANTS, Gerard Helferich cites some thought-provoking information in the book: 

.  Plants spread single functions, like breathing and creating food, throughout the entire body, a "distributed intelligence that serves them well in meeting the challenges of their environment."

.  "Plants are exceptionally sensitive to their surroundings, constantly monitoring a host of factors, including light, gravity , moisture, oxygen, sound, the presence of other plants and predators."

.  A plant's most important organ is its roots, which "collect crucial information and guide the entire plant, like 'a sort of collective brain.'"

Examples  - The Mimosa pudica, a tropical plant, closes its leaves when shaken, but after continued shaking realizes there is no danger and keeps its leaves open. It can remember this for 40 days.

                -The tropical boquila's leaves can mimic the appearance of two neighboring plants at the same time to avoid predators. It knows what those plants look like by "using its exterior cells as crude lenses."

Would we benefit by thinking like plants, if not in our bodies, in our lives? Hmm.

NOTE: The above  information comes from Gerard Helferich's review "Thinking Like a Flower" :THE REVOLUTINARY GENIUS OF PLANTS, BY Stefano Mancuso, which appeared in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Saturday/Sunday, January 5-6, 2019, Section C, page 9.

 

 

 

September 29, 2018
Sondra Luger

Lyrics

Money and sex can become major problems in a marriage, but there is a money aspect that isn't usually considered by the experts - a job promotion that isn't accompanied by a salary increase. "Some 39% of employers often hand out promotions without a pay rise, up from 22% in 2011, according to a recent survey of 300 employers by the staffing firm OfficeTeam." There may be company reasons for this pay hike omission. Some companies only raise pay once a year; others group jobs in specific pay ranges, and someone who is at the top of that range won't get a raise despite promotion to a new title.  A salary increase may be tied to the performance of a division, and if a division isn't doing well, a person in it who is doing well may get a promotion in recognition of this, but no salary increase."Others are doling out small changes in job title or micro-promotions to satisfy millennial workers craving for feedback, says Carolyn Betts Fleming, founder of Betts Recruiting in San Francisco."

Consider other benefits a title upgrade may bring - perhaps "a larger bonus, more vacation, tuition reimbursement or stock options," says Roy Cohen, a New York-based career coach. Will your skills and experience increase? Will your market value increase? What do people "in the know" whom you trust suggest you do? Consider your options as you consider a title without a pay raise. The new title-position may be worth accepting - or not.

NOTE: All information and quotes above come from "A Promotion Without the Pay Bump," by Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2018, Page A11.

August 8, 2018
Sondra Luger

Story

"Researchers from seven U.S. universities evaluated 16 years of data from 355 couples who participated in the Early Years of Marriage Study, a survey conducted at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, that followed  couples for several decades." These are the results: Overall, divorce rates were double in marriages where the husband perceived interference from the wife's friends. "White couples where husbands reported not liking the wife's friends had higher divorce rates, even when the friends didn't interfere. Black couples had higher rates only when the friends interfered."

More negative effects on the marriage can occur when the husband is the one who is dissatisfied with the spouse's friends. Psychologists say - "A husband often relies on his wife for emotional support, so he may be jealous of the intimacy she shares with her friends. Women are also much more likely to discuss marital problems with friends than husbands are, and a husband may see this as meddling."

What can be done? Talk specifically with your spouse about the issues related to the problem, including the state of intimacy in the marriage. Let your spouse know that he/she comes first. Try to accept your spouse's friendships. You needn't participate in them yourself. Friends can play a beneficial role in a marriage. Communication with your spouse can keep it from becoming a destructive one.

NOTE: All information and quotes above come from "BONDS: ON RELATIONSHIPS - "When Friends Hurt a Marriage," by Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2018,page A 10.

June 5, 2018
Sondra Luger

Lyrics

Studies have shown that knowing someone's secret makes you feel closer to them, but is also a burden. You're less happy than before you had this information. There are secrets you're told to keep and secrets you find out on your own. Should you keep them?

"Imagine you discover that a friend is having an affair, and you know that person's spouse well. A family member has secretly begun drinking heavily and needs help. Or a loved one who has died has led a double life. You might want to disclose someone's secret if it will help him or her in the long run. Or if someone else is being hurt and has a right to know the information." The writer of the article "Should You Keep a Secret" has a sister who wanted her near when she received the results of a biopsy, but didn't want the rest of the family to know. Her family had people in the medical profession who, along with her mother, were hurt that they had not known and were unable to support her sister. The biopsy was negative, so no harm was done, except for family relationships, which took a while to restore to normal, but the writer's sister said she was right in keeping the secret. She would not have been able to trust her in the future if she hadn't. 

Whether to keep a secret or disclose it can be a serious problem, less so - or not at all - if no one is hurt if you keep the secret. You may try to get permission from the party with the secret to reveal lt to some others, or you may ask a totally uninvolved third party for advice to help you clarify the situation. I'm reminded of a romantic movie - INDISCREET - in which businessman Cary Grant tells stage actress Ingrid Bergman, whom he is dating, that he's married and can't get a divorce. He intends to remain a perpetual bachelor. Her sister discovers and reveals the truth to her. Bergman is furious, but all ends happily. The sister's husband vehemently declares: "When someone asks me if I want to hear a secret, I always say NO!"

NOTE;  Quotes and information above are from "Should You Keep a Secret," by Elizabeth Bernstein in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, page A10, June 5, 2018.

NOTE: INDISCREET, starring Cary Grant and ingrid Bergman can be watched on Youtube.

May 14, 2018
Sondra Luger

Story

To understand another we are often told to put ourselves in that person's shoes. This is easier said than done, except in a new psychological computer-generated environment called virtual reality. Mel Slater and Mari Sanchez-Vives are married and directors of the Event Lab at the University of Barcelona. Their programs have had success in rehabilitating men with a history of domestic violence, in reducing racial bias, and in helping men experience sexual harassment from a woman's viewpoint. The couple, along with computer engineer Bernard Spanlang, founded, in 2015, Virtual Bodyworks "to create and sell VR applications based on the Event Lab's research. The products will focus on social, medical and psychological rehabilitation. And the simulations will be compatible with existing headsets. Click a button on the wand in your hand and you can also become Sigmund Freud, responding to your request for help. Another click and you're yourself, responding to what he's said in your virtual reality conversation. Sanchez-Vives says that  becoming someone else in virtual reality "can give you access to different brain resources and, therefore, to different ideas about how to solve a problem."

For understanding others you can always consider their upbringing, general background and past experiences, research their problems, do role-playing in groups, and talk to others who have experienced and resolved similar problems. But if all else fails, there's virtual reality.

NOTE: Quotes and information above come from "The Out-Of-Body Therapy Experience," by Elizabeth Bernstein, pp. 65-68 of the May, 2018 issue of THE FUTURE OF EVERYTHING, from The Wall Street Journal.

April 5, 2018
Sondra Luger

Story

At a recent women's Bible study discussing a book by a man who'd had a depressing life which he 'd fully overcome, I asked how many of the women present woke up with and spent at least the early morning hours with songs on their lips or running through their heads. Not one hand went up. Later, one woman told me that she used to start the day singing when she was a youngster. I suggested that she consider reviving the practice. We're bombarded with so much gloom and doom these days, that I think an antidote to uplift our spirits is vital, and music that does this (not the "Have I got problems!" type) can make a meaningful difference in our lives.

As Tom Service reveals, "Scientific research has demonstrated that musical rhythms excite our bodies to move ... so we tap our toes or get our groove on and dance .... Just like pieces of music, we are made of rhythm." How this can happily affect us and those around us was beautifully demonstrated by Ella Fitzgerald, who had "a kind of instinct for joy which permeated everything she did, and was her special gift." We can gift joy to ourselves! Aren't we worth it? Ella had "always cherished dreams of being a dancer, and entered an amateur contest at the Apollo Theatre. At the last moment she decided to sing instead, because her second-hand clothes and men's boots looked so shabby compared to her rivals." Shy and scared she was laughed at when she got on stage -- until she started to sing! The same thing happened in recent times to dowdy Susan Boyle when she took the stage to sing "I've Got A Dream." The union of lyric and melody can bring pleasure and meaning to your heart when you hear it and especially when you sing it, when you actively participate in the pleasure of the song. And if the meaning of the lyrics is negligible, sing just for the fun of it. "The acme of Fitzgerald"s success was her chart-topping recording of 'A Tisket, A'Tasket,' a catchy version of the nursery rhyme which she had created initially to amuse Webb [drummer/bandleader Chick Webb] on her visits to him in hospital." You don't need a reason to feel happy. Well, if you think you do, remember -- you're alive, God's untouched nature is still around and beautiful, and someone, family member or otherwise, probably loves you. And always -- where there's life, there's hope! 

Don't look for excuses to drag yourself down. Look for reasons to pull yourself up. And if "friends" or others won't help you do it, do it yourself! Music is a great way to bring joy into your life and to keep yourself healthy. Conductors are reported to lead long lives because wielding that baton is marvelous upper chest exercise. Try it! Dancing through your living room will get the rest of your body exercised. I do both. You can never be too happy or have too much joy, and your mind, heart, cells and organs will thank you for it. There's an old song - "Look For The Silver Lining -- that reflects the attitude you should nurture and grow. Music can help you do it, and no matter what you look like or how life has treated you you can brighten your life and the lives of those around you. Joy attracts people. Well, those who are jealous will shun you, but who needs them anyway. Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught said that "Ella's music has this amazing ability to transform your mind .... She just lived the music." We can, too.

Notes:  The above quotes come from BBC Music Magazine, December, 2017. The article by Radio 3's Tom Service, "We've Got Rhythm!", is on page 22, and Geoffrey Smith's article, "First Lady of Song" is on page 50.

2018-01-23
Sondra Luger

Story

If you made a 2018 resolution for a goal, you are ten times more likely to achieve it than if you avoided the commitment. After six months, 44% of the resolution people are still sticking to their goals. Self-improvement goals - especially health, money, relationships - are the most popular. Vague plans will defeat achieving goals. "I will lose 5o pounds" is not as good as "I will exercise three times  a week."

Psychology professor John C.Norcross, author of CHANGEOLOGY: 5 STEPS TO REALIZING YOUR GOALS AND RESOLUTIONS, says that "New Year's resolutions work best when they are specific, realistic, publicly proclaimed and pre-planned." Attempting one goal at a time is best, but "if you have two goals naturally linked to one another - like diet and exercise, or saving money and sticking to a monthly budget - you can safely try to go for two," he says. You will be more successful if you have a healthy substitute for the behavior you are dropping. If you slip a few times, it's not too late to get back on track. "Slippers are more motivated after the slip."

Best wishes for achieving your dreams and goals in 2018!

NOTE: The above information comes from "Which Resolutions Are Most Likely to Stick," by Heidi Mitchell, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, December 28. 2017, page A 10.

2017-11-27
Sondra Luger

Story

We think of charisma as a magical attraction that cannot be duplicated, but psychologists say it can be learned. In a questionnaire given to 996 people with accompanying traits like extroversion and attractiveness excluded, two characteristics of charismatic individuals were revealed: influence and affability. In addition, 122 students read two arguments on wind energy. Students who read the stronger argument were judged on the strength of the argument. Their charismatic rating had no effect on their ability to persuade their listeners, but students who rated high on charisma and read the weaker argument, were more persuasive than students who rated low on charisma and read the same weak argument - Charisma has nothing to do with intelligence. If you take the influence/affabillity test you can judge how charismatic you are and learn in what areas to improve to up your charisma score. Here's the test:

On each item assign yourself a rating of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).

INFLUENCE - I AM SOMEONE WHO

---- Has a presence in a room

---- Has the ability to influence people

---- Knows how to lead a group

AVG. SCORE: -----

AFFABILITY - I AM SOMEONE WHO

---- Makes people feel comfortable

---- Smiles at people often

---- Can get along with anyone

AVG. SCORE: -----

An average score above 3.5 on INFLUENCE, and above 3.9 on AFFABILITY, indicates that people will find you more charismatic than most. Don't think that others will see you as more or less charismatic than this test indicates. Statistics indicate they won't. 

 

NOTES: The above information comes from Diana Wechsler Linden's article "Charisma, Quantified," in The Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2017.     

             The test is from "Charisma in Everyday Life," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Konstantin   Tskhay, et al.  

2017-10-05
Sondra Luger

Story

 In THERE IS ALWAYS A CHOICE, Maria Elena Pellinen has written an enlightening book on solving everyday problems from a philosophical perspective. She uses allegorical stories in which a philosophy professor advises students.

Pellinen differentiates between a problem and a situation. Problems relate to events within your control, and situations to events beyond it. In her chapter on "Stress" she points out that you can do something about problems, but situations must be accepted. For example, you can't change a jealous boyfriend. Accept the situation - or dump the boyfriend.

In "To Err Is Human. Or Is It?" she differentiate between imagination, appearances, belief and thinking. Before you act you must think - critically, with reason. Without thinking you'll make mistakes. Without reasoning you'll make even more.

In "What Could Have Been" she urges looking forward, not backward, and in "Philosophy or Grammar" she points out that saying "if I had" is not productive, because this misty regret solves no problems. Bite the bullet and say "I did it or I didn't," so you can move on to a solution.

In "Temporary or Permanent" the philosophy professor is saddened by an unhappy couple who married after each had previous unhappy marriages. "If they had only been honest with me at the beginning, Lucia thought, I would have advised them that marrying a wounded person most often leads to a sad end. The worst of it is that if one or the other finds someone to listen to his or her new tale of woe another tragic cycle starts."

Quoting philosophical greats sch as Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, Pellinen guides the reader to solutions of everyday individual or family problems.

NOTE: THERE IS ALWAYS A CHOICE: ALLEGORIES FOR LIVING, by Maria Elena Pellinen, 2012.

2017-08-25
Sondra Luger

Story

The Princess of Wales needed assistance to weather the storms of her daily life. One of these able providers was Dr. James Colthurst. The telephone was Diana's vital pipeline to him and other friends. On average she called Colthurst eight times a day, during crises up to twenty times. In the morning Diana would seek his advice on countering negative newspaper publicity and how to cope with a variety of engagements for the day, including how to talk at lunch to foreign diplomats, presidents and intellectuals. In the afternoon the calls were for guidance in fulfilling her official duties. In the early evening her life and emotional situation were the topics, and at day's end she just wanted someone to chat with about things in general. A friend like this was a blessing!

Another dear friend was mother of five and grandmother Lucia Flecha de Lima, the wife of the Brazilian ambassador in London. Diana made an official visit with the family to Brazil and made regular visits when Lucia's husband was posted to Washington D.C. Diana had a room at their London residence and became one of the family, a family of exhuberance, warmth and faith. Said Lucia, "I think it gave her a sense of belonging that she didn't have elsewhere. I know I was a mother figure to her, and she was like a daughter to me." Diana also "adored the bohemian if very well-bred chaos of life with the Goldsmiths.... At least twice a month the Princess visited this larger-than-life family for a chaotic and very rapid lunch, often bringing Harry and William along to play with the Goldsmith children....'My home was simply the rock or the haven that she could turn to for escape, where she knew she would never be betrayed,' said Lady Annabel Goldsmith." Lord and Lady Palumbo were dear friends too, assisting her in various ways and entertaining her in their homes in England and France. And there were counselors, psychics, and astrologers also to guide Diana in times of desperation. 

Stuck in a loveless marriage, with her husband off to regular trysts with Camilla, Diana sought comfort and love from other men. Said her physical trainer Carolan Brown, "She didn't like being on her own because she needed constant reassurance that she was loved. That was her ultimate dream - too find the perfect husband, have more children and settle down." Diana had admirers galore running the gamut of professions - musician, novelist, politician, businessman, lawyer, billionaire. A serious contender for her affection was British Army Major James Hewitt. Was he a possible family man and father with whom she could enjoy life in a countryside home? He taught William and Harry to ride horses. She dreamed that she and Hewitt would open a riding academy. With art dealer Oliver Hoare she dreamed of buying a house in Italy and having two daughters to join Wlliam and Harry. Hoare would arrive secretly and romantically at Diana's residence in the trunk of her car, which she parked in her neighbor Princess Margaret's driveway to avoid undue attention. Hoare would sneak off to enter her apartment through the back door. He was married, but he left his wife during his courtship of Diana. But her attachments to Hewitt and Hoare ended. Said biographer Andrew Morton, " Until Oliver Hoare left his wife she had been able to play out a romantic drama of love and loss, hope and pain, without any ultimate commitment - just as she had with James Hewitt. However, once Hoare became available, the safe psychological boundaries that she had enjoyed were removed." A friend of Diana's stated, "She was terrified once he was free for her," and a relationship counselor stated that this is usual behavior for many women going through a separation. As with Hoare, dating shy, dedicated surgeon Hasnat Khan was a romantic adventure, with Diana disguised in wig and eyeglasses waiting in line with him for an hour to enter his favorite jazz club. She dreamed they would open clinics to help people around the world. Friends said he was the love of her life, but Khan believed a lasting friendship was the most they could hope for because of their religious and cultural differences and because he did not want to live life in the limelight. Why did Dodi Fayed appeal to Diana? He wasn't a handsome, cultured, humanitarian figure to her, but he showered her with attention and gifts. When he reminded her of his gift-giving she was displeased. "I don't want to be bought," she told a friend. Her attraction to men was never financial. Hewitt wasn't wealthy, Hoare's wife, an heiress, controlled the money, and Khan made a modest salary, but Fayed did make her happy, and there was a home he owned in California where she could escape the royals and the paparazzi. Dreams aside, she seriously considered leaving Great Britain. She had visited the United States, including an enjoyable summer at Martha's Vineyard, and she discussed buying a house there. Uncle figure and film producer David Puttnam said, " She felt that she could recreate her life in America. She liked the way she was treated by press, liked the people and the sense of freedom." Lawyer Richard Greene agrees. "She loved Americans and loved America. She felt a sense of freedom in America and was thinking, why not America? The whole of her life was opening up for her." Diana's brother also believes that America would have been her home. And then her life ended.

Had Diana lived how would her life have unfolded? What decisions would she have made? She had certainly grown as a person. She had forgiven the mother she wrongly felt had abandoned her in childhood through divorce, she had made peace with the stepmother she had disliked  but who had truly loved her father, and she had even, after her divorce, thought Charles should make an honest woman of Camilla by marrying her. But a car crash, not decisions, followed soon after her divorce. Diana had a premonition of her early death in a car crash. With divorce in the offing for her and Charles she decided to tape guidance for her sons. A friend who arrived for tea at Diana's Kensington Palace apartments soon after she had recorded a tape was privileged to have Diana play it for her. "She asked for the tapes to be played at key points in her sons' future. That way she could continue to be a part of their lives even after she was gone." The tape this friend heard was for William's future wife. It began --------

     " Hello, it's William's Mum here. Welcome to the family business. I rather suspect THAT got your attention! Anyway, brace yourself for a one-way chat. Obviously we haven't met -though I want you to know I certainly wish we had. I know I'd adore you and we'd be fast friends. You have to be someone truly special. If you weren't, you wouldn't be my William's wife....Marriage is never easy - and being the future queen only makes it harder. For your marriage to survive the public glare and the private pressures of royal life, it will take patience, compromise, understanding, trust, loyalty and, of course, love. But you both must work at it. On a daily basis. I'm sure you're aware of my failings and those of William's father. Learn from these mistakes. Build a relationship that endures. You deserve it. And so do your children.

     My fondest dream is for you and William to have a life filled with love and joy - that your children are happy, healthy and free of the dark shadow divorce casts on those it touches. Family is the most important thing in life. Cherish your children for me. They carry my heart. Let them know I love them and will always watch over them."

In AFTERLIVES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS the late psychic Sylvia Browne says that Diana continues her humanitarian work, engaging in projects that help those on earth, returning herself in times of disaster to guide children into heaven. States Browne, "She says that although she was clearly ill-suited to many of the expectations of royalty, she is deeply grateful for the platform her title made possible for her passionate causes around the world and, above all, for the honor of being the mother of the two sons 'who taught me what it feels like to love someone to the core of your soul.' She speaks constantly about how proud she is of them." She believes William will be a great king. Browne states that this was Diana's first life on earth, as well as her last. But the "People's Princess" will never be forgotten, and her influence will continue through her son William, the embodiment of her virtues, and through his wife Kate, who considers Diana an inspiration. And when Kate waves to the crowds, on her hand will sparkle the blue sapphire and white diamonds of Diana's wedding ring.

Note: My sincere thanks for information and quotations to the following:

DIANA: IN PURSUIT OF LOVE, by Andrew Morton, Michael O'Mara Books, London, 2013.

AFTERLIVES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS, by Sylvia Browne, HarperCollins Publishers, New York 2012.

THE DIANA DIARIES: GLOBE SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY ISSUE. American Media Inc., U.S./Canada, 2013. (for Diana's tapes to William & Kate)

2017-07-19
Sondra Luger

Story

Said Lady Diana Spencer's grandmother of the royal family: "Darling, you must understand that their sense of humor and their lifestyle are different, and I don't think it will suit you."

Lady Diana Spencer's childhood was not a happy one. She had fun and games with her brother and two sisters, and plenty of toys, gifts and THINGS, but she needed cuddling and affection, and she didn't get them. "My parents never told me they loved me," she said. Diana and her siblings were raised by nannies, while her parents fought and eventually divorced, her mother marrying her lover and her father later marrying the daughter of romantic novelist Barbara Cartland, Raine Cartland, whom the children disliked. News of this marriage came to them through the newspaper!

Diana was not an academic success. She got by, but she was an athletic wonder and excellent at ballet. She was no stranger to the queen's children, whom she had played with as a child, and she was not awed by royalty. She loved children and was delighted to be a teacher. She could not only educate the young, but she could give them the love she had been denied. In her late teens she resumed acquaintance with Prince Charles. She saw him thirteen times before he proposed. She thought his courtship odd. He'd pay her great attention and then not call her for weeks. His family was good to her when she was their guest, but another guest who was there often was Camilla Parker Bowles. The nineteen-year-old Diana was surprised that the thirty-one year-old Charles was in love with her -- and he wasn't, a realization that gradually dawned on the teenage romantic. "Bad luck, Duch [her family nickname], said her sisters. "Your face is on the tea-towels, so you're too late to chicken out." The time had come for Charles to marry, and the royal family felt that Diana's pedigree was better than Camilla's.

Charles could have rebelled and married Camilla before she married his good friend Andrew, but parental approval was paramount for him, and his ascension to the throne was not to be put in jeopardy. However, things worked out well for Charles and Camilla. Andrew Parker Bowles could not resist bedding other women, and Camilla saw no reason to resist Charles' advances. Their intimate relationship begun years before resumed. Nothing unusual. Her maternal great grandmother, Alice Keppel, had been a mistress of King Edward VII. Infidelity and a loveless marriage were familiar to Diana from her childhood. She didn't want a repeat in her own marriage. What could she do? She begged the queen for help. Her Majesty replied that there was nothing she could do about it. Charles was Charles. Diana's bulimia made matters worse. Charles was turned off by her illness, but he was the cause of it. Her bulimia first surfaced when, before their marriage, Charles told her she was getting chubby, not something you say to a sensitive love-starved girl. Her attempts at suicide - cutting herself and throwing herself downstairs - bored him. 

Diana's outlet was her humanitarian work. At home and abroad she was rapidly becoming "The People's Princess." When Charles got out of a car after a celebratory event, the crowd lining his side of the street groaned. They wanted to see Diana.  Unlike JFK, who proudly declared that he was the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to France, Charles was offended. The only sympathy and warmth offered Diana from the royal family came from Princess Margaret, whom Diana said she "loved to bits." But even feisty Margaret, had been shoveled under the bus, so to speak, when  her marriage to the man she loved, Group Captain Peter Townsend, was nixed by the royal family. Townsend was a divorced man. Margaret's marriage to an approved society photographer elevated to the rank of Lord Snowden ended in divorce. Margaret understood Diana's agony, and after her death burned hundreds of her letters that "Margo" thought would compromise the reputation of her friend. Diana's friends and family were also unable to guide her through a loveless marriage. Those in the royal household assigned to protect and serve her offered her consolation. 

Charles declared to his family that his relationship with Camilla was  "non-negotiable." When Diana confronted Camilla she was told, "You've got everything you ever wanted. You've got all the men in the world falling in love with you, and you've got two beautiful children. What more could you want?" Diana replied, "I want my husband." Of course Camilla had children too, and their existence often keeps a marriage together. So Camilla kept her marriage and Charles too!

Diana was out of her depth: "I didn't have anything to go by because I had never had a boyfriend. I'd always kept them away, thought they were all trouble - and I couldn't handle it emotionally .... I didn't know about jealousy or depressions or anything like that. I had such a wonderful existence being a kindergarten teacher - you didn't suffer from anything like that, you got tired, but that was it."

Born into an upper-class family, Camilla Rosemary Shand was a strong, confident girl educated in London, Switzerland and France. Her childhood, she told her biographer Gyles Brandreth, was "perfect in every way." She adored horseback riding, painting, fishing, horticulture and gardening. Charles found the more worldly Camilla, whose interests reflected his own, more appealing than Diana, whose achievements did not make Charles proud of her or make him love her more. Diana said that he never complimented her, though he was quick to criticize. He was a man of fixed habits, hobbies and routines, and Camilla suited his lifestyle. On their honeymoon, Charles brought along seven books by his favorite author, which he read and discussed with Diana daily. Very romantic!

I think something could have been done to save their marriage, and I think the queen could have done it. Diana said that Charles "was in awe of his Mama, intimidated by his father." Charles' relationship with his parents was never in jeopardy. The queen could have put it in jeopardy. Charles had not twisted royal arms to get them to agree to his marriage with Camilla. He had made a choice. He had not agreed to marry a nasty, controlling, horrific person, but a kind, loving, altruistic, artistic one. He'd live up to his marriage vows or face ostracizm from the family. Secondly, the queen could have threatened to bypass Charles as her successor. Although Parliamentary laws passed two hundred years earlier made it clear that Charles met the requirements to succeed her, what Parliament could do they could undo! Revelations of his words and actions horrified the country, and not succeeding his mother would have horrified Charles. Lastly, the queen could have tried to persuade Camilla that continuing her relationship with Charles was not in her best interest. The queen would see to that! The queen's you're-on-your-own and I'm-not-getting involved philosophy helped doom the marriage. After Diana's death the queen expressed remorse that she had not done more to help Diana. As the funeral cortege passed by her, Her Majesty, to whom on formal occasions all bow (even Kate), bowed to Diana, a caring sign Diana would have welcomed when she was alive. Had the queen taken action she might have brought Charles to heel and made him behave, if not like a loving husband, at least like a caring and considerate one. I think Diana would have accepted this. She did not want a divorce. When asked if she would continue with the marriage if Charles stopped seeing Camilla she said she would. With Camilla out of the picture a caring relationship between her and Charles had a chance.

When the queen finally determined that all was lost in this marriage, Diana requested that she at least be able to retain her title. Charles said he would not object - she had been the wife of the heir to the throne and was the mother of two royal children - but the royal family did object. Diana feared her charities would suffer if she did not retain her royal title. It's one thing to donate to a charity supported by Her Royal Highness and quite another to donate to one supported by Lady Diana Spencer. Said Prince William, "Don't worry  Mummy. When I'm king I'll give you back your title."

Next Month: DIANA SEARCHES FOR LOVE

Note: My major source for information and quotations was Andrew Morton's illuminating book DIANA: HER TRUE STORY - IN HER OWN WORDS,  the revised 25th anniversary edition published in paperback by Simon & Schuster, 2017.

.

2017-06-21
Sondra Luger

Story

Here's my take on a woman's romantic mystique, that fascinating and powerful aura of mystery that can surround her, that is so compelling that she doesn't have to twist a man's arm to get him to notice it. I'll use Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis to illustrate my points. Elinor Glyn, who wrote the short story about "it" that became the hit 1927 movie IT said that this mystique was a physical or mental quality that attracts the opposite sex, one that its possessor is not aware of, one that speaks for itself. I believe she was right.

What if you think there's no special quality about you. Think again. Perhaps it's physical -- the way you swing your hips when you walk, your tone of voice when you speak, the way your eyes meet those you speak to, the way you hold your hands, cross your legs, etc. If they're not appealing you can change them. It is said that in 21 days you can create a new habit that becomes a part of you. In college Jackie Kennedy worked on producing a soft speaking voice, drawing out the "s" in words like "yesssssss." Men found this appealing. You can't rely on mere physical beauty. In time that will pass. A mystique lasts forever. Perhaps it's a mental quality -- an interest you've explored, a talent you possess, an expertise you've developed at work or play. If you have zero interests or abilities, develop some. Underpinning a mystique should be SUBSTANCE. Jackie Kennedy read voraciously, becoming knowledgeable about history, music, art. She drew beautifully. She perfected her French (learning other languages later) before spending her junior college year at the Sorbonne. As a young reporter she developed questioning skills she could also use attracting men, who adored the attention. Whispering, questioning, rapt attention to his every word are some of the methods Jackie used on men, because while having substantial physical or mental qualities or knowledge gives you substance it is not enough. Mystique lies not only in who you are, but how you PROJECT WHO YOU ARE.

Not being an open book is important. If you reveal all, you're not the mystery that mystique requires. If you're a performer, don't perform at the drop of a hat, if you're a superb golfer, don't give detailed instructions on particular moves. Tidbits of knowledge, tidbits of talent fall from your lips, when you're asked. You're not pushy. You leave them "asking for more." Loquacious women let it all "hang out." The listener is informed, but not tantalized. Listen a lot, speak a little, HOLD SOMETHING BACK.

From time to time DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. No one can read you like a book. Yes, there are chapters that will be familiar. Familiar is good. But you have edited some chapters and made surprising changes. That's better. An unmarried Jackie traveled both plain and fancy, for variety, often with men who knew the travel locations well and were likely to make the journeys memorable. Platonic companionships sometimes, but other men took note. A woman's popularity attracts attention. Jackie had more male than female friends. She attended diverse events and engaged in diverse activities--parties, concerts, upscale cafes, yacht clubs, tennis courts, riding stables, auction houses, antique fairs. All had man-meeting possibilities. On a trip to Europe with sister Lee, the young women had promised to see Paul,a young man doing military service at Poitiers. They wound up in the middle of a military exercise, with guns booming in the distance, jumping from foxhole to foxhole inquiring for Paul, to the delight of the men there, appreciative of the young women in strapless sundresses, and to the chagrin of Paul when they finally found him. During Jackie's marriage to Aristotle Onassis he resumed his affair with opera diva Maria Callas. After international headlines recorded his rendezvous with her in a cafe, Jackie booked for her and Ari the same table at the same cafe with photographers in attendance.

A woman with mystique should have self-esteem and SHOW SOME INDEPENDENCE. She is not a mindless puppet. Her father's behavior taught Jackie that men would wander. Faithfulness in marriage was not a given. She found ways to counter JFK's promiscuous behavior. He might find her unavailable to host guests in the White House. She might be on vacation, enjoying the company of other men. When on the Amalfi coast, swimming with an automotive tycoon, she responded to JFK's cable of annoyance by ignoring it, following it up by scuba diving with the man. She ignored expense instructions by spending lavishly on things she wanted. She was not about to endure a philandering husband without consequences to him. For herself - she bonded with other Kennedy women suffering from infidelity and made regular visits to a psychiatrist.

Will all men fall for a woman with an obvious mystique? No, but she will capture their attention, and a significant number will find her more than interesting. They will find her intriguing and alluring. When President and Mrs. Kennedy went to France on political business French President Charles De Gaulle was smitten with Jacqueline Kennedy. If visiting heads of state could be given a gift, surely their wives could be given a gift, too. Many gifts. Mrs. De Gaulle thought her husband was overdoing it. When the Kennedys returned to Washington D.C. DeGaulle began a correspondence with Mrs. Kennedy. But letters from the busy wife, mother, First Lady became fewer in number. President De Gaulle decided to send her a gift that would indicate his regard for her and his dismay at not receiving more letters from her, a gift she could not ignore. The gift arrived at the White House. When Jacqueline Kennedy opened the package she found herself face to face with -- the Mona Lisa! President DeGaulle had ordered it removed from the Louvre and sent to her. This is the unofficial story of how the Mona Lisa came to visit the United States. The official story is that Jackie was a fan of writer Andre Malraux, who had become France's first Minister of Cultural Affairs. She had asked him if some of the Louvre's treasures could be loaned for display in the United States. He said that he would see what he could do. The decision was that only one painting would be sent for display at Washington D.C.'s National Gallery of Art and then at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art before its return to France. People wondered why this iconic portrait was chosen and why President De Gaulle, who was not a JFK fan, would allow it to go to America. The unofficial story answers both questions. No visit to the Louvre is complete without a look at the Mona Lisa, a small portrait with a powerful impact, a romantic mystique. It had never been out of France before, but a woman with a similar mystique made it happen.

When 22-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier toured Europe with her younger sister, the girls sent home regular accounts of their adventures, which were later published in ONE SPECIAL SUMMER. Jackie's part of the account included a delightful poem and marvelous, magical illustrations. We live in a practical, mundane world, but I think a part of us lives in a more romantic realm which complements that world and when it impinges on that world makes it worthwhile. Here are some excerpts from Jackie's poem:

"Oh we're not at all what you think we are--

We've traveller's checks and a little car --

And passports we know we never must lose

We wear white gloves and we shine our shoes

But in Venice we looked for a falling star --

                    .................

Oh we're not at all the way we appear

We make note of instructive things we hear

We go to church and we write our mother

We even write our sister and brother

But when night winds whisper we lend an ear.

In Florence the evenings are golden and musk

Back through the ages we tiptoed one dusk

                   ..................

I attempted a polka

I powdered my hair

I searched for Lee

But the woods were bare

                  .................

It's no use looking -- she'll never be there

She's gone off to live on the Ile de Cythere!"

 

That's  painter Watteau's Isle of Cythera, the isle of love.

Jackie's final companion was Maurice Tempelsman. He and his wife never divorced, but they were separated. Unlike her two philandering husbands he was faithful to Jackie and gave her the uncompromising love she deserved.

NOTE: Two of my major sources were ONE SPECIAL SUMMER, by Jacqueline and Lee Bouvier, 2006, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., and WHAT WOULD JACKIE DO? by Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway, 2006, Gotham Books (a Penguin Group publication).

 

2017-05-21
Sondra Luger

Story

Your clothes should make you feel good about yourself, as well as make you attractive to the man in your life or the men you would like to attract. Dress advice changes frequently as fashion and fad dictate, but there is some advice from the "dress doctors"  of the past  that  is believed to have stood the test of time. Here is some of it.

As we age, curves tend to develop or deepen, and not always in places we would wish. If you're concerned about making the most of your curves, draped clothes are for you. Draped fabrics embrace the curves of a woman's body, creating a subtle, sexy effect. They also compliment the middle-aged face and figure, which softens with the years. "Crisp and tightly woven fabrics make older skin look ragged by comparison." Try crinkling fabrics like crepes, or wool jersey or velour for textures that are kinder to the skin and don't shock the viewer into seeing a stark comparison between the clothes and the woman wearing them.

The bright colors of youth should be worn sparingly and carefully as the years go by. They call attention to themselves, as the women wearing them fade into the background.  "Never let your clothes make more of an impression than you do." Bright colors also reflect on your face, and may make you look ill or sad. There are many shades of individual colors. Pick those that complement, not overwhelm or negatively impact your appearance. And then there's basic black. Young women do better with this color than their more mature counterparts. Black only makes you look thinner in silhouette, not in weight. If you look good in black it's because you've kept the color away from your face, allowing the warmer skin tones of your face, neck and shoulders to mitigate the shadows and lines that black would otherwise accentuate. Makeup and lighter-toned jewelry will also reduce the damage that black, left alone, would otherwise cause.

The slick lines and bright colors of youth must mellow as we mellow, say the experts, as we become more worldly-wise, more interesting, and yes, more well-rounded. And why not? Shock and awe no longer suit us. We don't need them. We've become more fascinating!

Next Month: THAT ROMANTIC MYSTIQUE

NOTE: My sincere thanks for information and quotations to THE LOST ART OF DRESS: THE WOMEN WHO ONCE   MADE AMERICA STYLISH, by Linda Przybyszewski, Basic Books, New York, 2014.

2017-04-28
Sondra Luger

Story

I was privileged to see the Metropolitan Opera's new production of  Richard Strauss' lush, romantic opera DER ROSENKAVALIER. Originally set in the 1740s, the Met moved it up to 1911, the date of the opera's premiere. This production stars the fabulous soprano Renee Fleming as the Marschallin, Princess Marie-Therese von Werdenberg, and outstanding mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca in the pants role of her young lover, Octavian, Count Rofrano.

The Marschallin fears growing old, and tells us that she sometimes wakes up at night and stops all the clocks to prevent the inevitable. Her marriage is not a happy one, and her husband, the Field Marshall, was chosen for her. She married in her teens as an innocent young girl and sees the same sad event unfolding for Sophie, the daughter of a recently ennobled arms dealer, who has unknowingly chosen for his daughter a husband who is a lecherous, philandering aristocrat, Baron Ochs. Baron Ochs asks the Marschallin, who is a distant cousin, to select someone to present his fiancee, whom he hasn't yet met, with the traditional silver engagement rose. She chooses her young lover, Octavian. Big mistake. Although the 17-year-old youngster is passionately in love with the beautiful, worldly-wise, 32-year-old Marschallin, he takes charge and becomes a man when he protects Sophie from the advances of the gross, lecherous Baron Ochs.

The Marschallin  was able to live for a while a past she'd never had with a young man who was kind, caring, and passionately in love with her, unlike her husband. She sees even worse for Sophie with Baron Ochs, and when her young lover falls out of love with her and in love with the young girl, she knows this is the way it should be. She says she knew the passionate love Octavian gave her would not last, that her youth would not last, that he would find someone younger and prettier. She compares herself to Sophie, fresh from the convent --                            "marched off into the Holy Estate of Wedlock/Where is she now?/Go seek the snows of yesteryear!/But can it be --can it be--though I say it's so/That I was that young Tess of long ago/And that I shall  be called 'ere long 'the old Princess, the old Field Marshal's lady..../How can it come to pass?/How can the powers decree it so?/For I am I and never change/(Gaily) And if indeed it must be so/Why must I sit here a looker-on/And see it all and grieve?/Were it not better we were blind?/These things are still a mystery - a mystery -/And we are here below to bear it all/(Sighing) But how? But how?/(Very Quietly)In that lies all the difference."

Like Marie-Therese, the Marschallin, we grow older, but our need for love, romance, passion does not change. How can a woman attract and hold a man of her choice? Lots of books have been written on the subject. Besides creams and cosmetics to improve the face we present to the world, suggestions abound on how to interest men, many of them suitable for attracting attention from everyone. Some of these include  -----*Be a good listener . *Accentuate, compliment his positives .*Don't be negative. Don't complain about your health, your boss, your life. And don't gossip *Be even-tempered, not anxious or angry *Look up-to-date and neat, not like something a hurricane blew in. Good looks and common interests are a plus, but opposites do attract. It's you as a human being that can truly attract and hold onto a long-term relationship -- or not.

John Robert Powers of model agency fame recommended appearance and behavior for his models that he said would work well for all women. You may wish to scroll back to earlier profiles for his suggestions. In the chapter "Bring Out The Romantic Side in Anyone," in his book HOW TO CHANGE ANYBODY, behavior specialist Dr. David J. Lieberman suggests the following:

*Most of us find ourselves in a variety of roles. This can be a hindrance....In other words, while a woman may be a terrriffic mother, her husband needs to see her as his wife in order to feel romantic.

*If your spouse is not giving you the romance you want, did you ever ask yourself, Am I giving him what he needs?

*We must make sure that our spouse knows what we want. It is often the case that your partner is ready willing, and able to do what you want, but has zero idea what that something is.

*Sometimes in order to change another person we have to change ourselves....Offer your partner something new in you..

Dr. Caroline Myss says that research indicates that we spend 70% of our energy on the past, limiting the energy we have to cope with the present. As the Marschallin in DER ROSENKAVALIER realizes we can do nothing about the past or the future. All we have to work with is the present. We must make it as rewarding and fulfilling as we can, for its own sake and because it is the precursor to our future. Then, when the present becomes the past, it will be a beautiful memory not a regret.

 

Note (1) The DER ROSENKAVALIER libretto excerpt  is from a translation by Alfred Kalisch (Furstner Ldt.,1911)

Note(2)  In HOW TO CHANGE ANYBODY, Dr. David J. Lieberman explains how to change dozens of specific                        behaviors  in other people - or yourself!                                                                                         Note(3) This performance of DER ROSENKAVALIER was taped live in HD and should be available soon on DVD.

Note(4) A delightful romantic film you can watch on Youtube  is TONIGHT OR NEVER, starring Gloria Swanson     and Melvyn Douglas. An opera diva sings beautifully, but without passion, because she's never had a great love affair. Then a handsome, mysterious admirer comes on the scene....   You may wish to scroll back to my profile of Gloria Swanson.                                                                                         

.

2017-03-22
Sondra Luger

Story

There are many stories of the birth of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. The general belief is that before there were gods on Mt. Olympus she was born the child of Dione, a sea nymph and Uranus (the Sky). She rose from the sea when the waves carried her to Cyprus. She was originally the Greek goddess Aphrodite (from "aphros," a white foam). In time, somehow she reached Mt Olympus, perhaps in a chariot drawn by doves and sparrows, as the Greeks believed, or in a chariot drawn by swans, as the Romans  believed.  Zeus (the Roman god Jupiter) decided to marry her to Hephaistos ( the Roman Vulcan), a fabulous blacksmith, who forged gorgeous jewelry. He was the unattractive, limping son of Hera (the Roman goddess Juno), goddess of marriage, and the wife of Zeus. Hephaistos had been evicted from Mt Olympus because of his disability, but he had been clever enough to assure his return by sending his heartless mother a magnificent throne. When she sat on it she couldn't get up! Only the creator of the gift could release her. But Zeus had decided on Venus's marriage without consulting her. Although she married the former outcast, he didn't appeal to her. She preferred sexier gods. Her favorite was Ares (the Roman Mars). Since opposites often attract, Venus, goddess of love and sex was married to the virile Mars, the god of war. (Hephaistos was remarried to one of the three graces.) Venus and Mars had two sons, Phobos (Fear) and Deimos (Terror) and one daughter, Harmonia (Harmony). Eros (Roman god Cupid) is acknowledged as the son of Venus, but his father remains a matter of speculation. 

The gods and goddesses on Mt. Olympus could be as generous or nasty as human beings. They would revenge slights, great or small, compel mortals under their spell to do their bidding, cause mortals to fall in love with them or others of their choosing, assist favored mortals with the power of their specialites, and cheat on their spouses. From time to time both Venus and Mars strayed with other lovers. Venus' most challenging lover was Adonis, considered to be the most handsome youth in the world. Although she was interested in him, an accidental scratch from one of Cupid's arrows made her passionately in love with hlim. However, Adonis was passionately in love with hunting, not goddesses, and it took a while before he succumbed to her charms.

Cupid was usually happy to do his mother's bidding, but they did fall out once, in the matter of Psyche, a beautiful mortal princess, who was adored and patronized by her people, supplanting Venus in their affections. Venus was both jealous and furious and made Psyche's life miserable, which was hard on Cupid, who had fallen in love with her. All was finally resolved in Cupid and Psyche's favor, but it was touch-and-go for a while. The couple had a daughter whom they named Voluptas (Pleasure). 

Venus could be loyal to a fault. When her son Aeneas was toppled from his chariot in a battle with the Greek warrior Diomedes, she wrapped him in her robe, making them both invisible in order to drag him off the battlefield. She received a hand wound from Diomedes, who saw a cloak moving of its own accord and she received a reprimand from Zeus, who reminded Venus that her province was love, not war.

Venus could also be vain. When Paris, seemingly a herdsman, was required to judge a beauty contest involving three goddesses, Venus was determined to win. Her rivals were Hera and Athena (goddess of philosophy, wisdom and war). Hera promised him that if he chose her as the most beautiful she would make him ruler of all of Asia. Athena promised that if he chose her he would never lose a battle. But Venus promised him marriage, not to the farm girl he was  betrothed to, but to the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, wife of Menelaos, king of Troy. She told him he was a prince by birth and that she would restore him to his rightful position. Naturally, Venus won the beauty contest -- and was responsible for the Trojan War!

Venus and the Olympian family were worshiped by the Greeks and Romans. Although beauty and love are sought year-round, Venus was in her element in the spring, a time of fertility and a time when most of her temple festivals were held, festivals that celebrated the various traditions her cults attributed to her, such as goddess of love, water, trade, wine, motherhood and domesticity. She was also considered to be the world's creative deity and the protector of Rome. (Her son Aeneas, by Prince Anchises of Troy is the mythic hero of the founding of Rome.) Roman leaders, as well as ordinary people, worshipped Venus. Julius Caesar believed his family was descended from the goddess.

As Christianity loomed large in the Middle Ages, the Olympic crowd almost disappeared. The ageless goddess settled down and became more circumspect and less salacious in the Renaissance, as artists depicted her birth and amorous activities. Nobody wanted to jettison Venus.

In astrology Venus is the ruler of the signs of Taurus and Libra, but she is present in all twelve signs of the zodiac, her placement in each sign emphasizing various aspects of her expertise. So Venus lives on. In our concerns about beauty, romance, love and sex we still pursue the power of a myth.

Note (1) My sincere thanks for information to VENUS: A BIOGRAPHY, by Andrew Dalby, Getty Publications, 2005, Los Angeles, California.

Note (2) Although Venus could cause romantic attractions, individuals can do this for themselves. Some don't have to do anything. They have a quality, an "it" that attracts those of the opposite sex. This is true in the classic film "IT," in which a department store salesgirl falls in love with her boss. This is a must-see film for all romantics, and you can see it free of charge on Youtube. After viewing the film you may wish to scroll back to my profile of Clara Bow, the star of the film, the "it" girl herself.

2016-11-18
Sondra Luger

Story

Carole Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters. Her parents came from wealthy families, so she had a comfortable childhood even after her parents separated.She loved movies, and early on decided to become an actress. She loved sports too --tennis, volleyball, swimming, baseball --and was good enough to win trophies. When film director Alan Dwan saw this attractive tomboy playing better baseball than the boys he knew she was the actress he needed for a small part in A PERFECT CRIME (1921). Her acting career was underway! With "King of Comedy" Mack Sennett she leaned to perform slapstick comedy, and comedy without the slapstick later became her acitng niche. Lombard wasn't interested in sleeping her way to the top of her profession. She had to be smitten with men she had affairs with, but her beauty made her prey to many men, so she decided on a way to discourage them. She asked her two brothers to teach her all the dirty words they knew and what they meant. These she hurled at would-be lovers. This tactic worked!

She was still an aspiring actress when she met William Powell. She was to star with him in MAN OF THE WORLD. The director was called way after introducing them, and  by the time he returned two hours had elapsed. They hadn't noticed. They were so engrossed in their conversation! They were soon married, but it didn't last long. Their differences were too great to make the marriage work, but they got on famously unmarried, and dated often after their divorce. In 1936, when Powell needed a co-star for a ditsy role in MY MAN GODFREY he recommended Lombard. The role did wonders for her career, and the film became a screwball comedy classic.

At the studio Lombard was kind and helpful to acting novices, hard-working, light-hearted and well-liked by all. She rarely got angry or had temper tantrums. Said director Mitchell Leisen, "She was really a sweet, even-tempered girl. Strong, but sweet....She had tolerance, and her patience was just incredible and rare."

Lombard fell in love with Clark Gable, but she was puzzled by him. He didn't seem to care about people, and she did. He wasn't generous, and she was. He disliked reporters, but she respected them, and she thought she would have made a good reporter herself. And she respected their importance: When you play to the press, you're playing to the fans -- and they pay your salary, kiddo, not the studio." Lombard kept Gable amused with her charming, unpredictable ways. At an event themed "A Nervous Breakdown Ball," Gable looked in vain for Carole, until an ambulance pulled up at the curb and a stretcher was carried into the party. Out popped Carole Lombard! At an MGM party after the filming of a movie starring Gable, Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone, workers displayed gifts Crawford and Tone had given them. Gable had given them nothing. "Carole assumed responsibility from that time on for getting presents for Clark's co-workers...but sent the bills to Gable."

After Lombard married Gable she determined to spend as much time with him as possible, making movies only when he was occupied doing the same. She was determined to have their marriage succeed! After a successful trip selling war bonds, she, her mother, and their agent died when her return plane crashed. It was 1942, and she was only 34.  Gable then realized what he had lost. He became kinder, more generous, more thoughtful. He never got over Carole Lombard, and though he married two more times, his last wife honored his burial request. He was buried next to Carole Lombard. Among her many films that still delight moviegoers are HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST, MY MAN GODFREY, THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS, and NOTHING SACRED. Carole Lombard was the bright, lively and much-loved comedienne of her time.

NOTE: Thanks for quotes and other information to SCREWBALL: THE LIFE OF CAROLE LOMBARD, by Larry Swindell

2016-10-09
Sondra Luger

Story

William Powell was born in Pennsylvania, but grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. At the age of nine he was imitating the performers at the city's Grand Opera House. It was  no surprise to anyone but his father that his only child, studious, well-behaved and with a resonant voice, would decide to become an actor. His father expected him to become a successful trial attorney. Powell performed in many high school plays and became the mainstay of the school's Shakespeare Club. His poise and dignity wowed, but also scared off, most of the girls, which was probably just as well. He was very shy. A practical young man, he began reading about actors and actresses,and took a job at the Grand Opera House for weekend and evening performances so he could talk to the performers to find out more about the theater profession. One suggested that instead of  attending Kansas University, which his parents were willing to fund, he attend a "college" called the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, which his parents declined to fund. Powell wrote a letter to the only person he thought might lend him the money he needed, his great aunt Elizabeth Heywood. The letter was twenty-three pages long. She agreed, and Powell kept his word and repaid the loan. It took him eleven years.

He found New York City to be multicultural and exciting, and wrote upbeat letters to his parents, not revealing that he was leading a hand-to-mouth existence. Theater work was not lucrative; there was no pay for rehearsals, and plays came and went. In some productions one actor played several parts, sharing accessories like hats and beards. In one play Powell was both father and son. He finally got a prominent role in the road company of a Broadway hit, WITHIN THE LAW. Living conditions and pay were better and he met his first wife, Eileen Wilson, who was also in the play. Ten years of poverty and a son quenched the romantic fires of his marriage, but the young actor had become expert at playing villains. He found success on Broadway in SPANISH LOVE, which ran for forty weeks, and was approached by Albert Parker, who offered  him a role as a villain in a Sherlock Holmes silent film starring the acclaimed John Barrymore. He accepted, and more silent films followed. When sound films came along William Powell was ready. 

He appeared in Paramount's INTERFERENCE in 1929. Theatergoers who had enjoyed him as a villain "were surprised to find that he didn't 'sound the way he looked'....Women in particular found that his voice was more [like} the one they had imagined for Rudolph Valentino or other romantic stars," so Paramount decided to make him a romantic figure in films. Their choice was MAN OF THE WORLD. His co-star was Carole Lombard. They soon married, but separated in 1933. "The differences in their ages, experience, and philosophy [Lombard wanted to be liked and believed in going out of her way to please people] became barriers too big to surmount. Their divorce was so amicable that they dated often after it! In 1936, when the studio was looking for a dizzy dame to co-star with him in MY MAN GODFREY he suggested Carole Lombard. Her marvelous performance boosted her career. At an MGM party in 1934 Powell met the beautiful, sexy star all filmdom was talking about - Jean Harlow. Harlow thought Powell "demonstrated more compassion, intelligence, and character than any man she had ever known.... older... but more boyish than stuffy, and he could always make her laugh." He provided a stability she hadn't known with her parents or her three husbands. But Powell's two failed marriages and her three made him leery of another marital try. He delayed their marriage, to his deep regret. Plagued by illness most of her young life, Jean Harlow died the following year at the age of twenty-six. Powell was devastated.

The woman many fans thought Powell was married to was Myrna Loy. They first appeared in MANHATTAN MELODRAMA, and in a total of fourteen films, the hottest, most anticipated being in THE THIN MAN series. Powell, who had begun his career as a villain, and Loy, who had begun hers as an oriental siren, became the screen's adored happily married couple.

Powell was filming DOUBLE WEDDING with Loy when Jean Harlow died, and soon after he found himself battling cancer. He recovered slowly, relaxing at home and swimming daily as his doctors had instructed. One day MGM sent a young actress who needed publicity photos to  take them by his pool. Her name was Diana Lewis. Her parents had been in vaudeville and she and her three siblings had become part of the act. She wasn't in acting to become a movie star. She was in it to earn a living. Powell was impressed with the attractive, level-headed young woman, who didn't want him to "put in a good word" for her at the studio. She would succeed or not on her own. Less than a month later they were married. He was forty-seven and she was twenty-one. She acted for a few years and then retired to play tennis, do charitable work and, most important to her, to be a devoted, loving wife to her husband. The marriage lasted forty-four years, until Powell's death at age ninety-two.

NOTE: Quotations and other information come from GENTLEMAN: THE WILLIAM POWELL STORY, by Charles Francisco

2016-08-28
Sondra Luger

Lyrics

Olivia De Havilland, whose 100th birthday was in July, turned talent and good fortune into an acclaimed career during Hollywood's heyday. She was born in Japan in 1916 to English parents who moved to Hollywood three years later. Her mother had been a stage actress, trained at  the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and her father was a professor and then a patent attorney. Mrs. De Havilland was responsible for bringing up her two daughters, Olivia and Joan (later Joan Fontaine), after divorcing her philandering husband. She taught them acting and related arts.

Olivia was seven when she appeared in a community theater production of ALICE IN WONDERLAND. She later appeared in high school plays. Although she was a good student, Olivia's stepfather, George Fontaine, forbade her appearing in more extra-curricular activities. He gave her the choice of living at home and abandoning high school plays or leaving home and appearing  as Elizabeth in Jane Austen's PRIDE & PREJUDICE, a school fundraising production. She chose the Austen play, and went to live with a friend. At Mills College she took the opportunity to be the 2nd understudy to Hermia in a college production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and it WAS an opportunity. When Hermia and her first understudy left the production, Olivia ascended to the role. Max Reinhardt saw her performance and was so impressed that he asked her to play the part in his upcoming Hollywood  Bowl production and then in his film version of the Shakespeare play. Olivia De Havilland left Mills College, where she intended to prepare to become a teacher of English, and accepted a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers. She was only eighteen. Her good looks and refined manner led to romantic roles, many in historical dramas. She was love interest to Errol Flynn in nine films, The Adventures of Robin Hood bringing her special attention from film fans. When she asked for more demanding roles, Warner Brothers, not interested in tampering with success, balked. They suspended Olivia, and when her contract expired they demanded she make up the suspension time during which she had not been allowed to make films! She sued Warner Brothers and won. Her victory, still known as "the De Havilland Law," was a boon to other stars, who felt captive to the studio system. Fortunately, the studio did not hold a grudge, and her return to films was very successful.

She was Oscar-nominated for diverse roles in GONE WTH THE WIND, HOLD BACK THE DAWN, and THE SNAKE PIT, and won Academy Awards for TO EACH HIS OWN and THE HEIRESS. In addition to the two Oscars  she won two Golden Globe Awards, two new York Film Critics Circle Awards, the National Board of Review Award for Best Actress, the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup, and the National Medal of Arts, presented by President George W. Bush. She was appointed a Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur by French Presdent Nicolas Sarkozy. In 1962 Olivia wrote EVERY FRENCHMAN HAS ONE, detailing her life n France.

Olivia De Haviland dated many Hollywood figures, including Jimmy Stewart, Howard Hughes, and John Huston, and she had a crush on Errol Flynn. However, she married actor and writer Marcus Goodrich, with whom she had son Benjamin, in a marriage that lasted seven years, and later Pierre Galante, a writer and executive editor for Paris Match with whom she had daughter Giselle, in a marriage that lasted twenty-four years. Both marriages ended in divorce.

Unfortunately, Olivia De Havilland and sister Joan Fontaine never overcame their childhood rivalry and didn't speak to each other for over thirty years. The cause for this estrangement is unclear, though Olivia attributed it to a feud for their mother's attention and Joan attributed it to their mother.

Olivia De Havilland augmented her film career with appearances on Broadway - ROMEO & JULIET (1951), CANDIDA (1952), and A GIFT OF TIME (1962) - and on television, in a miniseries and feature films, but they do not overshadow her Hollywood film triumphs. The retired Ms. De Havilland does not miss acting: "Life is too full of events of great importance. That is more absorbing and enriching than a fantasy life." Olivia De Havilland lives in Paris and makes occasional public appearances. Her looks belie her age. She looks fabulous.

2016-06-29
Sondra Luger

Story

Glamorous Ava Gardner was born in 1922 near a farming community in North Carolina. She was the youngest of seven children. Her father worked in a sawmill and her mother worked as housekeeper and cook at a dormitory for teachers.  In 1941 she visited her sister Beatrice, who was living in New York with her photographer husband, who took a picture of Ava and put it in the window of his shop. MGM took note of the picture and invited the teenager to a brief walk-through: She walked up and down a room and arranged flowers in a vase. She wasn't asked to speak because her Southern accept was so thick none of the staff could make out what she was saying. Louis B. Mayer was thrilled with the results: "She can't sing, she can't act, she can't talk. She's terrific!" She got a contract -- and a speech coach! She got minor roles at first. She did not think she was a great actress, but over the years her acting improved. She received an Academy Award nomination for MOGAMBO (1953) and was lauded for her performances in other films, including THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954), BOWANI JUNCTION (1956), ON THE BEACH (1959), and THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (1964).

Drinkilng and smoking were a serious part of her private life, as was fighting with unsuitable husbands. Mickey Rooney, a renowned womanizer, was her first husband in 1942. They divorced a year later. Bandleader Artie Shaw was her second husband ( and the third of his eight wives!). He put her down and made her feel so stupid that she took an intelligence test which disproved it! They were divorced a year after their marriage in 1945. Third husband Frank Sinatra, who was the love of her life, put her on a pedestal, when she would have preferred normal treatment. He was extremely jealous, and fighting was a normal part of their six-year marriage.With her in mind Sinatra co-wrote the song, "I'm A Fool To Want You." Sinatra would have done anything for her at any time. Before pneumonia claimed her life, he wanted to have her flown for treatment. He never got over her. After Sinatra she was off to Spain, for an affair with Ernest Hemingway. She became passionate about bullfighting, and had an affair with a bullfighter. "It was a sort of madness, honey," she explained. Despite other lovers, she never remarried. A twenty-year friendship with Howard Hughes was not love, she said. He trusted and needed her. Her lifestyle ravaged her body, ending her life at age sixty-seven. For the charm of a simple film made when she was twenty-six see ONE TOUCH OF VENUS.

 

 

 

2016-05-11
Sondra Luger

Story

Margarita Carmen Cansino was born in 1918, a Brooklyn girl with a Spanish heritage on her father's side and an Irish-English heritage on her American mother's side. Both her parents were dancers, and her paternal grandfather, a classical dancer, had popularized the bolero and had a world-famous dancing school in Madrid. The future Rita Hayworth did not enjoy a normal childhood. It was filled, to her dismay, with dancing lessons and rehearsals. She began dancing professionally at age six, and became a part of her father's newly formed Dancing Cansinos at age twelve. Her father saw a future for dance in the movies, and in 1927 he moved his family to Hollywood  where he established a dance studio that attracted many Hollywood stars. Rita was now able to fulfill her father's ambition that she become a dancer and her mother's ambition that she become an actress.

Small roles garnered her a six-month contract with Fox, which was not renewed when Daryl Zanuck took charge of the merged company, now called 20th Century Fox. However, promoter Edward C. Judson got her parts in some small studio films - and himself a part as her first husband - as well as a role in Columbia's MEET NERO WOLFE, which got her a seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures. Under studio head Harry Cohn Rita Cansino became Rita Hayworth, her black hair became dark red and her hairline was raised to give her a broad forehead, all designed to give her an American rather than an ethnic look. In 1944 in COVER GIRL she became a Hollywood star and a top box-office draw, but it was her performance in GILDA IN 1946 that gave her the image of a sexy femme fatale. Her image was on a "test" atomic bomb, as well as on the last real one to explode. Hayworth was not thrilled. In 1947 a LIFE cover story resulted in her nickname of THE LOVE GODDESS. She was acclaimed for her performance in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, a film made by second husband Orson Welles. THE LOVES OF CARMEN (1948) was co-produced by  Columbia and Hayworth's new production company The Beckworth Corporation, named after Rebecca, her daughter with Orson Welles. In 1949 Hayworth broke her contract with Columbia to marry playboy Aly Khan, whom she'd met in Cannes the year before. She was unable to fit in with his friends and his flamboyant lifestyle, and the couple divorced in 1953. She returned to Columbia and made a string of successful pictures, which included AN AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD (1952), SALOME (1953), MISS SADIE THOMPSON (l1953), SEPARATE TABLES (1958) and THE STORY ON PAGE  ONE (1960). Her last film was THE WRATH OF GOD. Rita was disenchanted with Coumbia, complaining, suing them and generally feeling, as did many other stars, like a piece of property owned by the studio system. She had fulfilled her family's ambitions for her and had struggled with the movie business, straining her ability to cope with life. These may have contributed to the alcohol problem that began to plague her early on and the Alzheimers that developed later on. In addition, she said that she chose poorly in marriage.

First husband Edward Judson was domineering,"and helped himself to my money." Second husband Orson Welles,  said she was "one of the dearest and sweetest women that ever lived," despite her frequent angry outbursts at family and filmdom, but she  said he didn't want to be tied down by a home or family responsibilities. Third husband Prince Aly Khan did not give up philandering and offered Hayworth $1 million, which she refused, if she would raise their daughter Yasmin as a Muslim and allow her to visit him two or three months a year. Fourth husband Dick Haymes drew down her bank account with money owed to the IRS and child support due to two former wives. Fifth husband James Hill verbally abused Hayworth in private as well as in public. He wanted her to continue making movies, but she wanted to retire.

Rita Hayworth's view of herself was not that of her fans.  She did not consider herself sexy. She said, "Men go to bed with Gilda and wake up with me." Neither did she see herself as glamorous: "I naturally am very shy....Basically, I am a good, gentle person, but I'm attracted to mean personalities....All I wanted was what everyone else wants -- to be loved."

In 1980 she was diagnosed with Alzheimers, which claimed her life in 1987. She was only sixty-eight. The annual Rita Hayworth Gala, a benefit of the Alzheimers Association and hosted by daughter Yasmin, is held in Chicago and New York City. To date more than $65 million has been raised.

Although a happy home and film life eluded, her Rita Hayworth left many films for her fans to enjoy. She herself said that the highlight of her film career was dancing in two films with Fred Astaire: YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH (1941) and YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER (1942). Astaire, who danced with many women on screen, confided that despite their charm and talent, his favorite dance partner was Rita Hayworth.

2016-04-13
Sondra Luger

Story

Lucille Desiree Ball's childhood was a mixture of fun, frustration and financial troubles. She was born in 1911 in Jamestown, New York. Her father died when she was three years old, and she was raised by her mother  and maternal grandmother in nearby Celoron, a summer resort with lots of activities to amuse children. Lucy had fun until her mother remarried and the newlyweds went to look for work elsewhere, leaving the children, Lucy and her brothers, behind. Instead of her maternal grandparents she was now raised by her paternal step-grandparents, who were both puritanical and poor. The only pleasure she got during the time she was with them, which seemed forever, was performing in the chorus line of a Shriner show. This was possible because her new grandfather was a Shriner and one of their shows was short of performers. The spotlight suited her, and when at age twelve she rejoined her mother, she was determined to be an actress. When she was fourteen Lucy started dating a twenty-three-year-old local boy of dubious character. Her mother decided to separate them by enrolling Lucy in the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City. Future star Bette Davis was attending at the time, and her abilities and performances there got rave reviews. Lucy's did not. Her mother was told to save her money and remove the shy, acting misfit from the school.

Two years later Lucy returned to New York City. She was determined to be an actress! She worked as a model for Hattie Carnegie while she looked for acting jobs. She was doing well until she contracted a mysterious illness which sidelined her for two years. In 1932 Lucy was back in New York City, again working for Hattie Carnegie, as well as being the Chesterfield Cigarette Girl in advertisements. She was hired and fired often for theater work, and decided to try Hollywood. She became a "Goldwyn Girl" in the film ROMAN SCANDALS. At RKO she went from small roles, as in TOP HAT and FOLLOW THE FLEET, both with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, to larger roles, as in BIG STREET and STAGE DOOR, also with Rogers, to whom she was a distant cousin. She's an excellent, serious, amateur detective in the murder mystery LURED.  Two years earlier, while filming TOO MANY GIRLS, Lucy had met and married a total opposite - Desi Arnaz, but marital happiness didn't translate into business points. RKO didn't know what to do with Lucille Ball, and intended to drop her. Only Lela Rogers, in charge of new talent at RKO, was able to save her job. Rogers, the mother of Ginger Rogers, had risen to her position through talent, determination and hard work. She was greatly admired and she admired Lucy's talent. She threatened to quit if RKO dropped Lucy. Lucy stayed. When Lucy did move on to MGM her roles improved. In 1943 she starred in DuBARRY WAS A LADY, for which she changed from brunette to redhead, and  BEST FOOT FORWARD. IN 1945 she co-starred in WITHOUT LOVE with Katherine Hepburn. 

Lucille Ball's comedic turn began in 1948 when she starred in the radio comedy MY FAVORITE HUSBAND. Three years later CBS transferred this show to television, starring Lucy and Desi. They were reluctant to include Desi, but Lucy was adamant. The couple paved the way in television for ethnic couples, an innovative three-camera technique, a live audience and syndicated television programs. Lucille Ball was the first woman to run her own studio as head of Desilu Productions, and she was no Lucy Riccardo. She was a tough-minded, detailed, perfectionist executive. Desilu produced widely acclaimed shows other than Lucy's, such as THE UNTOUCHABLES, STAR TREK, AND MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. Although Lucy and Desi loved each other dearly, he strayed too often, and they divorced after twenty years of marriage. Lucy said it got to the point where the only happiness in their marriage was on-screen. They had an on-going cordial relationship after the divorce, and before he died Desi apologized for not being a good husband to her. Lucy missed him dreadfully after he passed on. None of Lucy's subsequent shows - The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy, Life With Lucy had the magic or the audience of the Lucy-Desi partnership on I LOVE LUCY.

In 1960, before Lucy opened in the Broadway show WILDCAT, she met comedian Gary Morton and married him in 1961. Thirteen years her junior, the well-liked, but not ultra-successful resort hotel comedian signed a pre-nuptial agreement to stop rumors that he was marrying Lucy for her money. He helped manage her career and became an invaluable and respected executive at Desilu and, after Lucy sold the company to Gulf+Western, at Lucille Ball Productions. They remained married until her death in 1989. 

One of Lucy's few disappointments as a star was that critics nixed her performance in the musical film MAME in 1974. Foolish Critics! She was delightful as Auntie Mame and, responsible trouper that she was, danced in the film, despite still recovering from a broken leg received in a skiing accident. She used her talents fully - on stage, in film, on television, as an amazing, no-nonsense business woman and television executive in her own company. It wasn't easy, but Lucille Ball was always up to a challenge, and though she's been gone twenty-seven years everyone still loves Lucy.

2016-03-01
Sondra Luger

Story

Fred MacMurray was five years old in Illinois when he made his stage debut playing violin opposite his father, a concert violinist. Fred soon switched to instruments he enjoyed more -- piano, guitar, and saxophone. He played in his high school band and in another band during summers, also working at the Malleable Iron 
Range Company and the Beaver Dam Cannery, where he canned peas. He was an excellent athlete and attended Carroll College on a football scholarship, which paid for his tuition and books. To make money to live on he joined Tom Joy's The Gloom Chasers, a six-piece band that played five nights a week at The Blue Mounds Inn. Getting home at five o'clock in the morning left little time for his academic studies and athletics. He left the college and went to Chicago, staying with an aunt there, in order to study at the Chicago Arts Institute. He worked as a salesman at Marshall Fields, a department store, but he didn't enjoy the work. He realized that his dream was for a career in music. When he drove his mother to California to visit her mother, he decided to try for a musical career there. He joined a pit orchestra in a Los Angeles theater and also got some work as an "extra" in films. He wasn't interested in an acting career; he was too shy for that. Members of the California Collegians, a band on the theater's bill, were short one musician, and asked Fred to join them. They noticed that he could read music, and none of them could! The Collegians also worked in vaudeville theaters, doing bits of acting as well, such as waddling along the stage as penguins or pretending to be symphony musicians while wearing bald-headed wigs.

With the Collegians Fred entered the acting profession through the side door. He was with them on Broadway in "Three's A Crowd" and in "Roberta," a musical, where, in addition to the acting bits, he was understudy for Ray Middleton, who portrayed the football player who inherited his aunt's Paris dress shop. In "Roberta," later made into a film twice, Fred met his first wife, one of the showgirls. He was urged to take a screen test, performing a scene from "Roberta." The test he thought was a disaster got him a contract with Paramount Pictures. Director Wesley Ruggles was having difficulty finding the right actor to play opposite Claudette Colbert in the comedy "The Gilded Lily." She had just won an Academy Award for her performance in "It Happened One Night." Wesley's brother, actor Charlie Ruggles, suggested MacMurray. In "Grand Old Gal" Fred had proven that he could eat popcorn and say his lines at the same time. Since there was a similar scene in "The Gilded Lily" this talent was a plus. In addition Ruggles thought that Fred had acting potential. The studio wasn't thrilled. Fred MacMurray was an acting novice and Claudette Colbert was a major star. When Colbert watched "Grand Old Gal" she agreed with Ruggles that MacMurray had potential and agreed to have the handsome 6'3" novice as her leading man. Gossip columnist Louella Parsons praised Fred's "Gilded lily" performance and wrote "I like Mr. MacMurray. He has a certain appealing wholesomeness." Succeeding female stars, such as Lombard, Hepburn, Stanwyck, Dunne, Dietrich,  Arthur, and Crawford felt the same way, and some even more about the virile MacMurray. Though you wouldn't guess it from his performances, he felt uncomfortable doing love scenes. He said, "Sometimes a writer writes a scene where a guy says 'Hi!' to indicate his love for a girl. I play those scenes very well."He and Claudette Colbert were a magical pair in seven films over fourteen years. Fred admired her greatly, but he was a simple guy and felt that she was too sophisticated for him. Watch them in "No Time For Love," as macho MacMurray conquers uppity Colbert in a film that's a wow! There's a sequence in the film where Colbert sees MacMurray as Superman. She wasn't the only one who saw him that way. He was the inspiration for the comic book super-hero Captain Marvel! Fred was a devoted husband, and when  young actress June Haver saw his behavior toward her when she visited the set she asked her mother, "Why can't I meet a guy like him?" MacMurray's marriage of seventeen years ended when his wife, often in frail health, died. June Haver's fiancé had died the year before, and she had spent several months in a convent before deciding that a nun's life was not for her. She and Fred commiserated with each other, got engaged, and had a long successful marriage.

Fred MacMurray was a versatile actor, successful in dramas, mysteries, comedies, romances and Westerns. In 1959 Disney persuaded him to appear in "The Shaggy Dog." It was a blend of mystical magic, espionage, teen love, and boy-dog antics. Fred was loathe to appear as a bad-guy in film, thinking his fans would be unhappy, but he was persuaded to play an amoral character in  "The Apartment." The film was a huge success. MacMurray had no interest in starring in a television series, but Disney enticed him with a large salary and a 65 days-per-year shooting schedule. The series was "My Three Sons," in which a widower brings up his three rambunctious sons. It was an enormous success and ran for twelve years. Fred MacMurray made it to age eighty-three, and was remembered as he wished to be -- "fondly."

NOTE: My sincere thanks to Charles Tranberg for "The Remarkable Fred MacMurray" in FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE, Number 50, Fall, 2007.

2016-01-18
Sondra Luger

Story

Kay Francis was one of he most popular film actresses of the 1930s. She was called Queen of Warner Brothers and her salary of $115,000 surpassed Bette Davis' salary of $18,000, though by the end of the decade Davis gained the "Queen" title and is remembered today, whereas most filmgoers would puzzle over who Kay Francis was. Kay Francis was born Katherine Edwina Gibbs, the daughter of a businessman and an actress/singer. The young Francis sold real estate, arranged parties for the wealthy and ironically studied at a business school named Katherine Gibbs. Eventually she followed in her mother's footsteps, but with much greater success. At age seventeen the beautiful Francis married James Dwight Francis, son of wealthy parents, and the budding actress took his last name professionally. Her first stage performance was as the Player Queen in a modern version of HAMLET. Other stage performances followed, and she came to the attention of Paramount, which offered her a two-year film contract from 1929-1931. From a bit role in the Marx Brothers' film THE COCOANUTS she moved on to sophisticated roles at Warner Brothers. A stunning woman, who wore clothes beautifully, the 5'9" Francis became as famous for her clothes as for her acting. She worked on her wardrobe with great costume designers --Orry Kelly, Travis Banton, and Adrian. She became unhappy with the sentimental melodramas she was often required to act in at Warner Bros. During the 1940s she co-produced as well as acted in movies for Monogram Pictures. She also did some stage work before retiring in 1952. She was only forty-seven.

Glamorous lives are not always happy ones. None of Kay Francis' five marriages lasted more than a few years, and she had no children. "I can't wait to be forgotten," she wrote in her diary, yet she left behind scrapbooks, boxes of memorabilia and detailed diaries. She appeared in more than sixty films. Although she relished the relaxed morals of the 1920s, she avoided some of the luxuries adored by millionaires of the time, like limousines and huge estates. She worked tirelessly with wounded serviceman during World war II,and in her will she left $1,000,000 to Seeing eye, Inc., which trains guide dogs for the blind. She was a warm and loving person, whose life was cut short by cancer at the age of sixty-three. Kay Francis did not have a "dated" look, and she'd be as at home today as an actress or model as she was in the 1920s and 1930s. What comes to mind now is her performance in JEWEL ROBBERY, in which she longs to ditch her wealthy but boring husband for a debonair jewel thief played by William Powell. It's a delightful film. You might wish to acquaint yourself with some of the films of this "forgotten" actress. 

2015-11-25
Sondra Luger

Story

William Clark Gable was born in Ohio in 1901. At age sixteen he left school to become an actor, a profession his father, an oil driller and later a farmer, thought hghly unmasculine. Ironically, his 6'1 son, with a high pitched voice and a weak build was later to become the most admired masculine actor on studio lots.  His career started on stage. His acting coach, Josephine Pillon, was a theater manager. She lowered his voice, fixed his teeth, built up his undernourished body and prepared him for a career in film. She financed their trip to Hollywood, where she became his manager and his first wife. She was seventeen years his senior. Soon after their divorce in 1930, Gable married Texas  socialite Maria Langham. She was fifteen years his senior. In his first films he worked as an "extra," and met Carole Lombard, who was doing the same. After several failed screen tests, he landed a small role in THE PAINTED DESERT. He began appearing with female stars. In 1931 he appeared with Norma Shearer in A FREE SOUL, and with Joan Crawford, who specifically asked for him, in DANCE, FOOLS, DANCE. Gable's steamy affair with Crawford made headlines.  In 1932 he joined Jean Harlow in RED DESERT. His macho performances made him a major MGM star. The studio concocted a masculline outdoor image for him, whch became real when he found he enjoyed hunting and fishing. On loan to Colombia Pictures, he made IT HAPPENED ONE NGHT with Claudette Colbert, which won them both Academy Awards, though neither of them thought it a particularly good film. The major roles that followed at MGM included MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935) and GONE WITH THE WIND (1939). Gable wanted to boycott the premiere of GONE WITH THE WIND in Atlanta, Georgia, because his good friend African-American Hattie McDaniel would not be allowed to attend. He attended only because she pleaded with him to do so.  He later said that whenever his career would begin to fade, a re-release of GONE WITH THE WIND, that "woman's picture,"  would revive it. 

"I am intrigued by glamorous women," said Gable, who in addition to his five wives was reputed to have had affairs with many of his leading ladies. He had a daughter, unacknowledged at the time, with Loretta Young, who went through her pregnancy in Europe, away from prying Hollywood eyes, and called her daughter "adopted." Careers could be ruined by out-of-wedlock offspring.  Gable's most famous marriage, and his happiest, was to Carole Lombard in 1939. Gable said, " You can trust that little screwball with your life or your hopes or your weaknesses, and she wouldn't even know how to think about letting you down." Her death in a plane crash in 1942, when she was returning from a trip to sell U.S. WAR Bonds, devastated him, and though he married two more times, he never got over her. 

Clark Gable joined the Army Air Corps, working in film and public relations at first, and rising from private to major. He flew combat missions over Germany. Adolph Hitler, who admired Gable over all other actors, offered a large reward for his capture unharmed. Gable's military awards were The Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, America Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal. He also received aerial gunner wings. 

Gable's lasting appeal was evident when he was asked to play the same role in MOGAMBO (1953) that he had played in RED DUST (1932), twenty-one years earlier. In 1999 The American Film Institute named Clark Gable one of The Greatest Movie Stars of All Time (#7). Many felt that thirty years of smoking, drinking and weight gain and loss took their toll, when a fatal heart attack felled him at age fifty-nine, but his fifth wife, Kay Williams, felt it was the tension brought on by his last film, THE MISFITS, with Marilyn Monroe, who was not noted for timeliness on the set. "He waited around forever for everybody. He'd get so angry," his wife said. She gave birth to Gable's first son after he had passed on.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, next to wife #3 - Carole Lombard.

Doris Day summed up his magnetic attraction:  "He was as masculine as any man I've ever known, and as much a little boy as a grown man could be. It was this combination that had such a devastating effect on women."

2015-10-19
Sondra Luger

Story

In the film world of the 1920s and 1930s the icon of glamour and mystery was Greta Garbo, born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson in 1905  in a Stockholm Sweden slum.She was the youngest of three children, and her parents worked at various jobs to support the family. As a teenager Greta worked as a soap lather girl in a barber shop, an errand girl and sales girl in the millinery department of a department store, a hat model for the store's catalogue, and a fashion model for the store, which  began casting her in commercials for women's clothing in 1920. Her acting career began in 1922, when director Erik Arthur Petschler cast her in a short film,, "Peter the Tramp." For the next two years she began studying acting seriously at the Royal Dramatic Theatre's Acting School in Stockholm. Respected director Maurice Stiller became her mentor and directed her career. She starred in two of Stiller's serious films, and then a German film, both times paired with well-known actors. When Louis B. Mayer saw her Swedish film with Stiller, he was mesmerized by her. 

Garbo arrived in the USA in 1925, was given a screen test by MGM producer Irving Thalberg with "electrifying" results, and was  groomed to become a star. Her elegant beauty, the way she communicated emotion by the slightest movement of her hands, her body, her eyes, captured the hearts of filmgoers. Garbo couldn't speak a word of English, learned it gradually, and felt insecure about it, but this was the silent film era, and audiences didn't care. She became a hit in TORRENT (1926), an adaptation of a Blasco Ibanez novel, and that same year became a star in another Ibanez adaptation, THE TEMPTRESS. In three of the eght silent films that followed her co-star was heartthrob John Gilbert. In films like FLESH & THE DEVIL and A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS Garbo's beauty, her acting, and her on & off-screen affair with Gilbert mesmerized audiences. Her last silent film was THE KISS (1929) with Lew Ayres

In 1930 Garbo's first sound film was shown. It was the Eugene O'Neill classic ANNA CHRISTIE. "Garbo Tallks!" trumpeted the studio.. It was the hghest grossing film of the year. She starred in MATA HARI (1931) with Ramon Novarro, was a Russian ballerina in GRAND HOTEL (1932) with an all-star cast, starred in AS YOU DESIRE, with Melvyn douglas, and with her lover John Gilbert in QUEEN CHRISTINA ( 1933). ANNA KARENINA (1935), CAMILLE (1936) AND CONQUEST (1937) followed.

"Garbo Laughs!" trumpeted the studio, when in 1939 she starred in NINOTCHKA with Melvyn Douglas. Garbo played a cold, straight-laced Russian agent, and the romantic comedy was a hit. But Garbo's persona was not made for comedy. Although TWO-FACED WOMAN (1941) did well at the box office, professional critics did not like it. The film required Garbo to be more naturally comedic, and she doesn't quite pull it off, though her dancing is the highlight of the film for me. Garbo considered the film "my grave," and she reduced her acting commitments. Garbo's desire for privacy and her loner image became more pronounced. She said, "As early as I can remember I have wanted to be alone. I detest crowds, don't like many people." She was never interested in film social functions, hated publicity, and never signed autographs or responded to fan mail. She socialized with her many friends, and could be sociable with those outside her circle when circumstances required it. At a White House dinner, John and Jacqueline Kennedy found her funny and charming.

Although she was in love with John Gilbert she was afraid of being bossed, and refused to marry him or any of the other men with whom she had affairs. She became an American citizen in 1951 and settled in New York City, where she enjoyed long walks by herself and socializing and traveling with friends. Gone in 1990 at age 84 her mystique and gripping performances live on. She had led a life she had not expected, and perhaps didn't quite know how to handle.  She said, "Life would be so wonderful if we only knew what to do with it."

2015-08-24
Sondra Luger

Story

Have you tried a Shirley Temple? It's a non-alcoholic drink, usually made with ginger ale, a splash of grenadine and garnished with a maraschino cherry. A bartender at Chasen's, a Beverly Hills restaurant, is usually credited with creating it. Shirley herself credits the Brown Derby in Hollywood for the concoction.  "I had nothing to do with it," she says." But all over the world I am served that. I hate them. Too sweet!"

Shirley Temple was born to George and Gertrude Temple. He was a businessman and banker and she was a housewife who loved dancing. Gertrude said that Shirley's first words were the lyrics to a Rudy Vallee song. Sensing the child's talent she enrolled her at age 3 in Mrs. Meglen's Dance Studio. It was there that two producers from the Educational Film Corporation saw her and thought she would do well in their Baby Burlesques series, parodies of famous films with all-child casts. Shirley became a star making $10 a day. In late 1933 Fox Flm Corporation starred her in STAND UP & CHEER. In the film the U.S. Government creates a Department of Amusement to cheer people during the Great Depression. In 1934 the 6-year old Temple was awarded the first Juvenile Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures, and when Fox merged with Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935, Darryl Zanuck created a real-life Shirley Temple Development Division, with lots of writers working to create her upbeat films. Her mother and the studio went all-out to retain her childhood innocence, and she was never fully aware of how fantastically popular she was, though crowds of youngsters would shout their love for her and a department store Santa asked for her autograph! During the economic hardship of the time Shirley remained a beacon of hope and light. President Franklin Roosevelt echoed the thoughts of many when he said, "As long as our country has Shirley Temple we will be all right." Before age 10 Shirley was making $50,000 a film, an amazing salary for the time. She shook her 56 corkscrew curls ( always set by Mama Gertrude) as she continued  to sing, tap dance, and act her way through films.  From 1931 to 1961 Shirley Temple appeared in 43 feature films and 23 storybook films. She appeared on television with the Shirley Temple Storybook and the Shirley Temple Show.

In 1945, at age 17, Shirley married a soldier, John Agar, but his excessive drinking and eye for women caused her to divorce him four years later. On a Hawaiian vacation soon after her divorce, she met businessman and former naval officer Charles Black, who proposed 13 days later. Amazingly, he had never seen a Shirley Temple film! Their marriage lasted until his death in 2005. They raised three children, Charles and Lori, as well as Linda, Temple's child by John Agar.

In her teens Shirley appeared in a handful of films as an actress, minus the singing, dancing and corkscrew curls. After her marriage to Charles Black she began a political career, holding many positions. She was U.S. Representative to the U.N., U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana, the first woman to be U.S. Chief of Protocol (during Gerald Ford's administration) and U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia under the first President Bush. Shirley Temple passed on in 2014 at age 85. She had experienced quite a life! She brought joy to many, enjoyed an enduring marriage, and served her country. The title of an early film expresses the views of many: Stand Up & Cheer!

2015-06-28
Sondra Luger

Story

The debonair "Latin from Manhattan" was born in New York City to a wealthy family. He attended the Collegiate School for Boys and then the Riverdale Country School, where he studied dance, art, and acting. He tried department store and bank jobs, but they only confirmed what he knew: his career would be in the arts. He formed a dance team with Elizabeth Higgins, heiress to the Higgins Ink fortune.  Soon they were appearing in New York's most exclusive nightclubs. Their Broadway debut in 1927 was in LADY DO, in which the duo performed a variety of dances for fifty-six performances.  Part of Romero's appeal to women in general, and later to actresses he escorted to glamorous theater, film and society events, was his dancing ability. The good looks of the 6'2" Cuban-American, as well as his friendlliness and charm were asssets too.  With his next dancing partner, Nita Vermill, Romero experienced a bout of appendicitis during some strenuous dance movements. He decided to seek acting roles. When a talent scout saw him in a Broadway play, his film career began. Some of the popular films he appeared in were THE THIN MAN, with Myrna Loy and Willliam Powell, THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, with Marlene Dietrich and WEE WILLIE WINKIE with Shirley Temple. I especially enjoy his performances in musical comedies, such as WEEKEND IN HAVANA with Carmen Miranda and Alice Faye (dancing, too!), SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES  and CONEY ISLAND with Betty Grable, and WINTERTIME with Sonja Henie. He played the Cisco Kid in six westerns. With his wartime Coast Guard service behind him he portrayed Hernando Cortes, in the swashbuckling CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE, co-starring with Tyrone Power. The two had just returned from a goodwill tour of Latin America (sent by Twentieth Century Fox), where they met and were honored by Juan and Eva Peron. When television blossomed in the 1950s, so did Romero's appearances on the new medium. In 1953 he starred in a 39-episode serial, PASSPORT TO DANGER. In the 1960s he became "the Joker" in television's BATMAN series. His moustache was covered with white make-up. He refused to shave it off for the role! He appeared in three successful Disney comedy films, in addition to endless appearances on a variety of television show.

Cesar Romero loved his family. When they suffered losses in the Crash of 1929, and his father lost his sugar import business during the Depression, Cesar supported the family and had them move with him to the West Coast where his acting career began to flourish. He was proud of his  family and his heritage. His mother was a concert singer and her father was the famous Cuban poet and revolutionary Jose Marti.

Romero adored nightlife, and was the favorite escort of Hollywood's famous female stars, leaving almost nightly the home he shared with his sister Maria. He said he admired the individuality and glamour of his female co-stars. Though there is doubt about his sexual orientation, he is believed to have proposed to at least one woman. But he never married. In his later years Cesar Romero said that in his early film-making days there was an excitement to the business. The films of the 1930s and 1940s still exist for us to share in that excitement! 

2015-05-17
Sondra Luger

Story

Myrna Adele Williams was born in Montana in 1905 to a father who was a rancher, banker and real estate developer and a mother who had studed music at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. Despite visits to Southern California, where Myrna had begun dancing lessons, Mrs. Willliams was unable to persuade her husband to move there until 1918, when he died and could no longer object. She and her daughter and son settled in Culver City, where Myrna continued to study dancing and began appearing in local stage productions. To help the family financially, Myrna left school at age eighteen to perform in dances that preceded the films at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre. 

Photos of her by portrait photographer Henry Waxman and recommendations from Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova got her started in silent films. All things oriental were in vogue, and when her picture in a fan magazine led to a a contract with Warner Brothers (who changed her name to Loy) she began appearing in films as a vamp or femme fatale, often as an Asian or Eurasian character, although her actual background was Swedish, Scottish and Welsh. A significant move for Loy away from oriental roles was her appearance as a countess in the 1932 Maurice Chevalier/Jeanette MacDonald musical LOVE ME TONIGHT. In 1934 she appeared in MANHATTAN MELODRAMA with Clark Gable and William Powell.  Director W.S. Van Dyke took a chance co-starring her in THE THIN MAN (1934). She was considered a dramatic actress, but Van Dyke liked her Norah Charles-llike reaction after he pushed her into a swimming pool at a Hollywood party. Comedy proved to be another one of her acting gifts. Other successful films with Clark Gable were TEST PILOT, TOO HOT TO HANDLE and WIFE VS. SECRETARY. Other successful films with William  Powell were the rest of THE THIN MAN series ( a total of six), THE GREAT ZIEGFELD, DOUBLE WEDDING, LOVE CRAZY, I LOVE YOU AGAIN and  LIBELED LADY (also starring Jean Harlow, as did WIFE VS. SECRETARY). Loy was especially proud of THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (with Frederic March), and she delighted audiences with her performances in such films as CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN ( with Clifton Webb), THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBYSOXER and  MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (both with Cary Grant). Her film successes are too numerous to mention! In 1936 she was named Queen of the Movies in a nationwide poll of moviegoers . Clark Gable was named King.

During W.W. II she focused on the war effort, and worked closely with The Red Cross. Throughout her career she championed the rights of black actors and characters in film to be depicted with dignity. Although her musical and acting interests mirrored her mother's, her political interests mirrored her father's. He was the youngest man ever elected to the Montana State Legislature. Myrna Loy was co-chairman of The Advisory Council of the National Committee Against Descrimination in Housing and a member - the first celebrity to become a member - of the U.S. National Committee for UNESCO. Her fourth and last husband, Howard Sargeant, was a UNESCO delegate. She was a personal friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. Myrna Loy had no children , but was close to those of her first husband, producer Arthur Hornblow. She received a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award in 1991 at age eighty-six, two years before her passing, but never one for any particular film. She gave winning performances in all her films, which is more important.

2015-04-08
Sondra Luger

Lyrics

She is best known for her film portrayals of dimwitted, scatterbrained society matrons. She is Billie Burke, born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton in Washington, D.C. in 1884. She toured the U.S.A. and Europe with her father, who was a singer and clown with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. She attended plays in London when her parents moved there, and began acting herself in 1903 at age nineteen, debuting in THE SCHOOL GIRL. When she returned to America in 1916 she starred in PEGGY, a silent film which became a huge hit. Other silent films followed, and her popularity soared in such films as EVE'S DAUGHTER, LET'S GET A DIVORCE, IN PURSUIT OF POLLY, THE MAKE-BELIEVE WIFE, GOOD GRACIOUS ANNABELLE, THE MISLEADING WIDOW, SADIE LOVE, and WANTED: A HUSBAND. She got one in 1914 - Florenz Ziegfeld! In the 1910s and 1920s her clothes, onscreen and off, were much admired and imitated by her female fans. Her couturier was Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon). 

She preferred the stage, where she could talk! Her high-pitched voice was a delight to hear, and she appeared regularly on Broadway from 1907 on, as well as on radio from 1932 on, where, in addition to guest appearances, she had her own program, THE BILLIE BURKE SHOW, from 1943 to 1946. The 1929 Crash destroyed the family savings, but Burke's work kept the family afloat. She portrayed Katherine Hepburn's mother in the film A BILL OF DIVORCEMENT (1932), only taking time out for the funeral of her husband before completing the film. She was in sound films annually, rarely missing a year, from that time on. Perhaps her most famous roles were as Mrs. Millicent Jordan, society matron, in the classic DINNER AT EIGHT, and as GLINDA, The Good Witch of the North in THE WIZARD OF OZ. She is fondly remembered as Topper's wife in TOPPER, TOPPER TAKES A TRIP and TOPPER RETURNS. Hardly like the ditsy ladies she portrayed, she said, "I was trained in the gay, but intelligent, well-written, funny, but believable roles ... but if people will laugh at my work and keep a sound roof over my head who am I to complain."

Billie Burke wrote two autobiographies, WITH A FEATHER ON MY NOSE (1949) and WITH POWDER ON MY NOSE (1959). She advised that "a woman past 40 should make up her mind to be young, not her face," and believed that a married actress doesn't have to quit the stage if she has talent to move people emotionally, to tears or joy, but on a personal note she also said, "If I ever loved a man better than I love my art, I should marry him and leave the stage. But I have never met such a man."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015-03-08
Sondra Luger

Story

Betty Grable's mother was determined her daughter would be a star. At age three Betty started dancing lessons, which included ballet and tap. She also learned to sing and play the saxophone. Momma was taking no chances! When she took her daughter to Hollywood, the child was immediately able to get a small part in HAPPY DAYS. In her second film, in 1930, she was in the opening dance as  a Goldwyn Girl in WHOOPIE, starring Eddie Cantor. She was only fourteen! In the early 1930s she was hired for small roles with different studios. (She danced "Let's Knock Knees" in Ginger and Fred's GAY DIVORCEE). In the late 1930s she did a string of college girl films with Paramount. She said, " I've had contracts with four studios in ten years, and each time I left one or was dropped, I stepped into something better." Stardom eluded her until at age twenty-four she appeared in a vehicle originally intended for Alice Faye, DOWN ARGENTINE WAY, a delightful musical co-starring Don Ameche. It was also the first film featuring Brazilian bombshell Carmen Miranda. In addition, there's a dance routine by the amazing Nicholas Brothers, acclaimed by every great dancer of the time, from Balanchine, to Barishnikov, to Gregory Hines to Fred Astaire! She apppeared with Alice Faye in TIN PAN ALLEY, again with Don Ameche in MOON OVER MIAMI, with Dan Dailey in MOTHER WORE TIGHTS and  CALL ME MISTER, and in hit after hit, such as SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES, CONEY ISLAND and FOOTLIGHT SERENADE. She would have liked to have been in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES in 1953, but the role went to the younger star-in-the-making Marilyn Monroe, whom she liked and wished the best. That year she appeared in the delightful hit, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, with Marilyn and Lauren Bacall. Said Betty: "There are two reasons I'm in show business, and I'm standing on both of them." Twentieth Century Fox had her legs insured for one million dollars! She considered herself a dancer, not an actress or a singer, but she did an excellent job in all departments. She was a favorite entertainer of our troops during World War II, and her 1943 pin-up  is featured in Life Magazine's project: "100 Photos That Changed The World."  She was married twice, once to former child actor Jackie Coogan (1937 - 1939), and then to popular bandleader and trumpeter Harry James (1943 -1965), whom she divorced when she could take no more of his philandering.  She considered herself fortunate in her career, but her talent and lovely personality, made her a pleasure to work with. She did not lead a scandalous life and fame never went to her head. She passed on from lung cancer in 1973, at age fifty-seven, but her talent remains on film forever.

2015-02-02
Sondra Luger

Story

Joan Crawford, born Lucille Fay LeSueur in Texas in 1905, did not have a happy childhood. By her teens she'd had three stepfathers, worked her way through two private schools, where she endured unmerited corporal punishment, and briefly attended Stephens College for which she was unprepared academically. Her excessive work schedule for financial support and play schedule for psychologicial support saw to that. She was an excellent dancer and decided on a career as a dancer. She started small, moving up from chorus lines in clubs to Broadway, where she appeared in INNOCENT EYES. She joined MGM in 1925 appearing in some silent films. OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (1928) was a big hit. It was a romantic film about a wealthy girl who loves to Charleston. She easily made the transition to sound films, dancing with Fred Astaire in DANCING LADY (l933), and moving into non-dancing roles, which earned her popularity in the 1930s. With Warner Brothers in 1945 she won an Oscar for her performance in  MILDRED PIERCE, as well as Oscar nominations for POSSESSED (1947) and SUDDEN FEAR (1952). As she aged her roles bcame darker, as in the horror classic WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, a film she suggested to Bette Davis, who co-starred in the film.

Her first of four marriages was to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and her last to Alfred Steele, chairman of Pepsi-Cola. She adopted four children, two twin girls, with whom she got on well, and later a girl and a boy with whom she got on badlly. In 1978 daughter Christine wrote MOMMIE DEAREST , a controversial memoir, excoriating her mother. In her will Crawford left very little to the twins and nothing at all to the last two children.

Many fine actresses get nowhere in their careers, and Joan Crawford had no intention of being one of them. She made sure her name got in the press often, because of what she was doing or who she was seen with. She publicized herself - and studios sat up and took notice, featuring her in better roles and becoming interested in furthering her career.

Apart from using her talent to gain the attention of moviegoers, Joan Crawford decided to look distinctive. "She wore the highest heels, the biggest shoulder pads, the most exaggerated lipstick. She did everything whole hog," said Sheila O'Brien, one of her favorite designers. The designer of most of her on-screen clothes from 1928 (DREAM OF LOVE)  to 1942 ( WHEN LADIES MEET) was Gilbert Adrian. Obrien stated that Adrian "could do everything at the same time: THE WIZARD OF OZ,  NINOTCHKA, costume stuff for Jeanette MacDonald. He also had a sense of humor. When Joan Crawford announced she was divorcing [actor] Franchot Tone [her second husband] Adrian said, 'She'll be footloose and Franchot free!' " Adrian's clothes were elegant, but he "saved his most extreme ideas for Joan Crawford vehicles. The public expected her to be avant garde, almost shocking in her appearance. Her personality was so strong that clothing could not dominate her. Adrian's combinations of black and white and metalllic fabrics, too harsh for others, looked great on Crawford," said Obrien. Crawford always did her own make-up. When in RAIN she extended the upper lip's outer corners with dark lipstick, millions of women did the same, though it only suited women with enormous eyes. Althoough she plucked her eyebrows in her early films, she did not continue as other actresses did. She let her brows grow thick and black, and regardless of the color she dyed her hair, they remained that way. A hard-working actress, she knew how she wanted to look. And she did it her way.

"NOTE; My sincere thanks for quotations and much else to David Chierichetti for his illuminating article, "Joan Crawford: The Shocking Miss Crawford," in FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE, Number 75, Winter, 2013/14, pp 20-28  for the article, pp. 29-42 for pictures of Miss Crawford in her films. An outstanding selection, with designers noted.

2014-12-31
Sondra Luger

Story

Ingrid Bergman's love affair with acting began with the example set by her father. "He loved me, he loved the arts and he constantly encouraged me....I began as a little girl, studying acting by watching people. I always felt it was the best way." She came to the United States after achieving stardom in her native Sweden. Her first American film was INTERMEZZO: A LOVE STORY. Its producer, David Selznick, called Bergman "the most completely conscientious actress" he had ever worked with. This film made her an American star. Other major films followed: CASABLANCA (1942), FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (1943), GASLIGHT (1944), THE BELLS OF ST. MARYS (1945), SPELLBOUND (1945), NOTORIOUS (1946), JOAN OF ARC (1948), UNDER CAPRICORN (1949). She also appeared in many plays between films. The American public fell in love with this unassuming, amazing actress. This love affair came to a sudden halt when she had an affair and a son with Roberto Rossellini, whose film STROMBOLI (1950) she had appeared in.  She married him after divorcing her husband, Swedish dentist turned neurosurgeon Petter Lindstrom. A very public fight for the custody of their daughter Pia began. Bergman lost. Her public was shocked, unable to understand how she could behave in a way so unlike her refined reputation, and she was denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Senator Edwin C. Johnson for "moral turpitude." However, Bergman had thought of divorce long before Rossellini. Petter Lindstrom was a controlling husband, and she was no longer able to share with him the little daily dramas that had occurred at work. He was critical before she could share: She mustn't wrinkle her forehead. Had she gained weight? She should weigh herself each day. Now, what was it she wanted to tell him? "Finally I said to Petter that maybe we should have a divorce.I remember I said 'maybe,' because I was a little tentative about asking for a divorce, but I wasn't tentative about wanting it. It wasn't because I had found someone else. It was just that Petter and I no longer communicated." Lindstrom thought they were perfectly happy! She had wonderful rapport and communication with Rossellini, as well as their three children,whom she adored, but he wanted her in his films, and his film style was light years away from the style in which she had been trained, which required being thorough and totally prepared for a performance. He didn't believe in rehearsals; improvisation was what mattered to him. He found himself an Indian mistress with a son, and both he and Bergman believed divorce was best, but Rossellini had a few stipulations: Their children could only live in Italy or France, never go to America, which had turned its back on Bergman, and she could never remarry. "You have the children to take care of. That should be enough for you." Naturally his demands never came to pass! She remained on good terms with Rossellini, as she did with her next husband, Swedish theater entrepreneur and producer Lars Schmidt, when they divorced after almost two decades of marriage, after he had a son with another woman. He had always wanted a child, and the son he had had pre-Bergman had died. Petter Lindstrom, however, remained unforgiving, even though he remarried. Bergman's daughter Pia Lindstrom got on famously and was warmly welcomed by her sisters, Isotta Ingrid and Isabella when they met in Italy during Pia's  summer college vacation when she was eighteen. Pia became an actress, a television interviewer and critic in San Francisco and then a television personality in New York. Isotta Ingrid became an actress and Isabella became a professor of Italian literature in Italy. Cary Grant, friend and admirer, pushed for Bergman's return to films in America. It was he who accepted her BEST ACTRESS OSCAR for her for her 1956 performance in ANASTASIA. Forgiveness by her American public gradually took place, and twenty-two years after her denunciation in the Senate, Senator Charles Percy on the Senate floor read an apology for her mistreatment by the Senate into the public record. Like her friend Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman did not wear makeup on the screen. She wasn't vain, and daughter Isabella recalls that "she was not concerned with being young or glamorous. All that sort of embarrassed her. She cared about being the best she could be in bringing her part to life." Daughter Isotta Ingrid adds, "Not everyone who is a star would be the way Mama was, She never had any temperament. Mama was always kind to everybody. She knew everyone on the set, and she would talk with them all. And she understood everything about making a film." Ingrid Bergman, winner of Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Tony Awards, and more! - On stage and screen, one of the greatest actresses of all time.

NOTE: Quotations and much else came from Charlotte Chandler's book, INGRID: INGRID BERGMAN, A PERSONAL BIOGRAPHY Simon & Schuster, 2007.

2014-11-20
Sondra Luger

Story

Virginia McMath's entertainment career began when Eddie Foy's vaudeville act came to Fort Worth Texas and he needed a quick stand-in.  Ginger entered and won a Charleston dance contest, which allowed her to tour for six months, with her mother chaperoning. She was married at age seventeen to Jack Culpepper, and they performed as "Ginger and Pepper' in a varied act. They separated, divorced, and Ginger went back to touring with Mama. When the tour hit New York City she stayed, got radio singing jobs, opened Christmas Day, 1929 in the Broadway show TOP SPEED, and within weeks was signed to star in the George and Ira Gershwin musical GIRL CRAZY, which made both her and Ethel Merman stars. Fred Astaire was hired to help with the choreography! In 1930 she was signed by Paramount Pictures to a seven-year contract, and she made five feature films at Astoria Studios in Queens, New York before she moved to Hollywood and made films at all the studios, ten of the films  with Fred Astaire. In their first, FLYING DOWN TO RIO, neither of them was the star, but it set the stage for what followed.

The story of Ginger's blue feather dress in TOP HAT  is legendary, but here it is again. For "Cheek to Cheek" Ginger told dress designer Bernard Newman she wanted "a blue dress... like the blue you find in the paintings of Monet. [Ginger was a painter herself!] I would love the dress to be made of satin with myriads of ostrich feathers, low in the back and high in the front....It's funny to be discussing color when you're making a black-and-white film, but the tone had to be harmonious." Fred detested the dress. During rehearsals feathers were all over him and the floor. Director Mark Sandrich tried to persuade Ginger to wear the dress she had worn in GAY DIVORCEE, but it was now a "frayed white dress...soiled and stretched from being on the hanger. It was a mess," said Ginger. When Sandrich suggested finding "another dress that she has danced in," Mama declared, "Why don't you just get another girl!" Ginger did indeed dance in the dress, and as she had predicted, by the time the scene was filmed there was nary a flying feather to be seen. In apology Astaire sent her a gold feather for her charm bracelet along with a note that read "Dear Feathers, I love ya!. Fred." And now some words about Mama.

Lela Owens McMath Rogers was no ordinary stage mother. Even her birth had an extraordinary beginning. Her mother went into labor as she was fending off a bear in the familly barn! Lela Owens' first husband, electrical engineer William Eddins McMath abandoned her two years into their marrriage and tried to kidnap little Ginger.The actress tells the exciting story of how Lela tracked her down and escaped with her in a waiting taxi. Mama became a newspaper reporter in Independence, Missouri, and in Hollywood in 1916 she was writing movie scripts. She was one of the first ten women to enlist in the Marine Corps during W.W.I, serving in the publicity department. Lela Owens McMath married John Rogers in 1920. From 1938 to 1945 she was in charge of RKO Studios' new talent, and she had "pull." When the studio was considering dropping Lucille Ball, Lela Rogers said she'd quit if they did so. "Lucille Ball is one of the most promising youngsters on this lot. If you're stupid enough [to drop her] the minute you let her go I'll snap her up and take her to another studio and see that she gets the roles she deserves." RKO kept Lucy. In 1942 Lela played Ginger's mother in the comedy THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR. Lela Rogers always went to bat for her daughter who felt that in her films with Fred Astaire what she wanted was never as important to management as what Astaire wanted. She enjoyed her films with him immensely, and was a real trooper, enduring bloody toes up and down staircases in scenes that were rehearsed forever by her perfectionist partner. Astaire said that she had style and talent and "after a while everyone else who danced with me looked wrong. She made everything work for her. Actually she made things very fine for both of us and she deserves most of the credit for our success." When Ginger and Fred parted on film because the studio felt their films had stopped bringing in the huge profits they wanted, Ginger Rogers went on to be the actress she had envisioned herself to be at the outset of her career, and in 1940 she won an Academy Award for her performance in KITTY FOYLE. In later years she appeared in musical theater - MAME in London, HELLO DOLLY on Broadway, and even  had an opportunity to direct a play before she left us in 1995 at the age of eighty-three. Many stars of her time have been forgotten, but there's not a chance that will be her fate!

NOTE: Most quotes and much else is from Ginger Rogers' autobiography, GINGER: MY STORY, HarperCollins Publishers, 1991

2014-10-20
Sondra Luger

Story

In 1933 an eighteeen-year-old Austrian-born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler appeared in nude scenes in ECSTASY, by Czech filmmaker Gustav Machaty. This was not the kind of film in which one would expect to see someone who had studied ballet and piano at age ten and who was the only child of a pianist and a bank director. This was the start of the film career of an unconventional woman.  Stage and film director Max Reinhardt called her "the most beautiful woman in Europe," and this title was expanded to include all of film when she came to America to continue  her acting career. 

Her first marriage was to Austrian arms manufacturer Fredrich Mandl. Aghast at her performace in ECSTASY, he spent nearly $300,000 trying to buy up all prints of the film before he gave up. He was an extremely controlling husband, forbidding his young bride an acting career and sometimes not allowing her to leave their mansion unless he escorted her. Her major way of leaving home was by attending his business parties and meetings with technicians. The mathematically gifted future Hedy Lamarr learned  about military technology, which came in handy when she later invented an important way she hoped would assist the United States in WW II. Mandl was cozy with Nazi industrialists, Mussolini, and Hitler, and Lamarr wanted to escape both her husband and his way of life. She says that in 1937 she disguised herself as one of her maids and fled to Paris, where she obtained a divorce and  then moved to London. In another version of the story she persuaded Mandl to allow her to attend a party wearing all her expensive jewelry, later drugged hilm with the help of her maid, and escaped the country with her jewelry, going first to Paris and then to London, where she met Louis B. Mayer, who began her American film career. (He renamed her Hedy Lamarr in honor of the late silent film star Barbara LaMarr.) She be came an American citizen and made 18 films from 1940-1949. There is glamour and mystery about her even in her 1951 film MY FAVORITE SPY with Bob Hope. Her greatest success was SAMSON & DELILAH in 1944.

Hedy Lamarr set aside a room in her home to work on inventions. She filled a whole wall with engineering reference books. In 1940 German U- boats were torpedoing ships in the Atlantic with women and children on board who were attempting to escape the Nazis. A player piano gave Hedy the idea of devising a transmitter and receiver that could simultaneously jump from frequency to frequency, so that someone trying to jam the signal wouldn't know where it was! She teamed up with avant-garde composer George Antheil and got a patent for the resulting device. Unfortunately, the U.S. Navy didn't take the invention seriously, until President Kennedy used it in the U.S. blockade of Cuba 22 years later. By then the patent had expired and the invention was in the public domain. The Lamarr-Antheil invention of spread spectrum communication frequency hopping paved the way for today's wireless communications. The patent was little known until 1997, when the Electronics Frontier Foundation gave Hedy Lamarr an award for her contribution to technology. Her life would make a fascinating movie, but who could play her? The glamorous beauty says she wasn't always wise, and indeed she not only went through seven husbands but also thirty million dollars! However, we wouldn't have her films - or the cell phone - without her!

Note: My  thanks to Richard Rhodes for his book HEDY'S FOLLY: THE LIFE and BREAKTHROUGH INVENTIONS OF HEDY LAMARR, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD, Doubleday, 2011.

2014-09-17
Sondra Luger

Story

The late, great Margaret Rutherford won many awards for acting on stage and screen, including an Order of the British Empire in 1961 and Dame of the British Empire in 1967. She was born in London in 1892. Just before her birth her father, William Benn Nicholson, murdered her grandfather. Her mother, Florence, died when she was three years old, and she was brought up by her aunt Bessie Nicholson in Wimbledon. In school she developed an interest in theater, and her aunt paid for private acting lessons. Her initial career  represented her interests in speech and music, and she taught elocution and piano. When her aunt died, a small inheritance allowed her to become a student at London's Old Vic, where she began her acting career in 1925, at the age of thirty-three. Eight years later she made her first theater appearance at London's West End, and  three years after that she made her screen debut as Miss Butterfly in DUSTY ERMINE. Critics first took notice of her in 1939 for her performance in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, which she filmed in 1952, and in 1941 for BLITHE SPIRIT, which she filmed in 1945. Noel Coward had envisioned her as the psychic Madame Arcati, and fashioned the role especially for her.  Of her forty films  this is one of the roles for which she is best remembered. The other encompasses all her performances as Jane Marple, Agatha Christie's octogenarian detective in the Miss Marple films. Many have performed that role on stage, television and film, some looking and acting very much like Christie's original sleuth. As one critic noted of Rutherford, "She is hopelessly miscast, but who cares?" She was fabulous! She made sure that her spouse,  actor Stringer Davis, whom she married at the age of fifty-three, had a role as her sidekick in all these films. Agatha Christie was as in awe of Rutherford's performances as the rest of the world, and she dedicated her 1963 novel, THE MIRROR CRACKED FROM SIDE TO SIDE to Margaret Rutherford. 

Margaret Rutherford was subdued in behavior and dress. One time when she and her husband flew to Hollywood to make a film, someone at the studio was sent to the airport to pick them up. He returned to the studio without them, insisting they had not arrived. The studio insisted that they had. He returned to find two people unfashionably dressed and surrounded by ratty suitcases waiting for him.  He had been looking for a glamorous movie star and her mate. In the 1963 superstar film THE VIPs, Rutherford had a problem with two of her co-stars. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton admired her enormously and sought her approval for their performances at the end of each days's filming. Taylor was sure her performance had been better than Burton's and Burton was sure his performance had been better than Taylor's. What did Margaret Rutherford think? Miss Rutherford's diplomacy was taxed to the utmost! At the Academy Awards the final decision was rendered. One of them did win an Oscar for best performance in the film. It was Margaret Rutherford! 

Note: My thanks to two biographies of the star: 

MARGARET RUTHERFORD: A BLITHE SPIRIT, by Dawn Langley Simmons (1983), and MARGARET RUTHERFORD - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY AS TOLD TO GWEN ROBYNS (1972).                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

2014-08-20
Sondra Luger

Story

Although her film career started at age twenty-six in 1929 at Paramount in THE LOVE PARADE, under producer/director Ernst Lubitsch, Jeanette MacDonald's music career really started at age six, when she had small roles in theaters and operas. By age thirteen she was winning singing contests in states along the Eastern seaboard. She had a wide vocal range, E above high C, close to three octaves. She starred in seven films in 1930, before her screen life settled down to one or two films a year. One of her frequent early co-stars was Maurice Chevalier, with whom she appeared in LOVE PARADE, ONE HOUR WITH YOU, LOVE ME TONIGHT ( a darling movie and little known classic) and THE MERRY WIDOW, which was the second of her many MGM films. At MGM she became known as The Iron Butterfly, ladylike and beautiful, but tough and quick in signing contracts. In 1935 she co-starred with Nelson Eddy in NAUGHTY MARIETTA, the first of her eight films with him. Although her film and concert career was major, she wanted to be an opera singer, too. She took lessons specifically with that goal in mind, and  in 1943 she debuted in Montreal, Canada in ROMEO & JULIET. The following year she sang Juliet in the Chicago Opera Company's production. They had revived the opera in her honor. She was encouraged into thinking that she would be given the opportunity to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, but in the end she was told that the Board  of Directors resented "Hollywood intrusion." But Jeanette MacDonald  never lacked for singing opportunities in film, musical theater and sold-out concerts throughout the country. In the 1950s she did some television with Nelson Eddy and they recorded  their favorite songs in an album that went "Gold." 

Gossip, some of it true, linked Jeanette MacDonald to many men. The link to Maurice Chevalier was not true. "Off-screen he was all business, all efficiency [and we had] no more passion for each other than two people sharing an elevator." She adds that he thought she was a prude, and she thought him the fastest backside pincher around! She had been engaged to her manager Robert Ritchie, but ended it when she realized he was a womanizer. Ernst Lubitsch and Louis B. Mayer were wild about her, but her romantic interest was reserved for Nelson Eddy, and concurrently, after her marriage, for Gene Raymond. She had been secretly engaged to Eddy, secretly became pregnant with his child, which she miscarried, and never married him. Apparently, he believed in a one-career family, with the husband shouldering the career, and the wife shouldering wifely responsibilities and taking care of the children. Two careers in the arts, Eddy believed, would create problems, because one partner would undoubtedly be more popular than the other. The two career problem did plague MacDonald's marriage to Raymond, but it would never have affected an Eddy-MacDonald marriage. Both were equally popular all their lives, and MacDonald never had children! In 1937 she married actor Gene Raymond in a spectacular Hollywood wedding. He resembled Nelson Eddy, and she hoped there was enough of Eddy in him to make the marriage work. (Whenever Eddy had a row with MacDonald he took up temporarily - and he told the women it was temporary- with other women. I assume this was one aspect of Eddy she didn't want Raymond to replicate!) Although Gene Raymond loved Jeanette MacDonald, he had not told her that he was bi-sexual, and his one-nighters upset her greatly. His career was less successful than hers, and that upset him greatly. His mother was no help to the marriage. She disliked Jeanette MacDonald, unlike Nelson Eddy's mother, who adored her. Although a split was considered from time to time, the Raymonds never divorced. Nelson Eddy did marry, but it was not a happy union. In her 50s Jeanette MacDonald developed a heart condition. She died of a heart attack in l965 at the age of 62. Nelson Eddy followed her two years later. The two had been life-long lovers, star-crossed lovers, it would seem. Or did they cross their own stars?

Note: My resource for this profile was JEANETTE MACDONALD AUTOBIOGRAPHY: THE LOST MANUSCRIPT, Annotated by Sharon Rich, Bell Harbour Press, New York, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014-07-18
Sondra Luger

Story

Joan Blondell  had talent that ranged through film genres: mysteries, romantic comedies, film noir, musicals, westerns, screwball comedies, family dramas and satire.  She had a naturally lighthearted disposition that  enabled her to  flourish in film and survive an unsettling childhood. Her vaudeville parents traveled the world, and Joan estimates that she attended  from 40 to 50 schools, "for a week."  She learned to read from playbills and marquees. One of the rare times she was in school she contracted scarlet fever and diphtheria! In attempts to give her a normal childhood her parents tried other ventures - speculative real estate, a dress shop, a tea room - without success. When their daughter was a teenager they finally settled in Texas, where mama became a local stage actress. Joan  Blondell won the Miss Dallas beauty pageant and placed 4th as Miss America! She attended the  University of North Texas, which was then a teachers college, and worked at an assortment of jobs - a fashion model, a circus hand, a clerk. She was a very versatile young lady! In 1927 she joined a New York stock company, intent on becoming an actress.  In 1930 she starred on Broadway with James Cagney in PENNY ARCADE.  The show ran for only three weeks, but Al Jolson bought the rights to it for $20,000. He agreed to sell it to Warner  Brothers for the same amount only if  they starred Blondell and Cagney in the screen version. They did, and the result was SINNER'S HOLIDAY in 1930. Blondell also starred with Cagney in THE PUBLIC ENEMY.  Despite Warner Brothers' insistence, Joan Blondell refused to change her name to Inez Holmes. In nine films she was half of a charmlng gold-digging duo with Glenda Farrell. Although she could not sing she appeared in many Warner Brothers musicals. In GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, in the heart of the Depression, she performed a moving rendition of "Remember My Forgotten Man." Joan Blondell appeared in over ninety films, and never had any trouble getting acting jobs. She was considered a pleasure to work with.  Although she said she loved all her husbands, a loving home life eluded her.  Her first husband, George Barnes, was a cinematographer. Their three-year marriage produced a son, who later became a producer, director and television executive. Her second husband was Dick Powell, who adopted her son Norman. They had a daughter, Ellen, who became a studio hair stylist. This marriage lasted eight years. Her last marriage was to Mike Todd, later Elizabeth Taylor's husband. She divorced him three years later in 1950. Todd spent and gambled away huge amounts of money and went through bankruptcy during their marriage, which was both an emotional and financial drain on her. In 1972 Joan Blondell wrote a novel, really her autobiography, called CENTER DOOR FANCY. Seven years later she was gone from leukemia at the age of seventy-three. Whatever acting role she undertook she did well, and in TOPPER RETURNS, which i've just watched again, she is the most delightful, no-nonsense ghost you are ever likely to see on film! 

2014-06-16
Sondra Luger

Story

Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha was born in Portugal in 1909, one of six children. She was ten months old when her parents moved to Brazil. She attended a convent school, but sang and danced at parties and entertained at the family inn. When she was fourteen her sister Olinda contracted TB, so Carmen left school to work in a tie shop to earn money to help pay the medical bills. She worked next in a boutique where she learned to make hats. Her hats were so popular that she opened her own hat business, making so much money that her brother left his job to deliver the hats for her! She later became famous  not only for her singing, dancing and acting, but for her headgear. "The Brazilian Bombshell," as she was later called, was a tiny woman, but with what seemed to be mile-high hats and sometimes nine inch heels she looked like a giant! Milliner Lilly Dache deserves the credit for many of her film hats. A politiician  who stopped by the inn one day heard her perform and recommended her to a composer at a radio station. She auditioned, became a radio personality and eventually got a two-year contract, becoming the first contract singer in Brazil's radio history, later getting an RCA recording contract as well. She was the darling of Rio and the hit of Brazil! On a visit to Rio, ice skater Sonja Henie caught Carmen's act, and immediatelly notified Shubert, who was preparing to open a Broadway musical revue, that she had an outstanding talent for him to include in the show. Shubert called, Carmen came and when the show opened she was an instant hit.Her singing, her dancing, her headgear,  her accent, her comedy, her joie de'vivre bowled over the audiences night after night. A Hollywood contract in 1939 began a mutual love affair between Carmen Miranda and the American people. Her co-stars were both helpful and adoring. Don Ameche didn't want people to take advantage of her just because she was new to America and when she sang and danced in a scene all other work at the studio came to a standstill.  All eyes were on Carmen Miranda. Those in the scene with her were just as fascinated. In NANCY GOES TO RIO, there's an "Umbrella Song" performance. We see her co-stars watching her in the audience, and they're beaming! She was so famous and so beloved she didn't think anyone would ever marry her. Indeed, after she passed  away someone asked the leader of the Bando da Lua, with whom she always performed, why he hadn't married her. He replied that he didn't want to be Mr Carmen Miranda. In 1940, however, she married David Sebastian, who worked in films. Unfortunately, he didn't get along with her family , whom she had moved to California to be with her. Her husband took charge of her career. Her engagements seemed non-stop and her home life was unhappy.  During filming The Jimmy Durante show she felt ill. Afterwards, in her dressing room she collapsed and was gone from a heart attack at the age of forty-six.  The President of Brazil sent a plane for her body, and 60,00 mourners flooded the streets and Rio's Town hall for the ceremony. Five hundred thousand people escorted the funeral cortege to the cemetery. There's a small museum in Rio honoring Carmen Miranda, but she remains big in the hearts of the people. During Carnival some dress up as Carmen. As you drive down Rio's multi-lane highway, with the beach on one side and the street on the other, you pass a block with a tall fence, maybe twenty feet high, on which are painted  the faces of icons of Brazilian history, and there, in glorious color and larger than life is Carmen Miranda. A very special gift is making people happy. Carmen Miranda had that gift in spades. 

2014-05-14
Sondra Luger

Story

The man considered the greatest popular dancer of all time was born Frederic Austerlitz in Omaha, Nebraska  in 1899.  His mother envisioned a brother and sister dance act, with Fred's  sister, who grew to be the beautiful, talented, charmlng and outspoken Adele, as the star who would catapult  the duo to stardom and financial success. The name "Astaire" was chosen as a more stage-friendly name when mama, leaving her husband in Nebraska to work and send money to fund this enterprise, arrived in New York to enroll Fred and Adele in dancing school and kick off their careers. Adele was almost eight and Fred was five. Their vaudeville act began slowly, expanded into touring and eventually led them to share the bill in Broadway shows with star entertainers. Mrs. Astaire made sure her hard-working children vacationed in luxury hotels, which gave them a taste for good living. Noel Coward came backstage one night and urged them to perform in London. The English loved them! Prince Albert, later King George VI,  was a huge fan and he invited them to dinners and parties. The already well-dressed Fred, copied the Prince's elegant lapels, "acquired an English valet, began his habit of buying racehorses, shopped Savile Row [and] eventually acquired a small black Rolls Royce." Adele eventually acquired her first husband, retiring in 1932 to become the wife of Lord Charles Cavendish, a son of the Duke of Devonshire. Heavy drinking ended his life before he was forty.  Fred was more careful in his choice of mate, marrying an American socialite and widow with a son. They had a son and daughter of their own, and their marriage was a happy one, lasting until her death  at age forty-six. His second and last marriage was to fellow horse-lover and jockey Robyn Smith in 1980.

Fred Astaire's success in films with Ginger Rogers is legendary, beginning with FLYING DOWN TO RIO, in which neither of them starred. He danced in films with many other women, some of them professional dancers, such as Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, Cyd Charisse and Vera-Ellen, but no one had the combination of feminine, musical and acting qualities that Ginger Rogers had. After years of dancing with his sister, Astaire wanted to be recognized for his solo dancing, and he was, but his lasting reputation as a dance icon is due to his pairing in musicals with Ginger Rogers. His last major musical film was FINIAN'S RAINBOW. He later performed on television, most notably with dancer Barrie Chase, and in acting roles on television and in films. My favorite of these films is THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY.

In his autobiography Astaire wrote, " I have always tried to carry out my steadfast rule of not repeating anything in dance I've done before." As  Joseph Epstein states in his biography of Fred Astaire, "after one has identified Fred Astaire's multiple and several steps and manifold moves - his swirling leaps, his twirling jumps, his slams, shuffling tap passages, splnning lifts, crazy-legged noodling, skips, hops, leg jabs, tap spins, struts, lunges, back kicks, and barrages, high-stepping, stamping, darting, soft spins, arabesques, hip flips, saunterings, cross-overs, knee-and-pelvis jerks, strolls, turning jumps, steps done with a slight retard, syncopations, quick circling steps - a fter one has noted all these and the scores more of different moves he made, one still hasn't accounted for the magic in his performance." Fred Astaire couldn't account for it either. Astaire used his entire body in the dance. "This is why Astaire's rehearsals were so long and arduous; every physical element, eyebrows, smile, the placement of a little finger, had  to be in order, nothing could be left to chance. He might combine balletic moves with ballroom ones, then break into tap, out of which he emerges with jazz kicks and slides. He had to meet expectations while also surprising; predictabiity wasn't permitted." The women who danced with Fred Astaire on stage and screen were dancing with a detailed perfectionist, so at least for their time with him they had to be likewise! "Astaire sang like a dancer. His clearly enunciated, strongly beat, often staccato rhythms were chiefly a dancer'a rhythms; his syncopations, too, had lots of the dancer to them." Fred Astaire's art was his life, that and his enjoyment in his family. He wasn't much interested in socializing or recreational dancing, and he wasn't much of a conversationalist. When he was interviewed he didn't have much to say. What he had to say he said with his feet, forever recorded for all to see and enjoy. 

NOTE: My sincere thanks for quotations and much else to  the fascinating and illuminating biography FRED ASTAIRE, by Joseph Epstein, Yale University Press, 2008. Fred Astaire did write an autobiography, STEPS IN TIME, but the Epstein book is much more interesting. Fred Astaire was a dancer, not a writer.

2014-04-13
Sondra Luger

Story

Cary Grant was nine years old when his mother vanished from his life. He missed her love and care, and the "holiday" his father said she was on lasted twenty years, until upon the death of his father he was informed that his mother was alive, and in the sanitarium her husband had put her in because she was unable to overcome the trauma of the death of a second infant son. His father, in a new relationship with a woman who provided him with another son, had no time for Archibald Alexander Leach, who would  become Cary Grant. The boy became a latchkey child. When he discovered at age thirty-one that his mother was alive, he took care of her for the rest of her life, visiting her often in England, where she preferred to stay. He never got over his unstable childhood. His third wife, Betsy Drake, with whom he made two films, EVERY GIRL SHOULD BE MARRIED (1948) and ROOM FOR ONE MORE (1952),  introduced him to the then-legal LSD  as treatment for inner peace, when yoga, hypnotism and mysticism had proven ineffective. Of Grant's five marriages his marriage to Drake lasted the longest, almost thirteen years. It was a childless union, and eventually fell apart.  (Betsy Drake gave up acting, got a masters degree in education from Harvard University, studied at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and became a practicing psychotherapist!)

Cary Grant's show business career began when, at age sixteen, he joined Bob Pender's stage troupe. He went with the group to the United States for two years as a stilt walker.  When the troupe returned to England, he stayed in America. On Broadway he performed in some light comedies. In Hollywood, in the play NIKKI, his character's name was Cary Lockwood.  He was dissuaded from using that name bcause there was another show biz Lockwood, so he became Cary Grant.  The C and G initials had done well for Gary Cooper and Clark Gable, and he hoped they would be lucky for him. When he was a contract player for Paramount, Mae West, the bawdy craze of Broadway, who was about to make her first film,  saw him on the Paramount set. He was tall, tanned and dashing in a white naval uniform. She told producer William LeBaron, "If he can talk I want hlm in my picture." As a Salvation Army captain in SHE DONE HIM WRONG, based on West's Broadway play DIAMOND LIL, Grant asks hesitantly, "Do you mind if I get personal?" Mae West replies,, "I don't mind if you get familiar." With this film Cary Grant's stardom began. He was the favorite of Alfred Hitchcock, and the inspiration for Ian Fleming's film version of James Bond. Sean Connery and Roger Moore were two selected for roles as Bond because Fleming thought they had something of Cary Grant about them.

Grant's age prevented his acceptance into the Royal Navy in 1940, but he donated his entire salary from several films to British war charities. He became a US citizen in 1942.  In the 1950s he started his own film company, Grantley Productions. In the late 1960s he joined the board of Faberge. He retired to spend time with the child he'd always wanted and had in his short-lived marriage to Dyan Cannon. In the 1980s, married to his last wife Barbara Harris, a British hotel PR agent, he went on a countrywide lecture tour. He had always hoped for a lasting marriage. Although his second marriage to heiress Barbara Hutton was characerized as "Cash & Cary," he'd never married for money. He felt that he was too self-centered in his early marriages, and being a perfectionist didn't improve his chances for a lasting relationship.

In addition to being a superb and versatile actor, Cary Grant made sure he looked good and looked natural. 6'2" and elegant, he looked better with his hair parted on the right, wearing a necktie instead of a bowtie and lifting his back collar higher to hide what he believed was a thick neck developed from his acrobatic youth. He wore dou ble vented jackets and had his tailor lengthen the vents even further. He looked  better  bareheaded, and only wore hats (and bowties) when the film called for them. He did not wear makeup (his tan was sufficient) and he didn't dye his hair.  In the 1940s he wore dark suits to match his black hair and in the 1950s he wore grey suits to match his greying temples. In a room-sized vault on Santa Monica Blvd he kept about 250 suits, 50-75 overcoats and dozens of jackets, shoes, etc.

 

He won an honorary Academy Award, but never one for a particular film. (He was such a natural actor it was hard to believe he was acting!)  He was a meticulous actor, producer and dresser, who took great pains with details, but his vast audience is aware only of the finished product - WOW! CARY GRANT! 

NOTE: My sincere thanks for source material to a fascinating and fabulously illustrated book, Richard Torregrossa's CARY GRANT: A CELEBRATION OF STYLE.

2014-03-23
Sondra Luger

Story

Gloria Swanson was a clotheshorse at an early age, thanks to her mother.  In FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE she wore more than two dozen gowns. She credits (blames?) Cecil B. DeMille's lavish costumes for exacerbating this expensive habit. Gloria Swanson's initial goal had been to become an opera singer. In fact, in  TONIGHT OR NEVER, in which she starred with first-time actor Melvin Douglas, she plays an opera singer without the required passion because she's never experienced great love. Whether her loves were great or not in real life, she was married six times. In addition there were affairs, notably one with Joseph Kennedy (JFK's father), "the man I trusted to effect important changes in the motion picture business, the man who always managed to intrigue me, even when we disagreed, with his courage and energy and scope of vision and daring." Hardly selfless, Joe Kennedy amassed five million dollars in the film industry before deciding to move to Washington, DC, closer to the seat of political power that interested him more. Kennedy employed Swanson's third husband, the Marquis de la Falaise (she was the first star to marry a European title, no money  though) on film business in Europe, allowing the married Kennedy more  freedom to pursue his affair with Swanson, an affair that destroyed her marriage to "my dear, sweet Henri." She aborted Henri's baby, which she regretted all her life, because she felt it would destroy her film career. Amazingly, Henri, after a failed subsequent marriage to Constance Bennett, asked for Swanson's blessing on his third marriage to Emmita Rodriguez Restrepo de Roeder, a Colombian divorcee, whose father had been a diplomat. If photos are accurate, she looked a lot like Gloria Swanson!  Swanson gave her blessing. Henri won two Croix de Guerre during W.W.II and corresponded with Swanson, who said he "brought the awful war home to me as the newspapers never could." She helped him, through her lawyers, obtain his final divorce decree from Constance Bennett and "pulled every string... to get the two of them [Henri and Emmita]  safely to America." In 1942 she founded Multiprises International to fund inventors, Jews and Gentiles alike, eager to escape Germany and Austria. Henri, still in Paris, helped them get temporary visas. "Leopold Karniol devised a process for making buttons out of plastic, which suited the war economy admirably, and Anton Kratky came up with a carbide- steel-alloy  cutting tool that promised to be revolutionary. I began making a few exploratory trips to interest customers in South America in these and other inventions in progress in Queens and was met with an enthusiastic response." Swanson entered the health business in 1950 with cosmetics using natural ingredients, and she and her sixth husband, writer William Duffy, were active advocates of healthy eating.

Gloria Swanson's film career began when, on a casual visit with her aunt to a movie studio, she wound up as a bit player in a silent film. Her talent, beauty, clothes and off-stage behavior eventually led to her becoming an enormously popular and well-paid movie star, usually called by her first name in magazines. I recently renewed acquaintance with several of her enjoyable films. In WHY CHANGE YOUR WIFE (1920) she plays a perfectionist wife who drives her husband crazy, loses him to someone else, and sets out to get him back. In BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922) she co-stars with friend and fellow horseback rider Rudolph Valentino in a triangle love affair, and in INDISCREET, a romantic comedy (1931), she tries to prevent her new love from finding out about her romantic past, hardly anything that would raise an eyebrow today. Her last two silent pictures were a success, SADIE THOMPSON (1928) and a disappointment QUEEN KELLY (1928), a film financed by Joe Kennedy, and never completed. Directed by Eric von Stroheim, it is considered a fascinating melodrama, available today with stills and subtitles to complete it. Her sound pictures were relatively few: THE TRESPASSER (1929), WHAT A WIDOW (1930), INDISCREET (1931), NOW OR NEVER (1931), PERFECT UNDERSTANDING (1933), MUSIC IN THE AIR (1934), FATHER TAKES A WIFE (1941) and SUNSET BLVD (1951), about an unwanted, aging actress, the film for which she is most remembered. Viewers should sample her earlier films for a better idea of what she was capable of on screen. She had an exciting life of marital and career ups & downs, won several Academy Award nominations, had six husbands and three children. She was satisfied.

NOTE: Quotations and much other material is from Gloria Swanson's autobiography, SWANSON ON SWANSON (1980)

2014-03-07
Sondra Luger

Story

The cultured voice, the knowing smile, the wit that bubbled so naturally. A Harvard graduate? A trail-blazing female business executive? No. A graduate of Washington Irving High School in  New York City, with an interest in art and a plan for a career in fashion design. She worked in a dress shop to pay for tuition at the Art Students League, but at age eighteen, she was offered a three-line part in a new play, THE WILD WESTCOTTS.  Her only previous on-stage experience had been at the Provincetown Playhouse in THE WIDOW's VEIL, a play written by her high school speech teacher, and before that a hasty injection into a school play because no one else could speak French.  Her three-line performance changed her work aspiration and began her acting career. Born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin in 1903 in Saint-Mande, France, her parents moved to the United States when she was three.  Her early efforts on Broadway were to avoid being cast as a French maid. Her Broadway appearances led to a Paramount contract. She loved the stage and early on made films in the daytime and appeared in plays at night.  She made her silent film debut in 1927 in FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE, but her voice was meant to be heard, and sound films were just around the corner. Her first was a drama,  A HOLE IN THE WALL (1929). Two of her major early films were Cecil B. DeMille's SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932) and CLEOPATRA (1934). She was outstanding in dramas such as TOMORROW IS FOREVER, PRIVATE WORLD, and THREE CAME HOME. Her most popular films, however, were a series of screwball comedies in the 1930s and 1940s. No one could elevate a screwball comedy like Claudette Colbert! It's impossible not to adore her performances in such films as THE PALM BEACH STORY, NO TIME FOR LOVE  and MIDNIGHT.  She thought that IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT was "the worst picture in the world," and although nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in it, she thought it so unlikely that she would win, she was about to leave for New York when she received a call telling her to rush right over to the ceremony to accept her Best Actress Oscar. The film also won for Best Picture of the year. 

Her co-stars had the highest regard for Claudette Colbert.  The reason an occasional one did not others attributed to jealousy. Character actress Katherine Alexander said, "Claudette had a wonderful way with the supporting players. She had great concentration and always knew her lines and was the first on the set, and she wouldn't tolerate a lack of professionalism in anyone....but in her restrained, ladylike way, she was very democratic, very relaxed, very giving with her co-players. I think most people I knew who played with her gave more than their usual - she set a standard, a high one, but she did it by indirection, by osmosis." Karl Malden said, "the younger players...sense instinctively that she isn't all wrapped up in herself, and that she is on their side, and rooting for them all the way." In one of his early films, PRIVATE WORLDS,  Charles Boyer had a problem being convincing. Colbert suggested to director Gregory LaCava that he urge Boyer to think in English, not French, when saying the English words. She thought such advice should come from a director, not a co-star. Boyer said she was kind, supportive  and believed he would be a great star. He got far from  royal treatment from the director, who often mispronounced his name! Don Ameche recalls Colbert's patience with John Barrymore in MIDNIGHT. Age and poor health had taken their toll, but his acting style in the film was superb. Cue cards with his dialogue were held up beyond camera range. "He'd read one speech over Claudette's left shoulder, then she'd say her lines, and he'd get the next speech over Claudette's right shoulder. It was always funny the ways he could find to stall in a scene while he was trying to find the cards with his next speech." Colbert was tactful, never wanting to upset people. Director Mitchell Leisen tells of how she reacted when her favorite costume designer, Irene Sharaff, made a suit for her in MIDNIGHT that she did not like. "She said, 'It's my fault. I just don't like it.' She calmly came with her own suit on, which had a beautiful jeweled pin on the shoulder. She wore it in the picture and didn't charge us anything." 

As for her sense about what would work best in a scene and how to achieve it, Mitchell Leisen  gave the following illustration. "Claudette speaks French magnificently, of course, since she is French and was born in France.  But whenever she was called upon to speak French in ARISE MY LOVE,  she spoke it with an American accent which I think is a hell of a clever characterization on her part." Melvyn Douglas recalled, "Another thing about Claudette, a rather endearing trait, she was tactful and courteously indirect when she wanted setup changes or shifts in nuance-interplay. She'd either hint it to the director or use some phrase like 'I've got an idea for a new twist on this - let's give it a whirl.' I've worked with actresses who turned every minor discussion of ends- and -means into a major argument. Claudette worked for the good of the whole and it showed in the result."Any downsides to working with her? Directors had to be careful never to photograph the right side of her face. She said a childhood injury made her nose look crooked from that angle. Directors saw nothing wrong with her nose from any angle, but honoring her request was a no-brainer.

As for  her feelings about men, Leisen said, "Considering how strongly sexed she was and what effect all those good-looking men had on her in on-screen clinches, I always felt she handled herself remarkably well - every inch the lady, with remarkable sense and control." And Colbert said, "They talk about mental hygiene, but there's emotional hygiene, too. Emotions  should work for one, not against one. I keep my emotions, including my romantic feelings, orderly." She was married twice. Her first was a secret marriage to actor Norman  Foster. Since they lived apart it was years before others realized the marriage existed. She helped him in his career as much as she could, but the fact that his success couldn't equal hers eventually ended the seven-year marriage. The fact that her mother didn't like him, didn't help. (Foster had a lasting marriage to Sally Blane, who was happy to ditch acting and become a housewife.) Her second marriage surprised her friends. It was to  the doctor who was treating her severe sinusitis. Dr. Joel Pressman was a pleasant-looking, charming, sensible man and their thirty-two year marriage was a happy one. Colbert said, "Joel was perhaps the most emotionally mature man I had ever met. I felt I could trust him, completely and permanently."

Claudette Colbert retained her youthful look as she aged. Her beauty routines were simple: washing face and body with a liquid soap made from soy beans, using a cream at night, using a foundation and powder as protection against the sun, and  for a clear, wrinkle-free complexion,  continuing something she'd learned in her younger days - tapping under her eyes from the bridge of her nose to the outer corners from ten to one hundred times a day. And at her home in Barbados she swam for thirty minutes twice a day. She was always well-dressed. "If i have any reputation as a dresser, it's for conservative clothes. I think it's smarter to avoid the high fashion. Unless there is a sweeping change in style, you can usuallly wear a dress for five years or more. And I often do."

From the 1950s on Colbert did mainly television and the stage work she had always preferred. When a British reporter asked her where she got her fantastic energy, she replied: "I just tell myself I'm sixty and that I have thirty years to go." And she did. About six weeks short of her ninety-third birthday she passed away. Fortunately, her films live on! About her work and her life she once said, "Some women think if you don't expect too much you won't be let down. I always expect miracles. Sure, I'm let down. But they're near miracles."

NOTE: My sincere thanks to my major source, CLAUDETTE COLBERT: An Illustrated Biography, by Lawrence J. Quirk.

2014-02-20
Sondra Luger

Story

                                                                 POVERTY

                                                 Possessing the jewels of the earth

                                  Holding within my grasp the sceptre of the universe

                                      All these would make me more the pauper

                                                 Were I beggared of thy love.

 

There ws nothing in Castellaneta, Italy to excite the writer of this poem, who was born there Rudolpho Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d' Antonguola in 1895. He turned into a good-looking young man, who was nicknamed "Mercury" because he hated school, where he was always getting into trouble, loved playacting, was reckless, impetuous and liked action. He couldn't get into the naval school in Venice because he couldn't pass the physical exam. He attended a technical school in Perugia, but found he didn't like engineering. He finally found a school he liked, the Agricultural Institute  of Liguria in the village of Neri, where he learned to ride, train horses and handle cattle. He graduated with a degree, but did nothing with it. In 1912 he went to Paris to enjoy a more upscale lifestyle. His father, Giovanni, who died when he was eleven, had been a veterinarian and former military officer from a poor family. He was a strict father. His mother, Gabriela, loved theater, French poetry, needlework, beautiful things, came from an aristocratic background and had formerly been a companion to a noblewoman. She was lenient with Rudolpho.  She funded a fresh start for him in New York City. He sent her encouraging letters, omitting his time sweeping streets and sleeping on park benches. Because he danced so well he got a job as a "taxi" dancer, dancing with unpartnered women, and then toured with female partners. To use his agricultural credentials, he decided on a career as a farmer in California, and did acting on stage and in film to get the funding to travel there and begin anew. As a foreigner he was generally given unsavory roles. However, when June Mathis saw him in THE EYES OF YOUTH (1919), she saw the Rudolph Valentino he was to become. June Mathis was a major scriptwriter, the first female executive for Metro/MGM, and  the highest paid executive in Hollywood. She had him cast as Julio in the film version of the Blasco Ibanez novel THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, and  then THE SHEIK (1921) made him the sex symbol for women. Costumed  as an Arab, a toreador, a gaucho, a French soldier and a Hindu prince, he enthralled women throughout the country.

There was no shortage of women in his personal life, but he wanted someone like his mother: "angelic, virginal, serene, fascinating, elegant, beautiful in form and gentle in character." He married actress Jean Acker after a short acquaintance because they were mutually supportive of each other's careers.  Had he known her longer, he would have discovered that she was a lesbian on the rebound from a failed affair. She realized marriage to Valentino was a mistake, locked him out on their wedding night and filed for divorce . His second marriage was his dream marriage. It was to Natacha Rambova (Winifred Shaughnessy from Salt Lake City!) . She was an alumnus of Diaghilev's Ballets Russe and a designer of exotic costumes. Her stepfather was Richard Hudnut, cosmetics milionaire. She designed Valentino's costumes. gave him emotional support, and managed his career. He wasn't good at handling money, but as it turned out, neither was she! He was proud of and adored her. Film studios did not feel the same way. Everything had to be authentic and lavish. At one point her projected expenses would have been triple the amount alloted to the entire production! Valentino was given two ultimatums, one from the studio and the other from his wife. He could have a contract that would reward him for his vast popularity and fund the couple's extremely expensive lifestyle if Natacha  absented herself from the set, OR he could refuse the contract and continue with his wife's total management of his career. If he chose the contract his wife would file for divorce. Her artistic demands suited her career, but not  that of a man portraying virile, macho characters. No studio would  hire Valentino if his wife was not barred from the set. A permanent pauper state loomed ahead for the high-living, passionate lovers. But Natacha Rambova would not budge. It wasn't enough for her to run her own career, she had to run her husband's too. She was in no rush to start the family that Valentino wanted. He chose the contract. Rambova went to Paris where she filed for divorce. She wrote him: "Rudy, darling, You were my first real love and you will be my last one. With my arms around you I give you my last kiss."

When Valentino went to New York City to promote his film THE SON OF THE SHEIK, he became ill, suffering from appendicitis and gastric ulcers. He underwent immediate surgery. He was not expected to die, but peritonitis set in and he was gone at the age of 31. In Paris a devastated Rambova did not leave her bedroom for three days. Valentino's last female companion was Polish actress Pola Negri, who had expected to marry him. Apparently she was the only one with this expectation. Valentino wanted a quiet home life, and he felt that Negri, to whom life was a major drama, didn't fill the bill. She fainted frequently during the funeral. As one newspaper headline recorded: "Pola Negri Fainted & Fainted & FAINTED!" 100,000 people, mainly women paid their respects to Valentino at Campbell's Funeral Parlour and St Malachi's Church in New York City, and another 80,000 at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Hollywood when his body arrived there. But there was no crypt for the body! June Mathis, the great friend who had discovered Valentino, offered her crypt to use until she needed it. The following year, although she was only 38 years old, she needed it! Her husband, Silvano Balboni offered  the crypt he had bought for himsef next to his wife's, later selling it to the Valentino family when he moved to Italy. Desperately searching for a Valentino replacement, studios tried to remake his brother Alberto, to no avail. Rudolph Valentino, the first of the screen lovers, was one of a kind. Not only was he likeable and handsome, but he approved of women's rights and independence, had a fine singing voice ( suitable for opera or musical theater), danced divinely,  wrote romantic poetry, and could knock out (and did!) anyone impugning his masculinity. (Those boxing lessons from champ Jack Dempsey came in handy.) American men detested Rudolph Valentino for the very reasons women adored him. Poems like the one below would only confirm them in their differing opinions.

                                                          YOU

                              You are the History of Love and its Justification.

                                           The Symbol of Devotion.

                                The Blessedness of Womanhood.

                                      The Incentive of Chivalry.

                                      The Reality of Ideals.

                                         The Verity of Joy.

                                         Idolatry's Defense.

                                         The Proof of Goodness.

                                        The Power of Gentleness.

                                        Beauty's Acknowledgement.

                                                Vanity's Excuser.

                                           The Promise of Truth.

                                               The Melody of Life.

                                           The Caress of Romance.

                                      The Sympathy of Understanding.

                                             My Heart's Home.

                                             The Proof of Faith.

                                              Sanctuary of my Soul.

                                                   My Belief in Heaven.

                                            Eternity of all Happiness.

                                                         My Prayers.

                                                                You.

P.S. In his will Valentino left Natacha Rambova $1. Her aunt, Teresa Werner,  shared in the remainder of his estate with his brother and sister. He had appealed to Werner to help him save his marriage, and she had done her best. Valentino  was very grateful. Natacha Rambova had been the love of his life.

 

NOTE: The above poems are from DAYDREAMS (1923), by Rudolph Valentino. He also wrote HOW TO STAY FIT, which first appeared as a series in 1923 in LIBERTY magazine, with a muscular, bare-chested Valentino in shorts on the cover.

 

 

 

 

2014-02-07
Sondra Luger

Story

I've selected Warren William and Marian Marsh because they starred in one of my favorite romantic films, BEAUTY & THE BOSS. More about the film later.

Warren William Krech was the son of a Minnesota publisher. He considered becoming a reporter, but instead attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts to become an actor.  This was an intelligent move for a shy, retiring man, whom Joan Blondell, who appeared with him in five films, said "was an old man even when he was a young man." If anyone had ever told him to "get a life," he could always say that he did - on Broadway in the 1920s and in films from 1931 on - as ruthless businessmen, lawyers and detectives, attractive to and attracted by lovely women. He married Helen Barbara Nelson, an actress seventeen years his senior, who flipped for the debonair Warren William at first meeting. Their courtship was frustrating to her, as he struggled to express his love, too shy to propose, though he finally got up enough courage to do so. Although his is not now a household name, he starred with actresses whose names are, such as Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert and Loretta Young. He was liked and respected even though he wasn't interested in socializing or theater parties. At the end of a day's film work he went home to the wife he adored and his hobbies, gardening and inventing; he held a number of patents. He was in three filmed detective series, as Philo Vance, The Lone Wolf and Perry Mason. I especially like his Perry Mason series. His Perry is an active, quick-thinking, debonair detective in fast-paced, exciting stories. 

Marian Marsh, born Violet Ethelred Krauth, was the youngest of four children born to a German chocolate manufacturer in Trinidad, whose business was ruined during W.W. I. Her father moved the family first to Boston, then to California, where Violet joined her sister in the movie business. She got some movement and voice training for film and became a "bit" player until the age of eighteen, when John Barrymore selected her to co-star with him in SVENGALI. This made her career. She worked for Pathe, Warner Brothers and Columbia, usually typecast as a sweet-faced character of warmth and sincerity faced with nasty male opposition. She was later criticized for working abroad, working for minor studios and appearing in "B" films, but her goal in life had never been to become and remain a popular movie star: "I loved acting, but I became a professional because we needed the money." She was believable in all her roles, whether she was portraying an ordinary or extraordinary character.  She married a stockbroker in 1938 at age twenty-five, had two children, and found her family life taking precedence over her career. When she married aviation pioneer Clifford Henderson, she moved to Palm Desert, California, a town he founded, and she became an environmentalist, forming the non-profit organization Desert Beautiful. 
Like Warren William, Marian Marsh was able to do and enjoyed doing things other than acting. He did so during his acting career, she after she had ended most of her film work.

Warren William and Marian Marsh star in BEAUTY AND THE BOSS, in which a destitute stenographer is determined to get a job in a bank so that she and her mother can put food on the table. She's hired because the Viennese bank president, Baron Josef von Ullrich, is looking for a "writing machine," whose looks won't distract him from his work, as did his former secretary, whom he fired and relegated to his evening activities. The efficient, desperately poor, plain-looking Susie Sacks is her replacement, but she blossoms into a bewitching beauty in the course of the film.

At one point in BEAUTY AND THE BOSS, when Susie, no longer starving, spends a night out in Paris with two escorts, she finds herself  giddy with wonder , excitement and joy. She hijacks a carriage, grabs the horse's reins, and rides wildly off, her two escorts vainly trying to catch up with her on foot. In the background the orchestra  repeats a dramatic, romantic tango heard earlier. To  students of 20th century music it will sound like "Kiss of Fire," which didn't exist in 1932, but it's "El Choclo," written by Argentine musician Angel Villoldo. It debuted in 1903 at El Americano, an upscale restaurant in Buenos Aires. The title was the nickname of a nightclub owner. It means "Ear of Corn" or "The Corn Cob," and the lyrics referred to the title. A later lyric concerned the tango. In the 1950s  new lyrics were created, and "El Choclo" became "Kiss of Fire." It was a huge success in 1952, rapidly climbing the Billboard charts and was a winner for the many singers who recorded it. The most popular recording was made  by Georgia Gibbs (It's on YouTube),  whose singing best reflected the passionate lyrics, which begin: "I touch your lips and all at once the sparks go flying/Those devil lips that know so well the art of lying/And though I see the danger still the flame grows higher/I know I must surrender to your kiss of fire." This is relatively tame. Wait until you hear the rest of the lyrics! Although "Kiss of Fire" remains a song of its time (too much heart-stopping passion?). "El Choclo" remains a popular Argentine tango.

Warren William, as the powerful, salacious Baron Von Ullrich, and Marian Marsh, as Susie Sacks, the endearing, determined secretary, do smashing jobs in their starring roles. The highlight of the fine supporting cast is the work of Charles Butterworth, who adds wonderful touches of levity as the Baron's chief clerk, Ludwig. At the airport after returning from a business trip with the Baron, a reporter asks him how he found American women. He replies, "I took a taxi." BEAUTY AND THE BOSS is a delightful film, with realism, romance and, of course, a happy ending.

2014-01-23
Sondra Luger

Story

Clara Bow was born in Brooklyn, New York into extreme poverty. Her father couldn't make a living and was often away from home.  Her mother, Sarah, locked Clara in a closet when she had male visitors who paid for her time and "favors." Sarah's parents were not grandparents she could count on for support. Her grandfather was an alcoholic and her grandmother went insane from the constant beatings her husband gave her. Sarah's two earlier children had died, one after three days and the other after two hours. Unhappy with her life, she hoped a third pregnancy would end both her life and the child's. It didn't. Both she and Clara Bow lived. As she grew Clara became strong and street smart, a necessity in her neighborhood. Boys respected and played with her, but girls avoided the very poorly dressed Clara. She had a little friend, Johnny, whom she protected. When he was caught up in an accidental fire the first name he shouted was hers. She came running, rolled him in a blanket, and put out the flames, but he died in her arms. He was five or six years old, she only eight or nine. When her mother, as the result of a headlong fall at the age of sixteen and her hard life, became unstable, Clara took care of her and her father. When her mother was sent away for treatment, her father raped her.

Clara's escape from her world was the movies. She'd go whenever she could scrape together some money, and then she'd go home and play all the parts. When at age sixteen she won a Brewster Publication nationwide acting contest, her mother said she'd go to hell and attempted to kill her with a butcher knife. The contest win didn't result in immediate success, so she dropped out of school and got an office job. She made a few dozen silent films and had top billing in eleven talkies. Adored by moviegoers she worked hard, and  when not working lived in the "fast lane." Because of her unconventional behavior and her honesty about her background other movie stars avoided her.  Her eating companions were usually stagehands and maids. Wild stories circulated about her; the most preposterous was that she slept with the entire USC football team, The Trojans. Clara Bow was a fantastic actress. She understood human nature, and her expressive face could communicate with viewers' hearts. Her performances were totally believable. When Clara appeared in a 1927 film based on Elinor Glyn's short story "IT,"her magnificent performance captivated the country. It's the Cinderella story of a poor salesgirl in a department store who's in love with her boss.

Early in 1928  the magazine PHOTOPLAY asked journalist Adela Rogers St Johns to interview Clara and write a 3-part profile of her. She wrote later, "Trying to locate her at any given time is a week's work, partly because she changes her mind with every new impulse and partly because she is always surrounded by thoroughly incompetent people whom she either happens to like or is sorry for....Before me rolled a mind entirely untrained, grappling in its own way with the problems of a sophisticated and civilized world.  There is hammered into her soul a fear of life, and that is why she desires to live fast and furiously, why she must seek forgetfulness in mad gaiety....There seems to be no pattern, no purpose to her life. She lives entirely in the present, not even for today, but just for the moment. And you go on loving her, feeling sorry for her, and praying that she won't get into any real trouble."

Clara Bow left acting to marry cowboy star Rex Bell and raIse two sons on a ranch in Nevada. Now that she wasn't occupying every minute with work or fun, she had time to think, and what she thought about too often was the past. She knew her parents hadn't wanted her, but she believed that once she was born they had loved her. It was vitally important for her to  believe this.  She was a wonderful mother who adored her two sons, and they adored her. But she had her father come to live with them. She believed that children should take care of their parents, so she would take care of him. She blocked out  the truth - that he was a horrible man who had been a sexually abusive father. One of her sons did not look like her father's side of the family. When the boy complained that her father was beating him, she got her father and her son boxing gloves and had them fight it out.  Of course her father was knocked to the floor immediately. He never hurt the boy again. "Strange" behavior like this eventually caused her husband to seek a separation and custody of the boys. She was sent periodically to a sanitarium for healing. Her  problem was her past. Doctors felt that if she could admit that her parents had never loved her she could move on to a normal life. At one point she came close, but she couldn't do it. She couldn't admit that parental love that every child is entitled to hadn't been hers. She didn't waste her time in the treatment facility.  She wanted to go incognito to movies and write reviews for publication, but she felt her English wasn't good enough, so she took a correspondence course in English and was proud of the "A" she got. She learned to paint there, too. Whenever she got together with her boys it was like old times. Children, her own and others, always loved her, and she understood and loved them.

She was sixty years old when one night, watching a movie featuring one of her former co-stars, she suffered a fatal heart attack. Doctors had been so preoccupied with  her "imaginary" illnesses, that they hadn't noticed that she had developed a heart condition. She was a kind, generous woman, who coped with a haunting, horrific childhood as best she could. When she was told of the death of Marilyn Monroe she said she wished she had known her. She thought she could have helped her. Clara Bow was an amazing woman.

NOTE: I am grateful to my research source, David Stenn's book, CLARA BOW: RUNNIN' WILD, Cooper Square Press, New York, 2000.

P. S.  IT is one of my favorite movies. Do see it, or see it again! If you have the least bit of romance in your soul you'll love it! I suggest the Milestone Collection DVD because of the delightful orchestral score by Carl Davis. Apparently Milestone Films isn't making this classic gem anymore, but you can buy it on Amazon. Unfortunately, it's expensive!

2013-12-19
Sondra Luger

Story

The 1920s was an exciting time. W.W.I was over and people looked forward optimistically. Social activities were booming. People by the droves were buying telephones, automobiles and radios. Movies, silent and then sound, captured attention nationwide. Daring feats were the rage: flagpole-sitting, dance-till-you-drop marathons and airplane flights, often by amateurs, to set records of all kinds to all places. 

The New York Times sported eight front-page columns with stories to suit every taste. Politics, of course, but more. From one issue in 1927 (the year of  DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM) here are half the front-page stories:

human interest - BOY HITCHES A RIDE ON TAIL OF AIRPLANE - HACKENSACK LAD, 17, GOES  35 MILES 1,000 FEET UP, AT 80 MILES AN HOUR........FAUCETT A HERMIT IN BRAZIL JUNGLE -RENOUNCED CIVILIZED WORLD, IT IS ASSERTED, AFTER FAILING IN QUEST FOR LOST CITY.......JERSEY TROOPERS RACE 100 MILES WITH SERUM FROM BRONX ZOO TO SAVE VICTIM OF SNAKEBITE..............................................................................

science - DR. VORONOFF PREDICTS A RACE OF SUPERMEN;SAYS BREEDING OF SUPER-ANIMALS SHOWS WAY

adventure - WORLD FLIERS DRIVEN BACK TO OMURA AGAIN BY STORM AFTER TAKE OFF FOR TOKIO, AIRMEN SWEPT OFF COURSE.............DOUBLE CRASH ENDS WILD AUTO CHASE.............................................................

The latest designs from fashion houses, like my fictitious Bernard Singer Couture, were important to American women. Ads waxed poetic about women's clothes, as black & white sketches were accompanied by persuasive words and enticing descriptions, along with suggestions for clothing wear.

From Wanamaker's: THE LITTLE CLOCHE THAT CREATED A SENSATION AT JEAN PATOU'S/A darling little hat of utmost simplicity...but the inimitable Patou has given it greater elegance...more femininity...than we have seen in hats for many a day...for Paris decrees that to be feminine and pretty is again the mode....;

The original Patou Model $55/Wanamaker's Reproduction $22.50/ made to individual order by one of our own modistes...and a Parisienne who has just returned from Paris.

From Lord & Taylor: INFORMAL FROCKS/of Gaily Figure Fabrics/$19.50/ New frocks of flowered georgette or georgette brocade. Graceful, becoming, simple in style, reasonable in price, so that several may be included in the Spring and Summer wardrobe [ OR.....USE 'FROCK' PATTERNS & MAKE YOUR OWN]

From Lord & Taylor:DANCE!  DINE! / IN PRINTED CHIFFON/Lightly, blithely as the lilt of violins, you may dance in a flowered chiffon. Dine gay and refreshing as tulips in Spring. Bouffant and diaphanous, ideal fabrics for afternoon and evening frocks, these printed chiffons await your selection. The pastel loveliness of old French gardens. In smart modern designs and amuslng plaids. In black and white And all the color harmonies and contrasts of the season. / 40 in wide/ $3.95 a yard.

From SAKS FIFTH AVENUE: WE  MODERNS/ THE COATS OF OUR SUITS GO TO THREE NEW LENGTHS/WE MIGHT ALSO SAY THEY HAVE THREE NEW PERSONALITIES...FOR THE SAME SUIT LUNCHES IN TOWN....GOES TO THE COUNTRY...TRAVELS ANYWHERE/The modern suit...perfected by the great couturiers...neither strictly sports nor strictly tailored...and as so much of its charm lies in its interesting fabric, we import the original material for our reproductions. Also note the new coat-lengths...Chanel's long coat(the success of the season)...Patou's seven-eighths coat...Chanel's sports suit with coat shorter than its jumper.

When the Roaring Twenties ended with the Depression, more sober and conservative behavior succeeded the exuberant, sometimes irresponsible behavior seen in former years. But the human spirit is resilient. Given half a chance it cannot be kept down, and the 1930s was the decade of movie musicals, of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, of hope.

Thank you for joining me these past months for a look at some of the famous people and places of the 1920s. My warmest wishes  for a joyous Christmas and a blessed new year!

                                                         Sondra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           _____________________________________________________________________________________                                                 _____________________________________________________________________________________                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------                                          

 

 

 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

daring feat were the rage: flagpole-sitting, dace,till-you-drop marathons, and airpane fllihts, often by amateurs, to set records of all kinds to all pacesl

2013-12-12
Sondra Luger

Story

Considered "one of the most exclusive suburban hotels in America," the grand 300-room Gramatan Hotel in the upscale village of Bronxville, New York was visited by many notable guests, including Greta Garbo, the Barrymores, Gloria Swanson, Theodore Dreiser and Eleanor Roosevelt.  The village itself had many notable residents, including the Kennedy family. It also had a thriving colony of prominent artists in the early Twentieth Century. Bronxville now has a significant  middle class, a major hospital, a school system respected  nationwide, and 1 1/2 - 2 colleges, depending on how you look at it. Concordia College is in Bronxville proper, but Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, with a Bronxville P.O., is considered Bronxvillian; it was founded by William Van Duzer Lawrence, the founder of Bronxville, to  honor his wife. And the Gramatan Hotel? It was demolished in 1972 and succeeded by a complex of townhouses. Recalling this, older residents still shake their heads in disbelief.

2013-12-05
Sondra Luger

Story

Ed Smalls, an experienced nightclub owner, opened Small's Paradise in the fall of 1925. The opening attracted 1,500 guests. Unlike the Cotton Club, which had white owners and a white-only clientele, Small's Paradise was an integrated club, but its patrons had to be able to afford the cost of an evening there. It was famous for first-class entertainment, which included top Harlem musicians, a marvelous floor show, and The Charlie Johnson Paradise Orchestra. Since most clubs closed at three or four o'clock, many of their patrons ended the morning at Small's, where the elaborate floor show, with more than two dozen dancers, didn't begin until six o'clock, where there were "breakfast dances" that could last until noon, and where there were dancing waiters, who could dance the Charleston, sometimes on roller skates, while they moved among the tables carrying their trays. Many of Harlem's best musicians met at Small's, after they had finished work at other clubs, for impromptu jam sessions. Small's sold the club in the 1960s, but the various owners kept it open until 1986, when this amazing nightclub closed, with the distinction of having had the longest run of any club in Harlem.

2013-11-27
Sondra Luger

Story

The Cotton Club was a black & white nightclub. It had a black orchestra and entertainers and a white-only clientele. It opened in Harlem in 1923 with extravagant floor shows and top-notch entertainment. The first orchestra was led by Fletcher Henderson. Duke Ellington took over in 1927. Some of the stars who appeared or got their first break at the club were Count Basie, Bessie Smith, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Ethel Waters, The Nicholas Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Lena Horn. Though the dances and sets often reflected jungle themes and Ellington had to devise jungle effects, playing at the club afforded him the opportunity to explore various musical types and techniques and develop his orchestra. When CBS began weekly radio  broadcasts from The Cotton Club, its black talent gained a national audience. Many of the songs for club revues were written by famous white songwriters, such as Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh and Harold Arlen. Despite the club's segregated atmosphere blacks and whites were seen as working together. Duke Ellington was finally able to persuade the club to loosen somewhat its segregation policy. The Cotton Club moved in 1936 to Broadway and 48th Street, finally closing in 1940, but a new club with the same name opened in Harlem to recapture the mood of its namesake.

2013-11-21
Sondra Luger

Story

"'I wish,' one of my models said heatedly one day, 'people would stop talking about glamour in connection with modeling. Glamour? I don't see any of it. I have to get up early in the morning, rush to a studio, make-up, and stand under  hot lights all day. I wear beautiful clothes but they don't belong to me. I stand and stand until I'm lame and dizzy. My arms nearly fall off and I'm ready to faint. Sometimes I do faint. And the photographer snaps me out of it, tells me to fix my make-up, and I start all over again.'

'Why don't you try something else?' I suggested.

'And give up the location jobs, and my independence, and the excitement, and the money, and the constant change?' she protested....

The other day I strolled through the reception room at my office. There happened to be a number of models sitting there that day, waiting for calls, discussing their work and their outside interests. Some of them were talking about their careers, some of them about their children.

'Why do you go on modeling?' I asked them.

 

The answer was the same in every case: 'Because it is always interesting.... Because it is always different.... Because I go to a studio today and Bar Harbor tomorrow.... Because I flew to Detroit last week and I'm going to Cuba on a cruise next week.'"

JOHN ROBERT POWERS, THE POWERS GIRLS, E.P. DUTTON & CO., INC., 1941, PP. 126-127.

2013-11-14
Sondra Luger

Story

"We all know the people of outstanding ability, of superior intelligence - hard-working, capable, and efficient - who are constantly losing their jobs or who are passed over when the time comes for advancement. They are apt to be bitter about it, to feel that it is unjust. No doubt, in some ways, it is unjust. But the fact remains that the person who makes himself agreeable is not only more pleasant to have around, he is more valuable to have around.... The girl who is sunk in gloom, depressed and moody over her personal problems, casts a gloom over everyone. She is also behaving with unforgivable egotism, by forcing her troubles on the attention of people who probably have difficulties enough of their own."

JOHN ROBERT POWERS, THE POWERS GIRLS,  E. P. DUTTON & CO., INC., 1941, pp. 151-153.

2013-11-06
Sondra Luger

Story

"The fashion show model must learn to dress rapidly, as she has very little time in which to make her changes. The average time for changing is the period in which 6 models can go out on the runway. However, [there could be] as short an interval as one minute in which to change."

JOHN ROBERT POWERS, THE POWERS GIRLS, E.P. DUTTON & CO., INC., 1941, p. 150.

2013-10-31
Sondra Luger

Story

"Any girl whose wits are about her can learn from every picture which is taken of her. If she studies them, she will see her shortcomings, she will find out how she can avoid the same difficulties another time. Her chin was too prominent when tilted at such an angle; she will keep that in mind the next time she poses. Her hair is too severe as she has arranged it; her hips would look slimmer if she turned slightly away from the camera instead of facing it squarely. The girl who fails to learn these salutary lessons from every picture she makes will never advance. You will advance in your profession only as long as you continue to learn and to improve. That is the rule of modeling as of every other profession. The moment you stand still, a host of more ambitious people will crowd past you."

JOHN ROBERT POWERS, THE POWERS GIRLS, E.P. DUTTON & CO., INC., 1941,  pp. 149-50.

2013-10-24
Sondra Luger

Story

"The model ... must always look her best to face the camera. That means she must have plenty of rest.... There is a legend around New York that you can tell when the clock strikes midnight because all the Powers girls leave the Stork Club. A succession of late nights without sufficient rest will leave marks of fatigue for the faithful and unerring eye of the camera to register. All the experienced models are quick to emphasize the fact that 8 hours' sleep is necessary.... The temptation to shave down the hours of sleep is a natural one, for the Powers girls are in constant demand socially. Elsa Maxwell remarked that she could give a party without debutantes  but she always made sure of including at least 6 Powers girls. Their mail is filled with invitations to parties and night clubs, with requests to take part in benefits and beauty contests [but] when the borrowings [from sleep] have been too regular, it demands an accounting."

JOHN ROBERT POWERS, THE POWERS GIRLS,  E.P. DUTTON & CO., INC., 1941, pp. 147-8.

2013-10-17
Sondra Luger

Story

"This is probably the most important rule of all.... The career of a model is generally limited to a few years. Why? Because people get tired of seeing the same faces. The day someone looks at your picture and says, 'Lovely, isn't she? I've seen her somewhere before' - you are on your way out. It is essential, then, to change your hair-do, to experiment with your make-up, to alter your expression - in short, to make yourself different in every picture.... Make yourself look 35 one day and 18 the next."

JOHN ROBERT POWERS, THE POWERS GIRLS,  E.P DUTTON & CO.,  INC., 1941, p. 140.

P.S.  No major film actress changed her hair style and hair color more often than Ginger Rogers to meet the director's requirements for her film characters, yet Claudette Colbert successfully retained the same style and color throughout her film career. In real life particular occasions may determine the looks of hair or clothing, or the comfort level of change for the men in our lives may determine it. Ultlmately, the looks that we feel comfortable with should  determine how we appear to others. Our bodies, our call. 

                                                                     Sondra

2013-10-10
Sondra Luger

Story

"It is as important to sit correctly as to stand and walk correctly. Don't sit on the end of your spine and your waistline. Sit with your weight on your buttocks and the line of your back straight. Try to keep your feet together, whether standing or sitting, as it makes the lines of the body more graceful. Most women drop into a chair like a bag of meal and haul themselves out of it like a bag of coal... but there is another point which should not be overlooked - grace in repose. The clearest indication of a well-poised person is the ability to sit quietly without unnecessary movement or fidgeting, with the body relaxed and at ease. People betray uneasiness, nervousness, and lack of self-confidence by unnecessary gestures and flutterings. Nervous habits and gestures are annoying to others and revealing in their possessors. They distract attention. One of the first lessons an actor learns is that movement attracts attention to itself and distracts from the speaker's words, expression, and emotion. The ability to remain quietly at rest is the hallmark of the lady."

JOHN ROBERT POWERS, THE POWERS GIRLS,  E.P.DUTTON & CO., INC., 1941, pp.73-74

2013-10-04
Sondra Luger

Story

"Having learned to stand, the next step is to learn to walk correctly. The first thing which practically every girl has to learn is to walk with the toes straight forward, not turned out, stepping on the toe first and then on the heel. Most women walk heel-toe, which is not only jerky and ungraceful, but anthropologically wrong.... Only the bear, the most ungainly and cumbersome of all animals, walks in the manner of the average woman. Don't sway the body as you walk, or waddle from side to side. Your arms should swing easily from the shoulder, a little behind the body. A constant lifting pull will give you a proper posture which, with practice, will become automatic. A long free stride is far more graceful than short, jerky steps."

THE POWERS GIRLS, by John Robert Powers. E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1941, p.72.

P.S. I walk "toe first" in heels, but "heel-toe" in flats. When in heel-toe mode, if my hips swing a bit and I don't walk quickly I think my walk looks graceful - and is safer. What works best for you?

2013-09-26
Sondra Luger

Story

"Look at the average girl as she stands talking to a friend, waiting for a traffic light, resting after a game of tennis. She has her weight on one foot, her hip thrust out of position, her feet wide apart, one shoulder out of alignment, her head stuck forward like a turtle. If she will get her hips and trunk into position her whole body will fall into line easily and naturally. Don't let the feet stray apart."

THE POWERS GIRLS, by John Robert Powers, E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1941, p. 72.

2013-09-19
Sondra Luger

Story

"Here's another important trick if you want to look your best  - and particularly if you want to continue to look young. Keep your chin up! Look at yourself in the mirror. Your chin has dropped down. Turn your neck. You will see that your neck has an accordian-pleated look which is ungraceful and aging, while you have a tendency to a double chin. Now lift your head and turn it. The throat maintains its smooth line, the chin does not sag. The whole carriage of your head is altered.... Keep on doing it until it becomes a habit, an involuntary and natural posture."

THE POWERS GIRLS, by John Robert Powers, E.P. Dutton & Co.,Inc., 1941, pp.71-72.

P.S. - When I read this I recalled a kissing scene in a favorite romantic movie. What smacks the viewer in the face is not the kiss, but the folds in the neck of the young actress! I wondered how often in everyday life we women turn our necks in unflattering positions that could become habits.                                                                                                                                     Sondra

2013-09-12
Sondra Luger

Story

"Good posture is the structure on which carriage, grace, and poise - both physical and mental - are based....Good health and poor posture rarely go hand in hand....Here is the first rule I give to the girls who come to my office: 'Lift your head out of your shoulders, your shoulders out of your waist, and your waist out of your hips.' That means stretch full-length all the time. Make yourself just as tall as you can. This constant stretching not only makes your body supple, but gives it a liquid flow when you move, instead of an awkward, jolting movement....Assume the correct posture for two or three minutes at a time, at home, or at work, or while walking down the street....Within a few weeks you will find that correct posture is second nature."

THE POWERS GIRLS, by John Robert Powers, E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1941, pp. 69-71.

2013-09-06
Sondra Luger

Story

It was the Roaring 20s, but not for John Robert Powers. He was an actor, broke and out of work in New York City. When he answered an ad for a male model, the photographer told him he needed seven more. Powers rounded up his equally broke actor friends to meet the need. When his wife suggested that there might be a larger unmet need for models,, he started his modeling agency, the first in New York City and twenty years later the largest in the world. Powers' fame rests on his creation of "The Powers Girls," women who were so admired they were treated like socialites. Who were these women? What made them so special?I'll let John Robert Powers explain:

"I'd like to make clear what I mean by a Powers girl. The whole secret lies in the fact that we are not developing a type. We are developing, or rather helping each girl to develop her own individuality, her own personality. Sixty per cent of modeling is personality and intelligence....It is true of almost any occupation or profession today. Personality, even more than ability, is said to play a preponderant part in securing jobs and in advancement on the job, just as it vitally affects our social relationships....Each one of  [the girls] learns to develop her own personality, not to model herself on someone else. The girl who has individual charm and attracts others is the natural girl, the one who looks like herself. The lines of her face have not been distorted by freak make-up, her mannerisms are not borrowed from another girl. They are her own, controlled, graceful and assured....She must combine simplicity, sense, and sincerity to be useful to the advertising man. It is the natural girl, possessing unaffected charm, poise, and graciousness of manner, the healthy modern girl, who is representative of the American woman today. She is the type who has thrown into the discard the flamboyant model of the past; she is not a mysterious creature of glamour. Instead, she might be the girl next door."

 

THE POWERS GIRLS, by John Robert Powers, E.P.Dutton & Co., Inc., 1941, pp. 61-63

2013-08-29
Sondra Luger

Story

Patou followed Chanel's lead when in 1925 he asked Henri Almeas to create a perfume for him, a trio in fact: AMOUR, AMOUR (Love, Love) was for blondes, QUE SAIS-JE? (What Do You Think?) was for brunettes and ADIEU SAGESSE (Goodbye Wisdom - throwing caution to the winds?) was for redheads. In 1927 Patou unveiled HUiLE DE CHALDEE, the first suntan oil, and in 1928 LE SIEN, the first unisex sports fragrance. In 1930 he had Almeas create a trio of cocktail-themed perfumes: COCKTAIL DRY, COCKTAIL BITTER,  and COCKTAIL BITTERSWEET. Because the Depression adversely affected his business, Patou asked Almeas to create a perfume that would uplift people and dispel some of the gloom. Almeas created JOY, primarily a combination of 10,000 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen roses. It was so costly to make that he thought he would lose his job. He didn't, and JOY is with us still, the second oldest existing perfume in the world, and still the most expensive.

2013-08-22
Sondra Luger

Story

Until CHANEL NO.5, perfumes for respectable women contained only a single scent presented in an elaborate bottle. Coco Chanel wanted her first perfume to be a more modern, flapper-appropriate complex scent presented in a simple bottle. The perfumer she chose, Russian-French chemist Ernest Baux, presented her with five sample vials. She chose the fifth. It contained a bouquet of eighty scents which she found appealing. Five was also her favorite number. A gypsy had once told her it would be fortunate for her. She presented her dress collections on May 5th, the fifth day of the fifth month, and she considered her perfume choice a lucky omen. CHANEL NO.5 was released in 1921 to a select one hundred of her clients. A wide distribution of the fragrance in 1924 began a popularity that has not abated. Marilyn Monroe stated that her bedtime attire consisted only of "five drops of CHANEL NO.5," which remains the most popular perfume in the world.

2013-08-16
Sondra Luger

Story

Jean Patou was a jet set type who enjoyed women and fast cars. Born into a wealthy French family in the fur and tanning business, his first two designing efforts failed, but after returning from service in W.W. I his success began. Like Chanel he designed casual, elegant day and evening clothes for the liberated woman. The 1920s woman was an active woman, who no longer passively watched sports, but participated in them. Freed from the clothing and behavioral restraints of the past, women were now playing golf, tennis and other sports. Those who weren't wanted to dress as if they were! In 1925 Patou opened "Le Coins de Sports," which had a series of rooms devoted to fully accessorized clothing ensembles for individual sports, such as aviation, riding, fishing, tennis, golf and skiing. Patou was constantly looking for designs and materials that would enhance the player's pleasure.  He created exclusive colors through thread-dying methods that other designers couldn't duplicate, and developed a swimsuit fabric that resisted shrinkage and fading. He  popularized the cardigan and invented both the tennis skirt and knit bathing suit. He dressed six-time Wimbledon tennis champion Suzanne Lenglen both on and off the court. Gone was the corset, petticoat, long skirt and man-tailored blouse in tennis, and "in" was a white calf-length jumper, colorful bandeau and white rolled down hose. If the weather was chilly, a woman could slip into a colorful Patou cardigan. Helen Wills, also a Wimbledon champion, was another client, and Patou provided a complete wardrobe for aviatrix Ruth Elder. 

Sportswear influenced daywear, as Patou knew it would. The modesty afforded by sleeves was no longer a necessity, so women could show their arms. As skirts grew shorter, they could show their legs, too. Sportswear became a daytime rage. Since the outfits consisted of separates, they allowed for more versatility as to when and with what they could be worn, though the pieces were expected to  be bought together. Patou's Cubist-inspired sweaters were modern, daring, bright and very popular, and Patou was the first to put his monogram on them. It was decades before other designers did the same.

2013-08-09
Sondra Luger

Story

"It was described as  'little' because it was discreet....Gabrielle would say that women had previously thought 'of every color, except the absence of color.' And though declaring that 'nothing is more difficult to make than a little black dress' and that the tricks of the exotic are much easier, she was the first in her day to recognize that black and white have what she described as an 'absolute beauty....dress women in white or black at a ball: they are the only ones you see.'"

from COCO CHANEL: AN INTIMATE LIFE, by Lisa Chaney, p. 234. (Viking Penguin, 2011)

2013-08-01
Sondra Luger

Story

Josephine Baker was born Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri on June 3, 1906. Cleaning houses, babysitting for the rich and waitressing were her early jobs. At age thirteen she was performing comic dance routines with The Jones Family Band and The Dixie Steppers. When the Steppers became the chorus line for SHUFFLE ALONG, the first all-black Broadway musical, she wanted to be with them, but she was told that she was too skinny and too dark-skinned. Instead she worked as a dresser for the show. She learned all the dance routines and bided her time. When a dancer left the show, she was the obvious replacement. She was nineteen when she went to Paris with La Revue Negre. She danced Danse Sauvage wearing only a feather skirt, and the audience went wild, beginning her huge career success abroad. 

Josephine Baker was married and divorced four times, twice to Americans and twice to Frenchmen. Her first two were teenage marriages. She kept the last name of her second husband, Willie Baker. Her huge celebrity in Europe did not transfer to the social environment in the  U.S. in 1936, when she appeared in The Ziegfield Follies, but when she appeared in Carnegie Hall in 1973 she was awarded a standing ovation. Times had changed!  Whenever she returned to the U.S. she made her voice heard against racism. She adopted twelve children, "The Rainbow Tribe," she called them, and proved that children of different races and religions could live together in harmony. After Martin Luther King's death,  Coretta Scott King hoped she would become the leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, but she felt that her children needed her.

She helped France during W.W. II in several capacities, including doing undercover work for the French Resistance. The French government later awarded her the Croix de Guerre, Legion of Honneur and the Rosette of the Resistance for her work. 

In addition to the live performances that made her a star, Josephine  Baker appeared in four films: SIREN OF THE TROPICS (1927),   ZOU ZOU(1934),  Princess TAM TAM(1935),  and THE FRENCH WAY(1945).  In 1975, with Princess Grace and many other celebrities in attendance, she summed up her 50-year career at the Babino Theater in Paris. Four days later she was dead, felled by a cerebral hemorrhage as she lay in bed surrounded by glowing newspaper reviews of her final performance. Twenty thousand people crowded the streets of Paris to watch the funeral procession to the Church of the Madeleine.  Josephine Baker received a 21-gun salute, becoming the first American woman to be buried in France with military honors. She is buried in the Cimetiere Monaco in Monaco.

2013-07-25
Sondra Luger

Story

Lilly Dache began designing hats at age six. In 1924, at age eighteen, she came to the United States from France. She didn't have much money and she couldn't speak English, but she was able to stay with relatives in New Jersey. She sold hats at Macy's and later at a small millinery shop. Ten years later she had her own building on 56th Street with 130 employees and was the most famous hat designer in America. She had hats to suit every head, every occasion, every whim: the cloche, the turban, hats woven of kitchen twine, glass and lucite, decorative bonnets and the swagger hat (a Marlene Dietrich favorite). "I  made everything with love, affection and excitement," she said. She enjoyed custom-fitting her hats to her clients, and compensating for facial features the wearer considered faulty. A long nose, for example, looked shorter in a brimmed hat. During the Depression women chose to spend their fashion dollars on hats, rather than on more costly dresses, and during W.W. II, when fabric availability was limited, women spruced up older clothes with decorative hats. Celebrities flocked to Lilly Dache, and she answered Hollywood's call. She supplied the hats for clothing designer Travis Banton's fabulous film costumes, and the Dache touch topped many of Carmen Miranda's turbans.

Dache  knew the age of hats would not last forever, so she developed snoods with flowers, veils and bows. She expanded into dresses, lingerie, jewelry, gloves, hosiery and cosmetics.  The quality of her personnel matched the quality of her hats. In the 1950s she hired as an assistant Halston Frowick, later a famous dress designer known only by his first name.  She hired Kenneth Battell to run her hair salon. Coiffures by Kenneth became more prized than hats! 

When Dache's French-born husband, who was an executive at fragrance and cosmetics giant Coty, Inc. retired in 1968, so did she, leaving the business to daughter Suzanne. Actress Loretta Young bought her last thirty hats. The couple's working lives had been happily compatible, and so were their retirement years. American citizens, they split each year between Florida and France. Lilly Dache had thoroughly enjoyed her career making hats, but when she retired she chose to wear wigs!

* TALKING THROUGH MY HATS was Lilly Dache's autobiography. (Coward-McCann, New York, 1946) 

2013-07-19
Sondra Luger

Story

Ida Rosenthal was a dressmaker who opened a custom dress shop with a friend, Enid Bisset, in 1921. Her clothes didn't look right on the bandeaux-wrapped chests of her customers, who followed the current flat-look bosom style. Buxom herself, Mrs. Rosenthal didn't think the flat-chested look was natural. She asked her husband, who had taken up sculpting, to create an undergarment that would separate and support the breasts, and she gave these to her customers. In 1922 the name Maiden Form was registered. Word of this remarkable garment spread quickly, and women in droves wanted to buy it. In 1925 Ida Rosenthal discontinued dressmaking. Instead, she and her husband opened a brassiere plant in Bayonne, New Jersey and concentrated on sales of their popular product. In 1928, although the flat-chested look was still around, 500,000 Maiden Form brassieres were sold. In 1949 Mrs. Rosenthal approved the I DREAMED ... IN MY MAIDENFORM BRA  ads that ran for twenty years. The dreams ranged from the extraordinary to the ordinary, and were in color or black & white, depending on the suitability to the subject. Women were pictured doing either amazing, masculine, empowering things or wifely, motherly things.  The ads reflected the changing status and social image of women. In each ad the only article of clothing visible above the model's waist was the bra. Here are some examples:

I DREAMED     I played Cleopatra

                      I was a knockout (She's in a boxing ring)

                      I stopped them in their tracks ( She's in front of a locomotive)

                      I took the bull by the horns (She does that)

                      I was WANTED (She's an outlaw cowgirl)

                      I went to blazes (wearing red shorts, red helmet on a fire truck)

                      I went to work

                      I went shopping

                      I went to the theater

                      I opened The World Series           IN MY MAIDENFORM BRA

When Maidenform expanded its line to include  other undergarments, a new campaign began:

    THE  MAIDENFORM WOMAN, YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE SHE'LL TURN UP

The garments were often displayed under a fur coat. But it all started with Ida Rosenthal's brassiere.

2013-07-11
Sondra Luger

Story

Ruth Elder was born an Alabama girl, but was a Florida resident living with her second husband Lyle Womack 

when she decided to  be the first woman to fly the Atlantic. It was five months since Lindbergh's successful

flight, and this twenty-three-year-old who had been a stenographer, dental assistant and budding actress had

taken enough flying lessons to allow her to pilot a plane. She and pilot/flight instructor George Haldeman set

off across the Atlantic in a Stinson Detroiter plane that Ruth had named the AMERICAN GIRL. She was at the

controls for nine of the estimated twenty-eight to thirty-six hours they were in the air. An oil leak forced the

pair to ditch the plane in the Atlantic after 2,600 miles of nonstop flying, just 300 miles short of their goal -

Paris. They floated in their inflatable rubber suits until they were rescued by a passing ship. They were cheered

in headlines around the world, but the cheering was mainly for the American girl who had piloted  the

AMERICAN GIRL.  In New York City the heroes - the success or not of their venture wasn't the point- were

given a ticker-tape parade, and Mayor Jimmy Walker was effusive in congratulating the pair, most notably

praising again and again the charm and beauty of Miss Elder. Her flight had a beneficial effect on her silent

film career.  She appeared in THE WINGED HORSEMAN,  with Hollywood cowboy Hoot Gibson, and was the

female lead in MORAN OF THE MARINES, starring Richard Dix. In the film was a small part played by another

budding actress, Jean Harlow.

In 1929 Ruth Elder was one of twenty women to fly in the first Women's Air Derby, a nine-day race. She

came in a respectable 5th. Amelia Earhart came in 3rd. Louise Thaden was the winner. To encourage women

flyers, participants in the race formed a group called The Ninety-Nines, because they were able to get 99 of

the 117 licensed women flyers to join. Ruth Elder remained a member all her life.

After her short movie career, Elder did some modeling, tried some writing, and later entered the advertising

business. It was when her agency failed that Miss Elder began a series of marriages. Six marriages, six         

divorces. But she was too active a woman to be idle. At age 50 she was secretary to an aircraft company

executive in California. Flying was always on her mind.  After she divorced her sixth husband, cameraman

Ralph King, she regretted it, and called to ask him if he would remarry her. He was happy to have her back.

She was, he said, "a beautiful person, a real woman." Their marriage lasted twenty-one years. She died at

age 73 in 1977. When he died a few years later, as per her request, his ashes were mingled with hers and

scattered over the ocean from an airplane.

2013-07-04
Sondra Luger

Lyrics

A'Lelia Walker inherited her fortune from her mother, Madam C.J. Walker, who was 

born Sarah Breedlove, the daughter of former slaves, in 1867. By the time Sarah

was 20, both her parents had died, and she had been married and widowed. After

years of assorted jobs, including many as a washerwoman,  she developed a scalp

condition that she was determined to cure. The result was a hair care formula

that benefited vast numbers of black women. This product was the beginning of

a cosmetics empire, The Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company (Charles J.

Walker was her third husband). Her customers, predominantly, but not exclusively

black, made her the first female millionaire in the country. She was respected for

being a brilliant businesswoman, as well as for her kindness, generosity, support

for the rights of women in general and black women in particular, and her 

activities in combatting racism. In addition to her 3,000 factory employees, she

had 20,000 agents promoting her products in the U.S. and abroad. She had a

residence in Harlem, as well as a magnificent estate in Irvington-on-Hudson in

New York. In 1998 the U.S. Postal Service recognized her achievements by

issuing the Madam C.J. Walker Commemorative stamp as part of the Black

Heritage Series. Upon Madam Walker's death in 1919, her daughter A'Lelia

assumed the helm of the company. A'Lelia was not the businesswoman her

mother was, but she tried. She developed a reputation as a patron of the  arts

in New York City, and her parties were major social events.

Sondra Luger
0000-00-00
from THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, by Oscar Wilde
Sondra Luger
0000-00-00
2014-02-07
Sondra Luger

Story

I've selected Warren William and Marian Marsh because they starred in one of my favorite romantic films, BEAUTY & THE BOSS. More about the film later.

Warren William Krech was the son of a Minnesota publisher. He considered becoming a reporter, but instead attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts to become an actor.  This was an intelligent move for a shy, retiring man, whom Joan Blondell, who appeared with him in five films, said "was an old man even when he was a young man." If anyone had ever told him to "get a life," he could always say that he did - on Broadway in the 1920s and in films from 1931 on - as ruthless businessmen, lawyers and detectives, attractive to and attracted by lovely women. He married Helen Barbara Nelson, an actress seventeen years his senior, who flipped for the debonair Warren William at first meeting. Their courtship was frustrating to her, as he struggled to express his love, too shy to propose, though he finally got up enough courage to do so. Although his is not now a household name, he starred with actresses whose names are, such as Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert and Loretta Young. He was liked and respected even though he wasn't interested in socializing or theater parties. At the end of a day's film work he went home to the wife he adored and his hobbies, gardening and inventing; he held a number of patents. He was in three filmed detective series, as Philo Vance, The Lone Wolf and Perry Mason. I especially like his Perry Mason series. His Perry is an active, quick-thinking, debonair detective in fast-paced, exciting stories. 

Marian Marsh, born Violet Ethelred Krauth, was the youngest of four children born to a German chocolate manufacturer in Trinidad, whose business was ruined during W.W. I. Her father moved the family first to Boston, then to California, where Violet joined her sister in the movie business. She got some movement and voice training for film and became a "bit" player until the age of eighteen, when John Barrymore selected her to co-star with him in SVENGALI. This made her career. She worked for Pathe, Warner Brothers and Columbia, usually typecast as a sweet-faced character of warmth and sincerity faced with nasty male opposition. She was later criticized for working abroad, working for minor studios and appearing in "B" films, but her goal in life had never been to become and remain a popular movie star: "I loved acting, but I became a professional because we needed the money." She was believable in all her roles, whether she was portraying an ordinary or extraordinary character.  She married a stockbroker in 1938 at age twenty-five, had two children, and found her family life taking precedence over her career. When she married aviation pioneer Clifford Henderson, she moved to Palm Desert, California, a town he founded, and she became an environmentalist, forming the non-profit organization Desert Beautiful. 
Like Warren William, Marian Marsh was able to do and enjoyed doing things other than acting. He did so during his acting career, she after she had ended most of her film work.

Warren William and Marian Marsh star in BEAUTY AND THE BOSS, in which a destitute stenographer is determined to get a job in a bank so that she and her mother can put food on the table. She's hired because the Viennese bank president, Baron Josef von Ullrich, is looking for a "writing machine," whose looks won't distract him from his work, as did his former secretary, whom he fired and relegated to his evening activities. The efficient, desperately poor, plain-looking Susie Sacks is her replacement, but she blossoms into a bewitching beauty in the course of the film.

At one point in BEAUTY AND THE BOSS, when Susie, no longer starving, spends a night out in Paris with two escorts, she finds herself  giddy with wonder , excitement and joy. She hijacks a carriage, grabs the horse's reins, and rides wildly off, her two escorts vainly trying to catch up with her on foot. In the background the orchestra  repeats a dramatic, romantic tango heard earlier. To students of 20th century music it will sound like "Kiss of 
Fire," which didn't exist in 1932, but it's "El Choclo," written by Argentine musician Angel Villoldo. It debuted in 1903 at El Americano, an upscale restaurant in Buenos Aires. The title was the nickname of a nightclub owner. It means "Ear of Corn" or "The Corn Cob," and the lyrics referred to the title. A later lyric concerned the tango. In the 1950s  new lyrics were created, and "El Choclo" became "Kiss of Fire." It was a huge success in 1952, rapidly climbing the Billboard charts and was a winner for the many singers who recorded it. The most popular recording was made  by Georgia Gibbs (It's on YouTube),  whose singing best reflected the passionate lyrics, which begin: "I touch your lips and all at once the sparks go flying/Those devil lips that know so well the art of lying/And though I see the danger still the flame grows higher/I know I must surrender to your kiss of fire." This is relatively tame. Wait until you hear the rest of the lyrics! Although "Kiss of Fire" remains a song of its time (too much heart-stopping passion?). "El Choclo" remains a popular Argentine tango.

Warren William, as the powerful, salacious Baron Von Ullrich, and Marian Marsh, as Susie Sacks, the endearing, determined secretary, do smashing jobs in their starring roles. The highlight of the fine supporting cast is the work of Charles Butterworth, who adds wonderful touches of levity as the Baron's chief clerk, Ludwig. At the airport after returning from a business trip with the Baron, a reporter asks him how he found American women. He replies, "I took a taxi." BEAUTY AND THE BOSS is a delightful film, with realism, romance and, of course, a happy ending.

2014-09-17
Sondra Luger

Story

The late, great Margaret Rutherford won many awards for acting on stage and screen, including an Order of the British Empire in 1961 and Dame of the British Empire in 1967. She was born in London in 1892. Just before her birth her father, William Benn Nicholson, murdered her grandfather. Her mother, Florence, died when she was three years old, and she was brought up by her aunt Bessie Nicholson in Wimbledon. In school she developed an interest in theater, and her aunt paid for private acting lessons. Her initial career  represented her interests in speech and music, and she taught elocution and piano. When her aunt died, a small inheritance allowed her to become a student at London's Old Vic, where she began her acting career in 1925, at the age of thirty-three. Eight years later she made her first theater appearance at London's West End, and  three years after that she made her screen debut as Miss Butterfly in DUSTY ERMINE. Critics first took notice of her in 1939 for her performance in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, which she filmed in 1952, and in 1941 for BLITHE SPIRIT, which she filmed in 1945. Noel Coward had envisioned her as the psychic Madame Arcati, and fashioned the role especially for her.  Of her forty films  this is one of the roles for which she is best remembered. The other encompasses all her performances as Jane Marple, Agatha Christie's octogenarian detective in the Miss Marple films. Many have peformed that role on stage, television and film, some looking and acting very much like Christie's original sleuth. As one critic noted of Rutherford, "She is hopelessly miscast, but who cares?" She was fabulous! She made sure that her spouse,  actor Stringer Davis, whom she married at the age of fifty-three, had a role as her sidekick in all these films. Agatha Christie was as in awe of Rutherford's performances as the rest of the world, and she dedicated her 1963 novel, THE MIRROR CRACKED FROM SIDE TO SIDE to Margaret Rutherford. 

Margaret Rutherford was subdued in behavior and dress. One time when she and her husband flew to Hollywood to make a film, someone at the studio was sent to the airport to pick them up. He returned to he studio without them, insisting they had not arrived. The studio insisted that they had. He returned to find two people unfashionably dressed and surrounded by ratty suitcases waiting for him.  He had been looking for a glamorous movie star and her mate. In the 1963 superstar film THE VIPs, Rutherford had a problem with two of her co-stars. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton admired her enormously and sought her approval for their performances at the end of each days's filming. Taylor was sure her performance had been better than Burton's and Burton was sure his performance had been better than Taylor's. What did Margaret Rutherford think? Miss Rutherford's diplomacy was taxed to the utmost! At the Academy Awards the final decision was rendered. One of them did win an Oscar for best performance in the film. It was Margaret Rutherford! 

 

2014-02-07
Sondra Luger

Story

I've selected Warren William and Marian Marsh because they starred in one of my favorite romantic films, BEAUTY & THE BOSS. More about the film later.

Warren William Krech was the son of a Minnesota publisher. He considered becoming a reporter, but instead attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts to become an actor.  This was an intelligent move for a shy, retiring man, whom Joan Blondell, who appeared with him in five films, said "was an old man even when he was a young man." If anyone had ever told him to "get a life," he could always say that he did - on Broadway in the 1920s and in films from 1931 on - as ruthless businessmen, lawyers and detectives, attractive to and attracted by lovely women. He married Helen Barbara Nelson, an actress seventeen years his senior, who flipped for the debonair Warren William at first meeting. Their courtship was frustrating to her, as he struggled to express his love, too shy to propose, though he finally got up enough courage to do so. Although his is not now a household name, he starred with actresses whose names are, such as Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert and Loretta Young. He was liked and respected even though he wasn't interested in socializing or theater parties. At the end of a day's film work he went home to the wife he adored and his hobbies, gardening and inventing; he held a number of patents. He was in three filmed detective series, as Philo Vance, The Lone Wolf and Perry Mason. I especially like his Perry Mason series. His Perry is an active, quick-thinking, debonair detective in fast-paced, exciting stories. 

Marian Marsh, born Violet Ethelred Krauth, was the youngest of four children born to a German chocolate manufacturer in Trinidad, whose business was ruined during W.W. I. Her father moved the family first to Boston, then to California, where Violet joined her sister in the movie business. She got some movement and voice training for film and became a "bit" player until the age of eighteen, when John Barrymore selected her to co-star with him in SVENGALI. This made her career. She worked for Pathe, Warner Brothers and Columbia, usually typecast as a sweet-faced character of warmth and sincerity faced with nasty male opposition. She was later criticized for working abroad, working for minor studios and appearing in "B" films, but her goal in life had never been to become and remain a popular movie star: "I loved acting, but I became a professional because we needed the money." She was believable in all her roles, whether she was portraying an ordinary or extraordinary character.  She married a stockbroker in 1938 at age twenty-five, had two children, and found her family life taking precedence over her career. When she married aviation pioneer Clifford Henderson, she moved to Palm Desert, California, a town he founded, and she became an environmentalist, forming the non-profit organization Desert Beautiful. 
Like Warren William Marian Marsh was able to do and enjoyed doing things other than acting. He did so during his acting career, she after she had ended most of her film work.

Warren William and Marian Marsh star in BEAUTY AND THE BOSS, in which a destitute stenographer is determined to get a job in a bank so that she and her mother can put food on the table. She's hired because the Viennese bank president, Baron Josef von Ullrich, is looking for a "writing machine," whose looks won't distract him from his work, as did his former secretary, whom he fired and relegated to his evening activities. The efficient, desperately poor, plain-looking Susie Sacks is her replacement, but she blossoms into a bewitching beauty in the course of the film.

At one point in BEAUTY AND THE BOSS, when Susie, no longer starving, spends a night out in Paris with two escorts, she finds herself  giddy with wonder , excitement and joy. She hijacks a carriage, grabs the horse's reins, and rides wildly off, her two escorts vainly trying to catch up with her on foot. In the background the orchestra  repeats a dramatic, romantic tango heard earlier. To students of 20th century music it will sound like "Kiss of 
Fire," which didn't exist in 1932, but it's "El Choclo," written by Argentine musician Angel Villoldo. It debuted in 1903 at El Americano, an upscale restaurant in Buenos Aires. The title was the nickname of a nightclub owner. It means "Ear of Corn" or "The Corn Cob," and the lyrics referred to the title. A later lyric concerned the tango. In the 1950s  new lyrics were created, and "El Choclo" became "Kiss of Fire." It was a huge success in 1952, rapidly climbing the Billboard charts and was a winner for the many singers who recorded it. The most popular recording was made  by Georgia Gibbs (It's on YouTube),  whose singing best reflected the passionate lyrics, which begin: "I touch your lips and all at once the sparks go flying/Those devil lips that know so well the art of lying/And though I see the danger still the flame grows higher/I know I must surrender to your kiss of fire." This is relatively tame. Wait until you hear the rest of the lyrics! Although "Kiss of Fire" remains a song of its time (too much heart-stopping passion?). "El Choclo" remains a popular Argentine tango.

Warren William, as the powerful, salacious Baron Von Ullrich, and Marian Marsh, as Susie Sacks, the endearing, determined secretary, do smashing jobs in their starring roles. The highlight of the fine supporting cast is the work of Charles Butterworth, who adds wonderful touches of levity as the Baron's chief clerk, Ludwig. At the airport after returning from a business trip with the Baron, a reporter asks him how he found American women. He replies, "I took a taxi." BEAUTY AND THE BOSS is a delightful film, with realism, romance and, of course, a happy ending.

2014-03-07
Sondra Luger

Story

The cultured voice, the knowing smile, the wit that bubbled so naturally, always so right for the part.  A Harvard graduate? A trail-blazing female business executive? No. A graduate of Washington Irving High School in  New York City, with an interest in art and a plan for a career in fashion design. She worked in a dress shop to pay for tuition at the Art Students League, but at age eighteen,she was offered a three-line part in a new play, THE WILD WESTCOTTS.  Her only previous on-stage experience had been at the Provincetown Playhouse in THE WIDOW's VEIL, a play written by her high school speech teacher, and before that a hasty injection into a school play because no one else could speak French.  Her three-line performance changed her work aspiration and began her acting career. Born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin in 1903 iln Saint-Mande, France, her parents moved to the United States when she was three.  Her early efforts on Broadway were to avoid being cast as a French maid. Her Broadway appearances led to a Paramount contract. She loved the stage and early on made films in the daytime and appeared in plays at night.  She made her silent film debut in 1927 in FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE, but her voice was meant to be heard, and sound films were just around the corner. Her first was a drama,  A HOLE IN THE WALL (1929). Two of her major early films were Cecil B. DeMille's SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932) and CLEOPATRA (1934). She was outstanding in dramas such as TOMORROW IS FOREVER, PRIVATE WORLD, and THREE CAME HOME. Her most popular films, however, were a series of screwball comedies in the 1930s and 1940s. No one could elevate a screwball comedy like Claudette Colbert! It's impossible not to adore her performances in such films as THE PALM BEACH STORY, NO TIME FOR LOVE  and TONIGHT.  She thought that IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT was "the worst picture in the world," and although nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in it, she thought it so unlikely that she would win, she was about to leave for New York when she received a call telling her to rush right over to the ceremony to accept her Best Actress Oscar. The film also won for Best Picture of the year. 

Her co-stars had the highest regard for Claudette Colbert.  The reason an occasional one did not others attributed to jealousy. Character actress Katherine Alexander said, "Claudette had a wonderful way with the supporting players She had great concentration and always knew her lines and was the first on the set, and she wouldn't tolerate a lack of professionalism in anyone....but in her restrained, ladylike way, she was very democratic, very relaxed, very giving with her co-players. I think most people I knew who played with her gave more than their usual - she set a standard, a high one, but she did it by indirection, by osmosis.".Karl Malden said, "the younger players...sense instinctively that she isn't all wrapped up in herself, and that she is on their side, and rooting for them all the way." In one of his early films, PRIVATE WORLDS,  Charles Boyer had a problem being convincing. Colbert suggested to director Gregory LaCava that he urge Boyer to think in English, not French, when saying the English words. She thought such advice should come from a director, not a co-star. Boyer said she was kind, supportive  and believed he would be a great star. He got far from the royal treatment from the director, who often mispronounced his name! Don Ameche recalls Colbert's patience with John Barrymore in MIDNIGHT. Age and poor health had taken their toll on his body, but his acting style in the film was superb. Cue cards with his dialogue were held up beyond camera range. "He'd read one speech over Claudette's left shoulder, then she'd say her lines, and he'd get the next speech over Claudette's right shoulder. It was always funny the ways he could find to stall in a scene while he was trying to find the cards with his next speech." Colbert was tactful, never wanting to upset people. Director Mitchell Leisen tells of how she reacted when her favorite costume designer, Irene Sharaff, made a suit for her in MIDNIGHT that she did not like. "She said, 'It's my fault. I just don't like it.' She calmly came with her own suit on, which had a beautiful jeweled pin on the shoulder. She wore it in the picture and didn't charge us anything." 

As for her sense about what would work best in a scene and how to achieve it, Mitchell Leisen  gave the following illustration. "Claudette speaks French magnificently, of course, since she is French and was born in France.  But whenever she was called upon to speak French in ARISE MY LOVE,  she spoke it with an American accent which I think is a hell of a clever characterization on her part." Melvyn Douglas recalled, "Another thing about Claudette, a rather endearing trait, she was tactful and courteously indirect when she wanted setup changes or shifts in nuance-interplay. She'd either hint it to the director or use some phrase like 'I've got an idea for a new twist on this - let's give it a whirl.' I've worked with actresses who turned every minor discussion of ends- and -means into a major argument. Claudette worked for he good of the whole and it showed in the result."

As for  her feelings about men, Leisen said, "Considering how strongly sexed she was and what effet all those good-looking men had on her in on-screen clinches, I alaways felt she handled herself remarkable well - every inch the lady, with remarkable sense and control." And Colblert said, "They talk about mental hygiene, but there's emotional hygiene, too. Emotions  shold work for one, not against one. I keep my emotions, including my romantic feelings, orderly." She was married twice.

09:00
0000-00-00
2014-03-23
Sondra Luger

Story

Gloria Swanson was a clotheshorse at an early age, thanks to her mother.  In FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE (she wore more than two dozen different gowns). She credits (blames?) Cecil B. DeMille's lavish costumes for exacerbating this expensive habit. Gloria Swanson's initial goal had been to become an opera singer. In fact, in  TONIGHT OR NEVER, in which she starred with first-time actor Melvin Douglas, she plays an opera singer without the required passion because she's never experienced great love. Whether her loves were great or not in real life, she was married six times. In addition there were affairs, notably one with Joseph Kennedy (JFK's father), "the man I trusted to effect important changes in the motion picture business, the man who always managed to intrigue me, even when we disagreed, with his courage and energy and scope of vision and daring." Hardly selfless Joe Kennedy amassed five million dollars in the film industry, before deciding to move to Washington, DC, closer to the seat of political power that interested him more. Kennedy employed Swanson's third husband, the Marquis de la Falaise (she was the first star to marry a European title, no money  though) on film business in Europe, allowing the married Kennedy more  freedom to pursue his affair with Swanson, an affair that destroyed her marriage to "my dear, sweet Henri." She aborted Henri's baby, which she regretted all her life, because she felt it would destroy her film career. Amazingly, Henri, after a failed subsequent marriage to Constance Bennett, asked for Swanson's blessing on his third marriage to Emmita Rodriguez Restrepo de Roeder, a Colombian divorcee, whose father had been a diplomat. If photos are accurate, she looked a lot like Gloria Swanson!  Swanson gave her blessing. Henri won two Croix de Guerre durilng W.W.II and corresponded with Swanson, who said he "brought the awful war home to me as the newspapers never could." She helped him, through her lawyers, obtain his final divorce decree from Constance Bennett and "pulled every string... to get the two of them [Henri and Emmita]  safely to America." In 1942 she founded Multiprises International to fund inventors, Jews and Gentiles alike, eager to escape Germany and Austria. Henri, still in Paris, helped them get temporary visas."Leopold Karniol devised a process for making buttons out of plastic, which suited the war economy admirably, and Anton Kratky came up with a carbide- steel-alloy  cutting tool that promised to be revolutionary. I began making a few exploratory trips to interest customers in South America in these and other inventions in progress in Queens and was met with an enthusiastic response." Swanson entered the health business in 1950 with cosmetics using natural ingredients, and she and her sixth husband, writer William Duffy, were active advocates of healthy eating.

Gloria Swanson's film career began when, on a casual visit with her aunt to a movie studio, she wound up as a bit player in a silent film. Her talent, beauty, clothes and off-stage behavior eventually led to her becoming an enormously popular and well-paid movie star, usually called by her first name in magazines. I recently renewed acquaintance with several of her enjoyable films. In WHY CHANGE YOUR WIFE (1920) she plays a perfectionist wife who drives her husband crazy, loses him to someone else, and sets out to get him back. In BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922) she co-stars with friend and fellow horseback rider Rudolph Valentino in a triangle love affair, and in INDISCREET, a romantic comedy (1931), she tries to prevent her new love from finding out about her romantic past, hardly anything that would raise an eyebrow today. Her last two silent pictures were a success, SADIE THOMPSON (1928) and a disappointment QUEEN KELLY (1928), a film financed by Joe Kennedy, and never completed. Directed by Eric von Stroheim, it is considered a fascinating melodrama, available today with stills and subtitles to complete it. Her sound pictures were relatively few: THE TRESPASSER (1929, WHAT A WIDOW (1930), INDISCREET (1931), NOW OR NEVER (1931), PERFECT UNDERSTANDING (1933), MUSIC IN THE AIR (1934), FATHER TAKES A WIFE (1941) and SUNSET BLVD (1951), about an unwanted, aging actress, the film for which she is most remembered. Viewers should sample her earlier films for a better idea of what she was capable of on screen. She had an exciting life of marital and career ups & downs won several Academy Award nominations, had six husbands and three children. She was satisfied.

2014-02-07
Sondra Luger

Story

I've selected Warren William and Marian Marsh because they starred in one of my favorite romantic films, BEAUTY & THE BOSS. More about the film later.

Warren William Krech was the son of a Minnesota publisher. He considered becoming a reporter, but instead attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts to become an actor.  This was an intelligent move for a shy, retiring man, whom Joan Blondell, who appeared with him in five films, said "was an old man even when he was a young man." If anyone had ever told him to "get a life," he could always say that he did - on Broadway in the 1920s and in films from 1931 on - as ruthless businessmen, lawyers and detectives, attractive to and attracted by lovely women. He married Helen Barbara Nelson, an actress seventeen years his senior, who flipped for the debonair Warren William at first meeting. Their courtship was frustrating to her, as he struggled to express his love, too shy to propose, though he finally got up enough courage to do so. Although his is not now a household name, he starred with actresses whose names are, such as Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert and Loretta Young. He was liked and respected even though he wasn't interested in socializing or theater parties. At the end of a day's film work he went home to the wife he adored and his hobbies, gardening and inventing; he held a number of patents. He was in three filmed detective series, as Philo Vance, The Lone Wolf and Perry Mason. I especially like his Perry Mason series. His Perry is an active, quick-thinking, debonair detective in fast-paced, exciting stories. 

Marian Marsh, born Violet Ethelred Krauth, was the youngest of four children born to a German chocolate manufacturer in Trinidad, whose business was ruined during W.W. I. Her father moved the family first to Boston, then to California, where Violet joined her sister in the movie business. She got some movement and voice training for film and became a "bit" player until the age of eighteen, when John Barrymore selected her to co-star with him in SVENGALI. This made her career. She worked for Pathe, Warner Brothers and Columbia, usually typecast as a sweet-faced character of warmth and sincerity faced with nasty male opposition. She was later criticized for working abroad, working for minor studios and appearing in "B" films, but her goal in life had never been to become and remain a popular movie star: "I loved acting, but I became a professional because we needed the money." She was believable in all her roles, whether she was portraying an ordinary or extraordinary character.  She married a stockbroker in 1938 at age twenty-five, had two children, and found her family life taking precedence over her career. When she married aviation pioneer Clifford Henderson, she moved to Palm Desert, California, a town he founded, and she became an environmentalist, forming the non-profit organization Desert Beautiful. 
Like Warren William, Marian Marsh was able to do and enjoyed doing things other than acting. He did so during his acting career, she after she had ended most of her film work.

Warren William and Marian Marsh star in BEAUTY AND THE BOSS, in which a destitute stenographer is determined to get a job in a bank so that she and her mother can put food on the table. She's hired because the Viennese bank president, Baron Josef von Ullrich, is looking for a "writing machine," whose looks won't distract him from his work, as did his former secretary, whom he fired and relegated to his evening activities. The efficient, desperately poor, plain-looking Susie Sacks is her replacement, but she blossoms into a bewitching beauty in the course of the film.

At one point in BEAUTY AND THE BOSS, when Susie, no longer starving, spends a night out in Paris with two escorts, she finds herself  giddy with wonder , excitement and joy. She hijacks a carriage, grabs the horse's reins, and rides wildly off, her two escorts vainly trying to catch up with her on foot. In the background the orchestra  repeats a dramatic, romantic tango heard earlier. To students of 20th century music it will sound like "Kiss of 
Fire," which didn't exist in 1932, but it's "El Choclo," written by Argentine musician Angel Villoldo. It debuted in 1903 at El Americano, an upscale restaurant in Buenos Aires. The title was the nickname of a nightclub owner. It means "Ear of Corn" or "The Corn Cob," and the lyrics referred to the title. A later lyric concerned the tango. In the 1950s  new lyrics were created, and "El Choclo" became "Kiss of Fire." It was a huge success in 1952, rapidly climbing the Billboard charts and was a winner for the many singers who recorded it. The most popular recording was made  by Georgia Gibbs (It's on YouTube),  whose singing best reflected the passionate lyrics, which begin: "I touch your lips and all at once the sparks go flying/Those devil lips that know so well the art of lying/And though I see the danger still the flame grows higher/I know I must surrender to your kiss of fire." This is relatively tame. Wait until you hear the rest of the lyrics! Although "Kiss of Fire" remains a song of its time (too much heart-stopping passion?). "El Choclo" remains a popular Argentine tango.

Warren William, as the powerful, salacious Baron Von Ullrich, and Marian Marsh, as Susie Sacks, the endearing, determined secretary, do smashing jobs in their starring roles. The highlight of the fine supporting cast is the work of Charles Butterworth, who adds wonderful touches of levity as the Baron's chief clerk, Ludwig. At the airport after returning from a business trip with the Baron, a reporter asks him how he found American women. He replies, "I took a taxi." BEAUTY AND THE BOSS is a delightful film, with realism, romance and, of course, a happy ending.

2016-06-14
Sondra Luger
2014-05-14
Sondra Luger

Story

The man considered the greatest popular dancer of all time was born Frederic Austerlitz in Omaha, Nebraska  in 1899.  His mother envisioned a brother and sister dance act, with Fred's  sister, who grew to be the beautiful, talented, charmlng and outspoken Adele, as the star who would catapault  the duo to stardom and financial success. The name "Astaire" was chosen as a more stage-friendly name when mama, leaving her husband in Nebraska to work and send money to fund this enterprise, arrived in New York to enroll Fred and Adele in dancing school and kick off their careers. Adele was almost eight and Fred was five. Their vaudeville act began slowly, expanded into touring and eventually led them to share the bill in Broadway shows with star entertainers. Mrs. Astaire made sure her hard-working children vacationed in luxury hotels, which gave them a taste for good living. Noel Coward came backstage one night and urged them to perform in London. The English loved them! Prince Albert, later King George VI,  was a huge fan and he invited them to dinners and parties. The already well-dressed Fred, copied the Prince's elegant lapels, "acquired an English valet, began his habit of buying racehorses, shopped Savile Row [and] eventually acquired a small black Rolls Royce." Adele eventually acquired her first husband, retiring in 1932 to become the wife of Lord Charles Cavendish, a son of the Duke of Devonshire. Heavy drinking ended his life before he was forty.  Fred was more careful in his choice of mate, marrying an American socialite and widow with a son. They had a son and daughter of their own, and their marriage was a happy one, lasting until her death  at age forty-six. His second and last marriage was to fellow horse-lover and jockey Robyn Smith in 1980.

Fred Astaire's success in films with Ginger Rogers is legendary, beginning with FLYING DOWN TO RIO, in which neither of them starred. He danced in films with many other women, some of them professional dancers, such as Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, Cyd Charisse and Vera-Ellen, but no one had the combination of feminine, musical and acting qualities that Ginger Rogers had. After years of dancing with his sister, Astaire wanted to be recognized for his solo dancing, and he was, but his lasting reputation as a dance icon is due to his pairing in musicals with Ginger Rogers. His last major musical film was FINIAN'S RAINBOW. He later performed on television, most notably with dancer Barrie Chase, and in acting roles on television and in films. My favorite of these films is THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY. In his autobiography Astaire wrote, " I have always tried to carry out my steadfast rule of not repeating anything in dance I've done before." As  Joseph Epstein states in his biography of Fred Astaire, "after one has identified Fred Astaire's multiple and several steps and manifold moves - his swirling leaps, his twirling jumps, his slams, shuffling tap passages, splnning lifts, crazy-legged noodling, skips, hops, leg jabs, tap spins, struts, lunges, back kicks, and barrages, high-stepping, stamping, darting, soft spins, arabesques, hip flips, saunterings, cross-overs, knee-and-pelvis jerks, strolls, turning jumps, steps done with a slight retard, syncopations, quick circling steps -  after one has noted all these and the scores more of different moves he made, one still hasn't accounted for the magic in his performance." Fred Astaire couldn't account for it either. Astaire used his entire body in the dance. "This is why Astaire's rehearsals were so long and arduous; every physical element, eyebrows, smile, the placement of a little finger, had  to be in order, nothing could be left to chance. He might combine balletic moves with ballroom ones, then break into tap, out of which he emerges with jazz kicks and slides. He had to meet expectations while also surprising; predictabiity wasn't permitted." The women who danced with Fred Astaire on stage and screen were dancing with a detailed perfectionist, so at least for their time with him they had to be likewise! "Astaire sang like a dancer. His clearly enunciated, strongly beat, often staccato rhythms were chiefly a dancer's rhythms; his syncopations, too, had lots of the dancer to them." Fred Astaire's art was his life, that and his enjoyment in his family. He wasn't much interested in socializing or recreational dancing, and he wasn't much of a conversationalist. When he was interviewed he didn't have much to say. What he had to say he said with his feet, forever recorded for all to see and enjoy. 

NOTE: My sincere thanks for quotations and much else to  the fascinating and illuminating biography FRED ASTAIRE, by Joseph Epstein, Yale University Press, 2008. Fred Astaire did write an autobiography, STEPS IN TIME, but the Epstein book is much more interesting. Fred Astaire was a dancer, not a writer.

2014-07-18
Sondra Luger

Story

Joan Blondell  had talent that ranged through film genres: mysteries, romantic comedies, film noir, musicals, westerns, screwball comedies, family dramas and satire.  She had a naturally lighthearted disposition that  enabled her to  flourish in film and survive an unsettling childhood. Her vaudeville parents traveled the world, and Joan estimates that she attended  from 40 to 50 schools, "for a week."  she learned to read from playbills and marquees. One of the rare times she was in school she contracted scarlet fever and diphtheria! In attempts to give her a normal childhood her parents tried other ventures - speculative real estate, a dress shop, a tea room - without success. When their daughter was a teenager they finally settled in Texas, where mama became a local stage actress. Joan  Blondell won the Miss Dallas beauty pageant and placed 4th as Miss America! She attended the  University of North Texas, which was then a teachers college, and worked at an assortment of jobs - a fashion model, a circus hand, a clerk. She was a very versatile young lady! In 1927 she joined a New York stock company, intent on becoming an actress.  In 1930 she starred on Broadway with James Cagney in PENNY ARCADE.  The show ran for only three weeks, but Al Jolson bought the rights to it for $20,000. He agreed to sell it to Warner  Brothers for the same amount only if  they starred Blondell and Cagney in the screen version. They did, and the result was SINNER'S HOLIDAY in 1930. Blondell also starred with Cagney in THE PUBLIC ENEMY.  Despite Warner Brother's insistence, Joan Blondell refused to change her name to Inez Holmes. In nine films she was half of a charmlng gold-digging duo with Glenda Farrell. Although she could not sing she appeared in many Warner Brothers musicals. In GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, in the heart of the Depression, she performed a moving rendition of "Remember My Forgotten Man." Joan Blondell appeared in over ninety films, and never had any trouble getting acting jobs. She was considered a pleasure to work with.  Although she said she loved all her husbands, a loving home life eluded her.  Her first husband, George Barnes, was a cinematographer. Their three-year marriage produced a son, who later became a producer, director and television executive. Her second husband was Dick Powell, who adopted her son Norman. They had a daughter, Ellen, who became a studio hair stylist. This marriage lasted eight years. Her last marriage was to Mike Todd, later Elizabeth Taylor's husband. She divorced him three years later in 1950. Todd spent and gambled away huge amounts of money and went through bankruptcy during their marriage, which was both an emotional and financial drain on her. In 1972 Joan Blondell wrote a novel, really her autobiography, called CENTER DOOR FANCY. Seven years later she was gone from leukemia at the age of seventy-three. Whatever acting role she undertook she did well, and in TOPPER RETURNS, which i've just watched again, she is the most delightful, no-nonsense ghost you are ever likely to see on film! 

2014-08-20
Sondra Luger

Story

Although her film career started at age twenty-six in 1929 at Paramount in THE LOVE PARADE, under producer/director Ernst Lubitsch, her music career really started at age six, when she had small roles in theaters and operas By age thirteen she was winning singing contests in states along the Eastern sseaboard. She had a wide vocal range, E above high C, close to three octaves. She starred in seven films in 1930, before her screen life settled down to one or two films a year. One of her frequent early co-stars was Maurice Chevalier, with whom she appeared in LOVE PARADE, ONE HOUR WITH YOU, LOVE ME TONIGHT ( a darling movie and little known classic) and THE MERRY WIDOW, which was the second of her many MGM films. At MGM she became known as The Iron Butterfly, ladylike and beautiful, but tough and quick in signing contracts. In 1935 she co-starred with Nelson Eddy in NAUGHTY MARIETTA, the first of her eight films with him. Although her film and concert career was major, she wanted to be an opera singer, too. She took lessons specifically with that goal in mind and  in 1943 she debuted in Montreal, Canada in ROMEO & JULIET. The following year she sang Juliet in the Chicago opera Company's production. They had revived the opera in her honor. She was encouraged into thinking that she would be given the opportunity to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, but in the end she was told that the Board     of Directors resented "Hollywood intrusion." But Jeanette MacDonald  never lacked for singing opportunities in film, musical theater and sold-out concerts throughout the country. In the 1950s she did some television with Nelson Eddy and they recorded  their favorite songs in an album that w