--Michael H. Miller, Observer
“New York is governed by finances. You move to New York to have a career. You move to L.A. to live out a fantasy.”
--Michael H. Miller, Observer
“One reaches an age when one’s courage becomes audacity, perhaps.”
--Mart Reb, Lady Loverly’s Chatter
In the above photograph to the left, the indomitable Elsie de Wolfe is exercising in her Paris salle de bains. Incredibly, that bathroom was one of the most talked about rooms in Paris. Per Stanley Walker's Mrs. Astor’s Horse, A Curious Saga of American Taste, “Decorators probably have more fun with bathrooms than with anything else. Elsie de Wolfe’s bathroom in Paris is the first thing visitors want to see." Elsie herself proclaimed, "“I have had such joy out of my bathroom that it is difficult for me to speak of it in measured terms.”
Read more about Elsie de Wolfe in her autobiography, After All, and in Elisabeth Marbury's My Crystal Ball.
“[T]here must be two ingredients that complement each other; that laugh at each other’s jokes and make allowances for each other’s faults; and that never shout over each other in conversation.”
--Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
Image Credit: The Savoy Cocktail Book
“The Eurostar made Paris and London into complementary suburbs of the essential idea of Paris-London. Paris’s gray to London’s cream and brick, London’s friendliness to Paris’s rules; female, bitchy Paris to paternal, kindly London. The only place I felt at home was between the two, neither here nor there, not in Paris or London but in the liminal space of voyage. The terror I felt during the twenty minutes underwater in the center of the Channel was a small price to pay.”
--Joan Juliet Buck, The Price of Illusion
The conflict between Olivia de Havilland and her sister Joan Fontaine has been covered in this blog several times. See: "A Tale of Two Sisters," "A Bed of Roses (One Day Only)," and "A Tale of Two Sisters, A Vanity Fair Update." Their long feud ended in 2013 when Joan Fontaine died. Last year, however, the centenarian actress/grande dame embarked on a new feud, this one against the producers of the hit television program, Feud: Bette and Joan.
De Havilland sued based upon her objection to a fictionalized version of herself in the series, as portrayed by the marvelous Catherine Zeta-Jones. She was mostly used as a point-of-view character, delivering commentary to help viewers understand the difficulties Bette Davis and Joan Crawford faced as aging actresses in a town controlled by powerful old men who favored youth and beauty over talent. The show is sympathetic to Davis and Crawford and the challenges they faced. The majority of viewers likely had a more favorable impression of the two actresses at the end of the series then they did at the beginning.
The feud between Davis and Crawford will live eternally in Hollywood legend. But, the contretemps between Olivia de Havilland and the producers of Feud might be at end. The California Supreme Court just rejected de Havilland's petition to reverse a lower court's dismissal of her lawsuit. Her only recourse now would be to appeal to the United States Supreme Court, where she would also likely lose. Alas, there is a tax that comes with being famous. One relinquishes a certain amount of privacy, as long-acknowledged by the United States Supreme Court. De Havilland herself seemed to have no trouble with that in 1982 when she portrayed Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in the television movie, The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana.
It was a curious lawsuit for de Havilland to have brought. Perhaps she thought that if she went on the offensive, she might head off a Feud season based upon the rocky relations between herself and her sister Joan Fontaine. It is difficult to imagine that she truly objected to Catherine Zeta-Jones's interpretation of her. Zeta-Jones portrays de Havilland with elegance, poise, and understanding. She comes across as a whole person: a sophisticated but not unkind grande dame. Thus, maybe de Havilland is not so much disturbed by her portrayal in Feud: Bette and Joan as she is haunted by the prospect of Feud: Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine.
No one relishes having one's difficult family relations made public. Yet, the upside is that a season of Feud with Olivia de Havilland as a central character would introduce a new generation to a one of Hollywood's great success stories—much like the first season did for Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Yes, most know that Olivia de Havilland appeared in Gone with the Wind, but there is so much more to her story than that.
For starters, Olivia de Havilland should hold the title for the most spectacular discovery story, and, at present, it is virtually unknown. Forget the alleged discovery of Lana Turner at Schwab's Drugstore. It does not hold a candle to de Havilland's. Young Olivia was plucked from a high school play and into a spectacular Max Reinhardt production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, fantastically staged at the Hollywood Bowl that was attended by anyone who was anyone in Hollywood. She was only supposed to be the understudy for Gloria Stuart, but then Gloria had to cancel (delaying her fifteen minutes of fame by six decades until the release of the 1997 blockbuster Titanic). The Feud art directors spared no expense in Feud: Bette and Joan to depict the glories of old Hollywood. How amazing would it be if they recreated Olivia's discovery at the Hollywood Bowl, a concert venue that is as legendary as Olivia herself.
Yet, that is not all. Olivia and Joan Fontaine are the only two sisters to have won Best Actress Academy Awards (de Havilland, twice). There is also her casting in Gone with the Wind, an epic story in itself. Lastly, there is Olivia's remarkable reinvention of herself as Paris society woman. See: Every Frenchman Has One.
Like that of her peers Davis and Crawford, de Havilland's story and films deserve to be discovered by a new generation of fans. Yes, there will be unflattering bits. See: Joan Fontaine's memoir, No Bed of Roses. Yet, of the two sisters, Olivia will emerge as the more sympathetic. After all, Joan Fontaine attempted to have her own adopted daughter deported back to back to Peru (#Mommie Dearest). We eagerly await a season of Feud featuring the feuding sisters de Havilland/Fontaine, as should any fan of Olivia de Havilland.
Image Credit: No Bed of Roses
“Cary Grant is walking down the beach toward you. He is carrying a shaker of martinis. He is smiling.”
--Gloria Steinem, The Beach Book
Before she donned a Playboy Bunny costume and became a feminist icon, Gloria Steinem wrote The Beach Book, a copy of which recently sold at the Nick Harvill Libraries kiosk at the Sunset Tower Hotel. The book, a compendium on all matters related to beach-going, gave little hint of what was in store for the then unknown Gloria Steinem. It had a special feature. The dust jacket was composed of silver foil, so that its inverse side could be used as a tanning aid. Whether anyone actually did this is questionable, but the delicate foil tore easily, and thus, it is uncommon to find a copy of this title with an attractive dust jacket.
“It’s always best to be yourself. For me, it’s a tough balancing act. You have to care deeply and at the same time not give a damn. True style implies attitude, attitude, attitude. It’s elusive, exclusive, ephemeral: therein lies its magic.”
--Iris Apfel, Rare Bird of Fashion, The Irreverent Iris Apfel
Image Credit: Rare Bird of Fashion, The Irreverent Iris Apfel
“There are people who can mess up in life and not get caught, but you’re not one of them, Teddy.”
--Joseph P. Kennedy to His Son Ted Kennedy, via The Patriarch, The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
Sidebar. There are such people in life: those whose charm and magnetism allow them to vault over even their most glaring blunders. Former president Bill Clinton is such a person. His wife, Hillary Clinton, not so much. In 2016, this was but one card in what proved to be a losing hand (but what a difference one card sometimes makes).
“You’re rich not because of money but only through what you give.”
--Marion Davies, via Hedda Hopper's The Whole Truth and Nothing But
Yes, she had a drinking problem, but Marion Davies was that Hollywood rarity: an actor who remained unspoiled in spite of fame and fortune. She also possessed a wry (and self-deprecating) sense of humor. One of her lasting achievements was the financing of a children's wing at the UCLA medical school. When friends joked it was a memorial to her, she replied that this was not so. Quipped Marion, "It won't do me any good; I'll be down below where I can't see so high."
Though they never married, Marion Davies was the love of William Randolph Hearst's life. They met in 1918 and remained together until his death in 1951. Of their relationship, she told Eleanor Boardman (Mrs. King Vidor), “I started out a g-g-gold digger and I ended up in love.” The newspaper titan made Marion rich in her own right, and when his empire neared collapse, Marion unblinkingly used her fortune to save the him from ruin. [See: The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst.]
To those who never had the pleasure of meeting her, Marion might have seemed common. She was a live-in girlfriend of a married man in an era when that was outrageously taboo. In theory, she might have seemed like many of her peers—a parvenu actress with little formal education and no training in social etiquette. Yet, she had the natural good manners and affability that appeals to the best people in all social classes. Even Winston Churchill was enchanted. In a letter to his wife, Clementine, he said of Marion, “She is not strikingly beautiful nor impressive in any way. But her personality is most attractive; naïve childlike, bon enfant.”
Even after William Randolph Hearst died, Joseph P. Kennedy remained devoted to his old pal's longtime mistress. Marion Davies was invited to and attended Kennedy family events, including the 1953 marriage of John F. Kennedy to Jacqueline Bouvier and the JFK presidential inauguration in 1961.
Image Credit: The Book of Beauty
“Shakespeare said, ‘The play is the thing.’ Obviously he didn’t know about movies.”
--King Vidor, King Vidor on Film Making
Check out this autographed copy of King Vidor on Film Making.