--Gavin Lambert, 1966, Double Exposure, A Gallery of the Celebrated
“The most obvious connection between the legendary Berlin Stories and A Single Man is that the latter, given a little time (i.e., the future), it will become equally legendary.”
--Gavin Lambert, 1966, Double Exposure, A Gallery of the Celebrated
Image Credit: Double Exposure, A Gallery of the Celebrated
“I was never much good at picking husbands, much better with my butlers.”
--Nancy Tree Lancaster, Nancy Lancaster, English Country House Style
In the era between the World Wars, Ronald Tree (a grandson of Marshall Field) and his first wife Nancy (a Langhorne granddaughter and niece of Nancy Astor) famously purchased and refurbished Ditchley Park, a grand Oxfordshire estate. When they divorced, Ronald Tree moved in his young American wife Marietta (a granddaughter of Groton's legendary headmaster Reverend Endicott Peabody).
According to Lady Diana Cooper, the staff remained loyal to the first Mrs. Tree. In a January 1948 letter to her son John Julius, Diana referenced Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca to describe the awkward predicament of the second Mrs. Tree:
“Ditchley is as beautiful as ever and almost as comfortable (no, nothing like. Electric fires in the bedrooms instead of blazing logs and bells not answered and rooms of course shut up), but with the most disconcerting Rebeccaism about it. Every object, picture, colour of flower, arrangement, design bought, placed and grown by the first Mrs. Tree is untouched and the poor second fears to give an order to the servants, and Mr. Collins the butler who loved Nancy and shared her interests of garden and furniture, textiles and porcelain, keeps his eyes forever fixed on her uncertain ways.”
Image Credit: Nancy Lancaster, English Country House Style
“There are endless conspiracy theories about Frank Sinatra being in the pocket of the Mafia, involving trying to kill Castro, killing Marilyn, killing the Kennedys. What about a theory that Sinatra and the Rat Pack were pawns of the Mafia, which controlled America’s bar and liquor business? Wasn’t the whole Rat Pack phenomenon nothing more than a three-year liquor advertising campaign?”
--George Jacobs, Mr. S, My Life with Frank Sinatra
Image Credit: Mr. S, My Life with Frank Sinatra
“You worry about slander? What do you think we live on here?”
Madame de Maintenon, via False Dawn, Women in the Age of the Sun King
Image via Wikimedia Commons
“If, like my wife, you’re a Gemini, at times you just cannot do things.... To illustrate the difference between us: I suffer from sinus, and if I’ve been at a party where lots of people smoke, I wake up the next morning with excruciating pain—nonetheless, I get up. On the other hand, my wife can be so upset if breakfast is late, she has to go back to bed. I realize now it’s not caprice—she’s a Gemini.”
Scorpio Emilio Pucci, The Beautiful People’s Beauty Book
Image Credit: The Sixties, A Decade in Vogue
"Cora [Antinori] has had another face lift with such appalling results she has to say it was a motor accident…. Violet [Trefusis] has had hers done with no results which is almost more disappointing.”
--Nancy Mitford, The Mitfords, Letters Between Six Sisters
See also: "Need a Lift?"
“Los Angeles was a dream that I’d cherished for some time. California symbolized light, warmth, glamour, and freedom …”
--Anjelica Huston, A Story Lately Told
Image Credit: Konstantin Kakanias
“My sisters, discussing face lifts: Debo: ‘I’m afraid I’m not vain enough to have mine done.’ ‘Diana: I’m afraid I’m too vain to have mine done’—meaning she’s eternally beautiful enough already.”
--Jessica Mitford, Decca, The Letters of Jessica Mitford
Jessica Mitford had almost no contact with her sister Diana in the post-World War II era. She is surely summarizing information she learned from her sister Deborah. The gist of which is slightly different in this 1966 letter from Diana to Deborah (via The Mitfords, Letters Between Six Sisters):
"Bettina [Bergery] has had her face lifted just a bit, it seems a great success if it lasts, all the sort of pouches gone if you know what I mean. The Lady [Nancy Mitford] & I discussed doing ditto & decided we were not vain enough to make it worthwhile. (Or perhaps SO vain that think think people will love us with our wrinkles.)"
Image Credit: The Mitfords, Letters Between Six Sisters
“There’ll be quite a few lines you’ll recognize. I hope you don’t mind.”
--F. Scott Fitzgerald to Budd Schulberg, The Four Seasons of Success
Writing can be like pulling a rabbit out of a hat—a conjuring trick. Yes, there is magic, but there is also sleight of hand. Consider F. Scott Fitzgerald. Even an author of his stature pirated experiences from his friends, making off with their best lines and material. One day in December 1940, a few weeks prior to Fitzgerald's death, young Budd Schulberg discovered that the hard way when Scott permitted him to read the first few chapters of the manuscript for Fitzgerald's novel about Hollywood, The Last Tycoon. The book was familiar to Schulberg, and not because he had already read it, but because some of the best bits were taken from his own life.
Schulberg was the scion of one of the original film families. His father had been director of production at Paramount. The film industry was a part of young Schulberg's life from the time he learned to walk. Make-believe was his reality. He understood Hollywood in a way that non-natives rarely do. It was only natural that Schulberg entered the family business, but he did so as a wunderkind screenwriter, not as a producer. Schulberg wanted to become a novelist and could not believe his luck when Walter Wanger assigned literary legend F. Scott Fitzgerald to help Schulberg complete the script for Winter Carnival (1939)
The project was a life-changing one for Schulberg, and at times hair-raising (when Fitzgerald's demons got the better of him). In spite of those difficulties or maybe because of them, Schulberg and Fitzgerald bonded. Life, however, is filled with the shades of grey not found in Hollywood Technicolor productions. Fitzgerald's avuncular interest in Schulberg did not preclude him from making off with his new friend's best material. What better person to help Scott authenticate his novel about Hollywood than someone who had been born into one of its leading families? The great author's inner dictaphone was always recording. Reading The Last Tycoon, Schulberg discovered:
“There were many moments when Scott seemed to be telling his story directly through my eyes. There were my anecdotes, my observations of Hollywood personalities with whom I had been raised. It was almost as if I had written the book and then Scott had filtered it through his more tempered and sophisticated imagination. ... I wished, quite frankly, that I could call back some of the things I had told him. Now that they were imbedded in his book, to use them again would be a most curious form of plagiarism.”
Schulberg eventually made his peace with the legacy of his late friend. And, in the end, he evened the score with his novel, The Disenchanted. It was based upon his writing experiences with Fitzgerald, their research trip to an New England college campus, and its comedic but disastrous consequences. [Download the audio version of The Disenchanted narrated by Kevin T. Collins—it is excellent.]
Zelda Fitzgerald could have warned Budd Schulberg about her husband's propensity for literary graft, but she was locked away in an insane asylum. Significant portions of Fitzgerald's earlier novel The Beautiful and the Damned were lifted directly from her diaries and letters. Zelda was one of the most original personalities of the 20th Century, and some of Fitzgerald's best work was actually hers. An editor friend wanted to publish excerpts of her diaries, but for obvious reasons, Scott insisted she refuse. [See Nancy Milford's Zelda: A Biography or Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation.]
F. Scott Fitzgerald was, of course, not the only writer guilty of literary thievery. The actress and playwright Ruth Gordon inserted a Dorothy Parker-type character into so many of her plays that Dorothy quipped she dare not write her memoirs lest Gordon "sue her for plagiarism." Lillian Hellman was another notorious thief. She claimed the heroic deeds of another as her own in her autobiographical Pentimento. She nearly got away with it, but for the publicity when the book was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film Julia. [See "Lillian Hellman versus Mary McCarthy in Literary Feuds, A Century of Celebrated Quarrels.] And, proving the rule that cheaters never prosper was Truman Capote. The publication of “La Côte Basque, 1965,” in which Truman notoriously stole from the lives of his society friends, all but destroyed him.
“Truman hasn’t written anything in years, and what’s more, he hasn’t read anything in years.”
--Gore Vidal, via Leo Lerman, The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman
“Of course, I’m always sad about Gore. Very sad that he has to breathe every day.”
--Truman Capote, Literary Feuds, A Century of Celebrated Quarrels—from Mark Twain to Tom Wolfe
“Truman stole from Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers. The only thing he and I have in common are our mothers are both drunks.”
--Gore Vidal, via Patricia Bosworth, The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan
How does one top Joan Crawford versus Bette Davis? Might we suggest Truman Capote versus Gore Vidal? Perhaps the indomitable Mamacita left Crawford to work for Truman's great friend Joanne Carson? How about it Ryan Murphy?