To the One I Love Best, Signed by Ludwig Bemelmans to Cyril Ritchard
[Signed] Bemelmans, Ludwig. To the One I Love Best, Episodes from the Life of Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe). First Edition. 1955. Book is in very good condition; dust jacket is in very good minus condition—jacket shows chipping to the spine ends. It is inscribed to the actor whom Bemelmans had evidently discussed adapting this book to the stage, “To Cyril Ritchard, hoping he will be the one to play Sir Charles & direct it, Ludwig Bemelmans, March 1955.”
Of the books on Elsie de Wolfe, the grand dame of American decoration, this memoir is the most personal … the most idiosyncratic. Bemelmans was a protégé of Elsie de Wolfe and her marriage blanc spouse, Sir Charles Mendl. Bemelmans met the Mendls in Los Angeles during World War II when he was writing screenplays for MGM and the Mendls, refugees from German-occupied France, were waiting out the war from the comfort a Beverly Hills manse. De Wolfe was then in her late eighties. Though her health had begun to wobble, her zest for living remained at full throttle. The book is a series of light vignettes in which Bemelmans begins to understand the substance beneath Elsie’s professed frivolity. The production Bemelmans mentions in the inscription to this copy makes reference to a theatrical adaptation of the book by Anita Loos that was to star Helen Hayes as a fictionalized Elsie and (apparently) Cyril Ritchard as Sir Charles.
“Elsie claims she is psychic and that she can feel people. She says of people that they have an aura about them, or not. Those that have the aura become her immediate friends; you, dear boy, have that aura; so has Coombs, so has Achille, the chauffer. They, of course, have servants’ auras—a small halo. I’m afraid I have none whatever.”
--Sir Charles Mendl