Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24, 1936

I have no time to write anything now, my darlings. I was having a perfectly lovely time in Los Angeles - Penny had come all the way out to join me - and then, with no warning at all, I was rather, well, kidnapped! Well, I suppose it's not really that; I wasn't sold into white slavery, after all. Haha! But I'm down in Mexico as I write this - yes, Mexico! I've not been to Latin America since the Peruvian debacle. Oh, and this is another rotten mess. As I said, I can't go into the whole bloody thing right here and now. But soon I will. Yes, I will. Pray for me, my dears. Pray for me....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 18, 1936

Well, my darlings, I'm off tomorrow for the South, flying down just like a little bird! And practically at dawn; such a horror for those of us who toil away our nights upon the stage. I shan't be able to linger there long, so I'm having myself flown down. A marvelous Polish aviatrix is taking me in her lovely, sportif little aeroplane. Really, I can't understand a word she says - she's an accent like blancmange - but she's simply superb to behold and, well - dashing - if one may describe a lady thus. You know - I shouldn't say, it's too silly - but I think the ravishing little beast may have inspired in me a wee, tiny crush! Oh, la!

You'd think I would be terrified to be traveling in such a manner, but the thought of getting there with such remarkable vitesse certainly has an allure; do you know that one can fly from Portland to Los Angeles in less than TEN hours! Can you believe it? I think my little polonaise says we may have to stop in San Francisco to put in more fuel, but still. Ah, this modern world in which we live...!

I shall return later in the week. Yes, the same week! À bientôt, mes enfants!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 14, 1936

So sorry my darlings to be away so long. And now I'm down to Los Angeles for a few days; I leave on Monday. So, of course, I've started packing. And the last several days I've had fittings all day and night; so exhausting! I had loads of lovely things sent over from Paris. Yes, I know it's absolutely criminal not to have them fitted over there, all those marvelous little ladies fluttering about you like black-clad moths, pins just flying through the air. And one misses the divine couturier or couturière pacing about, looking this way and that, making sure that every seam and tuck and hem is exactly as it should be. As it must be. It does make one feel so very secure. The gaze of the master, and all that. Of course they know me so well at all the houses that they are, when necessary, able to send them to me nearly perfect. My intrepid lady's maid, Alyssia, does a little here and a little there, and that's all -- oh, I've just got the most heavenly white organdy evening gown by Vionnet: the bodice nearly non-existent and the skirt and train a mad frothing of bias-cut ruffles. I can't think of anything more perfect for a gardenia-scented, moonlit terrace somewhere. Haha! It would be just the thing!

Of course, the lovely people with whom I'm staying are just plain, simple folk. Not anyone you'd know; there is a vague family connection. And I suppose they haven't even got a terrace. Tristement.... But at least they are not film people! I am so very grateful for that; film people bore me witless. I have no idea what I'll do whilst I am chez eux. Rest and eat, eat and rest, no doubt. There is really nothing else to do there, if you aren't in pictures. And I certainly hope they do let me be, and don't trot out hordes of people, all of them clamoring to meet me; that would be so very tedious.

It will be a relief to get myself to a warmer climate; it's been all wet and beastly cold here of late. (I'm beginning to think this engagement will never end.) Los Angeles is quite the stupidest place - there is no culture or society - but the climate is delicious, and everywhere the scent of orange blossom wafting on the breeze. I hope to have a lovely, lovely little rest.

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9, 1936

Feet! Aren't feet the most dreadful things? They are most certainly the least appealing of all human appendages. Sometimes I feel that they are the good Lord's unkindest jest. The foot that is not hideous is the rarest thing on the planet. But, oh, the typical one! Why must the typical ones always run to the extreme? They are either as bloated as jelly-fish with ghastly sausage toes - ohhh! - or they are long, horribly twisted claws! Yes, claws! Why, any civilised culture would provide little boots that its citizens would wear all day and all night, to be provided at birth and to be buried in...oh...well, I suppose that's a silly idea....

Well, I shan't even contemplate the contents of men's shoes, but those of my sex? Sandals! An affront to all decency, but women will go about, day and night, in sandals. Only those possessing the most neutral of feet should be allowed sandals. And yet, everywhere you look, wobbly women with their horrid, painted toenails jutting through, their crusty heels slopping over the sides. Oh, it's too much to bear. It's really too, too much to bear! Oh...!

Oh.... Oh, what was I saying? I know I was most upset. Hmmm.... Oh, yes - feet! You know, my feet aren't half bad, really. Quite small, which is nice. And narrow, which shows my breeding, you understand. And I do take care of the wee things - well, I don't do it, of course. I have the most marvelous little Malaysian woman who tends to them. She's such a pet; I cart her about with me everywhere. No, she doesn't speak! But I'd be lost without her. Aren't I lucky? To be me? Haha!

Goodbye for now, my darlings!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 8, 1936

Fans! Where are all my fans? My friends, even? My ghastly manager said I must write this silly journal-ish thing. And here I am, writing my fingers down to nubs and I never hear from anyone at all, save my daughter. Which is lovely, of course - don't be offended, Prudence, darling - but she could just send my a telegram or even write a letter. Though her writing is perfectly horrid, you know. Completely illegible. Mlle. Blanche, her governess, had fits over it. But she spells beautifully, I'll give her that. Oh, but I digress. Where was I? Hmmm? Oh yes. That horrid man who said I had to, had to write this thing. The same brilliant fellow who booked me in Lima, Peru. Lima, Peru. And at Carnival. But I shan't go into that!

The weather is lovely here. But it has got too cold. I'm very sensitive, of course, and loathe the cold. I always crave a warmer clime. I do so love to waft down to the south of France at the first frost. Now, I must tell you that I never, never sit out in the sun and get myself brown. Yes, I know that to be all sunburnt is still terribly à la mode. And I know that all the darling physicians tell us that it's so very healthy for us, just as we know that cigarettes are so good and drying to the lungs. But I won't believe it. No, not at all. Pas...du...tout! Why, the ravages are obvious, for all to see. My dear friend, comtesse Vacherin du Pont, has been a great idolator of the sun ever since sunburning first became stylish, not long after the war. She does so love to consort with artistic types, so she was always down at Juan les Pins, staying with the Murphys, surrounded by vulgar Americans and the likes of...Picasso! And where has it got her, I ask you? Why, she's gone all yellowish and blotchy, and she's terribly creased! Yes, I know I shouldn't - I wouldn't say it to her face, after all, poor dear thing - but it's true!

I've heard the pioneer of this pernicious craze was Mlle. Chanel. Not a very pleasant woman, but so very talented. The world will follow her lead in all her chic-making business. She was formerly very fond of a certain ci-devant Grand Duke and her world - dress-making and otherwise - spun upon a Russian axis, as it were. The Grand Duke's sister even started a Russian-styled embroidery manufacture to help feed Mlle. Chanel's grande faim russe. Chanel even designed costumes for the Ballets Russes, you know. So you see, I think we really have the Russians to blame for this mania. As everyone knows, Russians are perfectly mad for the sun - and why wouldn't they be, with all that Siberian sort of nonsense they call climate? - they are the most devoted, sun-worshipping lizards! Ah, but now that the Grand Duke has been "retired", and the poor émigré Russians have gone out of fashion - yet another "exile", it seems - perhaps the tide will turn.

Whenever I am down to the sea, I always sit beneath a very, very large parasol. Fully lined with bottle-green silk. Really, it's the only way! Yes, I know it must seem very Edwardian to you. But the benefits far outweigh any risk of looking a fool. And if you've ever seen me close-to, you'll know that my complexion is still flawless and dazzlingly white. It really is. And I've no need of any make-up at all. Mostly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 6, 1936




I do so hate to bury you in celluloid, but here is another bit of our concertising out on tour. The press cameras follow us everywhere - we haven't a moment's peace - so I may as well take advantage of the miles and miles of film and share this with you. I do hope it doesn't bore you...oh! Aren't I funny!

Shadow Waltz is from a film by that divine Hollywood madman, Busby Berkeley. We've left off the neon-lit violins, you'll understand. Haha! And the gorgeous - gorgeous - Glamorous Night is from Ivor's maddeningly mesmeric musical play of the same name. My darling friend Mary Ellis - she's such a dear - sings it in the show. And her gramophone recording of it is nearly as celebrated as mine! She sings it most prettily; her voice is so high, you know. So high. So very high!

October 6, 1936

I just finished a book the other day.

That's all.

I just wanted you all to know that I read a book.

À bientôt, mes enfants!

Monday, October 5, 2009

October 5, 1936


Here is just a little bit of film of my daughter, Prudence, and me. Isn't she lovely!

This is, I believe, a very important song. Oh, it's done as a bit of a giggle, it's true. But the wisdom of the sentiment at its heart mustn't be ignored. We ladies can never afford to relax our great pursuit of youth and beauty. It is the only way to always be secure of love. To always hold the attention of that other sex! Men are such silly creatures, after all. They only love with their eyes; they are deeply superficial. Ah, but how we adore them!

October 5, 1936

Well, I'm back from the seashore. The little house was not clean. And its charms were meagre. It was fairly cosy, I'll give it that. Perhaps it was the very, very low ceilings. But it had a lovely view, perched right above the sea. And as I lay in my bed the first night - in a bed certainly designed for the proportions of elves, and with sheets half the size of the coverlet; I had to coil myself like a viper, lest my nether regions go exposed or all of me plop over the edge and onto the carpet - I did have a lovely vision of the moon - golden, translucent - floating low over its shimmering mirror of a limpid sea. Heavenly, that moon. And, oh, how well-made, how perfectly set it was for romance! One felt the very shiver of it, a quivering of incipient amour. And there I was, in a house perfectly brimming with fairies!

Oh, I live and work in the world of music and the theatre and the cinema, so I'm completely entourée des pensées, as it were. I do love all my dear pansy friends. We have so much to speak of, always. Certainly the most important things, the theatre and the latest fashions. But pluck them from their accustomed "flower beds" and they don't add up to much, I'm afraid. Why, down by the shore my pretty boys were completely hopeless. Oh, they lit fag after fag the weekend through, so they are not altogether unfamiliar with the process of setting things alight, but not one of them had the smallest idea as to how to build a fire in the grate. I had to do it! And do it marvelously, I did. It was a perfect Greek temple of a pile of firewood. Architecturally sound, it was, too. And it burned like anything! It surprises me that I'm so often very good at these practical and earthy sort of things. I must possess an actual instinct of some kind; who would have guessed it? I can't imagine where it comes from. I thought anything practical or in any way useful had been bred out of me! Oh, la! But there does appear to be something there. Some wee link to an uncivilised past. Oh, dear. But I'm sure I'd have made some sweet Neanderthal the most brilliant little wife.

Oh, but the weekend was tedious. Nothing at all to do, but endless games of patience. Cigarettes and gossip. And we hadn't thought to bring even one fashion pictorial! Or any real food. Not that any of us would have known what to do with it; I'm sure my aforementioned instincts would never extend to a lump of fish or a lamb chop. So we just nibbled at a bit of dry cheese and some biscuits. Of course I brought two cases of Veuve Clicquot so that we shouldn't perish.

The skies were pretty and blue, but descending to the plage proved perilous. On Saturday I got myself up in that delicious Patou sailor outfit I mentioned. I thought, well, I'm dying of boredom, it's sunny and fairly warm, so I'll just take myself out for a wee constitutional. Mais, quelle horreur! The wind whipped about me, tearing at my clothes, blowing off my poor, sweet little hat. The horrid sea-smelling air - too, too coarse - tore at my delicate nostrils. But I am no coward, so I trudged on manfully, the high heels of my sandals sinking further with every step, the ghastly salt air blowing sand into every moist crevice I possess. I thought I must die of exposure! After what seemed ages, perhaps two minutes, I turned round and ran back, stumbling, to the cottage, and threw myself onto the floor in tears. I was chafed, blotchy from the burning sun, and red-eyed. And worst, my hair had been swirled into some sort of hideous, felted thing! I looked positively Ethiopian. And now, I will have to have my hair re-set!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1, 1936

Quite vigorous, this "hike", today; if I weren't so perfectly bred, I would have sweat like a coal stoker. And now I'm beaten all of a heap. But the weather was gentle; I shan't need to have my hair re-set after all. Really, a lovely, dappled day. Mais, mon Dieu, les limaces! I’m certain that slugs are quite useful in the correct setting. Nature has its place, after all. And I can’t think of anything more quiet; they’ll never keep you up at night making parties, now will they? Haha! But couldn’t they come in another color?

Periwinkle? Celadon?

I’m leaving for the beach tomorrow. I’ve been told it will be restful. But I’ve also been told that I mustn’t expect Juan les Pins or the Lido. I suppose it’s a bit more rustic; the things I’ve endured here in the wilds of Oregon! A house has been rented, which I hope will be cozy. And clean. Before I came over, I had Patou run me up the most darling little matelot costume. Or should I say, “matelotte”, in my case? Hmmm? It has one of those great flopping sailor collars and even a little white hat with a pom-pom. It’s too marvelous. So even if the crashing waves are a crashing bore – haha! – I’ll be the best dressed little sailor down at the seashore.


À bientôt, my darlings!