barry-paris

One of the first portraits of Audrey Hepburn taken after the liberation of Holland, 1946.

“We were in our cellar, where we’d been for weeks.  Our area was being liberated practically house to house, and there was lots of shooting and shelling from over the river and constant bombing: explosions going on all night….Once in a while you’d go up and see how much of your house was left, and then you’d go back under again.  Then early in the morning all of the sudden there was total silence.  Everybody said, my God, now what’s happening?  We listened for a while, and strangely enough, I thought I could hear voices and some singing–and I smelt English cigarettes.

We crept upstairs to the front door, opened it very carefully and to our amazement, our house was completely surrounded by English soldiers, all aiming their guns at us.  I screamed with happiness, seeing all these cocky figures with dirty bright faces and shouted something in English.  The corporal or sergeant walked up to me, and in a very gentle English voice–so different from all the German shouting we’d been used to–said, "We hear you have a German radio station in your house and we’ve come to take it away.  We’re sorry to disturb you.” I laughed and said, “Go right on disturbing us.”  Then a cheer went up that they’d liberated an English girl.  I was the only one for miles.“ - Audrey Hepburn

7

No other film actress was so revered —inspired and inspiring— both for her on-screen apparences and for her passionate, off-screen crusade. She remains so beloved that virtually no one has a bad word to say about her…Beneath her kind, warm surface lay more kindness and warmth to the core.  — Barry Paris on Audrey Hepburn

Happy Birthday Audrey Kathleen Ruston, alias Audrey Hepburn!

He couldn’t get her to the queen’s, but Green succeeded in getting Garbo to make a far more difficult visit–to Cecil Beaton. Their last and most serious falling-out was then several years old, caused by the publication of Beaton’s diaries–with many intimate Garbo passages–in 1972 and 1973. In her view, publishing the diaries (and their sensational serialization in the London newspapers) was an atomic bomb of betrayal. When Sam asked why he did it, Beaton told him that he had written Garbo to ask permission and, after a year with no reply, phoned her in new York but that she hung up on him. At that point, Beaton said he decided it would be dishonest to eliminate a major part of his life “because of this woman’s neurosis.” He felt insulted. Naively or disingenuously, he thought she would listen to his explanation and was crushed when she would not. Cécile was among many who later confronted him, asking how much money he’d made from Garbo over the years, then adding, “Even Stokowski didn’t sell his story to the papers!” Sam Green recalls: “Diana Cooper wouldn’t speak to him again. Diana Vreeland told him he was a horrible person. Truman Capote went on TV and criticized him–the pot calling the kettle black. Everybody attacked. He was humbled and embarrassed and riddled with guilt about it.” Even the sweet-tempered Deborah Kerr says, “I cut Beaton off dead when he published that.”

Green’s loyalty to Beaton–who was partially paralyzed from a 1974 stroke and very depressed–predated his friendship with Garbo by many years, and he was determined to reconcile the irreconcilable. Gently but relentlessly, he worked on her, emphasizing Cecil’s pathetic condition and equally pathetic desire to see her one last time: “In London that trip, I had her on a short leash. She really couldn’t move without me. I said, ‘You have to finish this up with Cecil. He’s very diminished. He’s had a stroke. You have to go and see him.’ She didn’t like the idea at all, but she really didn’t have any choice. It was a kind of blackmail, and when she weakened enough to say, 'Well, maybe I should go,’ I made the arrangements fast.”

Garbo was so nervous that Green thought to the last minute she would back out–and she tried. “What happens if we arrive at the train station in Salisbury and he has photographers hiding in the trees?” she fretted on the train ride. Against all odds, in October 1975, Sam delivered her to Reddish House, Beaton’s home near Salisbury in the village of Broadchalke. They arrived just before dark and were led by Eileen Hose, his secretary, upstairs to Beaton’s drawing room, where he was seated by the fire in a fawn-colored suit, bright pink cravat, and trademark broad-brimmed hat. On seeing Garbo–her longish gray hair tied back with a shoelace–he began to weep. “Beatie,” she said, “I’m back,” leaning over and cupping his face in her hands, then looking straight into his eyes before kissing both checks. “Greta,” he said. “I’m so happy…”

It was the first time Sam had heard him get a name right since the stroke. She sat on his knee and snuggled against him like a child, to his great delight. Sam left them alone but returned just before dinner and helped pull Cecil to his feet. Now for the first time, Garbo saw how incapacitated he truly was. It took twenty minutes to shuffle to the dining room. At dinner, he had to have his food cut and he cried often, pointing to his paralyzed body and apologizing. His dignity was shattered. “Everyone went to bed right after dinner,” says Green, “and I’m positive the sandman didn’t visit her that night." 

The departure next afternoon was no easier. In the middle of his tearful farewell embrace, which seemed to be lasting an eternity, Garbo–over Beaton’s shoulder–spotted a guest book by the front door and used it as a polite way to disengage. She had never been so willing or eager to sign her name, says Sam. 

Hugo Vickers, Beaton’s biographer, called Garbo’s visit of forgiveness the most important moment of Beaton’s life. Green says it was a brilliant, bittersweet performance and the most generous act of her life. 

Garbo by Barry Paris

So, I finished Barry Paris’ biography of Louise Brooks, my dinner companion for the last three months, on and off.  And it’s difficult to know what to say about Louise Brooks.

In some ways, she reminds me of Al Jolson–not someone with whom she’s regularly compared, I would think–in that it seems that the effect of each in person is irreproducible in any medium.  I mean, yes, we see Pandora’s Box or The Jazz Singer or read Lulu in Hollywood or hear “Toot Toot Tootsie” and understand some, maybe much, of his or her appeal.  But the number of times I read in this book about the spell that Brooksie, as she was sometimes known, could, and regularly did, cast on those around her, either through her beauty, her sexuality, her intelligence, her manner, convince me that watching her in the dumbshow that is silent film only captures the glint and not the essence of this woman.

Otherwise, it’d be extremely hard to understand or explain how this woman, beset from her teen years through middle age by a tremendous thirst for alcohol, unable and unwilling to do anything she didn’t want to do even at ruinous cost to herself, possessed of a violent and mercurial temper, could have been the toast of two continents, not once but twice.

Louise Brooks summed up her rejection by Hollywood with the sentence “I like to fuck and drink too much."  But that can only be part of the story, for, reading this book, one is alternately amazed and horrified at the opportunities she squandered out of whim, ill-temper, apathy or just plain orneriness.  Thanks to her bad attitude, which one might charitably describe as "fierce independence,” she left or was asked to leave plum positions in one of the premier modern dance troupes in the United States, George White’s Scandals revue, Ziegfeld’s Follies and the American film industry.

After years of destitution, charity and occasional prostitution, unable to hold a job thanks to the aforementioned “bad attitude,” she moved to Rochester, N.Y., at the age of 49 and lived there in increasingly eremitical solitude until her death at 78.  During this period, she learned to write and became celebrated as an astute and incisive film historian and essayist.  Further, her film work was rediscovered during this self-imposed exile, and the cult of Louise Brooks grew to its full flower even as its object grew increasingly less able and willing to leave the confines of her apartment.  The girl who had Charlestoned through Manhattan, London and Berlin; who, at 18, had had a summer-long affair with Chaplin; who inspired comic strips’ Dixie Dugan; and who had been a favored guest at Hearst’s San Simeon mansion cloistered herself in a sparsely furnished apartment (save for the hundreds of books she meticulously annotated) and drank herself through middle age into a final enforced abstemiousness and slow deterioration at the hands of emphysema and arthritis.

She was, by all accounts, an extremely difficult person.  Some anecdotes, even those set in her salad days, give the impression of someone who’s just a little deranged.  Yet.  When she was not, she was apparently the most desirable, impressive and charming woman in North America.  She knew everyone, at least before her fall from Hollywood’s graces, and everyone seemed to want to know her.  In fact, I would substitute Six Degrees of Louise Brooks as the gold standard, at least for the entertainment world before 1960.

So, I recommend this book without reservation for anyone interested in the worlds of modern dance, revue, spectacle and silent film in the first third of the 20th century as well as for those interested in the ways that a human life can unwind and develop in adversity, both external and self-imposed.  Louise Brooks was, more often than not inadvertently, at the center of several fascinating periods and scenes in pre-war cultural life, and the author takes frequent breaks in the book’s first two-thirds to describe these, be they whores in Weimar Berlin or the early films of W.C. Fields.  But through it all, it’s Brooksie and her charisma, her bangs, her legs, her brains, her moods and her look–that Look that launched a thousand thousand pale imitations–that piques one’s interest even as one peeks through one’s fingers at the multiple train wrecks and triumphs of her life.

A young Audrey Hepburn and her Mother in Arnhem during the war, 1942.

“I had jaundice during that last six months.  My mother and aunt and I ate very little.  We ate a few turnips, we made flour from tulip bulbs, which is actually a very fine flour.  In the winter there was nothing; in the spring we picked anything we could in the countryside….

I was very sick but didn’t realize it.  It wasn’t until after the war that I started to realize how my mom must have suffered.  She wanted to give me an orange or something.  She often looked at me and said, ‘You look so pale.’  I thought she was just fussing, but now I understand how she must have felt.

I was given an outlook on life by my mother….It was frowned upon not to think of others first.  It was frowned upon not to be disciplined….During the last winter of the war, we had no food whatsoever, and my aunt said to me, 'Tomorrow we’ll have nothing to eat, so the best thing to do is stay in bed and conserve our energy.’ That very night, a member of the underground brought us food–flour, jam, oatmeal, cans of butter….When I hit rockbottom, there [was] always something there for me.” - Audrey Hepburn

6

Arnold Genthe (1869-1942) was a German photographer and his series of photographs would be the first serious study of Garbo as an Artist. In July of 1925, Garbo and Stiller were waiting in New York to get instructions by MGM. Than one evening they had a meeting with a new friend - photographer Dr. Arnold Genthe. Genthe immediately wanted to make pictures of her. The pictures were taken in the hot summer of 1925, in New York. 

After he saw Greta, Genthe immediately wanted to make pictures of her. But Greta wasn’t prepared and pleaded: “Look at the dress I have on and my hair – oh no, not now!” Genthe wasn’t interested in pictures of her clothes or hair. He wanted a portrait of her soul and stated: “You are here and I am here and my camera is ready.” She finally consented and results were breathtaking. Each pose reveals a new facet of her persona:  sensual, dramatic, vulnerable, intensely female, always distinctive. 

By August 1925, director, and friend of Stiller Victor Sjöström delivered the Genthe pictures to Mayer. It is said that at first, Mayer didn’t recognize the woman in the pictures as the actress he had signed in Berlin. A portrait from this sitting was published in Vanity Fair in November 1925.

Source: Garbo, by Barry Paris, 1995.

Hollywood, I believe, is full of unhappy people. Many of its notables are successful and rich, but I don’t think that many of them are satisfied. The sort of attention that falls upon a movie personnage is irksome, and, in most of its aspect, insulting. There may be men and women out there who enjoy being pawed and applauded by millions of idiots, but if so I am not acquainted with them. I recall a conversation with the late Valentino. He was precisely as happy as a small boy being kissed by two hundred fat aunts.
—  H.L. Mencken on Hollywood actors and Rudolph Valentino (extract from Louise Brooks by Barry Paris)
We are in danger, all of us, and I will give you an example why—a journalist I knew years ago. He was a good journalist. He went around the world and recorded what he saw and came to various conclusions. He said, Paris is this and London is that—and Greece is worth a couple of days. He felt two days was enough to give him an understanding of Greece. What that statement reveals is that the basis of our Western culture now, and of professional man, is middle-class. The middle class makes statements and knows nothing. You and I are the middle class and must think of ourselves as middle-class. We are middleclass actors, middle-class journalists, middle-class plumbers and morticians.

I recently finished reading Barry Paris’s biography of Louise Brooks. It took a while to grab me, despite (and actually because of) the fact that I have a fairly passionate admiration for Brooks: I’ve read a lot about and by her, have watched a number of interviews with her and some documentaries about her, so at first the written biography seemed like a well-researched but rather uninspiring retread of all of this previously-processed information. What’s different about Paris’s book, though, and what ultimately hooked me, is the time, care, and attention he devotes to relating the story of Brooks’s life after her fall from grace in Hollywood. Most of the stuff I’ve consumed related to Brooks passes over the last 50 years of her life in a few sentences, gesturing to it as the sad coda of a brilliant, wasted youth. Paris, though, takes an unflinching look at what became of Brooks once she left Hollywood for good. It isn’t glamorous. It isn’t sexy. It isn’t fun to read–in fact, it’s grindingly bleak. But for me, it was really important.

Anyway, all this to say if you are interested in Louise Brooks and you haven’t read this book, I recommend it.

Brooks’s wildness probably had its roots in the increasingly outrageous mischief she resorted to in order to get attention from an indifferent mother. But if Mrs. Brooks didn’t take motherhood very seriously, she did pass on to Louise her love of art, giving her an education that made her the only screen flapper to read Schopenhauer between takes.
—  New York Magazine, 1989. Rhoda Koenig’s book review of Louise Brooks by Barry Paris.

estcebonheur asked:

I jut started the audrey book by Barry Paris so good so far it's so detailed I love it! And I ordered audrey and elegant spirit and audrey in Rome, vogue on and fifth avenue five am any heads up about those ahh so excited for them to come in I just wish where I lived I cn go to a book store and buy it rather than having to wait haha x

Hey! I’m reading Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris also and I’m very pleased with how detailed it is; the author must have spent a lot of time researching the book and I’m very thankful.  Wow, you did a lot of shopping! Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit is a wonderful book and very heartwarming.  It’s a loving look into the life of Audrey written by her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, and it’s a must read for every Audrey fan! Audrey in Rome, also written by one of Audrey’s sons, Luca Dotti, is full of rare and candid pictures of Audrey while visiting and living in Rome.  I’d definitely recommend it, too.  I received Vogue on Hubert De Givenchy for Christmas ;however, I have yet to read it.  The book has stunning and HQ pictures of Audrey from some of her Vogue photo shoots, which I was very happy to see. Vogue does a series on fashion designers and Vogue on Hubert de Givenchy happens to be their latest issue. Perhaps, when I have the time to sit down and read the book I’ll do an official review, same for Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris.  Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman was a quick and very enjoyable read.  It gave a lot of insight on the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the era in which it took place, the 1950s.  I really enjoyed that book and it’s unique view on the people and drama involved in making BAT.  I’d love it if there were books about the making of all of Audrey’s films, particularly Sabrina and Funny Face.  I’m sure there was a lot of good gossip happening behind the scenes.  

We are in danger, all of us, and I will give you an example why—a journalist I knew years ago. He was a good journalist. He went around the world and recorded what he saw and came to various conclusions. He said, Paris is this and London is that—and Greece is worth a couple of days. He felt two days was enough to give him an understanding of Greece. What that statement reveals is that the basis of our Western culture now, and of professional man, is middle-class. The middle class makes statements and knows nothing. You and I are the middle class and must think of ourselves as middle-class. …
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone …
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed and redeemed …
Never throw out anybody.
—  Time-Tested Beauty Tips, author Sam Levenson’s wise letter-poem to his grandchild

50 Books in 2011, #45:

Louise Brooks by Barry Paris

This is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read, and I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Louise had an amazing life, from her teenage dancer days, to her ill-advised Hollywood period, to her short lived career as a European starlet, to her time as a penniless, down and out alcoholic and finally to her rediscovery and redemption in the 1950’s/1960’s. The book is incredibly well-researched and contains a lot of her own writing.

We are in danger, all of us, and I will give you an example why—a journalist I knew years ago. He was a good journalist. He went around the world and recorded what he saw and came to various conclusions. He said, Paris is this and London is that—and Greece is worth a couple of days. He felt two days was enough to give him an understanding of Greece. What that statement reveals is that the basis of our Western culture now, and of professional man, is middle-class. The middle class makes statements and knows nothing. You and I are the middle class and must think of ourselves as middle-class. We are middleclass actors, middle-class journalists, middle-class plumbers and morticians.

inmylittlehide replied to your post: I’m still half way through AH’s biography, but I…

I would love to have her biography, so I’m little bit jealous ;) I love her and I think she was (well, she still is) the most beautiful human being <3 And I’m sorry for that but I’m gonna reblog most of your posts with her.

Please, do reblog!! I keep thinking people will unfollow me cause all that stuff, so I’m glad someone likes it as well!
Also, if you love her so much, you should read her biography. It’s called simply “Audrey Hepburn”, by Barry Paris. It’s wonderful. And huge (about 450 pages) - but goes through since her childhood and WWII until her UNICEF years in Africa.
I admired her first for the style icon she (still) is, but after getting to know her story a little better, I grew to love her deeply. She’s my idol - not so much for the actress she was, but for the human being. It really inspires me to be a better person. I mean, if Audrey Fucking Hepburn can be a kind, gentle, polite, caring, loving person, everyone else should be it as well.
Really, I couldn’t admire a person more that I admire AH.