WEIRDLAND: Loretta Young ('Born to be Bad'), Sheilah Graham, F. Scott Fitzgerald & Zelda: 'Invented Lives'

Friday, November 28, 2014

Loretta Young ('Born to be Bad'), Sheilah Graham, F. Scott Fitzgerald & Zelda: 'Invented Lives'

"Born to Be Bad" (1934) is an early production from the recently formed 20th Century Pictures that winds up feeling a lot like a pre-Code release from producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s former employer, Warner Bros. After Zanuck split from Warners in 1933, he and Joseph Schenck of United Artists formed 20th Century, a company whose earliest releases included outrageous titles such as The Bowery, Blood Money (both 1933), and this film, Born to Be Bad. Zanuck produced the films at 20th Century and Schenck distributed them through United Artists. The company released almost two dozen features through 1935, when 20th Century split from United Artists to merge with Fox films, creating 20th Century-Fox.

“You’re bad, bad all the way through. You’re just a beautiful bad girl.”

Thanks to stars Loretta Young and Cary Grant, Born to Be Bad may be the best known of 20th Century’s pre-merger output, but it is far from that company’s best release, and was the only one of those few films that actually lost money. It suffered production woes, as producer Zanuck tried to wrestle a messy story into better shape, but timing also dealt a blow. Born to Be Bad’s May 1934 release resulted in boycotts and it was even banned from a few theaters in the weeks leading up to full enforcement of the Production Code. Source:

"On one tipsy occasion Fitzgerald told his secretary that he preferred the Loretta Young type of good looks to mine. She had a more fragile beauty, he insisted. Another time he compared me with Zelda, to my disadvantage. When he was sober, he felt only pity for Zelda. 'If only you and I had met earlier,' he used to say, 'Zelda and I were wrong for each other from the start.' But I might not have liked him at all in those early years of his success, although, if we had met, he might not have been that kind of man. The question is, would he have been as good a writer? He might not have started as a novelist without the compulsion to make money to marry Zelda. He idealized women. He could never be promiscuous. It was necessary for him to have only a woman, dedicated to her. I was a bad swimmer, and while the only time I saw Scott in the water was at Malibu when he was wildly drunk and he jumped into the ocean fully dressed, he thought it essential to teach me to swim. He paid Mr Horton thirty dollars a month to keep his pool clean and filled with water. Scott would stand on the shady side of the concrete border of the pool; he was convinced the sun was bad for his TB. I tried to copy his movements, but it was difficult with him on land and me in the water. Scottie was delighted with the pool when she stayed with her father in the summer of 1939. It was her last visit to California and the last time they saw each other." -"College of One" (1967) by Sheilah Graham

Researchers at a British university found that men with higher IQs place greater value on monogamy and sexual exclusivity than their less intelligent peers. But the connection between conventional sexual morality and intelligence is not mirrored in women, it seems. The researchers could find no evidence that clever women are more likely than the general population to remain faithful. The patterns were uncovered by Dr Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science in a paper published in the March edition of the journal Social Psychology Quarterly. He concluded: "As the empirical analysis ... shows, more intelligent men are more likely to value monogamy and sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men." Dr Kanazawa claims that the correlation between intelligence and monogamy in men has its origins in evolutionary development.

"Scott had been faithful to Zelda, he said, until her breakdown in 1930. Scott was remarkable for the wholeheartedness and fidelity of his devotion. He made one woman of absolute importance to him, lavishing on her all his charm, energy, and time. His approach to women, moreover, both in life and in his fiction, was on a spiritual rather than sexual plane. The only important extramarital affair which Scott described to me occurred during that 1935 summer. The woman, Beatrice Dance, was a married belle from Memphis. I have often had the thought that Scott's nature was more spiritual than my own, which I always considered earthy. Zelda drew a similar comparison; she claimed that she was more sensual than Scott. Certainly he was an aesthetic, finely tuned man. But this did not preclude a healthy sexual appetite. As a lover, in terms of giving physical pleasure, he was very satisfactory. “Where did that gorgeous face come from?” he would ask, his head on one side, his loving eyes taking in every feature and expressing the wonder that he had been so lucky as to find me." -"The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald: Thirty-Five years later" (1976) by Sheilah Graham

Dorothy Parker's cynicism about love is evident in her poem "The Dark Heart of Love" ("life is a glorious cycle of song, a medley of extemporanea; and love is a thing that can never go wrong; and I am Marie of Rumania.") One of her lovers was F. Scott Fitzgerald, though the affair was brief (in 1934) and according to columnist Sheilah Graham (Fitzgerald's long-time companion) their affair was motivated "by compassion on her part and despair on his". It was not Parker's only extra-marital relationships and in between affairs she married twice. Dorothy Parker avoided Carl Van Vechten (writer, photographer and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein) at all cost. Once, spotting him in a Philadelphia hotel, she fled through the nearest door (the entrance to the men's room).

Van Vechten was in his forties when he met the Fitzgeralds. In his novel The Blind Bow Boy (1923), Van Vechten had included some of his subjects from the Jazz Age: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Alfred A. Knopf, Bessie Smith, and Gertrude Stein. Fitzgerald professed The Blind Bow Boy was better than Aldous Huxley's Antic Hay (1923). Zelda's enthusiasm for Van Vechten's arch humor was genuine. Van Vechten tended to romanticize the Fitzgeralds's public squabbles and devotion: "[they] tortured each other because they loved one another devoutedly."

Van Wyck Brooks (the historian of American literature) kept an image of Scott & Zelda as romantic lovers. Fitzgerald's drunken generosity was confirmed by Ernest Boyd. Fitzgerald met Scots journalist James Drawbell in a speakeasy. Both had much in common and they talked about women. Drawbell was not inclined to be promiscuous. "I've had all the fun," Fitzgerald said, "but in my heart I can't stand this casual business. With a woman, I have to be emotionally in it up to my eyebrows, or it's nothing... When I love, I love. It has to be my life." -"Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald" (1984) by James R. Mellow

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