BIOGRAPHY, Relationships
Comments 82

a closer look at the second mrs Rathbone part II

DFitzmaurice

George FitzMaurice, Ouida’s second (or third) husband

As we saw in the previous post, in 1915 Ouida quit her acting career (which doesn’t seem to have been going too well as we have no record so far of her appearing on stage or screen after 1912), and became a screenwriter. Her first full length film was directed by the George Fitzmaurice who at some point became her second or possibly third husband. Thereafter she seems to have written mainly for his projects, though she did do a few films for other directors too.

And yet it’s only two years after this – 1917 – we find her (thanks to Anna’s digging) embarking on yet another new venture and launching a rather weird-sounding “agency” apparently designed to put Ouida at the center of Hollywood as the arbiter of casting, screenwriting, directing et al:

“Ouida Bergere Expands Work” screamed a very strange advertizement/article from Dec 22 that year. “Organization Enlarged for Benefit of the Motion Picture Industry.”

The text continued in a similarly vainglorious style (You can read the whole thing by clicking on the image on the left.)

“…The motion picture industry…will be interested in learning that Ouida Bergere has perfected plans for a complete and independent organization along the lines of the most advanced efficiency….These affiliations will give an international significance to Miss Bergere’s manifold operations…Directors who are free for new affiliations [evidently the word of the day] can place their business affairs with Miss Bergere, who will project their past pictures upon the screen in her private projection room…”

Ouida's agency announcement, 1917

Ouida’s agency announcement, 1917

It’s that mixture of self-importance and mystifying incoherence that really catches your attention. No believer in hiding her light under a bushel, she virtually portrays herself in this 1917 ad as the rescuer of the entire motion picture industry, and seems to assume everyone in the business is going to cheer because she is galloping over the hill at full charge to save them with her “manifold operations” and incredible efficiency. And yet she doesn’t even say in any real detail what her agency is actually supposed to do. Or who works for it. Or who her clients are. All she basically says is ‘Ouida is here and she’s gonna fix everything, and she has three sets of offices to do it from, so – everyone form an orderly line and she’ll get to you as soon as possible.’

We have to wonder what happened to this industry-changing, amazingly efficient “manifoldy operating” agency? Did she manage to persuade anyone to put their “business affairs” in her eager little hands? And if so, how long did it take her to blow it all on hats or rugs or 4,000 square feet of empty office space on Fifth? If the agency ever existed at all it had apparently gone out of business just nine years later when she declared bankruptcy, as her “assets” by then were $150 worth of “wearing apparel” and if she’d had a hugely successful international agency with three sets of offices and a “private projection room” then she probably would have been able to pay her phone bill.

So, did the whole thing never really exist outside her fevered and wayward mind? or did it crash and burn as her acting career seemingly had and as her screenwriting career was to do in just a few more years?

I’m kind of wondering what all this tells us about the Second Mrs Rathbone – and maybe even about the man who became her third (or fourth) husband. It’s pretty easy to see her reasons for marrying him. He was younger, prettier, more famous and above all solvent. But why did he marry her? And why did he stay with her, through the financial ruin she brought him, to the day he died?

“What Ouida saw in me then I don’t know” he told a journalist in 1938, talking about the day he met her. It just brings on one of those “wait a minute” moments.

You don’t know what she saw in you?

You don’t know what she saw in…you?

Did he mean it? Was he really so deluded? This is the man who’d taken Broadway by storm in THE SWAN, and had Eva Le Gallienne as a lover and ardent admirer. Did he honestly believe the unemployed screenwriter of ordinary looks and with $9000 worth of unpaid debts was doing him some kind of favor?

Advertisements

82 Comments

  1. Alyssia who was there? You or HRD’s father? Just sayin. Counting the grapes…laughable if not so possive and cheep,this from a woman who would not bat a fake eyelash at wasteing $1000s on parties.I can see her now with a sharpie numbering the grapes.I knew it!grape no. 15 IS MISSING!Call the cops.Call Sherlock Holmes,no wait he probly ate it. Seriously my step-bros wifes 2nd hubby was like that,he went so far as to marking the level on the milk jug with a marker.To make sure HER kids[my cousins] werent drinking HIS milk. HIS food was HIS.She had to buy food for HER kids HERSELF.Finaly she got tired of the crap,got smart and left him.I still think in some way it damaged her kids.It stinks to feel so unwanted by someone who should care about you.When you wed someone who alredy has a family you have to understand you wed there family too. It bothers me that Ouidas neice was welcome to stay with them but not his son.

    Like

    • Alyssia says

      I have a mountain of evidence that Basil and Ouida had a wonderful happy marriage and that Ouida was a well-balanced, caring, loving brilliant woman who could have had the world but gave it up for love of one man. If possible he loved her even more in return. HRD’s father was simply mistaken or deceptive.

      Like

        • Well I’m not here to judge her dad..I dont even know the man.So untill I would know for sure with proof that he was a lier I wouldnt call him one.About Ouida we DO have proof,of her being a lier.I belive that You belive what you say about Ouida is true.In your eyes she is a sweet wonderfull lady.Others may beg to differ.I went to a convention in hollyweird and I met a actor,wont give you his name, He’s not a real famous actor you probly wouldnt know him anyhow. But When I met him early in the day,not long after he arived,he could not have been nicer to me. Yet I talked to any number of fans that said he was just a total creep when they met him.In fact it seems I was one of probly only a couple people he had been nice to.For what ever reason all his own he treated me with great kindness but that dosent make the others he blew off any less sinscer about t how he was a jeerk to them. I for one would love to see your evidence about Ouida.Did you know her ? did you meet her? Please share?

          Like

          • Alyssia says

            I have Basil’s diary from 1924 onwards. It makes it absolutely clear Ouida sacrificed herself for him endlessly and that he was completely faithful to her from the day they met. His diary entries about Eva detail his sadness for her perversion and her strange obsession with him which he could not reciprocate. It makes it clear he was celibate and chaste from the moment he met Ouida to the day they married and thereafter was faithful to her. I think I can even identify the woman who wrote that nasty remembrance of him that is on this blog. I believe the woman was Josephine Hutchinson, who was very upset by her “partner” Eva’s infatuation with Basil and who always tried to discredit him. There is not on word of truth in it. Also Ouida was not extravagant. She was always discouraging Basil from spending on her but he liked to do it because he loved her. Also she was not named Eulie Branch, that is a completely different person. Ouida was born in Madrid.

            Like

            • You realize that before anyone believes such a far-fetched claim you have to at least show us a sample of this “diary” – enough to identify the handwriting. I’m not singling you out here either. I would ask the same of anyone making such claims. Frank B sent me partial photocopies of those war letters, Countess has posted numerous links to her research. if they can do it, why can’t you?

              Like

            • If she was not born in Arkansas? WHY would it say so in the 1940 cencus?What of her neice from Arkanas?Play your cards! Show Me the ace!

              Like

  2. I can’t help thinking Ouida comes over as mentally unbalanced and I am wondering if anyone has ever looked int if this was an issue. Could it be Basil was protecting her from public discovery of her problems?

    Like

    • I think pretty much anyone who knew Ouida for any length of time couldn’t help concluding she had mental problems of some kind. My father witnessed some of the weirdest behavior of his life while he was staying there for a while. This woman would get hysterical to the point of screaming and crying if she was ever seriously thwarted or challenged. He once told her at the dinner table he didn’t care for squid (which they were eating) and she jumped up and ran off crying to her room. Another time he caught her counting the grapes on a bunch because she was sure the servants were eating them!

      Like

  3. Westlie says

    This isn’t worth much, but my grandmother was in service with Ouida Rathbone in England back in the 1930’s. I have just stumbled on here from looking at movie sites and I wish I had asked my gran more. All I remember is her talking about how fussy she was about everything

    Like

  4. Lorna says

    She comes off to me as like one of those women on Snapped Women Who Kill or something, who everyone thinks is a great wife/mother/businesswoman until it’s revealed, often by chance, she may have poisoned her whole family, when the s**t hits the fan and it turns out her entire life is a lie. Not saying Ouida was a murderess or anything so Grande Guignol, but just pointing up the possibility she could have the same personality disorder. Most psychopaths are model citizens don’t forget. They have no conscience or emotions, just like the ones who kill, but they show it in different, more low key and socially acceptable ways. Ouida definitely has a lot of markers of potential psychopathy. It’s worth exploring IMO, because there is a particular kind of hell for the spouse of a high functioning psychopath/sociopath, and if Ouida was one of these then it might help explain some things.

    Bear in mind intelligent high-functioning psychopaths are almost perfect mimics. They have no empathy, no conscience, no real emotions, beyond self interest, but they are excellent at giving the impression they do when needed. The spouse of a psychopath is usually being led a terrible manipulative dance and is often so bewildered and emotionally drained they can’t any longer judge the situation soundly and can end up supporting their partner’s lies for complicated emotional and psychological reasons of their own. If you meet and fall in love with someone, then it’s very very hard to begin accepting that person may never have existed in the way you believed, was in fact created simply to appeal to you. In those circumstances, the spouse is usually the last person who can accept the extent of the lie, and they will often go to incredible lengths to make excuses for their mate, even to the extent of falling out with other members of their family who try to make them see what is going on.

    I wouldn’t claim this is definitively what was happening to Rathbone, but it is a possibility is it not?

    Thanks for the terrific site which I discovered over Christmas. The Golden Age Hollywood culture is rich with stories and subtexts, hidden and taboo at the time and some partially lost to this day, but which can tell us so much about our past. It’s one of the most vibrant fields for historians and is in the process of becoming a real subject for them. Sites like this are part of the new wave I think. Congratulations on a good blend of light and dark.

    Like

  5. Denise deVere says

    Good lord, what a strange thing that “agency” seems to have been. I wonder of Ouida was a bit of a hopeless dreamer

    Like

    • Basil wasdefinitely a daydreamer,prob imagined their story as Romeo & Juliet.Still think he defended her to keep the peace,and doubt he believed a lot of her BS/HS

      Like

  6. Pingback: URL

    • Have to agree with Raines .No blackmail theory here for me.I think after what i read about Ouida{not just here} Basil loved her despite her faults.He chose to stay married to her .HE had faults also.I also doubt he was gay.No clear evidence like Charles Laughton.

      Like

  7. Oh and please the line about murder was a joke please take as such..I dont want to be acused of starting a silly roumer that she killed him. ITS A JOKE

    Like

  8. Oh dear i hope no murder mystery here. It would be nice to get a copy of his death cert..I wish he had died in WV.Those are on line. Hummm.to get a copy we need to know state, county, city, and where about the death records for that city co, etc are kept..and it big if. if they are avaible to the public,or do you have to be a close family member to get a copy. If open to public you can walk into the office where there kept usuly the courthous, and ask for a copy,some places have a copy some times its just lines in a book otfen they will let you make a photo copy for free or a small charge to pay for the paper, if you want a certifide copy it costs more.

    Like

  9. Bismillah says

    I remember someone saying a long while back that no one should believe a word Ouida said. The person had known Basil quite well I believe and said they didn’t believe Ouida’s story of how he died. And honestly, when you look at that story in light of what is being revealed about her here, well it reads like a complete fantasy! I mean what are the odds he’d talk to her about how happy he’d been, walk into the next room and drop down dead? Ok it’s possible, but is it likely?

    Like

    • Yes you are right it is possible and i have seen it happen,unfortunately more than once.She might not have been lying in that case.

      Like

  10. I had never seen that..wonder if the person who wrote they met Quida was legit.? Has ANYONE else ever herd that Cyn. was a drunkard? :O [Quida for a mom might be a legit reason to tip the bottle a bit though ;} Could someone get a copy of Cyn’s death cert.? It would list cause of death, if known. As far as I know I have no access to NY death certs.? Did she die in NY.?The Mention of getting a copy of Quidas will had me wondering if there was a way to get Basils will? Also not in my bag of tricks.

    Like

  11. Bismillah says

    I am enjoying every moment of this so much! I am hooked. I fire up my comp and first thing I do is check this blog! Even at work I’m checking in. Please keep updating!

    Like

  12. Energy Rated Zero says

    Could Ouida have been some kind of sociopath/narcissistic personality disorder? it would explain the emotional detachment, the total lack of conscience about wrecking her husband’s finances and the constant lying.

    Like

    • Yes, a similar thought has have been expressed elsewhere. I think it’s possible – but we don’t know enough yet to do more than tentatively speculate

      Like

      • wow! i kinda was just putting Basil and Ouida in the bullshit category.They both also could be snobs.especlally when they went to other peoples parties.Say,like Carol Lombard.Are we stepping into deep character flaws vs.criminal behavior etc.?

        Like

        • Monica says

          I think there are things that point to something more than just Hollywood bullshit going on with Ouida. Overspending is one thing, reducing your husband to penury and despair is another. And the ies she told seem to add up to more than just bit of reinvention

          Like

          • I disagree to the extent.There were no warrents out for her arrest were ther? .I have witnessed lies leading to fraud and distruction of lives.This woman had flaws is what i mean but,not causing the ruination of someones life.This man was an intelligent adult.He could have left and or divorced her.

            Like

  13. Amomwholovesbasil says

    How fascinating this all is. I want to read a novel or a fanfic or see a movie about their relationship. Imagine the moment he began realizing she wasn’t who she said she was!

    Like

  14. I totaly refuse to even consider the words homosexual. and Basil. in the same sentence!Talk to the hand the ear wont here!Oh and even IF she “had the goods on him” so to speek..the “goods” would not nessearly be that he liked men.That would be infidelty and cause for divorce,a messy one that she most def. would have one! No judge in this co. would have not found in her favour had she divorced him with proof that he liked boys. I still say cheeper to keeper.

    Like

    • roesbette says

      I personally don’t believe that Basil was homosexual, but my husband suggested it, as did someone else who posts on this site. I do wonder if there was some sort of secret or “agreement” that kept them together, possibly a long-standing affair. Afterall, there are marriages like that — the Roosevelts, the Clintons, and other, where a couple stays together even if they are not suited, or one party is unfaithful.

      Like

  15. roesbette says

    I was thinking of the length of the marriage as of the time he wrote his autobiography. 41 years… could they have been miserable all that time? Also about people not divorcing because it’s not the honorable thing, remember, this was Hollywood, not small-town America. People were marrying and divorcing all over the place. Although one might think about Basil’s background as being that of the honorable man, and perhaps he didn’t want to walk away from a second marriage after having done so once already with a child involved.

    Like

    • Anita says

      That is totally plausible. He obviously felt really bad about leaving his little boy, perhaps he couldn’t bear to do the same again

      Like

  16. gisbourne1913 says

    FYI, Basil and Ouida were married for 41 years.
    (April 18, 1926 to July 21, 1967 [his death])

    Like

  17. roesbette says

    Yes, I was sharing my obsession with this site with my hubby (we’ve been married almost 30 years and he’s starting to get jealous of all the attention Basil’s been getting lately!). I asked him why someone would stay married to someone for 30 years if this person lied to him and spent all his money. DH said there is something else going on — a secret of some kind that she knew about. And then DH said something that would get Claude Rains going … that Basil was indeed gay and that it could have been a Linda/Cole Porter type of relationship. My own feeling is that it’s possible that Basil had a clandestine longstanding affair with someone (probably not a Hollywood person), male or female, and he and Ouida had some kind of “agreement” that they would stay married, either for financial reasons, or because of Cynthia. When reading about Ouida, I also thought about another celebrity who was a nice guy but with a long marriage to a woman whom many found difficult to understand — the beloved comedian Jack Benny and Mary Livingston. Most of Jack’s friends loved him but disliked her, similar to the feelings of Basil’s friends toward Ouida. I think there’s an apocryphal story about Mary Livingston going out and buying something new for the house, a chandelier or something, or an expensive item of clothing, every time she believed Jack was having an affair.

    Like

    • Claude Rains says

      I’m going to surprise you by saying the blackmail idea doesn’t work for me. I don’t think Rathbone would have stood for it from my reading of his character. This guy walked away from a Hollywood movie contract and basically told every to stuff it. That took a lot of balls. I think he’d have done the same to Ouida if she’d threatened to expose anything in his life. I’d more likely buy that he was covering for someone else, or felt obligated to Ouida for something we don’t understand.

      Like

    • I think your DH i right – not necessarily about the gay thing, but “there is something else going on” alright!

      Like

    • AnAnonymouse says

      Actually that story is about George Burns – Gracie knew when he was having affairs and would go out and buy something for the house.

      Like

  18. Has anyone thought Ouida might have had something on him? A guilty secret or something that she blackmailed him with into staying married to her?

    Like

    • I have wondered too. But theres a old saying”cheeper to keep her”.think of the divorce setelment..she would have taken,well everthing she had’nt alredy taken. Then there’s Cyn. Perhaps many of you are to young to rember when divorce was a dirty word. Even still in my childhood.People “stayed togather for the sake of the children.” Modern people are more into the ME aspect of life. Past generations were more into “doing the right thing”.just a though. IMHO.

      Like

      • Margaret G says

        Very good point. We tend to forget the historical perspective don’t we. As a few other people have commented, there was no “no fault” divorce option until the 1960’s. and before then both parties had to agree to a divorce and one had to provide grounds or agree to be the “guilty party” or it couldn’t happen. If Ouida did not provide grounds for divorce then Basil couldn’t initiate proceedings and if she also refused to co-operate by divorcing him for “desertion” or “cruelty” (which were the usual options used when both parties simply wanted out), then Basil would have had no choice but to remain legally married to her.

        He could still have left her of course but he would have remained legally responsible for her upkeep and would have risked a vengeful Ouida seeking a court order to keep him from access to Cynthia. My father was a divorce lawyer working at this time in Vermont and my mother told me some heartbreaking stories of men deprived of their children this way.

        I don’t claim this is the reason they stayed together, but it is a factor to consider. Such a shame there isn’t more inside information!

        Like

        • Anita says

          Wow yes I don’t think any of us considered the difficulties of divorce of one party refuse to co-operate. WR Hearst’s wife refused to divorce him didn’t she, so he had to live in sin with Marion Davies. But B could still have left if he really wanted to, unless as you say he was being threatened with loss of custody of Cynthia. But this is all speculation!

          Like

  19. roesbette says

    Can’t help noticing …Ouida lied about her age. It’s 43 on this one, with Basil at 47.

    Like

    • AnnaPindurka says

      This is so interesting! Just imagine those three maids, from England, Holland and Mexico, and 23-year-old Thomas the houseboy…

      Like

  20. Funny You mention Miss Brodie..The part about Hugh has always remided me of John. I’d love to play Jean Brodie what a wonderfull part for a actress.But no one could top Maggie Smith in it could they. I’d be more impresed with Quida if she wrote THAT screenplay.

    Like

  21. that should be of Clarendon not od. No spell check here sorry. R.H is all there was no proper name.That is also not unusual.I’ve seen some from WV that have both bride and groom as intails only..If we could locate a copy of the orignal we could look for parents but no promise they would be there on it.at19 and 24 both are of age.

    Like

  22. Sorry cut off again..whos a crerk for the R.R. her dad is time keper for the R.R. her mom it looks like keeps roomers.they have ben married to each other 25y.Dau listed as acteres with no kids. Next of interst. I THINK found,her hubby.heres what I found. Eula Branch 19 of Little Rock Ark.wed R.H.Burgess 24 od Clarendon,Monroe county,Ark. on feb. 13,1905. and that is when my hour was up. so not sure of the place except is ark.but usuly brides co. of residence.

    Like

  23. So she’s wrighting dialoge for silent movies? But on to waht I promised last time. I did get to the Libary.I’m not sure that Eunie sister of Rufsh H Branch is her? As I found him listed as son of John and Mary. What I also found in 1910cencus that her dad was married 1 time her mom 2times. her mom is the mother of 3 children 2 of them liveing.That would acount for Eula M.age 23 divorced no kids and bro Bernice

    Like

  24. AnnaPindurka says

    A bit more floriditudinousness: http://files.usgwarchives.net/ar/pulaski/bios/begere.txt
    (Digitised archives, Arkansas, Pulaski county pages.)

    Although that last paragraph? “In Rome she did the picture entitled The Eternal City, which enlisted the cooperative assistance of the Facisti and of the great Mussolini himself, the American ambassador in Rome having aided her in obtaining this cooperation”? I suppose hindsight is a wonderful thing… (This is the film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eternal_City_(1923_film) )

    Like

    • Great heavens! – did Ouida write this or was she just dogged by people with uncontrollable verbal diarrhea? 😀

      I’m kinda jaw-dropped at the absolutely massive and amazingly detailed lies about her birth and parentage! This isn’t some movie actress having a fake bio made up for her by Warner Bro or something. This is a woman making up a completely fake history for herself.

      And “the great Mussolin”? I guess it was still socially acceptable in 1932, but … it still shocks.

      Ouida is becoming Miss Jean Brodie in my mind – “this gerrrls is Benito Mussolini, Il Duce! – the greatest Roman of them all.”

      Like

    • I think many people would have hesitated to call Mussolini “great” even in 1932! I really want to know if Ouida wrote this or it was written by the author of the book. Certainly the style has a certain resemblance to that 1917 announcement

      Like

      • If this is a “county Mug Book” as I suspect it is. ie one of those books written about the co.shineing lights and leading cittizens. Some times the authour interviews the person. and takes there word for it. sometimes he just gets it from the local paper but those books were made to sell in hopes the “stars” of the books and there kith and kin would all buy a copy. So sometimes its truth sometimes ‘apple polishing”.a lot like whos who books of students that ask parents for there kids bios when there in collage and high schoolthen publish a massive tombe only to be seen buy other parents.

        Like

    • She wrote a movie that was alredy written!It was a brodway play in 1902.It was filmed before in 1915,and wikipedia at least, makes no mention of her being associted with the 1st version.2nd version,also staring the same actors.Wonder how many of the sceen were just reused from version no. 1? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eternal_City_(1915_film) So she marries George and he sticks her name on it But she did personly get L Duche to signe a letter in it RIGHT?.

      Like

  25. oh dear my post was eaten 2xs.Love to know more about Hugh Massie at 40 fleet st. London.. Free from other affialitons and other busines complcations..such as those pesty creditors following her around demanding payment..or that bothersome taxman dogging her steps..just leave your walet and your bank book with me ducky and i’ll run a copy of your last flicker in my empty warehouse for all the cleaning staff to watch

    Like

  26. Hmm…imagine advising anyone to put their business affairs within a fifty-yard restraining order of “Miss Bergere.” How long would it take her to blow it all on hats or rugs or 4,000 square feet of empty office space on Fifth?

    OMG LOL i’m still laughing!!!!
    not to mention office space in LA and London.

    Like

  27. roesbette says

    We may mock Ouida’s wordy and florid style, but I have to admit that it’s rather typical of writing at that time.

    Like

    • It’s not the floridness (floridity?:)) that strikes me so much as the bombastic self-aggrandizing attitude combined with a telling lack of focus on content. She’s got three offices, a projection room, no track record and she’s about to reinvent the movie industry. You could say it’s entrepreneurial drive, but I think it’s closer to self-delusion. An entrepreneur would open one office first and get herself some clients and an income; a deluded narcissist would open three offices, take out a big advertizement never look for a single client and still wonder why the whole thing fell apart in six months.

      Like

        • Hubris and hyperbole yes – but underneath all that the genuine article to be sold, be it a person, a script, an idea,or an agency. The question is – did Ouida even try to create a real workable agency or was the whole thing simply a pipe dream? It’s an important question because it delineates the difference between normal show biz bullshit (and I’m a professional writer so I do understand about that) and something more like narcissistic delusional thinking. Granted the line can be blurry, but I think we can all agree there is a lot of evidence Ouida was closer to the delusional side than might be considered desirable! Early days though and much to be discovered.

          Like

  28. This is a riveting narrative, Neve. I can’t wait to read part 3–as if we can ever truly understand what he got out of this relationship other than premature aging and poverty.

    Like

  29. David says

    “Hmm…imagine advising anyone to put their business affairs within a fifty-yard restraining order of “Miss Bergere.” How long would it take her to blow it all on hats or rugs or 4,000 square feet of empty office space on Fifth?”

    Wicked.haven’t laughed so much in a while.

    Like

  30. Elaine says

    I get the impression from the Jed Harris extract of Basil very much humoring her I have to say. But I don’t know this explains much

    Like

share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s