L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Ill-suited bliss - photographs of Lou Tellegen and Geraldine Farrar, 1915 and 1916


Lou Tellegen (né Isidore Louis Bernard Edmon van Dommelen; 26 November 1881, Sint-Oedenrode, The Netherlands – 29 October 1934, Hollywood, California), Dutch-born stage and film actor, director, and screenwriter. The illegitimate child of a separated - but not divorced - lieutenant of the West-Indian Army Isidore Louis Bernard Edmon Tellegen and his partner Anna Maria van Dommelen, he grew up to be tall and handsome, qualities that in lieu of much talent or, apparently, much intelligence, he always traded on and which were to bring him a fair amount of success. According to his very unreliable autobiography, he left home at about the age of seventeen and traveled throughout Europe doing all manner of picturesque jobs. Back in Amsterdam a few years later, he tried acting for the first time, but by 1903 he was in Paris, where he worked as an artist's model - he claimed to have posed for Rodin - and almost certainly worked both on the legitimate stage and in low-end vaudeville. But by 1910, introduced by their mutual friend, the flamboyantly gay actor Eduoard de Max, he was the co-star, escort, and lover of the sixty-six year old Sarah Bernhardt. In spite of his always limited acting abilities and Dutch accent, they toured together for the next three years and made three films together, his first. The couple parted at the end of her last farewell tour of the Untied States in 1913, and he remained in this country.

Tellegen in costume during the early years of his career, circa 1905-1913.

There seems to be much confusion/fabrication in his biography; his first, brief marriage was to a "countess" and/or sculptress in 1903, and seems to have produced a daughter. But on 8 February 1916, he married the adored American soprano Geraldine Farrar (28 February 1882, Melrose, Massachusetts – 11 March 1967, Ridgefield, Connecticut) . After early success in European opera houses, Farrar had debuted at the Met in 1906 at the age of twenty-four; she remained their greatest female star until her retirement in 1922. She recorded extensively and was one of the first performers to appear on radio. She was also a very popular actress in - paradoxically - silent film; probably her best-known was Cecil B. DeMille's adaptation of Bizet's Carmen, made the year before she married Tellegen. No stranger to amours, herself - at the time of their union, she had only recently ended a seven-year-long affair with the married Arturo Toscanini - it turned out that it would be her husband's affairs that would eventually destroy the marriage. After seven years together they had a messy, much-publicized divorce in 1923. Tellegen later had two more brief marriages, but Farrar never married again.

Tellegen continued in his film career. He eventually made a total of forty-one films. (He had also co-starred with Farrar in three pictures during their marriage; his billing had been conspicuously subordinate to hers.) But as the Twenties played out, his leading man status slipped to that of supporting player, in less and less prestigious films. In 1928, having directed two films a decade before, he gave his hand to the task again, making a film with Dolores del Rio; it was not a success. But with the coming of the Talkies, his Dutch accent, his faded good looks and, possibly, alcoholism, meant that his opportunities dwindled to almost nothing. On Christmas day 1929, he suffered burns to his face - apparently he had fallen asleep while smoking a cigarette - and had plastic surgery in 1931. (Though it's quite possible that the surgery was merely a face-lift, an attempt at the sort of rejuvenation he believed might make him more employable.) That same year he wrote his autobiography Women Have Been Kind, stressing his matinée-idol reputation, hoping to make a little money.


With little or no employment forthcoming, now bankrupt, in the last year of his life he was a house-guest in the Hollywood mansion of Mrs. John Cudahy. His hostess would later disclose that Tellegen had been diagnosed with cancer, but that the severity of the situation had been kept from him. He had had a series of operations but, though his physical vigor had seemed to rebound, he was tormented by the prospect of a future career as a "bit player". It is said he was also concerned that he was "losing his mind." On the morning of 29 October 1934, he locked himself in his bathroom, shaved and powdered his face and - supposedly naked before a mirror, surrounded by his old press clippings - stabbed himself seven times in his left side with a pair of scissors, eventually striking his heart. His hostess and her butler pushed their way into the bathroom just as he collapsed, and he died on Mrs. Cudahy's bathroom floor moments later. He was a month short of his fifty-fourth birthday.

Time reported that when Geraldine Farrar was telephoned by reporters to get her response to her ex-husband's death, she replied, "Why should that interest me?"

Remembered now - if at all - only by association with the famous women he was close to, and for his melodramatic death, Tellegen was cremated and his remains scattered at sea. Later, Farrar reflected that he had been "handsome and stupid... [with] no morals whatever. May those tormented ashes rest in peace."

Friday, January 11, 2019

Vuillard by lamplight

Madame Hessel, 1905.
Interior, The Salon with Three Lamps, rue Saint-Florentin, 1899.
Madame Gillou chez elle "L'Accord partfait", 1932.
Madame Hessel and Her Manicurist, 1906.
The Green Lamp, 1893.
Sacha Guitry dans son dressing, circa 1911-12.
Thadée Natanson at His Desk, circa 1899.
The Visit, 1931.
In the Lamplight, 1892.
The Voiles de Gênes Boudoir, 1931.
Le Tapis á fleurages (Madame Hessel dans son salon à la Villa la Terrasse), circa 1903-04.
Le Salon de Madame Aron, circa 1911-12
The Attic at Valvins "The Lamp", 1896.
Misia Sert at the Piano, 1899. (She was actually still madame Natanson at the time.)
Jos Hessel devant la T.S.F. [radio], rue de Naples, circa 1920-22.
The Game of Bridge - The Salon at the Clos Cézanne, 1923.
Lucy Hessel et Lulu, rue de Naples "Le Télégramme", circa 1933-35.
Salon Natanson, rue Saint-Florentin, 1897.
Two Dressmakers Under the Lamp, circa 1891-92.
Princess Bibesco, circa 1920.
Madame Hessel at Home, circa 1908.
Autoportrait dans le miroir de dressing, 1923.
Madame Hessel, 1905 (detail). Lucy Hessel, the model for more than 100 paintings, was the wife of Vuillard’s dealer. She was also, eventually, the artist’s lover.