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is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in ellen copperfield (36)

Tuesday
Feb182014

In Which We Marry Our First Serious Girlfriend

Henpecked

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

He married his first serious girlfriend, Greta Konen. At 31, she was five years older and a hairdresser at a travelling theater company. She reached up to about the midpoint of his chest. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, in a fit of pique, he proposed. Greta had refused to sleep with Gregory Peck until he made it legal.

Their wedding reception occurred at the 1942 World Series in St. Louis. They moved to California shortly thereafter, renting a small pink home in Beverly Hills. He had originally seen her standing on a Philadelphia train platform; the same woman was now his wife. It was her second marriage.

Groomed for stardom because of his bellicose palate of expressions and unique charm, Peck begn to take movement classes with Martha Graham. (Tony Randall and Eli Wallach were also students.) "She was in the prime of her prime," Peck once said of Graham. The woman was merciless to her charges, even once pressing down on his back so violently he slipped a disc.

As Peck was cast in more prominent roles, a congregation of women nearly always surrounded him. Greta at first tried to take the change in stride, reminding herself, "I should remember a movie star shouldn't have a wife." It was traditional in those days to minimize how much information about the star's private lives reached the public. Since Greg could charm any woman, why not the gossip columnists as well? They rarely wrote of his indiscretions, unless they were so obvious they could not be ignored.

Once he had asked Martha Graham if he had moved properly. She said, "Tears are running down the insides of my cheeks."

He attempted in vain to behave himself until he met his co-star on the set of Spellbound. This was Ingrid Bergman, herself married to a Swedish dentist. All caution hit the wind. As the film wrapped up, Bergman had enough of Peck and moved on to her next leading man. Peck was a bit hurt, but tried to take it in stride. His wife watched these events with circumspection.

The question of whether or not he had sex with Ava Gardner is an open one. They were close friends and neither admitted to any indiscretion. Dark, large and possessed, he could not have chosen any differently than his tiny wife.

Peck drunkenly cheated on Greta with whoever was available, but his infidelity with the actress Barbara Payton constituted something of a turning point. After the affair, she talked openly to magazines about hard fucking him in their dressing rooms. She told everyone she knew about how big he was. In gratitude, he banned her from the set of her own movie. Years later she became a prostitute on Sunset Boulevard.

In 1948 an organization named Peck Father of the Year.

In 1952 he met a 19 year old Parisian journalist, Veronique Passani, in the company of his wife. He did not really care. On the set of Roman Holiday, newspapers reported his liasion with Audrey Hepburn. It helped the film's box office for sure, but it was barely true. "Everyone on the set was in love with her," he later said. Hepburn was herself engaged.

In Italy Greg's main mistress was actually June Dally-Watkins, 25, an Australian model. He asked her to join him in Paris and pretended he was separated from Greta. June was a virgin, and her mother advised her to return to Australia, which she did after some soul-wringing.

One night Greta and Greg went to the home of her family friends. He suddenly decided to leave, and when she caught up with him, she asked him, did he want her to come with? He told his wife, "It doesn't make any difference."

With his Australian dalliance safely in her home country, Greg was free to focus on Veronique. He conveyed her to Rome and romanced her mercilessly. The game was already won, however; she told her mother the first day she interviewed him and and his wife that she would marry him someday.

In Veronique Peck found a like mind despite their age differences. Or perhaps he really wanted to see things this way: "Veronique and I have the same tastes in arts, sports, everything!" he sometimes cried out, either to the media or breaking out of a dream in the middle of the night. Greta returned to America once it became clear this fascination was no simple affair. Peck married Veronique the day after his divorce from Greta was finalized.

Once wed, the new couple socialized mostly with Cary Grant and his wife, and Greg's benders reduced in their frequency. It was easy to be affected by Greg's insane charisma and appeal, but Veronique took it a step further. She seemed to see him as he truly was: an introverted, semi-haunted sconce. "He is a man of strengths and weaknesses," his second wife noted. "If I had to paint Greg, I would need a whole range of colors to do a portrait because there is great variation."

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. She last wrote in these pages about the early days of Ingrid Bergman. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Digital Witness" - St. Vincent (mp3)

"I Prefer Your Love" - St. Vincent (mp3)

 

Tuesday
Feb042014

In Which Ingrid Bergman Raises Her Standard Of Living

A Taste For Gin and Tonic

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

She admired Joan of Arc most of all. The French heroine was, in her imagination, the tall, slightly awkward, slightly shy version of herself. "She became the character I liked to play most. She, too, was a timid child, but with great dignity and courage." All the boys teased and mocked Ingrid Bergman, to her face and behind her back. To entertain her friends, she re-enacted Joan's death.

In the wake of Ingrid's mother's death, her father found comfort with the family's eighteen year old housekeeper/governess, Greta. She treated Ingrid like a younger sister, and the girl returned the favor. Between her aunt (she called the woman 'Aunt Mommy'), her deceased mother, and her father's young mistress, it had been a confusing set of mentors. None of these women could cook, so neither could Ingrid. She was a lot better at German; her father had always spoken the language very well.

"I believed that my life with my father was perfect," Ingrid wrote of her art dealer papa. "He was everything to me, and I was everything to him. People would say, 'She must miss her mother terribly.' But I didn't, because for me she was very abstract. She was a photograph...always frozen in a picture frame."

Her father had made a short film of Ingrid's mother for her to remember the woman by. It is a terrifying sequence that ends with the three year old girl putting flowers on her mother's grave. When Ingrid made it to America for the first time, David O. Selznick had it restored for her. Even without her mother, the tiny family got along well, singing at the piano each night after dinner.

When she was 13, her father died. She moved in with her aunt and uncle, who were overjoyed to take her for the simple reason that the girl's trust fund raised their standard of living immediately. Her first audition was for the Royal Dramatic Theater.

One of the admissions committee said of Ingrid that, "while she has too much the appearance of a country girl, she is very natural and is the type that does not need makeup on her face or on her mind." Her star began there, and soon "Sweden seemed too small and I felt I had to get to a bigger country... but I was scared to death Hollywood would not like me."

Chosen to be a star from early on in her country, Ingrid came to America for the first time on the Queen Mary. She wanted desperately to become an American as quickly as possible, since she knew she would have to survive and thrive in this country in any case. She ate the most American meals she could find, taking refuge in familiar ice cream when it proved unsatisfying.

At first she never drank to excess, and even her passion for food as a refuge had its limits. Gin, whiskey and good wine were afforded her now. Temptation could be indulged until just before it became damaging. After her relationship with Rossellini, her drinking became more and more frequent. "I always look at myself in a detached way," she said at the time, "as though I was watching a stranger for whom I am responsible."

In order to speak English well enough to perform on stage or camera, she went to the theater as often as she could. There she saw pablum like The Little Foxes and The Philadelphia Story, trying in vain to comprehend the idioms. Selznick hired a dialogue coach for her and she took the train from New York to California.

with Gregory Peck

Selznick's wife Irene showed Ingrid to her room in their vast Beverly Hills mansion. The makeover began immediately, and Ingrid chafed on how they wanted to change her. She convinced Selznick not to alter her eyebrows and limited the application of makeup, selling him on the idea of her as a "natural girl", with her own teeth and hair.

Her first house was in a slightly less glamorous part of Beverly Hills, no pool. Her contract limited her to two films a year, and she despised the idleness it created, complaining to Selznick, who made thousands hiring his new star out to other studios. Anxious as hell, she gained fifteen pounds on ice cream sundaes. "You're going to love America," her friend opined.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about the childhood of Walter Benjamin.

Dear Mrs Bergman,

I send you as promised a short synopsis of my story: I can’t call it a real full length story, because it is not a story. I am used to following a few basic ideas and building them up little by little during the process of the work as the scenes very often spring out of direct inspiration from reality. I don’t know whether my words will have the same power of the images: anyhow, I assure you that, during this work of mine, my own emotions have been strong and intense as never before. I wish I could speak to you about Her and He, the Island, the men and women of the Island, the humility so primitive though so antique, made wise by experience of centuries. One could think that they live so simply and poorly just because of that knowledge of the vanity of everything we consider civilized and necessary.

Ingrid in 'Stromboli'

I am sure that you will find many parts of the story quite rugged, and that your personality will be hurt and offended by some reactions of the personage. You mustn’t think that I approve of the behaviour of Him. I deplore the wild and brutal jealousy of the Islander, I consider it a remainder of an elementary and old fashioned mentality. I describe it because it is part of the ambience, like the prickly pears, the pines and the goats. But I can’t deny in the deepness of my soul there us a secret envy for those that can love so passionately, so wildly, as to forget any tenderness, any pity for their beloved ones. They are guided only by a deep desire of possession of the body and sold of the woman they love. Civilization has smoothed the strength of feelings; undoubtedly it’s more comfortable to reach the top of a mountain by funicular, but perhaps the joy was greater when men climbed dangerously to the top.

I beg your pardon for the many diversions, I am filled with so many thoughts and I fear that you cannot understand me completely only by a letter. I am anxious to know your impression after you have read this story. I beg you to consider that the translation was made in a great hurry by people who have not the complete mastery of the language.

I want you to know how deeply I wish to translate those ideas into images, just to quiet down the turmoil of my brain.

Waiting to know your judgement, I am,
Yours very truly and devoted

R. Rossellini

"Where Did We Go Wrong" - Babyface & Toni Braxton (mp3)

"I Hope That You're Okay" - Babyface & Toni Braxton (mp3)

The new album from Babyface and Toni Braxton is entitled Love, Marriage & Divorce and it was released today.

Wednesday
Jan222014

In Which Walter Benjamin Made Childhood Look Easy

A Genius of Dwelling

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

Walter Benjamin's father Emil was something of a dilettante. His major focus was the Berlin villa he purchased for his wife Pauline and their growing family. It was basically the house in The Royal Tenenbaums with nothing rotten or outdated; the culture it recalled had long since vanished from the earth.

At a very tender age Walter Benjamin was ensconced in a custom of indoor and outdoor living. If there was something to take lessons in - butterfly hunting or ice skating, for example  he joined with all the aplomb he could muster. Each room of his father's house held a different sort of emotion, and could be inhabited completely or discarded with the closing of a door.

1902Emil's favorite place to be was on the telephone  this way a part of himself could be elsewhere, and a part with his family at all times. The self Emil Benjamin sent out, angry and forceful, was often different from the one they got back. His moustache was ranked either excellent or nonpareil depending on the humidity or time of day.

In a new biography from Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, Benjamin's younger days are given a reverent kind of attention as though they're depicting a young man either recovering from or developing a psychosis. In reality, Emil's disturbing utopia was all the more perplexing because it anticipated the complete destruction of the German residence, which perished during the war.


Walter's mother Pauline was thirteen years his father's junior. She called Walter "Mr. Clumsy" because he never lived up to her idea of decorum.

His brother and sister were both separated from Walter by age, Eiland reports, so that they each experienced life as an only child. When Walter was finally divested of his private tutors and send to class with other pupils, it may not surprise you to learn that he did not fit in whatsoever. He was sick so often that other arrangements had to be made; it was good to get those illnesses out in the open air.

In a country boarding school called Haubinda, Benjamin found a love of learning that separated him from all else  nothing was closer to him than that pedagogy. Upon his graduation from high school, his father gave him a trip as a gift. The family had already traveled around Europe at their leisure, this was Walter's first trip to Italy on his own, the first where he determined the direction and purpose: Como, Milan, Verona, Vicenza, Padua. Among the masters he never cowered.

This temporary elation passed, a miasma of longing mixed with a desire to survive persisted. At University Benjamin found himself again outside the times, and eventually he returned to the villa to live at home while he pursued his studies. He had one friend of any import, a painter/novelist named Philip, and he steered clear of everyone else.

University, Eiland and Jennings say, was Benjamin's first introduction to his Judaism. Really, it was only his first introduction to Zionism, because although the Benjamin family was entirely secular, the boy's upbringing was hardly divorced from some bare essentials of the European Jewish experience. He now fancied himself the quintessential Jew, and all of his friends were similarly disposed financially and ethnically.

Unsuccessful liasions with women would depress him, but their troubles never superseded his intellectual ones, and indeed possessed far simpler remedies.

His friend Charlotte Wolff wrote of the man he became:

He had not the male bearing of his generation. And there were disturbing features about him which did not fit with the rest of his personality. The rosy apple-cheeks of a child, the black curly hair and fine brow were appealing, but there was sometimes a cynical glint in his eyes. His thick, sensuous lips, badly hidden by a moustache, were also an unexpected feature, not fitting with the rest. His posture and gestures were 'uptight' and lacked spontaneity, except when he spoke of things he was involved in or of people he loved.

He held, always, a part of himself back from those closest to him. Even his first amorous relationships with women never mention his body or theirs, as if he were describing two minds touching at the brainstem. All of Walter's friends felt this dissonance in their relationships with him: from the time he left home, he was far closer to ideas than people.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. She last wrote in these pages about the life of Jules Verne. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Rough Darlin'" - Fox and the Bird (mp3)

"When I Was Young" - Fox and the Bird (mp3)

The Best of Ellen Copperfield on This Recording

Dorothea Lange's Failed Marriage

Sex Life Of Marlon Brando

Lifetime of Threats and Insults

The Onset Of The Western Canon

Entitled To Madonna's Opinion

Barbra Streisand Grows Up In Flatbush

A Sneaking Suspicion of Literature

Anjelica Huston Falls Off The Horse

Prefer To Be Simone de Beauvoir

The Marriage of Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra

Elongated Childhood of Jorge Luis Borges

Jokes At The Expense Of Tom Hanks

Which One Is The Gay?