Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas with George and Zsa Zsa


The Siren has had a busy holiday season that has included, in addition to the usual hoo-ha, many unexpected household tasks. She's kept up her spirits via activities like seeing Playtime in 70-millimeter and replacing Jingle All the Way in the Barnes and Noble DVD Christmas display with Auntie Mame. We all have our little holiday rituals.

Posting has been more than usually spotty, a situation that may alter a bit in January (we can only hope), but the Siren simply can't leave her blog bare for Christmas, although Myrna is doing her best for the banner. The Siren has posted a summary of this splendid, heart-warming Christmas story once before, but she assures you that of the many versions out there, the one to read is Brian Aherne's.

It is (probably) Christmas 1953, and the storied, brain-stumping marriage of the lovely Zsa Zsa Gabor and George Sanders is on the train to Reno, you might say. Zsa Zsa has begun to comfort herself with the attentions of "a famous international charmer" (probably Porfirio Rubirosa). Sanders reacts as any ordinary husband would; he decides the situation offers the perfect way to reduce his potential alimony payments. And here Aherne takes up the tale of Sanders:

Late at night on Christmas Eve, wearing dirty blue jeans, a sweatshirt and a beard...

[Pause. Chew on that image for a minute. Pour yourself a Christmas cocktail. Down it in one. Can you picture it yet? Me neither. Carry on.]

...wearing dirty blue jeans, a sweatshirt and a beard, accompanied by two detectives and carrying a brick that he had carefully gift-wrapped, he stealthily crossed the lawn of Zsa Zsa's house and placed a ladder against the wall. Followed by the detectives, he then climbed to the balcony outside her window. All was silent and dark inside when abruptly he shattered the glass with the brick, opened the catch, stepped into the room, turned on the light and, holding out his gift package, said "Merry Christmas, my dear!" Zsa Zsa's companion sprang up and rushed into the bathroom--too late, for the detectives had got their incriminating photos before the sleepers could realize what was happening.

Zsa Zsa behaved with perfect aplomb. Smiling and putting a lacy dressing gown, she said, "George darling! How lovely to see you! You are just in time to get your Christmas present, which is under the tree. Let's go down and have a glass of champagne and I will give it to you." She led the way downstairs, laughing gaily, gave George his present, gift-wrapped, and poured champagne for the detectives, who were enchanted with her. Indeed a good time seems to have been had by all on that festive occasion, except by the gentleman in the bathroom.

When the impending divorce was announced, their statements to the press were brief and typical. "George is a wonderful man and I shall always love him," said Zsa Zsa. "I have been cast aside like a squeezed lemon," said George.

The Siren thinks it's the detail of gift-wrapping the brick that really makes this anecdote. During the holidays, a time of stress for many, may we all behave with the grace and good cheer of this weirdly well-matched couple.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Joyous Festivus, Happy (post-) Hanukkah, Gleeful Kwanzaa and a generally loving, warm and gentle-spirited holiday to all my patient readers. You make this occasionally rather cobwebby corner of the Web so very, very worthwhile.

18 comments:

Karen said...

Never--NEVER--will I be capable of visualizing George Sanders in any kind of blue jeans (much less dirty ones), a sweatshirt, and unshaven. It buggers the imagination.

D Cairns said...

But I can imagine him dryly saying "Yo. Ho. Ho." And it gives me considerable pleasure.

The Siren said...

George Sanders can stop by my house with a gift-wrapped brick any old time.

StephenWhitty said...

So perfect, Siren! Am currently fighting off the holiday flu with a hot toddy and a flea market find: Motion Picture, Dec 1940 issue.

Too many wonderful stories inside (including a long one on that new sensation Stirling (sic) Hayden, but my favorite is a story on "brains-vs.-brawn."

Apparently, 1940 brought an influx of new he-men to Hollywood, and as proof the fan mag offers up, (alongside Victor Mature and John Hall), George Sanders and Vincent Price.

Both gentlemen were probably solid 44-Longs at least, but I have to admit "brawny" is not the first adjective that comes to mind when describing them.

Richard said...

I know the Internet is right over here and I could look this up, but wasn't Mr. Sanders appearing in The Moon and Sixpence (a film whose ad campaign was memorably roasted by that Mr. Perelman in his essay "Beat Me, Post Impressionistic Daddy".) Perhaps he was clad as a beatnik to get closer to the zen of the rebel artist he played. Merry Xmas, Siren!

Vanwall said...

In flagrante delicto, and in Zsa Zsa's case, I'm sure it was at least as highly flammable flagrante as it was deliciously delicto.

Happy Holidays, All!

Mythical Monkey said...

Forget George Sanders in a beard and dirty blue jeans, I can't wrap my head around the fact that he was married to Zsa Zsa Gabor!

Peter Nellhaus said...

Those might not be blue jeans, and the beard may be overgrown, but the screenshot at the bottom might suggest how Sanders appeared that night.

DavidEhrenstein said...

In later years Zsa Zsa said George was the love of her life and she deeply regretted divorcing him.

Thanks Siren for reminding us of the reason why. The gift-wrapped brick did it.

The Siren said...

Stephen, Sanders and Price were both strapping men but that air of elegance clung to them no matter what.

Richard, that could be! One thing about Moon & Sixpence, although it's got some real good points, is that Sanders does give the feeling he's slumming.

Vanwall, I am sure Zsa Zsa's lingerie was TDF.

Mythical, as David E. points out, they really were weirdly well-matched. All of Zsa Zsa's sharp remarks about being a golddigger, combined with Sanders' very genuine love of a buck; a keen sense of humor and a certain cynicism. They should have had kids, if you ask me. (Although David claims that Z.Z.'s daughter believes Sanders was her real dad.)

Peter, Sanders pulls off that role pretty well but the beard always makes me itch all over.

Merry Christmas everybody!

VP81955 said...

A merry Christmas to all from classic Hollywood: http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/563896.html

Noel Vera said...

She smiles and puts on a lacy gown? Meaning she got up, walked over, and put it on? In front of a cuckolded husband and two strangers?

Kind of hot.

Jeff Gee said...

"Kind of"??

Jeff Gee said...

In honor of this heartwarming Christmas anecdote, I've (re)uploaded George Sanders' 1958 LP "The Sanders Touch," originally found on the 'Big Ten Inch Record' blog. 12 songs (mp3s), cover scans, a slimline cover should you be compelled to burn this thing as a CD, and scans of both his Blatz Beer ad ("I've been to Milwaulkee, I ought to know!")and his Robert Burns Cigarillo ad, the latter also featuring Mrs. S. It says they are shown 'enjoying their favorite pasttime,' but don't get your hopes up. Give a holler if you have any trouble downloading or unzipping the zip file.

Untouched Takeaway said...

Mythical Monkey:

If you can't wrap your head around George Sanders being married to Zsa Zsa...I'm about to blow your mind:

He was *also* married to her (lesser-known) sister, Magda.

I believe Mama Jolie was quoted as saying he was her favorite son-in-law, and she wished he would marry Eva, too.

Happy New Year! ;)

monescu said...

It never seemed likely to me that a man who described his first wife as "the woman who does my laundry," would last well with the hurricane that was Zsa Zsa. But I can well understand the mutual attraction. George seemed to find the peace he was seeking in his marriage to Benita Hume, but that was whisked away from him with her death (it always seemed that the role of Charles Strickland in MOON AND SIXPENCE-- despite being based on Gaugin-- was semi-biographical of Sanders himself, though that perhaps could be said of many of his roles).

I always thought it was George Sanders who said "marriage is for bores. I mean, Gabors," but it turns out it was Oscar Levant-- another undeniable joy to live with!

DavidEhrenstein said...

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

And speaking of Oscar Levant. . .

Caroline Louise said...

Dirty blue jeans?? What world is this? If he'd said "a mini skirt and earrings" I'd have found it easier to process