But she will never abandon her little corner of the Web. (Here the Siren wants everyone to remember the Alamo—specifically, Laurence Harvey making sure the sun catches his ruffles just right.)
Where else can the Siren blather on about Mary Astor's invention of pan-chromatic makeup and Vera Zorina in I Was an Adventuress? It's just that when the irresistible force of life meets the immovable object of work, something's gotta give, something's gotta give, something's gotta give.
Which brings us to this post, involving a man who did rather a good version of that song.
The Siren has been reading The Richard Burton Diaries. You could say, in fact, that the Siren has been obsessing over the Burton diaries. Her only reading time is on the subway, the dadgum thing weighs almost as much as her six-year-old, and yet the Siren lugs it back and forth because she does not want to let it go. The Diaries made her want to revisit some Burton movies (the good ones)—maybe even try out Burton as Trotsky because damn, the part about filming that one is funny. The whole book is delightful—very sad in some ways, but a marvelous picture of a restless, fiercely intelligent mind.
And lord have mercy, how he gossips. Evidently the only person who read it while he was writing it was Elizabeth Taylor, and so he feared no backlash. (Not even from her.) If the Siren tells you that this is, no lie, the only book she's ever read in which someone had a bad word to say about Audrey Hepburn, you'll get the general idea. It's weirdly enhanced by the most maniacal footnotes the Siren has ever encountered, via Professor Chris Williams. Par exemple: if the Burtons stay "at the Plaza Athénée," you get a note elaborating: "Hotel Plaza Athénée, Avenue Montaigne, Paris." The Siren at this point loves Williams almost as much as Burton.
The Siren adores how Burton chronicles his incredibly voracious reading habits in great detail, and she was immediately caught by his acerbic dissection of a certain nostalgic passage in David Niven's The Moon's a Balloon. The two sections, side by side, give a mirror-image view of Hollywood glamour, the Rat Pack, Sinatra, Bogart, and especially Burton and Niven themselves.
But they are quite, quite different. So, we'll give Niv the first word.
It was the 4th of July and Bogart had taken what Niven says was the highly unusual step of inviting women aboard his celebrated yacht, the Santana. That meant David Niven brought along his wife Hjordis (possibly the most universally disliked Hollywood spouse of that or any era, but that's a whole other post, at least). So Lauren Bacall (I do not call the goddess Miss Bacall "Betty" as I have never been introduced) came along to keep Hjordis company. Bacall had her hands full. As Niven tells it,
We dropped anchor in Cherry Cove and Frank Sinatra moored alongside us in a chartered motor cruiser with several beautiful girls and a small piano. After dinner, with Jimmy Van Heusen accompanying him, Sinatra began to sing. He sang all night.
There were many yachts in Cherry Cove that weekend, and by two in the morning, under a full moon, Santana was surrounded by an audience sitting in dozens and dinghies and rubber tenders of every shape and size.
Frank sang as only he can, with his monumental talent and exquisite phrasing undimmed by a bottle of Jack Daniels on top of the piano.
He sang till the dew came down heavily and the boys in the listening fleet fetched blankets for their girls' shoulders. He sang till the moon and the stars paled in the predawn sky. Only then did he stop and only then did the awed and grateful audience peddle silently home.
Now we shall let Burton have his say.
I read David Niven's autobiography yesterday in one sitting. It is very funny though not very well written and is, like all actors' biographies, very anecdotal and full of "and then Mike Todd called me and said 'Get your ass over here'" etc. He describes one scene on Bogart's yacht which is not what happened at all as I was there. He describes Sinatra singing all through the night on a motor yacht with a lot of other yachts around 'awe-struck' he says. Frankie did sing all through the night it's true and a lot of people sat around in boats and and got drunk it's true but Bogie and I went out lobster-potting with Dumbum [Bogart's Danish crewman, according to the every-ready Prof. Williams] while Frankie was singing kept on making cracks about Betty [Bacall] sitting on Sinatra's feet etc. and Frankie got really pissed off with Bogie and David Niv who describes himself as bewitched all through the night was trying to set fire to the Santana at one point because nobody could stop Francis from going on and on and on. I was drinking 'boiler-makers' with Bogie Rye Whiskey with canned beer chasers so the night is pretty vague but I seem to remember a girl having a fight with her husband or boy friend in a rowing dinghy and being thrown in the water by her irate mate. I don't know why but I would guess that she wanted to stay and listen to Frankie and he wanted to go. And Bogie and Frankie nearly came to blows next day about the singing the night before and I drove Betty home because she was so angry with Bogie's cracks about Frankie's singing. At the time Frankie was out of work and was peculiarly vulnerable and Bogie was unnecessarily cruel. But any way it is not at all like Niv's description.
So, the Siren asks the same question as in Kurosawa's great movie: out of these, which is believable?