Hollywood’s Most Disliked Woman—Zsa Zsa Gabor
Some weeks ago a writer for one of the many national magazines that have been printing articles on Zsa Zsa Gabor recently sat in the Gabor living room posing questions for a piece he was preparing.
“Tell me, Zsa Zsa,” he asked, “why do you think other women hate you so much?”
“Hate me?” Zsa Zsa’s expressive eyebrows rose in absolute disbelief. “Vy, zat is ridiculous. No woman ever hates me. Zey all love me. I am the best of friends with every woman I have ever met!”
“But how about so and so,” said the writer. “I hear you had quite a feud with her recently.” The name mentioned was of a pretty prominent Hollywood woman.
“Please!” said Zsa Zsa indignantly. “Don’t ever mention that girl’s name to me. I can not stand her.”
The reporter decided to abandon the issue right there, mainly because Zsa Zsa was honestly not aware that she had contradicted herself in two consecutive statements.
And that is the way it is with this Hungarian beauty who, in the space of a year, has become the most talked about newcomer to films and television in Hollywood. She considers herself the most ardent champion of her sex about, but actually has little time or much consideration for women. She regards herself as a lover of all mankind, and is positive she is loved in return, but the truth is that she is a majestic snob and probably Hollywood’s most likely candidate for lynching if the female citizens of the film capital ever institute Vigilante rule.
It must be admitted that the women who would like to see Zsa Zsa Gabor ploughed under have a point, for she is without a doubt the most dangerous mantrap since Eve. Although a neophyte in the theatre, Zsa Zsa (She spells it with a double z and pronounces it “Jah-Jah”) is not like the usual doll who descends on Hollywood from some beauty contest and sets the men talking to themselves over her face and figure. She is mature, probably on the shady side of 30, and offers none of the clean-cut American girl attributes of the run-of-the-mill glamor girls. She is a modern version of what our fathers panted after in Barbara LaMarr and Pola Negri.
Zsa Zsa Gabor boasts no freckled nose or healthy tan. She is less of a tomboy than Whistler’s Mother. She has been quoted as speaking of slacks as proper attire only for lady plumbers. She would rather be seen in a pine box than a pair of blue jeans; and she thinks exercise is all right for weight lifters but not for a lady of gentility. She is a stickler for morality, however, and proves it by having little more than a cool nod for men she isn’t or can’t be in love with. The fact that Zsa Zsa’s romantic urge is so overdeveloped that she finds something lovable in almost every man she meets keeps her life from becoming dull and is largely responsible for her reputation as a love thief.
As she herself puts it, “I like mens!”
The Gabor type of loveliness is heady. She is.what a man would hope to see if he passed a lady’s Turkish bath and someone had forgotten to pull the shades. Her hair, which changes color at her whim but is generally reddish-blonde, is never done in a prim coiffure but is delightfully and carefully wispy. Her skin is like white satin. Her eyes are blue and cool and rather small, but generously circled with thick lashes much darker than her hair. Her nose and mouth are classic and her jaw line sweeping and youthful. Her expression is mobile, impish one instant and adoring the next.
Below the neck, Zsa Zsa Gabor is happily proportioned. Her measurements, 36-24-36, are better than average, but it’s the way she uses her body that is really outstanding. Even at ease she looks as though a good deep breath would make her more comfortable, but she won’t take it. And her neckline is a constant source of irritation to all other women.
Ne film celebrity has a background to compare with Miss Zsa Zsa Gabor. She was born—only her mother knows exactly when—in Hungary, and is one of three daughters of an aristocratic family. Her father was an exceedingly well-off army officer. Her training from birth, supervised by her lovely mother, Jolie, was directed almost entirely toward the day when she would be set free among a world full of handsome rich’ men. The arts of batting eyelashes and listening to baritone voices with an expression of complete attention and suppressed passion Were instinctive, but were improved upon by Jolie. And Zsa Zsa was taught to accept a jewel or fur with infinite grace and gratitude, while at the same time taking it as something quite her due. It is these things that make Zsa Zsa different from other, less gifted women. And these things, also, which cause her to be disliked so intensely by her own kind.
At the age of 16, a time when the average American girl is in love with both Tony Curtis and the captain of the basketball team at school, Zsa Zsa experienced her first mad passion. She fell in love with a gentleman quite her senior by the name of Burhan Belge, head of the Turkish Ministry of Information. He was anxious to get married, but Turkish law forbade a career member of the government service from marrying a foreigner. It was a poser, but Zsa Zsa turned her face toward the President of Turkey and he promptly proclaimed Turks and Hungarians brothers, making the marriage possible.
The next two years of her life held enough adventure to last most girls a lifetime. Ankara, Turkey’s capital, was the scene of some of the most exciting international intrigue in history. A recent movie, Five Fingers, exposed the period. Zsa Zsa flitted through the international quarters of the city like a butterfly in a swarm of horse flies. She had friends—and admirers—on all sides of the conflict that was raging. A high official in the British Embassy was insane about her, as were a number of the Axis supporters. And to balance things, the president of the country found himself unable to restrain himself in her presence. Zsa Zsa, totally and truly unaware that anything except good company, flirtations and excitement counted, soon found herself obliged to leave her husband and the East for a less explosive atmosphere.
On the journey that finally brought her to America in 1941, she experienced most of the incidents one would expect her lusty beauty to lead her into. She was arrested as a spy in Bagdad, suspected of being one in numerous other places, and shuttled around as quickly as nervous espionage detectives could arrange transportation. In England she was a guest of the King and Queen, as well as H. G. Wells, G. B. Shaw and other notables. And she arrived in this country, broke but eager to face a new life.
Although she came to Hollywood shortly after arriving in America, so she could be with her sister, Eva, who was then under contract to Paramount, Zsa Zsa had no desire to begin a theatrical career. The movies were too tame for a girl who had lived, and wanted to continue to live, the genuine article. She spent a period as a hausfrau, Zsa Zsa’s own improper term, and then married the richest man she knew, Conrad Hilton, the hotel magnate. She became the mistress of his household and, ironically, “Mom” to Hilton’s two fun-loving sons. And she missed by an eyelash becoming Elizabeth Taylor’s mother-in-law.
When her marriage to Conrad Hilton ended, Zsa Zsa walked away with a chummy handshake and a fortune in gems and property. She has a five-year-old daughter, Francesca, as a result of that marriage. For a period after that Zsa Zsa played the local field of admirers, taking time out occasionally to act as hostess at her ex-husband’s social affairs. Then she met George Sanders.
Those who knew Sanders intimately could hardly believe what they saw happening. Noted as a man who lived for his own pleasure and a man unimpressed by any feminine qualities, Sanders fell hook, line and fishing pole for Miss Gabor. He began to smile in public and actually admitted he was smitten. Zsa Zsa dangled Sanders from the tips of her fingers. And when the mood and the madness of the man’s passion suited her, she married him.
Because you can’t change an old dog but can teach him new tricks, the Sanders marriage was different from the outset. George slipped back a bit into his narrow cloister, and Zsa Zsa went along in her gay, usual way. Finally, Hollywood discovered that she was accepting dates without apparently disrupting her home; nor did she seem to mind when George’s eye fell on another woman. Separations followed without either one appearing to mind it too much.
As of this moment, nothing has been resolved about this marriage. Zsa Zsa lives in a huge home in Bel Air’s swankiest section. George is about somewhere. On the day MODERN SCREEN interviewed Zsa Zsa, the reporter happened to look through a window and see Sanders drive off toward town. He expressed some surprise, having heard that the husband had moved out again.
“Oh, zat is nossing,” said Zsa Zsa, with a wave of a hand that wore a 22 carat diamond, “he is just a guest here.”
Zsa Zsa might have lived the rest of her days without ever making a professional appearance if it had not been for an incident while the family was entertaining the James Masons one night early in 1951. Zsa Zsa was telling Mrs. Mason that a television producer had approached her and asked her to make an appearance on the now famous Bachelor’s Haven program.
“Ridiculous!” George snorted. “She’s too dumb to do anything on television.”
It would be an understatement to state that Zsa Zsa has proven differently. Within a matter of weeks she had become notorious as a woman who said exactly what she meant—and who meant plenty. Something in the Iconoscope she faced each Sunday night heightened her natural beauty and she came into living rooms more exotically beautiful than ever. Her butchery of the English language rocked even the poker-faces of Movietown with laughter. Zsa Zsa became a star.
But with stardom came the hatred she ignores so elegantly today. Although she is ostensibly on the side of the ladies on her program, she shifts at the first sign of a real battle to the male point of view. This is distracting to her professional foe, Paul Coates, a Los Angeles columnist, but downright infuriating to girls who sit with bared teeth before their TV sets at home. In the first place, they calculate, she just can’t look that good. And in the second, she’s obviously just after every man she sees. It has gotten so women who have husbands she hasn’t seen object to her. And the only thing that keeps Bachelor’s Haven from becoming the highest rated television program in its area are the iron hands of wives turning the sets off when Zsa Zsa smiles into the camera.
Zsa Zsa Gabor’s entry into movies came as a result of her television show. Mervyn Leroy, preparing a picture called Lovely To Look At needed a foreign woman whom men could be counted on to look at. He called Zsa Zsa, after seeing her on the show, and asked her if she’d like to test for the role. Zsa Zsa indignantly informed him that she most certainly would not test. She could be seen on TV. That was test enough. Leroy opined as it probably was and hired her anyway. During the making of this picture, Zsa Zsa was teamed with Kathryn Grayson, Marge Champion and Ann Miller. She vows these girls swear the sun rises and sets on her, but, being women, it seems unlikely.
There is such an air of competence about Zsa Zsa Gabor that Hollywood women refuse to consider it as part of the reason her screen career is forging ahead. They prefer to blind themselves to her talent and unique charm, and hint that she capitalizes on her over-stimulated glands to get ahead.
“It is so silly,” says Zsa Zsa about this. “People are always saying I make love to my producers or directors. Such nonsense. They say I am in love with everybody, and every man is in love with me. They say Mervyn Leroy was in love with me at MGM, and Nunally Johnson at Fox. And now they say John Huston, who I will work for in Paris, is my lover. This man I have never even met yet! And all of these men are happily married to other women!”
Because of her almost terrifying candor, you can bet that Zsa Zsa’s statement is true. But it cannot be denied that any wife whose husband comes into intimate contact with Miss Gabor will spend a couple of extra hours a week in a beauty parlor. No woman, no matter how substantial her marriage, could possibly ignor the Gabor risk.
Zsa Zsa’s opinions of Hollywood women are given at the drop of a suggestion.
“Everything is wrong here,” she said recently. “A woman in the movies gets up at five o’clock in the morning. At seven she is seated in a beauty parlor chair having her hair done and her face made beautiful. At nine o’clock she is standing in a lovely living room, dressed in an exquisite evening gown, and she spends the day until six o’clock playing a romance with a lot of handsome men. So when she gets home in the evening, she takes it all off and walks around in old clothes or a comfortable bath robe. No wonder the men get sick of them.”
Zsa Zsa expresses the opinion, also, that the Hollywood men are spoiled.
“There are too many beautiful women here,” she stated as though it was an interesting lie. “A man must shove his way through them to get into a night club. Consequently, the men are not as cavalier as they should be. Some of the beautiful women here should go away. Things would be better.”
Men, according to Zsa Zsa, should be dangled on strings rather than have their wills catered to. No man, she feels, should be given an inkling that he is anything more than a temporary toy that might well be discarded the day after Christmas. And she feels strongly that women in Hollywood lack candor. One of her acquaintances, a very beautiful actress, once sold gloves in a department store and now. never mentions it.
“It is so silly,” says Zsa Zsa. “How interesting it would be for her to say to a mans, ‘Once I used to sold gloves for a living.’ He would like her better.”
This attitude is considered undercover hatchet work by Zsa Zsa’s contemporaries, who are quite sure telling a man the low points in a glamor girl’s background is almost a certain way to lose him. She’s a liar and a giver of bad advice, they cry.
When she is in the mood te confess her real opinions, Zsa Zsa will repeat a favorite expression which seems to imply that Hollywood girls are something less than all-around prize packages.
“The girls in Hollywood,” she says, “are not on a par with European women. In Hollywood a woman is a nothing. In New York a woman is a telephone number. But in Paris a woman is a woman!”
Yes, Zsa Zsa Gabor is a revolutionary. By instinct and training she is a predatory creature not willing to share a male bone with any other female. She has the attributes which make her plundering easy—and she must go through life, and her movie career, which now looms formidably, on a solo safari, wary ever of the spears of her own kind.
MODERN SCREEN asked her for a single incident which would prove her contention that women really like her.
“Very well,” Zsa Zsa said, “last Christmas Eve I was at a party and somebody introduced me to Ethel Barrymore. Miss Barrymore was very kind to me. She said she liked me on the television and admired me very much. She wanted to be my friend. You see?”
We saw, but we left without making an issue of the fact that Miss Barrymore is roosting on 70, and more than likely no longer cares. Forty years ago, she’d probably have cut Zsa Zsa down with a Christmas tree icicle!
—BY JIM BURTON
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 1952