Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Diet Food Gone Wrong - the Mae Murray Episode

Mae Murray (May 10, 1889 - March 23, 1965) was a major Hollywood silent star, who unfortunately is remembered mainly for her loss of touch with reality and inspiring the character Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. She also happened to be Madame Sylvia's next famous Hollywood client.

The relationship between Mae and Sylvia began during the Christmas season of 1927. Mae asked Sylvia to go on a cross country trip with her as her masseuse. Sylvia was warned not to go, but she could not pass up this major opportunity. Mae Murray said this to get Sylvia on board:

"You come along with me on a coast-to-coast tour, and let's not talk dough. What you get by the week is - poof! - pin money. I've got plans for you. We'll launch a breakfast food! Say, we'll do a sanitarium right over in Westwood. There's millions in it! Think of your darling sons. Do it for them. They'll be rich!" (Hollywood Undressed, Page 26)

Now who could say no to that? I know I couldn't.

Well, it didn't quite work out that well. After the trip, Mae Murray and Sylvia ended up in court and they endured a 2 day trial. Mae wouldn't pay Sylvia for her work claiming she did nothing during the trip. Sylvia prevailed. Some of the juicy things that came out of the trial

  • Mae had to be reprimanded because she threatened to start throwing inkstands at the participants of the trial

  • Mae claimed Sylvia rubber her so hard that the arches in her feet fell

  • To prove that Sylvia really did good work, starlet Alice White was a witness and was willing to "show the court how Sylvia reduced her". She appeared in court in virtually nothing and a sweet pea corsage on her shoulder. (Hollywood Undressed, Page 27)

The drama between Sylvia and Mae was mainly due to Mae's husband, Prince M'Divoni. He hated Sylvia and didn't like his wife "getting so intimate with a peasant" (Hollywood Undressed, Page 29). Seems funny to me, because Mae didn't exactly come from royalty. It is also funny because it is widely questioned whether he is is really a Prince.

During the trip, Mae and her husband would fight about what to get the Prince's son for Christmas, apparently daily. Every time Sylvia would try to give Sylvia a massage, Mae and the Prince would be arguing for hours about the Christmas present

Anyway, every time Sylvia would try to give Mae her massage, the Prince would refuse Sylvia admittance to their suite. Sylvia earned $275 a week for this fun time.

The "wonderful" Prince M'Divoni

Coincidentally, he was an extremely horribly man from all accounts. According to divorce documents,

On March 2, 1928, at their home in Los Angeles, Mdivani was alleged to have beaten his wife in the presence of a servant, to have cut her lip, to have chased her with a loaded gun, and to have used profanity and called her ugly names"


And how did that diet food Mae and Sylvia worked on turn out? Well, According to Sylvia, it was canned and "looked like wood paste". Sylvia refused to even try it, let alone market it. When Sylvia said Mae could eat it if she liked it so much, Mae refused saying that Sylvia was the dietitian, she should eat it. Needless to say, it never was sold.

This "wonderful treat" was "tested" when Mae stopped in Chicago. She was supposed to take out a troop of girls to eat after their show. Instead, she had Sylvia mix up three cans of their "health food" with olive oil to teach the girls how to "eat healthy" (Hollywood Undressed, Page 42). They hated it and went to the doughnut shop after Mae left the room. The youngest girl of the group tried it and spit it out. Mae was apparently oblivious, and thought the girls loved her "treat".

Note, all photos are of Mae Murray unless otherwise noted

Next up, Mary Duncan fights for Sylvia's services.


Ms. B @ Millie Deel said...

Wow such an interesting post!!

Lidian said...

I love stories like this! And the diet food story reminded me of the Honeymooners episode where Ralph and Ed think they have a brilliant new cracker spread to market that Alice left in the icebox. It turns out to be a neighbor's dog food.

I can't tell you how much I loved this post! Thank you for a great treat :)

Anonymous said...

This is interesting and funny to read - thanks for sharing :)


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