A Jersey Girl in Hollywood

In the very beginning out West, there was only dust. Hollywood presented a virgin land of ranches, fig trees and snaky canyons. Beverly Hills had the ambience of “an abandoned real estate development”, Charlie Chaplin recalled. “Sidewalks ran along and disappeared into open fields”. California’s promise glimmered like the Promised Land.

First men came west for God, then for gold. Now a new breed of technical pioneers colonised the frontier in search of the aura of new clear light. The merciless Californian sun proved the ideal medium for these magicians to conjure up ghostly moving pictures on their magic lanterns. Farms became studios, turning celluloid into riches. An obscure and dilapidated roadhouse, the Hollywood Hotel, suddenly became the eye of the storm.

The allure of the West Coast sucked in a swarm of writers and swindlers, moneymen and showgirls, tycoons on the make, hunters and their prey. This gold rush proved as fatal and alluring as the mad old days of Forty-Nine; the spell of California promising the bounty of untold wealth to the ferociously ambitious with nothing to lose but their souls.

The early movies were lucrative but their style was unpolished. In a bid to embellish his artistic credentials, the studio supremo Jesse Lasky invited over a brace of established writers from old Europe. Many eminent names failed utterly to grasp the “screen angle”, and were duly sent packing. Elinor Glyn, in contrast, proved a natural. For seven years, her romances would rule the Hollywood roost.

From Elinor Glyn – Jersey’s Hollywood Queen published in Our Island, March 2015

 

 

Elinor Glyn – Jersey’s Hollywood Queen

 “We live as we dream, alone”. Tonight a savage wall of waves is closing in on Jersey. The ebb tide drained the bay like a cup, leaving only shells glittering in the sand like memories. Now the full flood has roared in, and black mountains of water are hurling themselves against the jagged rocks of La Collette, where the slope plunges down like a knife into the bay. “The vision of them comes back to me in nightmares even now”, this dreamer will one day confess in her memoirs. It has been thirty-five torrid years since she slipped free of her island prison, and yet Elinor Glyn will never truly leave.

She wakes up with a start, emerging into the gratifying, dulcet warmth of her luxurious California suite. The night terrors of her home Island recede into her distant memory, and the turbulent waves in her mind slowly subside. She catches a glimpse of her flamboyant ink-red hair and glinting green eyes in the gilded mirrors of her lavish Hollywood boudoir.

Who is Elinor Glyn, this lady in the mirror? 

From article published in Our Island magazine, March 2015

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