Bodil Rosing — Ga-Ga Bodil (1929) 🇺🇸

Bodil Rosing — Ga-Ga Bodil (1929) |

December 13, 2023

The most popular woman in Hollywood is our “Ga-ga Grandmother.”

by Myrtle Gebhart

Invitations to Bodil Rosing’s pancake parties are more eagerly received than to the swell Mayfair events. Hers is the gayety of the perpetual child, bubbling from a merry, friendly heart — a lighted silhouette against the tranquil seriousness of her beautiful, auburn-haired daughter, Tove, who is Mrs. Monte Blue.

Grandmother though she proudly is, Bodil is an Ariel spirit among the character actresses. Barbara Ann, the Blues’ three-year-old, named her, having lisped “Grandmother” into “Ga-ga.” Barbara Ann’s acquaintance with Hollywood ingenues was limited. The title, therefore, was original.

Trailing her bubbling laughter, I always think, though she is Danish, there must be Erin’s strain somewhere in her ancestry. For Bodil, I just know, has seen the “little people.”

You who see her as characters of the Indian summer and the twilight years, would not recognize the Bodil Rosing of the screen in this woman so youthful that her grandmotherhood seems incredible. There is something impish in her quick, birdlike gestures, in her alertness and inquisitiveness, in her personality so unique as to escape all categories.

Upon meeting her, people are startled, and then suggest, “Why don’t the Wampas adopt her as a baby star? She needs looking after.” For Bodil is Hollywood’s baby.

Of a character actress and a grandmother, one naturally expects sedateness, the acceptance of that convention which decrees that to-day belongs to youth. Bodil’s bonnet, however, is no lacy cap, except in the movies. The mind beneath her chic chapeau is no dusky lane of memory. She is too busy having a good time to learn to knit — or, pardon, modern grandmothers — to play bridge.

“I have kept young,” she tells you, “because I have had to grow up twice. It is very nice, indeed, to grow up again. I had to in order to keep my children company. And now,” she adds, with a laugh that has little snickers in it, “I suppose I shall have to start all over again with Barbara Ann.”

Her relation to Monte [Monte Blue] in her perfect naturalness makes their family truly harmonious. Monte makes no secret of his orphanage years, of the menial prelude to his career; and Bodil delights in relating her experiences in keeping her three kidlets clothed and fed. Tove, serene and shrewd, advises on business matters.

When Monte came in one evening and remarked that her name was in electrics before a Hollywood theater, Bodil ran all the way to the theater, standing there in the dusk, looking up at the brilliant proclamation with streaming eyes, and murmuring, “Look, see what they have done for Bodil! Isn’t it marvelous?”

Tiny and rather roly-poly, always saying she is going to diet and then ordering heaps of sugary things, blond, with round, blue eyes that abruptly become pinpoints of laughing twinkles — she reminds me of a bright toy balloon. So overlaid with gayety is her manner, that it is only after one has left her that one realizes the sagacity of much that she has said.

Toward her work she is inherently serious and irresponsible. She insists upon reading the script before signing. To be able to do that, girls and boys who may not know Hollywood, is the final stamp of success. Days are spent with each new character, not only in selecting costumes and hairdress, but in analyzing her actions.

“I play her from away back, more than is in the picture. What sort is she? What has happened to her before the story? I sit around and eat chocolates and think about her. The directors do not always know what you can do. But never will I take a test until I know my character. Then I show how I would play her.”

She is happiest when portraying a range of years. “From thirty to sixty. I start out looking like myself, then I think more wrinkles on as we progress.” Lack of continuity in shooting doesn’t bother Bodil at all, her make-up being only a matter of thought.

For a strange thing about her art is that she uses no character make-up. The light grease paint, powder, lipstick and eye pencil which suffice for the ingenues, and for Bodil, are carried any old way, in her purse, up her sleeve, perhaps. Occasionally, when the star requires a certain lighting, she uses a darker powder; but no lines are drawn on her face.

“It is all the eyes and the mouth. You watch. In a dramatic closeup, do you notice the whole face? No. I dress her and do her hair right, then I think hard as she would, and it goes into the eyes and changes the expression of the mouth.”

Even a Hersholt [Jean Hersholt] or a Jannings [Emil Jannings] resorts to the make-up kit in changing nationality. Yet Bodil, merely by thought reflection, supplemented by costume, bearing and gestures, has portrayed German, French, American, Jewish, Irish, Swiss, Swedish, Dutch, and American-Western women.

Seldom is she recognized on the street. Her friendliness invites remarks from everybody, colored porter to limousine-and-poodle dowager. She loves to find out adroitly what they think of that actress, Bodil Rosing, and later relates, merrily, their opinions of herself.

Flouting the custom of former stage Thespians, she admits that the movies have taught her in four years most of her knowledge of acting.

“Pantomime, quick thought, suggestion. You wait. Already they send for Bodil to come back to the stage. Not yet, but some day. When I go, I will use much of my movie technique.”

Her most important roles have been in It Must Be LoveWheel of Chance, Ladies of the Mob, The Fleet’s InThe Return of Peter Grimm, “Eternal Love,” and the memorable Sunrise.

Her fan mail is a great pride and joy. She pulls a fan letter from her purse, watching for your reactions with keen, blue eyes, and beams. “Now, isn’t that sweet?”

Following her training at the royal dramatic school, in Copenhagen, she enjoyed success on the stage in the Scandinavian countries married at sixteen, later came to America, and retired. Idleness, however, irked. Domestic duties and the care of Tove, born in Denmark when Bodil was seventeen, and the two younger children, seemed to require so little of her energies. Rather, she had so much vitality that other interests must be added.

Though Bodil’s voice, as she recounts her history is blithe, gray days have put patches on the bright pattern which she has made of her life. There was the time, ten years ago, when she resumed her career. Leaving the two younger children with relatives, she and Tove braved New York.

Her chummy smile penetrated an agent’s indifference, and she found herself on the road. Tove, then thirteen, languidly representing herself as several years older, also got theatrical work. At fifteen, she was one of Elsie Janis’ “Gang,” and later ornamented the “Follies.”

“Tea for Three” took Bodil out again, and eventually she joined Tove, who had married Monte, and they persuaded her to stay and try the movies. Two years of bits and small roles culminated in Sunrise, success, a home, and her dream of owning a quaint cafe.

“’Bodil’s Pancake House,’ yes? Like ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ remember? Inside, I shall be the old witch!” In a second’s flicker, she makes evil pinpoints of her eyes, changes the contours of her mouth, and shows you how she would look. The venture would be interesting, and popular.

For those adjectives apply to everything that Bodil does.

Bodil Rosing — Ga-Ga Bodil (1929) |

Mrs. Rosing refuses to be the conventional grandmother except on the screen.

Photo by: Rayhuff Studio

She uses only the least make-up, yet she changes her appearance in every scene.

Bodil Rosing — Ga-Ga Bodil (1929) |

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, April 1929