Elissa Landi — How I met Charles Farrell (1932) 🇺🇸
As the train chug-chugged out of Albuquerque on its way to Los Angeles, I opened a day-old morning paper. I was on my way to the film-city to seek my fortune, as it were, through the medium of the American celluloid. (I had already immortalized myself in various and sundry European filmatic works of art, but then, as everyone knows, we still make mistakes when we are young.)
by Elissa Landi — Film Star, Composer and Author of the recently-published novel, “House For Sale.”
Out of the page there leapt at me my own name, coupled with that of Mr. Charles Farrell. “New leading lady found for Charles Farrell in his next starring picture,” and all that sort of thing. In the next paragraph I found a (plaint piece of contradiction: Elissa Landi was Fox’s new Garbo. Tut-tut! Odd. Very odd. Didn’t make sense.
Farrell had always been associated with Gaynor, petite, piquant, pathetic. It had worked singularly well, too, that teaming. Now he was to be aided by a Garbo. Ahem! I looked into a mirror, found a pair of slit eyes, reddish hair, a round face and (I hoped) an expression of fairish good cheer and hope.
But above all, I found I looked as pleased as I felt. I felt singularly pleased, excited, elated. I hoped I would make a good impression on the great Mr. Farrell. I had never met any of the renowned film stars, I was still film-struck, and was sure they were all lovely, gallant, beautiful beyond belief and oh, so awfully well-groomed.
The groomed part struck terror into my very heart and soul. Gosh, how did they manage to be so groomed all of the time? That part of a screen career was the one I knew I could never achieve...
Two days after I had arrived on the Fox lot it all began... Tests.
Dear me, dear me, what they didn’t do to one! The first thing they did was to try to change the shape of one’s eyebrows. (No success!) The color of one’s hair. (No success!) The style of one’s hairdressing and one’s clothes. (Lots of success!)
I sat a whole morning while a sweet girl dragged the natural wave out of my hair with lots of very wet water and “set” another one in where, photographically, it should be.
Having “set” that wave she proceeded to torture me. She put a noisy machine near me that sent out great waves of heat, in order to dry my hair. Then she proceeded to see just how ugly and unattractive she could make me look. She put a kind of white cloth around my head from under which my ears protruded. This was suspended from a contraption... My face was scarlet and shiny from all the heat and the wet.
At this psychological moment (8.30a.m.) into the make-up department there breezes a youth who looks about twenty. He wears a wrinkled, white sweat-shirt and an old pair of grey flannels; around his neck is an ancient and venerable scarf; his longish brown hair is falling into his eyes, and he is unshaven. He flings himself into the chair next to mine and, hurling his scarf across the room (it falls deftly on a window-sill), tosses off a couple of greetings to the make-up man and the hair-dresser. I stare. Oh, how I stare! Then, for a change, I stare. My Hero— Mr. Charles Farrell! Groomed stars! Ha! ha! forsooth.
Then happened the unforgivable. (Irene, I shall never forgive you for that.) That darling, oh-so-tactful hairdresser smiled sweetly and introduced us.
“Mr. Farrell, do you know Miss Elissa Landi?” It was my companion’s turn to stare. He stared and stared.
Deeply mortified, and ready to burst into tears over my vanished hope of making an impression on My Hero, I endeavored (awkwardly) to bow. My attempt at graciousness was rudely checked by the hair-drier.
“Say, are you and I going to work together on my next picture?”
No one will ever know what I went through at that moment. Humbly, I tried to nod.
Women of America, I put it to you! How would you have felt? Would you not have wept to think that you had met Charles Farrell for the first time with your hair under a drier?
Ah!... Now comes the happy ending. Charlie is such a noble trouper that he never even noticed the drier, or my red face. Any more than I bothered about the fact that he hadn’t shaved or combed his hair. And owing to that fact, he became my friend for life.
This brilliant Fox star, author of the accompanying article, came to American Films from English productions. She has just completed “The Woman in Room 13.” Her next is to be “Burnt Offering.”
Charles Farrell and Elissa Landi, in a scene from the Fox picture, “Body and Soul.” This was the first American picture in which Miss Landi appeared.
Collection: The New Movie Magazine, July 1932