Glenda Farrell — How to Win Enemies (1938) 🇺🇸

Glenda Farrell — How to Win Enemies (1938) |

April 29, 2023

Anybody can make friends — but a woman is known by her enemies…

by Ruth Rankin

That, my friends, is one of the chief irks in Glenda Farrell's life — she is known by her enemies, and they keep right on knowing her.

She does her darndest, but just as she feels she has promoted a good one and is getting quite smug about it, why the enemy rushes up and begins the old palsy-walsy again — and Glenda is right back where she started. She gives a party for twenty-five, and fifty-eight show up.

Even so, in full justice one cannot call it an intentional campaign on Glenda's part. She doesn't really try very hard, except occasionally. Saying the wrong thing at the psychological moment just seems to come natural to her — it's a talent she was born with, the importance of which should not be under-rated in the life of a busy picture star.

Ever so often something drastic has to be done about the mobs of impulsive dropper-inners, as you know yourself even if you're not an actress. If you are, then multiply something drastic by sixteen, add on every automobile and real estate salesman in town, shake well, and repeat every twenty-four hours. Life is apt to be a series of explosions this way, but Glenda thrives on explosions. Lay your cards on the table and get it over, she says, in substance. Clear the atmosphere. No hangovers. In any given day, Glenda can violate every rule in Dale Carnegie's "How to W. F. and I. P.," and have an awfully good time doing it.

You take Rule 1, for instance. Take it far, far away from Glenda; Rule 1, says "The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it." One shudders to think what an observance of that rule would do to Glenda's joy of living.

When there is nobody handy to argue with and things are rather dull for, say, five minutes at a stretch, Glenda has a business associate whom she calls up and fires. She fires him regularly about every two weeks, and forgets all about it an hour later. He knows perfectly well that things are dull and Glenda needs an argument — so he gives her a good one. He knows also that things have reached the point where Glenda has to fire somebody, and naturally she can't fire anyone she should fire, who needs firing — she's too chicken-hearted to do that. So they are the best of friends and get along famously. The din is terrific, but that's included in his salary. Glenda would simply curl up and pine away in too much peace and quiet.

Some of the best ways to diminish your social obligations are the good old reliable Farrell methods: have at least ten clocks in the house which conscientiously tell the wrong time, or else stopped running two years ago. Never under any circumstances keep a date book or an address or a telephone number. You can't miss.

This method invariably brings Glenda to Friday's luncheon on the following Tuesday evening, which is the time her unintentional hostess has decided to go to bed early and has just done herself up in cold cream. The buffet dinner scheduled for Tuesday will crash her in somebody's tennis party Sunday morning, and in this way she has worked up quite a reputation for spontaneous personal appearances. Without even trying.

Not long ago she showed up at an engagement party, on time, in the right house, even with a present under her arm. The hostess nearly swooned with astonishment. When the presents were opened, everybody swooned. Glenda got it mixed up with the baby shower for somebody else and brought the loveliest little pink blanket.

A good way to be loved for yourself alone is to have a cat — a Siamese cat named Taki, with an eye like a Bengal tiger on a diet. And a voice — boy, when Taki starts talking the Farrell house clears like magic. Glenda adores Taki. He has an ingratiating way of leaping in laps and settling down innocently — then suddenly sinking in an inch of cast-iron claws. He has nice cream colored fur, too, which shows up well on dark blue suits.

One of Glenda's most successful cocktail parties took place while she was out in the garage de-fleaing Taki. She was wearing her oldest slacks and her hair in a wad. The flea powder made her sneeze, and she sneezed off what make-up she started with. After while, between sneezes, she noticed the house was getting noisy. Before long, the purely academic question occurred to her: how could that much noise come out of the house when she wasn't in it?

So then Tommy (son) came out and remarked, "Mommie, the house is full of people."

"What do they want?" inquired Glenda.

Tommy went away and came back, later.

"They want you. They say you invited them to a cocktail party."

"Well, tell Teresa to mix 'em some cocktails. And then come back and hold his front feet. I got it in his eye and he's mad." Meaning Taki.

The guests missed Glenda, but they didn't start going home until Taki got in. Taki loves hors d'oeuvres. He is more finicky than the company, finding it necessary to sit in the tray while he selects the shrimp ones. He will, however, settle for anchovies. Glenda doesn't believe in spoiling him. If he won't eat anchovies, he can darn well go without.

Same way with the servants. And the caterer's men, when they come in to serve a party. Glenda doesn't believe in spoiling them, either. No indeed. She runs around and shows them how to set the table, put up the decorations, prepare the food and mix the drinks, until everyone is hysterical, especially Glenda. This is a perfect illustration of Rule 2 — "Show respect for the other man's opinions. Never tell a man he is wrong." Probably covers Rule 2, also: "Dramatize your ideas." Don't get me wrong, though Glenda doesn't need an idea to dramatize. She just does it anyway.

She remembers it is time to get dressed when the first guests arrive.

One of the most important rules in that masterly treatise, "How to W. F. and I. P." (or "Never Be Yourself") is: "Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly."

Now our little Miss Farrell and this rule have less than practically nothing in common. ("You look terrible — where on earth did you get that hat — looks like it was dredged out of the harbor," is a stock greeting.) The Farrell type is a frank open-faced model, produced by the Irish, which believes that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, and hopes you are the same. Expects you to be. This tight-rope balancing act of keeping on the good side of all and sundry by never having an idea of expressing an opinion is not for the Glenda Farrells of this world. The Glenda Farrells who get things done while the others stand around explaining.

Glenda has it all figured out that you can't be on everybody's side at once, which is a pretty rare trait in Hollywood — this village of perilous balances. And if Glenda is on your side — you've got something there! As her friends had reason to discover not long ago.

It was a delicate case of friends vs. photographers — and many an actress would have made a pretty compromise, because news-photographers are not to be scorned at Hollywood parties. They are, in fact, very often the first persons invited.

It happened that Glenda finished a picture, and was on "lay-off." Lay-off is that period of suspended animation, between salaries. Nearly all Hollywood contracts have a twelve -week lay-off clause during the year. Well, it developed that several friends in the business got their lay-off at the same time, so they decided on a hard-time party at Glenda's. Everybody was to bring refreshments, wear old clothes — and no make-up on the girls. And no publicity and no photographers — especially no photographers.

But leave it to these enterprising newsboys— they can scent a party from here to there. At eleven o'clock things were going good at Glenda's party. The big sillies were playing kid games — one in particular, recalled from his mis-spent youth by Dick Powell, had something to do with placing a large pan of water on the floor and having your face pushed in it. Everybody was dripping and hilarious.

Just then the door-bell rang — you're right. It was Hollywood's two most tireless lensers — the two no actress can afford to antagonize if she doesn't want to see herself in a pretty bad light one of these days.

Glenda said "go away, now" but the lensers wouldn't shoo. What — everybody had on old clothes and no make-up and damp hair? Marvelous! What pictures! Glenda was a meany if she didn't let them sneak up to the play-room and get a few flashes. And if she didn't…

Well, she didn't. Of course she didn't. She yoo-hooed and screamed "Photographers!" at the top of her lungs, which was brave of her. (A photographer never phorgets.) So anyway, they had a swell argument, and finally the boys gave in and said all right — if they couldn't get the pictures they wanted, couldn't they get, anyway, some pictures? So Glenda put it up to the company — anyone who felt he or she looked fitten to have his picture taken, after time out to fix up a little, would they smile for the birdie? If not, they didn't have to. (Tableau — photographers mumbling and growling.) So some did, and some went down the back stairs to the kitchen and had their supper there, well out of sight.

There are ladies in the picture business who would have chosen to keep on the good side of the boys, without a second thought, and let their friends do the worrying. A stunt like that can always be passed off as a "practical joke"… A practical joke is something that makes someone else look ridiculous. If the same girls get one played on them, it's nothing but a dirty trick; and are they sore.

Glenda is the champion "on approval" dame of Hollywood — she is a glittering example of how not to influence shopkeepers and department stores. However, out of all the hats and hand-bags she has sent out, she keeps enough so that the game seems to be worth it in the long run. Anyway, the stores keep sending them, and you wade through up to your knees on a good day, over there at the Farrell ranch.

One store, you can't blame them, is mad for keeps. Glenda ordered an entire fall wardrobe and sent it all back.

If the store would like to know why, here is the reason for the first time: An acquaintance — not a friend, mind you — went to Glenda with a sob-story. He was in an awful jam — would she help him out? The sum he needed was rather staggering — enough so that it was a choice between the wardrobe or helping him out… Well, there's the story. She made an enemy of a whole store — her favorite one. She will never see a cent of the "loan" again. The man is a person of no influence, if that is what you Hollywood-wise are thinking. No, it was an act of pure altruism, perpetrated by one of Hollywood's very, very few real altruists.

She's rather swell people, Glenda. If her enemies won't stay that way, it isn't her fault. Heaven knows, she tries.

She doesn't look like a very alarming enemy here, but wait until you read the story. You'll see her next in Warners Blondes at Work, and after that as the heroine in Paramount's Stolen Heaven.

Collection: Hollywood MagazineApril 1938