Jetta Goudal — Jetta Steps Down But Not Out (1929) 🇺🇸

Jetta Goudal — Jetta Steps Down But Not Out (1929) |

January 28, 2024

Amid the glitter of the ballroom many were the dazzling ladies who caught the attention of onlookers. But, as if magnetized, all eyes roved across the gorgeous set until they rested on one lady. She stood out from the beautiful background like a bird of paradise among a flock of sparrows. That is Jetta Goudal for you.

by William H. McKegg

Jetta will invariably surprise you. She has just surprised all Hollywood. It was on this topic that I had come to the studio to get an explanation.

“I understand,” Jetta remarked, “that many stars feel they lose caste when they play any role less than a stellar one. For myself, I do not feel that way. A good part is a good part, whether it be a star part or otherwise. Think of the stars who have disappeared from view rather than step from the pedestal of stardom.”

La Goudal had just crossed the set and was reclining in her chair. All eyes were on her.

This caste complex has been one of Hollywood’s blackest blights. Here, at last, was a star brave enough to smash it to smithereens and toss the pieces in the air.

“Why should I drop out of pictures through consecrating myself to stardom?” Jetta further inquired, in a throbbing crescendo, her eyes widening. “Mais, non!

“It may sound strange,” she went on, faintly arching her delicate brows, “but I do not entertain the least idea that I have come down, or lost caste, through playing a supporting role. I like my work too much, and I am very sensible.”

Was this Jetta Goudal, the supposed terror of directors, the dread of producers, speaking? Did ever a reputedly temperamental star talk as sanely as she?

Nevertheless it was Jetta who spoke. Jetta, the mystery of Hollywood. Jetta, the so-called firebrand. Jetta, who until recently had not appeared on the screen in ten months, because of a disagreement with Cecil DeMille [Cecil B. DeMille]. Jetta, a star in her own right, is now playing a mere role in D. W. Griffith’s “The Love Song.”

Deprived of stardom for a while, Jetta shed no tears, but finally accepted a part in The Cardboard Lover. In that comedy, she who was born to reign supreme, acted quite happily as the butt of Marion Davies’ pranks.

La Goudal, of whom everything pertaining to fireworks and explosions has been reported, did that which one would expect only from the sanest and most reasonable player.

“I feel,” she essayed to explain, alluding to her startling behavior in breaking Hollywood’s caste complex— “well, I do not know how to say it. You hear sometimes of a millionaire forsaking his luxurious surroundings, to live for a while in a mountain camp. It makes him very happy. I feel just like that these days. But why should that affect my standing? Why should I be supposed to lose caste by playing in a picture of which I am not the star?

Jetta Goudal finds a role to her liking in The Love Song, and that is more important than stardom to the true artist.

“The millionaire can always return to his real position. So, too, can the star.”

Jetta was very enthusiastic over her role in the new film, with William Boyd and Lupe Vélez. It is a costume picture — and who knows better how to wear costumes than Goudal? She portrays a striking role — that of the mistress of Napoleon III.

While working with Marion Davies, it is said that all the studio thought the world of Jetta. Mr. Griffith thinks her very clever, sweet, and patient. One wonders what they think of this at the erstwhile DeMille studio.

A young man approached, to show Jetta some jewelry designs for one of her costumes. At a single glance, La Goudal suggested an improvement. She made the setting more striking by explaining how it could be bettered. The paste diamonds were offered for her comments. Jetta scrutinized them through a little glass and chose the best stones. She does all these things with the calm, indifferent manner of a connoisseur.

Griffith, who always supervises the costumes worn by his players, permitted Jetta to design her own. He has only allowed Lillian Gish to do this in the past.

While the dressmaker rushed up as soon as the young man had left, I wondered if many vanished luminaries would to-day be in the public eye had they followed the path Goudal is treading. Many of them preferred to wait for another chance to star, rather than accept a good part and, to their thinking, thereby lose caste.

With a slender hand, holding a painted ivory fan on a jeweled chain, her head bent slightly forward, Jetta turned to me and went on with the frank appraisal of her revolutionary action.

“It is bad, you know, for a star to remain out of public view too long. After my break with DeMille, I had one or two offers to go on the stage in New York. One in particular was a starring role in a Broadway production. It was very flattering; oh, yes, but would it have turned out well?

“By permitting insistence on stardom to lead me, I would have accepted it. The play might have been a success, running for a year or two. In that case, I would have been off the screen for just so long and the fans would have forgotten me. It is, ah, so very easy to be forgotten in pictures.

“I had offers to star in Europe. I could have gone to England, Germany, or France. If I had let the craze for stardom lead me, as it has led many others, I would have jumped at one offer or the other. But what would have happened to my standing in Hollywood?

“Foreign pictures, aside from big productions, are never seen in America. Besides, it was in this country I first started in pictures. I like the public. I am now quite used to American methods of production. Were I to go abroad, where I have acted on the stage, but never on the screen, I would find studio conditions and methods vastly different.”

Jetta has a way of making you accept everything she says as irrevocable and undeniable. I let her continue.

“I hear that many were amazed when they learned I had accepted subordinate roles after stardom,” she said in a surprised tone. “Why that should be I do not know. My role in The Cardboard Lover pleased me very much. It was high comedy.

“You know, for two years I was a star. I had always appeared as the suffering heroine, and had to worry about whether the picture would be good or bad. Now, in this picture” — Jetta languidly waved a slender arm, laden with diamonds — “I have no responsibility.”

Her dark eyes glittered against the pallor of her face. The upturned corners of her lips parted in a smile. I could not yet get over the dazzling surprise she had dealt me. Here was Jetta, a real star, calmly and sensibly talking about the merits of “a part” in “a” picture — and a Griffith picture at that.

Jetta must be credited with courage. She is the first star ever to relinquish stardom with a smile. Many have been financially forced to make a come-back in that way, but Jetta has kept right on.

Let it be well understood. Goudal is still here. She is here to stay.

Jetta Goudal — Jetta Steps Down But Not Out (1929) |

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Jetta Goudal — Jetta Steps Down But Not Out (1929) |

Dropping from stardom to supporting roles is a major tragedy in Hollywood, but to Jetta Goudal, who doesn’t deny the fact that she has done it, it is the subject of a shrewdly philosophic discourse, as reported opposite by William H. McKegg.

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, January 1929