Skip to main content

When the Pictures Began To Speak (St. Louis Paper May 4, 1932)

 When the Pictures Began to Speak

By Sylvia’s Secretary

 

An excerpt from part four of the series, “of intimate articles on the Hollywood experiences of Sylvia, the masseuse who made a specialty of beautifying the picture people.”

 

Hedda Hopper steered Norma Shearer into Sylvia’s hands. At that, the boss nearly lost the MGM, star after the first treatment, which was given in Shearer’s home. Norma had been playing a lot of tennis and had got stringy and muscular and jumpy, the way women always do when they go crazy about any sport. The first thing to do was to calm her down and get her to sleeping regularly as a preliminary to softening her. So the boss rubbed her for nearly two hours and left her sleeping like a child. 

The next morning we got a phone call from Hedda Hopper, who said: “I don’t know what you did to Norma Shearer, Sylvia, but my name is mud in the movies if you’ve ruined her.”

“Why, what’s the matter?” asked Sylvia.

“She’s half crazy,” wept Hedda, “I’m with her now. She’s in the next room and Irving’s with her” (Irving being Norma’s husband and the big guy on the MGM lot.) “And they’re sorry I ever brought you to her.”

“But tell me what’s wrong!” cried Sylvia.

“That’s what I’d like to know,” said Hedda. “Norma has funny marks-sort of red marks-sort of red ruffles-in her skin, all down one side and on her arm and leg on that side.”

Well, with a few more hysterical words Hedda conveyed the idea that Mr. Thalberg and Norma and Hedda herself were convinced that Sylvia had crossed up a nerve or something and that Norma was getting paralysis. Because they had read somewhere that paralysis attacks one side of the body, and all these marks were on the same side. 

The boss got frightened herself and hopped over to the Thalberg house in her pajamas. She found them hanging over Norma in bed. Norma was keeping her nerve-suspecting the worst, but heroic withal-and was consoling Irving with the idea that maybe it was all for the best; that she had had all the principal thrills of a movie career anyway, and maybe now it was the hand of Providence pointing out that she should give it up and be a wife and mother. T was an affecting and tragic scene. 

They didn’t shriek at Sylvia, but Hedda with a simple dramatic gesture full of dignity merely led boss to the sufferer’s bedside and pulled back the sheet. Sylvia took one look and let out a laugh. Then she slid her hand under the incipient paralytic’s body and yanked out a coarse linen ribbed bath towel. Norma had slept all night on the towel which had been used that evening before as a massage mat, and naturally, the side which had pressed on the ribbed towel all those hours was marked like a waffle. She has delicate skin, anyway, that takes a mark like a chamois kid. 

In spite of being relieved of her fear, Norma wasn’t sure she would continue Sylvia’s treatments and needed to be nursed and patted back into client humor. If the boss took Gloria Swanson’s offer and told Shearer that she would have to wait three months for her next massage, it was certain to mean a famous customer offended and lost. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

TCM Film Festival where to eat

Guys, we have roughly eight weeks to go until the Turner Classic Film Festival, can you believe it? (UPDATED Feb. 2020 in time for my 5th Festival!) To some, the festival has become second nature or something you just do, a right. For some of us, it's still this surreal, magical experience that we have to save every extra nickel we earn so we can attend. The moment I get home from the festival, I'm counting the days down until the next one. It's what I look forward to most all year long. This year will be my third trip to Hollywood for the TCM Film Festival, and it still feels like my first time. Eight weeks out and I still have butterflies in my stomach. I’m excited, and as I write this my heart beats faster and harder as I think about what films they have yet to announce,  Wuthering Heights  perhaps? Possibly,  Gone With the Wind ? Probably not, they ran that a few years back, before I could afford to attend, dang. Before my first trip in 2016 I researched so

If I had a million dollars

I would do some really dumb ass things. I’m not talking about the college money for the kids, health insurance, new house, car, trips, etc. kind of splurge I’m talking a serious splurge. What would you buy?  Chatting with my friend Angie over at  The Hollywood Revue  made me wish I had this unlimited amount of money to spend on the Debbie Reynolds Auction. Some of you will sadly say, who is Debbie Reynolds?  Well, she is a great actress who bought and collected some of the  world's most wonderful classic movie memorabilia.    She had hoped to open a museum one day but, for some reason, this never came to be. I would rather see this stuff in a museum but, sadly it is going up for auction. I suggest any movie fan check it out. It's amazing. There is so much stuff I would want and do want. I keep trying to convince myself I have nowhere to put it and seriously saving $2,000 plus for a hat or poster or whatever would be idiotic-right? Well, If I had a million dollars I would go thr

Dyan Cannon in KC

 Where do I even begin? Last month for my birthday, my sister and brother in law bought us all tickets to see a play in Kansas City. It wasn't just any play, though. This particular play starred Dyan Cannon.  Dyan Cannon. A name that is lost on many.   Some may think, oh, she is that Lakers lady with great hair. Some may remember how she was the beautiful Judge on Ally McBeal. Some may even recognize her from Heaven can Wait or Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice with Natalie Wood. But, most will remember her from her turbulent marriage with Cary Grant. Having seen nearly every single Cary Grant film and having read every available Cary Grant biography, this is where I was introduced to Dyan Cannon. She was one of the special ones, one of the lucky ones. She was married to Cary Grant. Not only was she married to him, but also she bore him his only child. I wanted to know more about her. I started watching anything I could fine with her. She was in a few films that I enjoyed, such