Saturday, January 24, 2009

Interview with the vamp

Such things of which we speak! Yesterday on my Leonard Pennario blog, remember, we spoke of Leopold Godowsky, the piano virtuoso. And a certain F.K. wrote in a comment about Godowsky's daughter, who was a vamp in old silent films.

That is Godowsky's daughter pictured above. She certainly looks like a better time than the old man, I have to say that. Look at that come-hither look! Dagmar Godowsky inspired people to art. Here is a picture someone once drew of her.

Poor Godowsky, though, Dagmar seems to have been quite the liability for him. The actress, as F.K. pointed out, slept with everyone in Hollywood, men and women. She wrote a memoir in 1958 called "First Person Plural." As Wikipedia says, it contained the sentence, "I lived only for pleasure and I spoiled my own fun."

Her dad died 20 years before that book came out. I feel bad for him, though, because his last years were so unhappy. His younger son killed himself, and then Godowsky's wife died, and all I can imagine is that this daughter was an additional source of stress. It makes me think of Ronald Reagan and Patti Davis. You work so hard to get where you are, and now you get this willful turkey of a daughter. Not good!

Darn, I can find no Dagmar Godowsky on You Tube. But she appeared with Rudolph Valentino in "The Sainted Devil" in 1924. So here is Valentino in "the controversial rape scene" from "Son of the Sheik."

"I may not be your first victim but by Allah, I will be the one you remember!"

What a scene to be witnessing over my morning coffee! Sometimes I cannot believe what my life has turned into.

But let's give the old man the last word. Here is a Godowsky performance I love. We generally think of him as this titanic virtuoso but here he is kicked back, playing "Morgengruss" from Schubert's "Die Schoene Muellerin." This is an enchanting song. I think Schubert captures just the moment when you are falling in love. Godowsky's arrangement turns it into something different -- those ultra-romantic arrangements of Schubert songs always do. But it is beautiful in a new way. It sounds like Bill Evans.

Listen to Godowsky's easy technique. How relaxed he sounds.

He must not have been thinking about his daughter.


  1. Thanks a million for the Godowsky link. I didn't know those details about his life, but I do know he was an obsessive- compulsive practicer, and the crowning tragedy of his life was his suffering a stroke at a recording session after which he could no longer play.

    On a lighter note, he did possess a mordant wit. He was close friends with Josef Hofmann and Hofmann had a habit of throwing light encores at the end of his recitals, Rubinstein's Melody in F and things like that. Once, when Godowsky and his wife were present and had sat through the third or fourth salon piece, Mrs. Godowky said "Let's go." Godowsky folded his arms and replied "I will not budge until Josef plays 'The Rosary'". I cribbed this story from Abram Chasin's book Speaking Of Pianists.

  2. Some Rape Scene! I've seen hotter action at a card game at Jocko's.

    F. K.