Monday, January 31, 2011

Husbands from hell

When I get done with my book on Pennario I am going to write a book called, "Who Was a Bigger Pain To Be Married To, Horowitz or Rubinstein?"

There is a question that can keep scholars busy for years!

Horowitz must have been a pain to be married to because ... well, for a million reasons. Otherwise Horowitz' wife would never have had that affair with Byron Janis.

And Rubinstein, you would have thought he would have been better, aside from his cheating of course.


There is this Rubinstein book I keep poking into, by Harvey Sachs. Not to be blasphemous but reading it is a little like reading the Gospel in that every time I open it I find something new in it.

Nela Rubinstein, Arthur's wife, was much younger than he was and she was very beautiful. This did not stop him from flirting with everyone else on the planet, including but not limited to Olivia de Havilland and her sister, Leonard Pennario's friend Joan Fontaine.

Once, in what amounted to a nightmare for Nela, they all had dinner together. "Arthur did nothing through the meal but talk to and flirt with these two beautiful young stars, and Nela sat there, grim-faced." A friend  named Mildred recalled that.

Mildred continues the story, talking about Nela:

"She was one person when Arthur was there, and another when he wasn't. When he wasn't, she was loving and relaxed and finding dozens of things to do that entertained and amused us; when he was, she was uptight and worried all the time that she might be disturbing or distressing him or doing the wrong thing. Arthur was very much wrapped up in himself and wanted others to recognize whatever he did or said. In some ways you could relax with him. But you couldn't relax in a silly, easygoing way with him."

Fun? Wow!

The story continues: "During the war, when food was rationed, Mildred and Nela kept chickens, in order to have a supply of fresh eggs, but the chicken feed attracted rats and the whole process soon became so complicated that they killed the chickens. Nela decided to make chicken soup, and she invited Mildred over to help her pluck the chickens.

"They were working, laughing and gossiping together, 'when suddenly the door opened and in walked Arthur, looking very smart in a fedora hat, a brown suit with a vest, a red carnation and his cane,' Mildred said. "He was absolutely furious and started screaming at Nela: 'You have servants -- it's insulting to use your friends for this kind of thing! The whole situation was so embarrassing that I got up and walked home. He never forgave her for that."

What a pain!

Who needs that?

Before marrying Rubinstein Nela was married to the pianist Mieczyslaw Munz, shown here in a home movie from 1929. Maybe she should have stayed married to him! I wonder if that thought ever crossed her mind.

Here is Nela cooking. She has a few more years on her now than in the picture above.

Here she is with her husband and Robert Redford, left.

What a glorious period picture of Robert Redford! The gentleman next to Redford is the director Sydney Pollack. It is the Cannes Film Festival. It is May 8, 1972.

Whoa, look! Another picture apparently taken a few minutes later. That look Redford has! What a great and glorious era that was. People could have fun when they got dressed in the morning.

Here is a sweet and glamorous picture of Young Nela.

Nela wrote a cookbook.

There are a couple of used copies on Amazon.

Perhaps I will buy one and cook my way through it like that girl who cooked her way through the Julia Child cookbook.

But that would require a whole separate Web log.


  1. Hahahahahahaa! I should actually write it!

  2. Virgil Thomson once wrote "Pianists and singers are megalomaniacs; conductors worse." In the Harvey Sachs book, one of Rubinstein's kids mentioned how hard it was to realize that all of their needs, including their mother's, came after Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven et al. Maybe Pennario was right; he stayed single. Also, when Horowitz once told an interviewer that he had an affinity with Schumann and the interviewer asked what it was, Wanda said "They're both crazy!"

  3. I love that quote from Wanda! It would have been great to have a beer with Wanda Horowitz and get her talking...

  4. I dunno, she was very capable of taking heads off and making scenes. But away from her I feel great pity. I think she was very bright and capable and could have done great things if she hadn't been born into a life where she was crushed by both her father and her husband. Even without a beer, when she was talking to interviewers, she could show profound insight into a lot of things. David Dubal kept in touch with her post Horowitz. I wonder if he's written about her?