(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
Readers Note: Some of you left note expressing understanding at my need to cancel yesterday. Thank you very much.
Now Churchill and Garbo.
Churchill had been a movie fan from before the days of talkies. If he really liked a movie, it wasn’t unusual for him to see it five or more times. Charlie Chaplin was one of his favorite actors. There was no question as to his favorite movie actress: Garbo.
In Memories and Adventures (Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1989) Churchill’s grandson and namesake, tells an amusing and touching anecdote about Churchill and the great, enigmatic Garbo:
Grandpapa invited me to spend a few days with him as his guest at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. One evening we dined with his friend, the Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis, at a suburb restaurant called the Chateau de Madrid. Among the guests at the dinner were Greta Garbo and her friend and confidant George Schley.
There is no doubt that my grandfather enjoyed the company of beautiful women. He had been an ardent fan of Miss Garbo since her early screen successes and had seen all her movies many times, Queen Christiana and Ninotchka being special favourites. Though the years had taken their toll and she had become something of a recluse, she was still a wonderful-looking woman. Grandpapa remained in thrall to her as well as, no doubt, to the memory of what she had been.
We were sitting at the table closest to the window. ….
All at once, in the middle of dinner, Miss Garbo, seated on Grandpapa’s right, announced she had a problem. Toward the end of his life my grandfather had difficulty hearing … and Onassis, whenever he was with him, would stand ready to relay the conversation.
“What did Miss Garbo say?” enquired my Grandfather solicitously. Onassis, replying in excellent English, but laced with a heavy Greek accent, answered in a loud voice so that he could be heard: “Miss Garbo, she say, she is too hot in her long … underpants, so she proposes to take them off.”
This announcement caused quite a stir among diners at the immediate adjacent tables. Grandpapa, not sure if he had heard quite right, asked in a tone of some surprise; “What did Miss Garbo say?”
Onassis ever eager to be helpful, repeated once again what he had already said, but with even greater deliberation. By now the eyes of the whole restaurant were riveted on our table as Miss Garbo proceeded to execute a most discreet striptease beneath the tablecloth while Grandpapa patted her gently on the knee, intoning: “Poor lamb, poor lamb” as the offending garment was removed. (pgs. 115-116)