Holiday (audio review) Plus Backstory: Gertrude Sanford Legendre

Back in my years as a teenaged Cinema Misfit, I gobbled up any film that was made in the 1930’s…romances, musicals, screwball comedies, gangster movies, even Paul Muni films…I saw and loved them all.  Now, as I move into the sunset of my life (or at least the mid-afternoon), my ardor for some of these flicks may have waned a bit (I’m looking at you, “Bringing Up Baby”), but “Holiday” has always retained a hold on my heart.  Here are some of the reasons why:″

As I was preparing my review for Holiday, I ran across an interesting item.  Apparently, the character of Linda Seton, portrayed by Katherine Hepburn in the film, was based on Gertrude Sanford Legendre (1902-2000), an unlikely debutante of the 1920’s who gave up her socialite ways to become a big-game hunter, a World War II spy, and an author.  In her teens, Gertrude shot her first elk in the Grand Tutons of Wyoming.  She went on to eschew New York society cocktail parties so as to hunt big game in such locales as Indochina, Africa, India, and Iran.  It was on a safari in Africa where she met her future husband.  They were wed in 1929, with the announcement proclaimed in August 20, 1929 Social News section of  the New York Times.

GERTRUDE SANFORD, EXPLORER, TO MARRY: Engaged to Sidney J. Legendre, Who Was Co-Leader in Abyssinia Expedition.  SISTER OF POLO PLAYER.  Fiance, Member of Old New Orleans Family, Is Well Known as Sportsman and Athlete.  Her Ventures in Exploration.

The brother?  The POLO PLAYER?  His name was Laddie.

During World War II, she worked for the O.S.S. in Washington and Paris.  She became the first American woman in France to be captured by the enemy.  After six months, she made a daring escape, ultimately boarding a train to Switzerland.  The train stopped short of the border, and even as she was ordered by a German guard to halt or be shot, she made a dash to the border–and safety.

After the war, she and Sidney settled in their historic home at Medway Plantation in South Carolina.  She went on to write two memoirs and established both the Medway Environmental  Trust, ensuring that Medway would forever be managed as a nature preserve, and the Medway Plan, an organization dedicated to providing medical help to war-damaged countries.  She ultimately became quite the grand dame of Charleston society, well known for her philanthropy.  She was also hailed for her lavish New Year’s Eve costume parties.  At one of the last of these affairs, she turned to her guests and raised her glass in a toast.

“I look ahead.  I always have.  I don’t contemplate life, I live it.  And am having the time of my life.”

Here’s to you, Ms. Legendre.

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