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JANE BOWLES, LIBBY HOLMAN REYNOLDS AND BARBARA HUTTON

 

 

One of Jane Bowles' friends was the torch-singer Libby Holman Reynolds. Jane and Paul Bowles had first met Libby Holman in 1945 in New York. Other Tangier friends were Princess Marthe de Chambrun Ruspoli, and Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, who always invited Jane and Paul Bowles to her lavish annual ball at Sidi Hosni, her palace in the upper medina on Rue Amrah, directly across from the Café BaBa (sometimes referred to as "The Rolling Stones Café").

Read below a biography of Libby Holman Reynolds, and a biography of the heiress Barbara Woolworth Hutton, both written by Kenneth Lisenbee. These two well-known and rich women friends of Jane Bowles lived fabulous lives which ultimately ended in tragedy. At the bottom of the page is a biography of Maurice Grosser, another friend of both Jane and Paul Bowles. He was a talented artist and writer who was the lifelong friend of composer, writer and music critic Virgil Thomson. Grosser had painted a portrait of Jane Bowles in 1947, and after her death in 1973, he lived and painted in Jane Bowles' former apartment in Tangier.

 

 

Libby Holman Reynolds
 

Libby Holman in Morocco, June 1948

 

Libby Holman with her son "Topper"—Christopher  Smith Reynolds—on their return to New York City on the SS Queen Mary after a six-week holiday in Morocco, summer 1948

Libby Holman was an American torch singer and actress who became popular on Broadway during the mid-to-late 1920s. She was born into a Jewish family as Elizabeth Lloyd Holzman on May 23, 1904, in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated in 1920 from Hughes High School and received a Bachelors of Arts degree in 1923 from the University of Cincinnati. In the summer of 1924 she moved to New York City, changed her name from Elizabeth Holzman to Libby Holman, and almost immediately Holman became one of Broadway's highest paid stars. By 1929 and the early 1930s, she had introduced such popular songs as "Give Me Something to Remember You By", "You and the Night and the Music", "Moanin' Low" and "Body and Soul". In Manhattan, Libby Holman was seen often in New York's café society haunts including El Morocco and the "21" club, originally established in 1929 as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Holman was also a regular subject for newspaper articles written by gossip columnists.

On November 16, 1931, only three days after divorcing his first wife, Zachary Smith Reynolds, the 20-year-old younger son of North Carolina tobacco magnate R. J. Reynolds, Sr. (his company was then known primarily for the immensely popular Camel cigarette brand), married the 27-year-old singer Libby Holman, whom he had actively pursued for some years. Smith Reynolds, as he was known by friends, once flew around the world in his private airplane to rendezvous with her. (The airplane had to be taken aboard transatlantic and other ships since its range was not capable of reaching Europe from America.) Sometime during the late-evening hours of Tuesday, July 5, 1932, at what turned out to be a drunken party at Reynolda, their 1,000-acre estate near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Smith Reynolds was severely injured by a gunshot wound to his head. After Smith Reynolds was rushed to the hospital, the doctors tried to save him but he never regained consciousness and died after midnight. His wife Libby was pregnant with their only child, Christopher Reynolds, who was born three months prematurely after his father's untimely death.

It was unclear what really had happened at Reynolda the evening of the shooting as Libby was drunk, hysterical and incoherent. Others present also had had too much alcohol to drink and blurred recollections, and some even speculated that her husband may have committed suicide. The precise series of events surrounding Smith Reynolds' shooting were thoroughly investigated, and her husband's childhood friend "Ab" Walker was also involved. Now Libby Holman Reynolds and Albert Walker stood accused of murder. During the complicated court trial and media circus that developed, rivaling the publicity surrounding the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's baby, and fearing an embarrassing scandal, the very rich, influential and private Reynolds family of North Carolina pressured the authorities to drop all charges against them. Smith Reynolds' death was subsequently ruled a suicide. In 1933, after months of negotiations, the family reached a generous financial settlement with Mrs. Smith Reynolds. Thus, at the height of the Great Depression which had begun on Black Thursday, October 24, 1929, she inherited some of her husband's fortune. Their son Christopher Reynolds received an even greater share of his father's wealth, provided for in a special trust fund set up in his name. In 1936, the Reynolds family established a major philanthropic foundation in his memory―the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation―to make grants for improving the quality of life and charitable works in the State of North Carolina. In his memory, the airport at Winston–Salem, North Carolina is named the Smith–Reynolds Airport, and the library at Wake Forest University in Winston–Salem is named the Z. Smith Reynolds Library.

One notable intimate friend of both Libby Holman and Jane Bowles was Louisa d'Andelot Carpenter, a direct descendant of the founder of the vast Du Pont empire—Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours. Louisa Carpenter had met Libby Holman at a horse show in Manhattan in 1929. When Libby Holman was indicted for the murder of Z. Smith Reynolds, Louisa paid her bail. And after Holman's and Walker's acquittal of murder charges in 1932, Louisa and Libby rented a 10-acre estate in Watch Hill, Rhode Island to escape the glare of the tabloid press. They later shared homes in Delaware and Palm Beach to raise Libby's young son Christopher Reynolds, nicknamed "Topper". Louisa was one of the first women pilots licensed to fly an airplane, a breeder of horses, an active pheasant and fox hunter, and the first female master-of-the-hounds in the United States. She frequently invited Libby to her home in Montchanin, near Wilmington, Delaware, and to other hideaways: a house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and they often sailed on Long Island Sound on her mother Margaretta Lammot du Pont's yacht. Louisa d'Andelot Carpenter died in 1976, at age sixty-eight, when her private plane crashed and burst into flames near Easton, Maryland on approach to the Wilmington airport.

Holman's second marriage was in 1939, to actor Ralph Holmes. He committed suicide in 1945, after returning from military service in World War II. While married to Holmes, Libby Holman Reynolds adopted a son, Timothy Reynolds, in 1945, and two years later, in 1947 she adopted another son, Anthony Reynolds. Paul and Jane Bowles first met Libby Holman in 1945, and they instantly became close friends. Holman entertained them for weeks at a time at Treetops, her sprawling 16-bedroom Georgian mansion situated on 55 well-landscaped acres in both Stamford and Greenwich, Connecticut. She later doubled the estate's size to 110 acres (seventy acres were in Greenwich, Connecticut and forty acres were in Stamford). In the early spring, the gardens at Treetops bloomed in a spectacular display of over one million daffodils. Here and at her townhouse at 121 East 61st Street in Manhattan, Libby Holman also hosted other friends including the actor Montgomery Clift, with whom she had a long-time affair, Noël Coward, Elizabeth Taylor, Clifton Webb, Tallulah Bankhead, John Latouche, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and other notables.

After Paul Bowles left the United States for Morocco in July 1947, Jane Bowles sublet their apartment on West Tenth Street in Manhattan and moved to Treetops as a guest of Libby Holman, staying until late-January 1948, when she went to Tangier to be with her husband. Later in 1953, Jane and Paul Bowles and the young Moroccan artist Ahmed Yacoubi were houseguests of Holman for several months. Libby Holman once proposed marriage to Paul Bowles, saying Jane could live with them also, but Paul Bowles declined. Holman referred to Jane Bowles as "my playmate, my confidante, my zany Janie," and they had a true and lasting friendship.

In the summer of 1950, Libby Holman traveled to Europe to take a car trip with Paul Bowles through Andalucía, in southern Spain, and they later took a ferry boat across the Strait of Gibraltar to Tangier so she could to see Jane Bowles again. After Holman had left Morocco and was onboard a ship in the Mediterranean, she received a radiogram stating that her 17-year-old son Christopher Reynolds had been in a climbing accident with a friend while attempting to reach the summit of Mount Whitney—the highest mountain in California. Holman rushed back to America and flew to California, but Christopher Reynolds' body, along with his companion's, had just been recovered near the peak. Holman was devastated. After Christopher's death, Jane Bowles lived with Libby at Treetops for several months, providing consolation to her friend. Nevertheless, Holman remained despondent and moved to France for a year, later returning to America where she attempted a comeback in her singing career on Broadway. Holman now inherited Christopher Reynold's share of his father's fortune since her son was still a minor at the time of his death.

In 1952 Libby Holman established The Christopher Reynolds Foundation in memory of her son. The foundation's early achievements assisted groups and individuals involved in the early civil rights movement in the United States. It sponsored the emerging civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s trip to India in February and March 1959. He was accompanied by his wife Coretta Scott King and Lawrence Reddick. In India they met with Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and other leaders, who like Mahatma Ghandi (1869–1948), believed in using peaceful and nonviolent practices to accomplish positive social changes. As an admirer of Ghandi, King believed "the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence is the only logical and moral approach to the solution of the race problem in the United States."

Paul Bowles was commissioned by Libby Holman to compose an opera, and in 1958 Yerma premiered in Denver, Colorado, to less than enthusiastic audiences. Holman married a third time in 1960 to Louis Schanker, a painter and sculptor. The couple divided their time between The Dune House, a beachfront home in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, her Manhattan townhouse and Treetops in Connecticut. Louis Schanker died in New York on May 8, 1981, at the age of seventy-eight.

Libby Holman returned to Morocco two more times, and for the rest of her life she corresponded with both Jane and Paul Bowles. As a loyal, generous and devoted friend of Jane Bowles, she provided regular funds for Jane Bowles' medical expenses. 

On June 18, 1971, Libby Holman was found slumped over in her Rolls-Royce in the garage at Treetops and rushed to Stamford Hospital's emergency room where she died shortly thereafter. She was 67 years old, and her death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. When she was discovered, the car's engine had been turned off, and it was determined that she was also legally intoxicated. Her estate was valued at $13.2 million, and in her last will, Libby Holman Reynolds bequeathed additional funds for The Christopher Reynolds Foundation, and her two adopted sons, Timothy Reynolds and Anthony Reynolds, each received one million dollars. Libby Holman Reynolds also bequeathed some money to Jane Bowles.

A memorial service for Libby Holman Reynolds Holmes Schanker was held on June 30, 1971, at the Friends Meeting House at 15 Rutherford Place in Manhattan. The service was crowded with friends including Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr., family members, close associates and staff. Few in attendance believed the coroner's ruling that she had committed suicide.

Three books have been written about her life and trial: Libby Holman: Body and Soul by Hamilton Darby Perry, which provides details on the mysterious death of Smith Reynolds and the trial and media frenzy that ensued (Boston: Little, Brown & Company; 1983); Libby: The Murder Case that Shocked the Nation! by Milt Machlin (New York, NY: Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc., 1990) and Dreams That Money Can Buy: The Tragic Life of Libby Holman by Jon Bradshaw (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.; 1985). Three films have been produced that were loosely based on Libby Holman Reynolds's life: Reckless (1935), Brief Moment (1932) and Sing Sinner Sing (1933).

Copyright © 2007 by Kenneth Lisenbee

Princess Marthe de Chambrun Ruspoli

 

Jane Bowles at a 1967 party hosted by Princess Marthe de Chambrun Ruspoli at her villa on the Old Mountain in Tangier. The princess is at the far right, and Cherifa, Jane Bowles's Moroccan friend, companion and head housekeeper is at the far left.

Princess Marthe de Chambrun Ruspoli and her husband Prince Edmondo Ruspoli were separated when she first took residence in Tangier in 1951. They had lived in an historic villa in Florence, Italy. Jane Bowles first met her in late 1963 at a luncheon arranged by Yvonne and Isabelle Gérofi, then co-managers of Tangier's Librairie des Colonnes bookstore, at their apartment on the Boulevard de Paris. For several years Jane Bowles and Princess Ruspoli were inseparable friends. The Oxford-educated princess was fluent in at least six languages, and she had impeccable social credentials: an aunt was Alice Roosevelt Longworth, a famous Washington, D.C. socialite and the daughter of American President Theodore Roosevelt; and her uncle was Nicholas Longworth IV, a highly-regarded Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1925 to 1931. The Longworth House Office Building is named after him. Princess Marthe de Chambrun Ruspoli was also a direct descendent of Le Marquis de Lafayette.

 

Barbara Woolworth Hutton
Paul and Jane Bowles (lower left) and other guests at a formal party given in 1960 by Barbara Hutton, heiress to the F. W. Woolworth fortune, on a terrace at Sidi Hosni, her palace in the upper medina of Tangier, Morocco. (Photograph is Copyright © www.PaulBowles.org)

Barbara Hutton was born in New York City on November 14, 1912. She was the only child of Franklyn Laws Hutton and his wife Edna Woolworth Hutton. Her mother Edna was the eldest of the three daughters of Franklin Winfield Woolworth and his Canadian-born wife Jennie Creighton Woolworth, whom he had married on his farm near Watertown, New York on June 11, 1876. (The day before his marriage his salary was raised to $10 a week.) Barbara Hutton's grandfather Franklin Winfield Woolworth was born in Rodman, New York on April 13, 1852. As a child and young man, he lived with his parents and younger brother Charles Sumner Woolworth on the family's modest potato farm in Great Bend, in upstate New York. Not wanting to be a farmer, the ambitious young Woolworth's mother raised enough money so her son could briefly study at a business college. Franklin soon apprenticed and worked at Moore & Smith, a dry goods company in Watertown, New York. On February 22, 1879, F. W. Woolworth opened his first store as "The Great Five-Cent Store", in Utica, New York, but the business did not work out well in that location and his store closed in May. Still determined to make his business idea work, Frank W. Woolworth scouted for a better location and found it in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where his renamed F. W. Woolworth's 5 and 10 Cent Store opened on June 21, 1879. The second store became instantly popular and attracted many regular customers, and the F. W. Woolworth Co., commonly referred to as Woolworth's, began to grow rapidly across America.

In 1886, Frank Woolworth left Lancaster, Pennsylvania and moved his family to New York City and established his company headquarters there to be closer to his wholesale suppliers, and he leased a small office on Chambers Street in lower Manhattan. Frank W. Woolworth, his wife Jennie and their three daughters, Helena, Edna and Jessie first lived in modest rented apartments, but in 1890 they moved into a new brownstone at 209 Jefferson Avenue in Brooklyn. In 1890, Frank Woolworth also made his first business trip to England and Europe to buy new items for his stores, and when he made his second trip to Europe in 1895, he took his entire family with him. After living for about ten years in Brooklyn, Woolworth moved his family to Manhattan, where they had a luxurious apartment in the exclusive hotel–residence, the Hotel Savoy on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-ninth Street, across from The Plaza. By the end of the century Woolworth had found himself rich beyond his wildest childhood dreams. In 1901, F. W. Woolworth finished construction of a four-storey, thirty-six-room François I chateau-style mansion for himself, his wife Jennie and their daughters. Woolworth's mansion was located at 990 Fifth Avenue, on the northeast corner of East 80th Street, directly across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One of Frank's greatest pleasures in the house was a huge Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ in the second floor drawing room. The building was designed by the architect Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert, more often referred to as C. P. H. Gilbert. Woolworth also commissioned Gilbert to design and build, between 1910 and 1916, three adjacent early French Renaissance-style townhouses on lots he had purchased around the corner for his three married daughters and their husbands: 2 East 80th Street for Franklyn Laws Hutton and Edna Woolworth Hutton, Barbara Hutton's mother; 4 East 80th Street for Charles E. F. McCann and Lena Woolworth McCann, the eldest daughter; and 6 East 80th Street for James Paul Donahue and Jessie May Woolworth Donahue, the youngest daughter. A fourth townhouse was built for the staff and caretakers. (View photographs of the Woolworth mansion on Fifth Avenue and the townhouses on East 80th Street.) F. W. Woolworth was raised as a Methodist; the Huttons were mainly non-practicing Episcopalians; Lena's and Jessie's husbands were Roman Catholics, and these two Woolworth daughters later converted to Catholicism and raised their children in that religion.

Barbara Hutton's grandfather Frank W. Woolworth had long dreamed to have an impressive headquarters building in New York City, and in 1911 he began construction on the Woolworth Building, located in lower Manhattan at 233 Broadway, between Park Place and Barclay Street and facing City Hall Park. The fifty-nine storey, neo-Gothic structure, designed by architect Cass Gilbert, was finished in 1913 and stood 792 feet in height. The Woolworth Building remained the tallest building in the world until 1930, when 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building both surpassed it in height. Frank W. Woolworth paid $13.5 million―in cash―for the construction costs. At its opening ceremony, clergyman S. Parkes Cadman described the building as a "Cathedral of Commerce", and on the evening of April 24, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson pushed a button at The White House to turn on over 90,000 light bulbs in the skyscraper. Four years later, in 1918, the F. W. Woolworth Co. opened its 1,000th store on Fifth Avenue at Fortieth Street, directly across from The New York Public Library.

Barbara's father was Franklyn Laws Hutton, a stockbroker and financier. In 1904, he and his brother Edward Francis Hutton co-founded Harris, Hutton & Company, and a year later, with another partner Gerald M. Loeb, it became E. F. Hutton & Co., a highly-regarded investment banking and stock brokerage firm. Franklyn Laws Hutton married Edna Woolworth on April 25, 1907, at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, then located at Fifth Avenue and Forty-fifth Street. In 1920, Barbara's uncle Edward F. Hutton married Marjorie Merriweather Post Close.

Franklyn and Edna Hutton and their only child Barbara lived in the opulent townhouse F. W. Woolworth built for them at 2 East 80th Street. Unfortunately, Barbara Hutton's parents' marriage was an unhappy one. Her father had various extramarital affairs, and he was an alcoholic. Unable to cope with her sad situation, Edna Woolworth Hutton was driven out of loneliness to develop a close friendship with William ("Bud") Sergeant Bouvier, who was the younger brother of John ("Black Jack") Vernon Bouvier III, father of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Although Bud Bouvier and Edna Woolworth Hutton's friendship had evolved into a romance, he eventually married a younger woman and died from alcoholism at age thirty-six. F. W. Woolworth became enraged at the infidelities by Edna's husband, and he urged his daughter to seek a divorce, to no avail. Tragically, Edna Woolworth Hutton committed suicide on May 2, 1917. Barbara Hutton was four years old when she discovered her thirty-three-year-old mother's body in the bedroom of their fifth-floor suite at the Plaza Hotel (the Huttons had moved there in 1915 so Franklyn could be close to his new office). The Evening Telegram newspaper published an inaccurate and misleading article about the circumstances of Mrs. Franklyn Laws Hutton's death in its May 2, 1917 edition, and The New York Times also had published an inaccurate and misleading obituary for Edna Woolworth Hutton in its May 3, 1917 edition. The police had found an empty vial of strychnine poison in the bathroom and a glass of the crystals mixed with water, and the police report stated that four-year-old Barbara Hutton, not the maid, had actually discovered Edna Woolworth Hutton's body. No autopsy or official inquest was ever ordered by the coroner's office.

After her mother's death, Barbara Hutton, now five years old, went to live with her grandfather F. W. Woolworth, first at his Fifth Avenue mansion, and later at Winfield Hall, his new estate located on Crescent Beach Road in Glen Cove, on the North Shore of Long Island. (F. W. Woolworth's original Winfield Hall, built in 1895, was destroyed in a fire in November 1916, and Woolworth insisted that his new marble mansion would be virtually fireproof.) Completed in 1917, the Italian Renaissance-style mansion cost $9 million and had 62 rooms including a large music room with Aeolian pipe organ, 18 bedrooms, a grand ballroom, a pink marble staircase, tennis courts, stables, four caretakers' cottages, three greenhouses, swimming pool, formal Italian gardens, a nine-hole golf course and a 16-car garage. Winfield Hall required dozens of staff for its upkeep and services, and there were 24 full-time gardeners for the estate's 18 acres. (View photographs of Winfield Hall.)

F. W. Woolworth lived in his Gold Coast mansion for only two years until he died from a severe dental infection on April 8, 1919, at age sixty-six. Barbara's grandmother Jennie Woolworth was in declining health during her last years, and she had difficulty adjusting to a large staff replacing her in the role of caretaker for her husband, family and home, and living in large mansions, rather than modest farms or small-town homes. By the age of sixty-five, Jennie Woolworth had became increasingly isolated, psychotic and was deemed mentally incompetent, unable to walk without the assistance from a nurse, and unable to recognize her husband or children. When F. W. Woolworth died in 1919, his wife Jennie Woolworth became the sole beneficiary of his vast estate, but due to her premature senility (dementia, or advanced Alzheimer's disease), the estate was administered by a committee that consisted of their two daughters, Lena (Mrs. Charles McCann) and Jessie (Mrs. James Paul Donahue, Sr.), and Hubert Parson, the president of Woolworth's from 1919 to 1932. After Jennie Woolworth's death on May 21, 1924, her $76 million estate was divided into equal thirds among the two surviving daughters, Jessie May Woolworth Donahue and Helena Woolworth McCann, and Edna Woolworth Hutton's only child, 11-year-old Barbara Woolworth Hutton. Barbara's $28 million share of the estate was held in a trust fund that was administered by her father until she reached the age of twenty-one.

After the death of F. W. Woolworth, in 1919, Barbara Hutton was shuffled between various relatives, and she lived for several years in Burlingame, California and Pleasantville, New Jersey with her father's eldest sister, Grace Middleton. Barbara was basically abandoned by her father Franklyn, who treated his daughter coolly. In March 1926, Franklyn Hutton married Irene Curley Bodde, a divorcee he had met in California. Barbara Hutton once had to spend a Christmas by herself at Miss Porter's School, where she was snubbed and ridiculed by classmates, who had gone home to be with their families, because her father Franklyn and stepmother Irene could not be bothered having her home for the holidays. In 1926, Barbara's father decided that his fourteen-year-old daughter should have her own 26-room duplex apartment in the same building as he and his wife at 1020 Fifth Avenue, at 83rd Street. Throughout her mid-to-late teenage years Barbara made regular summer trips to Europe.

Barbara Hutton was raised by nannies and "Tiki" (Germaine Toquet), her French governess, and she required bodyguards for protection. Hutton was educated at exclusive boarding schools: the Santa Barbara School for Girls in California; Miss Hewitt's Classes in New York City; and Miss Porter's School for Girls in Farmington, Connecticut. Barbara Hutton knew Doris Duke, another famous, even richer young heiress, and children from other prominent families. Hutton was regularly taunted for being a spoiled rich teenager who had personal bodyguards and a chauffeur to take her to school. One of Hutton's closest teenage friends and a confidante was her fun-loving and occasionally outrageous first cousin, Jimmy Donahue (James Paul Donahue, Jr.), who also inherited some of the Woolworth millions. Jimmy Donahue was also a lifelong friend of Libby Holman, whom he had first met in 1934 in Palm Beach, and also another of Jane Bowles' friends, Du Pont heiress Louisa Carpenter. After Libby Holman Reynolds was acquitted of the charge of the shotgun murder of her husband Smith Reynolds, Jimmy Donahue lived for a short time with Libby, Louisa, Louisa's adopted daughter Sunny and Libby's young son Christopher. Barbara Hutton's family maintained homes in New York, in Palm Beach, Florida, and a shooting plantation near Charleston, South Carolina. Although the Huttons spent the summers of 1928 and 1929 in Newport, Rhode Island, at Beachmound on Bellevue Avenue, they never actually owned a "cottage" in that New England summer resort, where the season lasted from July 4th through Labor Day, the first Monday in September.

Aside from Barbara Hutton's grandfather, Franklin Winfield Woolworth, her most notable relative was a favorite aunt, Marjorie Merriweather Post Hutton. Throughout her teenage years Barbara was often invited on trips by Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Ned (E. F. Hutton), and when in Palm Beach, Barbara preferred to stay with them at Mar-a-Lago rather than with her own father and stepmother at Hogarcito. Marjorie listened carefully to her sensitive young niece, providing much-needed guidance, yet she was not successful in getting Barbara to control her extravagant spending sprees. Barbara looked up to and greatly admired her kind, beautiful and intelligent aunt. Nancy Rubin Stuart wrote in her biography American Empress: The Life and Times of Marjorie Merriweather Post: "Years later, long after Barbara was grown and rushing from one unhappy marriage to another, she continued to hunger after Marjorie's love and advice. At Christmas and Easter she sent her aunt lavish bouquets of roses, orchids, and other exotic blossoms. Often she telegrammed Marjorie in gratitude for a phone call, a visit, or a present, praising her as 'the kindest and dearest person in all the world' or reassuring her that she was 'taking her advice'."

In 1927, another of Barbara Hutton's aunts, Jessie Woolworth Donahue, built Cielito Lindo, an impressive mansion in Palm Beach that was designed by Marion Sims Wyeth and situated on sixteen ocean-to-lake acres. It was one of Palm Beach's largest estates, along with Edward and Eva Stotesbury's El Mirasol and her Aunt Marjorie Marjorie Merriweather Post Hutton's Mar-a-Lago. The following year, in 1928, Barbara's Aunt Jessie bought an estate on Gin Lane in the New York summer resort village of Southampton from Wall Street broker Dr. Peter B. Wyckoff, a former physician. It was regarded as one of the most imposing summer estates on Long Island. Her fifty-room, three-storey Tudor manor house had an enormous living room measuring 100 feet long by 50 feet wide, with a ceiling height of about 50 feet, and after she bought additional land the estate was nearly 16 acres. After she remodeled and expanded the original house, built in 1905, Jessie renamed her lavish estate Wooldon Manor, derived from a combination of the names Woolworth and Donahue. The main Tudor house was surrounded by six elaborate gardens and had a 2,000 foot long driveway, two cottages for employees, a large greenhouse, two tennis courts and two large garages. Additionally, there was a separate oceanfront pool house with a large living room, dressing rooms, and a large adjacent glass-enclosed indoor swimming pool. Jessie Woolworth Donahue had hoped that by owning such a lavish estate, filled with art works and Chippendale furniture, she and her husband would be accepted into Southampton's society, but that didn't happen, and she ended up selling her estate at auction in 1937, for a fraction of its original cost, to Wall Street broker Edmund Calvert Lynch, who never moved in. He died in London, England in May 1938, several months before the Great Hurricane of September 21, 1938, that destroyed or severely damaged numerous houses in the Hamptons, including Wooldon Manor. The estate languished in disrepair and remained unoccupied until 1940, when five beachfront acres and the reconstructed and enlarged beach house with a new outdoor pool were sold to Charles E. Merrill (a business partner of Edmund C. Lynch who, with Merrill, had co-founded Merrill, Lynch & Co. in 1915.) In late-April 1941, the Lynch estate decided to demolish what remained of Wooldon Manor because of high taxes, and all that is left is a portion of the tall red brick wall on Gin Lane. In the spring of 1946, Jessie put Cielito Lindo on the market, and it was eventually purchased in 1948 by a developer who subdivided the estate into five separate houses and properties. Afterward, Jessie Woolworth Donahue bought another mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Jessie was also an art collector and many of her European Old Masters paintings were later donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Jessie Woolworth Donahue's philandering husband James Paul Donahue, a broker, committed suicide by poisoning himself. He died on April 23, 1931, in a private sanitarium on Madison Avenue, and he was forty-four years old. After her husband's death, Jessie Woolworth Donahue left her townhouse at 2 East 80th Street and bought a duplex apartment at 834 Fifth Avenue. Thirty-five years later, on December 6, 1966, Jessie Woolworth Donahue found her son's body in a bedroom in her Fifth Avenue home. Barbara Hutton was distressed and went into seclusion when she learned of the death of her favorite cousin, Jimmy Donahue, who had accompanied her on two of her honeymoon travels during the 1930s. James Paul Donahue, Jr. was the youngest grandson of F. W. Woolworth and a lifelong bachelor, playboy and philanthropist. The cause of Donahue's death was acute alcohol and barbiturate poisoning. He was fifty-one years old and had lived at Broadhollow in Old Brookville, Long Island, which he had purchased in 1956 from Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. Jessie Woolworth Donahue died in her Fifth Avenue apartment on November 1, 1971, at the age of eighty-two. Her funeral service was held at St. James' Episcopal Church at 865 Madison Avenue at Seventy-first Street. Jessie Woolworth Donahue was the last surviving daughter of F. W. Woolworth, and she left a son, Woolworth Donahue, who lived in Palm Beach.

During the fall of 1930 Barbara Woolworth Hutton attended forty separate balls, receptions, teas and brunches, including heiress Doris Duke's debut to society at Rough Point, the Duke family's 105-room summer "cottage" in Newport, Rhode Island. Aunt Marjorie gave a tea for five hundred people at her Fifth Avenue triplex, with the Meyer Davis orchestra providing entertainment. Barbara Hutton's own debutante ball was held on December 21, 1930, at Manhattan's first Ritz-Carlton Hotel (opened in 1910 and demolished in 1951), located at Madison Avenue and 46th Street. Her debutante extravaganza was attended by one thousand people from New York's upper-crust Social Register families, and other debutantes with their male escorts. Entertainment was provided by four orchestras, the popular singer Rudy Vallée, and the singer-actor Maurice Chevalier, dressed in a Santa Claus costume, handed out expensive gifts to the guests. The high-society bandleader Lester Lanin began his long and distinguished career at Barbara Hutton's coming-out party; and two hundred waiters served dinners and breakfasts, and thousands of bottles of Champagnes were consumed. The famous New York socialite Brooke Astor described this event as: "...to die from―the epitome of the big money deb affair."

On May 19, 1931, Barbara Hutton was formally presented to Queen Mary and King George V at Buckingham Palace, and the next day Edward, the Prince of Wales held a garden party on the palace's grounds. Following London, Barbara Hutton, her father and stepmother traveled to Paris, where they took a suite at the Hôtel Ritz. In Paris, Barbara Hutton first met Elsa Maxwell, noted for her parties and introductions of rich American women looking to marry into impoverished European royalty. Paris was followed by stays in Biarritz, France and Rome, Italy.

Near the end of January 1933 Barbara Hutton sailed to the Far East, with a stay in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. While in Bangkok, Siam (now Thailand), she met up with Prince Alexis Mdivani. In April 1933, an announcement of her engagement to the fortune-hunting Georgian "prince"― just divorced from Louise Astor Van Alen, a Manhattan socialite and a descendant of John Jacob Astor―outraged her father. Franklyn Laws Hutton had adamantly opposed any marriage, especially since his daughter had not yet reached the age of twenty-one. Barbara Hutton immediately ordered three custom built Rolls-Royces and gave one to her father as a present. After a prenuptial agreement was finalized and signed, giving Mdivani one million dollars and a substantial annual allowance, they were married in a civil ceremony in Paris on June 20, 1933, followed by a lavish formal wedding on June 22 at a Russian Orthodox cathedral. The international press strongly criticized Princess Mdivani (Hutton) for spending a small fortune on her wedding during the height of the Great Depression. With seventy pieces of luggage and trunks, the newlyweds spent their honeymoon at Lake Como, north of Milan, and the Lido in Venice. Barbara bought Abbazia di San Gregorio, a 12th-century palazzo and former monastery directly on the Grand Canal, but Mdivani had the deed registered in his name. Throughout 1934 the couple visited Japan and China, with more spending sprees, gifts and large checks for Prince Mdivani.

On November 14, 1933, Barbara Hutton's twenty-first birthday, she inherited one-third of Jennie Woolworth's estate and was now worth over $42 million―a fortune equivalent to $2–$2.5 billion dollars in today's value of the U.S. dollar. (At the height of the Great Depression in 1933, a worker's average annual wages were $1,550, a new house cost between $2,800 and $5,759, a new car averaged $630, gasoline cost just 10 cents a gallon, a loaf of bread cost 7 cents, a U.S. postage stamp was 3 cents and a daily newspaper cost 2 cents.) Her inheritance also provided an annual income of about $1.7 million. Her original inheritance of $28 million had been parlayed into $42,077,328.53 through wise investment and oversight by her father. Twenty-one year old Barbara Woolworth Hutton was now one of the richest women in America and in the world at a time when the stock market had crashed, numerous banks had failed, numerous businesses had gone bankrupt and millions of Americans and innumerable people in other countries had found themselves struggling to make ends meet and were without jobs. Barbara Hutton's first act of generosity was a gift of $5 million to her father Franklyn, since he had nearly doubled the amount of her original inheritance when he managed her trust fund. The Hutton family emerged virtually unscathed from the Depression and they remained very rich. From the time of Hutton's inheritance the media regularly reported every detail of her extravagances and what would become a pattern of marriage and divorce throughout her life. Newspapers derided the young heiress, and Hutton was disdainfully mocked in the press and referred to as the "Poor Little Rich Girl" on the front page of the New York Post and regarded as such by the general public. On her twenty-second birthday in 1934, Hutton held an extravagant party for 2,000 guests at the Hôtel Ritz in Paris. By the autumn of 1934, her marriage to Prince Mdivani had become irreconcilably doomed, and she ultimately filed for a divorce, which was granted in Reno, Nevada on May 13, 1935. The next day, on May 14, Barbara Hutton married her second husband, Count Court von Haugwitz-Reventlow of Denmark. Less than three months after her divorce from the twenty-six-year-old Prince Alexis Mdivani, he was killed in an automobile accident on August 1, 1935, when his speeding Rolls-Royce ran into a ditch and overturned several times near Albona, Spain.

At age twenty-four, when Barbara Hutton was married to her second husband, Count Court von Haugwitz-Reventlow from Denmark, she became concerned about threats to kidnap her baby son Lance Haugwitz-Reventlow, who was born in London after a difficult Caesarian section operation, on February 24, 1936. She decided to give up her house near Marble Arch in London and look for something bigger and more secure. Friends suggested a large, abandoned and dilapidated Regency-style house called St. Dunstan's (originally called Hertford Villa), that recently had been partially destroyed by fire. In August 1936, Barbara Hutton bought the twelve and a half acres property located adjacent to The Regent's Park, demolished St. Dunstan's, and built a red brick Georgian mansion, designed by Glasgow-born architect Leonard Rome Guthrie. Barbara Hutton named her new home Winfield House, in memory of her grandfather, and she furnished it with a treasury of valuable paintings, Louis XVI furniture, Persian carpets, and Chinese objets d'art, and installed 18th century French paneling, oak parquet floors and marble bathrooms. Hutton also had planted several thousand trees, tall hedges and flower gardens on the grounds, and a ten-foot tall fence and modern security system were constructed around the perimeter. Ideal for grand entertaining, Barbara Hutton's estate had the second-largest private gardens in London, England, after those at Buckingham Palace. The Count and Countess Haugwitz-Reventlow and their son Lance, moved into Winfield House in 1937. Pressured by her husband, on December 16, 1937, Barbara Hutton renounced her United States citizenship―a move designed to save money on annual taxes, but which elicited a media frenzy of negative publicity in America.

Because of dangers from an impending World War II looming on the horizon, in October 1939 the couple, now legally separated and planning to divorce in America, along with Lance, left the London mansion and returned to New York. On arrival, Hutton, now the Countess Haugwitz-Reventlow, was greeted on the dock by union picketers from Woolworth stores with signs that read: "Babs, we live on $15.60 a week. Could you?". To bolster her public image, Barbara Hutton assisted the World War II effort by giving money to help the Free French Forces, and she donated her yacht to the U.S. government and used her image to help sell War Bonds. As a result, Hutton received some favorable media coverage rather than ridicule by the press. On December 5, 1940, Barbara's sixty-three year old father, Franklyn Laws Hutton, died from cirrhosis of the liver at Prospect Hill, his 5,500-acre shooting plantation on the Edisto River in South Carolina. He had spent most of his winters there, but also made regular trips to his house in Palm Beach.

In 1946, one year after the war had ended, Barbara Hutton returned to London to inspect Winfield House and found that her mansion had broken windows and it was in a state of disrepair. The following day she telephoned her lawyer to arrange to donate her London property to the United States government for a token sum of one United States dollar. After initial hesitation, a thank you letter was sent to Hutton, personally signed by President Harry F. Truman, accepting and acknowledging her "most generous and patriotic offer". Since 1955, Winfield House has been used as the official residence of the U.S. ambassadors to the Court of St. James's, and visiting presidents of the United States have traditionally stayed there when in London. (Read more about the history of Winfield House, the U.S. ambassador's residence in London.)

Soon after donating Winfield House, Barbara Hutton heard about a palace for sale in Tangier, Morocco, and she travelled to Tangier, staying at the Hôtel El Minzah, in order to inspect the property. Sidi Hosni was situated in the upper medina, just below the Kasbah, and there were panoramic views of the Bay of Tangier and the main city beach. Hutton immediately decided to purchase Sidi Hosni, offering to pay its owner, an American diplomat named Maxwell Blake, twice the amount of money which Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain had bid. During the 1800s the original site had been a prison for Moroccan debtors and it later housed a café. In 1870 it was acquired by a local Moroccan holy man or saint, Sidi Hosni. In 1925 Hosni's family sold the property to Times of London correspondent and world traveler Walter B. Harris, who combined seven houses into one large palace, embellishing Sidi Hosni with intricate Moroccan plasterwork and mosaic tiles. Harris created several large reception rooms, salons, interior courtyards, multilevel terraces and quiet, private gardens. Walter Burton Harris died in 1933, before completing his renovation project, and Sidi Hosni was then sold to Maxwell Blake, who completed work on the palace. Blake collected antique doors, windows, painted ceilings and other decorative items from palaces throughout Morocco, and he imported the finest craftsmen from Fez who worked for more than ten years to beautify the palace, creating an architectural fantasy.

 
Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton stands near the entrance to Sidi Hosni, her palace in Tangier, Morocco, in 1961. Local residents called her the "queen of the medina". (Photograph by Cecil Beaton)

Barbara Woolworth Hutton lived in Tangier, Morocco only during the summer months, beginning in 1947, up until her final stay in 1975. Invitations to her annual ball at Sidi Hosni—always the social event of the season—were much coveted. Hutton would invite 200 guests and 1,000 gate-crashers would show up at the entrance gate, only to be turned away. With the assistance of her friend, Dan Rudd, an American-born interior designer living in Paris, several large tents would be set up on the flat roof of her palace. During these events, Moroccan belly dancers would perform and entertain while waiters and waitresses dressed in Moroccan attire would serve hors d'oeuvres, drinks and food, while three separate orchestras flown in from the Caribbean or Mexico would perform jazz and calypso music. The Hon. David Herbert, her friend and Tangier's social arbiter, advised Barbara Hutton on who and whom not to invite. The invitations always read: "Mrs. Barbara Woolworth Hutton requests the pleasure of your company...", and if the party were to be held on the terraces or the roof, there was an added note: "In Case of Wind, Your Hostess Requests You To Indulge Her By Coming Another Night." At other times, Hutton would hold some of her parties in the gardens at Mercedes Guitta's restaurant and bar at the Place de Kowéit, the Parade, a popular restaurant and bar near the Place de France on the Rue de Fès, or in large tents set up near the Caves of Hercules outside Tangier. While on a trip to India, Hutton had bought the historic "Million Dollar Tapestry" from the Maharaja of Tripura. The 15th-century tapestry and complementary floor cushions were embroidered with gold threads and encrusted with diamonds, pearls, emeralds and rubies. But there were occasional thefts of gems, and Hutton had to retain security guards during her fêtes. Additionally, every room in her Tangier home had an expensive clock from Van Cleef & Arpels. In her Thousand and One Nights palace in Tangier, Hutton held court each summer, inviting her friends and acquaintances from all over the world, and Hutton paid their entire travel and hotel expenses.

While Jane Bowles was closer to Barbara Hutton, Paul Bowles was not overly fond of her as she had once expressed a dislike for his novel The Sheltering Sky. Paul Bowles wrote: "One summer when she gave a party, she brought thirty Reguibat camel drivers with their racing camels from the Sahara, a good thousand miles away, merely to form a garde d'honneur through which the guests would pass at the entrance of the house. But then she couldn't get rid of them. ...for many days after the party they encamped with their camels outside the walls of Sidi Hosni. The animals produced enough fertilizer during their stay to keep the flowering trees of Tangier blooming for a decade." She once entertained the U.S. Sixth Fleet when in port, with one party for the enlisted men and another for the officers. Hutton also held occasional parties for the Tangier police department, and others for her mostly poor neighbors. The presence of such an international celebrity in Tangier was a boon to the tourist industry in the city.

In Morocco, Barbara Hutton gave generous amounts of money to support local Tangier charities, and she arranged to feed hundreds of poor people in the city on a daily basis. As a diversion from Tangier, she would travel to Marrakech, or to Taroudant in the far south, where she rented for her friends, all of the stone cottages at La Gazelle d'Or, long regarded as one of the most luxurious and private of Morocco's hideaways. When her son Lance visited Morocco in 1962, her friend David Herbert made his first visit to La Gazelle d'Or in Taroudant, along with other guests. Throughout her lifetime, Hutton had sudden whims of generosity and would, on more than a few occasions, present a friend or even a mere acquaintance with a check, a Rolls-Royce, a Patek Philippe watch, jewelry, a sable coat, an entire wardrobe of clothing, or even a house.

   

Barbara Hutton wearing the Pasha of Egypt diamond ring with its fine 38.19-carat round stone which she had recut at Cartier from its original slightly octagonal shape, and one of her tiaras set with the Vladimir emeralds. In 1936, Hutton paid $1.2 million to Polish-born opera singer Ganna Walska, the second wife of Chicago industrialist Harold F. McCormick, for the historical collection of emeralds that had once been owned by Catherine the Great of Russia, and later by Edith McCormick Rockefeller. In 1947, Hutton commissioned Lucien Lachassagne of Cartier to fashion the emeralds into a tiara with diamonds so that it could also be worn as a necklace. (Photo by Cecil Beaton)

 

During Barbara Hutton's earliest years in Tangier, Paul and Jane Bowles lived close to her palace in their small house off Place Amrah in the upper Medina. On one visit to Sidi Hosni, Barbara Hutton gave Jane Bowles a ruby the size of an egg, which she later returned to Hutton, realizing its great value and out of loyalty to her friend who was prone to periodic drinking binges. Hutton owned large and important collections of historic gems: diamonds, emeralds and rubies, perfectly matched white, black and yellow pearl necklaces with pearls the size of cherries, and jade. One of her pearl necklaces was once owned by Marie-Antoinette, the Queen of France. Hutton's jewelry collections also included the huge emeralds formerly owned by Catherine the Great and a ruby tiara that had belonged to Empress Eugénie of France. At Sidi Hosni, Hutton sometimes greeted her invited guests while seated on a throne, and the local residents in Tangier referred to her as "The queen of the medina". In fact, the Tangier authorities readily agreed to widen or rebuild the narrow arches of the entrances to the medina to accommodate the width of her Rolls-Royces and other cars.

When not in Tangier, where she spent most of the summer months, Barbara Hutton divided her time between several homes: spring and part of the autumn in Paris at her luxurious suite (apartment 35) in the Hôtel Ritz, on the second floor overlooking the Place Vendôme; a four-bedroom suite on the fourteenth floor at The Pierre at Fifth Avenue and Sixty-first Street in New York; and in the winter at Sumiya, her 30-acre Japanese estate near Cuernavaca, Mexico, about 50 miles south of Mexico City. All materials used in the construction of Sumiya were shipped over from Japan. In early 1959 Hutton purchased an apartment in Paris on the third floor at 31, rue Octave Feuillet, near the Bois de Boulogne in the 16th arrondissement. Here she could display her large collection of Asian art and Oriental porcelain and hold lavish luncheons and dinner parties. Hutton maintained a permanent, full-time staff for each of her primary residences: a butler, chef, kitchen help and maids. Her personal maid, chauffeur, bodyguard and social secretary were typically a part of her traveling entourage.

While vacationing on the Lido in Venice, Italy in the late summer of 1957, Barbara Hutton met the young and handsome James Henderson Douglas III, an American living in Paris, whose father was the U. S. Secretary of the Air Force, and whose family business, combined with two others, had established the Quaker Oats Company in 1901. Cultured and charming, Jimmy Douglas genuinely cared for Barbara, and he successfully kept her off drugs and alcohol for almost three years. Jimmy Douglas and Barbara Hutton traveled together all over the world, and he lived with her for over a year at Sumiya in Mexico. She invited Jimmy Douglas to live in her apartment in Paris, and later bought him an apartment on the Left Bank. Nevertheless, in August 1960, she returned to Tangier without him.

James Douglas was followed by Lloyd Franklin, whom Hutton had first met in August 1960 at a dinner party given by David Herbert at his villa on the Mountain in Tangier. (His name at birth was Frank Franklin, and the first thing that Barbara Hutton did was to change his name to Lloyd Franklin.) Only 23 years old, the London-born Franklin had been a trumpeter in the Royal Coldstream Guards. Earlier that summer of 1960, he decided to leave the British military and travel to Spain and Morocco. He arrived in Tangier with only his backpack, an old guitar and a letter of introduction to the Hon. David Herbert. With Herbert's help, the young Franklin soon was given a job singing and playing his guitar at Dean's Bar, a popular spot in Tangier at the time, frequented by international celebrities, local residents and expatriates. Barbara Hutton went to Dean's to hear him perform, and soon Lloyd Franklin became, as some believed, the love of her life. He lived with Hutton at Sidi Hosni, though they never married, and he was plunged into a world of great riches and luxury. Hutton lavished Franklin with expensive gifts including a Rolls-Royce and a dozen polo ponies with stables and a bungalow on fifteen acres of land adjacent to the Tangier polo club. Barbara Hutton supported the polo club, which opened in 1962. When he amicably split his relationship with Barbara Hutton, Lloyd Franklin graciously returned the Tangier property she had given to him. When Lloyd Franklin married Penny Ansley, an English heiress, Barbara Hutton bought them a house on the mountain in Tangier as a wedding present. Several years later, on New Year's Day 1968, they were killed in an automobile accident while driving back to Tangier from Marrakech.

Barbara Hutton's Tangier friends included Yves Vidal, who lived and entertained in the Kasbah at York Castle with interior designer Charles Sevigny, her housekeeper Ira Belline, for whom Barbara later bought an orange farm near Marrakech, her devoted Australian bodyguard Colin Frazer, her dressmaker Vera Medina, restaurant owner Mercedes Guitta, her personal maid Tony Gonzales, her Chinese-born social secretary Mona Yung-Ning Ho and her Tangier hairdresser Jean Mendibourne. When Hutton bought Sidi Hosni from Maxwell Blake in 1947, she inherited two caretakers, a married couple named Ruth and Reginald Hopwood, and they lived in Sidi Hosni when Hutton was not in residence. Ruth Hopwood's father Maxwell Blake had bought Sidi Hosni in 1931 from the Times of London correspondent Walter B. Harris. In the late 1950s, Hutton dismissed the Hopwoods from her employ and she refused to see them again. There were always hangers-on―predatory individuals who were mainly interested in getting something from Hutton, and some would encourage Hutton to drink too much, as then she was vulnerable and more likely to give something valuable away.

Barbara Hutton's only child Lance Haugwitz-Reventlow was raised by a nurse and nanny and he never had a close relationship with his mother, whom he seldom saw. Lance was two years old when his mother legally separated from his father and she filed for divorce in June 1938. Yet her divorce decree from Count Haugwitz-Reventlow was only made final on March 1, 1941, when King Christian of Denmark affixed his signature. On July 8, 1942, when Lance was six years old, his thirty-year-old mother married the actor Cary Grant, in Lake Arrowhead, California. Cary Grant proved to be a good stepfather and the only real father-figure in her son's life. Lance detested his Danish father who had briefly taken him to Canada in June 1944 when he was nine years old, during the bitter four-year custody battle with Barbara. During this time Count Court Haugwitz-Reventlow was living at Hopedene on Cliff Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island. Barbara never lived in Newport at Shamrock Cliff as has been claimed and rumored. On July 29, 1942, Count Haugwitz-Reventlow married Mrs. Margaret Astor Drayton, a great-granddaughter of Mrs. William Astor, a New York social leader, in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In America, Lance attended various private schools that included The Rivers Country Day School in Weston, Massachusetts, and later he was educated at St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island. But because Lance had asthma, in 1950, she transferred her son to the Southern Arizona School for Boys in Tucson, where the climate was better. He did well academically but had no close friends among the students. Lance was hurt and disappointed when his mother failed to attend his graduation, and he never forgave her. She could not bear to face the crowds and publicity, and the following day she gave him a new Cadillac. In 1957, Lance Haugwitz-Reventlow renounced his Danish citizenship, thus giving up any future claim to use the title of count, and he became a citizen of the United States. On his twenty-first birthday, Lance came into a trust fund that had been set up while his mother was married to Count Haugwitz-Reventlow, and she gave Lance money to build a house, partly of his own design, eventually located high up on Davies Drive, overlooking Bel Air and Beverly Hills.

Lance Reventlow disapproved of his mother's aristocratic friends, her well-publicized divorces and marriages and the excessive drinking. He became a racing-car enthusiast and in 1958 spent $2 million of his money to start a business that developed and produced the Scarab―America's fastest race car― to compete with European race cars. Lance was a friend of the actor James Dean, a fellow race car fan, and he was one of the last persons to see and speak with Dean on the day of his sudden death, September 30, 1955. After Lance Reventlow lost his enthusiasm for race cars, he enjoyed sailing in Hawaii, skiing in Colorado and piloting his own airplane. In 1960 Reventlow married the actress Jill St. John, but in 1963 they divorced. In 1964 he married the actress Cheryl Holdridge (formerly a "Mouseketeer" on Walt Disney's popular children's television show The Mickey Mouse Club), but his mother did not attend their wedding. Lance later bought a house in Aspen, Colorado and spent most of his time there, while Cheryl preferred living at their home in California. Tragically, on July 24, 1972, Lance Reventlow and three other passengers in a Cessna single-engine airplane died instantly when it crashed during a thunderstorm into a mountain north of Aspen, Colorado. Barbara Hutton was devastated and did not feel able to attend her thirty-six-year-old son's memorial service in Aspen. Lance's cremated remains were later interred at the Woolworth mausoleum in New York, and thereafter she was tormented by feelings of guilt and sank into a state of deep depression.

Barbara Hutton married and divorced seven times, providing generous divorce settlements to six. Hutton's seven husbands were, with the years of each marriage and subsequent divorce in parentheses: (1.) Alexis Mdivani, a Georgian "prince" (1933–1935); (2.) Count Court von Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow (1935–1938), the Danish father of her only child, Lance Reventlow; (3.) the popular actor Cary Grant was the only husband not interested in getting any of Barbara Hutton's money (1942–1945); (4.) Prince Igor Troubetzkoy (1947–1951); (5.) Porfirio Rubirosa (1953–1954). Her shortest marriage to this notorious playboy, polo player and diplomat from the Dominican Republic lasted only 73 days. Rubirosa also had a short-lived marriage to another heiress, Doris Duke, and he had a well-publicized affair with Zsa-Zsa Gabor. On July 5, 1965, Porfirio Rubirosa was killed instantly when one of his favorite sportscars smashed into a tree in the Bois de Bologne in Paris. He was fifty-six years old, and was the second of Hutton's husbands who died in an automobile accident; (6.) Baron Gottfried von Cramm, a German tennis star (1955–1959). His full name was Gottfried Alexander Maximilian Walter Kurt Freiherr von Cramm; (7.) Barbara Hutton's last husband was Prince Pierre Raymond Doan Vinh na Champassak (1964–1966). Barbara Hutton met Raymond Doan in Tangier during the summer of 1963 at an exhibition of his paintings. Doan's father was Vietnamese, his mother was French, and he had lived and was educated in France. When they met, Raymond Doan was a Buddhist, still married and had been working as a chemist for a French oil company in the Guéliz area of Marrakech. Only after Barbara Hutton bought Raymond Doan a Laotian title did he use the title of "prince". When she divorced him in 1966, Barbara Hutton gave Raymond Doan $2 million, and his brother Maurice Doan also received an apartment in Paris and other generous gifts.

The last few years of her life Barbara Hutton lived in a four-bedroom penthouse suite in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. For some years her health had been deteriorating, and she eventually wasted away to less than 90 pounds due to malnutrition and anorexia. At various times she was a chain smoker of cigarettes and had addictions to endless cups of black coffee, Coca-Cola, alcohol, sleeping pills, appetite suppressants and pain medications. Over time she was forced to liquidate assets and sell most of her homes and many possessions to raise cash. Hutton's dire financial predicament has been attributed to her own overspending and generosity, the mismanagement of her wealth by lawyers and financial advisers, and occasional outright theft by caretakers. In the summer of 1975 Barbara Hutton travelled to Tangier, Morocco for the last time. Sidi Hosni was the only residence that she still owned.

On May 11, 1979, Barbara Hutton had a heart attack in her Beverly Wilshire Hotel penthouse apartment suite, and died enroute to the Cedars–Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. She was sixty-six years old. On May 25, 1979, Barbara Woolworth Hutton was buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York, in a crypt inside the Woolworth family mausoleum, a granite faux-Egyptian monument. The short private funeral service was attended by ten friends and family members, but no members of the press were present, nor was there a clergyman. Among those who attended Barbara Hutton's funeral were her first cousin, the actress Dina Merrill (Nedenia Marjorie Hutton, Marjorie Merriweather Post's youngest daughter), and her husband at the time, the actor Cliff Robertson. He read a poem written by himself and another written by Barbara Mdivani entitled "The Enchanted".

Although only a fragment of her original fortune remained at the time of her death, Barbara Hutton had made bequests to a number of friends and devoted employees in her last will. Some of her rare possessions were donated to museums in Pasadena and San Francisco, and what remained of her jewelry, furniture and other valuable items were later privately sold or auctioned. At the time of her death, Barbara Hutton was a citizen of Denmark and a legal resident of Morocco. Years later, in November 1999, a single strand necklace of 41 natural and graduated pearls that Barbara Hutton had owned was auctioned and sold by Christie's Geneva for $1,476,400; and in 2006, a single white Imperial Qing Dynasty porcelain bowl which Hutton had owned was sold at auction by Christie's Hong Kong for $22,240,000―a world's record for similar items.

"The Enchanted", a 1934 poem by Barbara Woolworth Hutton

 

Two popular songs were inspired by Barbara Hutton's life, beginning with the actor and singer Bing Crosby's rendition of "I Found A Million Dollar Baby" (In a Five and Ten Cent Store), recorded in 1931. The music was composed by Harry Warren and the lyrics were by Billy Rose and Mort Dixon. The song was originally introduced in New York in May 1931 in Billy Rose's Broadway show "Crazy Quilt", starring Fannie Brice and James Barton. Additional versions of "I Found a Million Dollar Baby" were recorded by Nat King Cole, Perry Como and many others. The second song inspired by Barbara Hutton was Noël Coward's  "Poor Little Rich Girl", first performed in London, England on May 19, 1932 by the New Mayfair Orchestra, conducted by Ray Noble.

Barbara Hutton privately published two limited-edition books of her own poetry: the first, published by Barbara Mdivani, was entitled The Enchanted (Glasgow, Scotland: R. Maclehose & Co., October 1934), and a second limited edition book of 40 of her poems, many expressing her fondness for Morocco, and which was dedicated to her son Lance, was called The Wayfarer (Westerham, Kent, England: Westerham Press, 1957). Several biographies have been written about her life: Barbara Hutton: A Candid Biography of the Richest Woman in the World by Dean Jennings (London: W. H. Allen, 1968; New York: Frederick Fell, Inc., 1968); Poor Little Rich Girl: The Life and Legend of Barbara Hutton by C. David Heymann (New York: Random House, 1983; the original version was recalled for inaccuracies the day it was released in bookstores). A "cleaned-up and corrected" version of this book was published the following year: (Secaucus, New Jersey: Lyle Stewart, Inc., 1984); Million Dollar Baby: an Intimate Portrait of Barbara Hutton by Philip Van Rensselaer (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1979); and In Search of a Prince: My Life with Barbara Hutton by Mona Eldridge, a former social secretary―Mona Yung-Ning Hoo (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1988).

Other books of related interest are: Five and Ten: The Fabulous Life of F. W. Woolworth by John K. Winkler (New York: Bantam Books, 1957; New York: Robert M. McBride & Co., 1940); Nickels and Dimes: The Story of F.W. Woolworth by Nina Brown Baker, (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1954); F.W. Woolworth and the American Five and Dime: A Social History by Jean Maddern Pitrone (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2003, 2007); Remembering Woolworth's: A Nostalgic History of the World's Most Famous Five-and-Dime by Karen Plunkett-Powell (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2001); Winfield House, written by Maria Tuttle and Marcus Binney, with photographs by James Mortimer (London and New York: Thames & Hudson Inc. / W. W. Norton, 2008), is the first book about the history and design of the London residence of Barbara Hutton, now the official residence the American ambassador; Winfield: Living in the Shadow of the Woolworths by Monica Randall (New York: St. Martin's Press / Thomas Dunne Books, 2003). Randall once lived for several months at Winfield Hall and now represents historic properties on Long Island and the Hudson Valley as locations for television commercials, films and print media; The Woolworths by James Brough (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982) Dancing with the Devil: The Windsors and Jimmy Donahue by Christopher Wilson (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000); and The House of Woolworth: Their Stunning Financial Windfalls; Their Riveting Emotional Pitfalls by Don Daniel McMillian (Charleston, South Carolina: Booksurge Publishing, 2007); "The Ball at Sidi Hosni" (New York: Kulchur, 2, Winter 1960/61, pp: 8-14); and Travels: Collected Writings, 1950–93 (London: Sort of Books, 2010; New York: Ecco Press, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011).

In 1987, a two-part miniseries about Barbara Woolworth Hutton's life was broadcast on the A&E Television Networks' The Biography Channel entitled: Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story, starring the actress Farrah Fawcett who portrayed Hutton. It was later broadcast in the United Kingdom and in Canada. Three of the Tangier locations used in the film were the Kasbah Museum, York Castle and Palais Mendoub, and Hutton's close friends The Honorable David Herbert and Yves Vidal had minor non-speaking roles. The film won the 1988 Golden Globe Award for Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. In 2008, A&E Home Video released a remastered 300-minute DVD version of the film on two discs.

Copyright © 2007 by Kenneth Lisenbee

Barbara Woolworth Hutton
 
Jane Bowles in Tangier, 1967 (Copyright © 1967, Terence Spencer)

 

 

JANE BOWLES

(February 22, 1917—May 4, 1973)

 
This portrait of Jane Bowles was painted in 1947 by Maurice Grosser.

 

Maurice Grosser

 

The painter, sculptor and writer Maurice Grosser was born in Huntsville, Alabama in 1903. He entered Harvard University in 1920, and two years later attended a South Boston art class. Within one year following his studies in America, Grosser went to Italy after he was awarded a two-year Holden Fellowship from Harvard.

In 1922, Maurice Grosser first met Virgil Thomson at the Liberal Club at Harvard. Coincidentally, in Paris in the autumn of 1925, Virgil was drinking a café crème on the terrace at Les Deux Magots, on Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés, and noticed Grosser sitting at a nearby table. Thomson then invited Grosser to share a place with him, and on Christmas Eve 1925, they moved into a small apartment which had views of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. During the next two years Grosser studied art in Paris, and he shared the same friends as Thomson, who was first introduced to Gertrude Stein by George Anthiel in the autumn of 1926. Through Miss Stein and Alice Toklas, Grosser and Thomson could include among their friends the artists Pablo Picasso, Bébé Bérnard, Kristians Tonny and Pavel Tchelitchew, the writers Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ezra Pound, and the composer Igor Stravinsky, and other notables. In 1927, Grosser left Paris for New York, staying in a room at the Chelsea Hotel, but he returned to Paris in 1929, taking a small apartment near Virgil's. (Thomson's Paris apartment was on the fifth and top floor at 17 Quai Voltaire, on the Seine, directly across from the Louvre museum. Though small, it had twenty-foot ceilings and tall windows.).  In 1930, Maurice Grosser had his first Paris show, followed by exhibitions in the Hague, Amsterdam, Chicago and New York. In Paris in 1931, Virgil Thomson and Maurice Grosser first met Paul Bowles.

Grosser and Thomson remained in Paris from 1925, except for brief visits to the United States, until 1940, when they left occupied Paris during the Second World War and returned to New York. Thomson took a ninth-floor apartment in the Chelsea Hotel at 222 West 23rd Street, where he covered his large living room's walls with numerous paintings acquired during his years in France, and a number of paintings by his friend Maurice. In his Chelsea Hotel salon, Thomson regularly entertained literati, writers, composers and other friends, often preparing in the tiny kitchen the French food he so loved. During the summers of 1944 and 1945, Maurice Grosser vacationed with Jane Bowles at Helvetia Perkins' farm in East Montpelier, Vermont. Maurice and Virgil returned to Paris again in 1977, when Thomson sold his apartment and they visited their old friends. Thomson continued to live for the rest of his life in his apartment in the Chelsea Hotel, where he died peacefully in his sleep on September 30, 1989, at the age of 92. Maurice Grosser lived and painted in his Manhattan apartment, and from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, he also spent the summer months in Morocco, living and painting in Jane Bowles' former Tangier apartment. Virgil Thomson visited Paul Bowles and Maurice in Tangier twice, but he didn't particularly like the city. Among Virgil Thomson's musical works are two solo piano portraits of Paul Bowles and Jane Bowles: "Souvenir, A Portrait of Paul Bowles" composed in 1935, and "Jane Bowles: Early and As Remembered", begun in 1942 and finished in 1985. Maurice Grosser painted a portrait of Jane Bowles in New York in 1947, before she moved to Tangier.

Maurice Grosser's paintings are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, and the Huntsville Museum of Art; other of his works are in private collections. Maurice Grosser's first book, Painting in Public, was published in 1948. His other books include: The Painter's Eye (1956); The Critic's Eye (1962); Painting in Our Time (1964); and Painter's Progress (1971). Maurice Grosser died from heart failure at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City on December 22, 1986, at the age of eighty-three.

 

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