1929 to WWII
By 1932 Alexander Korda was cutting his teeth at Wembley. This Hungarian born refugee was to prove a catalyst in the British film Industry. He’d been directing silent movies since 1914 but The Wedding Rehearsal (1932) was to be his first UK production. Judging by my favourite quote from him he knew the industry very well.
“Anyone who gets a raw deal in a film studio is no more deserving of pity than someone who gets beaten up in a brothel. A gentleman has no business in either place.”
Korda was knighted in 1942 by King George the sixth. He also received criticism for spending time in America during World War II; but it was later revealed that he’d worked as a courier for Winston Churchill.
What always sends a shiver down my spine is to think that Merle Oberon had once strolled around our Wembley site. This young actress had been in ten films up to that point, all uncredited. Yet in the ‘Wedding Rehearsal’ her talent and beauty burns with the fiery presence that was to eventually land her the role of Cathy in Emily Bronte’s tale of Wuthering Heights. Even with that razor gaze this woman was far greater than her looks. With a childhood like something from Jane Eyre her life story reads better than most movies of her time. Her guts and sheer determination have to be admired when you realise she’d been involved in a near fatal car crash in 1937 which damaged her face. This would have ended the career of most starlets. She walked away from surgery and went on to give that iconic performance opposite Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights (1939.) If you’ve ever worked in TV or film lighting and heard of a small light known as an ‘Obie’ It was named after her and it was designed by Cinematographer Lucien Ballard to hide her facial scars ( Don’t you just love lighting) One can only imagine the fulfilment this woman had throughout her career; at one point she could even call herself Lady during the time when she was married to Korda; who was to be the first of her four husbands. It is now well known that she fabricated wonderfully elaborate tales to hide her ethnicity and childhood poverty. This caused her a particularly embarrassing incident in Australia after a welcome home party In Hobart, when she was actually from India. ( Hey I’m with her on that one I come from a town no one can pronounce just outside Pontefract in Yorkshire, who’s only contribution to society is the local Maggot farm.) The wonderful thing about working at Fountain is I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many interesting people…sometimes they’re folk they call ‘celebrities’ Its often a struggle to get by an entourage but I got to meet a singer called Lady Gaga when she was a guest on X Factor. I only usually get about 15 to 20 minutes to talk to someone like that; I am after all a studio grunt…then again that’s all the time I need. She had the most amazing green eyes. For me some of her lyrics on The Prelude Pathétique before her single ‘Marry the night’ give me a deeper understanding and reminded me of maybe where the timelessly beautiful Merle Oberon was coming from.
“When I look back on my life
It’s not that I don’t want to see things exactly as they happened
It’s just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way.
And truthfully the lie of it all is much more honest because
I invented it.”
“It’s sort of like my past is an unfinished painting
and as the artist of that painting
I must fill in all the ugly holes
And make it beautiful again.
It’s not that I’ve been dishonest
It’s just that I loathe reality.”