GERSHWIN & GODDARD IN PALM SPRINGS

Yesterday I posted a terrific clip of Fred Astaire dancing with the divine Paulette Goddard from the movie ‘Second Chorus’ (1941). The six-degrees of Paulette Goddard takes us now back four years to 1937 when Goddard met and began an affair with George Gershwin, who was in Hollywood writing the songs for an Astaire-Rogers musical ‘Shall We Dance’. One of those songs, ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’, was supposedly inspired by Gershwin’s affair with Goddard, who was married to Charlie Chaplin at the time. The story goes that Gershwin asked her to leave Chaplin and marry him but that Paulette put the breaks on after that and nixed continuing the affair. The heartbroken Gershwin thus wrote the song to commemorate his doomed love affair. Except that he didn’t write the lyric. His brother Ira did. So did he tell his brother to tailor-make the lyric so that it would reflect his feelings toward his married girlfriend? This is where these stories always fall apart, I’m afraid. Nonetheless the affair was real as the home movies posted above attest to. Gershwin and Paulette headed for Palm Springs one weekend where the above 16mm footage was taken. But who was the cameraman? Ira? Chaplin? The Chaplin/Goddard marriage always had a slightly kinky vibe to it–at one point they were telling people they were married when they weren’t and thus happily living in sin. Also Chaplin was a notorious horndog. Paulette, for that matter, had a rep as an ‘adventuress’–code for ‘she slept around’ and her husband/non-husband didn’t seem to mind. Anyway, the footage shows a high-spirited desert weekend, one lost to the ages but preserved in this haunting footage. Gershwin was dead only a few months after this was shot, of a brain tumor at age thirty-eight. And Astaire made the song that Gershwin wrote for Paulette famous…

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4 Responses

  1. Was it true that Gershwin was taking X-Ray treatments for a baldness cure? Nobody knew the level of radiation the early X-Rays were delivering and this may have caused the brain tumor. Just something I heard.

    1. I’ve heard that too. There’s also the story of how he was seeing a shrink (which was then a very unusual thing to do) and told him he was having severe headaches. Apparently the shrink said that was because of the heavy mental and emotional work they were doing and that it was a good sign.

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