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  • Great Moments in Wife-Selection

    Posted by David Foster on January 10th, 2013 (All posts by )

    There’s an amusing incident in a recent biography of Erich Maria Remarque. Remarque immigrated to the United States in 1939, and in the 1950s he came to a friend with a dilemma: two women were pursuing him.

    “So I said, ‘Oh, really, Erich, that sounds terrible, who are they?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘one of them is Paulette Goddard and the other is Marlene Dietrich.’ So I said, ‘Well, Erich, my God, you’re in real trouble here.’ But he was deadly serious. ‘Which one do you think I should go for, Douglas? ‘That is a terrible dilemma, Erich, I mean, my God, this is something we have to think about very carefully.’ ‘You know,’ he said, ‘Marlene is very attractive, but Paulette is really good at the stock market. I think I should go for Paulette.’ So I said to him, ‘Well, Erich, the stock market is very important, no doubt about that.’

    As a Remarque fan, I certainly hope he was kidding about this decision process. (Which would tend to belie the title of the linked autobiography: Erich Maria Remarque: The Last Romantic.)

    In any event, he did marry Paulette Goddard, and (unlike his previous marriages and relationships), the marriage lasted. (Given Remarque’s comment about the stock market, I was wondering if there was any data on her long-term annualized rate of return–the comment here about “her talent at accumulating wealth” suggests that it was probably pretty good.)

    And more recently, we have Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos who, when he wrote down a list of attributes he wanted for his future wife, included  “a woman who could get me out of a third-world prison.”

    “It was really just a visualization for resourcefulness,” he clarifies,  “because people who are not resourceful drive me bananas.”

    Jeff married MacKenzie Bezos, a writer, in 1993. I can’t speak to her jail-springing skills, but I’ve read her novel The Testing of Luther Albright…I wasn’t all that impressed with it on first reading, but went back and read it again and thought it was quite good.

     

     

    11 Responses to “Great Moments in Wife-Selection”

    1. Jonathan Says:

      I think the prison remark is telling, and that it’s probably as much about loyalty as resourcefulness (though there is a connection between the two).

      Sharansky’s wife is a good model. The Soviets imprisoned him and expelled her from the country. She then spent years lobbying western governments until she got him freed.

      Perhaps the fact that Bezos is of Cuban descent played a role here.

    2. Robert Schwartz Says:

      I think that the real reason why Remarque should have chosen Goddard over Dietrich, is that the latter was really interested in men.

    3. David Foster Says:

      The Cuban point is interesting.

    4. Bill Brandt Says:

      There was a joke going around about the typical man’s decision process in selecting a suitable woman – involving intelligence vs large breasts but I will refrain from posting it here before this august group ;-)

      I think Marlene was a handful from what I have read – but a character and definitely marched to her own drummer. There was a funny story, told by her grandson Peter Riva, about the mayor or Paris forbidding women to wear pants, whereupon Marlene decided to make her grand entrance stepping off the train in…a pants suit.

      Paulette – if she wasn’t living with Charlie Chaplin across the street from David O (the O stood for nothing) Selznick, she would have been Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind.

      And seeing her audition tape she was as good as Vivien Leigh …

      All in all Erich made the right choice IMO (not that I am an expert on women)

    5. Gringo Says:

      And more recently, we have Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos who, when he wrote down a list of attributes he wanted for his future wife, included “a woman who could get me out of a third-world prison.”

      Which reminds me of a story. Back in the 1970s the parents of a childhood friend took a vacation to Colombia. The husband- a 50 something professional and a flyboy war hero- bought a bag of marijuana to take back to the States. He got caught with the marijuana at the Bogota airport.

      His wife, who didn’t speak Spanish, got him out of a third world jail within two weeks. She was just a secretary, not up to her husband’s accomplishments. This incident and others showed that for all her quiet modesty, she was the stronger of the two.

    6. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and Certifiable Movie Factologist Says:

      }}} Paulette – if she wasn’t living with Charlie Chaplin across the street from David O (the O stood for nothing) Selznick, she would have been Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind.

      Bill, you might want to read the Wiki entry for Ms. Goddard. It rejects the argument about the Goddard-Chaplin marital status being a “scandal” and makes a good point in that Vivien Leigh was living “in sin” with Laurence Olivier … while both were still married to others who would not grant them a divorce. That’s rather clearly a markedly greater scandal than any possible surrounding Chaplin and Goddard marital status…

      S’Funny — I knew Goddard’s name but I only just now realized I haven’t seen ANYTHING she was in, offhand. About the only things I “ought” to have seen are The Great Dictator and The Women, that I can see. She did a lot of films but not many that were of great notoriety even in the days she was active. Few have withstood the test of time at all.

    7. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and Certifiable Movie Factologist Says:

      }}} This incident and others showed that for all her quiet modesty, she was the stronger of the two.

      Or smarter, at the least.

    8. Bill Brandt Says:

      IGotBupkisd – I was relying on an ICONs radio interview where I believe the son of Selznick was being interviewed. It was a combination of her living across the street and living with Chaplin that nixed the role according to the relative. On Vivien Leigh that is as fascinating a story in re GWTW. She did come out to be with Olivier – her agent got her on set as Culver City , er, Atlanta, was burning (they filmed that towards the beginning), she read some lines in front of Selznick and she got the role.

      But if you look at Goddard’s audition tape (I think shown with some DvD versions) she nailed Scarlett’s role – as did Vivien.

    9. Whitehall Says:

      In my next incarnation, I’m going to search out a Jewish accountant and marry her.

    10. Richard Torre Says:

      @Whitehall: That would not be a reincarnation that would be hell.

    11. Richard Torre Says:

      David, You had me at Dietrich and Goddard. My knees buckled at the fantasy