A Letter from George Arliss – and one from Florence too!

Your blogmeister occasionally has the opportunity to acquire an original letter either handwritten or typed by Mr. A. Throughout his career he apparently answered everybody who wrote to him so there are letters surfacing fairly frequently and from both sides of the “pond.” Recently, we had the benefit of a double-header not only by acquiring a handwritten letter by Mr. A from World War II (what we call his “hidden years” when he was in effect retired), but a letter from Florence Arliss written in her own hand. Mrs. A’s letter is undated but internal references suggest late 1938-early 1939 when they were in the US, specifically Los Angeles.

First, here is Mrs. A’s letter:

“Dear Druce…we have often wondered about you, & where you were… Our permanent address is … London, England. We have been there since 1912. Over a quarter of a century, but we don’t feel it! We came out here as George cannot comfortably write in England, we tried the S. France but didn’t particularly care for it, this place is so much warmer & we know a good many old theatre people here with whom we foregather & play contract, so here we stay till the [?] have left England”

“Our friends say we are going back in time for Hitlers plan again. Well we left our trenches ready at St. Margaret’s-at-Cliffe … so we may crawl into them if need be — it was a most anxious & harrying time, & we are neither of us as young & spry as we were. Are you still interested in animals, I don’t mean the human variety as I feel we are beyond redemption, but the four legged, & feathered & furred varieties. We shall be here till the last of March, then go to N.Y. on our way back. Our affectionate remembrance dear Druce. Flo Arliss”

The “writing” Flo refers to is most likely the second autobiography by Mr. A recounting his film making in Hollywood and London. Letters from him at the time indicate that he thought the book was boring and was having difficulty with it. It was published in 1940, titled MY TEN YEARS IN THE STUDIOS in the US, and GEORGE ARLISS BY HIMSELF in the UK. The book was well-received and was judged every bit as charming as his first volume, UP THE YEARS FROM BLOOMSBURY, published in 1927.

The “trenches” that Flo mentions at St. Margaret’s (near Dover) refers to their cottage and World War I. Sadly, the cottage would be destroyed in 1942 from a direct hit by a German shell. Nobody was in the cottage at the time. Neither George nor Florence would return to the US after this trip although it is believed that US Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz offered them passage to America for the duration of the war. However, the Arlisses declined the offer and braved the brunt of the war in London and nearby surroundings.

Original Technicolor Frame from THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934):

Mr. A’s letter is written to the same person, Mrs. Drusilla Pierce, and is dated January 11, 1943, on his personal stationery.

“Dear Mrs. Pierce, We were very happy to get a word from you with your Christmas card; it is most kind of you to remember us. Flo would write to you herself but her Eyes are now so bad that she can neither read nor write. But she sends you her best love. She is far from well in other ways but I think all her trouble comes from worry about her Eyes. We are looking forward to…”

“…the time when we shall be able to come over and join up with our friends again. Yours always sincerely, Geo Arliss”

Flo’s blindness began in the 1930s but, as Mr. A states in his letter, had totally destroyed her eyesight by the 1940s. He became her main caregiver although they had housekeepers. Between the German bombing raids on London right up to the end of the war in 1945 and Flo’s health issues, this could not have been a happy time for them.

Published in: on September 11, 2019 at 2:03 PM  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Very gratifying to read these charming letters. Thanks for making these available!


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