We’ve recently run what we hope are some interesting blogs about classic movie centenarians still alive and kicking. We sadly report that one of our all-time favorites, Hungarian born actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, died on Dec. 18 — at age 99, narrowly missing the 100-plus club.
More personality than actress (her biggest career award was a 1958 Golden Globe citation as “most glamorous actress”) she nonetheless went on to a career lasting more than a half century and covering nearly 80 movie and tv credits. She addressed her roles both private and onscreen in heavily accented English often with frequent salutations to others (good or ill) as “dahling.”
Check her out as a strip-club patroness in Orson Welles’ 1958 thriller Touch of Evil. But if you have to settle for just one Gabor outing, try RKO’s 1956 crime drama Death of a Scoundrel.
The movie costars Zsa Zsa’s third husband, George Sanders, in their one movie together. The interaction and byplay between the two — who remained close to one another after their breakup — is most entertaining, as is this picture as a whole. Highly recommended.
We pause for a moment to wonder at Gabor’s phenominonally busy love life. She went through nine different husbands, and had many lovers. Her credo of sorts: I’ve never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back.
Our favorite Zsa Zsa anecdote relates to the end of the Gabor-Sanders marriage, as recounted in a letter scriptwriter-director Nunnally Johnson wrote to a Hollywood pal in early 1954.
Seems that Zsa Zsa was prickly about reaching a final property agreement as part of the couple’s divorce settlement. She kept upping the ante at the last minute, demanding more and then still more, which irritated Sanders. But he figured it wouldn’t be difficult to get something on her,” wrote Johnson.
At the time Gabor had taken up with Dominican playboy-diplomat Porfirio Rubirosa – a notorious womanizer said to have been exceptionally well endowed. Sanders came up with the idea of catching Zsa Zsa in flagrante delicto with Rubirosa (known as simply “Rubi”) at the Bel Air residence they shared.
Wrote Johnson: So on Christmas Eve, that holy day, (Sanders) prepared to raid her home to catch Rubirosa in the hay with her.” Somehow George managed with the help of four private detectives to hoist a ladder to a second-floor balcony outside Gabor’s bedroom, and to actually climb up and into her boudoir.
Johnson recounts what then happened: (There) he saw two naked forms break the record for the dash to the bathroom, where the light was on… Rubi and Zsa Zsa had slammed the door shut but in their excitement they forgot it could also be locked.
The door opened inward and then it became a head-on push between George and Rubi, Rubi trying to hold the door shut, George trying to bull it open.
Now, according to George, he was hitting low, just like Knute Rockne always said, and with a powerful lunge he managed to get the door open about a foot, which to his astonishment brought him face to face with Rubirosa’s organ, whereupon, in a moment of whimsy, he shook it heartily and called Merry Christmas to them both.
‘Now, George, really!,’ exclaimed Zsa Zsa. ‘Please be seated and I’ll be out in just a moment.’
She emerged in a diaphanous negligee, leaving the shy Mr. Rubirosa skulking in the can. Johnson’s letter goes on to note that Zsa Zsa employed her charm to calm the situation, even showing Sanders and his gumshoes the living room Christmas tree and inquiring of Sanders if he had received her gift.
Sanders and entourage exited through the front door, handshakes and exchanges of God bless you’s all around. The diaphanously clad Zsa Zsa, gracious to the end.