Her's some more that I remembered tonight:
. I met her in London on my grandmother’s birthday in 1950 or 1951. She was starring in a hit play there and was a big star – very well known in Britain.
Ironically, Nell’s birthday, February 2nd, is the day Jessie died several years later!!
. She wasn’t married then and was courted and escorted by several “swells” in both Britain and France. There were a couple of Earls and a Duke and one Bonaparte Prince that I recall.
. Jessie was a very witty woman, very intelligent and could turn a phrase easily and swiftly. I was often dumbstruck at the repartee between and among her pals. Nell was a pal and I was the tag-along kid, as in many of my grandmother’s friends.
. Jessie was born in Chicago and loved that city, singing it’s praises over & over.
Chicago back then was the changing point between railways from LA to NYC and reverse – the Twentieth Century and the AT&SF railways.
. She wanted the role of the Dowager Empress in “Anastasia” (the Helen Hayes part) but Litvak told her that she was too vivacious to portray an old woman who was sorrowing for her lost relatives. My grandmother too backed Litvak in his decision, as the old Empress was now past her party days. Jessie was just too cheerful, I guess!!
. She also campaigned for the Agnes Moorehead role of ‘Countess De Lave’ in “The Opposite Sex”. And, she may have gotten it if she hadn’t run off and gotten married and then honeymooned in France.
. Jessie had many friends, really more than most people I know. Clifton Webb and his mother, Maybelle, and Hitchcock and his wife, Alma, and Cary Grant, whom she adored. Also, Jane Wyman and Lucille Ball. She also loved Diana Dors, and thought she was a good actress and should have gone farther…
. Two she didn’t care for were Judith Anderson (“dreary drawers, takes acting too seriously” & “she’s always ‘ON’ “)……. And, Fred MacMurray (she couldn’t make him laugh or even smile)… She once asked him for his salary on a film they did “as you have enough money already” - and then she laughed & laughed, and he didn’t… She told everybody that her part was cut nearly out of the film….
. Jessie’s great fault was that she lied constantly about her age, so much so that I don’t think even she knew her birthdate.
Mary Astor once told me that the scene of Geraldine Page having a fit in “Pete and Tillie” over telling her age was pure Jessie Royce Landis…
When the media made a big thing about her playing Cary Grant’s mother in “North By Northwest”, she even said she was a year or so younger than him…
. I love her best as the pompous & piqued smuggler in “Airport” and as the befuddled Princess in “The Swan” – hysterical in both…
She complained to Agnes Moorehead that she had trouble curtseying in “this awful corset set” and Agnes, just to be ornery kept telling the director that she didn’t think Jessie was doing it right…. After 3 tries, Agnes couldn’t keep a straight face any more and burst out laughing!! And, Jessie got the joke…
. Nell was coaching her in a Russian accent and language for a TV role, but then Nell died suddenly. It was for “A Man Called Uncle” with Robert Vaughn, I think..
. One of her English friends was Lord Brabourne, who made “Murder on the Orient Express”; and he was considering her for the Russian Princess in that; but unfortunately, Jessie died……. Wendy Hiller played that role.
. Finally, my last is my favourite:
She had always had dark brown hair, even in her early movies, but when she got the role in “To Catch a Thief” she suddenly turned up with red hair – and most becoming too!
She announced quite casually and believably, “Most people’s hair turns grey when they get older; well darlings, would you believe that mine turned red!!!!!
And, that’s our Jessie….