Lola Montez Adventuress and Spanish Dancer from Rialto Pictures
Lola Montez’s dedication is one of Lady Violette’s favorite quotes!
In her book, – THE ARTS OF BEAUTY, or Secrets Of A Lady’s Toilet. With Hints to Gentlemen on THE ART OF FASCINATING by Madame Lola Montez, Countess of Landsfeld, republished by Ecco Press, 1978 – the authoress Inspiringly states,
“TO ALL MEN AND WOMEN OF EVERY LAND, Who Are Not Afraid of Themselves, Who Trust So Much in Their Own Souls That They Dare Stand Up in the Might Of Their OWN INDIVIDUALITY, To Meet The Tidal Currents of the World. This book is Respectfully Dedicated, by THE AUTHOR”
I first encountered the fascinating personage, Lola Montez, when I was attending a show of American photographer’s historic black and white portraiture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.http://www.metmuseum.org/
In a small frame in a back corner of the exhibit gallery was a tiny portrait of an arresting dark haired woman with mesmerizing eyes wrapped in an embroidered Chinese Shawl with long macrame fringe, her stare daring you to look deeper. A caption on a plaque at the bottom of the silk mat surrounding her picture read: ” Lola Montez, Adventuress and Spanish Dancer.” She was gorgeous and exotic, and my first thought was, “I want to be her!”I can’t remember any other portrait in that show, but hers I will never forget.
I began to research her. She had an amazing life, every step of the way. She was born Irish in 1818, raised in India, at 17 eloped and married her mother’s lover to escape an arranged marriage to an octogenarian banker. Her new husband returned her to his family home in Ireland where he drank and beat her. Then, never having even seen a Spanish dance, much less had a Spanish dance lesson in her life, she escaped domestic abuse by changing her name and recreating herself as Lola Montez, Spanish Dancer, joining a theater group, and suddenly becoming famous all over Europe including Spain as The Spanish Dancer Lola Montez! She was an enormous success, notoriously charming and amorous and became known as The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. She became the friend of Tsar Nicholas I, Franz Liszt, Balzac, and Alexander Dumas, who said, “in her was mind and heart enough for a dozen kings.”
Fate eventually led her to Vienna and the castle steps of Mad King Ludwig I of Bavaria. She captivated him and became his mistress. He appointed her Countess of Landsfeld and Baroness Rosenthat. For a while she wielded tremendous power and influence in Germany, but then in 1848, The country rebelled and Ludwig lost his throne. Lola escaped to Switzerland to await him, He never made it and was murdered. She had to flee.
Lola Montez, short of funds, was forced – after turning them down many times, to accept Barnum and Bailey’s offer to join their circus as the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. This led her to America. One thing led to another and she ended up in California during the Gold Rush and opened a brothel. There she madamed, lectured on fashion, beauty, and gallantry, and wrote her memoires.
She eventually returned to New York, worked to save battered women under her original name of Eliza Gilbert and died, as a religious recluse in 1861 at the age of only 43! She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
In 1955 Max Orphuls made his great last movie about her life. I think it is beautiful and brilliant as she was!
” A breathtaking story about a courtesan who suffers both ecstatic highs and hellish lows. Thanks to The Cinematheque Francaise, we finally have something close to a definitive version. Don’t miss it!” – David Fear , Time Out New York ” Lola Montes http://www.filmforum.org/films/lolamontes.html#
Her old fashioned beauty book which I have quoted in the opening paragraph is witty, entertaining and full of quaint facial recipes and potions and inspirational quotes on beauty from ancient philosophers and writers. Her own charmingly delivered advice on life is remarkably pertinent even today. It’s a fun period book to read!