Imagine my surprise when I came across a large number of photos featuring Lou Tellegen!
Lou Tellegen was a famous actor back in the 1910s. I’d never seen his movies or even a picture of him. But I knew his name right away because Dorothy Parker reviewed Women Have Been Kind. The book was Tellegen’s autobiography and it catalogued his relationships with his numerous girlfriends and wives.
I’m going to write a separate post about Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), who is the funniest author I’ve ever read. Just to give you an idea of who she was, she was a satiric writer, and the authors of the 1920s and 30s must have frozen in delight and terror when they learned she was going to review their book. Everyone read her columns, and she could make an author famous overnight.
It would have been the equivalent of getting invited to be on the Joe Rogan Experience, if Joe Rogan took a wicked delight in making his guests look ridiculous. I would be terrified for her to review anything I’ve written.
A Month of Saturdays is a compilation of Dorothy Parker’s book reviews for the Constant Reader from the 1920s and early 1930s. Looks like it’s out of print now, unfortunately.
Women Have Been Kind wasn’t a great book and Tellegen wasn’t a great author. But this book, like many celebrity autobiographies before and since, would have mercifully slipped into oblivion, had it not been reviewed by Dorothy Parker.
In her review, entitled Kiss and Tellegen, Parker begins by annihilating the dust jacket:
“The blurb on the dust cover announces, with rather more than the usual bang, that “here are the intimate reminisces of the man who is called ‘the perfect lover.’ (It is not stated who gave him this name, but I feel, somehow, that I have guessed. I won’t say yes, nor I won’t say no, but if you were to whisper to me your conjecture that the phrase-coiner’s initials are L.T., I might admit that you were, like the countless heroines of Women have been Kind, getting warm.)
“The blurb goes breathlessly on… ‘Mr. Tellegen has lived more romance than others read of, and his memoirs are as exciting as a score of novels.’ I shall not dispute that last statement, provided the publishers let me name the score in question.”
And that was just her warm-up. Even though I haven’t read her book in years, I instantly remembered Lou Tellegen’s name when I came across it today. It never occurred to me to see what he looked like, but I was not surprised to find him looking just like he does.
Several of the pictures I found are really goofy photos with his wife, the opera singer Geraldine Ferrar. According to Parker, Lou Tellegen didn’t give much detail about his marriage to the famous soprano.
“His account of his American tour with Sarah Bernhardt is, in a word, terrible. You get no hint of her quality; the author is too much occupied with his own concerns at the time. They were not, in another word, interesting.
“Nor is there much to the story of his stretch of time with Geraldine Ferrar. Miss Ferrar was not his first wife nor, so much as I can figure out events, his second or his third. There came a time when it was drawn, somehow, to Mr. Tellegen’s attention, that gentlemen sometimes married ladies, and from then on, he became a regular marryin’ fool.”
I’m sure there’s more details about Lou Tellegen that I could unearth and share. But we probably know everything we need to know about him, don’t you think? I’d rather read my Dorothy Parker book.
5 thoughts on “Not Every Woman Was Kind to Lou Tellegen”
There is a lot to his life. He was the illegitimate son of army soldier and his um lover. He was burned bad at the end of his life and underwent plastic surgery. He shaved and spiffed up then stabbed himself in the heart 7 times with sewing scissors. Divorced 4 times. His career wained as viewers turn away from effeminate actors and leaned toward strong hero’s. Romance lead to westerns and action stories I guess. Lots about him in old papers.
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Wow! Thanks for writing, Laurie. I always regret making comments like “I know all I need to about x or y.” I inevitably learn that’s not true! That’s one of the worst methods of suicide I ever heard of. Apparently, when she was asked to comment on his death, Tellegen’s ex-wife Geraldine Farrar replied, “Why should that interest me?”
Dear Laurie: I think there is a little more to Lou Tellegen than you derived from Dorothy Parker’s review (and didn’t she also say that the title should have been “Women Have Been Kind of Dumb”? If you haven’t read Tellegen’s book, you really should, as it is a well-written memoir that is worth the trouble to find. Also, please note that the world-famous soprano he wedded (his second wife), was Geraldine Farrar, with an ‘a’. There are many films that he was in that are available on YouTube, where you can get a glimpse of his acting qualities. While I admire Dorothy Parker for her considerable talent, you have to remember that she made her living being ironic–so that everything she wrote is not fodder for an encyclopedia, but another leaf to burnish the reputation of Dorothy Parker. She also is quoted as saying in a review, “this is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It is a book to be thrown violently across the room.”
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True, Anthony! I felt badly about being dismissive of Lou Tellegen without reading more about him. If Dorothy Parker were still with us, I would be terrified for her to review my books. She is hilarious but not known for being merciful!
Also, the ‘unidentified woman’ in your 5th photo down is Dorothy Donnelley (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Donnelly)
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