|Elinor Glyn 1936|
Do you remember me discussing the amazing Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon (13 June 1863 – 20 April 1935)? As enigmatic as Lucy was, her sister Elinor Glyn (17 October 1864 - 23 September 1943) has an equally interesting life story. Elinor spent her younger years in Guelph, Canada before her mother and stepfather settled on the island of Jersey, just off the coast of Normandy. When Lucy left home at the age of sixteen Elinor was left alone to educate herself. Elinor took this as an opportunity to study only the topics that she found Romantic like the history of Rome and the Renaissance. A particular interest of Elinor's was the seventeenth century French Aristocracy that she seemed to believe she had some affiliation or connection to.
|Elinor in her bedroom named the Trianon (named after Louis XIV's house for his mistresses at Versailles)|
At the age of nineteen she was sent out to visit different relatives in order to find a husband. Elinor, however, remained living on the charity of her friends and relatives until the age of twenty-nine. She seemed to enjoy the hunt of men, for she had many offers, but she never said yes until she met Glayton Glyn at the age of twenty-nine. Elinor may have married Glyn because she thought he was rich, or she may have because she thought she was getting old, but whatever her reasons were she married him with the false belief that she would thenceforth be financially stable. By 1907 however, Elinor could no longer depend on her husband because he had accumulated debts. Like her sister before her, Elinor set about finding an income and chose writing as it had been a hobby of hers. The only thing she had written was a novel called Three Weeks that her friends believed to be too scandalous to publish. It was considered reprehensible because in the story a woman, instead of a man, creates an affair that is on her own terms: she pursues, she dictates the course of the affair, and she conquers the male victim. As we all well know, scandalous rarely means failure, and when Elinor’s novel was published in 1907 it immediately became a sensation. She essentially created a genre of sensual romantic novels for women.
|Elinor (center) with John Gilbert and Aileen Pringle - a publication photograph for the film Three Weeks, 1923|
In the 1920s Elinor left for Hollywood, where she began to write for moving pictures, signing a contract with Famous-Players-Lasky (which would later become Paramount). More than her sister Lucile, Elinor was able to create an image for herself and use it as a tool for her success. She began to refer to herself as Madame Glyn, and to the Americans in Hollywood she was thought of as an Aristocrat from Europe. She had bright red hair, wore fake eyelashes and painted her face white. Once she even came to an interview wearing her own pet cat as a stole. In short, Elinor was not only able to cause a sensation through her novels but also through her own personal appearance.
|Elinor on the set of Knowing Men|
Etherington-Smith, Meredith, and Jeremy Pilcher. The It Girls: Elinor Glyn, Romantic Novelist and Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon,
Lucile, the Couturiere. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1986.
All photographs have been taken from Meredith Etherington-Smith and Jeremy Pilcher's The It Girls (1986)