Sunday, February 13, 2011


It's times like this that prove to me that my second career -- as an academic -- is the better career for me.

The past two days I've been rummaging around the dusty corners of the internet and peering into strange and curious volumes of forgotten lore, i.e., two volumes by Ben Hecht. And the finds! Remarkable.

I found, for example, that Greta Granstedt's second husband, Ramon Ramos was a Latin band leader and a tango instructor, and that Greta danced the tango with him in Miami. It seems likely that he met her when he came out to Hollywood and did some tango instruction for the "film colony" in the spring of 1933.

In the fall of 1933 she was in Miami, and featured for what were being called "Tea dances," which, the Biltmore publicist assured the public "were all the rage in Paris and other resort cities."

What does the Argentine tango look like? You can get a picture by watching Donny Osmond learn to do it for DWTS.

The pair were only a pair for a year, and then Greta was off to her fifth marriage.

Greta went on to marry Max DeVega, but that lasted for three years and was annulled, because Max was apparently still married to someone else. So, marriages one, two five and six were annulled. Marriages three  and four ended in divorce. But when Greta tied the knot with bachelor number seven, the papers carried the story that it was her second (though by even by a technical count it was her third) and his first.

Lucky Mr. 7/3, Arthur G. Forbes was eight years her junior. Together they adopted a child, whom they named Christopher Michael. When they divorced, in 1951, the court ruled the adoption valid and gave Greta custody of Christopher Michael, then 5.

Issues to sort out, things to find.

  1. A photo of Ramon Ramos - which I might be able to do in Chicago, since Ramos opened the Camellia House at the Drake Hotel in the late 1940's. There has to be a photo of him, either at the historical society or in the photo archives at the public library.
  2. Some notice of his disposition. I can track him to the early 1950's, but then he just disappears. I suspect that he went back to whatever Latin country he came from, possibly Argentina. Or maybe he returned to Miami and died in obscurity. So far, no search of obits has turned up one for the band leader. He may, if I'm reading the sources correctly, have been the band leader who introduced "The Mexican Hat Dance" to America.
  3. What happened to Christopher M. Forbes? That one may be as hard to track down as the husband Arthur G. Forbes. The names are not as common as Ramon Ramos, but they are fairly common. He'd be 66 today, if he is alive. There was still a great deal of Greta's career ahead of her in 1951, so he'd have stories, if we can find him.
  4. That London trip - it's listed on, but I can't find anything else about it. She supposedly leaves London and arrives in New York in July of 1933. But when did she go to London? Why?
  5. Broadway? Someone - and I'll have to look see who - wrote that Greta had a Broadway career. If so, when and in what shows? Given the number of movies she did for every year except 1933, it couldn't have been early in her career. It might have come in the 1940's, particularly in the immediate postwar era. Have to check Broadway show databases - maybe best plays for the late 40's.
So I've discovered lots of stuff that has led to lots of questions. And that makes me happy. I've also advanced  the Ben Hecht side of the research, finishing a major portion of Letters from Bohemia and some of A Child of the Century. I love doing this kind of digging. It makes me feel like I'm part of History Detectives.

Seque to Elvis Costello's song

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