Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Historical Society Talk?

I'm supposed to talk to the Smoky Valley Historical Society tonight. The snow means I probably won't get a chance to do that.

Instead, I'll put a bit of my current research up as a blog post. Maybe I'll keep posting throughout the sabbatical, adding things as I discover new insights.

I'm studying the image of the Swedish American in American comedic films from 1931 to 1970, with a few outliers (Sweedie Learns to Swim in 1914 and The Producers in 2005). I don't know how long it's going to take to get a whole book done - I've a good idea of the content, but it take time to research and write.

During this sabbatical I plan on getting two major portions of the work done, and perhaps get to a third. The two I plan on getting done are The Front Page and The Garbo Factor - which is what I'm titling the section about Greta Granstedt.

The Granstedt section is going to offer considerable challenge.

For example, she was married 8 times, but I can find details about only one of her husbands, Max DeVega. That means some digging in archives. Yeah! I love digging in archives. But where? Probably in Los Angeles and I've no money to go to Los Angeles. Well, I guess I'll be recruiting family to help. We'll see what April and May bring.

The other, really interesting problem I've encountered early in the research is separating fact from fiction.

Hans Wollstein wrote about Greta in two books. In both he listed her as being from Malmö. Other sources listed her as being from Scandia, Kansas.

I contacted Hans and he said that the information he had was information that had come from the studios, and he didn't know which was the correct information. A bit of follow up and I found distant relatives who confirmed that Greta was, indeed, from Scandia. Her birth name was Irene, and she was one of four children.

The Granstedt family was one of the original five families who settled the area, a kind of colony of Swedes, who hoped to become a colony of Scandinavians (which is why the name Scandia.)

The other fact/fiction debate I've already encountered is how Greta got from San Francisco to Los Angeles for the start of her movie career (1927),

The common story is repeated on several web sites and in Brad Dimock's book about Glen and Bessie Hyde, a young couple who were lost on an attempt to run the rapids of the Colorado River as a honey moon trip. The story that Dimock tells and others retell is that Greta was working in San Francisco as an artists model. She shared a room with Bessie Halley, and the girls were joined by Greta's brother Theodore, jr. In July of 1927 Greta and Bessie decided to take a cruise to Los Angeles. On the way Greta decided to change the name she used from Eraine (a variant of her birth name) to Greta and to become a movie star. It was on this trip that Bessie met Glen Hyde, whom she subsequently married - and who disappeared six months after the cruise from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

That's a great story.

The problem is that it's contradicted by the story published in the Kansas City Star in early September of 1929, and reprinted on September 12, 1929 in the Belleville Telescope.

After Greta got herself exiled from Mountain View and was estranged from her parents (1923), she moved to San Francisco. That much there's agreement on. But here's what the 1929 newspaper article says about Greta's move to LA.

"Life thereafter was filled with ups and downs for the girl. Finally when nearly starving Miss Granstedt 'hitch hiked' from San Francisco to Hollywood with a girl chum, Geraldine Andrews."
Rather a large difference. I'm going to definitely have to do some digging. I've already tried to contact Brad Dimock through Facebook to see what his sources are. I know what I'd like to be true - which means that the opposite is likely the case.

A small, but interesting problem.

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