The ninth chapter from Hollywood Undressed, a 1931 memoir attributed to the assistant of masseuse and health guru Sylvia Ulback, a.k.a. Sylvia of Hollywood (but actually ghost-written for Sylvia by newspaper reporter and screenwriter James Whittaker), relates how Sylvia found herself in the middle of a whirlwind (if short-lived) romance between actress Ina Claire and matinée idol John “Jack” Gilbert.
HER WEDDING NIGHT
TO GET back to Ina: She moved presently into a house in Beverly Hills and, about the same time, began to be rushed by Jack Gilbert.
Jack, one day, called Ina “boyish,” meaning it as a compliment—meaning that a tomboy was to his taste. Right away, Ina began to worry a bit—because Jack’s calling her a tomboy didn’t prove anything except that he was maybe nearsighted. True, she has square shoulders and a husky, boyish voice, but at the time she was wearing a few curves that were about as masculine as a bustle. And sooner or later Jack was bound to watch her going up some stairs or something and wonder what on earth had ever made him think she resembled a boy. But a woman in love isn’t stopped by anything so temporary as a fact. Ina had a heart-to-heart talk with Sylvia and said she didn’t care how much it hurt, she wanted to get spanked loose from about ten pounds of accumulated femininity.
In a little while, Ina’s campaign developed to a point where she decided for a show-down. And she selected a certain evening as the zero hour. On that evening there was to be a big masquerade ball given by Basil Rathbone and Ouida Bergere in the Beverly Hotel. And Ina decided to go as a boy.
For a week she conferred and argued with the costumer, until a costume, consisting of form-fitting pink velvet pants and a boyish blouse, was settled on. And Ina was still, after several weeks of violent massage, frankly feminine and hippy.
With tears in her eyes, she begged the boss to go to it, to double, to triple her fury—to do anything, just so Ina could go to that party with the silhouette of a boy.
Sylvia gave a characteristic answer: “Tell that costumer to make the size of pants you want to wear. Tell him he doesn’t need to fit the pants to you. I’ll fit you to the pants.”
Well, in the next five days Sylvia delivered a flank attack that Ina won’t forget in a hurry. Ina never whimpered. Ah, love! What sufferings we support in thy name! If some artist wants to substitute an arrow at Beauty’s heart, let him draw a pint-size Norwegian straw-blonde letting fly a fist at beauty’s mid-section.