After abruptly quitting films in 1945 (Universal's not totally convinced), Susanna was desperate for some 'peace and quiet', she would soon move to Carmel-by-the-sea. Renting Jean Arthur's home 'Driftwood' and then would soon bring in Kathleen and Vickie...rescuing them from their ever so drunken, abusive mother, 'Adie.' After about a year, all three would drive across country in Susanna's Cadillac convertible to New York for Susanna's rendezvous with Diva Dusolinna Giannini and the ocean liner 'Queen Elizabeth' for a tour of a post war Europe. Universal paid for the six month trip ($20,000 +) for their prized starlet, trying to grant Susanna's dream...to study grand opera with one of the country's 'finest' and to kill two birds with one stone, to guest appear in several countries for the premier of the 'Phantom of the Opera.' The two sisters stayed in New York....the letters flew, literally and figuratively from Susanna to her two sisters in Manhattan and Brooklyn to their father in Los Angeles...and boy oh boy... to and fro!! It's in these letters that she begins to refer to her two younger sisters as 'The Kids.'
This was an adventure that will have to wait for another time (revealing, to say the least)!!
Susanna returns from Europe in the late summer of 1947--
Found letters from Susanna and Kathleen to their dad (many are edited as the Larson girls were a 'talkative bunch'.)
Sept. 4, 1947 NYC-
“…Just received your letter with the report of all the monies spent this year….”
“…when I look at that report of yours and see the money that has been spent, it’s frightening….” “….however I don’t have much to show from it in a material way and I suppose it’s my usual “piddling” away of the pennies that’s responsible….”
“I don’t imagine I can ever cure myself of this completely but I have tried these past six months and intend to try in the future….”
“….but yesterday I finally found a room for $6 a day in a nice hotel. And let me tell you the places I’ve seen are ghastly. Like the last place I stayed in called The Maurice----really a place where these “sugar daddies” keep their women….”
“now you want me to cut down on the lessons, but I can’t do this at any cost….that’s why I’m here for and why I borrowed this money in the first place…..” ($18,000)
“…..remember I signed a contract for another seven years to get this opportunity to work…..” “…as you know I wanted to leave the film business and still don’t have any great desire to return, however , I’m grateful to Universal and intend to do right by them…”
Giannini…… “I know you object to her fees but you must understand that for the first time in my life I’m getting something for my money…” “…I’m happy working with her…” “… I really feel for you doing all this for me, it’s a rotten job and thankless to handle money, but I know we’ll work it out right in the end…”
“…the premier of Phantom was very nice, and I spoke from the stage (in English) the audience was an excellent one…..” “…they applauded my numbers enthusiastically, the picture looked beautiful as I saw it over again. It was a lovely theatre. I didn’t see the reviews but they tell me they were very good, I was said to be the Lily Pons of the screen. I’m not sure what kind of compliment that is. It all went very well. Well, I’m writing this on my way to see Bromo in Harrison, and to get a license for the car. Still haven't gotten one this year. Don’t know when I’ll be in my new room—2 or 3 days yet—so you’d better send my mail here. Am sending the watches etc. right away. Sounds this letter sounds so tired, but that’s the way I am. I can’t seem to get adjusted yet—that is if anyone can in New York. Love, Suzy”
Oct. 15, 1947
So many things have happened since I last wrote to you that I don’t know exactly where to begin. As Vicki’s letter explains; we have decided it’ s best for us to try separating for awhile. Vicki wants to stay here and I intend to go back to L.A. What this will accomplish remains to be seen, we believe it is essential to our becoming whole individuals. This has got to lead to some sense of responsibility that I know will, in turn, lead to maturity. Believe me at our ages it’s about time!
I the meantime, I contacted Dr. Webster at the Medical Center here who in turn referred me to Dr. Hickey, who is a plastic and oral surgeon. He had another set of x-rays done on my osteoma. Also sending for the ones that Dr. Nafziger had. After looking at both sets of x-rays and in consultation with another doctor in his office yesterday, he says if I had an operation in a week, a month or a year it would be for “cosmetic reasons.” This means the surgeon would simply take the growth down for external purposes. He claims it is not a difficult operation. And frankly, I think he would like to do it. He said the danger of infection was small since penicillin and sulfa drugs would be used. He says this osteoma is slow in growth, is dense and covers a large area. He says, by looking at the most recent x-rays, the left sinus is partially closed by it’s growth. If in time it starts to grow in an upward direction it will interfere with my left eye. And this will necessitate complete removal of the cheekbone. In this case he says it would be necessary to have some sort of removable contraption! This sounds so ridiculous because as Suzanne says that during the war, they did a lot of work on grafting bone or replacing it with plastic, steel or some such material. He says there is no such place that would have such material but as far as I’m concerned, I’m convinced it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I just have to find someone with a real interest in this kind of work—it doesn’t mean a genius either! I’ve been to the library on this stuff, so I really think I could go ahead with this “cosmetic” operation since this has nothing to do with the removal of the bone but I feel and also have read that there is a certain risk in this due to the fact that it might agitate a quicker growth, malignancy etc. I know above all, I must see more men; specialists, scientists; people with some vision and ability to experiment beyond the printed word. So I’m going to see one of two here. Then go back to St Louis and see the doctors there, as many as possible, get their advice and opinion before settling down to a job in L.A. Theirs is one possibility, according to the doctors that this thing will stop growing since I am reaching or have reasonably reached the age of maturity. However, Dr. Hickey says he doesn’t believe this is generally true. I’ll be spending the next month (2 or 3?) seeing these doctors as long as it can be financially arranged with Suzanne. We’ve already agreed on this. Then at least what ever the decision (which will be tempered by the amount of growth and the possibility of meeting someone, who knows what he’s doing) I can go to work on something with a little peace of mind.
Well, I’ll close for now, I’m tired and going to bed.
Love Kathleen P.S. As soon as finances permit, we’ll get something off to you for your belated birthday. K.L.
October 27, 1947
Sorry I haven’t written to you sooner but I’ve had a cold and just haven’t been in the mood to sit down and relax long enough to write you, even though I owed it to you so much. I didn’t take any lessons for a month as I didn’t have enough money. But now I’m able to again, started last week.
The nice president of N.C.A.C. called me from Los Angeles and wanted me to come back there and take Lily Pons’ place in “Lucia” as she was ill, they thought (Universal) it would be what I was waiting for etc. What a joke! I laughed in his face. They think all I’m waiting for is to make a debut in opera. It would be so difficult combining the study with work. They also want me to sing in Washington for the White House Photographers’ Ball, but it cost’s so much money to have orchestration prepared and the time that’s needed etc., I just don’t think I’ll be able to do it. I got some of my records out of the back of the car and have been playing Richard Crook’s “One Alone” etc. What a fine singer he was! He sings so beautifully. He’s the best ballad singer of them all.
Nov. 9, 1947 Rye, NY- "Dear Dad, ....I have to go down to Washington next Saturday to sing at the White House Press Photographer’s Ball. Universal has made life hell....insisting on this, so I must do it. Why I don’t know. I’m having difficulty getting orchestrations made- but U.S. is paying for everything ....I don’t know what to sing- I certainly don’t feel like singing the things I’ve sung in the past. So far the plans are 'Ciribiribin', and 'Tell Me That You Love Me Tonight' I love the last one.... Love Suzy."
White House Press Photographers’ Ball as my mother explained it-
“I met with Universal executive Al Horowitz, a witty, wonderful guy, he wanted me to have an elegant gown for the Ball. He took me to Henri Bendel on West 59th Street, a fancy store in New York…I chose one that I thought was very pretty….the woman who waited on me was French …a very, very nice lady…” She says, ‘oh no, no my dear, if you are going to sing there you’ve got to have a different gown than that, something white, fluffy….bouffant…with a diamond necklace’. I resisted, I didn’t want to be fancy. I didn’t like costumes, unless I was in a picture. Mr. Horowitz insisted, I agreed, it was very beautiful.”
“I worked with an arranger, we decided on an Emmerich Kalman song, a thrilling song, I don’t remember it’s name, he wrote some beautiful operettas…also worked on the song My Hero.” “I was scared stiff … I couldn't’t sleep all night…”
“The day of the Ball, I couldn't’t eat, trembled all day. “
“I opened with the Kalman song…. My God, I brought down the house, it’s a beautiful, thrilling song, I took a high E flat at the end. Then I did 'My Hero', I take a big high note at the end of that as well, and again wonderful applause. That was all I was supposed to sing…the audience kept calling me back, I didn’t know what to do. I asked the musical director if they knew Kiss Me Again? They did. I brought down the house again. I got off. I always did bring down the house….that’s what’s so weird.”
“Then Truman got up to speak and the first thing he said was, 'It’s so wonderful to hear singing like what Susanna Foster did tonight.' I’ll never forget glancing over to Al Horowitz and seeing his eyes popping out of his head, he was so impressed that Truman had complimented me so. Truman loved it, he loved music, then he went on about how his daughter was going on a concert and how he felt about it. Horowitz couldn't get over it, he felt I raised the 'Bar at the Ball', he said. It’s funny, I was the least impressed with it all.”
Letter from a friend with attached Hedda Hopper clipping:
446 Boston Post Road
Rye, New York
December 15, 1947
In case you missed seeing this—thought I’d send it along—Good for Hedda Hopper—she certainly seems to know what the score is.
Darn it all—really miss you one heck of a lot around here—The house continues along it’s merry haphazard way with all of us pretending we’re normal human beings—I continue to look for a job in my own immediate fashion.
Mr. Shepherd continues to shake the daylights out of Mrs. Shepherd—I think Mr. Hackett is ‘fixing to marry some young chicken”—(Maybe she read “Madame Jumel’—and liked it!) Beatrice is holding out on Mr. Adams until he gets his divorced—etc.
We got a big bang out of your card—hope you arrived safely and that all goes well.
Love, Shirley P.S. I got “The Prophet” and I love it.
By HEDDA HOPPER
More than a year ago, Susanna Foster was sent abroad by her studio to study singing, It was a commendable thing for Universal –International to do, as Susanna has great talent. Now she comes back to use that talent in support of Sonja Henie in a skating picture. I could be wrong, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Ann Southern starts her divorce proceedings against Bob Sterling this month. They separated two years ago. Even though Bob had been living at his mother’s home he and Ann have been seeing a great deal with each other. This really will be a friendly divorce…. Alan Jones’ friends throughout the country write me: “What has Hollywood against Alan Jones that they don’t put him in a picture?” I can’t answer that. I thought he was very good in the films that he made at Metro…..Agnes Moorehead will play the Laurette Role in “Glass Menagerie” when it is staged here……Barbara Stanwyck gets Burt Lancaster has her co-star in the Hal Wallis film, “Sorry Wrong Number”……..
Susanna rejected The Countess of Monte Christo with Sonja Henie as well as One Touch of Venus with Ava Gardner (Olga San Juan replaced her in both films).
Edwin Lester and Susanna-- Edwin Lester; producer, director, composer, singer, arranger, conductor (West Coast producer/manager for Rogers and Hammerstein); had known Susanna from her “Magic in Music” days. Was now the general manager/director for the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, sought Susanna for the lead in his upcoming $350,000 production of “Naughty Marietta” with Edward Everett Horton and eighteen year old Mitzi Gerber (later to be known as Mitzi Gaynor). He flew to New York and found a distraught twenty three year old; “Ed, I don’t know what’s the matter with me? I’ve been studying with Mme. Dusolina Giannini for two years, a renowned Metropolitan dramatic soprano…my voice just doesn’t feel right…I’m singing in the dumps…I’m down… she seems to have just taken the life out of me……..I’ve lost that spark.” Lester sat her down at the piano, had her sing like the Susanna he knew…and within minutes had her; “Sing!….just sing like the Susanna I know!” She did and the fire was back.
Lester still hadn’t landed on a leading man for his show; he considered John Raitt (Bonnie Raitt’s father), Raitt was Susanna’s first choice. But Lester felt the singer/actor Wilbur Evans would be more suitable for the role… “After all Susanna, he does these things so admirably and besides your....a.. 'er.. temperament…. is well known and Evans does get along with women so well…..”
Susanna signed with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera for the lead in “Naughty Marietta.” A twelve week run; six in San Francisco and six in Los Angeles. Opening in May of 1948 in San Francisco at the Curran Theater.
Susanna remembers Edwin Lester; “a tall, stunning bald man with these beautiful sparkling brown eyes, a wonderful smile……..a positive, upbeat guy.”
Foudn letter from Edwin Lester to my father--
Los Angeles Civic Light Opera
427 west 5th Street Los Angeles, 13, California
March 6, 1948
c/o The Lambs
130 West 44th Street
New York City, N.Y.
I think you will be delighted with our treatment of MARIETTA. The First Act is only about half written at this time. But we know where we are going. And it feels good. If you have any idea of playing this as **(Nelson) Eddy played it, please stay in New York.
One thing however that I might warn you on. Get used to working on lifts. Susanna is a very tall girl. We will keep her in the lowest heels possible. But she will still stand around 5’8”. The kid has really great possibilities for stardom. And one of the major considerations in putting you opposite her is your wonderful facility for playing to and with women—of course I mean on stage.
I needn’t tell you how glad I am to have you back. You are my favorite leading man. And any success that comes out of a show when you are in it, has a double pleasure for me for that reason.
**Wib sincerely believed he was a better singer than Nelson Eddy...as did Edwin Lester as evidenced in the above note to Wib although I think there was some underlying jealousy.
Please see the cut out review (below) that was among the e-bay find, his writing next to the review is funny and telling, as Mr.Nelson Eddy was in the audience that night.
My father writes: "One of the great nights of my career!!" Nelson Eddy was in the audience...WOW!"
"I showed that blonde capon!"
Found Letter from Vicki to her father-
SAQ147 DL PD=CP NEWYORK NY 7 223P 1948 APR 21 AM 10:07
Wilbur Evans as Captain Dick Warrington
Los Angeles Civic Light Opera
427 west 5th Street Los Angeles, 13, California