The Riviera Set
Mary S. Lovell (Little Brown, £25)
From Greta Garbo and rita Hayworth to Somerset maugham and Winston Churchill, mary S. Lovell’s beguiling new book practically bursts its covers with the names of the rich, famous and downright notorious. It’s perhaps ironic that the woman they all had in common—the american actress maxine elliott—is now so little remembered.
born in maine in 1868, she had crammed the experience of several lifetimes into the decades that preceded her arrival on the newly fashionable French riviera at the height of the roaring twenties. Celebrated as much for her beauty as for her dramatic ability, elliott had infiltrated the seemingly impregnable ranks of the british aristocracy with ease. It was even rumoured that she had been the mistress of edward VII himself. Clearly a force to be reckoned with, she had no intention of retiring with her memories into a dignified old age.
and so it was that, in 1930, she commissioned the up-andcoming young architect barry Dierks to build her a spectacular pleasure palace, the Château de l’horizon, on the rocky stretch of coast between Cannes and Juans-les-pins. In the process, she created an art Deco masterpiece that’s as much the subject of this biography as either its mistress or her myriad guests.
anecdotes abound: of rampant infidelities and swimming pools filled with scent, of Cecil beaton and bob boothby ‘fighting like bears’ and hours spent deliberating whether or not to curtsey to the Duchess of Windsor. this is a giddy gallop through the ranks of the inter-war beau monde and some readers may be left breathless at the end of the ride.
Fortunately, with miss Lovell, we are in safe hands. as temperatures tumble and the nights draw in, The Riviera Set is a dream ticket to a lost world of seemingly perpetual sunshine. Martin Williams