Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Godspeed Zsa Zsa Gabor

During the late 20th Century, arguably the Gabor sisters were the very definition of celebrities. They were renowned for their beauty, their glamour, and their many marriages. Magda Gabor may have been the least famous, having a relatively short acting career. Eva Gabor may have been the most famous among Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, having starred on the sitcom Green Acres and having provided voices for such Disney animated features as The Aristocats (1970) and The Rescurers (1977). While Eva may have been best known among younger generations, it was Zsa Zsa who was the most famous of the Gabor sisters for much of the 20th Century. From the Fifties into the Naughts she regularly made headlines. And while her sisters were married many times, it was Zsa Zsa who was best known for her multiple marriages (which included such husbands as Conrad Hilton and George Sanders). Sadly, Zsa Zsa Gabor died on December 18 2016 at age 99. She was the last of the Gabor sisters.

Zsa Zsa Gabor was born Sári Gábor on February 6 1917 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. She was the second of the three daughters of soldier Vilmos Gabor and his wife Jolie Gabor. Miss Gabor and her sisters were raised in relative wealth. They were also groomed for stardom from an early age. They attended acting classes, music classes, dancing classes, and even classes for fencing. It was on a trip to Vienna in 1934 that Zsa Zsa Gabor was discovered by opera tenor Richard Tauber. Mr. Tauber hired her to appear as the soubrette in his new operetta Der singende Traum. It was in 1936 that she was crowned Miss Hungary.

Prior to World War II Zsa Zsa Gabor left Budapest for the United States. In 1944 she co-wrote a novel with writer Victoria Wolf entitled Every Man For Himself, which reportedly drew upon Miss Gabor's life. In 1949 Zsa Zsa Gabor was offered the lead in a film adaptation of Lady Chatterly's Lover, but turned it down due to the controversial nature of the novel. Miss Gabor made her television debut on a 1951 edition of the British show This is Show Business. She made her film debut in Lovely to Look At (1952), playing herself. That same year she played Eve Melrose, the gold-digging wife of Freddie Melrose (played by Louis Calhern) in We're Not Married!. It was in 1953 that she played one of her best known roles, that of Rosalie in Lili.

Arguably the Fifties marked the height of Zsa Zsa Gabor's acting career. She played Jane Avril in Moulin Rouge (1952), Mrs. Ryan in Death of a Scoundrel (1956), a night club owner in Touch of Evil (1958), and the title character in Queen of Outer Space (1958). She also appeared in the films The Story of Three Loves (1953), L'ennemi public n° 1 (1953), Sang et lumières (1954), Ball der Nationen (1954), The Girl in the Kremlin (1957), The Man Who Wouldn't Talk (1958), For the First Time (1959), La contessa azzurra (1960) , and Pepe (1960). Miss Gabor appeared frequently on television in the Fifties. She guest starred on such shows as Climax!, The Red Skelton Hour, The Ford Television Theatre, The Bob Cummings Show, Playhouse 90, Matinee Theatre, The Life of Riley, General Electric Theatre, Lux Theatre, and Make Room for Daddy.

The Sixties saw Zsa Zsa Gabor's acting career shift more towards television. She guest starred as socialite Erica Tiffany-Smith on Gilligan's Island, the fortune teller Madame Marova on Bonanza, and the villain Minerva on Batman. She also guest starred on such shows as Mister Ed, The Dick Powell Theatre, Burke's Law, F Troop, The Rounders, The Name of the Game, and Bracken's World. She provided the voice of the Queen of Hearts in the animated special Alice in Wonderland or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1966). Miss Gabor continued to appear in movies, including Boys' Night Out (1962), Picture Mommy Dead (1966), Drop Dead Darling (1966), and Jack of Diamonds (1967).

In the Seventies Miss Gabor appeared in the films Up the Front (1972), Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), and Every Girl Should Have One (1978).  She guest starred on the TV shows Night Gallery, 3 Girls 3, Supertrain, and The Love Boat. In the Eighties she guest starred on The Facts of Life, As the World Turns, Knott's Landing, Matt Houston, The Munsters Today, and City. She appeared in TV special Christmas at Pee Wee's Playhouse. She appeared in the films Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie (1984), Smart Alec (1986), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), and Johann Strauss - Der König ohne Krone (1987). She was a voice in the animated film Happily Ever After (1990).

In the Nineties she appeared in the films The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991), The Naked Truth (1992), The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), and A Very Brady Sequel (1996). She guest starred on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Empty Nest, Cybill, and Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills.

Throughout her career Zsa Zsa Gabor was a favourite on talk shows, variety shows, and game shows. She appeared on several, including Tonight Starring Steve Allen, The Colgate Comedy Hour, Tonight Starring Jack Paar, The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, I've Got a Secret, What's My Line?, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Joey Bishop Show, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The David Frost Show, and Hollywood Squares

It was often said of Zsa Zsa Gabor that she was famous for being famous. It was certainly true that she was extremely famous long after the peak of her film career in the Fifties. That having been said, I don't think Zsa Zsa Gabor was merely famous for being famous. She, like her sisters Magda and Eva, was actually very talented. In her acting career she gave some very good performances. Her turns in Moulin Rouge and Lili are particularly notable. But then Zsa Zsa Gabor displayed a good deal of talent even when she was just being Zsa Zsa. She possessed a fine sense of humour, quite a bit of wit, and she never took herself too seriously. She was not afraid to joke about her many marriages or her expensive tastes. When combined with her platinum blonde hair and her air of glamour, this made Zsa Zsa Gabor immensely entertaining. I submit that it is then wrong to say that Zsa Zsa Gabor was famous only for being famous. The woman had a good deal of talent. Instead, I would say, quite simply, Zsa Zsa Gabor was famous for being Zsa Zsa. 

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