Pellegrino re HarrisDuffGordons

May 12, 2005
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All,

It's come to my attention that on Charles Pellegrino's growing website (http://www.charlespellegrino.com/mrs_harris.htm)he has added some rather dubious details to a section on Rene Harris. In it he quotes from what purports to be a 1960s letter of Rene's (I imagine to Walter Lord) which is very like an article she penned for a magazine some years prior.

In both pieces Rene has strong words for Cosmo and Lucy Duff Gordon, though in the latter she names them outright. I have gone into detail on another list about the fact that Henry B. and Rene Harris were actually friends with Lucy Duff Gordon at the time of the disaster and that the friendship between Rene and Lucy went on for quite a while.

Before getting to what I believe are unsubstantiated claims by Pellegrino, I will recap a bit here for those who missed the other discussion.

At the time of sailing on Titanic, Lucy had just costumed star Ina Claire for Harris' Broadway production of "The Quaker Girl." Two years earlier Lucy had arranged a special series of fashion shows benefiting the Actors Benevolent Fund, which Harris served as secretary. In 1918 Rene had hired Lucy to dress Bertha Kalich in the hit "The Riddle: Woman" which she produced. So there was a professional and personal relationship there, though Rene pretended otherwise in later years, after quarreling with Lucy.

The falling out between these two ladies occured when they were both preparing for publication their accounts of the Titanic in 1932, the 20th anniversary of the sinking. Lucy had written her autobiography which was serialized in the "London Daily Sketch" and thereafter published in book form. At the same time Rene was writing up her Titanic experiences for "Liberty" magazine.

In one of the Titanic related chapters in her memoirs, Lucy made some admittedly strident remarks about American wives saving themselves in lifeboats,leaving their husbands "without a word of protest or regret," etc, etc. This incensed Rene Harris who sent her old friend a very pointed letter, telling Lucy what she thought of her for that statement.

Anyway, Rene's article and subsequent letter fail to mention that she was once friends with the Duff Gordons - or at least with Lucy - so one must keep that in mind when reading her remarks, made after the fight with Lucy.

Now to Pellegrino's editorial comments about the Duff Gordons on his Rene Harris page:

First off, he claims that the couple was spreading around on the Carpathia the story that Murdoch had shot himself while readying Boat A. This is bogus. I have read no credible account referencing in any detail the Duff Gordons' observations on this alleged incident. Neither of them, in private or public, are known to have ever made any statement whatever about witnessing Murdoch's supposed suicide. That they heard stories of it on Carpathia or in the papers following their rescue is not to be doubted. But that they actually began the story or publicly attested to it is, I believe, absolutely untrue.

Secondly, Pellegrino claims that the Duff Gordons were later defended publicly by Bruce Ismay. This is not true either. The man would have been a fool to involve himself in their unfortunate plight with his own hell yawning before him. Afterall, he did not know the Duff Gordons. And Cosmo, when asked during his testimony before the British Inquiry if he had met Ismay, replied: "Never at any time in my life."

I would like to know from which sources Pellegrino draws his information. I think he has twisted some facts about. If not - and there are indeed documents bearing out what he claims - I would like to see them. As for the facts I've shared, I can produce news articles and personal letters. Can he?

Randy
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Randy,

I would like to know from which sources Pellegrino draws his information. I think he has twisted some facts about. If not - and there are indeed documents bearing out what he claims - I would like to see them. As for the facts I've shared, I can produce news articles and personal letters. Can he?

We have had a slightly heated discussion about his Candee information on the site. In fact, some might recall my, and others' questioning him placing Candee simply on A deck, and goes on to say that Kent was in B37. All rather inconsistent as she does not mention her own cabin number.

Also, if you read the Candee account on the Pellegrino site, it is presented in a way that appears to be reproduced verbatim as she wrote it.

While indeed Candee's descendants gave Lord some information it is certainly not what is presented on the web site. I have not seen this information, but I have it on good authority that there is an (unpublished) account left by Candee to her family.

In it she says her cabin was on the same deck as the lounge, indeed the lounge right next to the dining room where they sat after dinner! Now, I wonder where that may be, D deck perhaps? This is the same “lounge”￾ where she was presented with a piece of ice. There were a few passengers that called the reception room a lounge. Elizabeth Lines (who also had a cabin on D deck) called the reception room nothing else but the lounge, and when she was giving her deposition in 1913, those questioning her had to verify that what she was referring to as the lounge was indeed the room marked as “Reception Room”￾ on the plans they were looking at.

Furthermore, at the time of collision, she grabs no pole going through her room, but simply the bed post, this would be a small pole at the foot of her bed.

It's quite obvious that at least some of the information Pellegrino puts up, and presents it as actual accounts of survivors, is quite bogus. With his reputation on "facts", I find it hard to separate the truth from the bogus fiction in anything he writes.

I wouldn't believe Pelligrino if he told me that this month was November.

Exactly Tracy, that’s what my last paragraph was trying to say!
happy.gif


Regards,

Daniel.
 
May 12, 2005
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A correction to something in my post above: Rene Harris was not the producer of "The Riddle: Woman," as I originally thought. Rene managed the star Bertha Kalich and was a promoter for the play which opened at the Harris Theatre on 23 Oct. 1918. It was a hit with the public and with critics and had a long run. Lucile and Rene were both at the premier and sat together in the star's box. Kalich was also photographed with Rene, Lucile and her producers in her dressing room on opening night.
 
Apr 22, 2012
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Randy,

Thanks for all the wonderful information. I checked out Dr. Pellegrino's site again and read some in the E-Books section. I also find what he writes very hard to swallow because some of it is just outrageous. Did you read the account he has posted from Edith Russell? Is that true or did he just make it up? I knew you'd be the one to ask.
 
Apr 22, 2012
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Just a thought: I wonder if when Walter Lord was still living he ever read any of Pellegrino's statements that are obviously false and questioned him about where he got them from. In the books he says that he and Lord were friends so I was just wondering.
 
May 12, 2005
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Hi Brandon,

The 1934 Edith Russell letter I think is a amalgam of her various published pieces with a few flourishes. The jury is out still in my opinion on whether this one is genuine. The 1950s letter that's cited is genuine, I've found, as a credible researcher has a photo copy of the original. One thing that makes the Edy trail hard to follow is that she told so many lies herself (bless her bored soul!).

As to what extent Lord knew about Pellegrino's statements, I have the same question.

My best to you,

Randy
 
Apr 22, 2012
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Thanks Randy. Maybe someone who was close to Lord would know whether or not he knew how full of it Dr. P. is. Still, that guy must be pretty darn smart. From what I understand he's a paleontologist, some kind of rocket scientist, an explorer, an historian, and an author. Whoo!
 

Lee Gilliland

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Brandon, as someone who had known Charlie for (omigod!) nigh on twenty years, let's just say he gets enthusiastic...then excited...then carried away. Take everything he says with a grain of salt (the stuff they use on the highway should be about the right size) and you'll be fine.
 
Apr 22, 2012
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Lee,

That's usually what I try to do, but sometimes I run out of salt before I'm finished with the book! Just kidding, of course. I've heard of writers like that before.
 
May 12, 2005
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For those curious here is the passage in "Discretions and Indiscretions" by Lucy Duff Gordon which irritated her friend Rene Harris:

(Page 170, US edition)

"...Even in that terrible moment I was filled with amazement at nearly all the American wives who were leaving their husbands without a word of protest or regret, scarce of farewell. They have brought the cult of chivalry to such a pitch in the States that it comes as second nature to their men to sacrifice themselves and to their women to let them do it..."

Though overstated and indelicate to say the least, in my opinion these words have to them the bite that is only to be expected from a woman who was understandably still resentful of the bitter criticism to which she and her husband had been subjected in the wake of the Titanic disaster. Of course, she made a mistake by being too broad in her swipe at detractors for it had the undesired affect of hurting a long-time friend.

Rene Harris replied to Lucy Duff Gordon's comments on notepaper headed "Blackstone Hotel" (Chicago) and dated 17 June 1932. In green ink, she wrote in her sweeping hand:

"...Dear Lady Duff Gordon,

I have read your book and found your statements regarding American women on board the Titanic to be despicably low and mean. We did not bid careless farewells to our men! It was a decision we were forced to make. You were wrong to say that American women were unfeeling. How dare you say such a thing when so many of us lost our husbands. You know how dear Harry was to me. I will never recover from his loss which left me penniless as well as bereaved. Harry was a great champion of yours and did much to help you gain your initial prominence in theatrical circles in New York. He thought so much of you. It would have agonized him to know of your ill-treatment by the press after the disaster.

I assured you of my sympathy then and I have always defended you but I am very cross over this remark which to me is spiteful in the extreme. I would imagine you would be more grateful to America for the success you enjoyed here for many years.

I am sorry to learn you have fallen on difficult times. You must be a very unhappy woman these days to be so unkind. Old age does not become you.

I have nothing more to say. Only I will not suffer privately should you publish any more cruel criticisms.

Sincerely,

Rene Harris
(Mrs. Henry B. Harris)..."

This letter should be read with the understanding that Rene's well-known "Liberty" magazine article (April 23, 1932), containing it's stinging references to the Duff Gordons, had already been published. This would indicate that Rene had read Lucy's autobiography before its release in book form, which was in March 1932.

Lucy's memoir was originally serialized under the title "Lucile Lifts the Veil" in The London Daily Sketch in 1931.

It will be noted that Rene did not personally write Lucy until June, by which time she had already made good her threat to "not suffer privately."

Another interesting tidbit is that Rene's own fortunes had flagged considerably by 1932, which was in fact the year she finally relinquished control of her beloved Hudson Theater. Thus the cut at Lucy's less than prosperous condition and unhappiness at this time was highly hypocritical.
 
May 12, 2005
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Jeremy, actually I have just noticed that this is not the thread I was thinking of. I have posted below to the one I was referring to. See under the Titanic Books topic for the thread on Pellegrino's books. Sorry.