QUEEN OF THE RITZ by Samuel Marx


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A brilliant writer might possibly have made something absorbing out of the life of Blanche Rubenstein Auzello--a Jewish-American flapper who became the wife of the manager of Paris' Hôtel Ritz, worked with the French Resistance during World War II, and was shot to death by her melancholy husband in a 1969 suicide-murder. This biography by Blanche's nephew (co-author of the sleazy 1976 bio of Lorenz Hart) is at best pleasant and often frustrating as it skims along Blanche's mostly glittery surface. A some-time actress, Blanche took off for Paris in the mid-Twenties with bosom buddy Pearl White (has-been star of Perils of Pauline) and was soon forced to choose between two would-be lovers--an Egyptian playboy and marriage-minded Claude Auzello, assistant manager of the Hôtel Claridge, who told the Egyptian: ""If you take Blanche to Egypt it will turn her into an international tramp. She will be finished!"" Blanche half-heartedly chose eager little Claude, and so began ""a mismatched, almost incomprehensible union."" He insisted on keeping a regular Thursday-night mistress. She objected, ran off to her Egyptian, but returned and gave in. And when Claude was hired to manage the tradition-bound Ritz, he and Blanche disagreed on everything: whether to allow women in the Cambon Bar, whether to admit Jews, and--when the Nazis took over half the hotel in 1940--how to resist. Claude did it by insulting the Nazis openly, Blanche by running errands for the Underground: she was imprisoned, lost 40 pounds, and was released only when she declared her Jewishness (she'd converted to Catholicism years before) and was therefore thought to be mad. Marx barely touches on the 20 years after the war, so the tragic ending is bewildering rather than moving. Here, and throughout, a more penetrating psychological portrait might have made Blanche a more sympathetic and dramatic figure; as it is, with anecdotes on the Ritz and its famous patrons, this is just the modestly entertaining outline sketch of a personality with enormous potential.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1978
Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill