Norma Shearer and
Irving Thalberg’s belated honeymoon
By Allan R. Ellenberger
Actress Norma Shearer and MGM producer Irving Thalberg were married on September 29, 1927 at Thalberg’s home, 9419 Sunset Boulevard (this was previously the home of actress Pauline Frederick and at the time was 503 Sunset Blvd.).
The marriage ceremony was attended by about fifty guests. The ceremony was performed by Rabbi Edgar Magnin in the garden beneath a canopy of chrysanthemums. Norma, who was dressed in a gown of ivory velvet, was given in marriage by her brother, Douglas Shearer. Louis B. Mayer acted as best man, while the maid of honor was Sylvia Thalberg, Irving’s sister. Instead of taking an immediate honeymoon, the couple postponed their trip until the following summer.
Upon their return, Norma shared some highlights with Los Angeles Times columnist, Grace Kingsley:
The Shearer-Thalberg wedding party
“It is refreshing for an American actress to go to Europe because she is thought much younger than she is. Foreign women prefer to look chic rather than young. They are sophisticated at an earlier age.
“Women in Monte Carlo do not really dress beautifully, at least not nowadays. They still have lovely jewels and their clothes are merely a background for those. But the Sporting Club at Monte Carlo lives entirely up to the movie sets.
“The Riviera is delightful, and the Cornish Drive is the nearest thing to Hollywood I saw. But I must admit it’s more beautiful.
“Speaking of comparisons, I’m afraid I’ve made a mortal enemy of a certain Paris newspaper man. He came to interview me the one day when I was hot and tired from a long trip around town. He asked me what I thought of Paris, and I said I wouldn’t take the whole of it in exchange for Hollywood or something like that. Irving came over and gave my hand a squeeze, meaning for me to be careful. So I tried to make up by saying that Pairs was nice, but – here Irving gave my hand another awful squeeze. He didn’t seem to know that I was trying to veer around slowly, so as not to be too obvious. After the man had gone Irving said, ‘Didn’t you notice me squeezing your hand?’
“I said, ‘You nearly killed me.’
“In Rome we went to the opening of one of our pictures, Tell It to the Marines. We thought we should dress up. So I put on my ermine coat and Irving wore his evening clothes. We expected to find a wonderful theater, but instead the house was down an alley and was a funny old place. We found out that in Italy it is only the middle and lower classes who go to pictures. The management presented me with some lovely roses and we were placed in a box. At the end of the first reel the lights went up, as they do after every reel over there, and people began waving to each other, whistling and eating.
“They caught sight of me all done up in ermine, and I suppose they thought I was some one they should applaud. So they did. I got a great thrill out of it. I was awfully fussed, and whenever I get fussed before an audience, I always kiss my husband. That always is a good piece of business to cut to! Irving gave the crowd the Fascistic salute and it went great.
“In Algiers, thanks to a certain guide, we viewed some places seldom seen by tourists. We were supposed to be met by a courier and he planned to get there when we did, but we were a day ahead of time, and we had only a day and half, so we missed him. We got into a taxi and told the driver to take us somewhere. We finally discovered that he was going round and round the same square. The day was slipping by, and we were very discouraged. Finally up came a greasy, thoroughly disreputable looking fellow, who said he was a guide. Our driver had been told not to trust us to anyone. He told us the man was a thief and a villain. But Irving is not to be downed by difficulties. He said the he would take a chance. After driving up to a remote part of the town, the guide said for us to get out of the car, and he told the driver to go away and meet us later at a certain place.
“I was sure we were going to be cracked over the head, and I was terrified every minute as we walked down the streets that were streaming with filth.
“The guide asked us if we wanted to see a Spanish dance. I don’t know what the Spaniards would think of that dance! We were taken up into a little room decorated brightly in cheap Moorish mosaic imitations and colors. Six girls were dancing. I thought Spanish dancers wore a great many clothes. I still think so. But these girls didn’t. They wore indeed very, very little and that little consisted entirely of – what do you think? – silk stockings!
“Then we went into a gambling place where the Algerian sheiks were playing for money. These sheiks weren’t at all good looking. Their faces were seamed and weather beaten. Their eyes were wild and fierce looking. Their supposedly white clothes were dirty and bedraggled. Arab princes of the desert may be better looking.
“All the time I had been devoured by fear.
“Finally we started home, and we found our driver just where our guide had told him to be.
“What’s more we found that our villainous looking guide was really a mild family man with six children, who sold binoculars as a steady job, and who turned an honest penny occasionally by acting as guide!”