Ciao Palm Beach: Italian Accents

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February 1937. Villa Marina. North Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach. Sarah Jane Sanford’s wedding to Mario Pansa, an Italian diplomat and protocol capo, brought together American and English aristocrats with the Berlin-Rome social axis for a week of house parties and dinner dances. The Sanford-Pansa marriage was only one of many unions between American heiresses and Mussolini’s corps of nobles and diplomats when society swells were counted among Il Duce’s admirers. Once the US entered the war and began bombing Italy, Jane’s sister-in-law Mary Sanford told the New York Daily News, “Jane seems to have been born under a lucky star and she just escapes everything.” [Palm Beach Post Archive]

Palm Beach’s passion for La Dolce Vita flourished during the 1920s and 1930s, a bygone era in the aftermath of The Great War when some members of society’s leisure class pursued social pleasures and marriages as if in a world apart, untouched and indifferent to the consequences resulting from the polarity of political extremes that foreshadowed World War II.

Whether reveling in Venetian Fete night at the Everglades Club to afternoons at Rome’s Polo Club, Palm Beach’s classiest toted Florentine handbags, taken in by their Medici-styled interiors, and drove the latest Bugatti or Isotta Fraschina with the same enthusiasm Mrs. W. R. Hearst was reported having a luncheon with Mussolini at Villa Torlonia.

Thus, when Ned and Marjorie Post’s first guests were seated in Mar-a-Lago for dinner, they were not rattled that scenic designer Joseph Urban was said to have described it as “Mussolini’s dining room,” having modeled it on Il Duce’s reception rooms found in Rome’s Chigi Palace.

Reflecting on Palm Beach’s affinity for all things Italian, at a time when many believed whatever means Mussolini took to accomplish his ends were justified, a 1930s UPI story reporting on the life of Americans living in Italy interviewed an “American lady who married an Italian count.” She remarked, “The exchange rate is favorable … There is little grumbling among my friends about censorship, strict state regulations, and the lack of personal privacy … Italians are not opposed to regimentation, having their so-called freedom contained.”

After all, among Mussolini’s imperious undertakings, “Restoring Italy to the standing of ancient Rome, bringing to light the great palaces and temples of the Caesars …”


Left, a Palm Beach Post editorial praised Italy’s Benito Mussolini, “His mind is agile, yet solid … It is to be hoped that his bold action will pave the way …”
Right, Otto Kahn was among the many American capitalists and tycoons exalting IL Duce as “… the greatest statesman in Europe,” regardless the dictator’s “Iron hand on the press …” and authoritarian control. [Palm Beach Post Archive]

Playwright George Bernard Shaw believed Mussolini was “the right kind of tyrant.” [Associated Press, 1923]

Writer Inez Robb not only took a look at Musso’s It Boys, Mussolini’s “diplomats” who hitched up with enough American heiresses to pay off Italy’s war debts, but also the fate of Palm Beach scion Gurnee Munn Jr.’s marriage to Dodina Manfredi, daughter of prominent Fascists. When her family refused to allow their daughter and granddaughter to leave Italy for the US, “a decadent democracy,” it became an international incident. Robb also reported Jane Sanford Pansa fled Rome and sought shelter on Capri at the Harrison Williams villa, a safe distance from the early 1940s bombing. [American Weekly]

In January 1, 1945, Sidney Legendre wrote his wife Gertrude Sanford Legendre while she was still being held as a prisoner of war by the Germans, describing letters he received from her sister Janie and husband Mario Pansa: “I could not believe my eyes when I read about the polo … he is president of the polo club. A long discussion on the merits of the ponies, the dinners, and who they had seen. And how impossible it was to remember anyone’s names, as one saw so many people. A short sentence saying that no doubt the poor people are having a difficult time buying food … I wonder if the writers or recipients wondered at themselves and considered what they were saying and doing while the entire world was at war and men were dying, losing their limbs and eyes.”

The remarkable letter is one of several among the Gertrude Sanford Legendre Papers, 1836-2000, at the College of Charleston’s Special Collections. Was the cocoon of resort life — bridge, backgammon, lunch at the Golf Club with Count Ciano or an afternoon of chukkers at the polo Club — the only way Jane Sanford Pansa could have survived the war?

While a herd of earlier Gilded Age debs and dames couldn’t resist the charms of English and French entitlements, here is a look back when dancing with an Italian dictator was assumed no more than a passing phase.

1920-1925


Society in Rome, a nationally syndicated column, reported the latest US-Italian title mergers, polo matches, and balls, during the 1920s and 1930s. [Palm Beach Post Archive]

The International press may have been shut out from events, but Mrs. Hearst appeared to have carte blanche.


By the end of 1925, Il Duce had converted every aspect of Italy into a Fascist state, including “… nourishing new forms and creating the new style of Italian beauty.” [Associated Press]

1926


March 1926, Palm Beach. Count Arnaldo Tamburini’s black-shirt portrait of his friend Benito Mussolini was exhibited at the Burnet-Clark Galleries in the Wyeth Building on South County Road. The Los Angeles Times described it as “Painted from life during Mussolini’s March to Rome, the first sitting was at Levanto on the day he proclaimed his intention to march … the portrait of the Italian dictator that will be for future generations what David’s portrait of Napoleon has been to ours.” [Palm Beach Post Archive]

Count Arnaldo and Countess Dalja settled in Pasadena, apparently a perfect fit with the “knocked-down dragged-out’ Hollywood set assuring them invitations to A-list bashes. [Los Angeles Evening Express]
“Greatly worried about his inability to sleep,” Count Tamburini took his own life. The whereabouts of the Mussolini portrait remains a mystery. [Library Of Congress & Chicago Tribune]


1927

January 1927, Editorial. “The exhaustive process of thinking that is all done for them by Monsieur Mussolini, fully and with dexterity and dispatch. Tyrannical? Undoubtedly, but the thing seems so far to be producing fine results in some directions and maybe the end will justify the means. Who knows?” [THE PALM BEACH POST]

Two weeks before Ned and Marjorie Hutton moved into Mar-a-Lago with its interior Italianate historical tableaus staged by Joseph Urban, Americans awakened on Sunday morning, January 9, 1927, to “My Twenty-Four Hours,” the first of several lengthy columns written by Benito Mussolini and syndicated nationwide by UPI, including The Palm Beach Post. Each article was “revised, corrected and approved by Il Duce.”


“Fascism must be ready to continue Italian tradition and project itself in these realms in order to store itself in the past. We are restoring ancient Rome … Within the next five years, Rome will practically be rebuilt to show forth the splendor of the old harmonized with the constructive spirit of the new and become the metropolis of the Latin world.” – Benito Mussolini.
“Occasionally, a restricted, very restricted, number of women are admitted to audience. At Palazzo Chigi I have grown used to seeing an occasional woman coming in, but my natural tendency is to prohibit their entrance. I have given imperative orders that at the Palazzo Viminate, no woman shall be admitted. I have told my subordinates never am I to see a woman in the palace. They interfere with the efficient procedure of the work. They cause delay and do not appreciate the business-like character introducing by their presence an obligatory deference not necessary in the company of men.” – Benito Mussolini.

January 22, 1927

Ned and Marjorie Hutton arrived at Palm Beach for their first season at Mar-a-Lago, replete with a mélange of historical reproductions including a living room copied from the Thousand-Wing Ceiling at the Accademia in Venice and a dining room inspired by Rome’s Chigi Palace.

Located on the Piazza Colonna, the Chigi Palace was acquired by the Italian government in 1918, for the purpose of housing “the department of the colonies,” that became known as the Ministry of Foreign affairs after Mussolini took power in 1920. While living at the Villa Torlonia, Mussolini would meet at the Chigi Palace with foreign diplomats, dignitaries, and visiting notable Americans.

The London Observer’s Rome correspondent described his visit to the Chigi Palace for an interview with Il Duce as “I steeled myself for this pilgrimage to a Fascist shrine … full of fine old furniture, gay with Venetian chandeliers, its doors white-and-gold with scrolled carvings surmounted with oval pictures of cherubs immersed in astronomy, and the separate suites separated by hanging precious velvets, lovely rooms recalling the pomp and charm of the 18th century. The door opened to a beautiful Renaissance room and Mussolini stepped forward to greet me …”


“Mussolini’s Dining Room” at Mar-a-Lago with its 4,000-pound table inlaid with semi-precious stones. The Renaissance-styled décor and murals were copied with some variations from the Chigi Palace. [Library Of Congress]


February 1927

Showing that Palm Beach is “more than a frivolous place,” George and Elizabeth Mesker hosted more than 250 guests for the monthly Current Events gathering at La Fontana, their Mizner-designed 16th-century Italian Renaissance Midtown mansion, featuring lecturer-author George Earle Raiguel who spoke on his recent interview with Mussolini at the Chigi Palace.


Introduced by Marie (Mrs. John) Bryden, chairman of the Current Events club, Raiguel spoke of being “profoundly impressed with the Great Dictator’s sincerity” and “carried his audience literally off their feet,” receiving a standing ovation. Raiguel, quoting the premier, said “Fascism promises to flourish for all time.” Afterward, Mrs. Mesker served “delicious house made ice cream and cake.” [Tampa Tribune]

The Mussolini Cup is introduced at Palm Beach. [Palm Beach Post Archive]

The Mussolini Cup, Palm Beach Anglers Club.

1928

Following the Palm Beach Angler’s Club induction of Benito Mussolini as an honorary member and the naming of an award in his honor for the annual fishing competition, V. Mason Weil, the club’s president, went to Italy for an audience with Il Duce, personally presenting him with his engraved gold membership card.

Following the enthusiastic response Palm Beachers gave a lecturer the previous season who spoke about Fascism’s great success in Italy, Alfred and Elizabeth Kay hosted the Current Events club’s February 1928 presentation of Bruno Roselli’s lecture on Mussolini’s triumphs and his “successful appeal to the romantic instincts of the Italian, and how he has reformed the entire nation by putting Italy again on the footing of a battle …” [Palm Beach Post Archive]

1929


Renowned society photographer E. F. Foley and his wife returned from Italy with praise for Benito Mussolini, on assignment for The New York Times to photograph Il Duce. [Palm Beach Post Archive]

“I am entirely disarmed by the personality of the man, expecting to meet a cold …,” wrote Foley after his visit. [Palm Beach Post Archive]

1930s

Seen here during the early 1930s, Jane Allen Campbell, the incomparable Princess di San Faustino, third from left, presents the winning trophy at the Rome Polo Club. Known as the “Eccentric Empress of the Lido,” La Principessa is credited with introducing bridge and backgammon among the magnifici and schooling Barbara Hutton in the gusto pappagallo. After her death in 1937, the North American Review immortalized her in a feature titled “Neither Rich, Nor Beautiful,” reprinted at The Esoteric Curiosa.

The article written by Jerome Beatty begins:

“Although the world is rather well dotted with Princesses, few of them have a life story as exciting as Rome’s recently deceased Princess Jane di San Faustino, once of Bernardsville, New Jersey, and New York city. Born Jane Campbell, she went to Rome forty-four years ago and without much money – became the ringmaster of society in the Eternal City.  By her death this June, the career of the most colorful Princess ever heard of, came to an end at the ripe age of seventy-five.”


[Library Of Congress]

Left, Il Duce and sons on one of the several TIME magazine covers that Mussolini graced during the ’20s and ’30s.
Right, Heiress Dorothy Taylor, Countess di Frasso, daughter of New York financier Bertram Taylor, was a frequent Palm Beach presence until she developed a taste for Hollywood and Rome where she became a leading social hostess. [Palm Beach Post archive]

Countess di Frasso restored Rome’s Villa Madama and leased it to Il Duce who welcomed his first house guest, Nazi General Hermann Goering. [Associated Press]

American Exports

Having found an irresistible attraction for foreign affairs, Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New York’s wealthiest debs and divorcees said, “I do,” to an assortment of Italian consuls, vice-consuls, “special attaches” to the Italian Embassy, “members of the Italian legation,” as well as counts and dukes.


Count Bosdari made headlines, seemingly tireless in making his contribution to US-Italian relations. [American Weekly]

Among those whose promise of for better or worse landed them in Mussolini’s Rome included: Josephine Fish x Count Anthony de Bosdari, former Italian Consul in New York & Italian ambassador to Germany, Mrs. David Plunket Greene x Count BosdariHelen Lewis x Count Anthony de BosdariNatalie Mae Coe x Leonardo VittetiMargaret Trimble x Count RiverdinEdith Candler x Count Carlo BuefBeatrice Gallatin x Count Carlo BuefDorothy Taylor x Count Carlo di FrassoMrs. Henry Whiton x Count David ConstantiniUrsula Forhan x Count Enzo D’UrbiniaLettie McElroy Shuster x Count Giulio Cacciaguerra RanghieriMrs. J. B. Warden x Count Cacciaguerra RanghieriIda May Swift x Count James MinottoMarqueene Gwedolyn Stevenson x Count Andrea Marco SoranzoMargaret Erhart x Marquise Celsio-d’VegliascoBlanche Vogel x Count Antonio Martini Crotti, Carla Malagola Count Giorgio Roberti, Helen Wardman x Count Giovanni Naselli, Ruth Brower Count de Vallombrosa, Nancy Hall Count Luigi Savelli, Teresa Higginson x Count Giangiullio RucellaiJacqueline Melanie Stewart x Count Giovanni Guido Carlo CardelliRenee Thornton x Duke Castel del Monte, and “Madcap’ Merry Fahrney x Count Oleg Cassini.


“All hail our newest countess …” Edith Mortimer, dubbed “driver of death auto,” as months before her marriage to Count Mario di Zoppola, Edith was found not guilty of manslaughter having killed two people in an automobile accident. When the couple divorced a decade later, Edith may have given up her husband, but she continued to be called Countess di Zoppola. [Chronicling America, Library Of Congress]

Count Bosdari with one of his catches, Josephine Fish. [UPI]
Edith Fairbanks and Count Ruggero Visconti di Modrone. [UPI]
Utah heiress Marion Browning, Countess Gian Luca Cigogna, shown with Prince Ludovici. [UPI]


During the ’20s and ’30s, the Washington Evening-Star detailed the comings-and-goings of the American colony amid Roman aristocrats. [Washington Evening-Star, Chronicling America, Library of Congress]

Charles Filipponi aka Count Carlo Filipponi:
A Palm Beach “Count”

In May 1927, a Brooklyn waiter and Boca Raton real estate agent named Charles Filipponi, who had successfully passed himself off at Palm Beach as “Count Carlo Chigi Filipponi,” married a wealthy Chicago heiress, Laurietta Ford von Stresenreuter. The couple even built a house on Clarke Avenue, naming it “Villa Filipponi” that decades later would become a designated landmark with reference to the original owner’s sham noble status. [Palm Beach Post Archive & Photo Augustus Mayhew]
This “only on Palm Beach” romance endured until 1935 even though Henry Filipponi, Charles’ brother, gave several interviews in 1927 to New York and Chicago newspapers discounting his brother’s noble claims but revealed he was actually a New York catering waiter from a middle-class Brooklyn family. Palm Beach’s no-account “count” declared himself “a cousin of Prince Guido Chigi whose palace is the home of Premier Mussolini.”

Only at Palm Beach … [Chicago Sun Times, 1927]

After his divorce, “Count” Filipponi married the ex-wife of the US Ambassador to Italy, Richard Washburn Child, credited as the author of the English-translation of Mussolini’s autobiography that was typed by his wife. [Chicago Sun Times, 1930 & Palm Beach Post, 1936]

“Sublime Lovemakers, But Terrible Husbands.” Princess Pignatelli tells all … [Chronicling America, Library of Congress]

Count Francisco & Countess Rosalind Guardabassi

In 1928, when 40-year-old woolen heiress Rosalind Wood, a relative of General George Patton, married a legendary Italian war hero, restaurateur, and singer-artist Captain Francisco Mario Guardabassi, she could have never imagined this fairy tale union would result in becoming a titled countess in December 1934, ennobled by the King of Italy and Benito Mussolini. As well, she had not planned on her titled husband’s arrest in January 1942 by the FBI as an “enemy alien,” jailed in Phoenix, before being confined to a barbed-wire enclosed wartime Alien Detention Camp at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.


DOJ / J. Edgar Hoover Memorandum/ Presidential warrant for Count Guardabassi. [National Archives]

“He is perfectly innocent and it is a tragic mistake,” wrote Countess Guardabassi, in a February 8, 1942, letter to one of her husband’s former “Mon Cheri,” Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. In a lengthy letter, Rosalind pleaded for her help in having him released. “He caught a chest cold … living in a tent … a perfectly harmless, peaceable old gentleman … Can nothing be done to save my husband?” The count never became an American citizen.


[Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Papers, Smithsonian Archives of American Art]

Although the couple met in New York, both had earlier ties to Palm Beach. Rosalind’s father William M. Wood built the Mizner-designed mansion known as The Towers on North Ocean Boulevard. Guardabassi had arrived on Palm Beach a few years earlier, serving as social and art director at the Alba Hotel on Palm Beach, later known as the Biltmore. Admittedly, he was sponsored/ financed in the US by the Italian government for what the singing portrait artist called “orders for a special mission.” Guardabassi entertained numerous rich American heiresses before his marriage to Rosalind Wood appeared to fulfill his intended role.

During the early 1930s, the count and countess moved to Italy where they became entitled, as well as restored a villa near Guardabassi’s native Perugia. In 1939, they began spending winters in Tucson where the Count’s outspoken support for Mussolini caught the eye of the FBI. After his internment, the couple returned to Italy for the duration of the war.

They resettled on Palm Beach during the early 1950s.  First renting a house on Seminole before buying the old Shepherd house at 127 Dunbar. Following Count Guardabassi’s death, the countess spent many years at her Dunbar Road villa supporting intellectuals, such as Alabama governor George Wallace’s presidential campaign, Father Coughlin and Gerald L. K. Smith.


In 1918, Djuna Barnes wrote an extensive feature on detailing his working relationship with the Italian government. He was a Life Member of the Italy America Society. A decade later, when Wood met him, he was a portrait artist and restauranteur, known for his society portraits and spaghetti dinners. [Chronicling America, Library of Congress & Palm Beach Post]

April, 1942. Detainees arriving at a barbed-wire enclosed West Texas internment camp where Count Guardabassi was held. Although most were German and Japanese, Guardabassi was among 14 Italians arrested. [National Archives]

Although the Countess claimed the Count did not participate in politics, her husband did take an active role in promoting Mussolini’s Fascism in the United States. [Palm Beach Post Archive & Photo Augustus Mayhew]

“US Wives … in an Emotional Tangle.” [New York Daily News]

Jane Sanford-Mario Pansa
1937 – 1946

Just as her brother Laddie had a Kismet moment in 1930, meeting his to-be wife actress Mary Duncan at a polo game, Jane “Janie” Sanford was reported to have also met her husband Mario Pansa at a polo game. While the College of Charleston’s Gertrude Sanford Legendre archive documents multi-generations of the family’s life, certain periods of Jane’s life remain vague and/or undetermined at this time.


[New York Daily News, December 1936]


[New York Daily News, January-February 1937]

Left, The Sanford-Pansa wedding was an international affair. [Palm Beach Post archive]
Right,
Wedding guest Lali Horstmann arrived from post-Olympics Berlin, recounting her view within Nazi Germany, in the book Nothing for Tears, that could have been subtitled, My Life Without Vogue Magazine.

Among the guests at the Pansa wedding, Lali von Schwabach Horstmann, who arrived on Palm Beach accompanying Jane Sanford. Horstmann and her husband, Frederick “Freddie” Horstmann, a onetime German diplomat and newspaper owner, lived grandly near Berlin during the war, “not as bad as you might think,” surrounded by their bronzes, crystal chandeliers, and gilt-framed paintings. When the Germans surrendered, the Horstmanns found themselves in the Russian Zone. Freddie died in a Russian camp; Lali fled to London. Lali’s recollections of champagne-and-paté at the Hotel Adlon’s underground VIP café during the Allied bombing are recounted in her diary, published in the early 1950s and available online at Nothing for Tears.


Excerpt, Nothing for Tears.

Jane was a double Sanford. Her father had married his cousin, Ethel Sanford, the daughter of noted diplomat Henry Sanford. In 1935, Janie was reported in a “romance” with David “Winkie” Brooks, “has the town talking,” who died the following year when he fell from a 14th-floor window in the early morning hours.

After the wedding and a California honeymoon, the couple reportedly first settled in Belgium where Mario was stationed as a first secretary at the Italian Embassy in Brussels. The Ellen Glendinning Ordway Collection on the New York Social Diary contains a photo of the couple at Palm Beach during the 1938 season, lunching at her father John Sanford’s Villa Marina. When her father died the following year, she attempted to return to the US. When she learned that if she left, she would not be allowed to re-enter Italy, she decided to stay with her husband.

In June 1939, Mario and Jane were reported in New York for a gala event at the World’s Fair Italian Pavilion. In 1940, the couple reportedly fled Brussels, “three days before the invasion,” and were said to be in Budapest. “It’s pretty awful to think of Jane’s husband fighting against the Allies,” Mary Sanford told the New York Daily News.


Diplomat and international poloist Mario Pansa, center, with the Duchess of Sutherland, left, and Audrey Parr, right, former wife of Frank Rediker. During the ’20s and ’30s, the Duchess of Sutherland was a frequent houseguest at Amado, Charles Munn’s beach house at Palm Beach. [Gertrude Sanford Legendre Papers, © College Of Charleston Libraries]

I was unable to determine Jane and Mario’s precise whereabouts between 1939-1943, assuming they were dodging bombs between the summer of 1940 when the Allies began bombing Milan, Turn and Genoa. Then later, Rome. On December 10, 1942, Gertrude Legendre wrote to her husband Sydney, stationed at Pearl Harbor, “I trust Old Sarah in Rome takes to the hills before the RAF pulverizes it. It certainly looks like they might.”

The College of Charleston Addlestone Library’s Special Collections houses the Gertrude Sanford Legendre Papers: 1836-2000 that includes archival materials relating to Jane Sanford and Mario Pansa. Currently there are several letters written by Jane Pansa between 1943 and 1945 that are accessible online. There are also several hundred photographs of Pansa’s career as a diplomat for Benito Mussolini’s government.

The available letters should be framed within Italy’s declaration of war against England and France in 1940 and with the US following the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, until Italy surrendered in September 1943. Although Rome was declared an “Open City” in 1943, it was not liberated by the Allies until a year later. In July 1943, Mussolini was impeached, only to set up a shadow government in northern Italy with Nazi support. In 1945 Mussolini was executed.

Several of the letters are written addressed from the Pansa apartment in Rome, Via della Pilotta, 23.  In addition to this location, across from the Palazzo Colonna and the Pontifical Gregorian University, there is also mention of Capri, a house in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, a visit to one of the di Frasso’s villas near Brindisi, and a friend’s chalet somewhere in the mountains.



Via della Pilotta, Rome & Via della Pilotta, 23, entrance doors. The Pansa apartment was across the street from the Palazzo Colonna. Ansconio Colonna was the Italian ambassador to the US from 1938 until he departed after declaring war on the US in December 1941. [Google Maps]

Jane Sanford to Gertrude Sanford Legendre Letters, excerpts
© College of Charleston Libraries. Gertrude Sanford Legendre Papers, 1836-2000.

An undated letter begins, “Dear Gertrude, I am up in the high mountains living in the most delicious little house and skiing all day. You can’t imagine … spent a month with Moira and her husband in a little modern chalet, every detail perfect and a marvelous cook. Indoors, we play bridge and backgammon and fall into bed 11:30 at night exhausted …” [© College of Charleston Libraries. Gertrude Sanford Legendre Papers, 1836-2000]

August 1943

“Life goes on despite all the incredible upheavals and conflicts … there are always people to see in the evenings… thank goodness I spent three months in the mountains skiing. “M (Mario) is well despite strenuous and long work. We bought a lovely place on the sea with superb bathing.”

July 1944

“A long talk with Virginia Cowles (“Ginny” was the daughter of media baron Gardner Cowles, who became a noted London Times journalist who covered World War II from many fronts and an author of several biographies) … Buzzie Scheftel visited in the morning … stayed for lunch. Moving back to house after long wandering gypsy life since last September …  even if noisy Scotland Yard is next door. Tuesday there was a cocktail party. Tomorrow going to see “Blythe Spirit.” First theater in years. It is just great to be alive and speak English. Everything is so complicated … would it be utterly impossible to meet in Capri or somewhere like that?”



August 4, 1944

“Yesterday a very nice General came to see us … Saw Gifford Cochran, came up from Naples quite by chance (Cochrans were 19th-century kin of the Sanford family – Sarah Jane (Cochran) Gifford married Stephen Sanford in 1849 – manufactured carpets, also thoroughbred horse breeders). There have been masses of British officers thru here. Mario takes them out to the polo fields where they have the time of their lives … riding the ponies and knocking a ball about … Saw Frank Stanley Clarke (English aviator married a George Baker daughter) … he is off to Cairo with Whitney Straight (son of Dorothy Payne Whitney and renowned aviator). Have arranged to go down to Carlo Frasso’s (was married to American Countess, Dorothy Taylor) near Brindisi with a charming Engish officer in his truck. Mario believes a two-day journey, stopping in Naples along the way to see the battle ground. Aileen has been staying with us for six weeks. Down there we will have sea bathing – a nice comfortable house on Capri is out of the question. Transport situation is fearful … we have had our car stolen like everyone else but we still have a horse and buggie. Could Sidney have Deering Howe to try and send us more money and start working on my getting back to America, all of which is very difficult (Lawyer & financier Deering Howe, heir to multiple fortunes as well as a director at Chemical Bank that managed the Sanford trusts). If you can do anything about it, please try, all looks now as if the end of the war is approaching rapidly and it might not be too long now.”

July 1945
Torre di Civeta, Ravello

”Fabulous place … top of a hill see to Amalfi. What a view, more beautiful than Capri and much more primitive. We go down to the sea by car in 15 minutes …  Saw Bill Taylor, said he saw Sidney in Hawaii ages ago … Yesterday a very nice little American general down from Naples bringing a friend of ours for the night. We went back north … at our property and the Packard were all ruined … the Germans there for five years. The destruction is heart rendering, bridges, railroads, a chaotic state of anarchy … 50 years to rebuild … dangerous shootings. God knows what will happen, all so depressing… we are lucky to be away from all this politics. Waiting for visa …”

January 1, 1945 – January 6, 1945
Sidney Legendre to Gertrude Legendre Letters
© College of Charleston Libraries. Gertrude Sanford Legendre Papers, 1836-2000

“Mr Ericson sent a memorandum from the man who had seen Jane. He has dined with them at the apartment several occasions and has met many of their friends. He said Mr. and Mrs. Pansa know everybody and are immensely popular. They have a lovely apartment. Janie had some problems with servants but now she has three or four (not so bah, huh). Janie appears to be rather frail. She has one of the best doctors in Rome prescribing for her. Isn’t that wonderful. (Have you ever known when she wasn’t in the hands of the best doctor). Both Janie and her husband have large wardrobes.”

1946

Jane Sanford Pansa returned to the United States, awaiting the arrival of her husband. She moved in with Laddie and Mary at Forest Edge, their Old Westbury cottage on Long Island. In late March, Jane travels to Palm Beach, staying with Laddie and Mary at Los Incas. On the evening of March 29, Laddie and Mary hosted a dinner dance for 150 friends welcoming Janie back to the United States as well as his sister Gertrude’s release from a Nazi prisoner of war camp.


A few days later, Janie was “honored” with a luncheon, attending a daily whirl of social events before returning to New York. That September, her husband was reported to have drowned while swimming at Fregene, located north of Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, believed by some to have committed suicide.

“Pansa died as he dreamed to die. He was drowned in the same sea as his favorite poet, Shelley drowned about a century before him.” Pansa’s obituary named him as Italy’s Minister of Protocol during World War II. Jane was described as “widow of the former Consul General, lawyer, soldier, and big game hunter. [UPI]

Although there are no existing reports that Jane Sanford ever returned to Italy and life on the Via Veneto, the Sanfords’ close friend Countess di Frasso did return, accompanied by her close friend Bugsy Siegel, according to Cholly Knickerbocker.

Countess di Frasso morta. [New York Daily News]

“… doomed to enjoy the questionable benefits of Fascism …” [The American Weekly, December 1942]

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