The Life and Times of Josephine Hartford, Part II

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As it would turn out, 1937 would be a very busy year for Jo.

Her mother, the widowed and still very social Henrietta Hartford, would remarry three weeks after her own marriage to Barclay. Mrs. Hartford’s new husband was Prince Guido Pignatelli (1900-1967).

The wedding was much sensationalized in the press given the age difference and the groom’s very fresh Reno divorce from his first wife Constance Wilcox as seen in one of many clippings presented in Jo’s scrapbook (right).

With Barclay, Jo would again pursue a fashionable life in New York frequenting the city’s nightspots. Here (below) we see her at the Stork Club with Barclay and her brother Huntington.

Barclay felt it a bit obsessive but, at this interval, Jo gave free reign to her passion for horse breeding and racing and the couple could often be found in Saratoga or Belmont as seen in these clippings from 1938.

Also in 1938, Jo would receive her pilot’s license and we see (below, left) her first plane, a Stinson. Daughter Nuala’s debut was planned for Newport in 1942 and held at her grandmother Princess Pignatelli’s “Seaverge” as a tea dance because of the black-out restrictions imposed during WWII (below, right); this was followed by Nuala’s wartime wedding (bottom, left) on December 3, 1944 to Claiborne Pell at St. James’ Church on Madison Avenue followed by a reception at the rooftop of the St. Regis Hotel (bottom, right).

In 1945, Jo would purchase, with Barclay, her first Newport summer cottage “The Waves” (below, left) from the family of its builder John Russell Pope. Here we see Barclay on the ocean-side lawn of The Waves shortly after the couple took possession of the house (below, right), and the living room with a portrait of Jo and her children Nuala and Columbus (bottom).

Barclay and Jo would open The Waves the following year during 4th of July weekend on July 5, 1946 with a party they innovatively called “COME AS YOU WERE 20 YEARS AGO,” marking the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking of The Waves by Pope as his summer place.  It was one of the first sizeable private parties held in Newport since America entered the War in 1941.

The evening featured a full round of fireworks launched from a barge anchored offshore, and specialty lighting created by the local firm of Bestoso and Butterton. Jo retained the electrical plan in her scrapbook (below, left) together with photos showing the lighting’s effect on the architecture and plantings, including the estate’s romantic studio (below, right).  The Douglases invited over 350 people and Jo meticulously kept every detail of the planning together with professional photographs of the evening, including 15 typewritten pages of the guest list (bottom).

The acceptances were quick to arrive and Mrs. Douglas filed each acceptance and regret.  Here we see a page of acceptances on colored stationary (below, left) and telegrams received by Jo and Barclay (below, right). One of the most amusing regrets was a telegram from Harry Bull of Town & Country magazine stating, “Sorry Jo never had any adequate Newport clothes before 1926 and then lost them in the crash.  Many thanks, Harry Bull.”

Jo Jo Douglas arranged professional photography not just of the house and grounds, but (in a rare gesture for a private function of the period) included all of the attendees in action in their thematic costumes. Amongst these photos we spot the host and hostess, Mrs. Douglas, dressed as a flapper from the ’20s, and Mr. Douglas is in his prep school baseball uniform (below, left).  Elinor Dorrance Hill, also dressed as a flapper, is heading to the dance floor (below, right). Alletta Morris MacDonald, dressed as a schoolgirl, was there with her stepbrother John de Braganza (bottom, left), and beautiful CZ Guest was there as a young child chatting with Newport decorator Tom Hagerman (bottom, right).

The hostess is also seen greeting the unflappable Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III (Grace Wilson), known for upholding Gilded Age standards until her death in 1953, appearing as a Grande Dame of the ’20s, hardly distinguishable from her then self. As the sun rose, the party lingered on, as did its memory as one of the wittiest evenings of early post-war Newport.

Sadly Jo’s marriage to Barclay would not last. Jo’s final marriage was to a dashing Englishman John Felix Charles Bryce, known as “Ivar” (1906-1985) in 1950 (below, left). With Bryce she would spend the next 35 years of her life. Ivar Bryce was a well-known figure in international circles whose father had made a fortune trading guano.  Educated at Eton, he served as a British intelligence officer during WWII.  His cousin Janet Bryce married David Mountbatten, the 3rd Earl of Milford-Haven, a great-great grandson of Queen Victoria (below, right), and Ivar, who remained childless, was very close to his cousin and her children.

Once married, Jo and Ivar began passing time at his maternal family’s Elizabethan manor house, Moyns Park in Essex (below), not far from London. The house had passed out of the family and was reacquired and sympathetically restored by Jo Jo for Ivar. On her death, she would leave the estate to the Mountbatten nephews. The Bryces also maintained residences in New York, Vermont, Long Island, Newport, Acapulco, and at “Xanadu,” her villa on New Providence Island, Bahamas, not far from brother Huntington’s Paradise Island resort, developed from 1959 on.

Using Moyns Park as a primary base, during the 1950s the couple pursued life amongst the international jet set attending many of the legendary parties of post-War Europe including Le Bal Oriental held by Carlos de Bestigui at the Palazzo Labia, Venice in 1951 and the Marquis George de Cuevas Ball in 1953.

Palazzo Labia, view of the ballroom.

At the de Cuevas Ball, Jo and Ivar appeared together as a Sultan and Sultana (below, left)) in costumes designed by Valerian Rybar (below, right) and made by Nina Ricci. The 18th century-themed costume ball held at the Golf de Chiberta at Biarritz, for a purported 2000 guests, was legendary for its glamorous excess (bottom, left & right). Jo often accessorized at these balls with her legendary diamond ring, the 90-carat “Afghanistan,” so named as it belonged to the king of that country before she bought the diamond at Bulgari around 1950.

In search of quieter moments, the couple could retire to their 3000-acre “Black Hole Hollow Farm” on the New York/Vermont border not far from Saratoga.  It was a farm she had bought with Barclay Douglas but would use more frequently with Ivar. A regular visitor to Black Hole Hollow Farm and Moyns Park was Ivar’s childhood friend Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels.

Black Hole Hollow Farm.

Having grown to appreciate the tranquility of Vermont, Fleming would spend summers with the Bryces and penned parts of several of his novels there including Diamonds Are Forever.  As a tribute to his friend Ivar, John Felix Charles Bryce, Ian Fleming called the character of James Bond’s CIA friend “Felix” after Ivar’s middle name.  The fictional agent’s last name was borrowed from another of Ian Fleming and Jo Jo Bryce’s Newport friends Tommy Leiter, seen here at Jo-Jo’s 1946 COME AS YOU WERE 20 YEARS AGO party (below, left) and here are the many faces of “Felix Leiter” as portrayed in various Bond films (below, right).

Jo and Ivar with one of her beloved dogs.

Ivar died in 1985. Here we see Jo and Ivar with one of her beloved dogs shortly before that date (right). Interestingly, Jo’s mother, Henrietta Hartford Pignatelli, was among the founders of the Potter League, the Newport animal shelter, and Josephine and daughter Nuala would continue as life-long supporters.

Josephine Hartford O’Donnell Makaroff Douglas Bryce died on June 8, 1992, aged 88, at her final Manhattan residence, a townhouse at 161 East 74th Street, and was buried at Black Hole Hollow Farm in Vermont; her brother Huntington Hartford would follow 16 years later, both having lived larger-than-life existences.

Click here for Part I of ‘The Life and Times of Josephine Hartford.’

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