Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Most Interesting Man in the World?

There was once a Dutchman named Robert Wolders. He was born in Rotterdam in September of 1936, to a man and a woman, although if you asked her, the woman did most of the work.

In 1965, Mr. Wolders became an actor, starred briefly in a TV show, but never achieved much success. By 1975, he decided to retire from acting and marry legendary Hollywood nutjob Merle Oberon.

Below are more than a few words about Merle Oberon, for your pleasure:

She was an exotic beauty born on the British side of Bombay to a British mechanical engineer working on the Indian Railways and her own (half) sister, Constance.

To hide this embarrassing bit of incestuous pedophilia, one of Merle's birth certificates listed her father's wife--a Eurasian from Ceylon with partial Maori heritage, who had Constance at age 14 with an Irish foreman of a tea plantation--as her mother and the story stuck.

Merle and her "mother" moved to England, where she dated a retired actor who passed her off to a studio in France when he realized her "mom" was dark-skinned and he was irretrievably racist. The "Sexy Extra All the Powerful Men Hit On at Craft Service" roles poured in and once famous director Alexander Korda got the hots and cast Merle as Ann Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), she was officially going places.

Alexander Korda, Merle Oberon, and Samuel "Thug" Goldwyn

Scarred for life in an automobile accident a mere four years later, skilled lighting technicians were at least able to hide Merle's disfigured face long enough for her to tear up the silver screen opposite Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights (1939).

By the following year, Merle's face "suffered even further damage...from a combination of cosmetic poisoning and an allergic reaction to sulfa drugs." Mr. Korda, now her husband, paid for several treatments at a skin clinic in Nueva York, but to no avail--without makeup she was hideous to behold.

So Mr. Korda decided to join the knighthood and make Merle a Lady, to give her something else to do with her time. Three years later, bored of being a Lady knight and day, Merle divorced her knight and married cinematographer Lucien Ballard, who then created a special light--the Obie--to obscure her facial scars on film.

That act of devotion fell short, however, and Merle married twice more--to Italian industrialist Bruno Pagliai (with whom she moved to Mexico and adopted two children) and the Most Interesting Man in the World, Mr. Robert Wolders--who is 25 years younger than her.

But only four years after Merle marries Robert Wolders, she dies at age 68.

What does the most interesting man in the world do when this happens? Why, he immediately becomes companion to Audrey Hepburn (7 years his senior), of course--ever the proper lady, she was waiting patiently for her turn on the Wolders, no doubt--and the two of them even hang out with the Reagmeister General:

Thirteen years later, in 1993, the honorable Audrey Hepburn dies on him, too, leaving Mr. Wolders all alone in frigid Switzerland. How does the most interesting man in the world cope with this tragedy?

He hops on a train to France, where he becomes the companion of another older woman, of course. Then-64-year-old screen legend Leslie Caron is a French dancer discovered by Gene Kelly in 1951 who went on to become a successful actress at MGM for decades and dance with every famous dancer whose name you have ever heard.

Alas, their torrid, Metamucil-tinged affair lasts only two years before the furnace goes kaput and Mr. Wolders moves on--for the first time?--without anybody dying.

Where does he go? Sadly, one can only speculate.

Here goes:

Immediately after french-kissing his goodbyes to dear Leslie, Mr. Wolders steals her 1964 Peugeot 404 convertible and drives all the way to Marseilles on the wrong side of the highway, chain-smoking a box of Cuban blunts given to him by Johnny Depp at his birthday party last year.

After six martinis and a few bottles of cheap cognac in the backroom of a rough-trade dockside saloon, Mr. Wolders gets himself into a card game and wakes up to find himself at-sea in a 45-foot sailboat named Skye.

Upon hearing several members of the crew refer to him as "Captain" (as in: "Captain, you have vomit in your beard."), Mr. Wolders commands his crew to pull into the nearest harbor for supplies and a bit of barbering.

 Ah, Portofino...

After a killer haircut and the trading of most of their food, medical supplies, and lifeboats for several dozen barrels of rum, six pounds of beef jerky, a prostitute, and two fishing poles, Mr. Wolders and his crew are able to outrun a couple police officers and set sail for anywhere else.

The crew becomes family as they drift around the Mediterranean with Mr. Wolders for the next 15+ years, mastering kung-fu, running guns for the Russians, trying to get invited to parties along the Riviera, counterfeiting their own Cuban cigars, making their own sushi, experimenting with mind-altering drugs...and subsisting solely on the bounty of nature, the naivete of strangers, and the small fortune Mr. Wolders inherited from his two famous dead lovers.

The crew was not terribly pleased to have their berths converted to rum storage,
but they eventually got over it and embraced the good life.

When his love of the finer things in life--coupled with his innate distaste for labor of any kind--catches up with him, Mr. Wolders sees no other choice but to adopt a fake Mexican accent and resume acting under an assumed identity in commercials for Dos Equis.

It's the closest he can get to not working while still getting paid, so that's alright with him.

Yes, at 74 years of age and still kicking, life has been good to Robert Wolders. I wonder if the next 74 will be so kind?



1 comment:

Michael O'Sullivan said...

Yes I often wondered about the talented Mr Wolders. Perhaps he should have played the Richard Burton part in Losey's BOOM - as the angel of death to rich older ladies. Didn't know that he and Caron had separated though. Presumably she is still at work in her French hotel?