In the late thirties, just before the storm clouds of World War Two began to brew, Britain was at peace and no Saturday night was complete without a trip to the local cinema. One of the nation's favourite actresses went by the name of Beatrice de Havilland, who was famed for her gold plated make up brushes. De Havilland's make up artist was called Alice Waters back in those glory days, and she had a terrible secret to tell.
The story of de Havilland's make up brushes is one shrouded in mystery, as no one knows for sure why she loved these articles so very much. But before she performed any of her scenes, she insisted she was made up with these beautiful brushes. In famous films such as The Lady of Hamberly House (1937), and The Road to Blanfield (1938) she had these make up brushes with her - and Alice had the pleasure of doing her make up on these films. But in Tea with Marmeduke (1938) a dramatic incident occured, and the film was never completed.
In her nineties Alice felt compelled to tell the truth about what happened to Beatrice. It happened while filming the final scenes of Marmeduke, in which Marmeduke tells de Havilland's character that he is in fact her cousin - which an emotional scene indeed, considering their romantic involvement. Alice was doing Miss de Havilland's hair, when she asked to have her make up touched up again with her prized make up brushes. Alice said she couldn't find them - any of the set, which had been kept in a smart leather case.
De Havilland was distraught that her make up brushes couldn't be located, and got Alice to search high and low for them. She was so upset that she couldn't do her final scenes and the director (Gertrude Bottomley) sent her home to relax. It turned out that de Havilland was a lot more distressed than first thought, as she didn't turn up for filming the next day.
With Marmeduke on hold because of the absent leading lady, Bottomley became quite concerned. He couldn't believe that the gold plated make up brushes could upset her so much! Bottomley came to me and asked why she should get so teary about them. Alice said that Errol Baxford-Kent had given them to her after a romantic entanglement while filming The Lady of Hamberly House. She had been besotted with Baxford Kent and she had treasured those make up brushes ever since they parted company.
Alice told Bottomley the whole story - as de Havilland had confided in me through several productions including Hamberly House itself. Alice was with Bottomley, explaining, when a detective arrived with a grim look on his face. It turns out that de Havilland had been found floating in the Thames, having been spotted by a coal barge. It looked like suicide. Everyone was shocked to the core, as was Bottomley.
Alice simply couldn't believe she would do something like this - those make up brushes certainly meant a lot to her. For years the whole episode haunted Alice. De Havilland really loved Baxford-Kent, and those make-up brushes were a token of that important time for her. But there was one thing Alice never told Bottomley back in the winter of 1938; she had in fact stolen de Havilland's make up brushes.