A Dangerous Woman is Susan Ronald's revealing biography of Florence Gould, fabulously wealthy socialite and patron of the arts, who hid a dark past as a Nazi collaborator in 1940’s Paris.
Born in turn-of-the-century San Francisco to French parents, Florence moved to Paris at the age of eleven. Believing that only money brought respectability and happiness, she became the third wife of Frank Jay Gould, son of the railway millionaire Jay Gould. She guided Frank’s millions into hotels and casinos, creating a luxury hotel and casino empire. She entertained Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Kennedy, and many Hollywood starslike Charlie Chaplin, who became her lover. While the party ended for most Americans after the Crash of 1929, Frank and Florence stayed on, fearing retribution by the IRS. During the Occupation, Florence took several German lovers and hosted a controversial Nazi salon. As the Allies closed in, the unscrupulous Florence became embroiled in a notorious money laundering operation for Hermann Göring’s Aerobank.
Yet after the war, not only did she avoid prosecution, but her vast fortune bought her respectability as a significant contributor to the Metropolitan Museum and New York University, among many others. It also earned her friends like Estée Lauder who obligingly looked the other way. A seductive and utterly amoral woman who loved to say “money doesn’t care who owns it,” Florence’s life proved a strong argument that perhaps money can buy happiness after all.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Born and raised in the United States, SUSAN RONALD has lived in England for more than twenty-five years. She is the author of several books, including A Dangerous Woman, Hitler's Art Thief, Heretic Queen, The Pirate Queen, and Shakespeare’s Daughter.
Table of Contents
Part I The Aspiring Chanteuse
1 San Francisco 3
2 From Fire to Flood and Death 14
3 La Parisienne 27
4 War and the Boy Next Door 37
5 Young Mrs. Heynemann 50
6 Home Again, War, and Folies 58
7 The Man They Call "Franck" 68
Part II The Crazy Years
8 Taming All Those Monsters 87
9 Leaving the Perfumed Air of Bohemia 100
10 Careless People 106
11 An Amusing Intermezzo for Millionaires 118
12 Taking Stock 130
13 The Monégasque Feud Fit for a Prince 140
14 Hollywood Calling 152
15 The Phoenix Rises 159
16 Scandal, America, and Separate Lives 168
17 Dark Horizons 178
Part III Darkness Falls
18 Fifth Columnists and Fellow Travelers 191
19 Fall of France 202
20 Ludwig 213
21 The "Anything Goes" Occupation 219
22 In the Garden of Earthly Delights 230
23 The Occupation, 1942-1943 238
24 Florence the Banker 248
25 Liberation and Treason 261
Part IV Still A Gould
26 No Safe Havens 279
27 Paper Clips and Friends Cast Long Shadows 284
28 A Fortune to Give Away 296
29 Queen of the Riviera 307
Author's Note and Acknowledgments 320
Cast of Characters 323
Selected Bibliography 361
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Boring and will not finish the book. Just an outdated gossip column that never ends. It is great if you need to sleep well. This book was a waste of money. I would not recommend this bore to anyone.
"Florence understood instinctively that beauty, as well as money, was power; and she had both in abundance." Florence Gould was an intelligent, conniving, self-centered, savvy business woman, but most of all she was a survivor. She survived the San Francisco earthquake and fire as a child, a major flood in France, World War I and World War II. Her survival skills came into play again with her questionable connections with top officials of The Third Reich which was a contention with FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, after the war. Hoover tried everything to get her convicted for aiding and abetting the enemy to no avail. She was definitely a force to be reckoned with. Her open marriage to a very wealthy and shrewd American multimillionaire, Frank Gould, gave her the opportunities she needed to become an independent wealthy woman in her own right by investing in real estate and art, though obtained under dubious conditions. It's known that many of her art purchases were bought from collections taken by the Nazis from French Jews. Though rumors said she was an anti-Semite, Ronald supposes that Florence didn't care one way or another. She preferred to have fun rather than worry about "political rumblings", and being the self-serving woman she was, she chose to help both sides when it suited her. She was equally loved and hated, but she was only interested in power, sexuality, luxury and excess. With an ego that was larger than life she succeeded in becoming the wealthy, famous and notorious socialite she always wanted to be no matter who or what she had to do to get there. "She was selfish, egotistical, generous, gorgeous, promiscuous, quick-tongued, and quick-witted. She was never dull, never boring... Above all, she moved with the times and, given the dangerous sweeps of history in which she lived at the height of society, she became—perhaps, despite herself—a dangerous woman." In her final years, she was very charitable in giving her time, and money to good causes though instead of creating a foundation in her husband's name her ego got the better of her and she created one in her own instead. Ronald notes that "Florence’s estate on her death was estimated to be worth some $123.8 million, or around $300 million in 2016." Ms. Ronald does a superb job in her research as seen by her copious notes and extensive bibliography even though The Florence Gould Foundation would not give her access to their archives and made it known that they did not wish to have her book published. I especially enjoyed hearing about the many famous people Florence hobnobbed with--and there were many--including Coco Chanel, Maurice Chevalier, Charlie Chaplin, Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, and daughter of Isaac Merritt Singer, inventor of the sewing machine, Ernst Jünger, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso. Though the book is about Florence Gould, a very unlikable woman, it is filled with fascinating historical places and figures. If you like autobiographies filled with French history during World War I and World War II, you will enjoy this book.
The title says it all: American beauty, noted philanthropist, Nazi collaborator. This is a compelling, well written tale of a vain, money-grasping woman, who constantly re-invented herself to suit the moment. Author Susan Ronald does well with the material at hand to unpick the intricately woven pieces of Florence's life as there is still much documentation that is kept under lock and key, and thus inaccessible to the author. Susan Ronald describes this elusive woman as one who "craved significance", had an insatiable "lust for phenomenal wealth", and a seemingly bottomless desire "be be loved". Ronald says that these three elements were "the driving forces behind who she was and what she did". Indeed, much of Florence's earlier life was devoted to being the centre of attention, and acquiring wealth, through means honourable and not so honourable. It was finally with her marriage to millionaire Frank Gould that the couple were able to build their "entertainment empire" on the French Riviera and in Monaco, and give to Florence what she craved most - wealth. And it was through a steady stream on influential lovers during the German occupation of France that Florence was able to maintain her position; she carried on as if the 'war and occupation were inconveniences to be overcome". Her unparalleled freedom to move throughout France during the occupation that was to later give rise to rumour, scandal, and charges of collaboration and treason. Much post-WWII scandal had no affect on her later philanthropic activities as a major donor to the Metropolitan Museum. As one reviewer noted, maybe money can buy happiness. ~~~ Melisende