In April 1950, Louis, his wife Ettie and their good friend Solly White (whose daughter Zara had married Louis’s brother Geoff seven years earlier) visited the US. They sailed from Southampton to New York on the RMS Caronia.
They are listed on the ship’s manifest as first class passengers who boarded the Caronia at Southampton on 25th April, 1950, for a “Westbound transatlantic crossing.”
As Louis’s journal (on this site) relates in greater detail, they were met in New York by Louis’s first cousin, Lou M. Elliman of Detroit ( a son of Maurice’s brother Jacob), Maurice Myron of Universal Pictures and Jerry Dale of the Rank Office. Their arrival was also noted by The Billboard of May 6, where Louis shared column space with, among others, Frank Sinatra. But… “gander” talent??
The three stayed at the Hotel Pierre and visited as many cinemas, theatres and music halls as they possibly could. They also explored the city, particularly the Lower East Side, were Jewish immigrants had first settled and which as the first home of future stars such as George Jessel, Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker and Al Jolson.
From New York, they crossed the North American continent by rail to Los Angeles, where they were entertained by the feared gossip columnist Louella Parsons and the Hollywood movie colony chaplain, Father Tom English.
With plans to meet up with Ettie again in LA, Louis and Sol went on to Australia, with stops at San Francisco, Honolulu and Canton Island. Disembarking briefly at Canton, they were ushered into the Pan American refreshment room, where the first thing they saw was a giant poster. In its centre, printed in green and larger than life, was an image of the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. In one corner of the poster was an Irish cottage, in a second a shamrock, in a third a harp and in the fourth Blarney Castle.
And all this, noted Louis and Sol, from a man who had not set foot in Ireland for more than 50 years!
The welcome in Australia from Sol’s relatives and members of theatre and cinema industries was lavish. Then it was back to LA, where Louella escorted the Irish visitors to lunches, dinners and parties with the glittering stars of the day.
They toured Hollywood’s film studies, meeting Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner and Howard Hughes.
They lunched at the home of MGM executive Bill Goetz, an enthusiastic racehorse owner and breeder. They met with Robert Siodmak, who later came to Ireland to produce films at Ardmore Studios, and Louis renewed his acquaintance with Joe Skirball, former manager of foreign sales for First National Pictures. He had come to Dublin in 1925 when the Ellimans bought the franchise for Irish distribution and held it until the advent of sound films.
The departure of Louis, Sol and Ettie from LA was marked by a farewell party at Louella’s home, to which everyone who was anyone in Hollywood was invited — and attended, an invitation from Louella being a command performance.
It was not only a dizzingly enjoyable trip, but also ne that resulted in the engagement of American stars at the Theatre Royal and, with this, a general upgrading of the level of Irish entertainment.