MAZZEO, Tilar J.

As soon as the Nazis far too easily overtook Paris in 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered the Ritz Hotel to remain in its luxury mode, serving as headquarters for his highest-ranking officers, including Riechsmarshal Herman Goring while simultaneously attracting rich patrons and artists like Coco Chanel, Ingrid Bergman, Ernest Hemingway and Marcel Proust. Having penned the bestseller The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It and the Secret of Chanel No. 5, Tilar J. Mazzeo transplanted herself to Victoria where her husband lives, having received her permanent residency papers in January, 2014--just prior to hitting the promo circuit to hype her new book on the Ritz Hotel’s most ignominious years, The Hotel on Place Vendome (HarperCollins $33.99) Celebrities slept with fascists; Wehrmacht officers plotted to assassinate the Fuhrer. Lots of opulence and nasty, evil, ambitious people. 9780061791086

[BCBW 2014]

Publisher's Promo (2014)

The Ritz Hotel has always been an international symbol of luxury and glamour, home to film stars, celebrity writers, American heiresses, risqué flappers, playboys and princes. When France fell to the Nazi Occupation in 1940, the Hôtel Ritz was ordered to be the only luxury hotel of its kind in occupied Paris – half of it home to the highest-ranking German officers; the other half home to the rich and famous civilians (and the spies among them) who stayed on in Paris during the Nazi Period.

Sacha Guitry, the Playwright/screenwriter, Serge Lifar the lithe Russian ballet-star and the drug-addled Jean Cocteau and his handsome boyfriend could be found on any given night at Coco Chanel’s table in the Hôtel Ritz dining room.

The Rubenesque comic actress Beatrice Bretty and Georges Mandel’s mistress would be found sharing cocktails and good times with France’s most acclaimed film star known simply as ‘Arletty’.

Then there was the Lost Generation – F.Scott Fitzgerald, for whom the Hôtel Ritz bar was a favourite watering hole, and Ernest Hemingway who later, along with his rogue band of “irregulars”, liberated the Hotel Ritz and many bottles of vintage wine from its cellars in the last hours of the occupation.

As the war drew to an agonizing close in the Spring of 1944, these stories all came to a dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking conclusion. Those who had passed the war in opulence at the palace hotel were, at long last, coming to terms with the consequence of luxury and celebrity. And some entered last-minute crises of conscience that would lead them to confront the inhumanity of their own actions and inactions. The result is the story of The Ritz at War – a singular season at the world class hotel, an intimate portrait of the last days of the Second World War.