Monday, May 5, 2008

Sidney (for Sydney) and vice versa

A reader wrote to tell me about the typo Sidney for Sydney, Australia, which is a hard one to pin down. Sidney + Australia brings up 71 records in OhioLINK, but only a handful include this typo. A more productive approach is to search on Sidney + Sydney, which gets 127 hits, the majority of which seem to involve misspellings of personal names. Sylvia Sidney, born August 8, 1910, was that rare seeming anomaly, a retiring Leo (who took up film acting in order to overcome shyness), along with being a lifelong smoker who was also the stepdaughter of a dentist. She was married three times, often quite briefly; her husbands included the "Famous Writers School" instructor Bennett Cerf and the famous acting coach Luther Adler. When she wasn't playing the demure Madame Butterfly, she flocked to grittier roles, such as the female lead in Fury, Fritz Lang's first American film. Like those of us here at TotDfL, Sidney seemed to enjoy taking the wrinkles out of messy situations. She says, "I'd be the girl of the gangster ... then the sister who was bringing up the gangster ... then the mother of the gangster ... and they always had me ironing somebody's shirt." (Picture of Sylvia Sidney, who managed to keep her own Y's and I's straight, along with her many dramatic roles, courtesy of a lovely blog called Allure. And check out her contemporary, Sidney Fox, while you're in there. Silky and sylphlike in flapper attire and cloche. Note to today's fashionistas: Women have never looked so fetching.)

Carol Reid

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