Hjördis post, August 2022

Hjördis Genberg on the cover of VeckoRevyn, 11th May 1945.

Hello everyone. What about this for a spectacular magazine cover? It’s from Sweden’s Vecko Revyn (Weekly Review), 11th May 1945, three days after the end of the Second World War in Europe. And it looks like the colour green was still in short supply.

The feature inside was really an advertorial in disguise, announcing a new DC-3 Dakota service from Stockholm to Sundsvall. Hjördis was also pictured onboard, thumbing through ABA’s inflight booklet (“Fine wines of Estonia”, “Salt, an epicure’s delight” etc). Whether she used the service in real life isn’t known!

The cover has been added to the Hjördis magazine-cover gallery.

Hjördis Tersmeden modelling US fashoins. brought home to Sweden in April 1946

How to condemn thousands of women to eternal hopelessness

In 1964, Hjördis Niven related her first meeting with David Niven for UK’s Woman magazine, little expecting that 60 years later someone (hello there) would be checking the accuracy of her claims. Just for interest’s sake of course.

“David has a wonderful way of making every woman he talks to feel important and attractive. I explained that I had both designed and modelled clothes for a Swedish fashion house and also ran my own fashion page in a woman’s weekly magazine.”

Well, she did model clothes for Swedish fashion house NK Franska, very successfully. As for running her own fashion page… well, it happened once for sure, though she didn’t seem completely invested.

Newspaper teasers for the December 1945 issue of Sweden’s Vi Damer (Us ladies) magazine proclaimed: “Hjördis Genberg, Stockholm’s star mannequin no.1 teaches you the art of wearing clothes.”

The actual magazine feature looks like a one-off. Hjördis was already packing her bags to travel to the US by the time it was published. The Vi Damer staff-writer initially had trouble getting enough material to fill a paragraph, never mind an article:

“At first, Miss Genberg tried to get away with the uncomfortable explanation that the art of wearing clothes is innate. However, as that would condemn thousands of women to eternal hopelessness [a bit dramatic], she thought about it again.”

“The art of wearing clothes is the same as the art of choosing the correct clothes, we agreed. A sportswoman in ruffles is almost an abomination of nature.” etc. (The only ladies’ sport ruffles I can think of are tennis players’ frilly knickers in the 1970s)

Anyway…. where was I…. The Swedish press were still interested in Hjördis’ fashion sense on her return from the US. Her new American wardrobe contents were described and beautifully illustrated for Vårt Hem magazine: Hjördis Tersmeden : Fashion from America, 1946

The Genberg Family

Hjördis Niven with her siblings, March 1950

In June 1947, newly-divoreed Hjördis Tersmeden left Sweden for New York to start a new life as a model, actress, and (she hoped) as Countess Cassini. She finally returned home in March 1950 as Mrs Hjördis Niven, a step-mother but not a model or an actress. Four of her five siblings gathered to meet her in Stockholm. For the full story, check out the Rocket to the stars page.

Surrounding Hjördis in the photo, from left to right: sisters Gerd Genberg, living at the time in Gothenburg, Ann-Marie Wrambeck from Enskede, Kerstin Rozén from Stockholm, and their brother Georg Genberg from Enskede… (father of the twins Gudrun and Maj-lis Genberg).

In her childhood memories, Hjördis remembered: “My siblings were remarkably beautiful, especially my brother, and the sister who was closest to me in age (Ann-Marie). She had long, thick, dark brown hair, that I was always violently jealous of, and was never as painfully thin as me.”

David and Hjördis Niven on the cover of VeckoRevyn magazine. Sweden, 9th December 1949.

Glacier or volcano

Speaking to an Icelandic newspaper in 1964 Hjördis recalled her lightning courtship and marriage to David Niven. “I had a husband and two sons in a few weeks. I had to move to a new country, and get used to new customs. I did not know what I was getting myself into.”

“Neither did I!” David shot back.

Perhaps inspired by the local geography, he continued:

“I thought my wife was cool as a glacier, and then suddenly she erupted like a volcano. I was so overwhelmed that I went down to the basement, locked myself in and cursed.” (The spark was the placement of a chair in the living room…)

“Yes, the poor thing,” Hjördis replied, laughing. “He was there half the day.”

A big thank you to Iceland’s newspaper archive for this and other snippets. It’s free, and it’s superb!

Art review

Hjördis Niven confronted by one of her old paintings, 1950

When Hjördis visited her sister Kerstin Rozén in 1950, she was mock-horrified to find one of her old paintings on display.

Her reaction? “But damn it Kerstin, why on earth do you have that horrible old thing on the wall?”

The subject matter seems obvious enough… Behind the smile, modelling can be tiring. Other interpretations welcome.

Pornographic book review

Hjordis and David Niven, 1952

(Thought you might read this section…)

In 1952. London publisher Hamish Hamilton was interested in a first English-language version of popular Swedish novel ‘Dreams of Roses and Fire’ by Fyvind Johnson. Hjördis was paid the equivalent of £60 to read and review it.

Her reaction was positive, but helped ensure that the book wasn’t published in the English-speaking world until 1984. (Way to go Hjördis).

“Oh yes. it’s a good book, and terribly pornographic, so I think you should publish it.”

Before you think Hjördis blew an opportunity to make the unexpurgated publication of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ a decade later a historical irrelevance; ‘Dreams of Roses and Fire’ was actually about a 17th century French priest who gets burnt at the stake after being accused of witchcraft. Admittedly his accuser was jealous that the padre was popular with the ladies, but, well, it depends on what you consider pornographic. That said, Hjördis had an under-appreciated sense of humour.

……

That’s all for now. Please check for site-updates on hjordisniven.com. The story is semi-regularly updated, and filled with more images when possible.

Very best wishes.

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