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Hjordis Genberg in 1945 and 1943Hej!

It’s been a relatively quiet two months on hjordisniven.com, but there have been a number of additions to the site.

There is one new page since our last post – a look at wartime Sweden focussing on how events and surroundings may have impacted on Hjördis. She claimed that even as child she was keen to travel, so to have been “almost hermetically sealed from the outside world” in Sweden must have been a cause of frustration. Indeed, as soon as the war was over, Hjördis and Carl-Gustaf Tersmeden were off to the Americas in double-quick time.

Back by popular demand

Hjordis Genberg,on the cover of Vart Hem magazine, Sweden. November 1943You’ll notice a very beautiful colourised photo within the wartime Sweden feature, scanned from the cover of Vårt Hem magazine. (Colourised photos usually look fairly terrible, but this one is a work of art).

Hjördis’ first Vårt Hem cover shot (and possibly the earliest from any magazine), shows her dressed in red. Again, beautifully coloured. It was published on the 21st November 1943.  Hjördis was name-checked inside, along with a small bio:

“This week’s cover: Hjördis Genberg is a mannequin and one of the most beautiful in the capital. She is 23 years old, and when she came to Stockholm it was to go to art school. However, her stunning appearance soon led to modelling.”

Hjordis Genberg,on the cover of Vart Hem magazine, Sweden. January 1944The readers’ positive reactions showed just how striking Hjördis’ image was for her Swedish audience, and also how her popularity was exploding.

She made a return appearance on the magazine’s 9th January 1944 cover, due to popular demand.

Her “stunning appearance” led to small decorative parts in Swedish movies. The clip below is of Hjördis as a roulette-table player in Monte Carlo (filmed by  necessity in Stockholm during 1943). The movie is ‘Sjätte Skottet’.

Hjördis’ brief scene in ‘Sjätte Skottet’. In later years she would become familiar with the interior of the real casino at Monte Carlo.

Colour coordination

The beautiful ice lady, 1960‘ page has had a few updates, including David letting rip about his dislike of shopping with Hjördis, while having strong opinions on what she should buy:

“I feel an ass in a woman’s shop. Anyway, once she goes in she’s there for the day. But I do help when she’s choosing what to put on some evenings. There aren’t any colours I particularly dislike. But I am a bit jumpy about blues. And I can’t bear the cliche of blue eyes worn with the obvious blue dress – as bad as redheads who wear green.”

Another updated page from 1960 is ‘Come up and see my etchings‘, where among other things, David gets rather agitated at the thought of women posing. (As if men don’t).

"X and Y " face cream advert , 1937“And I can’t stand the poseur who knows all her best angles – or those dreadful women who never dare smile because it gives them lines around the mouth. Woe betide those glassy-eyed creatures: I feel I want to stick a knife in them, if only to wreck that dreadful fixed look.” [Take a deep breath David… Relaaaxxx…]

Hjördis must have long since known her best angles, but everyone has to start somewhere. Perhaps the most interesting item to turn up recently is a newspaper advert from 1937 for ‘X and Y’ face cream. Sadly the picture quality is very poor, but it looks very much like 17-year-old Hjördis posing for her first modelling job.

Identification parade

Hjordis Genberg, 1945

A recently identified model shot of Hjordis from her modelling days at the Nordiska Kompaniet, 1945.

The Nordiska Museet fashion exhibition is still running in Stockholm, featuring photos of Hjördis in her modelling days. There are now over 90 identified photos of her in their online collection.

The museum are keen to identify other models from the 1940s and 1950s. Maybe you can help.

From Hjördis’ contemporaries, they have now been able to label photos of her friend and mentor Kim Andersson / Söderlund, and have built Swedish language Wiki pages for both Kim and Hjördis.

What’s new and what’s coming up

Hjordis Niven in the living room of the Nivens' chalet, 1994
Hjordis Niven in the living room of the Nivens’ chalet, 1994

There have been a lot of small but interesting additions to hjordisniven.com over the last two months, mostly involving life in England.

18th February 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of Primmie Niven’s birth. To mark it there is now a page devoted to her life, accompanied by a number of ‘new’ photos that do not appear in ‘The Moon’s a Balloon’ or David’s biographies. The most recent addition is a touching obituary written by one of her friends to The Times newspaper in July 1946:

“The death of ‘Prim’ Niven came as a great sorrow to her many friends, for she was one of the gentlest and sweetest of characters. She had a great sense of humour and rare capacity for enjoying life., but wherever she might be seen – in the hunting field, in the ballroom, in the WAAF during the war – she always had a sweet, rather shy smile in her blue eyes which seemed to be watching some vision that only she could see. It was, perhaps, her quiet thoughtfulness which gave that impression. She seemed so at peace with the world and everyone, appearing at the same time to be amused by it all. Her delicate beauty brought joy to all who knew her and wherever she went she radiated happiness.”

1948 David Niven wedding
David and Hjordis, 14th January 1948. Ever wondered why there are so many different photos of them leaving the registry office? This shot explains it. The happy couple are looking up at workmen on ladders who were shouting “Good old Bonnie Prince Charlie” at David.

.Another anniversary passed on 14th January 2018: the 70th anniversary of the marriage of David Niven and Hjördis Genberg-Tersmeden at South Kensington registry office. There is a gallery of Niven-related wedding photos (mostly for anyone curious to see who looked like who), including the remarkable shot above that shows just how intense the media interest was outside the long since demolished registry office.
…..
One of the more mysterious periods of the Nivens’ marriage is 1950-1951,when David decided to take up permanent residence in England (or so he said to the waiting press when he and Hjördis arrived in Southampton in March 1950). After a short time living in Randolph Churchill’s London residence, Hjördis was actually sent to stay in the countryside with Primmie’s parents before ending up at the newly purchased (or perhaps just rented?..) Wilcot Manor House. What was once one page  – Lady of the manor, 1950 – has now been expanded to two – There was always a chap with white gloves, 1950-1951.

Hjordis Genberg in '13 Stolar', 1945
Hjordis Genberg in ’13 Stolar’, 1945

Coming soon, still, is a look at wartime Sweden, and how it would have affected Hjordis’ life between 1939-1945. Which brings me on to Hjördis’ modelling years…

The Nordiska Museet in Stockholm opened a fashion exhibition on 10th November 2017, which features photos of Hjördis Genberg in digital installations. With the help of Hjördis’ niece Anette, we’ve been able to identify Hjördis in over 80 photos from her modelling days at NK. (These can be viewed at digitaltmuseum.se.)

The museum is keen to have other models identified from their photo collections. If you can help, please get in touch – there is a comment section under each photograph on their website.

Another valuable resource is the newly refurbished Swedish film database, available in both Swedish and English. All four of Hjördis’ small (as in very small) Swedish movie appearance are listed, along with promo shots, including a fascinating photo from ’13 Stolar’ – a movie which no longer exists in its complete form. The three models (as listed in the credits) are Hjördis Genberg, Margareta Berglund, and Marjo Bergman.