This World War II Starlet Can’t Stop Dancing
Because movement is life.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Marie Dionyse Masselink
My granddaughters call me their “freaky, creepy, weirdo” grandma because I love dance, calypso. I grew up in Trinidad, was born in Port-au-Spain. Not just calypso, though, also Tahitian hula, tango, anything. I mean, I started taking ballet when I was 37. I was in class with 7-year-olds. I went from beginner to intermediate to advanced. I did a lot of TV and film in old Hollywood. I’m 86 now, the oldest of six. My five brothers are all still alive, and they would still be putting cockroaches in my shoes if they lived closer.
I was working at the Pasadena Playhouse while dancing all over Los Angeles when I was 17. The Little Club, places in Beverly Hills. Before then, my father had wanted his children to get an English education, and as he felt like the war was winding down, he moved us to England in 1944. Just in time to get us caught up in the German bombing of England. Seeing planes with swastikas on them as we ran for the tube station is something I remember like it was yesterday. So my father made a mistake there, even if I was getting to perform at the Old Vic. But we stayed until after the war, then headed back to Trinidad. In Trinidad I was doing radio and fell in love. My parents shipped me off to Los Angeles so I wouldn’t get married.
LA was great. I was in movies with Jean Simmons, who cursed like a sailor. I was on a TV show, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, which was a Western, before your time. I worked with Judi Dench, who you know, of course. I danced more than I acted, though, because by Hollywood standards I was cute. I was, maybe, adorable, but I was not beautiful. As long as I could dance, though, I was happy.
My third husband — Ben Masselink, you should look him up, he was quite a good writer — and I were together for 30 years before he died. Now I’m about to walk over to my grandchildren’s school to do traffic duty. I take care of my daughter’s three children, my grandchildren, when I am not doing that. And now tango. I am having a wonderful day and feel lucky to be having it.