The captivating story of the famed Savoy Hotel’s founders, told through three generations—and one hundred years—of glamour and high society.
For the gondoliers-themed birthday dinner, the hotel obligingly flooded the courtyard to conjure the Grand Canal of Venice. Dinner was served on a silk-lined floating gondola, real swans were swimming in the water, and as a final flourish, a baby elephant borrowed from London Zoo pulled a five-foot high birthday cake.
In three generations, the D'Oyly Carte family and London's Savoy Hotel pioneered the idea of the luxury hotel and the modern theater, propelled Gilbert and Sullivan to lasting stardom, made Oscar Wilde a transatlantic celebrity, inspired a P. G. Wodehouse series, and popularized early jazz, electric lights, and Art Deco.
Following the history of the iconic Savoy Hotel through three generations of the D'Oyly Carte family, The Secret Life of the Savoy brings to life the extraordinary cultural legacy of the most famous hotel in the world.
Historian Williams (Gin Glorious Gin) delivers a rich and rewarding history of London's Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theatre. She spotlights three generations of the D'Oyly Carte family that built and ran the Savoy, beginning with theater impresario and talent agent Richard D'Oyly Carte, who financed the hotel project with profits earned from the Gilbert and Sullivan operas he staged at the theater next door. Opening in 1889, the Savoy Hotel "became a microcosm of the newly diverse local and international elite, who came to... see and be seen." Richard's son Rupert D'Oyly Carte introduced cabaret acts and the Savoy Havana Band after he took over in 1913, and made the Savoy the first British hotel to actively publicize itself in the U.S. Rupert's only daughter, Bridget, became president of the Savoy Hotel after her father's death in 1948, and with the help of chairman Hugh Wontner, fended off a series of "hostile takeovers." Williams drops plenty of names (Claude Monet painted the view from his hotel room; Bob Dylan was denied entry for not wearing a tie), folds in colorful anecdotes (one maid's sole job was picking beads from flappers' dresses off the dance floor), and incisively analyzes real estate deals and other business matters. The result is a delicious peek behind some rather luxurious curtains.