Connie Wald, Who Loved Having Hollywood Over for Dinner, Dies at 96
The longtime Beverly Hills resident, the widow of producer Jerry Wald, hosted unpretentious dinner parties for decades. Joan Crawford, Jimmy Stewart, the Reagans and best friend Audrey Hepburn were frequent guests.
Connie Wald, the elegant Beverly Hills hostess who served simple dinner fare like roast chicken and bread pudding to the legends of Hollywood for more than a half-century, has died, The New York Times reported Saturday. She was 96.
Wald died Nov. 10 at her home in North Beverly Drive, where she lived for 70 years, her son Andrew told the newspaper.
Wald was the widow of Jerry Wald, who earned Oscar nominations for producing the popular melodramas Peyton Place (1957) and Sons and Lovers (1960) as well as such classics as Mildred Pierce (1945), Humoresque (1946), Key Largo (1948) and An Affair to Remember (1957). A winner of the the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1949, he also produced the Academy Award ceremonies in 1957 and 1958.
Her husband, who also wrote screenplays for the Humphrey Bogart dramas The Roaring Twenties (1939) and They Drive by Night (1940), died of a heart attack at age 50 in 1962.
A native of Parkersburg, W.Va., Connie Wald moved to New York and became a model for famed "ready-to-wear" American designer Claire McCardell, then followed her parents to California in the 1930s. She married Jerry Wald on Christmas Day 1941.
With her husband's career flourishing at Warner Bros., the couple began hosting cozy Saturday night dinner parties for the likes of Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Errol Flynn, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Ronald Reagan, Gregory Peck and their spouses. Rosalind Russell and Billy Wilder had homes just up the street, and Gene Kelly lived around the corner.
"Our dinners were more low-key," she told the Times in February. "I loved to cook, but simple things: bread pudding, custards, good chicken things." Chocolate roll was a specialty. After dinner, the Walds would "run a picture, sometimes two in a row," she said.
Audrey Hepburn would become Connie's best friend, and the actress stayed with her in late October 1992 just days before being operated on at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for colon cancer. Hepburn died 10 weeks later.
“Hollywood was a sleepy little town, and it was wonderful,” Wald told the Times of her early days in California. "We never locked a door. We’ve been here, in this house [designed by architect Gerard Colcord] for 70 years and found it in a funny way.
"Loretta Young used to buy houses and her mother would decorate them. We all adored her mother. We were out looking at some houses of hers and walking up and down the streets and there was a sign outside this one. An elderly couple lived here. It was wartime and they decided to move because they were convinced the Japanese were going to invade Beverly Hills."
“She had a very sunny disposition,” John Goldwyn, the Hollywood producer and grandson of studio mogul Samuel Goldwyn, told the Times. “She drew people to her, and then she figured out how to get you to talk about the thing that would be interesting to everybody. She was a very interesting woman without making herself the center -- except she was absolutely the center.”
In addition to Andrew, survivors include another son, Robert, and two granddaughters.