Susan Todd's Scented Screening Experience
Susan Todd, daughter of Scent of Mystery’s producer, Mike Todd Jr. and granddaughter of entrepreneur and producer Michael Todd, is featured in In Glorious Smell-O-Vision! I asked Susan about her experience of viewing the documentary, at a small scented screening for family and friends at Susan and Michael’s home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“I really enjoyed it. I loved your participation in telling the story of how you got interested in it and I loved actually learning my own family history which was exciting for me and for my daughter who saw it. From my point of view you did an amazingly good and fair representation of my family. With great respect I felt, in light of the movie my father made being a failure. You treated it respectfully and artistically and gave credit to everyone’s desire to make it, so that was very good.”
I asked Susan if she had learned anything new from watching the documentary.
“Well my father had never really told me that much about the other main person in the movie. The scent man, Hans. So that was all sort of news to me, especially since his daughter was telling the personal side of his life. And I didn’t know very much -apart from my father’s film- about all the different ideas of scent and cinema, so that was new to me.
I saw Holiday in Spain (re-versioned Scent of Mystery) at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. It was really beautiful, really beautiful. I would have to say that almost any movie you see in Cinerama is beautiful. It gave me a good feeling because I was only eighteen months or two years old when I was living there with my father and mother, living in Spain while he was making the film. It actually made me think Oh that’s why I’m attracted to X, Y and Z. My mother told me I only spoke Spanish, all ten words.”
Susan has what is probably the last remaining bottle of Elizabeth Taylor’s signature scent in the movie, the ‘Scent of Mystery’ perfume.
“Once in a while, sort of in that vein of trying to figure out who you are, or being proud or having shame, I look on the internet for things related to my father or grandfather and I found that bottle of perfume on eBay, a pretty long time ago- it had to be before 2002 because my father was still alive. And I asked him about it and he said “Oh yeah, we gave those bottles out at the premier in New York,” to certain people. I have to say I do not like that smell (laughs) but it seems to impress a few people.”
Susan’s daughter Hannah attended the film’s premier in NYC. This family and friends event was also attended by the daughter of the Godfather of Smell-O-Vision!, Carmen Laube.
“Well from my daughter’s point of view, she felt unknowingly that she was going to this event, representing the Todd family. So once she realised that, she told me she was really proud. And glad to meet Carmen. She knew NOTHING I think, and felt she really learnt a lot and was moved by Carmen, maybe traumatised by events that happened after her father failed, after the movie failed.”
I asked Susan if she sometimes felt it a burden to be part of a prominent Hollywood family?
“For me it was… I wouldn’t say it is anymore but it was confusing because it’s some place you would be in and you would think you’re ‘special’ but you don’t want to be that kind of special. And you don’t want to be different than other people but you do want to be different than other people. And so it all boils down to knowing your own self-worth and loving yourself. And so, the burden became a gift because I got to that realisation.
I am making a film which is crazy to think I would be doing that because I thought I would run in the opposite direction if anyone suggested I do that. But I feel like I have a funny and fun and very important story to tell. About learning your self-worth and loving yourself.
Oddly enough it started because in 2004 my husband and I bought a house and when Michael walked into the house, he found 346 pages of hand-written letters by (artist) Georgia O’Keeffe.
The film is about my relationship with this dead person, and how much I took on- and Michael did as well- being stewards of her words. To treat them with respect because we were wondering why she gave them to us. It took us many years to figure out why she gave them to us. That’s what the film is about. A lot of exciting fun stories and it’s an evolution of one person’s journey into loving themselves through getting those letters. And it will be magical realism because a lot of magic happened and it’s real.”
I asked Susan how she would like her father and grandfather to be remembered?
“I would like my father to be remembered as someone who was doing the best he could, in light of what he inherited. I think in addition to how he (Michael Todd Sr.) is remembered as being charismatic and ‘over the top’ -whatever that is- maybe people could add to that his contribution to evolution by behaving in a way you would not choose; you would not prefer (laughs).”
Is there anything else you want to say?
“I thank you Tammy, for your great care and your enthusiasm. You will and you already have affected people with your art and this film. “