The French Riviera during the 1930s was a time of impossible glamour and gossip. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Pablo Picasso, Marlene Dietrich and Coco Chanel all partied, gambled and conducted countless illicit love affairs there.
And then there was Enid Furness — the third wife of the Baron Marmaduke Furness — and the Riviera’s most beautiful, enigmatic and seductive resident.
“She was 6 feet tall, platinum blonde and had a cheetah that went with her everywhere,” author Anne De Courcy told The Post. “People gasped when she entered the casino and would stop gambling to look at her in her white lace dress.”
Furness is just one of the characters in De Courcy’s latest book, “Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence and Survival in Peace and War,” (St. Martin’s Press), out now. Yet unlike many of her peers, Lady Enid didn’t sit back helplessly while Germany invaded France — let alone collaborate with the Nazis, like her one-time friend Chanel.
Instead, she gave away her rations, hid Allied soldiers and helped dozens of prisoners escape France.
“She was very brave, very tough,” said De Courcy. “She was a genuinely good person.”
Enid Furness — née Lindeman — was born in Australia in 1892 to a rich winemaking family. The green-eyed, statuesque beauty had already led quite an eventful life before she met the baron. She had been widowed twice, given birth to three children and drove an ambulance in France during the First World War.
She also had seduced virtually every man who crossed her path.
As a young widow in Paris (her first husband died of cancer a year after their marriage), she reportedly drove five lovesick men to commit suicide. Later, she allegedly slept with every officer in her husband’s battalion in Cairo — on a dare.
At 41, she married Baron Furness. The baron showered Enid with expensive gifts and an expansive villa in the Riviera, but he was also a jealous alcoholic, and hired detectives to follow his new bride.
Not that his efforts stopped Enid from sleeping around.
Every morning, her lady’s maids sprayed her silk sheets and négligées with Joi, “the most expensive scent in the world — just in case someone were to get lucky that day,” De Courcy said.
“I think the bedroom was probably her natural habitat.”
The Riviera was slow to catch on to the threat of the Nazis and the war. So when France signed an armistice with Germany in June 1940, many rich expats were still living along the Cote d’Azur.
The British government asked all English to evacuate the Riviera, but Baron Furness — old and sick — refused to get on the “f–king cargo boat.” Enid stayed by his side.
Unbeknownst to her husband, she and her teenage daughter Pat began visiting a detention camp in nearby Èze. Enid gave away her already-meager rations to ailing prisoners and eventually — especially once the baron died in October, of cirrhosis of the liver — helped them escape, sheltering them in the family’s villa before moving them to another safe house.
“Their villa was quite far away from anybody, and the Gestapo didn’t suspect two women, particularly a mother and her 14-year-old daughter,” said De Courcy.
There were a few close calls, however, such as the time the Vichy police knocked on the door and searched the house during one prisoner’s stay. (The two women dressed him up as a maid to fool the authorities.)
Finally, Enid — nearly starving, and increasingly drawing suspicion — decided that she and Pat better try to make their way back to England. She took what cash she had, hid it in her daughter’s meticulously curled updo, and the pair headed, on foot, to Spain. She eventually got to England via airship from Lisbon thanks to her connections with the British government.
After the war, Lady Enid got married a fourth time. When her new husband died just eight months after their wedding, tongues wagged. Branded a “murderess,” and embroiled in a scandal involving her heroin use, she eventually settled in South Africa, quietly raising horses before dying, at 81, in 1973.
“Chanel’s Riviera,” however, proves that she not only lived a wild life, but a valiant one, too.
“She was always a kind person, helping ex-servicemen find jobs, giving away her money and she had absolutely no fear,” said De Courcy. “She was very different, in that regard.”
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