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Villa Air-Bel

the recent book
by Rosemary Sullivan

(HarperCollins, October 2006)


Crossroads Marseilles 1940
by Mary Jayne Gold

(Doubleday, 1980)
© Mary Jayne Gold, 1980, © Pierre Sauvage, 1998



Mary Jayne Gold (1909-1997) was a beautiful American heiress who spent a year in Marseille, France, in 1940-41, after France fell to the Nazis.  During that time, she was torn between her participation in the remarkable rescue mission run by New York intellectual Varian Fry, on the one hand—and her affair with a young French gangster, on the other.

It was Mary Jayne Gold and some friends who rented the villa which provides the title for a recent book, Villa Air-Bel—World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille  by Rosemary Sullivan.  Long sections of Villa Air-Bel  draw extensively and improperly (see sample below) on Mary Jayne Gold's own prior account of that tumultuous year in France, Crossroads Marseilles 1940, published by Doubleday in 1980 but long out-of-print and extremely hard to find.

Villa Air-Bel  unacceptably recounts not merely Gold’s participation in the rescue effort but also her own private life at that time, her youth, and the affair in Marseille that are at the heart of Mary Jayne Gold's memoir.  Approximately one fifth of the new book focuses on Mary Jayne Gold; nine of the sixty-two chapters in the book deal almost exclusively with Gold.  This material draws almost exclusively on Crossroads Marseilles 1940 and was available to Sullivan nowhere else. 

We hope that despite Sullivan's appropriation of much of Mary Jayne Gold's personal storyand her unfair and unflattering distortions of parts of ita new American publisher for the wonderful original book will be found. (An excerpt is presented here.)  The memoir was published in France in 2001 as Marseille Année 40, to considerable success.

Dr. Sullivana professor of English at a major university—sought no permission, written or otherwise, to use or reproduce parts of Crossroads Marseilles 1940.  (Some Internet resources on the issues of plagiarism, copyright infringement and fair use will be posted and updated  here.)

Pierre Sauvage was a friend of Mary Jayne Gold’s, and was willed the copyright to—and the responsibility for—Crossroads Marseilles 1940.  He can be reached for further information or materials at the Varian Fry Institute.

Excerpts from reviews of Villa Air-Bel, with some comments, are posted here.


Mary Jayne Gold

"Cr ossroads Marseille 1940" by Mary Jayne Gold

Mary Jayne Gold

Mary Jayne Gold in the '30s

Mary Jayne Gold's memoir of 1940-41

Mary Jayne Gold during production
of And Crown Thy Good

Relevant review posted by "milkweed beetle" on Amazon.com, Nov. 25, 2006

This book centers on Varian Fry's year in Marseille and is the third such biography to come out in the last decade or so. This author is a Canadian and previous Fry biographies were penned by a Brit (Andy Marino) and an American (Sheila Isenberg). Sullivan's work offers little new information on Varian Fry or on most of his colleagues. If you look at her bibliography you might get the impression that she has done a great amount of research. However, anyone familiar with the story will find echoes of previous works, and much that borrows from Marino's book, which is superior.

The core of her book is transforming four memoirs written by rescuers - Varian Fry, Lisa Fittko, Mary Jayne Gold, and Danny Benedite - from the first person to the third person voice. Her approach for doing this has two misleading results. First, she does not give enough credit to the memoirs of the humanitarians who wrote them (just footnotes at the back). Second, observations presented by the memoirists related to passing events and impressions, she introduces as facts, denying the reader the original context for the various events. Instead of organizing her material skillfully, she presents scores of chapters, making for a choppy narrative. Hopefully, this type of appropriation will not become the standard for "creative non-fiction."

Dr. Peter Charles Hoffer, Reflections on Plagiarism: "A Guide for the Perplexed"

"In all cases of suspected plagiarism, the single most effective method of detection is the meticulous, side-by-side comparison of texts. This parallel reading of source (original) text and target (new) text will not absolutely prove plagiarism except in the most egregious cases, but it can raise or allay the level of suspicion."

Examples of use of Crossroads Marseilles 1940

Villa Air-Bel, chapter My Black Heart
Villa Air-Bel,
chapter The Villa Bel-Air
Villa Air-Bel,
chapter Up in the Clouds
Villa Air-Bel,
chapter Killer

Examples of use of other sources

Villa Air-Bel, chapter Marseille II: August 1940
(based on Miriam Davenport Ebel, An Unsentimental Education )
Villa Air-Bel (miscellaneous)

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