One form of escape from her often unhappy reality was the movies. Eva grew up idolizing Norma Shearer – a very funny lady, who often played saintly society matrons and queens. (Fun side note: Bette Davis once said that she often played bitches in movies because she was very pleasant in real life, while the opposite was true of Norma Shearer.) Here’s a picture of Norma from one of her most famous roles as Marie Antoinette:
Did Eva draw any conclusions about how a woman in power looks and behaves from this picture? I’ll leave you to make up your own mind. But I will say that, later in life, Eva looked great in Dior.
As a child, though, she just loved acting. In her autobiography, The Reason For My Life, Eva wrote:
“Even as a little girl I wanted to recite. It was as though I wished to say something to others, something important which I felt in my deepest heart.”
Eva’s first performance was in a school play called Students Arise, which biographer John Barnes described as “an emotional, patriotic, flag-waving melodrama” in Evita, First Lady: A Biography of Eva PerĂłn.Â She didn’t even have a very big role in this school play; it was a really minor flag-waving role. Usually it’s the person who plays Dorothy in the high school production of The Wizard of Oz who decides she is going to be a famous actress, not the person who plays Munchkin #2.
But Eva had an exceptional amount of self-confidence. In The Reason For My Life, she wrote:
“Like the birds, I’ve always preferred the freedom of the forest. I haven’t even been able to tolerate that minimum loss of freedom which comes from living with your parents or in yourÂ hometown.Â Very early in life I left my home and my hometown and since then I’ve always lived free. I’ve wanted to be on my own and I have been on my own.”