About Ganna McCormick (Walska)
Ganna Walska born Hanna Puacz (1887 – 2 March 1984 in Brest-Litovsk) was a Polish opera singer and garden enthusiast who created Lotusland, and died in Montecito. She was married six times to a series of wealthy husbands. Her landscape design talent is well regarded for distinctive gardens of exceptional creativity.
Her husbands included:
Russian baron Arcadie d'Eingorn, a Russian officer, divorced him for drunkenness 1915
Dr Joseph Fraenkel, a famed New York endocrinologist, died 1920,
Multimillionaire sportsman and carpet tycoon Alexander Smith Cochran, married 1920, divorced 1922
Industrialist Harold Fowler McCormick, married in 1922, divorced 1931
English inventor of a death ray, Harry Grindell Matthews, died 1941
Theos Bernard, her sixth and last husband, a scholar of yoga and Tibetan Buddhism (and book-author), married 1942, divorced 1946
Walska pursued a career as an opera singer. Her memoirs were called Always Room at the Top. Orson Welles claimed that McCormick's lavish promotion of Walska's opera career—despite her apparent renown as a terrible singer—was a direct influence on the screenplay for Citizen Kane, wherein the titular character does much the same for his second wife, Susan Alexander.
Roger Ebert, in his DVD commentary on Citizen Kane, suggests that the talentless character of Alexander was based on Walska. McCormick spent thousands of dollars on voice lessons for her and even arranged for Walska to take the lead in a production of Zaza by Ruggero Leoncavallo at the Chicago Opera in 1920. Reportedly, Walska got into an argument with director Pietro Cimini during dress rehearsal and stormed out of the production before she appeared. Contemporaries said Walska had a terrible voice, pleasing only to McCormick.
In 1941, with the encouragement of Bernard, she purchased the historic 37-acre (0.15 km2) 'Cuesta Linda' estate in Montecito near Santa Barbara, California, intending to use it as a retreat for Tibetan monks. Because of restrictions on wartime visas, the monks were unable to come to the United States. After her divorce from Bernard in 1946, Walska changed the name of her estate to "Lotusland" (after a famous flower held sacred in Indian and Tibetan religions, the lotus, Nelumbo nucifera) and the lotus growing in several of her garden's ponds. She devoted the rest of her life to designing, redesigning, expanding, and maintaining the estate's renowned innovative and extensive gardens. Her landscape design talent is well regarded for distinctive gardens of exceptional creativity.
Ganna Walska died March 2, 1984 at Lotusland, leaving her garden and her fortune to the Ganna Walska Lotusland Foundation.
Purchase of the Duchess of Marlborough Faberge egg at a charity auction in 1926.
Received Gold Cross of Merit from the Polish government in 1931.
Received Légion d'honneur order from the French government in 1934.
Received L'Ordre National des Arts et des Letters from the French government in 1972.