28 March 2011

Billie Burke

Mary William Ethelbert Appleton "Billie" Burke (August 7, 1884 – May 14, 1970) was an American actress.She is primarily known to modern audiences as Glinda the Good Witch of the North in the musical film The Wizard of Oz.

Known as Billie Burke, she toured the United States and Europe with her father, a singer. Her family ultimately settled in London where she was fortunate to see plays in London's West End. In 1903, she began acting on stage, making her debut in London in The School Girl. She eventually returned to America to become the toast of Broadway as a musical comedy star.

There she caught the eye of producer Florenz Ziegfeld, marrying him in 1914. In 1916, they had one daughter, Patricia Ziegfeld Stephenson (1916–2008). Burke was quickly signed for the movies, making her film debut in the title role of Peggy (1916). She continued to appear on the stage, and sometimes she starred on the screen. She loved the stage more than movie-business, not only because it was her first love, but also because it allowed her to have speaking parts (impossible in silent movies).

But when the family's savings were wiped out in the Crash of 1929, she had no choice but to return to the screen. In 1932 Billie Burke made her Hollywood comeback, starring as Margaret Fairfield in A Bill of Divorcement, directed by George Cukor. Burke played Katherine Hepburn's mother in the film, which was Hepburn's debut). Despite the death of Florenz Ziegfeld during the film's production, Burke resumed filming shortly after his funeral.

Burke wrote two autobiographies, both with Cameron Van Shippe, With a Feather on My Nose (Appleton 1949) and With Powder on My Nose (Coward McCann, 1959).

In the late 1950s, her failing memory led to her retirement from show business, although her explanation for that was, "Acting just wasn't any fun anymore." Billie Burke died in Los Angeles of natural causes, aged 85.

source: Wikipedia

27 March 2011


Edison kinetoscope films 1894 -1896.
Films directed by Laurie Dickson and Edmund Kuhn.

26 March 2011

La Belle Otéro

In August 1898 in St Petersburg the French film operator Felix Mesguich (a Lumiere Brothers employee) shot a one minute reel of this actress, dancer, Folies Bèrgere star/courtesan performing La Valse Brillante.

Carolina Otéro was born in 1868, in Puente de Valga, Galicia (Northwest Spain)and worked her way through cafes, bordellos and music halls to become employed at the Folies Bèrgere in Paris in 1889, creating the gypsy character La Belle Otéro.

And from there, Otéro launched herself on the world travelling and performing in all corners of the globe - Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris . And becoming, it was thought, the lover of King Edward VII, Tzar Nicholas II, the Grand Duke Peter, the Duke of Westminster.

At the height of her career, Otéro tellingly declared:" Women have one mission in life: to be beautiful. When one gets old, one must learn how to break mirrors."

She spent her last years in Nice, constantly talking about her past. It was always the same: feasts, princes, champagne. She died in 1965.

24 March 2011

Gertie Millar

Gertie Millar was born in Bradford, Yorkshire (UK), in 1878. She grew up to be tall, thin and attractive with dark hair and large limpid eyes. She was also tough, determined and ambitious. Her stage career began as a singer and dancer in the many music halls of Yorkshire. Later, she moved to London where she was soon topping variety bills, earning substantial sums and attracting much attention.

In 1901, George Edwardes (the famous theatre manager and originator of the British musical comedy, who, the previous year, had lost his star, Marie Tempest, after a disagreement over a costume) recruited Gertie Millar to be the leading lady in his productions at the Gaiety Theatre. Her first starring role was in The Toreador.

Her next show was Our Miss Gibbs that opened at the Gaiety on January 23, 1902. Its strong cast included George Grossmith jr., Robert Hale, Edmund Payne, Denise Orme, Jean Aylwin, Gladys Homfrey and Kitty Mason, but Gertie Millar was, without doubt, the star and made her the best known musical comedy performer in the country. The music was written, in collaboration with Ivan Caryll, by Lionel John Alexander Monckton (1861-1924), an Oxford University educated lawyer turned composer who married Gertie Millar. The hit song of the show was ‘Moonstruck’, a song Monkton had written especially for his wife.

He was to write the music for nearly all her following successes. On October 26, 1903, in the presence of  His Majesty King Edward VI and Queen Alexandra, the new Gaiety opened with the premiere of the musical comedy The Orchid . The show ran for 559 performances.

Success after success followed during the next decade. In 1910, Gertie Millar starred in one of the most best-loved Gaiety musical comedies, The Quaker Girl. Her co-star was Joseph Coyne (1867-1941) the American actor who had created a sensation with Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow (1907). His ‘Dancing Lesson’ with Gertie Millar repeated the enormous success of the ‘Merry Widow Waltz’ he had performed in the previous show. The Quaker Girl ran for 536 performances.

In 1914 the world was much changed – war waged, people’s tastes had irrevocably changed and they were now flocking to the comfort of the new cinema palaces for their escapism, Gertie Millar’s husband was in poor health and had ceased composing and, in 1915, George Edwardes (for whom she had worked for over fourteen years) died. For a while, Gertie Millar performed occasionally in the variety theatres where her career had begun. In 1918, she made her final appearance at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, the city where she had been born.

In 1924, her husband died. Some time afterwards, Gertie Millar married William  Humble Ward, the second Earl of Dudley (1867-1932). Before the war, he had been the governor-general of Australia. On June 6, 1920, his first wife had been drowned in a swimming accident at their estate in Ireland. Gertie Millar, the working-class girl from Yorkshire who grew up to be one of the best loved stars and most photographed women of the Edwardian era, had become Lady Dudley.   

Gertie Millar, Lady Dudley, died in Chiddingford, England, on April 24, 1952.

Text: Collectors Post

21 March 2011

Maude Fealy

Maude Fealy (March 4, 1883 – November 9, 1971) was an American stage and film actress. Fealy first gained public notice as a silent film actress, and successfully adapted to performing both on the stage, and, later, successfully adapted to acting in films with sound, a feat that many of her peers never successfully accomplished.

Born Maude Mary Hawk on March 4, 1883, Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of actress and acting coach, Margaret Fealy. Her mother remarried to Rafaello Cavallo, the first conductor of the Pueblo, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and Fealy lived in Colorado off and on for most of her life. At the age of three, she performed on stage with her mother and went on to make her Broadway debut in the 1900 production of Quo Vadis, again with her mother. She toured England with William Gillette in Sherlock Holmes from 1901 to 1902. Between 1902 and 1905, she frequently toured with Sir Henry Irving's company in the United Kingdom and by 1907 was the star in touring productions in the United States.

Maude Fealy appeared in her first silent film in 1911 for Thanhouser Studios, making another eighteen between then and 1917, after which she did not perform in film for another fourteen years. During the summers of 1912 and 1913, she organized and starred with the Fealy-Durkin Company that put on performances at the Casino Theatre at Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver and the following year began touring the western half of the U.S.

Fealy had some commercial success as a playwright-performer. She co-wrote The Red Cap with Grant Stewart, a noted New York playwright and performer, which ran at the National Theatre in Chicago in August 1928. Though she was not in the cast of that production, the play's plot revolves around the invention of a wheeled luggage carrier ostensibly invented by Fealy herself. A newspaper article reporting on the invention may be genuine, or may be a publicity stunt created to promote the play. Other plays authored or co-authored by Fealy include At Midnight and, with the German playwright, Alice Gerstenberg, The Promise.

Throughout her career, Fealy taught acting in many cities where she lived; early on with her mother, under names which included Maude Fealy Studio of Speech, Fealy School of Stage and Screen Acting, Fealy School of Dramatic Expression. She taught in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Burbank, California; and Denver, Colorado. By the 1930s, she was living in Los Angeles where she became involved in the Federal Theatre Project and at age 50 returned to secondary roles in film, including an uncredited appearance in The Ten Commandments. Later in her career, she wrote and appeared in pageants, programs, and presented lectures for schools and community organizations.

In Denver, she met a drama critic from a local newspaper named Hugo Louis Sherwin. The two married in secret because, as they expected, her domineering mother did not approve. The couple soon separated, and a divorce in 1909 followed, with Fealy immediately marrying an actor named James Peter Durkin. That marriage ended in divorce in 1917. Soon after this, Fealy married James E. Cort. This third marriage also ended in a 1923 annulment and would be her last. She bore no children in any of the marriages.

Fealy died in 1971, aged 88, at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California. She was interred in the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

source: Wikipedia

More pictures of Maude Fealy - see here

20 March 2011

L'amour malin

Dalbret - L'amour malin (1905)

Paul Dalbret, born in Paris in 1876, was a singer, not so known as Fragson or Mayol, but which hoped to become so famous as them. He died prematurely in 1927, because of the mustard gas he had received during the War in 1915.

18 March 2011

Le Voyage dans la Lune

Le Voyage dans la Lune is a 1902 French black and white silent science fiction film. It is loosely based on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells.

The film was written and directed by Georges Méliès, assisted by his brother Gaston. It was extremely popular at the time of its release and is the best-known of the hundreds of fantasy films made by Méliès. It is the first science fiction film, and utilizes innovative animation and special effects, including the iconic shot of the rocketship landing in the moon's eye.

This version features a Soundtrack by Erich Wolfgang Korngold & Laurence Rosenthal.

15 March 2011

Evelyn Nesbit

 by Rudolf Eickemeyer - 1901

Evelyn Nesbit (December 25, 1884 – January 17, 1967) was an American artists' model and chorus girl, noted for her entanglement in the murder of her ex-lover, architect Stanford White, by her first husband, Harry Kendall Thaw.

She was born Florence Evelyn Nesbit on December 25, 1884 in a small village near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia. She was of Scots-Irish ancestry. As a child, Florence Evelyn was strikingly beautiful, but quiet and somewhat shy. She had a younger brother, Howard.

The Nesbit family moved to Pittsburgh around 1893, when Evelyn was still a schoolgirl. Her father, a struggling lawyer, named Winfield Scott Nesbit, died that year, leaving behind substantial debts; his wife and two children were nearly destitute. For years Evelyn and her mother and younger brother lived in near-poverty, but by the time she reached adolescence her startling beauty came to the attention of several local artists, including John Storm, and she was able to find employment as an artists' model.

In 1901, when Nesbit was sixteen, she and her mother moved into a tiny room at 249 W. 22nd Street in New York City. Her mother had difficulty in finding work and after several weeks, Evelyn persuaded her to let her model again. Using a letter of introduction from a Philadelphia artist, Evelyn met and posed for James Carroll Beckwith, who introduced her to other New York artists. Soon she began modeling for artists Frederick S. Church, Herbert Morgan, Gertrude Kasebier, Carl Blenner and photographer Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr.

Eventually, Evelyn became one of the most in-demand artists' models in New York. She was seductively beautiful with long, wavy dark red hair and a slender, shapely figure. Charles Dana Gibson, one of the most popular artists in the country at the time, rendered a pen-and-ink profile of Evelyn with her red hair arranged in the form of a question mark. The work, titled "The Eternal Question", remains one of Gibson's best known works and Evelyn entered the ranks of the famous turn-of-the-century "Gibson Girls".

Evelyn soon made more than enough money to support her family. As a chorus girl on Broadway in 1901, Nesbit was introduced to acclaimed architect Stanford White by Edna Goodrich, who was a member along with Nesbit in the company performing Florodora at the Casino Theatre. White—a notorious womanizer known as "Stanny" by his close friends and relatives—was then 47 years of age to her 16.

White had a loft apartment on West Twenty-fourth Street. In her memoir Prodigal Days, Nesbit described her introduction to White at the apartment, decorated with heavy red velvet curtains and fine paintings, where White and a man named Reginald Ronalds poured her a glass of champagne and led her upstairs to a studio outfitted with a red velvet swing. While nothing untoward occurred on that first visit, the swing would later become notorious as accounts of its use were aired in the course of a murder trial, and some sources incorrectly state the activities that formed the basis for the 1955 film The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing took place at the "Tower Room" at the old Madison Square Garden, where White kept an office.

Nesbit states specifically that the swing and its related activities took place at the apartment on West Twenty-fourth Street. Although White reportedly derived sexual pleasure by pushing young women in the swing, naked or nearly so, as Nesbit later testified in court, she claimed her own later nude escapades with White were simply for his "aesthetic" delight.

Stanford White had endeared himself to Nesbit's mother by making arrangements for her son to be admitted to the Chester Military Academy near Philadelphia, and she placed so much trust in the architect that when she arranged an out-of-town trip, Stanford White and Evelyn Nesbit saw her off at the train station, where she left her daughter in his care.

Several nights after her mother left for Pittsburgh, Nesbit was summoned to the apartment by White, where the two shared dinner and several glasses of champagne before she was given a tour that ended in the "Mirror Room." On the same upper floor as the studio featuring the velvet swing, the ten-by-ten room held a green velvet-covered couch and walls and ceilings covered with mirrors. Later, after more champagne, the two returned downstairs and Nesbit tried on a yellow satin kimono before she "passed out." She recounted that she awoke in bed, nearly naked with White lying beside her, and that she "entered that room a virgin," but did not come out as one.

Later, Nesbit related this story to millionaire Harry Thaw after he repeatedly hounded her to know why she refused to marry him. She later did, but at the end of her life, Nesbit claimed that the charismatic "Stanny" was the only man she had ever loved.

As White moved on to other young, virginal women, Nesbit was courted by the young John Barrymore, beginning in 1901. The two met when Barrymore caught a performance of The Florodora Girls and sent flowers backstage. Barrymore, who was from a well known theatrical family, was then 19 and seeking a career in cartooning. He was considered too poor by her mother to be a suitable match for the 17-year-old Nesbit. Her mother and White were enraged when they found out about the relationship. However, Nesbit was finally smitten with someone her own age and often returned to Barrymore's apartment after hours.

White, still a strong influence in her life, arranged to send her away to a boarding school in Wayne, New Jersey (run by the mother of film director Cecil B. DeMille) in part to extricate her from John Barrymore. Barrymore in the meantime proposed marriage to Nesbit, in the presence of Mrs Nesbit and White, but Evelyn turned down his offer.

Stanford White and John Barrymore were subsequently supplanted in Nesbit's life by Harry Kendall Thaw (1871–1947) of Pittsburgh, the son of a coal and railroad baron. Prior to her relationship with Thaw, Nesbit dated a well known polo player named James "Monty" Waterbury (1875–1920) and the young magazine publisher Robert J. Collier. Thaw was extremely possessive of Nesbit (he reportedly carried a pistol), and obsessive about the details of her relationship with White (whom he referred to as "The Beast"). Thaw was a cocaine addict and allegedly a sadist who subjected women—including Nesbit—and the occasional adolescent boy to severe whippings. However, following a trip to Europe, Nesbit finally accepted Thaw's repeated marriage proposal. They were wed on April 4, 1905, when Nesbit was twenty.

Nesbit had one child, Russell William Thaw, who was born in Berlin on October 25, 1910 (he died in 1984 at Santa Barbara, California). A noted pilot in World War II, as a child he appeared in Hollywood films with his mother. The identity of his father, however, remains in doubt. While Thaw swore he was not the child's father (he was conceived and born during Thaw's confinement), Nesbit always insisted that he was.

On June 25, 1906, Nesbit and Thaw saw White at the restaurant Café Martin and ran into him again later that night in the audience of the Madison Square Garden's roof theatre at a performance of Mam'zelle Champagne, written by Edgar Allan Woolf. During the song "I Could Love A Million Girls", Thaw fired three shots at close range into White's face, killing him instantly and reportedly exclaiming, "You'll never go out with that woman again.

In his book The Murder of Stanford White, Gerald Langford quoted Thaw as saying "You ruined my life," or "You ruined my wife," and the New York Times account the following day stated "Another witness said the word was "wife" instead of "life"" in response to the arresting officer's report otherwise.

Harry Thaw was tried twice for the murder of Stanford White. At the first, the jury was deadlocked; at the second (in which Nesbit testified in his behalf), Thaw pleaded temporary insanity. Thaw's mother (usually referred to as "Mother Thaw") promised Nesbit that if she would testify that White had raped her and that Thaw had only tried to avenge her honor, she would receive a quiet divorce and a one million dollar divorce settlement. Nesbit got the divorce, but never saw a cent of the million. Immediately following Thaw's acquittal, she was cut off financially by Thaw's mother.

Thaw was incarcerated at the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Beacon, New York, but enjoyed almost total freedom. Still, he tried to escape a couple of times to Canada. In 1913, he strolled out of the asylum and was driven over the Canadian border into Sherbrooke, Quebec. He was extradited back to the U.S., but in 1915 was released from custody after being judged sane.

In the years following the second trial, Nesbit's career as a  vaudeville performer, silent film actress and cafe manager was only modestly successful, her life marred by suicide attempts. In 1916, after her divorce from Thaw, she married her dancing partner, Jack Clifford (1880–1956, born Virgil James Montani). He left her in 1918, and she divorced him in 1933.

In 1926 Nesbit gave an interview to the New York Times, stating that she and Thaw had reconciled, but nothing came of the renewed relationship. Nesbit published two memoirs, The Story Of My Life (1914), and Prodigal Days (1934). She lived quietly for several years in Northfield, New Jersey. She overcame suicide attempts, alcoholism, and an addiction to morphine, and in her later years taught classes in ceramics. She was a technical adviser on the 1955 movie The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing. She died in a nursing home in Santa Monica, California on January 17, 1967, at the age of 82.

in Wikipedia
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