GABRIELLE ROBINNE: BEAUTIFUL, TALENTED, AND POPULAR FRENCH ACTRESS

Anyone who collects vintage theatrical/film actress postcards, is very familiar with the subject of this real photo postcard. Gabrielle Robinne (1886-1980) is an actress that was widely photographed. The reason for the production of so many postcards featuring Miss Robinne is that she was very popular during her era. Certainly, one of the reasons for her popularity, was her great beauty. Robinne was born in France and was a student at the Paris Conservatory. In 1904 she joined the company of Sarah Bernhardt and later joined the Theatre Michel in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her career soared when she began performing at the Comedie-Francaise in 1907. She remained with the company until 1938. She made her film debut in the 1906 production of “Le troubadour”. Two years later she had her first huge success in “L’assassinat du Duc de Guise” (1908). She is considered by many to be the first French star of the silent film era. She charmed her audiences with her beauty and excellent acting. Gabrielle Robinne shared her time between stage and film. The IMDb reports that she appeared in nearly fifty films between 1906 and 1973.She was known for “Conquered Hate” (1913,) “Struggle for Life” (1914), and “La reine de Saba” (1913). Robinne was married to actor Rene Alexandre from 1912 until she was widowed in 1946. Her work in the theater and film was recognized by France when she was made an Officer of the Legion of Honor, the highest French order of Merit. This postcard was published by Societe Industrielle de Photograpie (SIP) of Rueil, France and was part of a series (no. 1730). The photographer of Robinne’s portrait seen on this postcard was Leopold Reutlinger (1863-1937). He was a leading photographer of his time and was, and is, renowned for his photographs of celebrities and beautiful women. This vintage photo postcard is in excellent condition (see scans).

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MISS ANNIE HUGHES, ENGLISH STAGE ACTRESS, POSES WITH HER CHILD AND HER JACK RUSSELL TERRIER

This vintage real photo postcard features stage actress Annie Hughes (1869-1954). The actress poses in this photograph with her child and her Jack Russell Terrier. Miss Hughes was born in England. As a child actress she was associated with the role of “Little Lord Fauntleroy”. The actress was married three times. She was in the title role of “Miss Tommy”, first produced at the Gaiety Theatre in 1907. In 1912 she took the production on a tour of the United States. This postcard was published by Philco and was part of a series (No. 3075 B). Philco was located in London. The postcard has a postmark indicating that it was mailed in1905. The photographer of this image was the Lafayette studio. The firm was founded in Dublin in 1880 by James Stack Lauder. His father, Edmund Lauder was a pioneering and successful photographer. The elder Lauder used the name “Lafayette’ to give the company a touch of Paris, which was a a city considered the center of the art and photography world. James was joined in business by his three photographer brothers. By the 1900, the company had studios in Glasgow, Manchester, London and Belfast. The studio also was invited to photograph Queen Victoria. The company still exists today.

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OSSI OSWALDA: BEAUTIFUL GERMAN SILENT FILM STAR

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The beautiful actress seen in the top vintage real photo postcard is named Ossi Oswalda (1897-1947). She was born in Germany and appeared predominately in silent films. She was a leading lady, popular comedienne,  dancer, and singer. Due to her popularity, she  was known as “the German Mary Pickford”. Ossi began her career as a ballerina and she danced in a chorus line for a theater in Berlin. She made her film debute in “Night of Horrors” (1916) and was noticed by actor/screenwriter Hanns Kraly, who introduced her to director Ernst Lubitsch. Oswalda’s early career began with appearances in several Lubitsch films. In 1921, she and her husband started a film production company that produced four films over four years, all starring Miss Oswalda. After 1925, she was under contract to UFA, a German film company. After the transition to “talkies”, Oswalda joined the ranks of actresses and actors, who’s career took a nose dive. She only acted in two sound films. Her final screen appearance was in “The Star of Valencia”. She then began acting on the stage. She appeared in operettas in Germany and Vienna. When the National Socialists took power in Germany, she emigrated to Prague with her “Jewish life partner”, Julius Aubenberg. In 1943, she wrote a story for a Czechoslovakian film. In summarizing Ossi’s career, the IMDb credits her with 51 film appearances,  producing 5 films, and 1 screen writing credit. It is reported that she frequently played child-like spoiled women. She appeared in drag in at least one film. Oswalda’s first marriage (1919-1925) was to a Hungarian baron. After her divorce, the actress began a highly publicized romantic relationship with Crown Prince Willhelm (1882-1951). Simultaneously, the actress Lily Damita, was having an affair with the Prince’s son. The royal family put a kibosh to both “inappropriate” relationships. In 1947, she died in Prague at age 48, bankrupt and suffering from multiple health problems. This German real photo postcard is published by Ross Verlag soemetime between 1919 and 1924. The photograph of Miss Oswalda was taken by Becker & Maass of Berlin. Note her pretty hat and fan. Hopefully, she wasn’t allergic to feathers. Oswalda was young when this photograph was taken. She was beautiful and no older than 27 years of age. The YouTube clip below features Ossie Oswalda in the “The Doll” (1919), directed by Ernst Lubitsch.                                                       The second postcard features Miss Oswalda in a very skimpy costume. Her feathered hat is quite showy . She has a wonderful smile and pretty eyes. This risque postcard was part of  a series (no. 1050/2) and published by Ross Verlag of Berlin, Germany. The logo of UFA, a German film company, appears on the lower right hand corner of the postcard. The reverse of the postcard reveals that that the photographer is Strobl J. Nandor of Budapest, Hungary. This postcard is in very good condition (see scans).

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IMMIGRATION IN AMERICA (1939 STYLE): ISA MIRANDA, ITALIAN FILM STAR GETS CITIZENSHIP

This press photo was taken in 1939 and it captures Italian film star, Isa Miranda taking an oath of allegiance and receiving her U.S. citizenship papers. Paramount studios had brought the actress to Hollywood just two years before. The caption for this photograph states that during the short stint that she lived in the United States, she had become “completely Americanized”. The photograph shows Miss Miranda, her husband (Alfred Guarini) and the government clerk. Guarini (1901-1981) was an Italian screenwriter, film producer and director. Alfred Guarini was active in show business between 1935 and 1963. He is noted for his management of Isa Miranda’s career both before, and after their marriage. In the mid 1930’s, he encouraged her to work in a variety of different countries for the purpose of making her an international star. Isa Miranda (1909-1982) was born in Milan, Italy. She worked as a typist as she studied to be a stage actress at the “Accademia dei Filodrammatici” in Milan. She began her film career playing bit parts in Italian films. She achieved great success after appearing in the film “Everybody’s Woman” (1934). The film launched her career and she was given a contract with Paramount Pictures which billed her as the “Italian Marlene Dietrich”. She played several “femme fatale” roles for Paramount. After the outbreak of World War II, she returned to Italy where she acted on stage and in film. Her performance in “The Walls of Malapaga” (1949) earned her an award at the Cannes film festival. This press photo is from the Los Angeles bureau of the Illustrated Daily News and belonged to Acme News, located in New York City. In the 1960’s she began a television career in England. The IMDb credits Miss Miranda with appearing in 95 films between 1933 and 1978. This 9 x 7 photograph is in good condition. Note that there is slight corner wear and a small blemish on the bottom right hand corner of the photo. (See scans)

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Published in: on May 22, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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PROLIFIC AMERICAN BROADWAY ACTRESS: GRACE GEORGE

This vintage real photo postcard features American stage actress, Grace George (1879-1961). She appeared on the Broadway stage, as well as in two films. She entertained Broadway audiences for more than fifty years. The Internet Broadway Data Base credits her with appearing in 49 Broadway shows between 1898 and 1952. George was noted for her style of “high comedy”. Grace George was a manager, director, and adapter, in addition to being an actress. George was born in New York City. She was educated at the Convent of Notre Dame in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Her next stop was the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where upon graduation, she appeared in traveling productions for four years. She then began her long string of playing to audiences on Broadway.  She was married (1899) to producer and sports promoter, William A. Brady. She starred in the immensely successful Broadway adaptation of “Ben Hur” (1899). She appeared in the silent film, “Tainted Money” (1915). She also had a role in the film, “Johnny Come Lately” (1943) with James Cagney. In 1950 she received the Delia Austrian Medal, recognizing her as a distinguished performer. Miss George appeared in two plays by George Bernard Shaw. In a review that appeared in the New York Times, Alexander Wollcott wrote; “The life of the party is, of course, Miss George herself, playing with her accustomed vivacity, charm, and precision”. This postcard was published by Souvenir Post Card Co. and printed in Germany. The Souvenir Post Card Company  existed between 1905 and 1914. It was located at 268 Canal Street in New York City. The company was purchased by Valentine & Sons and the combined company became Valentine – Souvenir.

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PORTRAIT OF PRETTY THEATER ACTRESS: MILLIE COOK (PHOTOGRAPH BY NAPOLEON SARONY)

The pretty young woman seen in this cabinet card photograph is a theater actress named Millie Cook. She was a well-known New York variety entertainer and actress in the 1870’s. She played roles in such productions as “Blue Beard”,  “The Female Jack Sheppard” and in Niblo Garden’s ballet extravaganza “Leo and Lotos”. She was also a star at Tony Pastor’s and at the Union Square Theater. Tony Pastor is considered by many to be the “father of American Vaudeville”. Theater Magazine (1918) describes Miss Cook as “a good looker and a fair actress”. This cabinet card portrait was photographed by celebrity photographer, Napoleon Sarony. Note Millie Cook’s birds nest  hair-do.

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Published in: on May 8, 2018 at 12:02 pm  Comments (1)  
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RISQUE PORTRAIT OF GERMAN SILENT FILM ACTRESS DITA PARLO

This vintage real photo postcard portrait features German silent film actress, Dita Parlo (1908-1971). She was born in present-day Szczecin, Poland. At the time of her birth, the city was part of Germany. Her father was a forest ranger. She was initially trained as a ballerina but switched to studying acting at the Babelsberg film school. Producer, Erich Pommer, discovered Parlo and signed her to a contract to Ufa. She made her film debut in “Homecoming” (1928) and in short time became a popular actress in Germany. During the 1930’s she appeared in both German and French films and achieved much acclaim. Two of her films in particular are considered among the best in cinema history: “L’Atalante” (1934) and “La Grande Illusion” (1937). During World War II she was deported to Germany but returned to France in 1949 and resumed her career. Parlo made an attempt to establish herself in American films but had limited success. She did appear in a couple of American films and in the late 1930’s and she nearly had a role in the Orson Welles production of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. Unfortunately, the project did not materialize. The horror! The horror! Oh the horror of disappointment she must have experienced. According to the IMDb, Parlo appeared in 28 films between the years of 1928 and 1966. Parlo was married to a Protestant pastor, Franck Gueutal (1904-1983) and the couple remained married until she died in 1971. An interesting piece of trivia is that Madonna took Parlo’s name for a character she created for her book entitled “Sex”. The singer stated that she was fascinated by Dita Parlo. This portrait postcard was published by Ross Verlag and was part of a series (no. 3972/1). The postcard displays the logo of “Ufa”, a German film company.  The video below shows Miss Parlo in the film  “Au bonheur des dames” (1930). Her co-star in the film was Pierre De Guingand (1885-1964). The movie was based on the romance of French writer Emile Zola.

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Published in: on May 2, 2018 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BEAUTIFUL ANGLO-GERMAN FILM ACTRESS LILLIAN HARVEY

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This vintage real photo postcard (postcard 1) features Anglo-German actress and singer, Lillian Harvey (1906-1968). Her acting base was in Germany. Harvey was born in Hornsey, England to an English mother and a German father. During World War I her family was “trapped” in Magdeburg, Germany and Harvey was sent to live with her Swiss aunt. After the war she finished school in Berlin and than studied voice and dance at the Berlin State Opera. In 1924 she earned a role as a revue dancer in Vienna. This was followed by her first movie role which was in an Austrian film named “The Curse”. Thereafter, she starred in multiple silent films. Her first leading role was in “The Passion” (1925). Because of her voice training, Harvey was able to make the transition into “talkies”. She and actor Willy Fritsch became the “dream couple” of German movies. The pair acted together in eleven movies. In the 1930’s Harvey’s films appeared in both German and English and she became popular outside of Germany. She went to Hollywood and made four movies for the Fox Film Corporation (this postcard is from that period). In 1935, Harvey returned to Germany. She appeared in several more films and soon she was under the watchful eye of the Gestapo. Harvey had many Jewish friends in the film industry  and she was supportive of them. By 1939, Miss Harvey was forced to leave Germany, leaving behind valuable real estate holdings. She went to France where, in 1940, she made two movies for director Jean Boyer. In 1943 she was stripped of her German citizenship because she had performed for French troops. When southern France was occupied by the Nazis in 1942, she emigrated to the United States. During the war she did some theatre acting and also worked as a homeside volunteer nurse. After the war, Harvey relocated to Paris. She went on a world tour as a singer and in 1949 made appearances in West Germany. She spent her retirement on the French Riviera (Antibes) where she had a souvenir shop and raised snails for escargot. Harvey was married one time. Her four year marriage to theater director Hartvig Valeur-Larsen ended in divorce. Eventually she settled down with her female partner Else Pitty Wirth (1907-2007). Interestingly, the two women are buried together in Antibes. The imdb gives Harvey 54 acting credits between 1925 and 1940. Interestingly, Lillian Harvey’s name is mentioned in Quentin Tarantino’s film  “Inglorious Bastards” (2009). One of her songs is played on a phonograph and in addition one of the characters in the film mentions liking Harvey’s performance in a film and Joseph Goebbels becomes angry and insists her name never be mentioned in his presence. Click on the link below to hear the Lillian Harvey/Willy Fritsch duet used in the Tarantino movie. The 1936 song is titled “Ich Wollt Ich War Ein Huhn” (I Wish I Was A Chicken). Now would be a good time to discuss this postcard portrait of Miss Harvey. She is looking quite decorated in this photograph. She is wearing a garland of leaves in her hair, a very ornate necklace, a number of large bracelets, two giant rings, and a jeweled clasp on her dress near her cleavage. Note her very notable eye lashes. She is wearing a somewhat provocative dress and it is clear that the aim of the photographer is to emphasize Miss Harvey’s sexiness. The photographer and Miss Harvey succeeded in accomplishing this goal. The postcard was published by the German firm Ross Verlag and was part of a series (no. 8679/1). The postcard credits Fox films.

The second postcard (postcard 2) features Miss Harvey in a risque costume. She is showing a “lot of leg” which is quite provocative for her time. It is likely that this image captures her in one of her film roles. The postcard was published by Argenta, which was located in Munich, Bavaria.

The third postcard (postcard 3) presents Miss Harvey is a sexy pose. Note her dark gloves and large hoop earrings. The postcard was published by Ross Verlag and is part of a series (no. 4288/1). Note the advertising logo for the German film company UFA, located on the bottom right hand corner of the image.

The fourth postcard (postcard 4) showcases Lillian Harvey’s beautiful smile. Miss Harvey’s not quite plunging neckline was clearly aimed to add a bit of a risque element to the photograph. This postcard was published by Ross Verlag (Berlin) and is part of a series (no. 1019/2). This portrait was taken by the talented photographer, Alex Binder. The photographer of this terrific image was Alexander Binder (1888-1929). He had the largest photo studio in Europe during the late 1920’s and the 1930’s. Many of his entertainment star portraits appear on Ross Verlag postards. It is thought that Binder was of Swiss origin. He was of the Jewish faith. He studied engineering but did not complete his studies. From 1908 to 1910 he studied photography at a school in Munich, Germany. After the completion of his photography studies, he went to Berlin and in 1913 opened his first photography studio. Before long, he became one of the premier photographers in Berlin.  He primarily focussed on fashion and celebrity photography. Since Berlin was the capital of the European film industry, Binder photographed all the stars of the European film industry including, Lilian Harvey, Conrad Veidt, and Lya De Putti. Many of his images were used in popular film portrait postcards. His photographs could be seen in postcards published by Ross Verlag and Photochemie. Binder died in 1929 but new photo cards bearing his signature continued to be published until 1937. 

The fifth real photo postcard (postcard 5) features Miss Harvey wearing a bathing suit and sitting in a beach chair. Her shoes and stockings don’t seem very appropriate for the beach so it is a good thing that she is actually in a photographer’s studio and sitting in front of a beach backdrop. Obviously, the mission of the photographer was not to convince viewers that Miss Harvey was at the beach. The intent of photographer Alexander Binder was to present Lilian Harvey in a provocative and sexy pose. Mr. Binder certainly succeeded in accomplishing his goal. This photo postcard was published by Ross Verlag.

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PORTRAIT OF STUNNING FRENCH MUSIC HALL STAR MADEMOISELLE DAVRIGNY

This vintage real photo postcard features French cabaret actress Mademoiselle Davrigny. She is truly a stage beauty. Her smile is delightful. Preliminary research yielded no biographical information. This postcard was published by Societe Industrielle de Photograpie (SIP) of Rueil, France and was part of a series (no. 1676). The photographer was Edouard Stebbing who was active in Paris between 1890 and 1910. Stebbing taught at a University in Paris and invented the stebbing camera, and was known for his work with emulsions. It is reported that he was friends with the artist Monet. He died in 1914 and his wife (Celestine) died five years earlier. Stebbing was a prolific photographer during the Belle Epoque Paris. He appears to have been an expatriate from England. He published many articles in British Photographic journals. Stebbing photographed many theatrical stars. A frequent publisher of these postcards was Monsieur G.Piprot, of “Etoille” or “Star” publishing in Paris. The “Photographic Times and American Photographer” (1883) cited Stebbing as “one of the bright lights of the French Photographic Society

Published in: on April 2, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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HELEN BERTRAM: COMIC OPERA STAR WHO LIVED A LIFE CHOCK FULL OF SCANDAL

This cabinet card portrait features comic opera star, Helen Bertram (1869-1953). As I researched her life, I became more and more interested in her experiences and character. She was a person who’s life itself was a drama. More on that later. She was one of America’s leading prima donnas of her era. Bertram was born in Illinois.  Her father was a wealthy grain merchant. She trained at the Cincinnati College of Music and at age 20 began working as a lead singer for a number of opera companies, including Abbott, Conried, and the Bostonians. In fact, she worked for many opera companies because she tended to switch allegiances when offered better salaries. She had much impact on comic opera. Influential roles in “The Gingerbread Man” and “The Prince of Pilsen” contributed to that impact. The St. Paul Daily Globe (1887) printed a review about a very early Bertram performance  with the Abbott company. The review states that she sang with ‘such exquisite art as to win the hearts of her audience”. The article also describes Miss Bertram as a brilliant debutante in opera, and states that she had an “exceedingly handsome face, pretty figure, graceful movement, and sweetness”. Her off-stage life was tumultuous and her scandals were covered closely in American newspapers. Plainly said, her personal life was a disaster. In 1893, news articles revealed that she and actor, Edward Henley, were having an affair. Both were married and their affair caused both of their spouses to file for divorce. At first Bertram denied her extramarital relationship saying “Oh my! Mr Henley has had so many sweethearts, it seems too bad that I should be made the scapegoat for all this.”  In 1894, Bertram and Henley announced plans to marry. They were not married long because Henley died. The St. Louis Republic (1901) reported that Bertram had thrown a locket containing Henley’s ashes off a balcony. The rationale for pitching the ashes was that she had fallen in love with another man. Bertram denied tossing the ashen remains of her husband. In 1903 she married her third husband, matinee idol Edward Morgan. He had a sensational history of stormy marriages and relationships. At some point in time, Bertram had a relationship with George d’essauer, a wealthy French nobleman. George got himself into some trouble concerning a forgery scandal. After being indicted, he fled to Europe were he was arrested for other charges. The St. Louis Republic (1905) ran an article about Bertram being taken to court for unpaid bills. She claimed she was bankrupt as the reason for non payment. In 1906, her third husband, Edward Morgan died. He died from a fall in his hotel room, but the coroner theorized that the fall was due to his well known morphine addiction. From 1908 into the 1930’s she announced several retirements only to return to the stage. Later roles included vaudeville and concert tours with provincial orchestras. Bertram also had a movie career and the IMdB lists her as appearing in three movies including “The Lightening Conductor” (1914) and “Rhythm on the River” (1940). Back to the cabinet card seen above. The studio that produced this photograph was the Aime Dupont gallery. Dupont (1842-1900) founded his photography business in 1886 in New York City, New York. He was formerly a sculptor and he was of Belgian origin. His American wife, Etta Greer, was also a photographer. She was well respected for he work as a portraitist of opera singers in Paris, France. She was educated in Paris and spent much of her childhood there. She also met and married Dupont in Paris. The couple was very talented and they became very popular as portrait photographers in New York. Among their society and celebrity clients were many singers who were appearing in New York. After Dupont’s death, his wife, and later his son (Albert), operated the studio. His wife kept the name of the studio the same, after the death of her husband. In 1906, the Metropolitan Opera hired its own official  photographer, resulting in diminished portrait work in that sector. The studio went bankrupt in 1920.