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.

Advertisements

PORTRAIT OF ETTA MILLER ORCHARD: NOTED SOPRANO

dupont 1

The pretty and well dressed woman featured in this cabinet card portrait is noted soprano, Etta Miller Orchard. Her photograph appears in “The International (1901)”. In addition, she is mentioned in “The Musical Courier (1902)” for her performance in a Good Friday service at the Marble Collegiate Church in Boston, Massachusetts. Interestingly the photographer of the image seen in “The International” is Aime Dupont, the same photographer who created the portrait seen above. Dupont is a well known New York City photographer who took many photographs of celebrities. To view more of his images and to learn more about him, click on the category “Photographer: Dupont”. The cabinet card is stamped on the reverse with the name “Charles L. Ritzmann”. Ritzmann was a well known collector and retailer of celebrity cabinet cards. To view more of Ritzmann’s photographs, click on the category “Charles Ritzmann Collection”.

PORTRAIT OF BEAUTIFUL METROPOLITAN OPERA PERFORMER: ISABELLE L’HUILLIER

lihevillier

The beautiful woman in this cabinet card portrait is opera singer Isabelle L’Huillier. She made her debut during the 1908/1909 season with the Metropolitan Opera Company as Musetta in “La Boheme”. She concluded the season with a role in “The Bartered Bride”. Miss L’Huillier is beautifully dressed in this photograph. She is wearing a fur and a pretty hat. The photographer of this cabinet card photograph is celebrity photographer Aime Dupont. To learn more about Mr Dupont and to view more of his images, click on the category “Photographer: Dupont”.  (SOLD)

VIOLET LLOYD: ENGLISH STAGE ACTRESS AND A PIQUANT SOUBRETTE

 

LLOYD FRONT

The top photograph features stage actress Violet Lloyd posing for celebrity photographer Benjamin J. Falk at his New York City studio. Ms. Lloyd is adorned with flowers in her hair and looks quite beautiful as she poses with her rather large fan. Violet Lloyd was an English actress and singing comedienne. The New York Times (1896) published a favorable review of  “The Geisha”, a play appearing at Daly’s Theater. The critic wrote that  “The greatest individual hit last night was made by Violet Lloyd, an English Soubrette (female stock character in opera and theater)……….She is a piquant (engagingly provocative)  little person, with a droll (amusing in an odd way) but pretty face, sufficient voice, a sense of humor, and plenty of agility”.  It is clear that turn of the century newspaper writers were either better writers than today’s journalists, or else, their editors were more likely to  encourage and expect higher quality writing.  As a result, newspaper articles had a more literary style and used advanced vocabulary. Please forgive me for providing the definitions of some of the words in the quotation; I couldn’t stop myself. A stamp on the reverse of this cabinet card indicates that it was once part of the collection of Charles L. Ritzmann. Other photographs from Ritzmann can be viewed by clicking on the category “Charles Ritzmann Collection”. The second photograph was also done by a well known New York City celebrity photographer. Aime Dupont was of Belgian origin and he captured Miss. Lloyd wearing clothing that was likely costume from a play. Note the fan she holds above her head. Her pose, with her hand on her hip, likely reflects feigned shock or dismay. This cabinet card is also part of the Ritzmann collection. To view more photographs by Dupont and to learn more about him, click on the category “Photographer: Dupont”.

store

WOMAN ON A PEDESTAL: LOTTIE GILSON (THE LITTLE MAGNET)

tilson gilson

This cabinet card portrait of actress Lottie Gilson was produced by celebrated New York City photographer, Aime Dupont. Gilson  is perched on a pedestal and this image is a bit risque for its era. Note Miss Gilson’s coy smile, her exposed neck, relativesly low cut dress, the straps on her arms, and the leggy view. Gilson’s nickname, “the little magnet” is written on the reverse of the photograph. Also on the back of the cabinet card is a stamp from “Culver Pictures” which was a company that supplied photographs to the media for a price. Lottie Gilson (1871-1912)  was a popular comedienne and vaudeville singer born in Basil, Switzerland. She was called “the little magnet” because of her popularity with audiences and her ability to propel the sales of sheet music. Her musical hits included “The Sunshine of Paradise Alley” and “The Little Lost Child”. The date of her theatrical debut is unknown but it is certain that she performed at the Bowery’s Old National Theatre in 1884. She later performed in many of New York’s theaters and was the top soubrette of her day. She is noted as the originator of the stunt of having a boy come out of the balcony singing along with one of her songs. This became a common vaudeville routine. The San Francisco Call (1900) reported Gilson’s third wedding (she was only twenty nine at the time). The article also mentioned that her first husband was sent to the penitentiary for setting her hat on fire. The New York Times (1912) printed an obituary for Gilson. They reported that she had been out of the public eye for five years prior to her sudden death. Another source states that she died after years of self destructive behavior, illness, and depression. To view other photographs by Dupont, click on the category “Photographer: Dupont”.

PRETTY YOUNG WOMAN PHOTOGRAPHED BY AIME DUPONT IN NEW YORK CITY

This cabinet card features an attractive young woman posed holding a book. The woman is nicely dressed and has a lovely figure. Her great figure is, no doubt, assisted by her tight corset. The book she is holding is entitled “Grifting“. The definition of grifting is “engaging in petty swindling”. What is a nice girl like the girl in this image doing with such a sensational book? The most likely reason she has possession of that particular title is that; it was there in the studio. The book likely belonged to the photographer. 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.  A couple of interesting questions about this photograph remain unanswered. Is the subject of this photograph someone famous in society or the performing arts? Who was the photographer, was it Aimee Dupont, or his wife, Etta?