Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Beauty and the Past, Part 1


In looking up vintage cards for other posts, I came across photographs from the past, mostly 1920s, and was struck by the beauty of the women photographed and the beauty of the photography. Despite Keats’ poetic statement, beauty is not always truth and truth is not always beauty, but beauty can be timeless, as these pics illustrate . . .

Esther Ralston:


Esther Ralston (1902 – 1994) was an American film actress who was popular in the silent era. Starting in vaudeville as a child in her family act, in the late 1920s she appeared in many films for Paramount, at one point earning as much as $8000 a week. Especially popular in Britain, she appeared mainly in comedies, often portraying spirited society girls. She also received good reviews for her dramatic roles. Despite making a successful transition to sound, she was mainly relegated to supporting roles by the mid-1930s and she retired in 1940. Thereafter she appeared in occasional film and television roles. Ralston died of a heart attack aged 91 in 1994 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.



Mary Nolan:


Mary Nolan (1902 – 1948) was an American stage and film actress, singer and dancer. She began her career as a Ziegfeld girl in the 1920s performing under the stage name Imogene "Bubbles" Wilson. She was fired from the Ziegfeld Follies in 1924 for her involvement in a tumultuous and highly publicised affair with comedian Frank Tinney. She left the United States shortly thereafter and began making films in Germany. She appeared in seventeen German films from 1925 to 1927 using a new stage name, "Imogene Robertson".

Upon returning to the United States in 1927, she attempted to break from her previous scandal ridden past and adopted yet another stage name, "Mary Nolan". She was signed to Universal Pictures in 1928 where she found some success in films. By the 1930s, her acting career began to decline due to her drug abuse and reputation for being temperamental. After being bought out of contract with Universal, she was unable to secure film work with any major studios. Nolan spent the remainder of her acting career appearing in roles in low-budget films for independent studios. She made her final film appearance in 1933.

After her film career ended, Nolan appeared in vaudeville and performed in nightclubs and roadhouses around the United States. Her later years were plagued by drug problems and frequent hospitalisations. She returned to Hollywood in 1939 and spent her remaining years living in obscurity before dying of a barbiturate overdose in 1948.



Ginger Rogers:


Ginger Rogers (1911 – 1995) was an American actress, dancer, and singer, widely known for performing in films and RKO's musical films, partnered with Fred Astaire. She appeared on stage, as well as on radio and television, throughout much of the 20th century. Starting in vaudeville, she gained recognition as a Broadway actress for her debut stage role in Girl Crazy. She had her first successful film role as a supporting actress in 42nd Street (1933). Throughout the 1930s, Rogers made 10 films with Astaire, among which were some of her biggest successes, such as Swing Time (1936) and Top Hat (1935). After two commercial failures with Astaire, Rogers began to branch out into dramatic films and comedies. Her acting was well received by critics and audiences, and she became one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1940s. Her performance in Kitty Foyle (1940) won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. Rogers remained successful throughout the 1940s and at one point was Hollywood's highest-paid actress, but her popularity had peaked by the end of the decade. She reunited with Astaire in 1949 in the commercially successful The Barkleys of Broadway. After an unsuccessful period through the 1950s, Rogers made a successful return to Broadway in 1965, playing the lead role in Hello, Dolly!. More lead roles on Broadway followed, along with her stage directorial debut in 1985 on an off-Broadway production of Babes in Arms. Rogers also made television acting appearances until 1987. She died of a heart attack in 1995, at the age of 83. 

She entitled her memoirs “Backwards and in High Heels”, a reference to Bob Thaves' Frank and Ernest cartoon which had the caption "Sure he [Astaire] was great, but don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did... backwards and in high heels".



Maude Fealy:


Maude Fealy (1883 – 1971) was an American stage and silent film actress whose career survived into the talkie era. Apart from her activities as an actress, Fealy was also a playwright and taught acting. There are reports that she invented the wheeled luggage carrier. She died in 1971 aged 88.



Evelyn Laye:


Evelyn Laye, CBE (1900 – 1996) was an English actress who was active on the London light opera stage, and later in New York and Hollywood. Awarded a CBE in 1973, Laye continued acting well into her nineties. It was reported after Laye's death that the Queen Mother had petitioned the then Prime Minister John Major for Laye to be awarded the DBE (damehood). Laye died in a nursing home in Pimlico, Central London from respiratory failure in 1996, aged 95.



Marion Davies:


Marion Davies (1897 – 1961) was an American film actress, producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist.

Davies was already building a solid reputation as a film comedian when newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, with whom she had begun a romantic relationship, took over management of her career. Hearst financed Davies' pictures, promoted her heavily through his newspapers and Hearst Newsreels, and pressured studios to cast her in historical dramas for which she was ill-suited. For this reason, Davies is better remembered today as Hearst's mistress and the hostess of many lavish events for the Hollywood elite. In particular, her name is linked with the 1924 scandal aboard Hearst's yacht when one of his guests, film producer Thomas Ince, died. In the film Citizen Kane (1941), the title character's second wife—an untalented singer whom he tries to promote—was widely assumed to be based on Davies. But many commentators, including Citizen Kane writer/director Orson Welles himself, have defended Davies' record as a gifted actress, to whom Hearst's patronage did more harm than good. She retired from the screen in 1937, choosing to devote herself to Hearst and charitable work. In Hearst's declining years, Davies provided financial as well as emotional support until his death in 1951. She married for the first time eleven weeks after his death, a marriage which lasted until Davies died of stomach cancer in 1961 at the age of 64.


One word . . 


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