LILLIAN RUSSELL: CELEBRATED AMERICAN ACTRESS AND SINGER

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Lillian Russell (1860-1922) is pictured in the top Cabinet Card photograph by famed New York celebrity photographer, Falk. Lillian Russell is captured in costume as she appeared in “Pepita” (1886). Russell was a very famous American actress and singer who was known for her beauty, style, voice and stage presence. Her theater career began with roles in comic operas including the work of Gilbert and Sullivan. She married composer Edward Solomon in 1884 and two years later, he was arrested for bigamy.  She performed in New York and elsewhere in starring roles in comic opera and musical theatre. In 1904 she switched to dramatic roles due to voice problems. She later also appeared in vaudeville. She retired from the stage in 1919. She later wrote newspaper columns, advocated for women suffrage, and was a popular lecturer.  She married four times and her longest marriage was to Diamond Jim Brady who supported her extravagant lifestyle for four decades. It is interesting to note that the New York Times (4/2/1886) reported that during the performance of “Pepita”, an opera by her husband, Edward Solomon; there were obvious signs of marital discord observed on stage. The newspaper blamed issues revolving around Russell’s interfering mother, as well as, issues pertaining to Russell’s sudden prosperity. The newspaper article correctly predicted that there would soon be a divorce. The second cabinet card, is also photographed by Falk. This photograph provides a close-up image of Lillian Russell and is a testimonial to her beauty. The third cabinet card was published by Newsboy and used by the tobacco company as a premium (#340). The photographer was Falk and the image was copyrighted in 1893. To view a collection cabinet cards by Falk; click on the category “Photographer: Falk”. The fourth cabinet card is another image produced by B. J. Falk. Miss Russell is in costume and is posed provocatively partially behind sheer lace. The fifth cabinet card, also by Falk, provides a terrific profile portrait of the beautiful Miss Russell.


STAGE ACTRESS MARIE JANSEN IN FOUR IMAGES (1887,1888, AND 1892 PHOTOGRAPHS BY FALK)

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Marie Jansen (1857-1914) was an American actress and vocalist. She was a well known star of comic operas. She was born in Boston and her birth name was Hattie Johnson. Jansen made her theatrical debut in Boston at the Park Theatre in 1881. Her first major success occurred in 1883 with her appearance in “The Beggar Student”. In 1884 she was engaged by Charles Wyndham to create the title role in “Featherbrain” which ran in London, England. She then appeared  in the United States for several years as the leading woman in Francis Wilson’s comic opera company. In 1901, Jansen formed her own company that she took on tour. The top  image was photographed by famed celebrity photographer Falk of New York City. This image shows Jansen in costume for the play, “The Oolah”. “The Oolah” was a comic opera produced by the Francis Wilson Company in 1887. The music was written by Charles Le Cocq and the libretto was written by Sydney Rosenfeld.  The second image of Jansen was also photographed by Falk. This cabinet card is dated 1888 and is a bit risque for that time in history. The third image of Jansen also captures her in a bit risque costume. It was photographed by  Falk in 1892 and the cabinet card was used as a premium for Newsboy tobacco products. The fourth image of Jansen features her in costume and sitting on a wicker chair. She is holding a cane and wearing gloves. This undated photograph is also by Falk. To view other photographs by Falk, click on the Cabinet Card Gallery category “Photographer: Falk”.

ISABELLE URQUHART: COMIC OPERA AND MUSICAL COMEDY STAR (PHOTOGRAPH BY NEWSBOY)

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This cabinet card features actress Isabelle Urquhart (1865-1907). She was an American stage actress and contralto who appeared in mostly comic operas and musical comedies. Urquhart was born in New York City and claimed to have been educated in a convent. She made her first stage appearance in 1881. She performed as a chorus girl at the Standard Theatre in New York City. She than appeared in a number of small roles. From 1882 through 1883 she joined Augustin Daly’s company and acted in productions including “The Passing Regiment” and “The Squire”. In the latter production she was only seventeen years of age but played a ninety-seven year old woman. She returned to light opera because of it’s better compensation although she stated she preferred legitimate drama to comic opera. She had much success in major roles in light operas including in the hit operetta  “Erminine” which ran from 1886 through 1888 at the Casino Theatre. She also had success in other productions by luminaries such as Gilbert and Sullivan. In her leading lady role in “Erminine”, she started a fashion trend by not wearing petticoats in order “to accentuate her gorgeous figure”. Urquhart later appeared in vaudeville. Blue Vaudeville (2004) states that in a sketch at the Union Square Theatre, she “did little more than display her form in a handsome gown to the utmost advantage”. Urquhart also performed in several Broadway plays including “The Diplomat” (1902), “Arms and the Man” (1906), and “How He Lied to Her Husband”. This cabinet card was published by Newsboy and was number one i a series of photographs that were distributed as a premium accompanying tobacco sales.

CONCHITA GELABERT: BEAUTIFUL OPERA STAR IN PARIS, FRANCE

This cabinet card features the lovely Conchita Gelabert, soprano and operetta actress. Marie “Conchita” Gelabert was born in Madrid in 1857 and died in Paris in 1922. She was educated in the Paris Conservatory of Music. An article in the New York Times (1922) announced her death. She was described as a “Spanish Comic Opera singer. who for many years was one of the most celebrated of Paris stars”. The article states that Gelabert “died today alone and forgotten”. Apparently, she had left the stage in 1890 and went into seclusion for the rest of her life. The cause of her abandoning her career and becoming an isolate, was an unhappy love affair. The article credits Gelabert with creating many roles, including “The Beautiful Person”and “The Grand Mogul”. This portrait was photographed by Chalot and Company of Paris, France. Ms. Gelabert is a stage beauty with eyes and an expression that can best be described as playful. She is wearing an interesting hat and well adorned with jewelry. Her dress is a bit risque but by Paris standards, this is a tame photograph.  The photographer of this image, Isadore Alphonse Chalot was one of the subjects of an article appearing in the American Journal of Photography (1890). The article was entitled “Photographers in Paris- Their Studios and Workshops”.

JENNIE WINSTON: INTERCONTINENTAL COMIC OPERA ACTRESS

The top cabinet card features early theatre actress, Jennie Winston. Unfortunately, biographical information concerning Ms. Winston appears to be sparse, and further research is necessary. An 1881 publication reveals that Jennie Winston was a native of Scotland and moved to Australia to join W. S. Lyster’s Italian Opera company. Her tenure with this company was seven years. She next went ot America under engagement to “Mr Maguire”, for whom she worked for one season’s duration. She then formed her own traveling opera company which journeyed to the western United States and British Columbia. The “Dramatic News” described Winston as “unsurpassed as a comic-opera artist by anyone in this country”. The photographer of this portrait was the studio belonging to Gilbert & Bacon. This studio was well known for their quality work as well as their work with local and visiting celebrities. To view other photographs by this studio, click on the category of “Photographer: Gilbert & Bacon”.    The second photograph, also by Gilbert & Bacon, captures a costumed Jennie Winston playing the mandolin. Note the backdrop  used in this photograph. The backdrop was an excellent choice for the photograph as it is compatible with Ms. Winston’s costume. It was also a good choice technically; the actress does realistically appear to be standing on a winding stone road.                             The third photographic portrait features a sultry looking Jennie Winston, and is by celebrated photographer, Marc Gambier (1838-1900). Gambier was born and educated in Paris, France. At the age of 19, he came to America for a very short stint of time. He returned to France and became a student of the great painter, Le Creton. Subsequently, he became a student of another great painter, Camino. He then returned to America and for five years, studied and worked under esteemed photographer, Sarony (view Sarony’s photographs by clicking on the category “Photographer: Sarony”). He then launched his own photography business in New York City. He divided his time between his first love, painting, and his business of taking and selling photographs. Gambier was known as a great historical painter. He was a veteran of the French Army and while in the service, he sketched and painted several important battles. Research reveals that Gambier was listed in the 1880 US census. He was forty-one years old and living in New York City with his family. He is listed as living with his wife Emilie (age 28), daughters Louise (age 10) and Emilie (age 7), and son M. L. (age 2). Also in the residence was a young woman (age 25) who worked as a servant. Gambier was known for the many theatrical photographs he produced as well as for selling postage stamp sized portrait photographs, that people attached to their letters and postcards.

“A BRILLIANT FUTURE SACRIFICED FOR A LIFE OF EXCITEMENT” (1894): STAGE STAR MARION MANOLA

Marion Manola (1865-1914) is the subject of this cabinet card photograph by celebrity photographer, Benjamin Falk. Manola was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She was a popular comic opera star during the late 1880’s and 1890’s. The New York Times (1894) featured a headline stating “A Brilliant Future Sacrificed for a Life of Excitement” referring to Ms. Manola. The newspaper reported that the theatrical community was upset by the actress’s “insanity”. She was described as one of the more popular singer/actresses on American stage. She was known to be a bit eccentric but she was “heartily liked by everybody”. She was described as light hearted, having a joyous nature, and as vivacious. She was discovered by Colonel John A. McCaull, who cast her in a comic opera company. She aggressively pursued her career and had “late suppers”, “early rehearsals”, and worked hard. The stress of her theatrical life caused her to become irritable, fretful and difficult to manage. When her theatre company dissolved, she joined De Wolff Hopper’s company where she became the prima donna. After about a year she lost her job because of difficulty with a manager. She then went to Europe where she played the role of Maid Marion in “Robin Hood”. While in Europe she met her soon to be second husband, John Mason. Mason had his own personal problems including a great deal of debt. They joined a comic opera company in Boston but they quickly lost their jobs due to problems getting along with management. They organized their own company but it went bust. Manola’s mind began to fail and it became known that she had a opium habit. The press had a field day covering Ms. Manola’s psychiatric and substance abuse difficulties, as well as her entry into a rehab facility. Does any of this sound familiar? Think about the press coverage of Lindsay Lohan or a number of other celebrities of today who experience emotional or addiction problems.  Manola also made her mark in the courts. In fact, Judge Louis Brandeis, one of America’s great Justices,  was involved in an interesting and important case Manola brought to the legal system. The actress brought suit against a theatre manager and a photographer because she was photographed on the stage, without permission, while wearing an outfit (tights) she felt were too immodest to be photographed in. After being photographed, she ran off the stage in distress. The court supported Ms Manola’s suit and forbid the photographs from being distributed. The court took the position of there being a need for morality in the press. Some skeptics felt that the actresses real issue with the photographs had more to do with her not getting financially compensated for the photographs, rather than her claims that her privacy was violated. To view other photographs by Benjamin Falk, click on the category “Photographer: Falk”.

RISQUE THEATRE ACTRESS SYLVIA GERRISH

Sylvia Gerrish (1858-1906) is the subject of this Cabinet Card published by Newsboy. The photograph of the noted comic opera actress and singer was a premium given to users of Newsboy Tobacco products. Sylvia Gerrish was a stage beauty noted in the United States as well as England. She was born in California, sang in her church choir and came to New York and pursued the theatre life. Millionaire Henry Hilton became enamored of her and sacrificed his marriage and fortune to be with her. The story of their relationship was extensively covered by the newspapers of the time. Gerrish ended up dying in poverty.

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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