MARGARET HALSTON: BEAUTIFUL SHAKESPEARIAN ACTRESS AND FILM STAR

Margaret Halston, in her role as Desdemona in Othello, is the subject of this real photo postcard published by Percy Guttenberg of Manchester, England. The postcard is part of the “Revival Series” (no.122). Margaret Halston (1879-1967) was an English actress born in London, England as Clara Maud Hertz. A number of references mention that she was of Jewish descent. She was known for both theater, film, and television performances. Among her popular performances was in “Tell Your Children” (1922), “The Holly and the Ivy” 1952, and “Touch and Go” (1955). She began her acting career in amateur theatre and she made her professional stage debut at the Haymarket Theater in 1895. Her roles became larger over time until she became a leading actress appearing in plays such as  ‘Hamlet   ‘ (1896), “Antony and Cleopatra” (1897), and “The Taming of the Shrew” (1897). At the turn of the century she became part of Frank Benson’s theatre group and took numerous roles in Shakespearian theatre. It is reported that she acted in almost all of Shakespeare’s plays. She later worked in George Alexander and Herbert Beerbohm-Tree’s theater groups. She became involved in film in 1916 when she made her debut with “A Bunch of Violets”. Over the next few years she appeared in a small number of silent movies. She adapted well to sound films and appeared in a number of them. IMDB credits her with appearing in sixteen films between 1917 and 1956. The site also lists three television credits between 1938 and 1955. Miss Halstan was certainly an entertainment star. It is interesting to note that she twice played in the role of “Queen of Transylvania” in the theatrical production of “My Fair Lady” (1957-1958, 1961-1963). There are three portraits of her in the National Portrait Gallery.

POSTCARD ADVERTISEMENT FOR LANGSTON HUGHES BROADWAY PLAY “MULATTO” (RPPC)

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This postcard is incredibly interesting in many ways. It is an artifact of theater history as well as American History (Race Relations). It also serves as an important symbol concerning African American History. The postcard appears to be simply an advertisement for a play produced by Martin Jones entitled “Mulatto”. The postcard offers rave reviews from New York newspapers. The New York Times reported the play was “Flaming with sincerity.” and the Mirror exclaimed “Stark realism”. The play was in it’s ninth month at the time of the issuance of this postcard and it was appearing at the Ambassador Theatre located just west of Broadway. Seats could be had for as low as 55 cents and for as high as $2.75. The play “Mulatto” was written by Langston Hughes. It was the first African American authored play to become a long-run Broadway hit. It opened in October (1935) and closed in September (1936) after running for 373 performances. The show then toured for two seasons. Langston Hughes wrote the play in 1930 and it was his first full-length play. The play covered powerful issues such as conflict between father and son, the power of class and whiteness, oppression of southern African Americans, and the lasting effects of slavery. The play also is seen by some as anti-lynching. The Broadway version of “Mulatto” was altered by producer Martin Jones without consulting with Langston Hughes. Jones took Hughes already shocking play and sensationalized it. Jones’s editing handiwork did not help Hughes’s reputation. The play, already emotionally charged, became very controversial. In fact, it was banned in Philadelphia. By the way, did you notice Mr. Hughes is not even mentioned on this advertising postcard? Hughes was much more than a talented playwright. He was also a poet, novelist, and social activist. He was one of the innovators of  “jazz poetry” and an important part of the “Harlem Renaissance”. He was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902. He was left with his grandparents while his mother pursued a theatrical career. His grandmother’s first husband had fought and died for abolitionist John Brown. She helped shape his intense pursuit for social and racial equality. Hughes was an excellent student. In the 1910’s he moved to Illinois and joined his mother. They later moved to Cleveland, Ohio. After high school he lived a year in Mexico with his father and than enrolled in Columbia University (New York City) in 1921. He left school due to racial prejudice and held various jobs and published some of his writing. He received some harsh criticism from some of the African American community for his use of stereotypical African American dialects. He returned to college, graduated from Lincoln College, and continued writing becoming very well known. I mentioned that this postcard was very interesting from a number of perspectives. One feature that makes this postcard unique is the printed notation on it’s reverse. The “blurb” requests that theatre goers who attended a performance of “Mulatto”, write their comments about the play on the postcard and address it to a friend. The management promises to stamp the postcard and see to mailing it. This was a creative way to publicize and market the play to a “target audience”. This method was essentially low tech social media. The writer of this postcard utilized the opportunity to pen a message to a friend in Towanda, Pennsylvania. The postcard was mailed from New York in July of 1936. Referring to the play, the writer stated “You would like this. Remember our discussions on race prejudice in E. (Cornish’s?) class.” and “I know you would appreciate this”. One of the things that amazes me is that the writer actually discussed racial prejudice in school in the 1930’s and was interested in the topic.

LANGSTON HUGHES

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PORTRAIT OF A “FLORODORA GIRL”….HEY, WHAT’S A FLORODORA GIRL? (VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPH)

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This vintage photograph features a portrait of a “Florodora Girl”.  You may be wondering “what the heck is a Florodora Girl”? I was asking myself the same question when the previous owner of this image described the pretty woman in this photograph as a “Florodora Girl”. Being curious, I did a little research and found that “Florodora” was an Edwardian musical comedy that became one of the first successful Broadway musicals of the twentieth century. The show opened in London in 1899. Actresses Evie Greene and Ada Reeve were among the show’s performers. The Broadway production was performed at the Casino Theater in 1900 and ran for 552 performances. The show achieved some of its success from it’s chorus line of “Florodora Girls”. A wikipedia entry describes the six female performers comprising the line as being”tall, gorgeous damsels, clad in pink walking costumes, black picture hats and carrying frilly parasols (who) swished onto the stage and captivated New York for no other reason than they were utterly stunning”. Please pardon my brief excursion to the land of theater history. Now, lets get back to this image. The reverse of this photograph has an inscription that states “Maid and the Mummy”. It is probably a safe bet to conclude that the subject of this photograph was an actress that appeared in the production of “Maid and the Mummy”. “The Maid and the Mummy (1904)” was a musical comedy that played at the New York Theater in New York City. The show played 42 performances. Actresses in the play included May Boley, Adele Rowland, Janet Priest, and Annie Yeamans. The Cornell Daily Sun (1905) reviewed the play and reported that the production was “one of the most elaborate the stage has seen in recent years”. Interestingly, the article also states that ” “The Maid and the Mummy’ is the biggest success since “Florodora”. After some investigating, I strongly believe that the actress seen in this image is Adele Rowland. Take a look at the photograph below which is a photograph of Miss Rowland taken by photographer Joseph Hall, the same photographer of the photograph seen above. Do the women in these two images resemble each other enough to be the same person? I think so. Who is Adele Rowland? Adele Rowland was born in 1883 in Washington D.C.. Her sister, Mabel Rowland (1882-1943) was also an actress. Adele was a soprano with an “effervescent personality” who excelled in musical comedies. The New York Times (1904) reviewed “The Maid and the Mummy” and wrote that Rowland and May Boley “had something to say and sing, but their chief duty was to be looked at”. In 1915, she introduced the song “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag”. That song has stuck around over time. She also had a film career; appearing in six films between 1941 and 1950. She died in 1971. Here is some information about photographer Joseph Hall. He had studios in both Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York. He pursued his career between 1865 and 1915. Hall mass produced carte de visite portraits and albumin prints for the public. He also was a pioneer in producing photo-illustrated books in the 1860’s. He also was well known for being a premier photographer of professional baseball teams and players in the 1880’s. In addition, Hall did a lot of work in the area of photographing theatrical stars and productions. He died in 1915. To view more of Joseph Hall’s photographs, click on the category “Photographer: Hall”.

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                                                                                                                                                Close-Up of Floradora Girl

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                                                                                                                                     Confirmed Photo of Adele Rowland

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                                                                                                                                       Reverse of Floradora Photograph

ACTORS CHARLES GARRY AND DORA BARTON APPEARING IN “IVANHOE” (1909 REAL PHOTO POSTCARD)

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This wonderful vintage real photo postcard captures actor Mr. Charles Garry and actress Dora Barton (1880-1966) in a dramatic scene from the play “Ivanhoe”. Ivanhoe was a dramatization by William Palmer of Walter Scott’s novel.Dora Barton plays Rebecca while Charles Garry plays the role of Isaac of York. Both actors later had film careers. This photograph does an incredible job of capturing the performers emotions. The photographer of this image was well known for his talent and family ties. Alexander Percy Guttenberg (1870-?) came from a family that produced a number of photographers. His father, Marcus Guttenberg (1828-1891) began as a daguerreotypist in Hungary, Prussia, Poland and Germany before starting a photography business in England (1851). One source reports that he established 24 studios in England but settled in the Manchester area. Percy, like his father, was also very successful. In fact, there are fourteen of his photographs in England’s National Portrait Gallery. Percy was famous for his work photographing actors and actresses. The image above was photographed at his Queen’s Theater studio in Manchester as part of a “Revival Series”. The postcard has been mailed and is postmarked in Sunderland in the year 1909. Sunderland is in the northeast of England.

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THE MERCHANT OF THE MASKS (REAL PHOTO FRENCH POSTCARD BY ALBERT BERGERET)

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This spectacular vintage real photo postcard features a pretty young woman posed as a seller of theatrical masks.  Note the detail of the facial features of each mask. The masks are absolutely beautiful, as is their purveyor. This RPPC was produced by celebrated French artist Albert Bergeret (1859-1932) and published in Nancy, France. Included in Bergeret’s body of work is his series “Women of the Future”. In 1902 he designed a series of postcards depicting women at work in traditionally male professions. Seen below are some examples of these cards. We see a journalist and a soldier. Other cards included a physician, lawyer, and a military general. Bergeret was no feminist. In fact, many of his depictions in the series involved women in skimpy clothing. The pictures were more like pin-ups than a call for equal employment rights for women. Bergeret was a successful businessman. His studio became the leading postcard producer in France. In 1900 he produced 25 million cards and by 1903 he published 75 million postcards. He knew how to grow a business.

women-future3                                                                                                                                                        WOMEN OF THE FUTURE   femmes_avenir_08_sous_off                                                                                                                                                          WOMEN OF THE FUTURE

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REVERSE OF THE MERCHANT OF THE MASKS POSTCARD

ROMANTIC SCENE FROM THE PLAY “HAVANA” (1908): VINTAGE REAL PHOTO POSTCARD

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This vintage real photo postcard captures a scene from the the stage production of “Havana” which appeared in 1908 at the Gaiety Theatre in London. The play ran for 221 performances before going on the road around England. The show later played in Berlin, Philadelphia and New York City (The Casino Theatre). Interestingly, future star, Gladys Cooper appeared in the chorus. The play’s plot was that Evie Greene was the daughter of a cigar store owner who also happened to be the mayor of Havana. She was promised to her cousin in marriage but was in love with an English yachtsman (McKay). To complicate matters, the McKay was suspected of being a revolutionary. The actors in this image are Evie Greene and Leonard McKay. Edith Elizabeth (“Evie”) Greene (1875-1917) was an English actress and singer who played in Edwardian Musical Comedies in London and on Broadway. She was quite beautiful and was often photographed. She was most known for starring in the international hit musical “Florodora” (1899). She sang in the cast album of the show which was historic because it was the world’s first original cast album. This postcard was published by Rotary Photo as part of a series (no. 7431 F). It was printed in England. The photograph itself is by “Play Pictorial”. “Play Pictorial” was an English theatre magazine published in London between 1902 and 1939. The publication provided a pictorial presentation of West End theatrical productions with each issue focusing on just one play.

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