ENGLISH THEATRE ACTRESS PAMELA GAYTHORNE AND HER NOT SO SUBTLE HAT

This vintage real photo postcard features English stage actress Pamela Gaythorne. She is quite attractive and wearing much jewelry and lace. Note her not so subtle hat. It looks as if a seagull is resting on her head.  Miss Gaythorne is captured in this image as she appeared in “The Fascinating Mr. Vanderveldt. She appeared in this theatre production with Violet Vanbrugh and Arthur Bourchier. The IBDB reveals that Miss Gaythorne appeared in, and often starred in, 12 Broadway productions. Her Broadway career spanned from “Keeping Up Appearances” (1910) through “This Fine-Pretty World” (1923). The New York Times (2/14/1911) reviewed a play named “Nobody’s Daughter”. Gaythorne appeared in this play and in writing about her, the reviewer wrote that he “heartily commends” her performance. The article adds that she played her character with “delightful spontaneity, charm, variety, and suggested youth and spirit, while touching the more sentimental passages with manifest sincerity”. The photographers of this image was Foulsham and Banfield, a prolific celebrity postcard portrait studio. The postcard was produced by Rotary Photo and is part of a series (no. 4107 A). The message on this card is from Bob to Miss Marion Lipman and states “I will come in and see you when I go to the city”. Also written in the message section is what appears to be “The Empire Confectionary”. Perhaps a Cabinet Card Gallery visitor can throw some illumination on that term and also ascertain what nation the stamp of this postcard represents. The postcard is postmarked 1906.

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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BEAUTIFUL STAGE ACTRESS JOHAN WITTMAN (PUBLICITY PHOTO)

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Beautiful stage actress Johan Wittman posed for this publicity photograph for her appearance  in “The Perfect Fool”, a play that appeared at the George M. Cohan Theatre” in New York City (Broadway). Ed Wynn provided the book, lyrics, and music. The revue played in 1921 and 1922 and ran for 275 performances. Miss Wittman looks elegant in her “to the floor” beaded dress. The previous owner of this photograph hypothesized that the dress was modeled after a peacock feather. I agree with his observation. Miss Wittman is holding a feather fan behind her head. She truly is representative of the flapper era. According to Broadwayworld.com, Miss Wittman’s Broadway experience was confined to her role in “The Perfect Fool”. The photographer of this lovely portrait was Ira Daniel Schwarz (1878-1946) who was based on West 48th Street in New York City. Schwarz was a Brooklynite and one of the first New York portrait artists to work in the movie industry. He began his career as a pictorialist art photographer and during World War I he went to work for Screencraft Pictures (located in New York) as Cinematographer and Stillman. He displayed a lot of talent as a Stillman and in 1919 became the chief portrait photographer for the company. The website “Broadway Photographs” reports that Schwarz was fascinated with shade and that his images were often recognized for their “plummy blacks”. In 1924 he left Photocraft and established his own studio. In regard to his skill as a portrait photographer “Broadway Photographs” assert that Schwarz was considered “a photographic psychologist” by his colleagues because he was excellent at “capturing the mentality of his sitter”. During World War II he closed his studio due to the silver shortage.

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MEET THE VOKES FAMILY: JESSIE, VICTORIA, AND ROSINA VOKES WERE TALENTED SISTERS OF THE BRITISH STAGE

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The top photograph in this grouping features stage actress Rosina Vokes (1854-1894). She was the daughter of a London costumer. She came to America with her two older siblings and Fawdon Vokes to make a career in the theatre. Interestingly, Fawdon Vokes was not a member of the Vokes family. His name was actually Walter Fawdon, but the name change was necessary for him to join the family troupe. The group made their New York debut in 1872 in “The Belles of the Kitchen“. They played in a number of shows over time and from the beginning, Rosina was considered “infinitely the cleverest, the most bewitching” of the group. When she reappeared in America in 1885 with her own company, she was warmly welcomed. One paper wrote “she is still young, agile, slender and graceful; the piquant prettiness of her face and the droll charm of her manner still exert a strong influence on the susceptible spectator”. She toured with made-to-order productions, until shortly before her early death, at about, forty years of age. The New York Times (1893) published an article entitled “Rosina Voke’s Serious Illness: It Deprives the Anglo-American Stage of One of its Brightest Ornaments”. The article favorably compares her to her other acting family members and reveals that Vokes had embarked on a voyage from America to England whose purpose was to allow her to die in her home country. The young actress was terminally ill with consumption (pulmonary disease). Judging by the content of the many obituaries that appeared in American newspapers after Rosina Vokes succumbed to her illness, the actress was a well respected and loved performer of the American stage. It is important to note that the Vokes theatrical family included a brother named Fred Vokes (1846-1888). He was an actor and a dancer. This cabinet card comes from the studio of famed celebrity photographer, Napoleon Sarony. To view other photographs by Sarony, click on Cabinet Card Gallery’s category, “Photographer: Sarony”.

The second photograph captures Rosina and her two sisters posing for an unidentified photographer. The sisters have been identified as Jessie (1851=1884) and Victoria (1853-1894). The reverse of the photograph indicates that the image was formerly part of the “Harold Seton Collection”. Who is Harold Seton? Research reveals that Harold Seton was best known for his work as a journalist, author and collector. He wrote about theatre and society in his column, Theatre Thoughts”, which appeared in Theatre Magazine. He accumulated over ten thousand theatrical photographs of actors and actresses who performed between 1870 and 1900. He donated some of his collection to the New York Historical Society and some are  located at the Wake Forest University library, as well as a number of other institutions. A Harold Seton was a theatre actor who performed in eight plays between 1919 and 1935. Although I doubt that the two Harold Setons’ are the same men; no evidence could be found to determine if they were one and the same man.

The third image in this group is a carte de visite portrait of Victoria Vokes. The photograph was taken at the Broadway studio of Napoleon Sarony. Victoria was born in London and began her career at the Royal Surrey Theatre at just two years of age. Over time she played a variety of children’s roles in London theatres. In 1861 she appeared with her brothers and sisters at the Operetta House in Edinburgh as one of the “Vokes Children” (later changed to “The Vokes Family”. Victoria earned her early popularity with her voice but soon she was gathering acclaim via her acting. Her performance in “Amy Robsart” (1871) at Drury Lane Theatre is an example of one of her excellent exhibitions on stage. “The Cornell Daily Sun” (1890) wrote about an appearance by Victoria Vokes and her Company. The reviewer asserted that “Few actresses have appeared in Montreal whose genius is so versatile as that of Miss Yokes. She sings with a fine contralto of great power, dances like zephyr and acts in comedy — well, like one of the Yokes”.

PORTRAIT OF ACTRESS MISS ETHEL ERSKINE APPEARING IN “GIPSY LOVE” (VINTAGE REAL PHOTO POSTCARD)

 

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This vintage real photo postcard features theater actress Miss Ethel Erskine as she appeared in the role of Ilona in the production of “Gipsy Love”. Miss Erskine was a beautiful woman with dazzling and engaging eyes. Preliminary research discovered little about her biographical history. However, some information was found about the production of “Gipsy Love”. The show was a romantic operetta in three acts. The production played at the Carltheater in Vienna (1910), the Globe Theatre on Broadway (1911), and Daly’s Theatre in London (1912). This postcard was printed in Britain and produced by Rotary Photo as part of a series (11476 D).

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PORTRAIT OF STAGE ACTRESS AND JOURNALIST JULIE OPP (VINTAGE REAL PHOTO POSTCARD)

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This vintage real photo postcard features stage actress Julie Opp (1871-1921).  Miss Opp was an American stage actress who was for many years popular in America as well as in Europe. She was the wife of actor William Faversham. She married him after the pair co-starred in the Broadway production of “The Royal Rival” (1902). The internet Broadway data base indicates that Miss Opp appeared in six Broadway shows from 1901 through 1911. Julie Opp was born in New York City in 1871. Her Bavarian father ran a saloon on lower Manhattan”s Bowery Street and was active in local politics.  Her mother was Irish-American. Julie began her education in public schools but her mother decided to transfer her to a local convent to receive her education. The young girl shocked  the sisters and bishop when she told them that she wanted to become a ballet dancer when she grew up. By the time she graduated, she had replaced her ambition to dance, with becoming a writer. Her first job was being a a journalist with the New York Recorder. She was a fashion writer. As part of her work as a journalist, she became involved with many people in the theatre world including Sarah Bernhardt and Emma Calve. The show business performers tried to convince her to become an actress. As a result she dabbled in acting but in 1896 she chose the stage over writing and performed in Shakespeare’s “As You Like it” at London’s St. James Theatre. A review of her performance seen in “To-Day” (1896) stated she was “charming” and “equipped for the performance of brilliant work, either on the press or stage”. In 1906 she published “The Squaw Man: A Novel”. She fell seriously ill in 1914 while traveling abroad with her husband and two sons. She appeared to recover and performed again, but soon suffered a relapse causing her to retire from acting. She then spent her remaining years at her residence in New York City and her country house on Long Island. She died after a failed operation in 1921. This postcard was published by the Rotary Photo Company as part of the Rotary Photographic Series (no. 1572 B). Miss Opp was photographed by L. Caswall Smith. Lizzie Caswall Smith (1870-1958) was a British photographer who operated in the early 1900’s. She specialized in photographing members of society and celebrities. Many of her photographs were used for postcards. She was involved in the Women’s Suffrage movement and photographed many of the leading suffragettes. She also photographed many actors including Billie Burke and Maude Fealy. She operated the Gainsborough Studio from 1907 through 1920 (309 Oxford Street) and moved to a new location (90 Great Russell Street) where she remained until she retired in 1930 at the age of 60 years-old. Her most famous photograph is a portrait of Florence Nightingale taken in 1910. It was auctioned in 1908 and sold for 5500 pounds which is an equivalent today of nearly 8,000 dollars. The National Portrait Gallery has 84 portraits associated with Lizzie Caswall Smith.

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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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CAMILLE D’ARVILLE: PRETTY STAGE ACTRESS WITH STRONG OPINIONS ABOUT MARRIAGE AND CAREER

darvilleThis cabinet card portrait features pretty stage star Camille D’Arville (1863-1932). The photograph was published by Newsboy and was number 38 of a series of images used as tobacco premiums. The  actress is dressed like a gypsy in this photograph. She is holding a tambourine. It is interesting to note the mug in the bottom right hand corner of this image. One wonders the purpose of it’s inclusion in the photograph. It is also evident that to make this image a bit more risque, Miss D’Arville’s legs are partially exposed in the photograph. The Illustrated American (1892) wrote that she “is not only a delightful singer but she is also a charming woman”. Miss D’Arville was born in Holland in 1863 of well to do parents. When she was young she was known in her community as “the humming bird of Holland” because of her penchant for singing and her pretty voice. At age eleven she became active in amateur theater. At age fifteen she became devoted to concert singing and entered the Academy of Music in Amsterdam. Her professional career began at age twenty-two when she became a light opera actress in London. She premeired in “Cymbia” at the Strand Theater. She performed in London for six years. In 1888, J. C. Duff organized a strong opera company and engaged her to appear in “The Queens Mate” on Broadway in New York City. She shared the stage with Miss Lillian Russell. Reviewers of the play reported that Miss D’Arville captured the audience. As her career developed, she became “one of the foremost artists on the comic operatic stage”. In an interesting interview that appeared in the San Francisco Call (1900), D’Arville spoke about the issue of balancing career and marriage. She was preparing to marry Capitalist E. W. Crellin and had declared that she was going to retire from the footlights. The newspaper scoffed at the notion of her retiring because so many actresses before her had made the same declaration upon their marriage, yet after turning their backs on the stage, they do a “right about face” again. The paper opined that “they flit back before the honeymoon is over”. Miss D’Arville asserted that she wouldn’t miss her salary (reported to be “something like” a thousand dollars a week). She stated that she would miss the audience “hanging on” to every note she sang. She had a theory about mixing marriage and career. She asserted that when an artist, milliner or stenographer renounces her vocation for “the highest profession-domestic life- the world nods its approval”. However, she contends that female professionals, such as actresses, lawyers, doctors, and journalists, do not receive social approval when leaving their careers for marriage. She declares that in her opinion, attempting to combine stage and home life is about as easy as mixing oil and water. As a result, she believes that “any woman who pursues a profession after her marriage makes a miserable failure of it”. Balancing work and home is seen as so stressful that professional women have to quit at least one, and they usually choose to quit matrimony. She concludes that “marriage does not handicap a woman in her profession, but a profession seriously interferes with married life.” The issue concerning women’s ability to balance career and marriage remains part of the public debate today. Perhaps we should focus more on men’s ability to balance work and family life. It clearly is not just a problem for women. It is really incredible how researching a photograph can take one in so many different directions. Researching a vintage photograph is akin to going on a journey to a mystery destination.

Published in: on September 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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PAULINE HALL (1860-1919): BEAUTIFUL MUSICAL THEATRE STAR

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The top cabinet card features Pauline Hall (1860-1919), one of the most popular turn of the century prima donnas. She began her career as a dancer in Cincinnati, Ohio at age 15. She joined the Alice Oats Opera Company but left to tour in plays with famed actress Mary Anderson. By 1880, she worked for well known producer Edward Everett Rice in musical productions. Early in their association, he gave her a role in “Evangeline”. Her shapely figure allowed her to take male roles as she did in “Ixion” (1885). Her greatest success came in the title role of the first American production of  “Erminie” (1886). She played in more than two dozen Broadway operettas. Her final role was in the “Gold Diggers” (1919). This photograph was taken by famed celebrity photographer, Elmer Chickering of Boston, Massachusetts. Other photographs by Chickering can be seen by clicking on Cabinet Card Gallery’s category of “Photographer: Chickering, E.”. The second cabinet card, photographed by B. J. Falk, of New York City, captures Pauline Hall in stage costume. The photograph is #305 in a series from Newsboy. The tobacco company (Newsboy) gave away cabinet cards as a premium with the purchase of their products. This cabinet card shows a copyright date in the 1890’s. The exact date has become illegible over time. To view other Newsboy or Falk cabinet cards, click on the categories “Photographer: Falk” or “Photographer: Newsboy”. The third cabinet card portrait was also photographed by Falk. Ms. Hall looks quite beautiful in this image. She is wearing earrings and an interesting hat. The photograph is a bit risque. Much of her neck and shoulders are exposed. In addition, her dress accentuates and reveals significant cleavage. Is the material at the base of her scoop neckline part of her dress; or was it added in order to make the photograph less provocative? Perhaps a visitor to the cabinet card gallery will be able to provide an explanation. The fourth cabinet card image, once again photographed by B J Falk, features Miss Hall wearing a dark dress, long gloves, a lovely hat, and a purse. Pauline Hall certainly was a stage beauty as attested by this photograph.

MAGGIE MITCHELL: CELEBRATED THEATRE ACTRESS WHO PERFORMED IN FRONT OF PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN

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Maggie Mitchell (1832-1918) was a famous American actress, born in New York. Her first regular stage appearance was in “The Soldier’s Daughter” at the Chambers Street Theatre in 1851. Her first major success was as star of  “Oliver Twist”. She has been described as small, agile and energetic, with a special talent for comedy. In 1860, she appeared in “Fanchon, The Cricket” which was adapted for her from a George Sand novel. She performed in this and other plays in front of  President Abraham Lincoln. The photographer of the top image was celebrity photographer, Mora, of New York City. To view other photographs by Mora, click on Cabinet Card Gallery’s category, “Photographer: Mora”. The second portrait of Miss Mitchell was taken by the esteemed Philadelphia photographic studio, Gilbert & Bacon. This cabinet card image shows Maggie displaying a “come hither” expression. To view more photographs by this studio, click on the category “Photographer: Gilbert & Bacon”. ADDENDUM: A knowledgeable visitor to Cabinet Card pointed out that the second photo of Miss Mitchell is actually actress Lotta Crabtree (see comment below). A bit of research confirmed his astute observation. Lotta Crabtree, a woman who led a very interesting life, will receive her own entry in the cabinet card gallery in the next few days.