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.


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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.

PAULINE MARKHAM: TURN OF THE CENTURY BURLESQUE ACTRESS

This risque (lots of cleavage shown for this era) cabinet card is a portrait of Pauline Markham (1847-1919), a singer and burlesque dancer during the civil war period in the United States. She was born in England where she made her stage debut as a child. She came to New York and appeared in “Black Crook” and “Pinafore”. She was a member of the Lydia Thompson troupe (British Blondes). After the civil war, she had relations with Northern Generals and Reconstructionists In the 1870’s she formed her own stage company and in 1879 she took her company on a tour of the West during which they performed Gilbert and Sullivan. A member of that troupe was Josephine Marcus, who later married lawman, Wyatt Earp. She retired from the stage in 1889 after breaking her leg. She must have taken the old show business saying of “break a leg” literally. This cabinet card was photographed by Fredricks, of Brooklyn, New York. It is possible that the photographer is Charles DeForest Fredricks (1823-1894) who was an innovative American photographer. Fredricks learned the art of daguerreotypes from the great photographer , Jeremiah Gurney (see category “Photographer: Gurney”). Fredricks worked in South America through the early 1850’s and then he operated out of Charleston, South Carolina; and Paris, France. He was the first photographer to make life-size portraits, which he then hired artists to color them using pastel. He then returned to New York City and rejoined Gurney. In 1854 he developed a new enlarging process and in 1855 he ended his association with Gurney. In the late 1850’s Fredricks ran his studio in Havana, Cuba, and in the 1860’s he opened a studio on Broadway, in New York City. He retired in 1889. Research has not confirmed that Fredricks ever had a studio in Brooklyn, so it is quite uncertain whether the Fredricks who photographed Markham is actually Charles D. Fredricks.