BEAUTIFUL BUT NOT SO TALENTED THEATER ACTRESS: NORA KERIN

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The top vintage real photo postcard features actress Miss Nora Kerin (1883-1970) as she appeared in the theatrical production of “The Prince and the Beggar Maid”. The actress is absolutely beautiful as is her costume. The play opened at the Lyceum in June of  1908 and ran for 82 performances. Miss Kerin played Princess Monica. The actress was born in London and her family was chock full of actresses including sister, Eileen Kerin and cousing Julia Neilson, Lily Hanbury, and Hilda Hanbury. Photographs of Miss Neilson and Mis Lily Hanbury can be found elsewhere in the Cabinet Card Gallery. Nora Kerin made her stage debut in 1899. In conducting my preliminary research about Nora Kerin, I was struck by the number of negative reviews of her acting that I encountered. One review concerned her performance as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet”. The production was at the Lyceum Theater in 1908 and the review appeared in London’s “Daily Mail”.  The reviewer wrote “‘Oh, Juliet. Juliet, wherefore art thou Juliet?’ This is, of course, an inversion and a parody; but, seriously, the Juliet of Miss Nora Kerin cannot be taken so. She declaims in the conventional old-fashioned style. She somehow destroys – on the stage – her own personality, and instead of looking the pink of charm and youth (as she is when “taking a call”) she manages to conceal both. Many of her lines were badly spoken, falsely intonated and punctuated. She had moments … melodramatic outbursts … but she is not the personality … she has not the witching simplicity of the real Juliet”. Clearly, Miss Kerin was not a luminary actress of her time. However, she was quite pretty and fifteen portraits of her can be seen in the National Portrait Gallery. The photographer of this postcard image was Rita Martin, a celebrated female photographer. She is considered one of the best British photographers of her time.Her studio was in an exclusive neighborhood at  at 74 Baker Street, Marylebone. She was born Margareta Weir Martin in Ireland.  Margareta “Rita” Martin started her career in photography in 1897 by assisting her elder sister Lallie Charles in running her studio. In 1906 Rita opened her own studio. She had a style of photographing subjects in pale colors against a pure white background and she tended to avoid photographing men and older boys.  Rita had a specialty in photographing actresses including Lily Elsie and Lily Brayton. She was also well known for her child studies which often involved children of well known actresses. Lily’s sister, Lallie Charles was more known as an excellent society photographer. Many of Rita Martin’s photographs can be found in the National Portrait Gallery. A photograph of Rita Martin, by Rita Martin can be seen below. This vintage real photo postcard was produced by the Rotary Photo Company and was part of a series (no. 1796 Z).                                                                                                                 The second postcard portrait of Miss Kerin is also a good representation of her beauty. In addition she is wearing a beautiful lace dress and an extraordinary hat. The photographers of this terrific image, Foulsham & Banfield were well known celebrity photographers. Frank Foulsham and A. C. Banfield operated a studio in the 1900’s through the 1920’s. This postcard is part of the Rotary Photographic Series (no. 1796 H) and is of English origin and is postmarked 1907.                                                                                                        The third postcard features Nora Kerin in her role as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet”. Unlike the first two portraits, in this image she is wering her hair down and is projecting an air of innocence through the placement of her hands and her vulnerable expression. Just like the top postcard, this image was photographed by Rita Martin and the postcard was part of the Rotary Photographic Series (1796 S) by the Rotary Photo Company. 

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REVERSE OF TOP POSTCARD

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                                                                                                                                                            by Rita Martin, sepia-toned matte postcard print, 1900s

 PORTRAIT OF RITA MARTIN BY RITA MARTIN 

 

 

 

 

JOSIE DITT: MINOR STAGE ACTRESS PHOTOGRAPHED IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

josie ditt_0001The subject of this cabinet card portrait is stage actress Josie Ditt. Research indicates that she was a minor actress with a number of small role appearances in a number of major theater shows. The New York Dramatic Mirror (1892) announced her appearance in a “10,000 dollar production”, adding “No more, No less, No Bluff”. Will Wilson’s play, “The Man About Town” was playing at the Lyceum Theater. The show was a “Comedy, Vaudeville, Farce”. The New York Times (1894) advertised her appearance in the cast of “Little Christopher Columbus”. The Cornell Daily Sun reports her appearance in “Circus Girl”. This cabinet card was produced by the Conly studio in Boston, Massachusetts. To view other photographs by Charles F. Conly, click on the category “Photographer: Conly”. This particular photograph was once owned by Culver Pictures, a business that supplied celebrity images to the mass media for a fee. A stamp on the reverse of the photograph attests to Culver’s ownership.

PORTRAIT OF BEAUTIFUL ACTRESS EVANGELINE IRVING (BY CELEBRITY PHOTOGRAPHER WILLIAM McKENZIE MORRISON OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS)

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The previous owner of this photograph, reported the subject to be theatrical actress Evangeline Irving. Visual comparison to other portraits of Evangeline Irving support this identification. Evangeline Irving was an theater actress and the sister of a more successful theater actress named Isabel Irving.  See Isabel’s portrait by searching for it in the Cabinet Card Gallery. This photograph was produced by William McKenzie Morrison, the Chicago, Illinois, based celebrity photographer. View other Morrison photographs by clicking on category “Photographer: Morrison”.  The New York Times (1895) reported that Evangeline substituted for Isabel in a matinee performance of “The Case of Rebellious Susan”. Isabel was suffering from hoarseness. A number of  New York Times (1895, 1896) articles describes a banking fiasco that Evangeline Irving was able to resolve. Her mother had gone to the Lincoln Safe Deposit Company to get twenty thousand dollars worth of bonds out of her box. When she could not find the bonds in the box, she ran out of the vault screaming that she had been robbed. She went home  ill, and took to bed. She complained around town and soon her Senator contacted the bank demanding she be compensated with a check replacing her loss. The situation caused many people to run to their banks to see if their safety deposit box holdings had disappeared. Mrs. Irving caused a mini run on the city banks.  It took awhile for Mrs. Irving’s daughters to get involved because both of the women were performing out west. Isabel was playing roles with the Lyceum Company and Evangeline was part of  Stuart Robson’s Company. Soon, Evangeline came to the bank and after opening the safe deposit box found the bonds tied up in a bundle in the box. An apology was issued to the bank and made public.