Thursday, November 21, 2013

Knock Em Dead, Mrs Dempsey

I've been saving up these priceless press pix for some special occasion--one that never comes.  So have decided to go ahead and post them now.  Too much toxic 'white-out' beauty to hide away from view.

The glamorous woman in both photos is Hannah Williams (1911-73), Broadway stage actress and singer.  Her one and only big performing moment seems to have come when she debuted the song, "Cheerful Little Earful" in Sweet and Low (1930).  (Lesbian hottie Libby Holman starred and recorded the title song in characteristic raunchy-deluxe baritone.)  No big career for Hannah, however, but a man-magnet nonetheless--the second of her three husbands being the world-famous heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey.  After a much-publicized bust-up, Dempsey divorced her in 1943.

Top photo is fabulous in its own tawdry way, of course, with the vamp herself and (unknown) bisected man.  (Those old news photo editors and re-touchers knew what they were doing.)  But the second has to be one of my favorite news pix of all time: so much vaunting weirdness in a single image.  Caption notes how the photo has figured in the divorce trial:  "Jack Dempsey's lawyer offered this as divorce suit evidence, saying it shows Benny Woodall, Mrs. Dempsey, and Woodall's sister, in a night club."

What more to say?--except that scrawny Benny has that fabulous 1940s "cad" look down pat; Mrs. D. (on his lap?) resembles the cat who ate the canary, and the sister----oh my god, the sister.   Bears no resemblance to Benny whatsoever, but instead looks like some very obscure, opium-eating English Romantic poet of the 1820s or 1830s. A sort of wispy-greasy Coleridge/Keats hairstyle, which combined with white high-collared shirt and brilliant receding hairline makes her just the sort of tubercular dreamboat you'd want to go tramping the Lake District with.  No wonder the lady in profile who is looking through a window--reflected in the mirror (?)--behind the threesome is staring.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From the Argentine

Beautiful, frightening photo; 
a girl with arachnid arms.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Hat Made of Hair

Anna Held, Polish-Jewish singer-dancer-actress (1872-1918) made world-famous in the 1890s by her lover, the impresario and Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfield.  According to Wikipedia, "He set about creating a wave of public interest in her, by feeding stories about her to the American press, such as her having had ribs surgically removed. By the time Held and Ziegfeld arrived in New York, she was already the subject of intense public speculation. When she finally performed, the critics were dismissive of her, but the public liked her."

Held became a millionairess, but didn't live long enough to enjoy it.  After a heroic stint entertaining the French forces on the Western Front--sometimes very close to the front lines--she died at 46 in 1918, a victim of Kahler's disease, now known as multiple myeloma.

Held converted to Roman Catholicism in her early years in Paris.  (She and her family--her father was a glove-maker--had ended up there in 1881 after fleeing a series of antisemitic pogroms in Poland.)  Held later refused to acknowledge her Jewish background.  Photos, like the one above, convey a louche yet indubitable charm.