Thursday, November 21, 2013
Knock Em Dead, Mrs Dempsey
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.
Posted by Terry Castle at 1:46 PM