11 July 2020

Recently acquired: La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, Part 1

We found a series of vintage Spanish cards with pictures of silent film stars - in blue, brown, purple, pink, and green. Not exactly a common style, now nor then. And all the pictures are oval-formed, to top it off. These blank-backed cards were published in Barcelona by Francisco Mario Bistagne, editor of 'La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica'. This magazine was very popular in Spain from November 1922, when the first number appeared, until August 1932, when it stopped being published. Interestingly, the cards show that Italian stars must have been still popular in Spain at the time, and there are also many cards of forgotten stars whose postcards are now hard to find. Ivo and I selected 50 cards which we will publish in two posts. The second post will follow tomorrow.

Francesca Bertini
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, Número especial (special number).

Majestic diva of the Italian silent cinema Francesca Bertini (1892-1985) was one of the first European film stars. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, she often played the 'femme fatale', with men devouring eyes, glamorous attire, clenched fists, and in opulent settings.

Charles Chaplin in A Dog's Life (1918)
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 3. Photo: United Artists (but the film was produced by First National). Charles Chaplin in A Dog's Life (Charles Chaplin, 1918). Charlot was the Spanish nickname for Chaplin.

Marie Prevost
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 13.

Marie Prevost (1898-1937) was a Canadian-born, American silent screen actress. She was excellent in such comedies as Ernst Lubitsch's The Marriage Circle (1924). The end of her life was filled with tragedies.

Ben Turpin
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 14. Photo: United Artists.

Cross-eyed silent comedian Ben Turpin (1869-1940) was not born that way. Supposedly his right eye slipped out of alignment while playing the role of the similarly afflicted Happy Hooligan in vaudeville and it never adjusted. Ironically, it was this disability that would enhance his comic value and make him a top name in the silent film era. Turpin's true forte was impersonating the most dashingly romantic and sophisticated stars of the day and turning them into clumsy oafs. He also invented a Hollywood tradition by being the first actor to receive a pie in his face.

Pina Menichelli
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 15.

Fascinating and enigmatic Pina Menichelli (1890-1984) was the most bizarre Italian diva of the silent era. With her contorted postures and disdainful expression, she impersonated the striking femme fatale.

Livio Pavanelli
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 16. Photo Pinto, Rome.

Livio Pavanelli (1881-1958) was an Italian actor of the Italian and in particular German silent cinema. He also worked in Italian sound cinema as an actor and as a production manager. He directed four Italian films, both in the silent and the sound era.

Gladys Walton
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 19.

Gladys Walton (1903-1993) was an American actress, who peaked in the American silent film of the 1920s. She was a flapper in such films such as The Girl Who Ran Wild (1922), and The Wise Kid (1922).

Aimé Simon-Girard
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 20.

Aimé Simon-Girard (1889-1950) was a French film actor and operetta singer. He mostly played in French costume films of the 1920s and 1930s.

Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 25.

Hesperia (1885-1959), was one of the Italian divas of the silent screen. She often worked with director Baldassarre Negroni, who later became her husband.

George Walsh
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 34.

George Walsh (1889-1981) was an American film actor, who despite a successful career in silent cinema is best remembered for the part that was taken off from him: the title role in Ben-Hur (1925).

Alberto Capozzi
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinemátografica, no. 52.

Alberto Capozzi (1886-1945) was an Italian film and stage actor who had an enormous career in Italian cinema in the 1910s and early 1920s. Afterward, he pursued a career abroad in Austria and as a sound dubber in France. He returned to film acting in Italian cinema in the early 1940s.

Thomas Meighan
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematografica, no. 72.

Thomas Meighan (1879-1936) was an American stage and screen actor. He starred in seven silent films by William C. de Mille and five others by his brother, Cecil B. DeMille.

Mary Philbin
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 73.

Mary Philbin (1902-1993) was an American film actress of the silent film era, who is best known for playing the roles of Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera (Rupert Julian, 1925) opposite Lon Chaney, and as Dea in The Man Who Laughs (Paul Leni, 1928), opposite Conrad Veidt.

Alla Nazimova
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematografica, no. 75.

Alla Nazimova (1879–1945) was a grand, highly flamboyant star of the American silent cinema. The Russian-born film and theatre actress, screenwriter, and film producer was widely known as just Nazimova. On Broadway, she was noted for her work in the classic plays of Ibsen, Chekhov, and Turgenev. Her efforts at silent film production were less successful, but a few sound-film performances survive as a record of her art.

Tullio Carminati
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 76.

Tullio Carminati (1895-1971) was an Italian stage and film actor with a longstanding career from the 1910s to the 1960s. He played in Italian, German, American, British, and French films and on Italian, American, and British stages.

Virginia Valli
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 77.

Virginia Valli (1895–1968) was an American stage and film actress whose motion picture career started in the silent film era and lasted until the beginning of the sound film era of the 1930s.

Erich von Stroheim
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 78.

Was Austrian-born Erich von Stroheim (1885-1957) a Hollywood movie star or a European film star? (Who cares!) As the sadistic, monocled Prussian officer in both American and French films, he became ‘The Man You Love to Hate’. But maybe he is best known as one of the greatest and influential directors of the silent era, known for his extravaganza and the uncompromising accuracy of detail in his monumental films.

Jacqueline Logan
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 81.

Jacqueline Logan (1901-1983) was an American actress of the silent screen. Her most famous part is that of Mary Magdalene in the biblical epic The King of Kings (1927) by Cecil B. DeMille.

Tom Moore
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinemátografica, no. 82.

Tom Moore (1883-1955) was an Irish-American actor and director. From 1908 to 1954, he appeared in at least 186 films. Frequently cast as the romantic lead, he starred in silent films as well as in some of the first sound films.

Bessie Love
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematografica, no. 83.

American actress Bessie Love (1898-1986) was introduced to the cinema by D.W. Griffith. He also gave the actress her screen name. She played innocent young girls and wholesome leading ladies in silent films and early talkies. Her acting career spanned eight decades, and her role in The Broadway Melody (1929) earned her a nomination for the Oscar for Best Actress.

Wesley Barry
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 84.

Wesley Barry (1907-1994) was an adorable child actor in silent films who was known for his face full of freckles. He later became a producer and director of both film and television. As a director, he was sometimes billed as Wesley E. Barry.

Lon Chaney
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematografica, no. 86.

American stage and film actor, director, and screenwriter Lon Chaney (1883-1930) is regarded as one of the most versatile and powerful actors of early cinema. Between 1912 and 1930 he played more the 150 widely diverse roles. He is renowned for his characterizations of tortured, often grotesque and afflicted characters, and his groundbreaking artistry with makeup. ‘The Man of a Thousand Faces’ starred in such silent horror films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Corinne Griffith
Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematografica, no. 87.

Corinne Griffith (1894–1979) was an American film actress, producer, and author. Dubbed 'The Orchid Lady of the Screen', she was one of the most popular film actresses of the 1920s and widely considered the most beautiful actress of the silent screen. While she started out at Vitagraph in 1916, she became a very popular actress at First National Pictures. Griffith was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Frank Lloyd's The Divine Lady, a 1929 American Vitaphone sound film with a synchronised musical score, sound effects, and some synchronised singing, but no spoken dialogue. Griffith played the female lead of Lady Hamilton, opposite Victor Varconi as Horatio Nelson. When sound film set in, Griffith stopped acting and became a successful writer and businesswoman.

Douglas Fairbanks Junior
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 88.

Handsome and distinguished, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (1909-2000) was much more than the son of his superstar father. He was a bright, multi-talent, who excelled in sports and sculpting, was involved in the business, and was knighted for his war efforts as a lieutenant. And he acted in approximately 100 films or TV shows.

Anita Stewart,
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 89.

Anita Stewart (1895-1961) was an American actress who achieved success during the silent period. From 1911 on, she worked with director Ralph Ince for Vitagraph, later she had her own film company at Metro. The advent of the sound film ended her career.

To be continued tomorrow.

10 July 2020

Fred Thomson

Handsome Fred Thomson (1890–1928) was an American silent film cowboy, who rivaled Tom Mix in popularity in the mid-1920s. He was the no. 2 box office star for 1926 and 1927 and played the legendary Jesse James and Kit Carson. In 1928, he suddenly died of tetanus, only 38 years old. He should not be confused with silent film director Frederick A. Thomson.

Fred Thomson
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1993/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Paramount.

Fred Thomson
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3500/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Paramount.

Fred Thomson
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4355/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Walter F. Seely, Hollywood / Paramount.

Discovered by Mary Pickford

Frederick Clifton Thomson was born in Pasadena, California to Clara and Williell Thomson, a Presbyterian minister.

Fred attended the Princeton Theological Seminary from 1910 till 1913 and won the All-Around Champion title given out by the Amateur Athletic Union in 1910, 1911, and 1913.

Initially interested in the ministry, he became a pastor in both Washington, DC, and in Los Angeles, and subsequently married his college sweetheart, Gail Jepson, in 1913. Three years later, Gail died of tuberculosis. Following her tragic death in 1916, he left his fellowship and enlisted in the military.

During World War I, Thomson served as a U.S. Army chaplain in the 143rd Field Artillery Regiment, known informally as 'the Mary Pickford Regiment'. While playing football, he broke his leg. Mary Pickford visited the patients in the hospital ward with her friend, screenwriter Frances Marion. (Other sources write that Fred was assigned as technical advisor for a Mary Pickford war film, Johanna Enlists (William Desmond Taylor, 1918), and thus he met Pickford's friend Marion.) Anyway, Thomson and Marion fell in love, and in 1919, after the war was over, they married with Pickford as the maid of honour.

Initially interested in directing, Thomson ended up acting in one of Frances' films, the drama Just Around the Corner (Frances Marion, 1921). The film was a success. Next, he had a co-starring role in a Pickford film, the drama The Love Light (1921), which was also directed and written by Frances.

In 1923, Thomson starred in his own action serial for Universal, The Eagle's Talons (Duke Worne, 1923), in which he performed his own stunts. Signed by Joseph P. Kennedy's studio Film Booking Offices of America, he made his debut for FBO in The Mask of Lopez (Albert S. Rogell, 1924). Thomson became a superstar at FBO: he was the no. 2 box office star for 1926 and 1927.

His April 1925 contract paid him $10,000 a week (equivalent to approximately $145,787 in 2019 dollars) and also gave Thomson his own independent production unit at the studio. In 1927, Kennedy—sensing that Thomson had reached the peak of his popularity and seeing a financial opportunity for FBO—arranged a four-picture deal with Paramount Pictures, one of the major Hollywood studios. The deal essentially ceded Thomson to the rival studio. For guaranteeing $75,000 in the financing, Thomson would star in Paramount productions. In return, Paramount would return the $75,000 in financing plus an additional $100,000 and pay Thomson $15,000 a week, wiping Thomson's salary off of FBO's books.

Fred Thomson
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3379/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Paramount.

Fred Thomson
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 434. Photo: Paramount.

The legendary Silver King

Paramount's exhibition circuit was more prestigious than FBO's, and its cinemas, many located in larger cities, charged a premium for a ticket. In addition, Paramount boosted the price of a Fred Thomson picture to cover the backend deal with FBO and Thomson's hefty salary.

The new production arrangement meant that Thomson fans in rural theatres that were the core of FBO's audience often had to wait months for a chance to see a new Thomson picture, if it was even released to backwater cinemas, or were forced go to a larger city where the film was playing on the Paramount circuit.

Some critics found that the Thomson Westerns, which essentially were "B-pictures", were not suited for the high-end, more expensive cinemas they were being shown in. As a result, the Thomson-Paramount Westerns such as Jesse James (Lloyd Ingraham, 1927) and The Sunset Legion (Lloyd Ingraham, Alfred L. Werker, 1928) proved not to be as profitable.

In early December 1928, Thomson stepped on a nail while working in his stables. Contracting tetanus, which his doctors initially misdiagnosed, he died in Los Angeles on Christmas Day 1928. His final Western was Kit Carson (Lloyd Ingraham, Alfred L. Werker, 1928)

He was survived by his widow, screenwriter Frances Marion, and their children Richard Thomson (adopted) and Frederick C. Thomson. Because of her memories of Fred, Frances Marion could not live anymore on Enchanted Hill, their 160-acre estate in Beverly Hills with a house designed by Wallace Neff. So she sold everything, including Thomson's horse Silver King, the co-star of his films. In 1997, Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, bought the estate, up till then lovingly kept, bulldozed all of it, and basically didn't do anything else with it.

Silver King was legendary. It was a white Palomino horse seventeen hands high. Al Rogell, who directed Thomson's first seven Western films, told about Silver King: "He did all of the work...everything in the early pictures — the mouth work, the jumps, the chases, the falls, quick stops — and could untie knots, lift bars, etc. He could wink one eye, nod his head yes or no, push a person with his head. Thomson trained him to do certain things and expected him to perform them."

Only three of Thomson's films have survived to the present day: Just Around the Corner is in the collection of the Library of Congress; The Love Light, starring Mary Pickford, has been released on VHS and DVD; and Thundering Hoofs has been released on VHS. In Thundering Hoofs, Thomson performs a dangerous jump from a moving stagecoach to one of the horses pulling the coach. He fell and suffered a compound fracture of his right thigh. Yakima Canutt completed the stunt. Production of the film was delayed for weeks while Thomson recovered from his injury. Canutt told the story in the episode 'Hazard of the Game' in Kevin Brownlow's fascinating TV series Hollywood (1980), produced by Thames Television.

Fred Thomson in The Bandit's Baby (1925).
American postcard. Photo: F.B.O. Fred Thomson riding his horse Silver King in The Bandit's Baby (James P. Hogan, 1925).

Fred Thomson
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3260/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Paramount. Thomson is marked dead at the postcard.

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Steve Vaught (Paradise Leased), Hollywood (Thames Television 1980), Wikipedia, and IMD.

09 July 2020

Photo by Ernst Sandau

One of the Berlin studios which photographed film stars for the postcards of Ross Verlag was Atelier Sandau. Between 1919 and 1939, Ernst Sandau portrayed many actors in his studio at Unter den Linden, but he also made fashion photos for such women magazines as >die neue linie<. During the Third Reich, he changed his subject to Ritterkreuzträger (Knight Cross Holders). For this post, we selected 20 Ross Verlag postcards for which Sandau made the photographs between 1919 and 1940.

Liane Haid
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 480/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Ernst Sandau, Berlin.

Prima ballerina, dancer, singer, and actress Liane Haid (1895-2000) was the first film star of Austria. She was the epitome of the Süßes Wiener Mädel (Sweet Viennese Girl), and from the mid-1910s on she made close to a hundred films.

Pola Negri
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 510/2, 1919-1924. Photo: Ernst Sandau, Berlin.

A postcard from Pola Negri's (1897-1987) German years before she moved to Hollywood. In the late 1910s and the 1920s, she achieved notoriety as a femme fatale in silent films in Poland, Berlin, and Hollywood. Negri was an overnight sensation in Ernst Lubitsch's Madame du Barry/Passion (1919). Her vamp roles were so popular that she was a direct rival of Theda Bara, and lived in a Hollywood palace, modelled after the White House.

Ossi Oswalda
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin. Photo: Ernst Sandau, Berlin.

Ossi Oswalda (1895-1947) was one of the most popular comediennes of the German silent cinema. Her popularity at the time earned her the nickname 'The German Mary Pickford'.

Margarete Lanner
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 982/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Ernst Sandau, Berlin.

Margarete Lanner (1896–1981) was a German stage and film actress. She appeared in around 30 films during the silent era in a mixture of leading and supporting roles. She had a small part in Fritz Lang's classic Metropolis (1927).

Margarete Schön
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1097/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ernst Sandau, Berlin.

Margarete Schön (1895-1985) is best known for her role as Kriemhild, the beautiful but revengeful princess of Burgundy in Fritz Lang’s silent epic Die Nibelungen (1924). The career of this German stage and film actress spanned nearly fifty years.

Elisabeth Bergner
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1141/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ernst Sandau, Berlin.

The profoundly sensitive acting of Austrian-British actress Elisabeth Bergner (1897-1986) influenced the German cinema of the 1920s and 1930s. She specialised in a bisexual type that she portrayed in Der Geiger von Florenz and in other film and stage roles. Nazism forced her to go in exile, but she worked successfully in the West End and on Broadway.

Fritz Kortner
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1325/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ernst Sandau, Berlin.

Austrian-born stage and film actor and theatre director Fritz Kortner (1892-1970) was one of the best-known character actors of the German silent cinema. His specialty was playing sinister and threatening roles.

Alfred Abel
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1427/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ernst Sandau.

Alfred Abel (1879-1937) played in over 140 silent and sound films between 1913 and 1938. He is best known as the industrial Fredersen in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927).

Käthe von Nagy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4014/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Sandau, Berlin.

Hungarian actress Käthe von Nagy (1904-1973) started as the ‘Backfish’ of German films of the late 1920s. In the early 1930s, she became a fashionable and charming star of the German and French cinema.

Brigitte Helm
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4015/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Sandau, Berlin. Collection: Geoffrey Donaldson Institute.

German actress Brigitte Helm (1908-1996) is still famous for her dual role as Maria and her double the evil Maria, the Maschinenmensch, in the silent SF classic Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927). After Metropolis she made a string of over 30 films in which she almost always had the starring role. She easily made the transition to sound films, before she abruptly retired in 1935.

Father and Son

Ernst Sandau was the son of another photographer named Ernst Sandau. His father was born in 1880 in Linköping in Sweden and his original name was allegedly Ernst Sigfrid Pettersson, which he changed around 1895. Sandau senior was a royal Swedish court photographer and a civil engineer.

Ernst Senior came to Berlin around 1905 and established himself there as a portrait photographer. From about 1910, he ran his studio in the house Unter den Linden 19, where Erich Sellin had worked before him. Later the Atelier Sandau was in Unter den Linden 41, in which photographer Tita Binz later also worked.

After his death in 1918, Ernst Sandau's photo studio in Berlin was taken over by photographer Suse Byk.

Ernst Junior had also become a photographer. He focused on fashion and worked for such women magazines as >die neue linie<. Like Tita Binz, Ernst Jr. also got work orders from Ross Verlag.

He started there around 1919. The last Ross Verlag postcards with his pictures date from ca. 1940. In this period, he also portrayed Ritterkreuzträger (Knight Cross Holders). Little is known further about Ernst Sandau's life.

Anita Dorris
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4194/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Ernst Sandau, Berlin.

Beautiful German leading lady Anita Dorris (1903-1993) started as a stage actress in 1921, after which some 15 silent films followed. Dorris was beloved in the late 1920s and smoothly made the passage to sound. In 1930, however, she married Austrian film director E. W. Emo and withdrew from the cinema. Her daughter, Maria Emo, would also become a well-known stage and film actress.

Hans Stüwe
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4285/1. 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Sandau, Berlin.

Hans Stüwe (1901-1976) was a German singer and opera director. From 1926 on he was also a big film star in Germany. Four times he was the film partner of Ufa diva Zarah Leander.

Anna Sten
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6646/2, 1931-1932. Photo: Vogel-Sandau, Berlin.

Strikingly beautiful Anna Sten (1908-1993) was a Ukrainian-born actress, who became the most famous, or rather, the most notorious of the many ‘new Greta Garbos’ of the 1930s.

Jenny Jugo
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 9289/1, 1935-1936. Photo: Atelier Sandau, Berlin.

Pretty Austrian actress Jenny Jugo (1904-2001) starred between 1931 and 1942 in eleven smart and charming comedies directed by Erich Engel.

Anneliese Uhlig
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 1623/1, 1937-1938. Photo: Sandau.

Classic beauty Anneliese Uhlig (1918-2017) was an elegant and enchanting femme fatale of Ufa crime films of the 1940s, who unwillingly bewitched Joseph Goebbels. After the war, the German actress worked also internationally as a journalist, theatre producer, and university teacher and became an American citizen.

Lida Baarova
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 1772/1, 1937-1938. Photo: Sandau, Berlin. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Beautiful Lída Baarová (1914–2000) was a glamorous Czech film star who worked in Prague, Berlin, and Rome. A dangerous affair with Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of the Third Reich, first enhanced and later seriously damaged her career.

Peter Bosse
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2122/1, 1939-1940. Photo: Sandau, Berlin.

Actor, presenter, and journalist Peter Bosse (1931-2018) was a popular child star of the German cinema in the 1930s. The boy with his cheeky face made 28 films.

La Jana
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2231/1, 1939-1940. Photo: Sandau, Berlin.

Sexy German dancer and film actress La Jana (1905-1940) was the most popular showgirl of Berlin in the 1930s. She appeared in 25 European films, often dancing in exotic costumes. In 1940, she suddenly died of pneumonia and pleurisy.

Viktor de Kowa
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2401/1, 1939-1940. Photo: Tobis / Sandau.

Viktor de Kowa (1904-1973) was a German actor, singer, director, and comedy writer. In the 1930s he became one of the most prominent and beloved comedy actors of the German cinema.

Viktoria von Ballasko
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2454/1, 1939-1940. Photo: Sandau / Tobis.

Austrian actress Viktoria von Ballasko (1909-1976) was a leading lady of the German cinema of the 1930s and 1940s. She also worked as a writer.

Sources: Johannes Christoph Moderegger (Modefotografie in Deutschland 1929-1955 - German), Wikipedia (German), and Pantorijn.