Sunday, March 27, 2011

Miss Anna Held

Man oh man! Long time no see/read! My sincere apologies. My work is going through renovations so working there and moving and unpacking boxes all days wears me out and going to school in between days. So yeah, needless to say, when I get back home, I want to sit or lay down and not doing anything very productive. But! I am back!

Yesterday I went to the Detroit Film Theatre to see my favorite Buster Keaton film, The Cameraman. It was wooonderful! Every part of that film is great, especially my favorite scene in the changing room. The DFT is a great place to see a silent movie. It is beautiful inside and the downstairs bathroom/lounge is art deco with pictures of old movie stars on the walls and they have 20s music playing, so it's like you walk down the stairs into another time...which is awesome. The one sour note was that this old guy was walking out in front of me and was talking to his friend and said, "Oh you know, all these young kids come here they think seeing a silent movie is the 'in thing' to do. What do you call them? Hipsters! Yeah, hipsters." My response was "Or maybe I just like silent movies?" Idiot. He had some rank breath too. I am sure I know more about silent film than he does...and I am 40 years younger! Ugh...people...Anyways, Monday the Michigan Theatre is showing Modern Times as part of their Charlie Chaplin film series, so I am gonna try and catch that.

So, back to business. I am gonna start my "Welcome Back" blog with an entry about Anna Held, just to kinda cap off the Ziegfeld entries. She was only in two films, but she still deserves a mention because she was pretty damn amazing on stage. Well, from what I have read...sadly, I wasn't there to witness it myself.

Anna Held was born Helene Anna Held on March 8, 1872 in Warsaw, Poland to Maurice and Yvonne Held.

When she was still a child, her family had to flee to France to escape antisemitic forces in her home country. In her teens she worked making fabric before she got a job singing in the theatre.

Anna started to quickly become a well known stage performer famous for being quite risque (like showing her legs and flirting with the audience).

In 1896, while working in London, Anna met Florenz Ziegfeld. He asked her to come to New York and work for him, and she off they went! Ziegfeld really wanted her debut to be huge and began his own publicity machine around Anna, feeding stories to the press and the public to get them interested. People were curious about her before she even arrived in the States! When she finally performed on stage for her American public, they loved her!

Ziegfeld continued to be behind Anna's career and she eventually became a millionaire. It wasn't just a one way street though, because she helped him too. It was Anna who gave him the ideas for what would eventually become the Ziegfeld Follies.

In 1908 the first production of the Follies were performed...without Anna, who was pregnant with Ziegfeld's baby. It isn't known whether Anna had an abortion or if she miscarried the baby.

In 1909, their affair seemed to cool because his attentions became focused on another Follies Girl, Lillian Lorraine. That affair also cooled because he eventually married actress Billie Burke a few years later in 1914.

Anna kept herself busy performing on vaudeville stages and also touring France and entertaining the troops during World War I. She became quite popular and admired for travelling to the front lines and being right in the middle of the action.

She returned to perform in the United States until 1918 when she collapsed onstage.

Anna Held died on August 12, 1918 in New York City of multiple myeloma. She was 46 years old. It was rumored that the real cause of her death was trauma to the body from the tight corsets she always wore.

She was buried at the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, New York.

Ziegfeld didn't attend her funeral, and was publicly lambasted for being mean to Anna and leading her on. People say that they were married, and Anna herself even made comments that they were, but officially, there isn't a record of a legit marriage between the two.

Anna only married once, in 1894 to Maximo Carrera, a much older Uruguayan playboy. They had a daughter named Liane in 1895, and they eventually divorced in 1908.

Daughter Liane went on to become an actress like her mother, and even sometimes worked under the name of Anna Held Jr. In 1976, she opened a museum in San Jacinto, California of all her mother's stage memorabilia. Sadly, a few years later, some assholes broke in and stole everything. Liane passed away in 1988.

"At home in Paris I take a milk bath two times a week, but here on the road it is more difficult. I miss them." ~ Anna Held

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Baby!

Some of you may or may not be aware of the Jean Harlow blogathon that is happening until Sunday. I would have had no idea about it if a Facebook friend who I met through this blog recommended I friend a friend of hers who gave me information about it (got that straight?) I didn't want to do one of my regular entries about Jean not only because TECHNICALLY she wasn't a silent film star but also because this entry and blogathon are for her birthday celebration and I wanted to just talk about what Jean means to me.

I remember when I was younger and working as a page at the library and shelving movies and kept seeing certain older films that interested me, and one of them was Dinner at Eight. I remember recognizing the names of the Barrymores and Harlow. I had never seen their movies, but I knew their names. I took it home and loved it! I loved Marie Dressler and adored Barrymore and was tickled pink when I saw Glenda the Good Witch! But, mostly, I was in love with Jean. That beautiful platinum hair, beautiful gowns, her sense of comedy, and her sassy attitude. She held her own against Beery and it showed!

I love the way she talked. When she was upset her voice would reach a pitch that meant you had really set her off! But she became so sweet and kind when a microphone was put in front of her at premieres. She was sweet and sexy. I mean, the girl had to be sewn into her dresses at times because she wore them so form fitting. And underwear or bra...which is very obvious at sometimes. But, she could pull it off! She had the curves and also the kind of boyish physique popular in the 1920s.

What is so sad about Jean is her tragic death when she was only 26. And it wasn't suicide or drug related either, like most young stars who get too caught up in their new lifestyle. Instead it was due to peritonitis from an untreated attack of scarlet fever. I remember reading about her death in David Stenn's book, Bombshell and getting tears in my eyes because her death was just terrible. This woman I admired so much just should not have had to go through that.

I hope that one day I can visit her grave...even though this seems very unachievable considering you have to give up your first born in order to gain access. I am sure it would be just like it is when I visit Buster Keaton. I would just sit there and...just sit and talk and be in awe of this remarkable person, and the closest to them that I can ever be.

So, tomorrow, in honor of her 100th birthday...I plan on watching Dinner at Eight and toasting the one and only "Baby." All of us who know and love you remember you, Jean. Rest in peace Baby!

Also...there is a new book about Jean being released sometime this month called Harlow in Hollywood by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira. Any book about Jean is more than welcome. I plan on having the library I work for get a copy of it. Check it out!! Harlow in Hollywood