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


  1. is there any anna blood still around in the world today?

    1. Hello Mysterious Anonymous!
      Good question! I did read that she had a great-great-granddaughter named Alexandra out there, so yes, she still has direct descendants who are alive today.

  2. Actually, her great-great-grandson (maybe there's one more great) is on Facebook, and is a dead ringer for her! I've spoken to him, and he is so proud to be related to Anna.

    1. Oh, I will have to look him up! Thank you, Luke!

  3. Very interesting site, I grew up in San Jacinto Ca and many of my friends recall going to the museum Liane ran. Do you have any pictures of either the house Liane lived in or the museum or Liane?

    1. I would have LOVED to visited that museum! Unfortunately though, I haven't seen any pictures of it :(

  4. Jessica, this is so interesting. Thank you for posting this, and for the photos! We very much want more info on Anna Held. And I would love to find out the name of the great-great-great grandson you mention! I am a great-great niece -- my grandfather Paul Held, the composer, conductor and musicologist, was Anna Held's nephew.

  5. We recently renovated a home built in 1905 and found two large Anna Held cigar signs. I came across your blog in my search to find out what they are worth. Any ideas as to whom I can contact that would have info on Anna Held antiques?

    1. Well, can I for one say how deeply jealous I am! It has always been a dream of mine to stumble across something like that!
      As far as who to take these items to, me, being the librarian would always say to check with your local library in the Reference department. They are great at digging up information.
      Using my own library skills, I have found that the New York Public Library has a collection of papers belonging to Anna, but in a lot of archival cases, if you were to donate the item, it would most likely just stay in storage. If you were trying to sell them, your best bet would be a fan because they are usually willing to pay a lot of money to get their hands on memorabilia. It isn't about their value, but more about their worth to the person.
      Anna does have descendants still around who do still cherish her memory, but I can't find the contact info for them right now. If you can e-mail me so I can have your e-mail address, I will send you info once I find it.