Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett...they're just a few of the leading ladies that have delighted us on the big screen in recent years... Actresses who have won awards, fame, and fans. But where will they be 100 years in the future? Will we still know their names, recognize their faces, remember the works that made them great?
One weekend adventure at Denise's Antique Mall in Indiana, PA, I stumbled upon a number of postcards from the early 1900s. On them were beautiful hand-tinted photographs of actresses from the British stage and the early silver screen, identified only by a vague name at the base of each card. I started wondering if these thespians had been entirely lost to time... and whether it was possible to uncover them again.
So today, I thought I'd share with you just a little bit of that detective work.
Meet "Miss Augarde."
She was the first in my stack of postcards, and the first whose history I'd determined to tackle. And it proved to be a great way to start, too, because a simple Google search revealed not only her first name-- Adrienne-- but actual newspaper reviews of one of her 1912 performances.
This one is for The Rose Maid:
"A liberal backing of pretty girls in handsome frocks..." Heh. You just don't see that sort of phrasing in film marketing these days, do you?
Here is the list of cast members...
According to the Internet Broadway Database, Adrienne Augarde performed in several musical comedies and operettas including, The Duchess of Dantzic (January to April of 1905), Peggy Machree (December 1908-January 1909), The Dollar Princess (August 1909 to May 1910), and The Rose Maid (April 1912 to September 1912).
She was originally under contract with Oswald Stoll in America, but then joined Joseph Brooks of Brooks & Dingwall in 1908, says the New York Times. Her performance in The Rose Maid was described as follows:
"Miss Augard may be relied upon to play and sing the ingenue roles sweetly and prettily, and here, as the Rose Maid, she is generally happy in the sentimental ditties that fall to her lot... Miss Augard and Mr. Sheffield please in the very charming duet, 'Two Little Hearts,' and Miss Augarde, with an excellent backing from the comlely chorus, wins approval in 'Tip Your Hat to the American Millionairess.' Her later make-up however, is not an improvement to her own natural attractiveness..."
A web site on Edwardian era postcards gives her death in March 1913, just a few months after completion of The Rose Maid. As far as I can tell, she starred in both Peggy Machree and The Rose Maid, and worked alongside lead actress Lily Elsie in The Dollar Princess and with Kitty Gordon in The Duchess of Dantzic. She may have also performed in a play called The New Aladdin, but I can't confirm that, and it's possible that her name has been confused over time with one Amy Augarde, acting around the same time period.
If you'd like to see more photos of Miss Augarde, a site called "For the Love of Opera Gloves" has a nice little pictorial gallery here.
The next card we have to discuss today is of Lily Damita...
Talk about giving Mae West a run for her money-- Dig that flashy jacket she's sporting! Does that look not say "early Hollywood"?
Lili (with an 'i' instead of a 'y') Damita, as she is listed in the Internet Movie Database, appeared in over thirty films and productions over the 20s and 30s. Born Liliane Marie Madelaine Carre in 1904 in Aquitaine, France, Lili lived to a ripe old age of 90, dying of Alzheimer's Disease on March 21, 1994 in Palm Beach, Florida. She married Hollywood hero Errol Flynn in 1935 and they had one child, Sean. She and Flynn divorced in 1942.
You can view a rather excellent photo gallery here of the fair Lili here.
This is Pauline Garon...
Pauline's career spanned the 1920s to the 40s, and her credits with the Internet Movie Database include a startling 94 pictures and productions. Pauline was born in Montreal, Canada in 1901, and was the youngest of 11 children. She attended and was schooled at Sacred Heart Convent in Montreal beginning at age 13. By age 20 she left her home in Canada to become an actress, and her work includes Broadway stage productions, silent screen pictures and even talkies.
She was considered an important discovery of Cecil B. Demille-- in fact, she played in his production of Adam's Rib-- and her career ranged from starring and supporting roles, declining eventually to bit parts with few lines. She died on August 30, 1965 in San Bernadino, California of a "brain disorder."
Now this is Curigwen Lewis-- looking strikingly like Drew Barrymore to me here...
She's a bit later in timeframe than the other actresses, but given she'd played Alice in Wonderland (as shown here) and I've been a fan of Alice since a child, I couldn't resist including her in the mix.
According to her grand-daughter, Curigwen was born in Wales in 1905, and grew up in Llandrindod Wells. She went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art when she was sixteen. The production of Alice was said to be around 1936 in Bristol, and then went on tour.
The Internet Movie Database indicates Curigwen Lewis' work ranged from stage and screen to television, with performances in Pride and Prejudice in 1938, to television episodes in 1969. She was married to Andrew Cruickshank, Scottish supporting actor on the long-running BBC TV series "Dr. Finlay's Casebook" (1962-71). Curigwen appeared in two episodes of this series. She and Cruickshank had one son and two daughters.
Julia Neilson was born June 12, 1868 in London, England and died in 1957 in the very same city...
She performed on the London stage in productions of As You Like it, and The Scarlet Pimpernel, and a number of W.S. Gilbert plays. She and her actor husband Fred Terry had two children, Phyllis and Dennis, who also went on to act. The husband and wife team additionally became the producers of a number of plays over a thirty year period, several of which they performed in themselves.
They were definitely considered "news," too. A December 21, 1910 article highlights their arrival in the States.
"ON THE ATLANTIC HIGHWAY
Fred Terry and Julia Neilson Among Those Sailing To-day on Teutonic
Among the passengers sailing to-day on the White Star liner Teutonic and who will enjoy their Christmas dinners in mid-ocean are Fred Terry and Miss Julia Neilson, recently seen in New York in The Scarlet Pimpernel and Henry of Navarre..."
But while they made headlines, not all of Miss Neilson's performances were considered hits. One review of For Sword or Song, I located in the New York Times described Julia Neilson's performance as follows:
"It is upon Miss Julia Neilson, as Price Chanrming, that the burden of the evening falls. She bears it bravely in her boy's costume, but seems perpetually anxious to 'bestride the world like Colossus.' In plain English, she straddles."
Ah, poor gal! Critics of every decade can be so cruel, can't they? Well, there's a great collection of Julia Neilson photos here you might enjoy checking out.
Lastly, today I thought I'd share with you this card...
I'm unsure who this actress might be, if any, as no information is indicated on the card. However, the note on the back is just one I thought was somewhat remarkable.
You have promised me that you would write more often when you left B. Boro, and since then I have not had a word from you and cannot understand what you mean by not writing to me. Or perhaps you don't want to write at all. I am always awaiting impatiently at the P.O. every day for a letter or at least a card from you.
With Best Regards,
Sounds like poor Helen should try and forget about this Mr. Bloom... As the current phrase goes today, it's appears "he's just not that into you."
Some things really never change, do they? :)
- Well, before I go today, I wanted to share with you a link to a really sweet interview that Shirley of Proof Positivity did of me this week. Shirley writes about upbeat news, in addition to running a business that's designed to help underprivileged and struggling students gain a renewed interest in academics through the fun of journalism. You can read the interview here.
- If you missed the last Treasure Box Wednesday on fun finds from across the pond, click here.