Vintage Portraits of the Infamous Dancer Lola Montez (1821 – 1861)

Lola Montez or Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld,  was an Irish courtesan, actress and dancer. Her year of her birth is disputed, as are many aspects of her life. She famously wrote her own biography creating a completely fictional and self-indulgent fantasy of her life.

She launched herself on the London stage as ‘Lola Montez, the famous Spanish Dancer’ despite not being Spanish or even a dancer! Within years she had toured Europe with her scandalous dancing.

Her friends, lovers, and clients included Franz List, Alexandre Dumas and King Ludwig I.

In 1851, she came to the United States and in San Francisco, first performed her notorious “Spider Dance”—in which she pretended to be bitten by a spider, flailing and wiggling in a way calculated to induce maximum lust in the mostly male audience

King Ludwig I of Bavaria made her Countess of Landsfeld. She used her influence to institute liberal reforms. At the start of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, she was forced to flee. She proceeded to the United States via Switzerland, France and London, returning to her work as an entertainer and lecturer.

In 1858, she published The Arts of Beauty: or, Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet, full of her own thoughts and advice. One excerpt read as follows:

Without a fine head of hair no woman can be really beautiful. A combination of perfect features, united in one person, would all go for naught without that crowning excellence of beautiful hair. Take the handsomest woman that ever lived—one with the finest eyes, a perfect nose, an expanded forehead, a charming face, and a pair of lips that beat the ripest and reddest cherries of summer—and shave her head, and what a fright would she be! The dogs would bark at, and run from her in the street.

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Lola Montez

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Lola Montez, Daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes, 1851 via

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Lola Montez, 1851 via

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Lola Montez, painted by Joseph Karl Stieler for Ludwig I of Bavaria and his Schönheitengalerie, 1847 via

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Nicolas Toussaint Charlet´s portrait of Lola Montez via

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Lola Montez via

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Lola Montez  via

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Spider Dance via

A Collection of Photos featuring Actress and Socialite Lillie Langtry (1853 – 1929)

Lillie Langtry (1853 – 1929), usually spelled Lily Langtry in the United States, born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton, was initially celebrated as a young woman for her beauty and charm, and later established a reputation as an actress and producer. In May 1877, Lady Sebright invited her to “an evening at home”, attended by some of the famous artists of the day. Her looks—together with her ability to enchant those in her company—attracted interest, comments, and invitations from artists and society hostesses.

By 1881, she had become an actress and starred in many plays, including She Stoops to Conquer, The Lady of Lyons, and As You Like It, eventually running her own stage production company. In later life she performed “dramatic sketches” in vaudeville. She was also known for her relationships with noblemen, including the Prince of Wales, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and Prince Louis of Battenberg. She was the subject of widespread public and media interest.

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Lillie Langtry photographed by William Downey August, 1885 via

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Lillie Langtree via

Lillie Langtry, famous English actress, 1884

 Lillie Langtry, 1884 via

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Lillie Langtry in matching turban and dress, 1882 via

 

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Lillie Langtry, 1881 via

A Collection of Photos featuring “Golden Girl” Lotta Crabtree (1847-1924)

Born in New York City to British immigrants, Lotta Crabtree (1847 – 1924) would go on to become one of the wealthiest and most beloved American entertainers of the late 19th century. She was an actress, comedian and also a significant philanthropist.

Crabtree achieved the height of her success in the 1870s and 1880s. She had danced her way to fame as an adult actress on the stages of England. In the 1880s she was the highest paid actress in America, earning sums of up to $5,000 per week.

Lotta never married, although she was escorted by a number of men. She was still playing children’s parts until the end of her career, and marrying might have cut into her act as the ingénue.

Her life story was filmed as Golden Girl in 1951.

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Lotta Crabtree via

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Lotta Crabtree, 1870s via

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Lotta Crabtree via

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Actress Lotta Crabtree,  c. 1868 via

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Lotta Crabtree at the height of her career via

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Lotta Crabtree, c. 1870 via

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Lotta Crabtree via

A Collection of Photos featuring Curvy Beauty Lillian Russell

Lillian Russell (1860– 1922) became one of the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known for her beauty and style, as well as for her voice and stage presence.

For many years, Russell was the foremost singer of operettas in America. Her voice, stage presence and beauty were the subject of a great deal of fanfare in the news media, and she was extremely popular with audiences. Actress Marie Dressler observed,

“I can still recall the rush of pure awe that marked her entrance on the stage. And then the thunderous applause that swept from orchestra to gallery, to the very roof.”

When Alexander Graham Bell introduced long distance telephone service on May 8, 1890, Russell’s voice was the first carried over the line.

Russsel had a  flamboyant personal life and was married four times. She married composer Edward Solomon in 1884 and created roles in several of his operas in London, but in 1886 he was arrested for bigamy. Her longest relationship was with Diamond Jim Brady, who supported her extravagant lifestyle for four decades.

A 1940 film was made about Russell, although it presents a sanitized version of her life.

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Lillian Russell via

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Lillian Russell as fortune teller via

A Collection of Photos Featuring Stage Beauty Mabel Love

Mabel Love (1874 – 1953), was a British dancer and stage actress. Love made her stage debut at the age of twelve, at the Prince of Wales Theatre, playing The Rose, in the first stage adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. She was considered to be one of the great stage beauties of her age, and her career spanned the late Victorian era and Edwardian period.

In March 1889, under the headline “Disappearance of a Burlesque Actress”, The Star newspaper reported that, by then 14-year old, Love had disappeared. It was later reported that she had gone to the Thames Embankment, considering suicide. This publicity served merely to increase the public’s interest in her. When photographer Frank Foulsham had the idea of selling the images of actresses on postcards, Love proved to be a popular subject leading one writer to christen her “the pretty girl of the postcard”. In 1894, Winston Churchill wrote to her asking for a signed photograph.

Over the following 30 years, she starred in a series of burlesques, pantomimes and musical comedies. Among her successes were, as Francoise in La Cigale and as Pepita in Ivan Caryll’s Little Christopher Columbus. Later, she appeared at the Folies Bergère in Paris and in Man and Superman on Broadway. Love retired from the stage in 1918 and, in 1926, she opened a school of dancing in London.

 

NPG x12571; Mabel Love in 'A Modern Don Quixote' by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company

Mabel Love in ‘A Modern Don Quixote’ by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company
albumen cabinet card, 1893

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

NPG x193897; Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by  Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd
postcard print, 1900s

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

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by Bassano Ltd, published by Davidson Brothers, postcard print, 1900s

Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by Davidson Brothers
postcard print, 1900s

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

NPG x193894; Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by  Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd
postcard print, 1900s via

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

NPG x193895; Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by  Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Mabel Love by Bassano Ltd, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd
postcard print, 1900s

© National Portrait Gallery, London via

A Collection of Photos Featuring Edwardian Beauty Lily Elsie

Lily Elsie (1886 – 1962) was a popular English actress and singer during the Edwardian era, when public entertainment flourished. The nine years during Edward´s reign were to be the height of Lily Elsie’s success on the stage.  Beginning as a child star in the 1890s, Elsie built her reputation in several successful musical comedies before her great success in The Merry Widow in 1907, which the King saw four times. Afterwards, she starred in several more successful operettas and musicals.

Admired for her beauty and charm on stage, Elsie became one of the most frequently photographed beauties of the Edwardian era.

The Chicago Examiner wrote on 1st May 1910:

She is famous above all for two things –
for having been photographed more frequently than any actress ever on a London stage, and for having had more proposals of marriage.  It is said that she has been photographed at least once every week day in the year.  Even then the insatiable demands of the photographic firms were not satisfied.  They could not obtain enough of her photographs to supply the enormous demand.

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Lily Elsie

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Lily Elsie, Postcard, postmarked Birmingham, September, 1909

Captivatingly gorgeous Victorian stage actress Lili Elsie sporting an elegant black ensemble. #Victorian #19th_century #1800s #photograph #antique #vintage #woman #actress #stage #Lili_Elsie

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Lily Elsie in the operetta The Merry Widow (Costumes by Lucile)

Lily Elsie (8 April 1886 – 16 December 1962) was a popular English actress and singer during the Edwardian era, best known for her starring role in the hit London premiere of Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow.

Early 20th-century fashion designer Lucile designed the costumes (including the plumed hats that became an extraordinary fad) and thereafter used Elsie to promote her fashions, designing her personal clothes and costumes for several of her other shows.

Lucile later wrote:

“I realised that here was a girl who had both beauty and intelligence but who had never learnt how to make the best of herself. So shy and diffident was she in those days that a less astute producer than George Edwardes would in all probability have passed her over and left her in the chorus.”

The production opened in June 1907 and ran for 778 performances at Daly’s Theatre. The show was an enormous success for its creators and made Elsie a major star.

Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow dressed by Lucile, 1907 via

NPG x135274; Lily Elsie (Mrs Bullough) as Sonia in 'The Merry Widow' by Foulsham & Banfield, published by  Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow dressed by Lucile. Photo by Foulsham & Banfield, 1907 © National Portrait Gallery, London via

NPG Ax160392; Lily Elsie (Mrs Bullough) as Sonia and Joseph Coyne as Prince Danilo in 'The Merry Widow' by Foulsham & Banfield, published by  Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Lily Elsie as Sonia and Joseph Coyne as Prince Danilo in ‘The Merry Widow’. Photo by Foulsham & Banfield, 1907 © National Portrait Gallery, London via