Vintage Photos of The Infamous Anita Berber

Anita Berber (1899-1928) was immensely famous in 1920s Berlin. Berber was a dancer, actress, and writer who epitomized the excesses and decadences of the German Roaring Twenties. Incredibly, given her notoriety, almost no one in the present day would have heard of Anita Berber were it not for a portrait by Otto Dix from 1925.

Born in Leipzig to musician parents who later divorced, she was raised mainly by her grandmother in Dresden. In time Berber would exert a huge impact on Weimar Berlin, whose excesses and experimentation she both embodied and surpassed. Simply, in a period when Berlin was rethinking art, politics and life itself, Berber was going further than anyone else, blurring the line between life and performance, setting new standards for scandal and audacity.

It was her public appearances that really challenged taboos. Berber’s overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. In addition to her addiction to cocaine, opium and morphine, one of Berber’s favourites was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl. This would be stirred with a white rose, the petals of which she would then eat.

According to Mel Gordon, in The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Debauchery, she was diagnosed with severe tuberculosis while performing abroad. After collapsing in Damascus, she returned to Germany and died in a Kreuzberg hospital on 10 November 1928.

Anita Berber, by Madame d’Ora, 1921.

Anita Berber, by Madame d’Ora, 1921.

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Anita berber, ca. 1920 via

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Anita Berber

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Anita Berber

Vintage Photos of Jazz Age Bonne Vivante Tallulah Bankhead

Tallulah Bankhead (1902 – 1968) was born in Huntsville, Alabama. Her father was a member of the Democratic Party and served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1936-1940.

Tallulah started her stage career in the local theater at age 15. At age 16, she won a beauty contest and moved to New York City to try her hand at Broadway. She did not make any headway on the stages of New York, so she pulled up stakes and moved to London in 1923.

For the next several years, she was the most popular actress of London’s famed West End. After starring in several well-received plays, she gained the attention of Paramount Pictures executives and returned to the United States to try her hand at the film world.

Hollywood success eluded her in her first four films of the 1930s so she went back to Broadway were she was succesfull. Later, in 1944, Alfred Hitchcock cast her as cynical journalist Constance Porter in her most successful film Lifeboat. Her performance won her the New York Film Critics Circle Award. A beaming Bankhead accepted her New York trophy and exclaimed, “Dahlings, I was wonderful!”.

Bankhead was also known for her deep voice, flamboyant personality and support of liberal causes. She circulated widely in the celebrity crowd of her day and was a party favorite for outlandish stunts, such as doing cartwheels in a skirt while wearing no underwear or entering a soirée stark naked.

Tallulah Bankhead died at age 66 of pneumonia in her beloved New York City.

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Tallulah Bankhead, 1920s via

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Tallulah Bankhead via

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Portrait of Tallulah Bankhead, 1920’s  via

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Tallulah Bankhead via

Vintage Photos of Queen of Scandal Lady Idina Sackville (1893 – 1955)

British aristocrat Lad Idina Sackville (1893 – 1955) lived most of her life in Kenya. In her lifetime she scandalized upper class society with her deviant behaviour and promiscuous lifestyle. The story of her life reads like sensationalist fiction. She was the eldest child of lord de la warr, her mother was a member of one of the richest families in Victorian Britain. Her cousin was the writer Vita Sackville-West. She married and divorced five times:

1] 1913-19 Captain Euan Wallace

2] 1919-1923 Captain Charles Gordon

3] 1923-1930 Josslyn “Joss” Hay, later 22nd Earl of Erroll

4] 1930-1938 a white hunter called Donald Carmichael Haldeman

5] 1939-1946 Flight Lieutenant William Vincent Soltau, an RAF pilot based in Mombasa

She had three children from her first two marriages. When she separated from Wallace he took custody of their sons. In 1924 Idina moved to Kenya where she became the leading light in the so-called “Happy Valley” social set, which enthusiastically took part in orgies, binge-drinking, wife-swapping and drug taking at Idinas mountain home, Clouds. She was renowned for greeting visitors as she emerged dripping from her immense green onyx bath. When she divorced her second husband in 1930, their daughter was sent home to England to be raised by her aunt in Wiltshire.

The notorious Happy Valley set was depicted in White Mischief, a film dramatising the events surrounding the murder of Lady Idina’s third husband. He was shot dead at the wheel of his Buick at a crossroads in the middle of the night. Convention has it that the killer was Sir Henry “Jock” Delves Broughton. The motiv was jealousy over Erroll’s affair with his young wife, Diana. He was acquitted of the murder in 1941 but later committed suicide, which was considered tantamount to an admission of guilt.

In the 1920s, the writer Michael Arlen wrote a book The Green Hat where the heroine Iris Storm is based on a portrait of Lady Idina Sackville. This book was turned into a movie A Woman of Affairs starring Greta Garbo.

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh is also based on Lady Idina’s character and lifestyle.

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Lady Idina via

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Cecil Beaton’s portrait of Lady Idina for Vogue Magazine via

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Lady Idina via

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Idina is seen here on the cover of Tatler in 1923 with the man who became her third husband – Josslyn Hay, eventually 22nd Earl of Erroll via

Vintage Photos Featuring Fashion Muse Nancy Cunard (1896 –1965)

Nancy Cunard was a writer, heiress and political activist. She was born into the British upper class and devoted much of her life to fighting racism and fascism. In 1928 Cunard had become romantically involved with African-American jazz musician Henry Crowder. They lived in an apartment in Harlem together, which prompted outraged tabloid headlines on both sides of the Atlantic.

About this time she became seriously interested in African art and culture.

Her style became informed by her devotion to the artifacts of the same culture. This was startlingly unconventional at the time. The large-scale jewelry she favored, crafted of wood, bone and ivory, the natural materials used by native crafts people, was provocative and controversial. The trademark bangles she wore on both arms snaking from wrist to elbow were considered outré adornments, which provoked media attention, visually compelling subject matter for photographers of the day.

She was often photographed wearing her collection, those of African inspiration and neckpieces of wooden cubes, which paid homage to the concepts of Cubism. At first considered the bohemian affectation of an eccentric heiress, the fashion world came to legitimize this style as avant-garde, dubbing it the “barbaric look.”

Nancy Cunard 1926 by Man Ray via

Nancy Cunard by Cecil Beaton via

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Man Ray, Tristan Tzara kneeling to kiss Nancy Cunard’s hand, Bal du Comte de Beaumont, 1924 via

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Nancy Cunard via

Vintage Photos Featuring Dancer Maria Ley-Piscator (1920s)

Maria Ley-Piscator (b. Friederike Czada 1898 – 1999) was born in Vienna and was educated as a solo dancer. She found international succes in the 1920s.

She is best known as the wife of Erwin Piscator – Germany’s famous left-wing theater director.

In the 1930s she studied literature at the Sorbonne, where she met Erwin Piscator during his exile in 1936. By then she had been married twice. Her first husband Robert Bauer had disappeared without a trace and her second husband, AEG heir Frank Deutsch,  had committed suicide in Paris after Hitler came to power.

After marrying in Paris, the couple moved to Manhattan in 1939, where they founded the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research. Their students included Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando and Tony Randall. Ley-Piscator directed several theatrical productions off Broadway.

During the 1970s she worked as a teacher at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale and at Stony Brook University. Ley-Piscator died in New York in 1999 at the age of 101.

Maria Ley 1922 via

DORA MARIA LEY IM ROKOKO 1924

Maria Ley 1924 by Madam d´Ora via

Maria Ley c.1926 via

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Maria Ley at Roger Wolfe Kahn’s Club by Madam d’Ora via

Vintage Photos of Ziegfeld Follies Girls

The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 through 1931. It was founded by Florenz Ziegfeld and his wife Anna Held in 1907  – the inspiration was the Parisian Folies Bergère.

The Ziegfeld Follies were also famous for many beautiful chorus girls commonly known as Ziegfeld girls, usually wearing elaborate costumes by designers such as Erté, Lady Duff Gordon or Ben Ali Haggin.

Ziegfeld girl, Marion Benda c. 1920’s via

Lilyan Tashman performing in Ziegfeld follies via

Ziegfeld Follies by Alfred Cheney Johnston via

Ziegfeld Girl Mary Eaton by Alfred Cheney Johnston via

Mary Pickford by Alfred Cheney Johnston via

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Ziegfeld Follies via

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Ziegfeld Follies via

Ziegfield Follies, photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston via

Ziegfield Follies, photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston via