Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), Vintage Photos of New York City

Berenice Abbott (1898 – 1991), née Bernice Abbott, was an American photographer best known for her black-and-white photography of New York City architecture and urban design of the 1930’s. Abbott went to Europe in 1921, spending two years studying sculpture in Paris and Berlin.She studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris and the Kunstschule in Berlin. During this time, she adopted the French spelling of her first name, “Berenice,”Abbott first became involved with photography in 1923, when Man Ray hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. Later she wrote:

“I took to photography like a duck to water. I never wanted to do anything else.”

Very few details are known about her personal life. The film “Berenice Abbott: A View of the 20th Century”, which showed 200 of her black and white photographs, suggests that she was a “proud proto-feminist”; someone who was ahead of her time in feminist theory. Before the film was completed she questioned:

“The world doesn’t like independent women, why, I don’t know, but I don’t care.”

Abbott proposed Changing New York, her grand project to document New York City, to the Federal Art Project (FAP) in 1935. The FAP was a Depression-era government program for unemployed artists and workers in related fields such as illustration and publishing. Abbott’s efforts resulted in a book in 1939, in advance of the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow NY. At the project’s conclusion, the FAP distributed complete sets of Abbott’s final 302 images to high schools, libraries and other public institutions in the metropolitan area, plus the State Library in Albany  (source).

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Night View, New York by Berenice Abbott, 1930s via

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Broadway and Rector from Above, New York, by Berenice Abbott, 1930s via

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Manhattan, New York, by Berenice Abbott, 1930s via

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Flatiron Building, Manhattan, by Berenice Abbott via

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Madison Square by Berenice Abbott, 1930s via

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Penn Station, Interior, Manhattan by Berenice Abbott, 1930s

© Tomáš Marounek/Flickr via

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ElSecond and Third Avenue Lines; Bowery and Division Street, Manhattan by Berenice Abbott (1930s) via

Ann Pennington teaching Felix the Cat how to dance the “Black Bottom” (1927)

The “Black Bottom” refers to a dance which became popular in the 1920s, originating among African Americans in the rural South. It was adopted by mainstream American culture  and became a national craze in the 1920s.

The dance was most famously performed by Ziegfeld Follies star Ann Pennington (1893 – 1971) , who danced the Black Bottom in a Broadway revue put on by Ziegfeld’s rival George White in 1926. The dance was first popularized in New York by the African American show Dinaah that had been staged in Harlem in 1924, after Pennington performed the Black Bottom on Broadway, the dance became a national phenomenon, overtaking The Charleston in popularity.

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Ann Pennington teaches Felix the Cat the Black Bottom, 1927 via

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Ann Pennington teaches Felix the Cat the Black Bottom, 1927 via

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Ann Pennington teaches Felix the Cat the Black Bottom, 1927 via

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Ann Pennington teaches Felix the Cat the Black Bottom, 1927 via

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Ann Pennington teaches Felix the Cat the Black Bottom, 1927 via

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Ann Pennington teaches Felix the Cat the Black Bottom, 1927 via

Audrey Hepburn in “Ondine” (1954)

Ondine is a play written in 1938 by French dramatist Jean Giraudoux, based on the 1811 novella Undine by the German RomanticFriedrich de la Motte Fouqué that tells the story of Hans and Ondine. Hans is a knight-errant who has been sent off on a quest by his betrothed. In the forest he meets and falls in love with Ondine, a water-sprite who is attracted to the world of mortal man. The subsequent marriage of people from different worlds is, of course, folly. By turns comic, enchanting, and tragic, Ondine is considered by some to be Giraudoux’s finest work.

The play was adapted by Maurice Valency, opening on Broadway in 1954 in a production by Alfred Lunt with a cast including Mel Ferrer, John Alexander, Peter Brandon, Alan Hewitt, Edith King, Robert Middleton, William Podmore, Marian Seldes, and Audrey Hepburn in the role that made her a star.

Ondine won the 1954 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play. This production also garnered the 1954 Tony awards for Best Director (Lunt) and Best Actress in a Play (Hepburn).

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Audrey Hepburn photographed on stage during a performance of Ondine, New York, 1954 via

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Audrey Hepburn during the theatre production of “Ondine” by Philippe Halsman via

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Audrey Hepburn photographed by Milton H. Greene on stage during a performance of Ondine, New York, 1954 via

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Audrey Hepburn photographed by Milton H. Greene on stage during a performance of Ondine, New York, 1954 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

May de Sousa by Bassano (1905)

May De Sousa (1884 – 1948) was an American singer and a Broadway actress.

She came to fame in 1898 as the singer of “Dear Midnight of Love”, a ballad by Bathhouse John Coughlin. She retired in 1918 following a theatrical production in Australia. She married a local doctor and eventually moved to Shanghai.

In 1943, following two periods as a prisoner of war in internment camps in China, she returned to the United States on the Gripsholm and took a job in Chicago as a scrubwoman in the public-school system. She died in Chicago charity ward, of malnutrition, at age 66.

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May De Sousa by Bassano, c. 1905 via

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May De Sousa by Bassano, c. 1905 via