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

Vintage Photos of the Original “Boop Oop a Doop Girl” Helen Kane

Helen Kane’s (1904 – 1966) first performance at the Paramount Theater in Times Square proved to be her career’s launching point.

When singing “That’s My Weakness Now”, she interpolated the scat lyrics “boop-boop-a-doop”. This resonated with the flapper culture, and four days later, Helen Kane’s name went up in lights – her signature song was “I Wanna Be Loved By You”.

Kane’s voice and appearance were a likely source for Fleischer Studios animator Grim Natwick when creating Betty Boop, itself a style originating from Baby Esther.

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Helen Kane via

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Helen Kane  via

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Helen Kane via

 

Famous Flappers of the Roaring Twenties

Flappers were a “new breed” of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms.

Flappers had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring Twenties, the social, political turbulence and increased transatlantic cultural exchange that followed the end of World War I, as well as the export of American jazz culture to Europe.

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Zelda Fitzgerald was an American socialite and novelist, and the wife of American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who dubbed her “the first American Flapper”. She and Scott became the emblem of the Jazz Age, for which they are still celebrated via

1926: Hollywood film star, Clara Bow (1905 - 1965) in a shiny strapless dress. (Photo by Eugene Robert Richee)

Clara Bow epitomized the Roaring Twenties’ flapper. At only 25, she retired exhausted by repeated scandals about her presumed sexual life. Photo: Bow in a shiny strapless dress by Eugene Robert Richee, 1926 via

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 Coleen Moore was Bow´s “chief rival”. After Bow took the stage Moore gradually lost her momentum. In spring 1924 she made a good, but unsuccessful effort to top Bow in The Perfect Flapper, and soon after she dismissed the whole flapper vogue. Photo: Coleen Moore in “Why Be Good?”, 1929 via

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Louise Brooks 1920. She was an American dancer and actress noted as an iconic symbol of the flapper, and for popularizing the bobbed haircut via

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Gilda Gray, 1924. She was an American actress and dancer who popularized a dance called the “shimmy” which became fashionable in 1920s films and theater productions via

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Tallulah Brockman, 1922. Bankhead was an American actress of the stage and screen, and a reputed libertine britannica.com

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Anita Loos was an American screenwriter, playwright and author, best known for her blockbuster comic novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes first published in 1925. It was one of several famous novels published that year that chronicled the so-called Jazz Age – including Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Photo: Loos, on page 12 of the April 1922 Photoplay via

A Collection of Vintage Photos Featuring Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

Josephine Baker was an American born French actress, singer, dancer and comedianne, but most importantly the first African American female to star in a motion picture, to integrate an American concert hall, and to become a world-famous entertainer.

Living in the slums of St. Louis. Starting from the age of eight Josephine was put to work cleaning houses.

She first danced for the public on the streets of St. Louis for nickels & dimes. Later, she became a chorus girl on the St. Louis stage. At 15 she married a Pullman porter named Baker, but left him when she ran away at age 17, because of racial discrimination.

She made her way to Paris, France. She first captured Paris audiences in La Revue Négre captivating audiences with Danse Sauvage which was exotic and had her performing in nothing but a feathered skirt.

When La Revue Nègre closed, Josephine starred in La Folie du Jour at the Follies-Bergère Theater. Her jaw-dropping performance, including a costume of 16 bananas strung into a skirt, cemented her celebrity status. Her Banana Dance is probably one of the most famous dances during the era. She was given such nicknames as the “Bronze Venus”, the “Black Pearl”, and the “Créole Goddess”.

Her first major motion picture was Zouzou from 1934.

She also is noted for her contributions to the civil rights movement in the US for assisting the French resistence during World War II in which she received the French military honor the Croix de guerre. To show that people from different cultures could live together, Baker took on 12 multinational children and called them her Rainbow Tribe.

One qoute about her reads as follows: “She kissed babies in foundling homes, gave dolls to the young and soup to the aged, presided at the opening of the Tour de France, celebrated holidays, went to fairs, joked with workers and did charity benefits galore. She was all over Paris, always good-natured and exquisitely dressed.” (source)

Josephine Baker, 1928-1930

Josephine Baker, 1920s via

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Josephine Baker via

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Portrait of Josephine Baker, 1920’s via

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Portrait of Josephine Baker for the Follies Bergère by Walery, 1926 via

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Portrait of Josephine Baker in Paris qui remue at the Casino de Paris by Walery, 1930 via

Josephine Baker’s Banana Dance

Footage of Josephine Baker performing her infamous Banana Dance.

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 Featuring The Fabulous Dolly Sisters

The sisters, Roszika (later known as Rose or Rosie) and Janszieka (later known as Yansci or Jenny) Deutsch, were born on October 25, 1892 in Budapest, Hungary.  Their parents, Julius and Margaet Deutsch, emigrated to the United States in 1905. As children, the sisters trained as dancers and began earning money in beer halls as early as 1907.

In 1913, the Dolly Sisters decided to try to forge separate careers. Rosie appeared in The Whirl of the World on stage while Jenny teamed up with dancer Harry Fox (whom she married in 1912) in Honeymoon Express.  Jenny and Fox also toured the vaudeville circuit as a dance duo. Both sister made their film debuts in 1915: Jenny in The Call of the Dance and Rose in Lily and the Rose.

After World War I ended, the Dolly Sisters moved to France where they bought a chateau. They toured the theatres and dance halls of Europe and were courted by numerous wealthy men and royalty including Carol II of Romania, Christian X of Denmark and Alfonso XIII of Spain.

While in Europe, the sisters became well known for gambling excursion at casinos and horse tracks which were usually financed by wealthy admirers.

By early 1927, the Dolly Sisters’ popularity began to decline. Their highly publicized Paris show A vol d’oiseau, closed after eight weeks. The sisters spent more time gambling than performing and eventually retired by 1929.

In 1945, 20th Century Fox released the biographical film The Dolly Sisters. June Haver portrayed Rosie and Betty Grable portrayed Jenny.DollySisters

The Dolly Sisters via

Madame d’Ora- The Dolly Sisters, 1928-1929 via

The Dolly Sisters via

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The Dolly Sisters via