Archive for the SFW Category

Ann Miller, Captivating Witch, 1949

Posted in 40s, Photograph, SFW on 23 July 2011 by redwitch1

The two pictures of Ann Miller in this post are from a series of four, listed (on the snipe) with the serial numbers “3359, 3360, 3361, 3362.” The first picture here is an original, the second is a reprint, and I am not sure what the appropriate serial numbers are for each of them. The snipe on my original photo reads:

The Atomic Age of Witchery … Ann Miller is the captivating Halloween Miss who has pumpkins and black cats for her mascots in this beauty study. The young dancing star, under long-term contract to Metro-Goldwyn–Mayer will soon be seen in the techicolor musical “On the Town,” in which she shares top billing with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Jules Munshin and Vera-Ellen. The musical was directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen and produced by Arthur Freed.

If you look at the Wikipedia and Imdb entries for Ann Miller, you will find that she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2004: that is, she was very talented.

Miller started young (at 14, pretending to be 18), could tap at an extraordinary speed (she was considered a child dance prodigy), wore costumes that emphasized her lithe figure and long dancer’s legs (her measurements were, apparently, 35-22-34), was a famous for her appearances on Broadway as in Hollywood films, and married three times (unhappily).

She said that she difficulty maintaining relationships with men due to her being an Egyptian queen in a past life (Queen Hathshepsut) and having been accustomed to executing any men who displeased her. This may have been wishful thinking, because she seems to have married arseholes.

One, a piece of scum who does not deserve to be memorialised with a name, beat Miller up when she was nine months pregnant, throwing her down a flight of stairs and breaking her back. Miller had to give birth with a broken back and auditioned for Easter Parade (1948) in a steel back brace!

This press photo dates from a few years later, October 1949 I think, when Miller was 26, though the film it mentions as have been directed (past tense) by Kelly and Stanley Donen, On the Town, did not have its premiere until 8 December 1949 in New York.

The Witch of Tremont Row, 1900

Posted in 00s, Photograph, Real Witch, SFW on 2 July 2011 by redwitch1

As you can see, this is a cabinet card photograph of “Zoe Stouadenewich, Witch of Tremont Row. L. B. Walker, Manager.” The photograph is by Elmer Chickering (fl. 1885–1915; see his Wikipedia page here).

As you can see below, on the back of the card we are told that “Duplicates of the picture [are available] at any time” from “The Original Chickering Photographic Studio”: “Elmer Chickering, 21 West Street, Boston, Mass.” So, when you are in Boston, just pop down to West Street if you want one.

I have not been able to discover much at all about Zoe Stouadenewich. Another photograph of her appears in the McGown collection of 2540 theatrical photographs of circus and vaudeville acts, where it is catalogued here) as “Stouadenewich, Miss Zoe, The Kindergarden Co., 12.23.1889″ [i.e., 23 December 1889]. (Her photo is in Box 45, folder 11 of this collection.)

I have found a couple of newspaper references to “The Kindergarden Co.” in action giving “theatrical entertainments” in 1886 thanks to http://www.fultonhistory.com. The first reference, recorded in The Fulton Times, was “at the opera house … before small audiences … The actresses were each good in their respective parts, while the songs and duets were mostly new and well rendered.” The second, in The New York Dramatic Mirror, simply records that the company was in Buffalo NY.

A bit of digging online reveals that L. B. Walker was manager of the Nickelodeon, aka the Nickelodeon Musee and Parlor Theatre, 51–53 Hanover Street, Boston (which was established 1894). In 1900 the City Council granted a licence to “LB Walker (referred July 17), for a license for the Nickelodeon, for vaudeville entertainments and exhibition of freaks, at 51–53 Hanover St.” Also, The New York Clipper (8 May 1901): 239, informs us that Walker was presenting “The Fat Woman’s Bicycle Race … including six of the most ponderous riders in the world.” So, Walker was a vaudeville manager of freaks, fat ladies, and witches!

Tremont Row had been the home of photographers (in the 1840s Josiah Johnson Hawes opened Boston’s first photography studio there) and artists (the New England Art Union had its home at No. 38 in the 1850s, and Charles Hubbard kept a studio there from 1848 to 1856). By the late nineteenth century, through to the early twentieth century, numerous vaudeville and burlesque theaters made their home in the area—which (according to this site) eventually attracted the attention of Boston’s vice squad and after WW2 the whole area was flattened and redeveloped into a series of municipal government buildings!

Bringing this meagre amount of information together: it seems likely that Zoe was—from a young age—an actress, singer and vaudeville entertainer; that she was a member of a small theatre company that toured upstate NY in the late 1880s and a decade later had settled in an area of Boston thick with vaudeville theatres and entertainers.

We can assume that she adopted the moniker “The Witch of Tremont Row” for much the same reason as “la Sorcière Isoline”—”Le Voyante Musicienne” [The Witch Isoline—The Musical Visionary], who sang and told fortunes, or, as one of her promotional cards put it, she would reveal one’s “Destinée; Consils sur Héritages, Procès, Successions, Mariages, etc.” [Destiny; Inheritance, Lawsuits, Successions, Marriages, etc.]. For my two posts on Isoline see here and here.

The photograph does not contain the sort of witchy paraphernalia that we might expect today, but neither do the photographs of la sorcière Isoline. My attention was, however, captured by the above wishbone brooch.

* * * * *

The wishbone is symbolic of good luck and has been popular since the Victorian period. I have seen many silver and gold wishbone brooches, but they also came in gilded brass, either plain, or covered in seed-pearls, garnet, obsidian and other semi-precious stones, set with a large central stone, or combined other symbols or motifs. Below are a handful of examples from the Victorian/Edwardian period onwards (NB, below right, wishbone with citrine, seed-pearls, etc). Unfortunately, it is not clear what symbol or stone has been added to Zöe’s wishbone. (Shape-wise, the closest match is the brass and citrine brooch—available for only USD34.00 here.)

Wishbone brooches were popular as memento or Mizpah jewellery. As this site says, “Since [the Victorian/Edwardian period] was an era of great exploration and travel over vast distances, many pieces of Mizpah jewellery was made”: so we find examples with national symbols attached, as above left (clover-leaf for Ireland, map of Australia and Koala for Australia, thistle for Scotland).

The message is, then, good luck from/in Ireland/Scotland/Australia etc. Like convict love tokens (see here), these pieces of jewelry carry a message of affection for or from loved ones who have been left behind. In more recent times, below, we get cheap tourist memento pins which carry a similar but uch more superficial message, and usually in a more literal way “[good luck from] Plymouth” or “Edinburgh”. Others (as above, bottom left) have unrelated symbols, such as a banjo, which may mean something like “good luck playing the banjo”!

* * * * *

Returning to Zöe, it is quite possible that she is wearing a good luck charm from her homeland. With a name like Stouadenewich she could be from many places in Europe: Germany, Norway or Sweden: Stauden being “perennial” in German and Staden being “town” or “city” in Norwegian and Swedish. Then again, it could be a more general good luck charm—appropriate for a witch—or it could just be decorative. Certainly, Zöe herself is quite attractive and the wishbone looks lovely on her.

[And if anyone claims—as they have previously about Isoline—that Zöe is a man in drag, I will scream. Although this site is called sexy witch, not every woman on it who is not eye-poppingly gorgeous is a man in drag!]

Tintype Witches (almost), 1875

Posted in 19thC, Photograph, SFW on 25 June 2011 by redwitch1

When is a sexy witch, not a sexy witch? Or rather, when does an image seem to depict a sexy witch, but on closer examination not depict either a witch or a sexy witch? I dabbled with this question during the Halloween Countdown in 2009, with a series of posts on “stuff I leave out.” These posts covered images of witches who were too young for inclusion (no.1), women with misleadingly broad-brimmed hats (no.2 and no.4) and women who are described as witches, but who are only described thus figuratively (usually, because they are either very naughty, or because they are so sexy that their allure acts like magic; no.3).

Sadly, I could do many more posts showing items I bought on spec but had to reject when I got a chance to get a closer look at them. I could also do quite a few posts showing items I bought knowing that the image wouldn’t qualify for this blog. Indeed, I have been buying more of these marginal items recently, precisely because they help define the margins (especially between clown/witch). But this one I bought because the image is just so unbelievably awesome and because it is so wacky that it might actually have been intended to allude to witches.

As you can see, here we have four young women (Sexy? Tick), the fourth one is holding a broom (Witch paraphernalia? Another tick), the first one has a misleadingly-broad-brimmed hat, with a convenient shadow suggesting a pointed crown (Witch’s hat? Almost a tick), and two middle one are cradling a taxidermied raptor—an eagle perhaps—(Gothic paraphernalia? Another tick).

Since the first woman holds a dustpan and brush it seems likely that the fourth woman is holding a broom for cleaning purposes. But, if so, WTF is going on with the dead bird?! It is all very confusing. (To say nothing of the fact that if these girls could step out of this tintype would look perfectly at home at a goth bar. In fact they would knock the torn fishnets off some of the competition.)

After looking at the image for a while I realised I really didn’t care that it was not clear, or even unlikely, that this image depicted four witches: I wanted the photo so that these four gothic beauties could come to Melbourne and live with me. For ever. And even though it is not clear, or even unlikely, that this image depicts four witches, I thought some of you might like to see it too.

Nancy Gates, 1943

Posted in 40s, Halloween, Photograph, SFW on 12 June 2011 by redwitch1

This is, unfortunately, only a reprint of a Nancy Gates Halloween press photo, but it is a very high quality one and I wanted to round out my series of press photos from before the end of WWII before I move on to other topics.

Gates (b. 1926) arrived in Hollywood in 1941 and was contracted to RKO at the age of fifteen. Over the next decade she appeared in a score of films‚including The Magnificent Ambersons and Hitler’s Children, before taking on a long series of bit-parts on TV.

The costume and props in this photo are as basic as you can get (as you can see below). In fact, the costume is comprised solely of a besom/broom and a cauldron: the bats and JOL are only “atmosphere” and the silk button-up shirt and short-shorts are simply pin-up requirements. Gates is very cute, but she looks both young and awkward among the props in this pin-up outfit. I am assuming this photo was taken in 1943 or 1944 when she was 17 or 18.

There is a second photo in this series, where Gates has her right hand on her hip and she is leaning on her broom. So far I have only seen reprints of both photos, but I am holding out for an original. With luck the snipe on an original photo will provide a more accurate date. Until then …

Leggy Lucia Carroll, 1941

Posted in 40s, Photograph, SFW on 4 June 2011 by redwitch1

This Lucia Carroll press photo was probably released in 1941 rather than 1940, but both are possible. Lucia Carroll (fl. 1940–55) appeared—uncredited—in a series of films in 1940 and 1941, appearing in her first credited role in January 1942. None of her films are particularly memorable and so she has not attracted a Wikipedia entry.

Digging around, I find that in May 1941 Carroll appeared in a photo-shoot in Life of a Leslie Charteris novella: The Saint Goes West: The Mystery of the Palm Springs Playboy. As Burl Barer writes, Carroll portrays Ginny, one of “the luscious women in the life of playboy Freddy Pellman.” In Life, Carroll is described simply as “an attractive redhead”—but, as usual, it is the “beautiful blonde” (Marjorie Woodworth) who gets all the best shots.

With this photo in front of us, it is hard to understand why luscious, leggy Lucia Carroll didn’t get more time in front of the camera. She certainly makes for an eye-popping red[headed] witch in this figure-hugging, diaphanous black outfit, with its split skirt and pendulous sleeves.

Of course, the angle of the photo helps, looking up—as we are—along one long, bare leg, which draws the eye up over Carroll’s narrow hips, tiny waist, not-so-tiny bust (emphasised rather than concealed by a snow-white bra), to a defiant face, looking into the distance off-camera. The hat is a masterpiece: I love these witchy hats with calico undersides, which radiate pleats like a devilish halo (like this one, and Gale Robbins here). It is a shame they went out of fashion …

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