Bewitching Hollywood Starlets

This press photo below is great, but it is a bit of a puzzle.

The cut of the Halloween costumes that these Hollywood starlets are wearing looks 1940s; the length and style of the hair also looks 1940s; and the black cat-faced fence-post lantern (that is only partly visible on the left-hand side of the picture) certainly looks like one made in the 40s and 50s (it matches an illustration on page 27 of Mark Ledenbach’s Vintage Halloween Collectibles).

But, hidden in microscopic print in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture is a watermark that reads “Corp. Vitagraph Inc” (see 4800dpi scan below). Vitagraph Studios (or American Vitagraph) was a movie studio that was founded in 1897 and was bought by Warner Brothers in 1925 (see Wikipedia entry here). It seems unlikely that Warner Brothers would have continued to use the Vitagraph watermark for their press photos any longer than they had to: weeks rather than decades.

So, unless someone can identify these Hollywood starlets, or the particular costumes that they are modelling, the date of this photo is likely to remain a mystery.

[Update 2 April 09: these starlets have now been identified as Penny Edward and Barbara Bates, and the photo can be dated quite safely to 1949 or 1950 (see my post here). The only mystery that remains now is what on earth a “Vitagraph Inc” watermark is doing in this picture when American Vitagraph ceased to exist in 1925!]

5 Responses to “Bewitching Hollywood Starlets”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    the two sexy witch are Barbara Bates and Penny Edwards. Warner Bros starlets.


  2. How long did film of this material survive in storage before it could be printed? Is it possible that these photos could have been printed at a much later date than when the photograph paper was manufactured, possibly bearing the watermark prior to being printed?

  3. Good question: no idea how long, but I guess that is possible. Except the “watermark” looks like it was added as part of the developing process. But perhaps the little tab of negative was permenantly fixed to the developer, and was used for many years afterwards without being removed. How knows? RW

  4. I love these pictures! This might be what I have to wear for next Halloween!

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