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Lady Violette

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Posts Tagged ‘Film’

Photos of Igor Schwezoff from His Autobiography, Borzoi, and Some Comments About the Book and His Life Afterwards….

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Igor Schwezoff’s book, Borzoi, is illustrated with three photographs of the author.

Igor Schwezoff photographed by Franz Ziegler c.1934

Igor Schwezoff photographed by Franz Ziegler, c.1934

The portrait on the frontispiece and the author as a dancer in costume were taken by Franz Ziegler, A.R.P.S, Court Photographer, The Hague.

Mr. Schwezoff was about 30 years old when these photos were taken.

Borzoi is the story of his life from the time he was born in 1904, through his early life, ballet training and dance career in Russia and his escape on foot through Manchuria into Shanghai and finally via train to Germany. The book covers the first 26 years of his life – from 1904 through 1930. It begins when he was born and ends when he arrives in Europe. Borzoi ends here with the author hoping for success and a new life in the West.

What follows is not in the book. I know these things from personal narrative. Igor Schwezoff was my teacher and wonderful friend for the last 20 years of his life. He lived another 52 years after writing Borzoi and there was certainly enough interesting material and life experience over those next years to fill another book or several of them, but he never wrote one. He told me, several times, when I asked him about it, “You will have to do that…”

After arriving in Europe he continued his itinerate career as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and occasional writer working with many well known dancers and ballet companies throughout the world.

He initially arrived in Germany where he had some family members and a small amount of money awaiting him from an inheritance. He acquired immediate work here and there as a ballet dancer in night club acts and in the German film industry, including a role dancing in the prologue of Leni Riefenstahl’s film Das Blaue Licht which was released in 1932. That filming  job only lasted 4 days. It was interesting for the fact that Leni Riefenstahl selected him for the role and she choreographed it herself. It was initially shown as a filmed dance prologue to the story in the film. Leni was a dancer /choreographer herself. She played the lead role in this movie. An actor played the part of the male lead in the actual movie but Igor Schwezoff played him in the danced prologue. This has apparently been cut from currently available releases of this old film. I have not seen it and do not even know if the footage still exists. If it does it is probably the only film footage of Igor Schwezoff dancing, ( I am dying to get my hands on it if anybody knows anything more about it. Please contact me if you do!) Schwezoff is not listed in the film’s credits which is a common situation with dancers to this day. However I have seen mentions of his performance in the film  in several historical dance references. He told me that, when he worked with Leni Riefenstahl, he had no idea who she was or what her alliances were. It was just a small dance job for him at the time and she was just a filmmaker and dancer/choreographer. He was appalled when he later found out how notorious she was and played down the fact that he had appeared in her film not often mentioning it. This film was extremely popular in Germany and catapulted Leni to fame as an actress and film director. And as Adolf Hitler’s ideal of womanhood. It was one of Hitler’s favorite films ever. It was after making it that Leni became strongly affiliated publicly with the Nazi party and it’s official filmmaker.

The film industry and active Berlin night club life assured him employment as a performer, but the political atmosphere made him exceptionally nervous. He was also anxious to join fellow Russian ballet dancers and get back to his real work in the serious ballet theater versus performing pick up work in films and club acts.

This led him to the Netherlands to find Bronislava Nijinska with whom he traveled to Buenos Aires where he became principal dancer at the Teatro de Colon under her direction. When she left he followed her to Paris, then back to the Netherlands where she was working with a group of Russian ballet dancers teaching and choreographing in Amsterdam.  He performed with Nijinska’s group, took her daily classes and set up his own studio in The Hague teaching advanced students and assembling a small company of professional level dancers called Ballet Igor Schwezoff (1934 – 36) on whom he choreographed the initial version of his ballet, La Lutte Eternelle. The first version of this work was initially performed there.

From Amsterdam he and several other Russian expatriate ballet dancers traveled to London as war was too much in the air in the Netherlands and he eventually set up a studio in an old church basement with a piano in it in London, where he conducted daily classes and rehearsals. Some very famous Russian dancers who were in England at this time came to these classes for dancers must take daily class to stay in performing condition and Schwezoff offered the best pure classical ballet technique classes with the perfect amount of philosophical content.

He was a gifted teacher and the best dancers gravitated to his studio. Money was very tight for all of them. Many could not pay him for class, but he accepted them anyway. For the talented he practiced the Proletarian Method of Dance Class Payment: From each according to his ability, To each according to his need.

While on an earlier trip to London in 1934 he saw the notice for the £1000 award being offered by Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd. publishing company for the best autobiography in the English language. He thought people would like to know what the Russians had lived through in the last few years and he thought he had led a rather exceptional life people might like to read about so he decided to try for the prize. He was also driven by the extreme need for money.

Fortunately, although he had a heavy Russian accent, Schwezoff spoke fluent English because he had been taught both English and French by his mother and an English governess while a child in Russia. Over 500 manuscripts were submitted to this competition and his story, Borzoi, actually won the coveted prize!

Here is some of the backstory. The charming decorative designs and endpapers in the book illustrating scenes from Russian life and the day to activities in the life of a ballet dancer are from drawings by David Gray, a ballet loving artist whom Schwezoff befriended in London who also helped him do a preliminary edit of the book before submitting it to the competition. This was an important step in the preparation of the manuscript to be submitted to an English publishing company by a non-native English speaking writer who had only been living in England and speaking to English speaking natives in English for a couple of months. Schwezoff felt that David Grey’s contribution to the manuscript was so important to helping him win the competition that the book is dedicated to him with the inscription, “To David Grey who has helped so much.” David also believed in the book and kept him going writing it so that it would be finished in time to meet the entry deadline when the going got rough as it does for all writers.

Borzoi is also a marvel of a book not only because it is a good story and an exceptional read, but for the the fact that it was conceived of and completely written and illustrated in the course of a single month!

The prize money was much needed by the writer and provided him the motivation he needed to write his amazing story in record time. This was the first real money he had ever made in his life. In those days it was a great deal of money.

Borzoi was published in 1934 and immediately provided a great boost to Igor Schwezoff personally and to his career as a dancer. It was chosen by the London Book Society as a favorite and a sponsored read and enjoyed several reprints and re-editions over the next 20 years. Schwezoff was a notoriously charming guest speaker and enjoyed making appearances as a celebrity author which in turn brought audiences to see him perform as a dancer. And all this got him invited to a lot of delicious dinner parties where there was no shortage of tasty food which he thoroughly enjoyed. He was making up for lost time when he didn’t get enough to eat during his years in Russia.

Quite suddenly, due to the popularity of Borzoi, Igor Schwezoff was a well known writer and a famous dancer and he had more money in his pocket than he had ever had before. He was very appreciative of this. Best of all writing Borzoi opened doors for him socially and made people in the general public who read the book aware of him as a dancer. This book got him noticed.

He was now a famous Russian dancer and choreographer receiving offers of employment in dance companies all over the world. As a result of writing this book about his early life people outside of the immediate professional ballet world knew about him. Consequently, he was never out of work as a dancer, choreographer or ballet teacher again!

He was never out of work as a dinner party guest either! He was always a charming guest with his colorful Russian accent, fluency in several languages, delightful observations, spellbinding real life stories and genuine appreciation of good food!

Writing his autobiography at the early age he did it, instead of at the end of his life,  turned out to be an important career move and wonderful publicity for him as a dancer/choreographer/teacher.  There were many other Russian dancers in Western Europe and the United States at the time he was dancing. In fact the two Ballets Russes companies were full of them! As far as I know none of the others wrote an autobiography of their early years in Russia and about defecting at that time. Borzoi was a first in that genre.

He danced and choreographed in Monte Carlo taking some of the dancers from his London studio with him.  After this, while in Paris, he and some of them, joined Col de Basil’s Original Ballets Russes as a soloist from (1939 – 1941) and traveled with them to Australia. More about this later! There is a fascinating story explaining how it happened in a successful attempt to get the ballet dancers to safety during the war. Initially planned for several weeks the tour to Australia essentially stranded the dancers there for two years due to WWII. That, in itself was quite an adventure ….. I have a collection of previously unpublished photographs of Igor Schwezoff’s work during this period which I intend to post on this blog soon.

After his Down Under  experience , Schwezoff moved to New York ….. and a lot of other traveling and performing and choreographing to other places throughout the world ensued. More about that later, too ….

I knew Mr Schwezoff for the last 20 years of his life and he told me constant stories and life adventures that happened to him during the time that came after his arrival in Western Europe and after the publication of Borzoi, I kept asking him why he didn’t write a sequel to the book. He said he was, at this time, too busy to get to it. He really saw himself primarily as a dancer/teacher/choreographer who had happened to write a book about his early life. He did not really see himself as an author, although he did write the occasional article and treatise on ballet. The most important one is a self published booklet titled ” Quality Versus Quantity” about ballet dancer’s technique and artistry of which I have a copy. It includes reviews from his performances and performances of his ballets as well as the title essay.

Schwezoff was totally dedicated to the dance and in a way it is a shame he did not write more because he was such a good writer. He was extremely intelligent and fluent in Russian, English, French, Dutch, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. He spoke  enough Japanese to get by in Japan and teach there. He traveled and taught in many countries and was a firm believer in learning and speaking the language of the people with whom he was working so that they could understand, fully, what he wanted of them. He picked up languages easily, initially because it was expected that one speak French in Russia if from an aristocratic family and it was spoken in his home from the time he was born as the day to day life language. As I mentioned earlier his mother and a pretty young English governess employed by his family taught him English and he was extremely motivated to learn English as a youth by his ardent crush on this lady just slightly older than he was, who would reward him with a kiss for every English word well learned. She certainly knew how to motivate her young student!

There were ballet dancers of every nationality in the ballet companies at this time, as there often are today, and it was common to hear them talking to each other in one native language, then turning and chattering with another colleague in another language. Conversations were easily conducted in three languages at once. Dancers picked up each other’s languages as they worked, traveled and lived together. It was an extremely stimulating and colorful environment. Ballet classes and rehearsals are traditionally aught and conducted in French to this day so all ballet people pick up a certain amount of French.

The photo above, in dance costume, with exotic head dress, is not identified as to what ballet it is from in the book and so far I have not been able to identify what role he was performing in it. I failed to ask him when he was alive, I do know the picture was taken during his tenure in Amsterdam where he worked with Bronislava Nijinska, performed and ran a dance studio and began preliminary work on his ballet La Lute Eternelle. If anyone who sees this photo has any further information on it, such as what ballet it is from, could they please contact me with it… Of course it is entirely possible that he threw the costume together for the photo shoot and it isn’t even a costume from a real ballet. That was done from time to time in a pinch. There is even a photo of Bronislava Nijinska wearing one of her brother’s costumes from Papillon for a totally unrelated dance publicity photo shoot.

Also, more photographs of Igor Schwezoff would be most appreciated. As would any other information and documents pertaining to his career and his life. ( Many thanks, here, to the people who have been answering my pleas in this regard and are sending me the photos and other materials they have pertaining the Igor Schwezoff .)

 

This photograph of the author “Taking a Dancing Class” is by Mono of Amsterdam.

Igor Schwezoff photographed by Mono of Amsterdam, c.1934

I put the title in quotes because it is more like the author posing in the ballet studio while taking a cigarette break from a dance class.

It was characteristic of this era to photograph an artist, dancer, or actor, elegantly posed with a cigarette whilst gazing dreamily into space. At this time the cigarette was considered a sophisticated prop.

The sophisticated and fashionable set was not worried about the health hazards associated with smoking in those days, if they even realized they existed.

It was also a characteristic of Mr. Schwezoff’s, throughout his life, to smoke a great deal. Cigarettes were a rare luxury in Communist Russia which he allowed himself to indulge in heavily once he escaped.

Food was a rare luxury too. Good food, especially so, and Schwezoff appreciated it for reasons beyond taste. He had not been properly nourished during his teen and young adult years due to extreme food shortages in Russia.

He was extremely health conscious regarding diet, but the consequences of cigarette smoking were of no concern.

As you will find if you read the book he suffered from extreme food deprivation and sketchy nutrition as a growing teenager and young adult in Russia which caused him nagging physical problems and health difficulties throughout his life. As a result he stressed proper nutrition and getting enough high quality food to eat to his students. The emphasis was on Quality Versus Quantity just as it was in dance technique. He never had a weight problem, nor did his students. I called it Thigh Quality Food meaning high quality necessary nutrition that would provide what a dancer needed but not put extra weight on your thighs.

Schwezoff loved good food and he became an accomplished cook. As a ballet teacher he stressed having a strong healthy body which included eating properly. He even cooked for us on a regular basis. Teaching us that we should work our bodies very hard during the week, but take one full day off each week from dancing to rest them and regain our strength. On that day we were to eat a high protein high calorie dinner. These dinners he often prepared himself. His ideas on diet as a dancer and building and maintaining one’s strength worked for me.

Once, Sol Hurok, the impressario, engaged Schwezoff to travel with the ballerina Tamara Toumanova from New York to Paris to prepare her for an important two week booking he had secured for her at The Paris Opera. Tamara and her Mamon who accompanied her everywhere, (even after she became an adult,) were in California when the arrangements were made. It was conducted by telephone and letter. A contract was signed and the Toumanova’s set out for NYC to sail to Paris.

Schwezoff was engaged to give Tamara daily class on shipboard during the sailing and rehearse her in her roles, especially as Odette/Odile in Swan lake, and get her performance ready during the 2 week sailing. She was to step off the ocean liner in France looking gorgeous for the  paparazzi and ready to perform at the Paris Opera House the very next day. She was to be dressed up in couture and furs, and dripping with pearls when she disembarked for the waiting press. She was expected to play the part of the glamorous ballerina to the hilt – a role she enjoyed immensely!

When Tamara arrived with her mother at Sol Huroks booking offices in NYC to meet him and Igor Schwezoff and pick up her cruise ship tickets, they were in for a surprise. The glamorous dancer who was a one of the famous Baby Ballerinas and a fabulous technician, had changed drastically. She was 5′ 4″ tall and  40 lbs overweight! Her thighs were as big as the columns of the Parthenon! Tamara Toumanova was supposed to be a goddess, not a temple! This was a terrible emergency. Hurok discreetly asked the famous dancer and her mother to wait a few moments and he called a private conference with Scwhezoff in another office. He asked him, in utter desperation, “Can you slim her down to her previous girlish figure and get her Swan Lake performance ready within just two weeks on the cruise ship? ” Schwezoff agreed to try. The two men then went out to continue the conference with Toumanova and her mother in which Hurok very discreetly explained to Tamara that she would have to lose the weight she had gained while vacationing in California before the ship hit France in order to maintain her reputation as a beautiful woman and a ballet star. She understood and agreed to try. This was a grave situation and the careers and reputations of  everybody involved depended upon her delivering the goods – that meant, appearing in Paris as the quintessential embodiment of a perfect ballerina. To this end she was told that Igor Schwezoff, the ballet master, would be put in charge of her every minute. He would train her physically, rehearse her for hours a day, and be in charge of approving her diet and every bite of food and drink she was allowed to consume.  He would weigh and measure her every day to monitor her progress. This was not cruel. This was the necessary reality of being a ballerina. The body is a ballerina’s instrument and she must be responsible for maintaining it perfectly. Toumanova and her mother understood. Schwezoff got to work with her that very day. The next day they set sail for Paris.

Schwezoff worked like a sculptor reshaping Toumanova’s body and technique. She was a beautiful well trained dancer and a true artist. Both of them had tremendous powers of self discipline. And Schwezoff had tremendous powers of exerting discipline on his dancers in such a way that they enjoyed it and didn’t even realize it was happening to them until they began to feel and see the results. This journey was a success. Tamara Toumanova stepped off the ship looking beautiful, performed her two week booking in Paris to rave reviews and never gained too much weight to perform again. Incidentally, she was never a terribly thin dancer. She was extremely strong and had a womanly figure with a lot of muscle. She had been trained to become a professional ballerina since her birth. The reason she had made one slip and gained weight this one time, was that she was growing and developing as a woman, and eating a little too much while on a short vacation from ballet. It would never happen again. Tamara Toumanova was a great artist and totally dedicated dancer. She was also responsible for supporting her parents financially which was often the case in the old days. Whatever she learned from Igor Schwezoff on this trip about maintaining her physical condition she practiced successfully for the rest of her life. (I have rare unpublished photos of Toumanova that I will be posting on this blog in the near future.)

Among Schwezoff’s famous ballerina pupils were Yvonne Mounsey, Lupe Serrano and Yoko Morishita. ”It was as though he were carving a sculpture out of the human body,” Miss Morishita once said of his teaching. ”He showed me which muscles were not important, so that I could forget about them, and which were important, so I could learn to stretch them out and use them. His whole approach was to make a distinctive shape of the body.”

I myself, began to study with him when I was 12 years old. I had a naturally fine boned body and the perfect ballerina look, and I was very flexible, but I was not yet really strong. I had received a foot injury in another professional ballet school . I had broken a bone in my right foot and was having trouble getting back. Schwezoff brought me back quickly and taught me how to work my body so that I would become very strong and would never become injured due to dancing again. He told me that I would come across many teachers and choreographers with many working methods during my career as a dancer, so I must learn how to work, and how to protect, my particular body type myself, no matter what I was asked to do. He told me I, and I alone, was responsible for this. He told me I had to learn how to do it and to put that knowledge into practice every single day of my life. I did what he told me to do and it worked for me.

I also learned a great deal about how to teach other dancers from him as did many of his students. This is how dance is taught. The knowledge is transmitted, personally, from one dancer /teacher to his student, and then from  him or her to another. I worked with another teacher, at the Joffrey Ballet, Maria Grandy, who had studied with him a decade before I did. She could instantly tell I was working with him. She could see it in the way I moved. She called me aside and told me, “He is a great teacher, perfect for your body.” Maria Grandy has had a long career as a ballet professor at The Julliard School in NYC. She is passing on what she learned from Igor Schwezoff to her students there. That is the way it is done! Classical ballet is taught and passed down, , essentially in narrative form and through physical contact, from one generation of dancers to the next.

For current dance students, teachers, performers, dance historians and balletomanes it is a wonderful thing that Igor Schwezoff wrote his early biography for us. Everyone interested in ballet or what life in Russia was like during the time it takes place, should read it. Everyone, interested in dance and the art of ballet, as well as people who do not think they are interested in it (yet!) will benefit from reading it. I think anyone reading it who knows nothing of ballet will still enjoy it and benefit from the story in many ways.  And that will benefit the art of ballet because those readers will become curious about it and wonder what it is all about. Schwezoff was a great person as well as a dancer. Borzoi is a great book in general.

By the way, The book is sometimes also known as Russian Summersault! It is the same book.

I have many never before published photos of Igor Schwezoff working in the 1940’s that I will be posting on this blog soon.

Marlene Dietrich in a Fabulous Fur Hat ~ “Fur is Fabulous” Isn’t it?

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Marlene Dietrich in a Fabulous Fur Hat!

“Fur is Fabulous” is my personal favorite quote ~ I made it up myself for myself ~ and tonight I came across a great photo of Marlene Dietrich in a fur hat that I want to share with you. I suspect this might actually be a fur muff that she plopped on top of her head like I did to create a fur hat during a photo session. Anyway, I like it!

Fur is Fabulous~ photo by Leigh LeDare

Just for fun, here is my own Fur is Fabulous picture of me wearing my black fox fur cuff spontaneously plopped on top of my head during a photo session as a hat.

Lady Violette’s Favorite Quote From Marlene Deitrich

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Marlene dressed for image in a white man's suit ~ gorgeous!

“I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men. ”
Marlene Dietrich

I am currently reading Marlene’s biography written by her daughter Maria Riva. I am enjoying the book and highly recommend it. It is not a Mommie Dearest type book. It is informative and unravels many myths about Marlene.

I found this quote while looking at pictures of her online. And I immediately thought, how true! I dress the way I do for the same reason, actually. I love clothes and so did she. But I think we all dress for the image we want or need to convey.

Dressing up is a lot of work and their has to be a reason behind doing it. We all like certain clothes, but we do not like having to be perfectly groomed and turned out 247. That requires a lot of discipline and patience. It is, essentially, a job and a career in itself. It requires a lot of time and effort.

Marlene was honest and intelligent and that is what I like about her, as well as her beauty and her work in films. Of course.

 

Grace in Furs ~ Beautiful Grace Kelly Wearing Fabulous Furs

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

A Perfect Dress for Valentines Day!

Grace Kelly looked particularly fetching in furs. Here are a few examples. I love this red silk dress trimmed in mink cuffs, and, of course, my favorite photo of her in which she is wearing both furs and flowers together

Gracefully Wearing Furs and Flowers at the Same Time!

is the one I showed in my last post where she is wearing a spring hat decorated with roses with the most luxurious looking long sable fur coat on the planet. I love this picture because she looks both warm and happy!

The Famous White Mink Stole of the 1950's

Attending formal affairs she often wore this white mink stole which epitomized the 50’s chic and accentuated her blondness.

Grace at a State Event in Monaco with Her Prince

This stole looked particularly good with diamonds and long formal gowns required for state events. I think she fueled every woman’s desire to own a mink stole in the 1950’s.

Here is the amazing full length sable again ~ photographed in New York City with throngs of adoring fans looking on! Grace, as usual looking really warm and happy.

Grace After an Acting Class in NYC

This photo appeared in Life magazine and the caption read, ” Grace arrives home (to her 5th Avenue Apartment ) after an acting class.” Grace was not a starving actress barely surviving in NYC!

 

Grace in a Full Length Pastel Mink with Her Famous Kelly Bag

Shopping in Paris with Prince Rainier Grace was often caught by the paparazzi wearing spectacular furs.

Long Blond Mink on Beautiful Blond Grace Carrying the Kelly Bag Which She Made Famous

This next photo better shows the luxurious full length pastel mink fur coat which perfectly complimented her cool blondness. Graces life as a princess was the thing of fairy tales for most women. It was also her job, as Rainier’s wife to make Monnaco look good! She performed this job of princess as perfectly as she had performed as a film actress.

A Formal Portrait Again Featuring Her Favorite White Mink Stole

Monaco’s main industry was, and still is, tourism. Grace was tremendous publicity draw for Monaco. Her life was a fantasy for most women and they loved to read about her in the press. Of course her fashion choices were heavily emulated. Her spectacular designer gowns, jewels and furs were the things other women dreamed of. And she was the perfect real life model to show off designers work.

Strolling in Paris with Prince Rainier Wearing a Fur Stole Over a Wool Suit

I realize this was a job for her ~ she had to look perfect and be perfectly groomed at all times as the wife of Rainier and the Princess of Monaco. Grace did so gracefully. She never had any down time. Grace became the epitome of old world elegance as she aged.

The Epitome of 1960's European Glamor

She was always perfectly groomed and meticulously dressed and throughout it all she retained her personal charm. She epitomized her name.

The Grace Kelly look was famous for her gigantic Kelly bag, her designer sunglasses, (she had notoriously poor eyesight so she probably wore these because she really needed them to avoid eye strain and headaches,) her jewels, her exquisite Hermes accessories such as gloves, belts, and scarves, her beautiful designer evening gowns, day dresses and meticulously tailored suits, her hats, and the ultimate and most flattering fine accessory – Prince Rainier, the prince of a husband. Grace’s real life was like that of a heroine in a romance novel to the public.

Of course, it was a real life and it had its real ups and downs, such as unruly teenagers and her unfortunate untimely death. Real life always has its difficulties! But people like to dream and Grace Kelly was the dream girl of her time.

More Inspiration ~ Marlene Dietrich & Grace Kelly Wearing Flowers With Fabulous Furs

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Ultra Fluffy Bleached White Fox Fur Frames Marlene's Face ~ Note the Corsage of Violets!

Marlene Dietrich in all her beautifully lit beauty wearing beautiful luxurious face framing fox furs. I love the added accent of the violet corsage! Nowadays it seems oddly out of season to wear flowers with furs but this was not always so. Apparently women wore warm furs over flimsy floral dresses with floral corsages or flower trimmed hats in past eras. It was certainly charmingly ultra feminine. And solved the problem of wearing a sweet spring light dress while freezing to death on Easter!

Grace Kelly Shortly After Her Arrival in Monaco

This is one of my favorite photographs of Grace Kelly wearing what looks like an exquisite sable coat with an adorable 1950’s rose trimmed pill box hat and white gloves. She looks so fresh and girlish and happy! And warm! So you see, it is possible to wear a spring outfit and not freeze to death! I have found many photos of Grace in furs and she was obviously someone who preferred to be comfortably warm by wearing a proper coat! More Grace in furs coming soon!

Inspiration – Gorgeous Greta Garbo in a Beautiful Fur Trimmed Coat

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Greta Garbo in The Torrent Wearing a Fur Trimmed Striped Coat

Great Greta Garbo.

She did not say I want to be alone. That was a misquote. She wanted to be let alone by the press and the crazy fans. And crazy men.

Here is a lovely photo of her in The Torrent. She is sporting a unique fur coat. At least the hem is trimmed in fur. And the cuffs. I cannot tell what the rest of the coat was made of. Perhaps it is a knitted coat as it is striped and so fitted. I love the whole outfit. Hat, coat, shoes, silk stockings. And the color tonalities. They had to think about how they would photograph in black and white. The stripes and the shading of the different colors in the zone system of greys makes me wonder what colors the coat was in real life color.

The Torrent was Garbo’s first American film. A silent in black and white.

Look at her eyes! Lovely!

Vintage Tweed Coat by Sabrina With Lush Natural Coyote Fur Collar ~ Circa 1967 ~ Identifying Coyote Fur

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Vintage Wool Tweed Coat by Sabrina ~ Circa 1970's With Lush Natural Coyote Fur Collar

Here is a beautiful vintage winter tweed coat with an extravagant natural coyote fur collar made in 1967 by the Sabrina Coat Corporation in New York. The fur is very long and fluffy and is composed of all the brown, tan and cream colors in the nubby tweed fabric. This is a great warm winter coat for cities like New York and Chicago where it gets really cold because it is double breasted, long and full.

The Double Breasted Design of This Winter Coat Provides Extra Warmth and Protection as it Covers the Chest with Four Layers of Fabric Counting the Tweed and the Millium Lining Crossed Over Each Other, While the Criss Crossed & Overlapped Coyote Fur Encompasses the Shoulders, Neck and Chest as Well as Framing the Face.

The double layer of fabric and fur where it crisscrosses across the chest is a great wind barrier and the huge fur collar is soft, snugly and luxurious.

Long Full Skirt with a Generous Amount of Fabric and Wide Back Pleat Layers Well and Fits Over Anything InCluding Sweaters, Skirts, Pants and Suits

The long full skirt fits over everything and is swishy and glamorous as well! It is lined in blush colored satin Millium lining fabric which is insulated for extra warmth. Millium is a trademarked lining fabric which allowed for extreme warmth without creating bulk and was favored for use in women’s suits and coats when a tailored fitted look was desired. The extravagant coyote fur collar creates a flattering portrait frame for the face of the wearer! I feel beautiful and glamorous and very warm when I wear this coat! It is a coat one can wear out in the dead of winter in the coldest place and be warm and comfortable while enjoying being outside.

Shiny and Elegant in Itself the Specially Designed and Insulated Millium Lining in a Feminine Blush Color Satin Finish Fabric Adds to the Warmth and Beauty of This Well Designed Vintage Winter Coat.

Short jackets just do not keep me warm enough in winter! I need a long coat to keep me warm all over. I also love the way this coat is belted, creating a small nipped in waist when the self fabric belt is tied. It has a 1950’s influenced New Look silhouette with the small waist and long full skirt. This coat features a wide pleat in the back of the skirt giving extra movement and fullness.

Generously Sized and Completely Functional Side Pockets are Big Enough to Really Carry Things In and Have the Added Benefit of Being Securely Closed With the Opening Underneath the Overlapping Decorative Placket at the Top. Pickpockets Would Have to Work Hard to Get Into Your Pocket So You Would be Well Aware of Their Annoying Presence. These Pockets Are Big Enough to Carry a Pair of Gloves, a Scarf, a Pretty Vintage Handkerchief, a Folding Pocket Comb, a Compact, a Lipstick, a Cell Phone, Keys, a Change Purse and a Small Wallet Without Creating Unsightly Bulges or Adding to the Impression of the Size of Your Hips. Of Course They Are Also Thoughtfully Lined in a Warm and Soft Flannel Fabric to Help Keep Your Gloved Hands Even Warmer if Needed! They Knew How to Make Good Working Pockets Back in the Day!

The two huge side pockets are also very functional. You could carry your life in them if you needed to! This coat was made in the days when they still did hand bound buttonholes which is a detail I love and sewed a few extra buttons inside the coat in case you needed to replace one.

Well Made, Laboriously Hand Tailored Bound Buttonholes Add to the Quality and Beauty of This Elegant Circa 1970's Coat.

The buttons are also sewed on extremely well! Originally. I always check the sewing on all the buttons of vintage items when I acquire them to be sure they are very securely attached. If any are loose I sew them on by hand so I won’t lose any. It is hard to find replacement buttons and the extras sewn into the lining are a real sign of quality construction.

An Extra Replacement Button is Sewn Inside the Coat Just In Case You Lose One. Also Note the Beautiful Big Sabrina Coat Corporation Label and the Still Attached Cleaning and Care Instructions. I Just Love the Elegant Labels in My Vintage Clothing and It Really Adds to the History and Value of a Garment if the Original Designer Label and Care Labels Are Still Inside a Vintage Piece When You Acquire It.The Labels Can Also Help You to Date the Clothing and Research Its History. Some People Collect Label's in and of Themselves. I Photograph My Favorite Ones and Keep a File of the Images.

The coat is beautifully designed and tailored and it fits over anything I have tried to wear underneath it – from a dress to sweaters and skirt or a sweater and suit jacket worn together. It is rare to find a pretty coat that is cut to fit over a suit without creating a bulky unflattering look.

The Side View Illustrates The Influence of Dior's New Look with Its Nipped in Belted Waist and Longer Full Flowing Skirt on the Lines and Silhouette of this Very Figure Flattering and Feminine Coat.

I acquired this coat at an estate sale during the summer. It is in excellent condition and very clean. I question whether it was ever worn before I bought it because it is in such good shape! I recommend looking for winter coats, suits and vintage furs during the summer months because they are bulky and people who are selling them will want to do so during the summer in order to get rid of them. When you buy a winter item during hot summer weather you can often get a good price because the seller doesn’t want to have to hold onto that big warm hard to store coat for another 6 to 9 months when winter sets in.  The same principal  applies to buying vintage swimwear.  Buy off season when the demand for an item is lower in order to get better prices.

Note the Classic 1930's Influence on this 1967 Tweed Midi Length Winter Coat with its Face Flattering Natural Coyote Fur Portrait Collar. This Coat Was Made at the Height of the Influence on Fashion of the 1967 Movie Bonnie & Clyde.

I think this style of wrapped and belted wool coat with its glamorous and warm natural coyote fur face framing collar is timeless. I have seen similar coats in old black and white movies worn by Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Faye Dunaway wore them in the 1967 movie Bonnie & Clyde which is set in the depression era 1930’s. Faye Dunaway was incredibly glamorous in that movie and influenced fashion accordingly the year the film came out. She wore such coats over tweed midi length skirts with sweaters and textured stockings and T-strapped or gillie shoes. She wore her gleaming blond hair in a sleek Garbo influenced bob with berets and cloche hats. Many portraits exist of Garbo dramatically framed by the gigantic fur portrait collars like this coyote collar. The year 1967, when Bonnie & Clyde was released, every fashionable woman wanted a 1920’s ~ 30’s influenced fur collared winter coat and sexy clinging midi length tweed skirts. In the dead of winter tin 1967 these coats were worn with narrow high heeled taupe suede boots and knitted or felt cloche caps and berets.

Vintage Fur Muffs & Muff Purses ~ and Identification of the Kinds of Furs They Are Made From

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

My Collection of Five Vintage Fur Muffs

I have a small collection of vintage fur muffs. Several of them are also purses. I absolutely love muffs. They are so practical and darling! You can carry them instead of a purse and have a place to keep your hands toasty warm while looking glamorous or romantic.

This is the Lovely Sheared Natural Colored Brown Beaver Muff That Belonged to My Grand Mother

The first one I acquired is the beaver one which was my grandmothers when she was a young woman. It is natural brown colored sheared beaver and very soft. There is a zipper in the back which opens to reveal a roomy satin lined “pocket” compartment which serves as a purse for carrying a few essentials. It has a loop made of heavy satin ribbon to attach the muff to your wrist. My grandmother told me she used it wherever she went in the winter and, most romantically on sleigh rides and when she went ice skating on a lake near their home where the young people gathered for winter socializing and recreation. It is very soft and silky and exceptionally warm. The part of the fur we see in this muff is the part that is located under the stiffer and longer guard hairs that you see on a live beavers coat. They shear off the guard hairs which protect this inner part of the beaver’s coat when processing the fur in this manner. This softest thick part of the coat, under his guard hairs, is what keeps him toasty warm in bitter winter cold and serves as his insulation while he is swimming and working in snow and icy water. His longer outer guard hairs literally serve to guard this amazingly soft and warm inner coat. Water runs right off the guard hairs and when swimming they make him sleeker and faster in the water. Beaver fur is used for garments both with the guard hairs left on it and sheared in the manner of this muff. With the guard hairs on the fur has a courser feel when you stroke it, but this super soft exact part of the fur is located right under the guard hairs next to the leather skin. Snow will slide or shake right off a beaver coat with the guard hairs on it while this inner fur is keeping the wearer, or the beaver, exquisitely warm. A sheared beaver coat is more dressy and elegantly soft and was usually made for garments to be worn for fancier occasions.

This is the Backside of the Sheared Natural Brown Beaver Muff Showing the Zipper that Gives Access Into The Satin Lined Purse Compartment discreetly Hidden Inside The Muff!

Fortunately my grandma took very good care of her sheared treasured beaver fur muff and she gave it to me when I was in the 4th grade doing a school science report on beavers. I lived in Portland OR at the time and every child had to pick a topic for a science project. I chose the beaver who happened, coincidentally to be the official state animal! Of course my topic was approved by the teacher! I did not pick the beaver because he was the state mascot. I picked him because I loved my grandma’s beaver fur muff and my grandpa’s stories about real beaver damns he had observed. They loved beavers and I developed a great affection for them hearing them talk about them. My entire family got involved in helping me and I wrote a spectacular report with great displays which included this very beaver muff! My father took me to visit a professional furrier in downtown Portland who gave me strips of beaver fur to use for my displays. I had a sample with the guard hairs still on it, one that was sheared like this muff, and several that were dyed different colors to show some of the ways the furriers could create different colors and looks with the same type of fur.  I had a white one, several shades of brown, a tan one and a black one.

My rancher woodsman grandfather took me out into the wilds of Idaho to observe a beaver damn and the large beaver colony in action. It was amazing and I will never forget it. We ever so carefully chopped down a stump from a tree that a beaver had felled and mounted it on a wood display block for me to show in my report. My grandpa just happened to have a real set of beaver front teeth in his collection of weird treasures that I was also allowed to use in my display as well! They were long and very stained and sharp and you could see how they were ideal for cutting down entire trees and chewing through logs to make them a usable size in damn building. We displayed these next to the mounted tree stump in a special cigar box with a glass lid mounted in the top!

After the trip to observe the damn, which was quite an excursion, as we packed into the mountains on horseback and camped out for 3 days and nights in order to study them, we constructed a reproduction of the entire beaver colony and damn in a diorama using sticks and mud and moss and stones and other things. We made it small enough to transport and show on top of a table. My grandfather was so excited and willing to help me that we even created a cutaway of the damn to show what it was like inside!

To top things off we displayed his beaver felt hat from the days in which he courted my grandmother, pictures of them in hat and muff and her fashionable brown beaver fur jacket. I do not have those items now. Other family members do! They are in another state so I cannot get pictures to add to this post right now! Sorry!

My report on the beavers was a big success. It was success that I ended up winning the first prize in the state for my Science report. I am sure that the fact beavers were the state animal and are featured pictured on the Oregon state flag helped me win. I was taken to many schools to present my report in person. I sure wish someone had filmed or video taped it! But nobody did that in those days so it is only a legend now! Finally the entire display was featured at OMSI ~ the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in a display with plaques and everything for several years. I was really impressed by the plaques and having my name on them when I was in 4th grade! My family moved from Portland to Seattle a year later and I have no idea what became of my beaver exhibit and report after that.

The conclusion to the story is that I have had tremendous respect for beavers and have truly loved the little guys ever since! I now live in Lynnwood, WA and a couple of years ago an industrious beaver colony built a large damn in a wetlands area just off the 44th Street Exit of Interstate 5. That is the exit I take to get to my house! They quickly built a big damn and it caused a lot of water backup leading to a flood that forced the highway department to close off the roads. The industrious beavers were so adept at building and so determined to succeed that they could not be stopped. ( I really enjoyed watching this transpire!) At first the highway maintenance people tried to redirect them a bit without disturbing them, but it didn’t work! More beaver troops were called in for this emergency project, arrived from somewhere, mysteriously, and built the damn bigger and higher in record time working 247 around the clock in the freezing dead cold of damp and icy winter! The lake,  (Yes! Really! It became a large lake! ) completely blocked off that freeway exit and several blocks in each direction. No one could get through. something had to be done!

The State Wildlife Department organized a swat operation and came in  and captured all these beavers and transported the entire group to a new distant location suited to their lifestyle but far from civilization as we know it! I do not know where they are now, but I hope they have adapted and survived. Every time I pass the wetlands I think about them and I miss them! Of course I think they should be protected. When I use my sheared beaver fur muff I get to tell people what it is and I get to tell my fantastic true story about my 4th grade beaver report. And I get to urge people to protect the existing beaver colonies. This is a perfect opportunity for me to promote the protection of this beautiful animal and I think the muff is doing more good for beaver society that it would if it were destroyed. as the Peta people advocate doing. I have strong personal opinions about this and I feel you can make people care more about issues like animal protection through education and knowledge of the history of the animal and its relationship to people during the development of our society. In our history the quest for beaver pelts was why much of Canada and the western states were explored, settled and developed. Now it is our turn to protect them.

Today I am writing about my muff collection, but, soon I will photograph and post pictures of the 1947 wool cloth coat trimmed in a different kind of fur collar that my grandmother wore with this sheared beaver muff. I will show how the two kinds of fur coordinate with each other really well and can be worn together now, just as she did back then for an elegant put together look. The coat is currently being cleaned and having a button restored so I cannot include it for a few days. I will link the two posts together when I put it up.

Amazingly Soft Sheared Seal as Used in This Muff is Even Softer and Finer Than Exquisitely Soft sheared Beaver!

Most furs have guard hairs to begin with and many can be sheared off to get down to the softest part of the fur which can then be used for elegant garments and fur accessories such as muffs. a sheared fur garment is more delicate than one with the guard hairs left on to continue to guard the fur. This should be rather obvious! The reason some people get confused by two items made of beaver or other fur is that one could be sheared and one could still have the guard hairs on it and they could very legitimately look quite a bit different to the untrained or inexperience eye. Furs can be bleached or dyed different colors or shades as well, just like human hair, so that could change the look as well! It is no wonder people who are new to fur get confused at times! Additionally, designers and furriers have been very creative over the years and have made furs and garments having unusual effects that become difficult to recognize without experience. The more you see, feel, study and collect, the better you will become at correctly identifying fur types. That is why I am writing these posts and showing pictures of my own furs ~ in order to share what I have learned and help others figure out what they have. I hope it is helpful.

This Photo Shows The Back Quilted Silk Satin Side of the Sheared Seal Muff. It is Feather Down Filled for Extra Warmth and Elegance. This Piece Dates to 1912

This muff is made of sheared seal on the front side and quilted silk satin filled with feather down on the back side. it is also lined with silk and filled with feather down on the fur side. I love the color of the silk satin and the decorative stitching pattern used in the quilting stitches. there is a small piped border on each side where you put your hands into the openings. In the next picture I have turned the muff sideways to try to photograph the inside and show the zippered interior purse compartment.

Here you can Look Inside the Sheared Seal fur Muff Purse From the Side Angle and See the Zippered Area For the Purse.

When you turn the fur side in the light you get different effects of coloration depending on how the light hits the pile of the fur.  The entire piece is beautifully constructed.

The Seal Fur Can Be Stroked to Lie in Different Directions Which Gives a Different Effect and Look to the Fur Color

In the next picture I have photographed again in natural light but the color looks different ` a bit cooler, because of the quality of the light hitting the fur. You can change the way the fur lies by stroking it one way or the other. I love to “pet” the muffs when I am using them! You should never brush your furs or comb them. It will damage them. You can smooth them out with your hands gently. Be sure your hands are clean and dry and free of any hand lotion, cosmetics or perfumes as they could damage the furs. If you want to wear perfume you should apply it to your own skin in areas where it will not come into contact with the fur itself.

Please note. I took all the pictures of these muff at the same time. The color fluctuates a lot on this seal one but this is due to the way the nap of the fur is positioned, turning the fur muff, or moving it a bit into a different quality of light.

Dramatic Natural Black/ Brown and White Natural Skunk Vintage 1940s Era Muff with Bakelite Wrist Ring Attached

This vintage 1940s’s muff is natural black/ brown skunk fur which is kind of obvious isn’t it? I am saying that with a sense of humor because I have been asked if it is some really odd things ~ ranging from dog to zebra! I do not think it looks like those animals at all and I think it loos exactly like a skunk, so I can only assume that the people who say such things must not know their animals or look at animals or pictures of them very care fully!

The Dramatic Skunk Muff and Matching Stole Ensemble Circa 1940s is a Real Vintage Show Stopper!

This skunk muff is not a purse but it does come with a matching stole! The muff is made up of six skunk pelts and the stole is made up of 24 skunk pelts! I have written extensively about the skunks fur and how to recognize it in my previous post on this skunk ensemble * .  Sometimes skunk is dyed jet black.

Fluffy And Incredibly Soft Silver Fox Fur Muff With Double Hand Compartments

This incredibly fluffy long haired vintage muff purse is Silver Fox Fur. It is only fur on the font side and is backed with black textured fabric. It has a black satin wrist strap. It is uniquely designed to have two compartments for your hands, one for each hand. There are several kinds of natural foxes and they are different natural colors – not dyed. Sometimes fox fur is dyed as well. In the future I will show you different kinds of natural fox fur in different colors so you can see the differences, but in thins post I am focusing on muffs so I want to be sure it is understood that this particular example is a Silver Fox. This has been confirmed by a professional furrier, Rene Vogel.

This Picture Shows the Black Stripe Textured Fabric Used to Back the Fur Portion of the Silver For Fur Muff Purse.

Inside this Silver Fox fur muff purse has a concealed secret zippered purse area for your belongings. I love how well structured it is. The old time furriers did a nice job of designing and sewing these muff purses. The muff keeps your hand so cozy and warm as well. I personally need this extra warmth even when I am wearing gloves! I love the idea and the practice of keeping warm with fur lined gloves in a fur lined muff while wearing a fur lined coat and a fur hat and fur lined boots. I have tried every other solution to keeping warm but none other works as well. I am thin, I have no body fat to help me stay warm! I have become aware of how tiny a fox is inside his fluffy long fur coat insulated for the winter cold by his beautiful fur pelts.

I Have Tipped the Fox Muff Purse at a Weird Angle So I Can See Inside It To Photograph the Zipper for the Purse Section

The furs are lightweight, they trap air between then to keep you warm, some fur follicles are hollow and these trap additional air within the individual fur hair itself to keep the animal even warmer or the human wearer of the coat made of his fur even warmer.  This is why, in olden times, when there really were not many ways to keep warm people initially wanted to wear furs from animals for coats. It was the only way you could keep from freezing to death in some bleak and frozen places. Historically humans began to wear furs as a necessity for their own survival. I do not think that a lot of people who work for animal rights realize this or, if they do, they never think deeply about it. As humans we owe a great deal in our evolution to the fact that we had animals to eat and their furs to wear in order to keep warm and thus stay alive!  Personally I am very grateful to animals of the past for making this contribution to the survival of my species. When I wear a vintage fur or carry a vintage fur muff purse I an sometimes able to use the comments people make about wearing furs to discuss this. I find it very wasteful of a life to discard a perfectly useful vintage fur when it still has a lot of useful life in it! I personally want to honor the animal from whom the item came by wearing his already dead pelt proudly until it expires naturally.

Natural Black Persian Lamp Fur Muff Purse with Black Fabric Backing and Satin Wrist Strap Made in the 1950s

The last vintage muff purse in my collection is natural black Persian Lamb fur. It features very curly black fur on its natural black skin backing on the front side. The back side is a heavy black brocade like fabric. This muff is the real thing. Faux  versians of Persian Lamb exist as well and were often used for coats and jackets in the 1950s. I will do a post on Persian Lamb in the near future explaining how to tell the difference and showing examples. I have decided to save that topic for another post because it will make this one really long if I add it now!

This is the back side of the Persian Lamb Muff Purse

Sewn into the black fabric back in a metal zipper to access a generous pocket which is the purse. In the next photograph I will show the zipper pocket unzipped and shot from above so that you can see inside the purse. It is a really roomy compartment.

In This Photo You Can Look Into the Unzipped Pocket Section of the of the Black Persian Lamp Muff Purse and See How Nice and Roomy it is! It even has another little pocket inside of it that is meant to hold a small mirror!

Then I will show the muff purse standing on one end so you can see how it was structured.The openings at the sides of the top were where you inserted your hands to keep them warm and they are positioned so that you insert one of your hands through the wrist strap first, then a hand each into the top section openings of either side of the muff. The muff then hangs in front of your body in a perfectly balanced manner.

A Side View of the Persian Lamb Muff Purse Showing Where You Insert Your Hands.

Marilyn Monroe carried a muff purse like this one, also in Persian Lamb fur as she ran to catch the train in a black hobble skirted dress in the movie Some Like it Hot! One of the nice things about muffs is that they give you a place to put your hands. This can be a real asset when posing for photographs or in Marilyn Monroe’s case acting in a film! It is a valuable tidbit of knowledge at any rate! Who knows when any of us might be called upon to play a femme fatale?

My Vintage Real Fur Muff & Purse Collection Comprised From Lower left Corner Clockwise of: Sheared Beaver, Silver Fox, Skunk, Persian Lamb and Sheared Seal

The reason I have shown so many photos and various angles of these muff purses is to document and illustrate some of the ways in which they are constructed. Some are just cylinders drawn together at each hand end while others are rather complex designs. I think there are vintage patterns available to make some muffs and muff purses. You could make them out of fur or faux fur or possibly heavy wool or novelty fabrics such as upholstery fabrics and line them and fill them with down to make them warm. I love fur ones the most but I think interesting ones could be made with alternative materials. I think of them as purses as well as hand warmers so there are undoubtedly some unique variations to be made. I have also seen old crochet patterns for making muffs and matching hats! I believe I have one somewhere in my book case. I will try to find it soon and post it here on my blog so we can look into more ways to make vintage muffs!

I plan to do another photo shoot soon showing ways to wear these beautiful muffs with vintage and contemporary clothing. If you have fur muffs and want to contribute photos to me to add to this post I would be interested in doing so. You can leave a comment about this in the comment section with your email address and I will get back to you about it. I am also interested in locating and preserving more vintage for muffs made of different kinds of fur and in different styles. If you have fur muffs you are interested in having used for this project please contact me. My email address is violette@ladyviolette.com.

In my interest of being absolutely sure of what kinds of fur I have and claim these to be all of these vintage fur muffs have all been inspected and authenticated in October 2012 by a professional Swiss custom furrier in Seattle, WA named Rene Vogel of Furs by Rene. Thank You Rene!

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Vintage Cream Racoon Fur Stole ~ 1955 ~ I.Magnin & Co. ~ Vintage Fur Identification: Sheared, Bleached and Dyed Natural Raccoon

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

I have an extensive collection of vintage furs and people always wonder what kinds of furs they are. Some are quite unusual and seldom seen these days. I have decided to research all of them thoroughly and have consulted a professional furrier Rene Vogel for authentification. Mr. Vogel is a second generation Swiss custom furrier who was the house furrier for Nordstroms when they were still selling furs and I. Magnin when they were still in business and selling furs.

Beautiful Rich Cream Colored Circa 1955 Sheared, Bleached and Dyed Raccoon Stole From I. Magnin

This beautiful rich vintage cream colored circa 1955 stole from I.Magnin initially had me puzzled. The original owner thought it was beaver, but I had done a school report in Portland OR, when I was in the fourth grade, on beavers and their fur and I was not sure she was right. Sheared beaver is silky soft like butter and in my opinion this fur had a different feeling. So I took it to Rene Vogel, the furrier in Seattle, and he explained that it is, of all things, sheared, bleached and dyed raccoon!

Cream Colored Vintage Sheared, Bleached and Dyed Raccoon Fur Stole Shown with Vintage Sheared Brown Beaver Fur Muff Purse for Comparison Purposes

It is a dense fur and very soft, just not as slippery silky as beaver.  But the look is similar to sheared beaver so it is easy to see how the original owner would have thought beaver. Here is a picture of the raccoon shawl with my vintage sheared brown beaver muff purse placed beside it for comparison. They actually look very good together and I feel they could be worn together.

The Classic I. Magnin & Co. Importers Label in the Glamorous Cream Colored Sheared Raccoon Stole

The cream colored raccoon shawl was purchased at I.Magnin by a family friend of ours who wore it before and directly after her December 1955 winter wedding as part of her wedding and honeymoon ensembles. She told me she wore it over her green velveteen evening dress when she arrived for her rehearsal dinner, to the church over a cream colored wool suit when she arrived to get prepared for her wedding ceremony, and again over the cream wool suit when she departed for her honeymoon. She wore a formal cream satin wedding dress for the ceremony itself, but did not use the fur stole with it. The cream raccoon fur stole was her winter cold weather wrap for all her wedding related events and parties. She was a prominent Seattle socialite whose outfits and activities were chronicled regularly in the Seattle Times Society Section of the 1950s through 70s. She wore very glamorous clothes and kept a scrap book of photos of herself and her husband at all the events they had attended. She had saved many of the clothes as well.

When I Wear This 1955 I.Magnin & Co. Cream Sheared Raccoon Stole I am Wrapped in the Warmth of a Gorgeous Vintage Fur & the Memories of the Elegant Friend Who Gave it to Me

I.Magnin was her favorite store and she purchased almost all her clothes there. She relied on them for the level of taste and elegance she wished to project. She told me many stories about her shopping trips to I.Magnin and the items she had acquired there and gave me this stole, several Odette Barsa lingerie ensembles, and other items she had acquired there over the years. She was extremely sad when I.Magnin closed!

 

 

A Circa 1950s Label From Frederick & Nelson, Seattle

And when Frederick & Nelson closed! It was the end of an era and she was very aware that she was part of that era. It made her happy that I knew about I.Magnin and appreciated their level of style as much as she did.

A Beautiful Label in a Brocade Dress From I. Magnin& Co.

One day while thrifting I found several vintage items ~ a couple of cashmere sweaters and wool skirts in her size and in very good condition and I bought them for her ~ she was absolutely ecstatic to have some “New clothes from our favorite store!” She was so happy when I gave them to her she was jumping up and down at the age of 86 like a 16 year old girl would have! This lady was a very good friend of my mothers and, as a result of that, she and I became very good friends. We had lots in common! Consequently this beautiful soft cream colored shawl is not only wonderfully cozy it is full of warm memories of special times with a very special person for me. She had no children so I was like the grand daughter she wished she had had.

The Cream Sheared Raccoon Stole From I. Magnin & Co. 1955, is Lined in Heavy Beige Colored Silk and Has Two Silken Pockets, One at Each End, in Which to Put Your Hands to Keep Them Warm. These Strategically Placed Pockets Also Provide a Way to Hold the Shawl Close to Your Body to Gracefully Encircle Your Shoulders ~ the Way We See Them in Glamorous Circa 1950s Fashion Photographs.

The  sheared cream raccoon stole is lined in heavy beige silk and has two silken pockets, one at each end, in which you can put your hands to keep them warm and to hold the shawl together in front of you while you allow it to slide gracefully down low around your shoulders and encircling your body the way it is done in glamorous 1950s era fashion photographs. This works well. When I have a photographer present I will model it and show how that is done in person. I plan to photograph all my furs styled and coordinated with proper outfits on myself or other models after I get them all identified by type and era.

The Cream Sheared Racoon I. Magnin & Co. Fur Stole is Like Somthing a Hitchcock Heroine Would Have Worn in a Movie Set in San Francisco in the 1950s!

The Creamy Sheared Raccoon I. Magnin & Co. Fur Stole is Like Something a Hitchcock Heroine Would Have Worn in the Daytime Over Her Pastel Cashmere Separates and at Night With Pale Silk Brocades in San Francisco in the 1950s!

This is such a rich looking garment. There is a lot of depth in the creamy color and a slight striping effect as you can see in the photographs. It reminds me of the Alfred Hitchcock heroines ~ of Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, and Tuesday Weld ~ with their pale cashmere coats, cream and beige cashmere sweaters, pastel pencil skirts, and French rolled coiffed blondness and, of course, pale fur coats and stoles over cream colored brocade silk suits and dresses with white kid gloves. It reminds me of San Francisco in the 1950’s ~ where I. Magnin  & Co. was founded and had their first elegant store.

A Circa 1950s Label From The City of Paris Department Store in San Francisco For a Hat From Their Exclusive Midenette Millenery Salon Which Carried One of a Kind Couture Hats imported From France

And of The City of Paris, another sophisticated and elegant department store in downtown San Francisco, with an incredible French perfume department and a fabulous ornate mezzanine overlooking the ground floor and salons for each designer they carried arranged in  elegant salons branching off along the mezzanine. That store was magnificent, like an ornate theater in Paris with crystal and gold gilt and mirrors everywhere you turned! A miniature version of Versailles transported to San Francisco to feed the imaginations of western American women who really wanted to be in Paris.

 

The Lining and Pockets Are Made of a Beige Silk to Tastefully Coordinate With the Creamy Sheared Raccoon Fur Stole

After her marriage and honeymoon my friend occasionally wore her Creamy Sheared Raccoon Stole from I. Magnin & Co. to the Theater and to the Olympic Hotel in Seattle for Holiday Events. She recalled wearing it when she took a trip to San Francisco and dined at the famous restaurant at the Top of the Mark and attended a performance of The Royal Ballet from London featuring Margo Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev at the War Memorial Opera House. That was in 1962.

She acquired additional furs over the years so this one was not used often, just for special events, mostly around the Christmas and New Years Holidays. She said it was a good wrap to wear to winter parties where there were slight chills running through buildings but you still wanted to be glamorous and feel elegant.

The Creamy Color of This 1955 Sheared Raccoon Stole From I. Magnin & Co. Coordinates Beautifully with Pearl Jewelry and White Kidskin Gloves Making Any Color Dress Look Instantly Put together. The Vintage Muff in This Photograph is Sheared Beaver. It is Quite a Bit Older Than the Stole, But I Like the Way They Look Together. The Muff Will Be Discussed in a Future Post.

She pointed out that the cream color of this stole goes very well with pearls. You can wear it over any color dress with white kidskin or silk gloves and pearly jewelry and instantly look put together. This was how women thought about dressing in her day. I’m planning to use it to keep warm, look good and have a conversation piece at Holiday Cocktail Parties this winter.

This Creamy Sheared Raccoon Fur Stole from I. Magnin & Co.is 57 Years Old and is Still in Excellent Condition Because it was Professionally Cleaned When Needed and Kept in Cold Storage During the Summer Months by its Original Owner

This stole is in good condition after 57 years because it was well care for. The original and only owner before I acquired it put it in fur storage every summer and had it cleaned when recommended by her furrier. It is a good example of how long furs last when properly cared for. I am the future generation and I really appreciate the fact that she did this. The color is creamy as you can see in the photos. Because we did not see it when it was new we do not know if it was originally this color or lighter. There is a possibility that it may have darkened due to oxidation as it aged. There are no sections of distinctly different shades or color from one part of the piece to the next. In other words the current color and effect is uniform throughout the stole.

As described in the opening paragraph of this post I had this vintage fur stole inspected by Rene Vogel the professional Seattle furrier. Mr. Vodel identified the fur to be Sheared Bleached and Dyed Raccoon as stated above. He has decades of experience having been in the fur business himself since 1969, as well as growing up around it because his father was also a furrier. He is very familiar with the styles and types of furs worn over the past decades in both Europe and America. Rene Vogel now works independently by appointment and his business is Furs by Rene. He is located in the Seattle area. He can be reached at 425- 322-9638. He does custom designs, restyles, alterations, repairs, storage and cleaning. His email is rdcvogel@msn.com

Vintage Skunk Fur Stole & Muff ~ Circa 1940s ~ Vintage Fur Identification: Natural Undyed Black/ Brown and White Skunk Fur

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Natural Skunk Fur Stole and Matching Muff ~ C 1940s ~ From the Lady Violette Vintage Fur Collection

I have an extensive collection of vintage furs and people always wonder what kinds of furs they are. Some are quite unusual and seldom seen these days. I have decided to research all of them thoroughly and have consulted a professional furrier Rene Vogel for authentification. Mr. Vogel is a second generation Swiss custom furrier who was the house furrier for Nordstroms when they were still selling furs and I. Magnin when they were still in business and selling furs. He has decades of experience having been in the business himself since 1969, as well as growing up around it because his father was also a furrier. He is very familiar with the styles and types of furs worn over the past decades in both Europe and America. Rene Vogel now works independently by appointment and his business is Furs by Rene. He is located in the Seattle area. He can be reached at 425- 322-9638. He does custom designs, restyles, alterations, repairs, storage and cleaning. His email is rdcvogel@msn.com

Jacques Nam ~ Polar Bear Fur Coat & Coats of Fur for Children ~ 1912

I plan to work my way through my own collection of furs and post each fur with extensive photos and a description in the hope of helping people to make correct identification of furs they have or would perhaps eventually like to acquire! And for the purpose of correct historical identification of the furs used in creating these spectacular vintage fashions. I think the use of furs is a fascinating part of our social history. At this point I will explain that I do not buy or wear new leather or fur clothing, I only recycle vintage. Many of the furs I have now I inherited from family members and elderly friends who know I have an interest in them. My interest is in identifying the furs accurately, preserving and repairing them if necessary, wearing them when it is appropriate, and education about furs and their place in history and society ~ in other words, social studies. I do advocate wearing a recycled fur if you wish to wear one and I feel we show our respect for the animals used in the making of these old furs by learning about them and caring for them properly. I personally feel it shows more respect to an animal who was made into a fur coat years ago to wear it respectfully than to bury it in a landfill before its beauty and useful life have naturally expired. Wearing an antique of vintage fur out in public gives you an opportunity to educate people on the topic of furs and the preservation of endangered species. I see this as an animal rights and environmental education opportunity.

Skunk Stole Made of 24 Skunk Pelts & Matching Muff Made of 6 Skunk Pelts

This fabulous vintage 1940s fur ensemble is a very dramatic black/ brown and white skunk stole and muff. The stole is comprised of 24 skunk pelts arranged with 3 pelts sewn together side by side width wise by eight pelts lengthwise creating a rectangular stole that is 13 ” wide by 86 ” long. The matching muff is comprised of 6 skunk pelts joined side by side and formed into cylinder which is lined in heavy black satin and stuffed with down feathers. The natural pattern of white against black/ brown fur in the skunks coats creates an interesting zigzag effect when the pelts are joined together side by side.  The coloration in this ensemble is natural, not dyed. It is black with very dark brown undertones and cream patterning when you hold it in bright natural light. In the photo below the skunk fur muff is placed on a black ultra suede upholstered sofa and is in bright natural light which allows you to see that it has brown tones within the black ones.

Cozy Muff is a Cylinder of 6 Skunk Pelts Joined Side by Side, Lined in Black Satin and Stuffed with Down Feathers to Keep Your Hands Warm! There is a Black Bakelite Bangle Attached so You Can Secure The Muff By Wearing it on Your Wrist Like a Bracelet. It is Beautifully Warm!

Skunk was often dyed solid blue black in order to disguise its identity and called ” American Sable” because some people did not like the identity of a skunk associated with their elegant fur garment. Personally I really like the natural coloring and the pattern produced by joining the skins side by side and end to end. I also like the softness of the natural coloring versus dark blue/ black because it is more flattering to my skin tone and easier to wear than stark blue/ black.

Back View of Vintage Natural Skunk Stole Circa 1940s

Here is a back view of this stole on a mannequin showing the length and proportion it had when worn. It is 86 ” long by 13″ wide ~ a glamorous and generous size for wrapping around the shoulders or draping for a highly dramatic entrance to an event over a bias cut 1940s evening gown. In writing this piece I choose to call this a stole but it can also be considered a scarf and a shawl when you are deciding how to style and wear it. You could even use it as a gigantic muffler or as a throw over a piece of furniture in your interior decor. There is an art to using furs and if you get creative you can figure out many ways to wear them and other interesting ways to use them. It is important to recognize the furriers skill as an art form and experiment with ways to wear his creations.

In former more elegant time periods it seems that women dressed with a great deal more attention to the beautiful effects they were creating and the lasting impressions they made. The ability to do this was considered a valuable talent and a respected female accomplishment. It was viewed positively as one of the feminine arts. Of course many men did this too. In my opinion many more men used to give attention to the way they dressed than they do so today.

Jacques Nam ~ Evening Coat Trimmed in Skunk Fur and Tailor Made Children's Clothes

Many men and women were employed in the professions that helped these fashionable women to achieve their great degree of elegance.  Consider the couture designers of clothing and furs, the jewelers, the textile manufacturers, the perfumers, the shoe designers, the milliners or hat makers, in fact the designers of every item these refined and beautiful people consumed and needed! Consider the craftsmen and trades people who supported the fur industry ~ the trappers, the tanners, the taxidermists, the fur dealers, the trade companies, the exporters and importers, the furriers, the seamstresses, the stores and shops and sales staff and models and photographers and illustrators and fashion editors! And so on, as there are undoubtedly many more categories of middle men and support people than I have quickly thought of here. The amount of work involved in the fur industry in the past and and the numbers of people employed by it and involved in executing it is amazing to contemplate in retrospect. The fur part of the fashion industry has been as large and complex as any other part of the fashion industry in past eras. Now it is barely hanging on.

It is a now dying art form and profession and most of the furriers have closed shop in American cities. It is difficult to find a professional furrier to work with you anymore. I learned today that the only one left working in Portland, OR is Nicholas Ungar and the only one I know of in Seattle is Rene Vogel. The others have had to close down due to lack of demand for real furs. You may read in the press that fur is suddenly in demand again, but there is not enough demand to keep a small professional craftsman in a relatively large city in the United States in business. What is shown in a European fashion magazine’s artistic photo layout is no real indication of what is happening on a business level for these artisans and small business people. Antique dealers who sold vintage furs in Seattle four years ago have completely stopped and the last exclusive Fur shop in Bellevue, WA closed 2 years ago due to lack of adequate sales to stay in business. The department stores no longer have fur salons. All of them used to.

Jacques Nam ~ Fox Fur Stole ~ 1912

This is why I consider my beautiful vintage furs to be real treasures. They are rare and lovely and, in my opinion very worth the difficulty and expense of collecting, caring for, storing and maintaining. It is important to point out, here, that the furs need to be regularly cleaned to maintain the suppleness of the leather and keep the pelts from drying out and disintegrating. That means once every couple of years at least. During the summer they need to be put in cold storage for temperature and humidity control. It costs about $100 to clean a fur garment and about $60 a year to store it professionally during the summer season. You must also repair any little damages or stresses such as torn pocket edges or little splits that occur in the pelts as soon as you discover them. This must be done by a professional ~ the furrier ~ in order to be done properly. We need these guys! Furs are really quite delicate and need to be treated accordingly. They should be hung on wide padded hangers in a cool dark place with plenty of air circulation. They should not be exposed to light as they will oxidize and change color ~ very quickly. Like fine art which they are, too, they need to be stored in the dark.

There are a lot of details and lots to remember about caring for and wearing vintage furs but it is all interesting and ultimately well worth it! Like any area of special interest collecting vintage furs requires discipline and commitment. Like caring for a live pet requires love and attention, so does properly maintaining your fur and the way I see it doing so is also respecting the animals from which it came.

Jacques Nam ~ Sable Fur Scarf ~ Dress with White Fur Cuffs and a fur Trimmed Hat ~ 1912

I envision several ways of wearing my skunk fur stole and muff; first as an elegant evening wrap over a dark black/brown full length bias cut 1940s evening gown; second as a warm shawl and extravagant extra layer of warmth wrapped over my 1950s brown and black with cream tweed skirt suit along with the matching skunk fur muff to keep my elegantly vintage gloved hands even warmer; and third and finally, as a deco patterned black and white fur scarf over a slim calf length black wool coat with a high black fur collar and deep black fur cuffs as they did in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century. In those days they often mixed fur types and colors to achieve unusual color and textural combinations and proportions and it worked beautifully. They also combined furs with textiles in ways we would consider unusual today to great dramatic effect. Studying the way furs were worn in history gives you many new ideas on ways to use a vintage fur if you have one. Inspiration can be taken from any place and any time period. If you have any vintage piece I encourage you to experiment to find ways to wear it combined with contemporary items for a look all your own that is distinctively new and one of a kind to you today. The three outfits I create for myself with my skunk  fur stole and muff and other clothing that I own each draw their inspiration from different past fashion eras. I do not copy those eras to the letter. I draw from them and apply them to myself to achieve a look that I feel is appropriate to my personal style and life today.

 

Jacques Nam ~ Chinchilla Toque and Scarf ~ 1912

After I finish photographing and documenting my furs and identifying what types of furs they all are. I intend to style them and photograph them on human models showing several different and relevant ways in which each one can be styled and worn today. I like to experiment with this ahead of having to be somewhere all dressed up on a schedule! I find preparing and planing in advance really saves me time and cuts down on stress when getting ready for an event. And I also enjoy the planning and experimentation part of dressing. I do not enjoy being pressured however so I try to prepare in advance! Remember, “Rushing is not glamorous!”  is one of my favorite quotes.I think it is a great luxury to be able to get ready in a leisurely manner.

Side View Shows the Repetitive Art Deco Pattern Created When the Skunk Skins are Joined Together Side by Side and End to End.

A side ways view above shows the repetitive patterns of the skunk skins in the little V shapes that are created when the furrier joined them together. I think the designs of the joined furs look very Art Deco. I imagine descending a curving staircase in that long black/ brown satin bias cut 1940s evening gown wrapped in this beauty or making a red carpet entrance in it ~ Just imagine the photo opportunities!  I think the press would go insane! Or at the very least mad! An actress would definitely catch their attention if she were wearing these unusual pieces on the red carpet today! They are so simple, yet so elegant and all because of the natural beauty of the humble little skunk!

Any actresses out there, or their stylists, please contact me and arrange to use my skunk fur ensemble for such an event rather than having a new one made. I in no way wish to advocate the creation of a new skunk fur ensemble by showing this vintage one on my blog. Alternatively it might be possible to make a similar one out of faux fur, but I have personally never seen faux fur of this type.

Jacques Nam ~ Evening Dress with Polecat Fur Mantle Trimmed in White Fur~ 1912

My authentic skunk stole and matching muff are lined in a black satin with an embossed  leaf pattern. The stole bears a small label sewn in the side seam for the the Seattle store Jay Jacobs Seattle where it was originally sold. It has the original owners monogram initials HV appliqued on the lining. I find it interesting that they sewed in the owner’s initials as an applique that could be easily applied with a few well placed stitches or removed easily by picking out the threads that hold it in place and changed to another owners initials should this garment change hands! I’ll have to look into changing them to my own! Jay Jacobs Stores existed from 1941 to 1999. This ensemble was created and sold in the early 194os.

I acquired this skunk set about 20 years ago from an elderly friend of my mothers who was no longer able use it. She had worked at Jay Jacobs first store store in the early 1940s and bought it during that time. I have found elderly lady friends to be a great source of older fur styles. They are often happy that I show interest in the furs they treasured and the periods of time when they acquired and wore them. I have acquired several beautiful furs and other articles of vintage finery this way. I always promise to keep their fur, take good care of it and wear it out, to special events as they would have done back in the day. I promise, essentially, to treat it like a beloved pet. And I wear it when I go to visit them which they love!

In the olden days skunk would sometimes smell, well, a little bit skunky, if it got wet! However the furriers found a way to eliminate the natural odor of the skunk animal so an elegant wearer was only identifiable by her French couture perfume.

The interesting historical tidbit on skunk fur below is courtesy of the Vintage Fashion Guild’s Fur Resource on skunk where close up photos of several colors of skunk fur and several other vintage garments made of skunk pelts are also pictured. This section was written by Pauline Cameron and Katie Kelmsley.

“Skunk fur is rather long, with coarse, glossy guard hairs of about one to two inches, which have the qualities of strength and longevity. Normally the under-fur is grayish underneath the black guard hairs and white underneath the white guard hairs. If the more valuable all-black pelts were not used or available, the entire pelt was dyed a uniform, glossy black.

Jacques Nam ~ Badger Fur Trimmed Tunic, Skirt,and Printed Stole ~ 1912

Skunk fur has been used in the fur industry as early as the mid 1800’s, gradually increasing in popularity into the 1900’s when it exceeded production of the most traded fur – Muskrat. As the United States recovered from the Great Depression a strong market for fur trimmed cloth coats created a demand for skunk, with pelts doubling in price into the early 1940’s. Previous to the 1950’s it was sold under different names including Alaskan Sable, and American Sable.
After the identity of the fur was known, Skunk took a dive in popularity. This continued into the early 1970’s at which time the offbeat, unconventionality of it seemed to restore its appeal for a brief time after which it went out of use again. An upsurge in the popularity of Skunk fur has taken place with fashion houses such as Prada and Fendi using the black or brown-and-white varieties in items from handbags to throws and long, sweeping coats.

The hop growers loved the skunk because they ate the hop grubs that damaged the hop vines. The hop growers of the state, centered in Madison County, petitioned the State Legislature to pass a law giving the skunk a closed season. Thus the skunk became the first New York State furbearer to have legal protection!” “Many times a farm boy could earn more in a season’s trapping than his father made in a year on the farm. Skunks saved some farms during the Depression by the income from their pelts.“ Norman Evans, Stories From Old Georgetown.”

 

Jacques Nam - Full length Coats Trimmed in Beaver, Otter, Opossum or Ermine and a Long Fur Boa or Scarf~ 1912

Scarves, Stoles and Muffs in Skunk were also popular in fashionable cities in Europe in the early 1900s. The French fur fashion illustrator Jacques Nam did charming drawings for fashion plates and magazines depicting elegant women wrapped in in furs surrounded by the animals from which they were made as if they were darling personal pets. The greatest value in these pictures is seeing how the fur garments were initially meant to be worn when the designs were conceived and the clothing was made and accurate pictures of the animals whose pelts were used. Jacques Nam’s animals are very accurately rendered even though it is his fantasy that a woman would be walking her pet skunks, muskrats or leopards along the boulevard like two pet dogs while wearing an ensemble of a skunk stole and muff! You can get a lot of charming ideas of ways to wear your vintage furs by looking at his work.

Jacques Nam ~ an Evening Mantle in Mink with an Ermine Cape Collar ~ 1912

Note the fur stoles and muffs on the center woman below. That one makes me want to wear my skunk set with a straight long black dress and an amazing large brimmed black vintage hat trimmed in a cream ribbons and a soft tuft of black and brown feathers chosen to compliment the natural colors in the skunk fur. And dainty little shoes in a combination of cream and black with brown feathered shoe clips… Pictures like this make my imagination run wild on ways to wear my vintage furs!

Google Images gallery of Jacques Nam’s work.

Jacques Nam's Illustration of Fur Stole and Muff ~ about 1912

Finally I want to point out that I have included the Artist Jacques Nam’s illustrations in order to introduce you to his work and trigger your imagination in how to wear vintage fur styles. Much of his work is sheer exotic fantasy and would be great fun to own and wear, but, if one decided to reproduce it today I feel it would be best to do so in faux furs. I think this is entirely possible to do using vintage patterns available on Etsy and eBay.

I saw a Polish Folk Festival fashion show of native Polish costumes a couple of weeks ago. One of the men’s full length wool capes was trimmed using a 1940s woman’s vintage squirrel evening stole to make a wide shawl collar at the top, almost like a second short cape, that just covered  the man’s shoulders. Thus a vintage woman’s stole was used to make a contemporary man’s fur trimmed cape. And it was gorgeous! The costume designer had recycled the original stole, using every bit of a second hand fur to create an elegant wide fur collar on a new garment. It was absolutely stunning! This is a perfect example of using an old fur garment to inspire you to create a successful new one! I spoke to her after the event and she told me she had bought the shawl at the Goodwill for $37! I am just waiting until I have two similar pieces to put together to create a sweeping floor length wool cape with a vintage fur collar!

A Charming Little Beaded Dance Purse from the 1930’s from Lady Violette’s Vintage Purse Collection

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

A Charming Dance Purse from the 1930's. Hand Beaded With Needlepoint Embroidery. Made in France. From Lady Violette de Courcy's Collection of Vintage Handbags

Here is a lovely little beaded bag from the 1930’s. It was designed to take with you when you went out dancing. It is 5 inches across and 3 inches tall. It was meant to be held in your hand by slipping the back side of your left hand delicately through the little strap on the back of the bag thus enabling the front of the bag to show against the shoulder of the dark suit of your partner as you danced with your left hand resting gently on his left shoulder in ballroom dance partnering position. I don’t suppose the dancing could get too wild and vigorous while holding such a purse! When the dancing got more athletic the purse would probably have had to be relegated to the tabletop! I picture this as a style meant for civilized ladylike dancing at social occasions.

The Back Side of the 1930's Beaded Dance Purse From Lady Violette de Courcy's Collection

The flowers are done in needlepoint using very tiny stitches with silk thread. They are outlined with marcasite beads against the groundwork of tiny white glass seed beads. Small glass pearl beads were used in the center of each flower. The beading is done on a linen base. The bag is lined in white silk. It is made completely by hand. This one was made in France. Beautiful beaded and embroidered bags like this were hand made in Europe ~ mostly France, Austria, and Belgium ~  by women artisans for women to to use. It was an art form of beautiful objects being made by women for women to own and appreciate and use during special occasions in their lives. Such bags were often given as elegant gifts.

One of the reasons I love these bags so much is that they are fine examples of what my late father called the Feminine Arts ~ these include the arts made by women and the arts worn by women and, simply, the arts of being a woman. At the time these bags were made being elegant and charming and dressing beautifully was considered an art form and women were greatly appreciated for doing so. Putting oneself together in an artistic way was valued and appreciated. My father, who was an English professor, reminisced on this when he viewed my collection of vintage purses a couple of years ago in his 80’s. While viewing them he remarked, ” If a man wanted to be with a beautiful woman in those days he knew he had to support her .”  (Shock! What a novel and quaint idea that is nowadays! What happened to that custom?) He continued to say, that, a successful man knew that a woman would bring the very things he lacked, being that he was a man, to his life ~ these things all fell into the category of female attributes that my father called the Feminine Arts ~ and that he, as a man, could not acquire by any means except being with her. These things could not be bought at any price if a man were alone. These “Feminine Arts” included  love and companionship of course. It was his firm philosophy that taking care of a man and supervising a household while bringing these elegant and elusive feminine qualities to a man’s life was a full time undertaking and should be supported, respected and rewarded as such by a man. He was acknowledging how much effort success in the Feminine Arts required and that is was also somewhat costly and well worth the price.

Unfortunately modern men often feel just the opposite and condemn women for their interests in these very same areas. They do not realize what richness the Feminine Arts can bring to a man’s life as well.

Beaded Blue Evening Bag Made in Hong Kong in the 1950's From Lady Violette de Courcy's Collection

The World Wars disrupted the purse making and beading crafts, of course. But after WWII the remaining artisans who knew how to do this kind of work went into business again. Demand for beaded evening purses was high during the 1950’s and 60’s. Styles changed with the times of course, but the workmanship was still beautiful. At this time workshops opened in Asia ~ notably Hong Kong ~ in order to meet the demand. Again the bead work and other handiwork was exquisite. Pictured above in an example from my collection of a beaded clutch evening bag made in Hong Kong in the late 1950’s. It is made with iridescent dark blue glass beads with the colors of an oil slick radiating from their centers. It is densely beaded in a swirl design and is spectacular!

Such elegant purses are the perfect compliments to modern, vintage or vintage influenced evening wear and in their small way take us back to the romantic times when ultra feminine women were appreciated by manly caring men! Every time I look at one I am reminded of my late professor father’s philosophizing on the Feminine Arts …. When I carry one I feel like I am in one of the old movies with that type of plot. Incidentally, my father grew up in NYC watching a lot of those old movies. They went to the movie theater every Saturday and watched several features back to back. He would often describe entire scenes, decades later, that had made deep life-lasting impressions on him including the leading ladies fashions. The manners and elegance depicted in the old films really had a strong influence on young people growing up in those days. Even if they were not living in elegance it made them appreciate and aspire to it. The films and film fashions of their youth definitely had lasting impact on both my parents.

 

The Dying Swan Lives Again

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Pavlova in her Dying Swan costume in a studio portrait

The Dying Swan was a beautiful signature solo choreographed for the ballerina Anna Pavlova by the choreographer Michail Fokine  in Russia 1905.

An amazing young dancer named Lil’ Buck performs his new variation on her famous dance. I think she would have loved it, actually!

Lil’ Buck performing The Dying Swan. He is extraordinary in his own right! Please enjoy!

Here is the History of the ballet, The Dying Swan.

The incomparable Anna Pavlova performing her original Dying Swan at the Marinsky theater in 1907.

Pavlova toured the world giving over 4,000 performances of this ballet to audiences who were seeing the art of ballet for the very first time. She created many fans for ballet in her lifetime.

Lil’ Buck is doing a similar thing in his own way in our modern times. He is exposing many young people to dance through his performances and inspired teaching. In a way this is a perfect vehicle for him. I think Madame would have approved!

 

Viktor Jessen’s Creative Editing of Gaite Parisienne – Amazing!

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Here is an Interview of Vida Brown by Mary Neal with footage of Vida Brown dancing in Gaite Parisieene. Vida was one of the dancer’s performing the part of the Flower Girl in the Gaite Paisienne film of Viktor Jessen. As Vida watches the film with Mary Neal who is conducting the interview she points out who is on stage in the part of the flower girl and how this is constantly changing! As she says at one point, “Have you ever seen anything like it?” Viktor just substituted one performer for another mid dance, even mid phrase if he had to to cobble the entire ballet together.

It must be remembered that he filmed the Ballet Russe for 10 years following them all over the country, attending performance after performance in order to do this! I find I do not mind the cast substitutions and rapid changes as the performances are so infectiously delightful the entire experience is just fun and joyous. Vida Brown didn’t mind it either, as she is smiling and laughing with delight throughout the film and as amazed as we are! She points out who is dancing when as they make their entrances and exits. It is amazing. The characterizations are very good. All the dancers are great! There is so much sheer joy and dancing with pleasure and abandon that dancers can only do if their technique is pure and perfect and they are performing a lot! The Ballet Russe performed constantly and traveled all over the country doing so. Those dancers got a lot of experience and owned the stage! So different than today. I just love seeing their great confidence and joy in performing. Of course some of the best ballet dancers in the world at that time were members of the Ballet Russe. The casting is perfection.

I recommend this film highly even though it is indeed a cobbled together version of the ballet with cast members changing (in mid phrase sometimes!) –  and the sound is not dead on, but it is a fascinating picture of what the ballet looked like on stage at the time. Gaite Paisienne was an incredibly influential ballet, it was the image of what ballet is for tens of thousands of people, and seeing it helps put that mid-20th century period of ballet in context.

Massine, the choreographer said, “It was popular in the United States because we gave the audience something they could relate to onstage: the working people, the waiters, the dancers, the cabaret, the charming shop girls, the dandies and the soldiers. It was rowdy and fun and full of an infectious energy. The Americans loved it. It was a great success in America, but it was not popular in Britain where the taste was more restrained and the audience wanted subdued ballets.”

The Daring Viktor Jessen – Filming Gaite Parisienne and The Ballet Russe

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Amazingly Viktor Jessen filmed the ballet without the Ballet Russe’s permission. This was an act of incredible daring as the administration was terribly strict!

Cameras are not allowed in the live theater to this day and it is strictly enforced. Here Gary Lemco writes about Jessen daringly sneaking into the performances to film night after night, about his amazing dedication to his project and his shear love of the ballet and its stars. The 12 minute segment of the DVD explains how it was done.

Gaite Parisienne by Viktor Jessen

Aren’t we fortunate!

Here is an exceptional experience for the film lover, the ballet enthusiast, and the history buff: a relatively unknown Danish film-maker, Victor Jessen (1901-1995) wanted, in his own words, “to make a permanent record on film of some of the most important works of the most perfect living art: The Dance.” Between 1943-1954, Jessen neglected his work as an engineer so he could sneak filmed performances–wearing black and shooting from high in the loge or balcony from the back of the box with a special camera wrapped to muffle its mechanical sound–of classic ballet works performed in Los Angeles by visiting ballet companies; to wit, the 1954 Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo production of Offenbach’s Gaite Parisienne as choreographed by Leonide Massine and produced and mounted by Frederic Franklin and company. Jessen called this venture “The Ultimate Daring,” since it required him to return each night to shoot with film magazines limited to 2.5 minutes of film and having to rewind every 30 seconds. He had to memorize which portions of the ballet he had missed to fill in the gaps. To capture the sound, Jessen returned with a tape recorder to capture the orchestra of the Ballet Russe in concert.
The result presents us an astonishing performance–a virtual circus of dazzling movement–of Gaite Parisienne, with its colorful cast of characters, with Frederic Franklin as the Baron; Alexandra Danilova as The Glove Seller; and Leon Danielian as The Peruvian. Rife with dazzling intricacies of movement, a perpetually busy stage, densely packed, the action follows the courtship by the Peruvian and The Baron of the lovely Glove Seller. Before she settles upon the Baron as her love, she leads the Peruvian on a merry course of poses and dances, including the famous Can-Can with the Corps de Ballet from Orpheus in the Underworld, only to dance the Barcarolle with the Baron and leave the Peruvian bereft.   The costumes, designed by Etienne de Beaumont, even in black and white, seem sumptuous–though in the documentary part we see them in living color–and they will remind more than one spectator of John Huston’s pageant for his film Moulin Rouge with Jose Ferrer. Many of the dances assume a Spanish sense of décor, not only French, though the movement of the waiters–their effortless athleticism–and the drooping gestures and pirouettes ooze with Gallic color by way of the Russian emigration into Paris. The lighting becomes another character on stage; and in the Barcarolle, the trail of dancers becomes a human gondola providing a backdrop for the lovely duet of the Glove Seller and the Baron.
The bonus track interview with principal Frederic Franklin and John Mueller proves equally fascinating. Massine joined the troupe in 1938 and immediately instituted his own concepts. He liked Danilova–whom Frederic Ashton dubbed “the Queen of the skirt-wagging roles”–and he liked Franklin because “Freddy does everything I show him.” Franklin recalls that while Gaite did not do well in Britain, it created a sensation in America: “we brought a ballet that was down to their level,” quips Franklin. “The piece did not have men in tights but cabaret people and waiters, the working class.
“We had some fine conductors: Efrem Kurtz, Pierre Monteux, Eugene Goossens, and even Stravinsky. We did have trouble once–with Leopold Stokowski–who led the Beethoven Seventh Symphony so fast no one could dance to it, so the dancers all left the stage in bits and pieces, leaving Stokowski to conduct a symphony instead of a ballet!” Franklin eulogizes Massine constantly, but also Mme. Karinska, the costumier who would lend Franklin Massine’s own pantaloons for The Baron, which were filled out in the calves to compensate for Massine’s bowl legs!
Franklin laments the difficulty of maintaining the Massine tradition in both dance and choreography: “the trouble lies in not having the same requirements–mostly theatrical–for ballet training any more. We came from the theater, and so we could project a character in mime and gesture. We had timing and characterization in our blood–and it’s very hard to teach. So some new choreographers are beginning to realize this passing tradition and insist that their corps de ballet do preparatory theater work.”
The 12-minute segment, “The Saga of Victor Jessen” uses still period photos from the 1920s and a few color shots to highlight this obscure pioneer in aesthetic film-making. His accidental discovery by Massine while shooting a ballet and making too much noise led to Massine’s angry remark, “Why don’t you use a blimp?” And that ‘blimp’ idea triggered the engineer’s design of a wrap for his camera that would muffle the sound; he even wrapped the shiny parts of the machine in black to make his entire presence ‘invisible.’ Once discovered in the balcony of the Met by an usher and anticipating the demise of his entire career, Jessen heard the usher exclaim, “That’s what I should be doing!” and found an ally. That anonymous usher is the recipient of a credit at the end of the documentary. “When I die I want my films to be shown to anybody,” stated Jessen. His wish is our command.
–Gary Lemco

http://audaud.com/2010/07/offenbach-leonide-massine%E2%80%99s-gaite-parisienne/

Victor Jessen’s Film of Massine’s Gaite Parisienne

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Here is information on the production details and how to procure the film of Victor Jesson’s Gaite Parisienne. This is the production starring Alexandra Danilova,  Fredric Franklin and Leon Danielian in its entirety. I have just ordered it and can hardly wait to receive it!

Here is another excerpt from the film of the Cancan scene: Can Can From Gaite Parisienne as filmed by Victor Jesson.

Here is an interview from Frederic Franklin on the Jessen Film: Frederic Franklin Interview – the Jesson Film.

This is totally fascinating!  A total treat for vintage ballet fans!

Enjoy!

 

Viktor Jessen and How He Filmed Gaite Pariesienne

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Arts

HOME VIDEO/NEW RELEASES; Underground Ballet

By JENNIFER DUNNING
Published: August 21, 1988

GAITE PARISIENNE Starring Alexandra Danilova (in photo), Frederic Franklin (in photo) and Leon Danielian, with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Video Artists International, Inc. 38 minutes.

Victor Jessen’s ”Gaite Parisienne” is the maddest of ventures. Mr. Jessen, a Danish-born engineer and single-minded balletomane, surreptitiously filmed Leonide Massine’s ”Gaite Parisienne” at performances between 1944 and 1954, using a primitive camera that had to be wound up every 30 seconds. In 1954, he spliced the pieces together to make a film of the whole ballet, set to a single performance of the Offenbach score.

The three stars remain the same: the superbly chic and merry Alexandra Danilova as the Glove Seller, a radiantly romantic Frederic Franklin as the Baron and a surprisingly sexy Leon Danielian as the giddy Peruvian. Some subsidiary roles are performed by a variety of dancers, with a new face showing only at the completion of a turn or a new performance indicated only by a sudden shift of lighting, for instance, at the top of a lift.

The keen-eyed will spot other ballet luminaries within the ranks. And the performances are not only of historical value, but offer an instructive antidote to American Ballet Theater’s hyperactive recent production. This ”Gaite Parisienne” is not for the novice. But balletomanes will treasure it.

Alexandra Danilova Was Champagne & What Was in That Tray of Gloves!

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Arts
COLLECTIONS>FREDERIC FRANKLIN A wonderfully entertaining review with commentary of Frederic Franklin on Danilova ~ so worldly yet so utterly charmant!

DANCE VIEW; Alexandra Danilova: She Continues To Be Champagne

By Jennifer Dunning
Published: September 10, 1989

Alexandra Danilova is an indisputable legend in a time when legends in ballet are few. Recently named to receive a Kennedy Center Honor this winter, she soon will be presented with the Handel Medallion from the City of New York. In a career in dance that has spanned more than seven decades, from her days as a student at the fabled Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg (now the Kirov in Leningrad) to her teaching at the School of American Ballet in Manhattan, Madame Danilova, as she is referred to by many, has become an exotic institution in American dance and a link between very different eras.

There are new ways of thinking about dance today. Dancers are no longer so much the bearers of magic to a humdrum world as a part of the social fabric of that world, particularly in cities outside New York. But a century ago, ballet was represented in this country by exotic emissaries from foreign lands who settled in America to teach the art of chorus-dancing and deportment. There was the bewitching Anna Pavlova and her innumerable tours to every corner of the United States, as well as the Diaghilev company and the beloved Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

Madame Danilova is a product, of course, of the hardy yet unfailingly glamorous Ballet Russe. For many Americans, she personified the company, and box-office success was guaranteed by her partnership on stage with Frederic Franklin, the company’s English premier danseur. In his history of the company, ”The One and Only: The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo,” Jack Anderson, a Times dance critic, writes that a 1944 Columbus, Ohio, engagement by the troupe was billed as ”Mlle Danilova, Frederic Franklin and Company.”

There was a piquant radiance about Madame Danilova that is undiminished today, epitomized in her heart-shaped face with its large, heavily lidded eyes. She was famous for her slender, tapering legs and well-turned feet. She was known best for her portrayals of three seductive characters in ballets by Leonide Massine – the Cancan Dancer in ”La Boutique Fantasque,” the Street Dancer in ”Le Beau Danube” and the Glove-Seller in ”Gaite Parisienne.”

Madame Danilova’s Glove-Seller knew, as Mr. Franklin put it, that her tray of gloves contained ”all kinds of stuff – contraceptives, everything.” Seeing her dance the role in a filmed record of ”Gaite Parisienne” by Victor Jessen, a balletomane and camera buff, reinforces that observation. Here, too, is a performer who is as self-contained as she is abandoned, dancing as much, it seems, for herself as for her audience. Effervescent miming and her relationship with Mr. Franklin, her ardent yet gentle Baron, add to the fascination of her dancing.

She was a spirited Swanilda in ”Coppelia.” The role of Giselle was not her forte, though her Swan Queen was considered hauntingly sad. She was champagne, her admirers proclaimed. Her famous legs were described by Lincoln Kirstein as being like ”luminous wax.” She was gaiety and elegance and wit.

”She has by nature and by artistry a wonderful legato that gives to all the sharp accents and spurts of cancan steps that the part calls for a musical grace none of the younger dancers have learned,” Edwin Denby, the noted dance critic, once wrote of Danilova in a review of ”Le Beau Danube.” ”In comparison to her they seem to trust to luck for their balance, and so their dancing loses flow and sweetness. Danilova makes her temperamental vivacity count because the movements are so well placed. Where others look happy, she scintillates. But it is her feminine presence, her air of dancing for the delight of it, that captures the audience’s heart.”

But her legend goes back farther than the Ballet Russe. Madame Danilova developed as an artist at the Maryinsky or Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, the cradle of 20th-century ballet and the leading interpreter of the ballets of Marius Petipa. She was also a participant in – and knowing observer of – the experiments in ballet that erupted briefly with the explosion of new art forms in Russia during the 1920’s. One of those experimentalists was George Balanchine, a fellow classmate at the Maryinsky, with whom she soon joined Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, thus becoming involved in another of the century’s formative artistic ventures.

It was all that experience that Madame Danilova brought to the School of American Ballet, where she taught dances from the classical ballets of Petipa and provided a vibrant connection to that hallowed but very distant-seeming past. To watch her in class at the school, where she has taught since 1964, was to see the transformation of coltish young American girls into dancers of distinctive style, often through the merest suggestion of detail.

That past is still vivid to Madame Danilova, but no more vivid than the world she lives in today. Though she retired from the School of American Ballet this year, she is still very active. Early next month, for instance, she will travel to Louisville, Ky., to participate in a seminar on the Imperial Russian Ballet, followed by a week of teaching master classes at Ballet Midland in Midland, Tex.

Ballerinas were dazzling public figures when Madame Danilova danced, and few were so conscious of their debt to the public. There is an edge of teasing to her charm today. Her conversation is laced with the gaiety and elegance of her dancing, its tart wittiness as well as its candor. There is a sense, too, of the aloofness, noted by Robert Greskovic in The New Dance Review, that is an essential part of Leningrad dancers. Madame Danilova is never less than a star, a prerogative maintained with graceful equanimity.

At 85, she has slowed her pace. But she has lost none of the sometimes poignant indomitability learned from a life lived in a world torn by revolution, war and the vagaries of her profession. It is a life captured with much of Madame Danilova’s spirit in ”Choura,” her autobiography, which was published in 1986, and in ”Reflections of a Dancer: Alexandra Danilova,” a 1987 documentary film by Anne Belle. A friend tells of a bad fall Madame Danilova had at home in June, in which she fractured her right knee. She was unable to summon help for many hours but finally managed to reach the friend, who took her to the hectic emergency room of one of New York’s hospitals. There, she waited again, in considerable pain. At last, a very young doctor approached her. ”How old are you?” he asked. ”Guess,” she answered. ”Are you 70?” he ventured. ”Close enough,” she said imperiously, winking at her friend.

Films of The Glove Seller in Gaite Parissiene ~ Additional Commentary

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Apparently I was having some trouble with the link to the Waltz of the Baron and the Glove Seller the link should be working now. It was working when we tested it, but I just redid it and tested it again.

I have since added the last two additional posts with the history and the libretto of the ballet and another post with a Warner Brother’s film of the Ballet Russe Production. To my knowledge this blog is the only place all this information and footage is gathered together and presented in one location on the web or any place else. I will continue to add to it as I locate more.

Some things to observe:
Note how the Glove Seller blows into the glove to open the fingers before slipping in onto the Peruvian’s hand! I love the many authentic nuances she has used to fill out the performance.

Unfortunately Warner Bros. did not see it fit to film her little glove shop stall which, in the original ballet set is filled with gloves of all shapes and colors hanging from the awning style roof and backdrop and displayed on the tray like table top that is slanted toward the audience and shows many gloves looking very enticing and colorful!  I am hoping to find a photo of that part of the set to post. The flower girl also had a stall of colorful flowers and flowers in buckets French street stall style that they don’t show in the film! Too bad because they were absolutely charming sets! And of course made you want to buy both gloves and flowers in every possible color and style!

If you look closely you should be able to see a pair of long black gloves tucked into the belt of the Glove Seller’s white ruffled dress during part of the dancing!

In the Ballet Russe redition there was much mime work in the role of the Glove Seller showing the customers her gloves for sale in the stage production. And some customers buying them and putting them on – adding them to their costumes and dancing with them on for the rest of the evening. Apparently Warner’s felt this was too still and boring for film audiences – another mistake on their part as the mime scenes in ballets as well as operas are very important to the dramatic rendering and telling of the stories.

I was taken to a stage production of this ballet by my mother when I was about 5 yrs old and it was so colorful and lovely I still remember the costumes and dancing. The Glove Seller was enchanting! She was charming and elegant beyond description! A great actress. The audience applauded with a standing ovation before she even began to dance. She was so loved and respected for her interpretation that this became a customary part of the audience behavior and really set the mood for exalted dynamic dancing. I did not see Danilova dance her role as she had retired by the time I was born and taken to the ballet! I was witness to her tradition in the performances I saw. Because she had passed her role on to other dancers and taught them her interpretation.

As you can see the colorful vintage ballet costumes were just lovely!

My mother had seen the original productions with Franklin and Danilova and talked a great deal about the impact they had on her. She loved the ballet and The Ballet Russes.

So far I have not been able to find a portrait of Alexandra Danilova in her glove seller costume.

I am sad that Warner’s didn’t get her performance on film. We have to thank Viktor Jessen, the invisible amateur filmmaker who, in the 1950’s dressed all in black and filmed the Ballet Russe production from the wings over and over for two years with an old wind up super 8 camera night after night and finally pieced together all the footage of the Danilova/ Franklin performance that is all that is available today! If he had not done it there would not be any record of Danilova’s dancing that role!

It is truly only within the last decade that it had become customary to regularly video tape dance performances. Most of the old famous ones are only memories passed down by those who saw them. My mother talked so much about Danilova that I felt as if I had seen her perform the role myself! Her impression was so strong that it was conveyed from one generation to another in this way! Amazing when you think about it!

Unfortunately film really cannot capture the mystery and beauty of live dance performances. It is impossible. But something is much better than nothing!
I am so grateful to this ballet fan of old ~ Mr. Jessen, for diligently filming the production he loved so much!

Interesting to note, the Ballet Russe would not announce who was going to be dancing the role of the Glove Seller before the performances so Jessen arrived and set up his camera and waited backstage to see who would come out! If it was Danilova and Franklin he would film it. If not, he would pack up his equipment and leave! He recorded the orchestra playing the music at a different performance, then grafted the tape and the film together! It isn’t always right on, but it is pretty good considering his early primitive equipment! Once again, you have got to love the guy and his dedication!

Another interesting note, Jessen was so quiet and unobtrusive that the dancers were not aware he was there, in the wings, filming them. Thankfully the management allowed him to do so!

I hope you enjoy the beautiful and colorful vintage dance costumes which are captured nicely in the Warner’s Bros. Production No wonder people loved going to live theater and seeing the gorgeous clothes as well as the performances. Remember the audiences dressed to the nines for the occasion as well.

As a child I was told that we must dress up our very best when we attended the theater to show our respect for the dancers, actors and musicians who have gone to so much super human effort to create this magnificent production for our enjoyment. I was told we owed it to them, to show our appreciation by looking beautiful as well!

I agree with this philosophy to this day. Attending live theater is a special occasion and a privilege and an opportunity to show our respect and appreciation to the performers. My mother said it was our responsibility as audience members to dress beautifully as that was our part of the entire performance and experience. I have always enjoyed upholding my end of it by dressing up for the occasion! And I really enjoy seeing other people who dress up too.

A couple of years ago I attended a performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet and a bevy of about a dozen teenage girls were attending the event together. They had all dressed up in 1950’s long vintage tulle pastel ball gowns and real fur stoles and jackets, complete with high heels and vintage jewelry and little tiaras to attend the ballet. They had all had their hair done and made it a real dress up occasion and they were absolutely lovely! Obviously! As I still remember them and am writing about it today! It was a rare sight to see these days. I think they will all remember the event for their entire lives as well! What fun!

Since there are few occasions now that demand us to dress up it is a great idea to create our own, as this group of girls did. I am sure they had as wonderful a time deciding what to wear and getting ready as they did watching the ballet. I didn’t carry a camera to the performance ( you are not allowed to photograph the dancers) but I wish I had to photograph the audience! I think I will try to smuggle one in my evening bag just for this purpose in when I go again!

Violette

The Gay Parisian – as filmed by Warner Bros. with The Ballet Russe

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

The Ballet Gaite Parisienne about the Glove Seller and others in a night of entertainment at a Parisian Cafe filmed by Warner Bros. who produced this film of the entire ballet but would not use Alexandra Danilova as the Glove Seller claiming she was too old and not pretty enough! The cast they used did a marvelous job, but she was the one ballet audiences wanted and associated with the role for the fabulous quality of her dancing.

Anyway here it is in two parts. The film is very hard to find as there are copyright infringement issues……..

Part 1 The Gay Parisian

Part 2 The Gay Parisian

 

The Libretto of Gaite Parisienne ~ the Glove Seller Ballet

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Gaîté Parisienne

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Gaîté Parisienne (literally, “Parisian Gaiety”) is a ballet choreographed by Léonide Massine to music by Jacques Offenbach orchestrated by Manuel Rosenthal in collaboration with Jacques Brindejonc-Offenbach, the composer’s nephew.[1] With a libretto and décor by Comte Étienne de Beaumont and costumes executed by Barbara Karinska, it was first presented by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the Théâtre de Monte Carlo on 5 April 1938.[2][3]

Video on YouTube of the Waltz Duet of The Baron and The Glove Seller with Frederic Franklin and Alexandra Danilova

Contents

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[edit] Synopsis

Performed in one act, the ballet does not have a conventional narrative. Instead, it depicts the amorous flirtations, convivial dancing, and high spirits of a diverse group of people who patronize a fashionable Paris café one evening during the period of the Second Empire (1851–1870). Members of various social classes are among the participants.

As the curtain opens, four waiters and four cleaning women are preparing the room for the evening’s entertainment. They dance a merry dance before the doors are opened to the public. The first to arrive is a pretty Flower Girl, who has come to sell her nosegays to the customers. She dances happily with the waiters, flouncing her skirts and petticoats, as the charladies depart. Next to enter is a gaggle of six cocodettes, flighty young women of questionable virtue, with three billiards players as their escorts. The group dances about the room in a rousing mazurka. At its conclusion, a glamorous Glove Seller appears in the doorway and waltzes into the room, charming everyone there. A change of music announces the arrival of a wealthy Peruvian tourist, who enters in a state of high excitement. Bearing two carpetbags, he is so eager to join the Parisian nightlife that he has not stopped to deposit his luggage. The cocodettes are interested in him, and in his apparent wealth, but he is attracted to the Glove Seller. Next, to the strains of a swelling waltz, a handsome Baron enters. He is welcomed by the Flower Girl, but he is immediately captivated by the Glove Seller. When they dance together, they seem to form a perfect partnership. Drum beats and march music then signal the arrival of an Officer and a platoon of soldiers. On the lookout for girls, the soldiers engage the cocodettes and the Flower Girl in another dance. Suddenly, a fashionable society beauty, a courtesan known as La Lionne, arrives, accompanied by her escort, a Duke, and a companion, the Lady in Green. The room is now filled with people seeking an evening’s diversion, entertainment, and, possibly, amorous adventure.

La Lionne, in a bright red ball gown, becomes the center of attraction. She vies for the attention of the Officer, who flirts with the Glove Seller, who contrives to make the Baron jealous by pretending to respond to the attention of the Peruvian. The Duke is disconcerted by the behavior of La Lionne, but he is also interested in the Glove Seller, and he joins the Officer, the Baron, and the Peruvian in wooing her in a vivacious pas de cinq, lifting her high above their heads and exposing her pretty legs. A quarrel develops among the four men and a fight breaks out. The Baron and the Glove Seller escape the melee, but almost everyone else joins in. After order is restored and everyone has left the room, the Baron and the Glove Seller return and dance an exuberant, romantic waltz, with aerial lifts and swooping turns. At its conclusion, a troupe of can-can dancers enters, led by a Dancing Master. They dance a lively can-can with the traditional high kicks, dizzying spins, whirling turns, and much display of ruffled skirts, black garters, and frothy white underthings. At the height of the ensuing merriment, everyone joins in a boistrous ballabile.

Thereafter, the mood softens; the lights dim, and to the strains of a gentle barcarole, everyone prepares to leave. Some of the guests pair off. La Lionne departs with the Officer, the Flower Girl leaves with the Duke, and others slowly drift out into the night. The Peruvian returns, expecting to find the Glove Seller waiting for him. Instead, he discovers her and the Baron in a passionate embrace. From the dusky doorway, they wave farewell to him as he is left alone in a spotlight, slumped over, drained of energy, disappointed by the outcome of the evening. The curtain closes.[4][5]

[edit] Original Cast

At the premiere, the role of the Glove Seller was danced by Nina Tarakanova, the Flower Girl was Eugenia Delarova, and La Lionne was portrayed by Jeannette Lauret. Frederic Franklin took the part of the Baron, Igor Youskevitch was the Officer, and Massine himself danced the major comedy role of the Peruvian.[6]

[edit] History

Before the opening night, the ballet was advertised under the tentative titles of Gay Mabille and Tortoni, after a Paris café, but Manuel Rosenthal recalled that Count Étienne de Beaumont, the ballet’s librettist, eventually came up with the title that was used at the premiere.[7]

Massine had originally commissioned this ballet from Roger Désormière, but, owing to lack of time,[8] he asked his friend Rosenthal to take on the commission. Initially not inclined to fulfill the assignment, Rosenthal reportedly said, “I don’t know Offenbach well; I’m not used to orchestrating the music of other people; I don’t want to do it; I don’t know Miasine [Massine]”. However, Désormière was insistent enough that Rosenthal eventually accepted the task.

With advice from Nadia Boulanger, Massine directed Rosenthal’s selection of the Offenbach excerpts. After completion of the score, Massine was unsure about it and was inclined to reject it. Rosenthal then proposed that Igor Stravinsky act as arbitrator over the acceptance of the score, to which Massine agreed. Upon hearing the music, Stravinsky strongly advised Massine to accept Rosenthal’s arrangements. However, because of the poor relations between Massine and Rosenthal, Rosenthal himself did not conduct the first performance of the ballet, and instead Efrem Kurtz was conductor for the ballet’s premiere.[9]

Gaîté Parisienne was first presented in the United States by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, on 12 October 1938, with Alexandra Danilova as the Glove Seller and Delarova, Lauret, Franklin, Youskevitch, and Massine in the same roles they had danced at the premiere in Monte Carlo.[10] Danilova, who had shared the role of the Glove Seller with Tarakanova in Europe, became indelibly associated with the role in America. Unlike Tarakanova, who had played the Glove Seller as demure and naive, Danilova portrayed her as a vivacious, glamorous, sophisticated woman of the world.[11] “Danilova in Gaîté became one of the attractions of the Ballet Russe, and the ballet often concluded a season’s opening-night performance. On the opening night of the company’s 1941 season in New York, when Danilova made her first entrance she was given a spontaneous ovation that stopped the show. Such show-stopping ovations thenceforth became a tradition of every opening-night Gaîté with Danilova.” [12]

The charming role of the Flower Girl was choreographed especially to suit the talents and abilities of Eugenia Delarova, Massine’s second wife, and she was ideally suited to its exuberant lyricism. Frederic Franklin, young, blond, and handsome, was perfectly cast as the Baron and was long known for that role. Jeannette Lauret, a statuesque dancer with sparkling eyes, was also particularly admired as La Lionne, which she performed many times. After Massine left the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1943, Leon Danielian eventually inherited the role of the Peruvian and became closely identified with it. Over time, he altered the original choreography to suit his personal style and invented new mannerisms for comic effect, virtually re-creating the character.[13] He was much admired in the role and was said by many to have exceeded the characterization of the originator.

Other productions of Massine’s Gaîté Parisienne were mounted by the Royal Swedish Ballet (1956), American Ballet Theatre (1970), London Festival Ballet (1973), and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo (1989).[14] Lorca Massine staged a revival of his father’s ballet for American Ballet Theatre in 1988, with scenery by Zack Brown and extravagantly inappropriate costumes by French fashion designer Christian Lacroix.[15] The production was not a success and was soon dropped from the repertory.

[edit] Recordings

The full ballet, as well as a concert suite, has been frequently performed and recorded. Efrem Kurtz, who conducted the world premiere, recorded some of the music for Columbia Records on 78-rpm discs. In 1947, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra recorded the ballet for RCA Victor; this high fidelity recording was later issued by RCA as its first 33-1/3 rpm LP in 1950. In 1954, Fiedler recorded the concert suite in stereo, his first stereophonic session for RCA. Rosenthal himself made four recordings of the ballet.

In 1941, Warner Brothers produced an abbreviated Technicolor film version of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo production of Gaîté Parisienne that it released in 1942 under the title The Gay Parisian. Directed by Jean Negulesco, it departs considerably from the original scenario of the ballet. The unit set, which was designed to conform to Hollywood’s idea of elegant architecture, including a typical “stairway to nowhere,” bears no resemblance to a room in a Parisian nightclub or café of the Second Empire. Many costumes were redesigned to be somewhat more modest that those seen on the ballet stage, but they were realized in startlingly garish colors to take advantage of the Technicolor process. Further, Massine cut much of his choreography to achieve the desired twenty-minute length and restaged what was left for the movie camera. The result was to focus the work on the role of the Peruvian, played by himself. Besides the loss of some of the most entertaining dances, his changes also obscured the relationships of the characters and made a hash of the story. The Glove Seller was danced by Milada Mladova, a pretty girl from the corps de ballet chosen by the director chiefly for her looks. The cast also includes Frederic Franklin as the Baron, Nathalie Krassovska as the Flower Girl, Igor Youskevitch as the Officer, and André Eglevsky as the Dancing Master. With the exception of the can-can, none of the dancing makes much sense. The film is commercially available only as a bonus feature on the “three-disc special edition” of The Maltese Falcon issued in 2006 by Warner Home Video.

In 1954, Victor Jessen created a black-and-white film of Gaîté Parisienne by laboriously splicing together strips of film he had surreptitiously recorded in theaters during performances by Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo over a ten-year period (1944–1954) and then editing the footage to conform to a sound recording he had also secretly made during a performance sometime around 1954. The synchronization of sound and picture is not exact, but it is close, and the thirty-seven-minute film certainly captures the flavor and spirit of the ballet. Albeit not the smoothest dance film ever made, it is an invaluable document of a perennially popular and much-loved ballet. Issued on DVD in 2006 by Video Artists International, the film stars Danilova as the Glove Seller, Franklin as the Baron, and Leon Danielian as the Peruvian. Featured performers are Tatiana Grantzeva as the Flower Girl, Robert Lindgren as the Officer, Shirley Haynes as La Lionne, Peter Deign as the Duke, Harding Dorn as the Dancing Master, and Moscelyne Larkin and Gertrude Tyven as the lead can-can girl. Optional features include audio commentary by Frederic Franklin and explanatory English subtitles.

[edit]