A pioneering photographer of the early cinema, James Abbe captured the spirit of entertainment in New York, Hollywood and Europe in the 1920s with his magically-lit portraits of the stars of screen and stage. A unique album of show business personalities, this book brings together Abbe’s iconic images of silent movie stars, his exuberant studies of revues at the Folies Bergere, and his fascinating record of early British cinema. Concluding with his reportage of the turbulent politics of the 1930s, Limelight encapsulates an era through one man’s brilliant career.
Born in Alfred, Maine, James Abbe’s boyhood took place in Portsmouth, Virginia. His family owned the most important bookstore in that maritime city. At its counter James sold his photographs of ship launchings and arrivals taken with an inexpensive camera. Saturated with the print culture of the period, Abbe realized that photography was underutilized as illustration in American periodicals. He began placing photo illustrations with magazines in 1916. In 1917 he moved to New York City.
A sociable, witty man, Abbe had little trouble placing photographs in periodicals, but his break into the world of theatrical photography took place when he made a number of memorable portraits of the Barrymore brothers on stage in costume during dress rehearsals for “The Jest” in 1919. Abbe became fascinated with the nascent movie industry. He did portrait photography for several New York based cinema groups, especially for D.W. Griffith, and became the third New York based camera artist (after Karl Struss & Frank Bangs) to venture to the West Coast and work as a lensman in Hollywood. He worked for Mack Sennett for several months, even directing a now-lost comic two reeler, and as a photographer for Photoplay for another several month stint. He was the first bicoastal entertainment photographer.
Abbe had a remarkable talent for inspiring trust in stars and Lillian Gish convinced him to come to Italy in 1923 to work as a lighting consultant and still photographer for “The White Sister.” He closed his Broadway studio, abandoned his wife and children, and moved to Italy. He spent the next period of his life in Europe, photographing movie and stage productions in Paris and London and working as a photojournalist. Several landmark photographs of Joseph Stalin in a trip into the Soviet Union during the late 1930s would make him a celebrity of news photography during the late 1930s. His book, I Photograph Russia, was one of the important volumes of early photojournalism. He signed his vintage prints with his last name in red crayon on the lower-left corner of his images. He used a credit stamp for publicity images. Despite the relatively short duration of his career on Broadway, he was one of the greatest portraitists of the great age of theatrical portrait photography.
Abbe’s theatrical work was one of three photographic specialties he cultivated during his career. He also became an expert movie still photographer in 1920 and an important photojournalist in the 1930s. Brought to New York by magazine publishers interested in his experiments for using photographs as illustrations for narratives, Abbe won overnight renown in 1919 for his stage portraits of performers in costume. Enhancing the available stage lighting with a battery of portable lamps, he made intensely vivid images suggestive of interrupted stories.
Not your ordinary ‘performing arts’ history book! A wonderful look at an early 1900’s theater company that toured the USA for many years entertaining thousands at theaters, fairs, carnivals, circus and vaudeville. They were ‘Little People’ with Lots of Talent!
Penned by author/blogger/actor/producer Trav SD with a terrific Foreward by “Shocked and Amazed” publisher James Taylor. Illustrated with personal photographs from an original member of Rose’s company and vintage postcards of the company and other performers.
“Without pandering nor passing judgment this book documents in detail the performers, producers, the stage routines themselves and the various venues from those straight up and upscale to others shameful and shady. This book probes both the Dark and the Dazzling sides of the American Imagination. Only rare books like this seriously confront our more bizarre past and allow the new generations of show folk to revise to reinvent to reform American Theater.”
In 1934, Sammy Fuchs opened a saloon at 267 Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Surrounded by flophouses and missions, Sammy’s Bowery Follies catered mainly to the homeless, the penniless, and the generally down and out.
That changed somewhat in the early ‘40s after a surprising customer passed through: a monocle-wearing gentleman who turned out to be a British lord tired of the fussy formality of the uptown clubs.
Sensing a new market, Sammy acquired a cabaret license, built a stage, hired some aging vaudevillians, and began advertising his bar as the “Stork Club of the Bowery,” a nod to the famed nightclub uptown.
The plan worked. Fancy folks, tourists and celebrities began seeking out Sammy’s, looking for a chance to loosen their ties and slum it a little bit in the Gay Nineties-themed dive. It was not uncommon to find a socialite in an opera gown wedged between a sailor on shore leave and a passed-out drunk.
Sammy recognized the importance of atmosphere, and served free food and drinks to some of his more colorful regulars (characters with names such as Prune Juice Jenny, Box Car Gussie and Tugboat Ethel, the “Queen of the Bowery”) to preserve the ambience.
The notable photographer Weegee made Sammy’s one of his regular shooting grounds and even held his book launch parties there.
By the end of World War II, Sammy’s was serving some 100,000 customers a year, as literal busloads of tourists were dropped off outside, eager to drink and sing along with hobos, dwarves and assorted misfits.
Sammy Fuchs died in 1969. A year later, the bar finally closed. The closing ceremony was attended by over 700 loyal patrons.
While I was there absorbing the atmosphere and drinks, a midget walked in… he was about three and a half feet. I invited him for a drink. He told me that he just arrived from Los Angeles, where he had been working for a Browns & Williams Tobacco Co’, walking the streets dressed as a penguin.
Noah Diamond has put together a streaming talk about the Marx Brothers and their time in New York City. Part of the Freedonia Marxonia Annual Festival. This time the festival will be streaming instead of being held way upstate in Fredonia at the SUNY campus there. So come and attend it!
In this interview Noah talks about what he put into the upcoming LIVE talk.
Karen McCarty and I have known each other for quite sometime. When I heard that her grandmother was a ‘midget’ performer with Rose’s Royal Midgets I couldn’t believe my ears. I am publishing a book on this unique performing company and with this interview I had first hand information about a company that has been gone for years. A company of 25 midgets that performed World-wide for many years.
Trained as a young girl in dance and singing she was quite an asset to the company once she was employed by Ike Rose.
“Healthy Humor is a Not for Profit Performing Arts Organization whose performers create joy, wonder, and laughter for hospitalized children nationwide.”
CircusTalk in cooperation with The Circus Arts Hub is presenting a series of talks with leading circus creators and creative producers around the globe.
Circus and Changing Realities 2020 is a curated set of online panels (since March 2020), where we discuss the changing face of the global circus industry. We delve into best practices, improvements, and adaptations, and we do not shy away from asking challenging questions and touching on sensitive issues that concern the future of our community.
~ Circus Presenters and Producers on Planning for the future ~
To access this next event scheduled for Sept 7th, 2020 click here.
What approaches can we take at the moment? What do we know? How can we continue to build audiences, improve touring and sustainability for small companies, and increase sector diversity?
New York 8am, Montreal 8am, London 1pm, Paris 2pm, Melbourne 10pm
Anke Politz Managing Director and Artistic Director, Chameleon, Berlin
Ruth Wikler, Deputy Director of Programming, Circus Arts/ TOHU, Montreal
Linda Catalano Quiet Riot Unlimited (including Hot Brown Honey), Melbourne, Australia
The walls of Asti featured many framed, autographed photographs of opera singers past and present, including Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, Giovanni Martinelli, and Jerome Hines. In the center of the restaurant was a grand piano alongside a small stage-like platform with a microphone. During a typical evening at Asti, members of the waitstaff would spontaneously perform an aria or two onstage. A restaurant guest might be invited to sing as well. Other wild and crazy activities would occasionally take place, such as turning the lights down low while several of the guests marched through the restaurant in masks, to the sound of “spooky” music. One regular feature was a performance where someone dressed as a pizzeria chef would “ceremonially” toss around a clump of pizza dough, though Asti actually did not serve pizza.
Asti fare consisted primarily of pasta, seafood, and meat dishes. They also had a lengthy wine list.
Asti made a brief appearance in the movie Big, for Josh’s 13th birthday party.