Gloria Swanson, New York, 1924

Edward Steichen – Part Two

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Actress Gloria Swanson with black head wrap dramatically made up behind a screen of lace (Edward Steichen, Condé Nast/Corbis), New York, 1924. The photograph was first published in the February 1928 issue of Vanity Fair.

Gloria May Josephine Swanson (1899–1983) was an American actress and producer. She was a star in the silent film era as both an actress and a fashion icon.
Swanson began her career as an extra at the age of 14 in Essanay Studios. She left school to work full-time at the studio and made her film debut in 1914.
Swanson moved to California in 1916 to appear in Mack Sennett’s Keystone. In 1919 she signed with Paramount Pictures and worked often with Cecil B. DeMille, who turned her into a romantic lead.
In the space of two years, Swanson rocketed to stardom and was one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood. During Swanson’s heyday, audiences went to her films not only for her performances, but also to see her wardrobe. She was frequently ornamented with beads, jewels, peacock and ostrich feathers and other extravagant pieces of haute couture. Her fashion, hair styles, and jewels were copied around the world. She was the screen’s first clothes horse and was becoming one of the most famous and photographed women in the world.
So successful were her films for Paramount that the studio was afraid of losing her and gave in to many of her whims and wishes. But, in 1927, she decided to turn down a million dollar a year (approx. $13.6 million in 2017) contract with Paramount to join the newly created United Artists, where she was her own boss and could make the films she wanted, with whom she wanted, and when.

Joseph P. Kennedy presents Gloria Swanson in The Trespasser (1929)

In 1929, Swanson jumped into making talkies. “The Trespasser” was released by United Artists, and earned Swanson an Academy Award nomination.
Sadly for Swanson, The Trespasser proved to be one of her only two hit talkies. Subsequent follow-ups like What a Widow!, Indiscreet, Tonight or Never, Perfect Understanding, and Music in the Air all proved to be box-office flops. Despite the disappointments, Swanson was well remembered by Billy Wilder, a writer on Music in the Air, when he was casting the part of Norma Desmond in his masterpiece Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Although she made the transition to talkies, as her film career began to decline, Swanson relocated permanently to New York City in 1938, where she began an inventions and patents company called Multiprises, which kept her occupied during the years of World War II. This small company had the sole purpose of rescuing Jewish scientists and inventors from war-torn Europe and bringing them to the United States. She helped many escape, and some useful inventions came from the enterprise.
Swanson made another film for RKO in 1941 (“Father Takes a Wife”), began appearing in the legitimate theater, and starred in her own television show in 1948. She threw herself into painting and sculpting, writing a syndicated column, touring in summer stock, engaging in political activism, radio and television work, clothing and accessories design and marketing, and making occasional appearances on the big screen. But it was not until 1950 when Sunset Boulevard was released (earning her yet another Academy Award nomination) that she achieved mass recognition again.
Although Swanson only made three films after Sunset Boulevard, she starred in numerous stage and television productions during her remaining years. She was active in various business ventures, traveled extensively, wrote articles, columns, and an autobiography, painted and sculpted, and became a passionate advocate of various health and nutrition topics. She became a vegetarian around 1928 and was an early health food advocate who was known for bringing her own meals to public functions in a paper bag.
Swanson was married six times. Most of the marriages were brief and, in an interview, she said, ”The mess I made of marriage was all my fault. The trouble with me is that I’ve always been too independent.” Gossip columnists wrote voraciously about her marriages and purported love affairs, dwelling particularly on one with Joseph P. Kennedy, the Boston financier who was to found a political dynasty. For more than half a century, Miss Swanson denied having an affair with Mr. Kennedy, but then she wrote about it in her 1980 autobiography, ”Swanson on Swanson,” which won admiring reviews and became a best-seller.
On April 4, 1983, Swanson died in New York City, aged 84.

Gloria Swanson and I had had a long session, with many changes of costume and different lighting effects.  At the end of the session, I took a piece of black lace veil and hung it in front of her face.  She recognized the idea at once.  Her eyes dilated, and her look was that of a leopardess lurking behind leafy shrubbery, watching her prey.  You don’t have to explain things to a dynamic and intelligent personality like Miss Swanson.  Her mind works swiftly and intuitively.” Edward Steichen: A Life in Photography

Edward Jean Steichen (1879–1973) was an American photographer, painter, and art gallery and museum curator. He was born in Luxemburg, but his family immigrated to the United States in 1880.
Steichen is a major figure in the evolution of American photography and exhibition design. Having begun his artistic career as a painter, he was later a founding photographer of the Photo-Secession group, together with Gertrude Kasebier, Clarence White, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and Alfred Stieglitz. With Stieglitz, he first exhibited European “modern art” at Gallery 291 in New York City. He was, also, the most frequently featured photographer in groundbreaking magazine Camera Work during its run from 1903 to 1917.
His photos of gowns for the magazine Art et Décoration in 1911 are regarded as the first modern fashion photographs ever published.
During World War I, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a photographer, leading the aerial reconnaissance division in France.
In 1923, he began a 15-year career at Condé Nast, serving eventually as Chief Photographer and creating iconic portraits of politicians, actors, and socialites for publications including Vogue and Vanity Fair. During these years, Steichen was regarded as the best known and highest paid photographer in the world.
In 1944, he directed the war documentary The Fighting Lady, which won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary.
After World War II, Steichen was Director of the Department of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) until 1962. Among other accomplishments, Steichen is appreciated for creating The Family of Man, a vast exhibition consisting of over 500 photos that depicted life, love and death in 68 countries. The exhibition was seen by nine million people.
Edward Steichen died on 25th March, 1973 at 93 years of age.
Sources / More to Read:
Wikipedia: Gloria Swanson
IMDb: Gloria Swanson
Wikipedia: Edward Steichen
AnOther mag: Ten milestones in the life of Edward Steichen

See also my other post about Edward Steichen’s work
Mary Nolan, Hollywood, ca. 1929

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Mary Nolan, Hollywood, 1929

Portrait for Vanity Fair magazine
Edward Steichen – Part One

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Vanity Fair Magazine: Actress, Mary Nolan, with light eyes and disheveled blond hair, wearing a light sleeveless dress, sitting on a sofa, clutching a scarf, and biting her lower lip. (Photo by Edward Steichen/Condé Nast), 1929

Mary Nolan (1902 – 1948) was an American stage and film actress, singer and dancer. She was born Mary Imogene Robertson in Louisville, Kentucky. When her mother died, his father placed Mary in a foster home and later in a Catholic orphanage in Missouri.
In June 1912, she travelled to New York City to be near her oldest sister. She began working as an artists’ model and later she hired as a dancer in Ziegfeld Follies. As a showgirl, she performed under the name “Imogene “Bubbles” Wilson” and soon became one of the most popular Ziegfeld Girls.
While working in the Follies, Nolan began a tumultuous and highly publicized affair with actor Frank Tinney. He was married to former singer and dancer Edna Davenport, with whom he had a young son. Tinney drank heavily and reportedly physically abused Nolan regularly. On May 24, 1924, Tinney and Nolan got into a physical altercation in her apartment after he awoke to find her alone with a male reporter. After the altercation, Nolan attempted suicide. On May 28, she appeared before New York City Magistrate to report the assault and to press charges against Tinney. Nolan had bruises on her head and body. Tinney was arrested the following day. In June 1924, the case went before a grand jury. Based on the evidence, the jury refused to indict Tinney on assault charges. Afterwards, Tinney claimed the whole ordeal was a publicity stunt concocted by Nolan. After the grand jury hearing, Tinney decided to leave New York to perform in vaudeville in England. In early August 1924, he booked a trip on the Columbus ocean liner. Two days before Tinney was set to leave, he and Nolan reconciled and were photographed together outside of a Broadway theatre. Nolan wept as she watched the Columbus depart and told reporters on hand that she was still in love with Tinney. Nolan’s tearful goodbye to Tinney was covered by the media, which prompted Florenz Ziegfeld to fire Nolan later that day. Ziegfeld said that he fired Nolan because she had promised to end her relationship with Tinney. He added, “She broke her promise and I discharged her on account of the notoriety and also to prevent a possible disruption of the morale of my cast.”
On September 20, 1924, Nolan set sail for France where she was scheduled to appear in vaudeville. She made her way to London in October, where she reunited with Frank Tinney. By December 1924, Tinney had resumed drinking and began to physically abuse her again. In early 1925, Nolan finally ended their relationship. She left the United States shortly thereafter and began making films in Germany. She appeared in seventeen German films from 1925 to 1927 using a new stage name, “Imogene Robertson”.
Upon returning to the United States in 1927, she attempted to break from her previous scandal ridden past and adopted yet another stage name, “Mary Nolan”. Shortly after signing with Universal in 1927, Nolan began a relationship with another married man, studio executive Eddie Mannix. Mannix used his clout to further her career and Nolan found some success in films. Shortly after Desert Nights was released in 1929, Mannix abruptly ended the relationship. This angered Nolan, who threatened to tell Mannix’s wife of their affair. Mannix became enraged and beat her unconscious. Nolan hospitalized for six months and required fifteen surgeries to repair damage Mannix inflicted on her abdomen. While hospitalized, Nolan was prescribed morphine for pain. She eventually became addicted which contributed to the decline of her career.

Poster of a 1930 American drama film directed by Harry A. Pollard, starring Mary Nolan.

By the 1930s, her acting career began to decline due to her drug abuse and reputation for being temperamental. After being bought out of contract with Universal, she was unable to secure film work with any major studios. Nolan spent the remainder of her acting career appearing in roles in low-budget films for independent studios.
Nolan was married once and had no children. She married stock broker Wallace T. McCreary on March 29, 1931. One week before they married, McCreary lost 2,69 € million on bad investments. The couple used McCreary’s remaining money to open a dress shop in Beverly Hills. The shop went out of business within months and Nolan filed for bankruptcy in August 1931. Nolan divorced McCreary in July 1932. She made her final film appearance in 1933.
After her film career ended, Nolan appeared in vaudeville and performed in nightclubs and roadhouses around the United States. Her later years were plagued by drug problems and frequent hospitalizations.
In 1939, she returned to Hollywood and changed her name to “Mary Wilson”. In 1941, she sold her life story to The American Weekly, which was serialized under the title “Confessions of a Follies Girl”, and appeared in several issues.
In spring 1948, she was hospitalized for malnutrition and was also treated for a gall bladder disorder. On October 31, 1948, Nolan was found dead in her Hollywood apartment at the age of 45. An autopsy later determined that Nolan had died of an overdose of Seconal. Her death is listed as an “accidental or suicide”.
Among Nolan’s few possessions was an antique piano once owned by Rudolph Valentino. It was later sold in an estate sale.
Sources / More to Read:
Wikipedia: Mary Nolan
IMDb: Mary Nolan
Wikipedia: Frank Tinney
Wikipedia: Eddie Mannix

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Anna May Wong, by George Hurrell, 1938

Colorization & Restoration by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization & Restoration by Manos Athanasiadis

Anna May Wong (photo: George Hurell) 1938

Anna May Wong (photo: George Hurell) 1938

Anna May Wong (born Wong Liu Tsong, 1905–1961) was an American actress. She is considered to be the first Chinese American movie star, and also the first Asian American actress to gain international recognition. Her long and varied career spanned silent film, sound film, television, stage and radio.
Born in Los Angeles to second-generation Chinese-American parents, Wong became infatuated with the movies and began acting in films at an early age. During the silent film era, she acted in The Toll of the Sea (1922), one of the first movies made in color. Her big breakthrough came when Douglas Fairbanks cast her in a supporting role as a treacherous Mongol slave in The Thief of Bagdad (1924). The $2-million blockbuster production made her known to critics and the movie-going public. For better or worse, a star, albeit of the stereotypical “Dragon Lady” type, was born.
Despite her waxing fame, she was limited to supporting roles, as Caucasian actresses, continued to be cast as Asian women in lead roles. She was unable to attract lead parts despite her beauty and proven acting talent, even in films featuring Asian women. The characters she played typically were duplicitous or murderous vamps that often reaped the wages of their sin by being raped. Frustrated by the stereotypical supporting roles she reluctantly played in Hollywood, Wong left for Europe in the late 1920s, where she starred in several notable plays and films. European directors appreciated Wong’s unique talents and beauty, and they used her in ways that stereotype-minded Hollywood, hemmed in by American prejudice, would not or could not. Moving to Germany to appear in German films, she became acquainted with German film personalities, including Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl. She learned German and French and began to develop a continental European attitude and outlook. Anna May Wong was featured in magazines all over the world, she became a media superstar, and her coiffure and complexion were copied, while “coolie coats” became the rage. The 170-cm-tall beauty was known as the world’s best-dressed woman and widely considered to have the loveliest hands in the cinema.
She spent the first half of the 1930s traveling between the United States and Europe for film and stage work. Her best role in Hollywood in the early 1930s was in support of Marlene Dietrich in Oscar-winning classic Shanghai Express (1932). However, Hollywood in the 1930s was as racist as it had been in the Roaring Twenties, and MGM refused to cast her in its 1932 production of The Son-Daughter (1932), for which she did a screen-test, as she was “too Chinese to play a Chinese.”
In 1935 Wong was dealt the most severe disappointment of her career, when MGM refused to consider her for the leading role of the Chinese character O-Lan in the film The Good Earth, choosing instead the German actress Luise Rainer to play the leading role. Albert Lewin, the Thalberg assistant who was casting the film, vetoed Wong and other ethnic Chinese because their looks didn’t fit his conception of what Chinese people should look like. Ironically, the year “The Good Earth” came out, Wong appeared on the cover of Look Magazine’s second issue, which labeled her “The World’s Most Beautiful Chinese Girl.” Luise Rainer would win the Best Actress Oscar for her performance of O-Lan in Chinese drag.
Wong spent the next year touring China, visiting her family’s ancestral village and studying Chinese culture. Though Wong was one of Hollywood’s more memorable victims of racism in being denied leading roles in A-list pictures because the racist mores of the times prevented an Asian woman from kissing a Caucasian actor, she was considered socially suspect by her own people. The roles she was forced to accept in order to have an acting career, as well as her status as a single woman disgusted many Chinese in America and in her ancestral homeland, where actresses were equated with prostitutes and where women were still played by men in classical opera. On her trip, Anna May was welcomed by the country’s cultural elite in cosmopolitan Beijing and Shanghai, but she had to abandon a trip to her parents’ ancestral village when her progress was blocked by a crowd of protesters.
Wong’s personal relationships typically were with older Caucasian men, but California law forbade marriage between Asians and Caucasians until 1948. One of her white lovers offered to marry her in Mexico, but the couple’s intentions became known and he backed off when his Hollywood career was jeopardized. Wong mused about marrying a Chinese man at times, but the Chinese culture held actresses to be on a par with prostitutes, which made her suspect marriage material. She was afraid that the mores of her culture likely meant that marrying a Chinese would force her to quit her career and be an obedient wife.
Anna May Wong loved reading, and her favorite subjects spanned a wide range, everything from Asian history and Tzu Lao to William Shakespeare. She never married but occupied her time with golf, horses, and skiing. Wong smoked, drank too much, and suffered from depression.
In the late 1930s, she starred in several B movies for Paramount Pictures, portraying Chinese Americans in a positive light. She paid less attention to her film career during World War II, when she devoted her time and money to helping the Chinese cause against Japan. Wong returned to the public eye in the 1950s in several television appearances. In 1951, she made history with her TV show The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, the first ever U.S. television show starring an Asian American series lead.
She had been planning to return to film in Flower Drum Song when she died of a massive heart attack on February 3, 1961, in Santa Monica, CA, after a long struggle against Laennec’s cirrhosis, a disease of the liver. She was 56 years old.
For decades after her death, Wong was remembered principally for the stereotypical “Dragon Lady” and demure “Butterfly” roles that she was often given. Her life and career were re-evaluated in the years around the centennial of her birth, in three major literary works and film retrospectives.
George Edward Hurrell (1904–1992) was a photographer who contributed to the image of glamour presented by Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hurrell originally studied as a painter with no particular interest in photography. He first began to use photography only as a medium for recording his paintings. After moving to Laguna Beach, California from Chicago, Illinois in 1925 he met many other painters who had connections. One of those connections was Edward Steichen who encouraged him to pursue photography after seeing some of his works. Hurrell eventually opened a photographic studio in Los Angeles.
In the late 1920s, Hurrell was introduced to the actor Ramon Novarro and agreed to take a series of photographs of him. Novarro was impressed with the results and showed them to the actress Norma Shearer, who was attempting to mould her wholesome image into something more glamorous and sophisticated in an attempt to land the title role in the movie The Divorcee. She asked Hurrell to photograph her in poses more provocative than her fans had seen before. After she showed these photographs to her husband, MGM production chief Irving Thalberg, Thalberg was so impressed that he signed Hurrell to a contract with MGM Studios, making him head of the portrait photography department. But in 1932, Hurrell left MGM after differences with their publicity head, and from then on until 1938 ran his own studio. Throughout the decade, Hurrell photographed every star contracted to MGM, and his striking black-and-white images were used extensively in the marketing of these stars.
In the early 1940s Hurrell moved to Warner Brothers Studios and later in the decade, he moved to Columbia Pictures where his photographs were used to help the studio build the career of Rita Hayworth.
He left Hollywood briefly to make training films for the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces. When he returned to Hollywood in the mid-1950s his old style of glamour had fallen from favour. Where he had worked hard to create an idealised image of his subjects, the new style of Hollywood glamour was more earthy and gritty, and for the first time in his career Hurrell’s style was not in demand. He moved to New York and worked for the advertising industry where glamour was still valued. He continued his work for fashion magazines and photographed for print advertisements for several years before returning to Hollywood in the 1960s.
Hurrell died from complications from bladder cancer shortly after completing a TBS documentary about his life. He died on May 17, 1992.
Since his death, his vintage works have continued to appreciate in value and examples of his artistic output can be found in the permanent collections of numerous museums around the world.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: Anna May Wong
Wikipedia: George Hurrell
George Hurrell Official Site
Scandalous Women: Anna May Wong
IMDb: Anna May Wong
BuzzFeed: Anne Helen Petersen’s “Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema” (bonus chapter)

Bombardier Billy Wells, New York, 1912

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Bombardier Billy Wells, preparing in Rye, N.Y., for fight with Al Panzer (New York Times / Library of Congress) June 26, 1912

Bombardier Billy Wells, preparing in Rye, N.Y., for fight with Al Panzer (New York Times / Library of Congress) June 26, 1912

William Thomas Wells (1889 – 1967), was an English heavyweight boxer. Fighting under the name “Bombardier Billy Wells“, he was British and British Empire Champion from 1911 until 1919, defending his title fourteen times. Wells was also famous for being the person to fill the role of the “Gongman” – the figure seen striking the gong in the introduction to J. Arthur Rank films.
Wells was born in the East End of London. He attended elementary school, until about the age of twelve, when he began to box as an amateur during this period.
In 1906, Wells joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner. He was posted to Rawalpindi where he boxed in divisional and all-India championships, with great success. He was promoted to a bombardier, and began training full-time with the help of a civilian coach. It became apparent that Wells was good enough to make a living from boxing, so in 1910, he bought himself out of the army and returned to Britain.
This was at a time when boxing was becoming very popular as a spectator sport, in Britain and elsewhere. In America, black boxers had dominated in the ring since the 1870s. For decades, the search had been on for a figure promoters habitually dubbed “the Great White Hope”, a white boxer capable of winning the World Heavyweight Championship. In 1910, Billy Wells, who had won the British Army of India boxing championship, was identified by newspapers as the next Great White Hope. It was the first time a British boxer had been fitted up for this role. The reigning heavyweight champion was the black American Jack Johnson. Johnson arrived in London for the fight in 1911, and started training in Essex – at pub in Chingford. By now opposition was building. Newspapers claimed Johnson had been offered “a king’s ransom” in cash to take a fall, and allow Wells to win. Opposition to the fight was led by Baptist church leader Frederick Meyer, who opposed the notion of “a battle between the races”. The battle turned political when the leader of the London County Council gave his opinion: “The sight of a black man pounding a white man cannot be considered for public entertainment.” A number of colonial governors suggested the fight could even lead to unrest in parts of the British Empire. Eventually, the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, stepped in to officially ban the Wells-Johnson match. After that, no contest between a white man and a black man was seen in a British ring until 1947.

In 1911, Wells published the book "Modern Boxing: a Practical Guide to Present Day Methods"

In 1911, Wells published the book “Modern Boxing: a Practical Guide to Present Day Methods”

Wells fought for the British Heavyweight Title, in April 1911 against Iron (William) Hague, the holder, and Wells won by a knockout in the sixth round of twenty. In December 1911, Wells fought Fred Storbeck at Covent Garden for the British Empire Heavyweight Title, scoring a knockout in the eleventh round to gain his second title in one year. Wells continued to box and successfully defend his British heavyweight title, even after the start of World War I.
His boxing career wound down in 1925, but he continued to perform in front of the camera. A theatrical impresario, Billy McNamara, was struck by Wells’s “good looks and manly bearing”, and thought he, too, might be a natural for the stage. A number of leading men had begun their careers as sporting heroes.
Billy Wells made his debut as Jack Bandon, described as “both a fighter and a gentleman” and hero of a three-act play called Wanted-A-Man. Wells surprised everyone by indeed having a good deal of aptitude for acting. The play opened at the Hackney Empire, to glowing reviews. One critic wrote: “Billy scored a singular success as an actor and was something of a surprise. As a boxer, Billy is one of the most nervous people who ever entered a ring, but on the stage, he was confidence itself.”

Wells was Rank's gongman from 1936 until 1948

Wells was Rank’s gongman from 1936 until 1947

After this success, Billy was snapped up by film-makers. He was obviously a big movie fan as well. He had uncredited bit parts in Hitchcock’s The Ring (1927), King Vidor’s The Citadel (1938), George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara (1941), Michael Powell’s A Canterbury Tale (1944). His films, all boxing-related, have titles such as Kent – Fighting Man, and the Great Game. His apotheosis in the movies, was playing the hangman in Peter Brooks’ The Beggar’s Opera (1953) with Laurence Olivier.
So thus, his famous muscles made him a natural for the role of the gongman, from 1936 until 1947. The gongman was the logo of the Rank Organisation, the largest production and distribution house in the history of British cinema. The gongman film logo sequence depicts a muscular, bare-torsoed man slowly strikes a vast gong, with a deep resonant sound, twice. It was used as the introduction to all Rank films.
Bombardier Billy Wells, lived in Ealing, London and died there on 11 June 1967, aged 77. His ashes were laid to rest in the crypt of St. Mary’s parish church in Hanwell, west London.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: Bombardier Billy Wells
“Southend Standard”: Leigh pub’s famous boxer became Rank’s gong man
“Requited” Issue 14: The Gong Show
Wikipedia: Gongman
Wikipedia: Rank Organisation
Library of Congress
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Marx Brothers, A Night at the Opera, 1935

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx w/ cast in the stateroom scene from "A Night at the Opera" (1935)

Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx w/ cast in the stateroom scene from “A Night at the Opera” (1935)

The Marx Brothers were a family comedy act that was successful in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949. The group are almost universally known today by their stage names: Chico (Leonard Marx; 1887–1961), Harpo (Arthur Marx, born Adolph Marx; 1888–1964), Groucho (Julius Henry Marx; 1890–1977), Gummo (Milton Marx; 1893–1977), and Zeppo (Herbert Manfred Marx; 1901 –1979). The core of the act was the three elder brothers: Chico, Harpo, and Groucho. Each developed a highly distinctive stage persona.
Harpo and Chico “more or less retired” after 1949, while Groucho began a second career and became a well-known television host. Gummo was not in any of the movies; Zeppo appeared in the first five films in relatively straight (non-comedic) roles. They both left performing to run a large theatrical agency, through which they represented their brothers as well as others at times.
By the 1920s, the Marx Brothers had become one of America’s favorite theatrical acts, with their sharp and bizarre sense of humor. They satirized high society and human hypocrisy, and they became famous for their improvisational comedy in free-form scenarios. The Marx Brothers’ stage shows became popular just as motion pictures were evolving to “talkies”. They signed a contract with Paramount Pictures and embarked on their film career at Paramount studios. Their first two released films were adaptations of the Broadway shows The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930). Both were written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. Their third feature-length film, Monkey Business (1931), was their first movie not based on a stage production. Horse Feathers (1932), was their most popular film yet, and won them the cover of Time. Their last Paramount film, Duck Soup (1933), directed by the highly regarded Leo McCarey, is the highest rated of the five Marx Brothers films on the American Film Institute’s list.
After expiration of the Paramount contract Zeppo left the act to become an agent. Groucho and Chico did radio, and there was talk of returning to Broadway. At a bridge game with Chico, Irving Thalberg began discussing the possibility of the Marxes joining Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. They signed, now billed as “Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Marx Bros.”

Is it my imagination, or is it getting crowded in here?” Groucho Marx

A Night at the Opera (1935) was the first film made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starring the Marx Brothers, and featuring Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Margaret Dumont, Sig Ruman, and Walter Woolf King. It was a satire on the world of opera, where the brothers help two young singers in love by throwing a production of “Il Trovatore” into chaos. At the suggestion of Thalberg, the film marked a change of direction in the brothers’ career. In their Paramount films, the brothers’ characters were much more anarchic: they attacked anybody who was so unfortunate to cross their paths whether they deserved it or not, albeit comically. Thalberg, however, felt that this made the brothers unsympathetic, particularly to female filmgoers. So in the MGM films, the brothers were recast as more helpful characters, saving their comic attacks for the villains.
There is a famous scene in the film where an absurd number of people crowd into a tiny stateroom on a ship. The Stateroom scene developed with participation of Buster Keaton and became one of the most famous comedy scenes of all time.

Two years later, A Day at the Races (1937), was an even bigger hit, in which the brothers cause mayhem in a sanitarium and at a horse race. Despite the Thalberg films’ success, the brothers left MGM in 1937; Thalberg had died suddenly during filming of A Day at the Races, leaving the Marxes without an advocate at the studio.
After a short experience at RKO (Room Service, 1938), the Marx Brothers returned to MGM and made three more films: At the Circus (1939), Go West (1940) and The Big Store (1941). Prior to the release of The Big Store the team announced they were retiring from the screen. Four years later, however, Chico persuaded his brothers to make two additional films, A Night in Casablanca (1946) and Love Happy (1949), to alleviate his severe gambling debts. Both pictures were released by United Artists.
From the 1940s onward Chico and Harpo appeared separately and together in nightclubs and casinos. Chico fronted a big band, the Chico Marx Orchestra. Groucho made several radio appearances during the 1940s and starred in You Bet Your Life, which ran from 1947 to 1961 on NBC radio and television.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: Marx Brothers
Wikipedia: A Night at the Opera
IMDb: A Night at the Opera
Marx Brothers – Night at the Opera Treasury
Wikipedia: Chico Marx
Wikipedia: Harpo Marx
Wikipedia: Groucho Marx
Wikipedia: Gummo Marx
Wikipedia: Zeppo Marx
Wikipedia: Irving Thalberg

Tarzan and His Mate, 1934

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan in "Tarzan and His Mate", 1934

Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan in “Tarzan and His Mate”, 1934

Tarzan and His Mate is a 1934 American Pre-Code action adventure film based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was the second in the Tarzan film series to star Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan.
The film’s cult status is largely due to O’Sullivan wearing one of the most revealing costumes in screen history at that time; a halter-top and a loincloth that leave her thighs and hips exposed. In this Pre-Code film Jane sleeps in the nude, swims nude with Tarzan, is constantly touched by Tarzan, has a scene in which she’s stranded in the jungle without clothes on, and is seen nude in silhouette when dressing in a well lit tent. The scene that caused the most commotion was the ‘underwater ballet’ sequence. Tarzan and Jane (O’Sullivan’s swimming double, Josephine McKim, who competed in the 1928 games with Johnny Weissmuller), dance a graceful underwater ballet with a completely nude Jane. When she rises out of the water, Jane (now Maureen O’Sullivan) flashes a bare breast. Such big-screen impropriety was rare at the time, and if seen at all was usually done by dancing girl extras, or non-white actresses due to the time’s double-standards.
In 2003, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875 – 1950) was an American writer best known for his creations of the jungle hero Tarzan and the heroic Mars adventurer John Carter, although he produced works in many genres.
Tarzan was a cultural sensation when introduced. Burroughs was determined to capitalize on Tarzan’s popularity through several different media including a syndicated Tarzan comic strip, movies and merchandise. Experts in the field advised against this course of action, stating that the different media would just end up competing against each other. Burroughs went ahead, however, and proved the experts wrong – the public wanted Tarzan in whatever fashion he was offered. Tarzan remains one of the most successful fictional characters to this day and is a cultural icon.

Cover of the book Tarzan of the Apes, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914)

Cover of the book Tarzan of the Apes, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914)

Johnny Weissmuller (1904 –1984) was an American competition swimmer and actor. He was one of the world’s fastest swimmers in the 1920s, winning five Olympic gold medals for swimming and one bronze medal, fifty-two United States national championships and set sixty-seven world records.
His acting career began when he signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and played the role of Tarzan in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932). The movie was a huge success and Weissmuller became an overnight international sensation. Weissmuller starred in six Tarzan movies for MGM with Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane and Cheeta the Chimpanzee. Then, in 1942, Weissmuller went to RKO and starred in six more Tarzan movies with markedly reduced production values. In 1976, he appeared for the last time in a motion picture and he also made his final public appearance in that year when he was inducted into the Body Building Guild Hall of Fame.
On January 20, 1984, Weissmuller died from pulmonary edema at the age of 79. He was buried just outside Acapulco. As his coffin was lowered into the ground, a recording of the Tarzan yell he invented was played three times, at his request.
Maureen O’Sullivan (1911 – 1998) was an Irish actress, one of the more popular ingenues at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer throughout the 1930s. In 1932, she signed a contract with MGM and after several roles she was chosen to appear in Tarzan the Ape Man, opposite co-star Johnny Weissmuller. She played Jane in six features between 1932 and 1942.
After appearing in Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942), O’Sullivan asked MGM to release her from her contract so she could care for her husband who had just left the Navy with typhoid. She retreated from show business, devoting her time to her family. O’Sullivan’s first husband was Australian-born writer, award-winning director John Farrow, from 1936 until his death in 1963. Mia Farrow is one of their seven children.
In 1948, she re-appeared on the screen in The Big Clock, directed by her husband. She continued to appear occasionally in her husband’s movies and on television. However, by 1960 she believed she had permanently retired.
Maureen O’Sullivan died in Arizona in 1998. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, facing the star of Johnny Weissmuller.
Sources / More to read:
Wikipedia: Tarzan and His Mate
IMDb: Tarzan and His Mate
Wikipedia: Edgar Rice Burroughs
Wikipedia: Johnny Weissmuller
Wikipedia: Maureen O’Sullivan
Wikipedia: Motion Picture Production Code

Στα Ελληνικά:
Σαν Σήμερα: Ταρζάν
Τα αριστουργήματα της 7ης Τέχνης: Ο Ταρζάν και η Σύντροφός του
Wikipedia: Τζόνι Βαϊσμίλερ

Tarzan and His Mate – The ‘underwater ballet’ sequence
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPrWCCPADNs&feature=youtu.be

Santo vs. la invasión de los marcianos, 1967

-Santo vs. the Martian invasion-

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Santo with Gilda Miros & Belinda Corel in "Santo vs The Martian Invasion", 1967

Santo with Gilda Miros & Belinda Corel in “Santo vs The Martian Invasion”, 1967

Luchador films are Mexican professional wrestling/action/science-fiction/horror films starring some of the most popular masked luchadores (wrestlers) in Lucha Libre (Free Wrestling). The luchadores are portrayed as superheroes engaging in battles against a range of characters from spies, to vampires and martians. These films were low-budget and produced quickly. Nearly all lucha films included fist-fighting and wrestling action sequences which were choreographed and performed by the stars without the aid of stunt doubles. The genre’s popularity peaked during the mid-1960s to early-1970s.
One of the most well-known Mexican superheros / luchador action film stars was Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta (1917 – 1984), more widely known as El Santo (The Saint) who starred in 52 films. He was one of the most famous and iconic of all Mexican luchadores, and has been referred to as one of “the greatest legends in Mexican sports.” He started wrestling competitively in 1934 and 8 years later he used the name “El Santo” for the first time. His wrestling career spanned nearly five decades, during which he became a folk hero and a symbol of justice for the common man through his appearances in comic books and movies.

Santo, el enmascarado de plata (México: Ediciones José G. Cruz) Wednesday 3 September 1952, page 4

Santo, el enmascarado de plata (Ed. José G. Cruz) Sept. 1952, page 4. Mixed technique: hand-drawn illustration with photo-montage.

In 1952, the artist and editor José G. Cruz started a Santo comic book, turning Santo into the first and foremost character in Mexican popular literature. The Santo comic book series ran continuously for 35 years, ending in 1987.
Santo’s film career really took off in 1961, with his third movie “Santo vs The Zombies.” Santo was given the starring role with this film, and was shown for the first time as a professional wrestler moonlighting as a superhero. Santo eventually appeared in 52 films until 1982.
El Santo was known to never remove his mask, even in private company. When travelling on flights, he made sure to take a different flight from his crew to avoid having them see his face when he was required to remove his mask to get through customs. Since his regular mask did not allow him to eat, he had a special “mealtime” variation made with the mouth cut away.
Just over a year after his retirement (in late January 1984), El Santo was a guest on Contrapunto, a Mexican television program and, completely without warning, removed his mask just enough to expose his face, in effect bidding his fans goodbye. It is the only documented case of Santo ever removing his mask in public. He died from a heart attack, a week later. As per his wishes, he was buried wearing his famous silver mask. His funeral is considered one of the biggest in Mexican history as fans and friends flocked to see “el Enmascarado de Plata” (The Silver-Masked One) for last time.
Santo, el enmascarado de plata, vs. la invasión de los marcianos
(Santo, the silver masked man, vs. the Martian invasion) Mexico, 1967 (35mm, b/w, 85 min.)
Extraterrestrials invade Earth seeking human specimens. Announcing themselves in apocalyptic television broadcasts, then tele-transporting themselves to private homes and public sporting events, the platinum-bewigged, mylar-clad, macho Martians, backed by scantly dressed female beauties as counterparts, kidnap select humans, obliterating others with vaporizing rays. But heroic masked wrestler “Santo” neutralizes the invaders with his incredible wrestling prowess, after respectfully consulting a famous scientist and the local priest—thus mediating between Mexico’s high-tech future and its traditional past to restore peace and order to the nation. ¡Bien hecho, luchador!
Sources:
Wikipedia: Santo
Wikipedia: Luchador films
Hammer Screenings: ¡Aztec Mummies & Martian Invaders!
IMDb: Santo el Enmascarado de Plata vs la invasión de los marcianos
Read More:
(re)search my Trash: Santo, from King of the Ring to B-Horror Icon
The Comics Grid: “¡Santo!”: The Stuff of Legend

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, 1965

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Tura Satana & Porsche 356 in Russ Meyer's movie: "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!", 1965

Tura Satana & Porsche 356 in Russ Meyer’s movie: “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”, 1965

Russell Albion “Russ” Meyer (1922 – 2004) was an American film director, producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, film editor, actor and photographer. Meyer is known primarily for writing and directing a series of successful low-budget sexploitation films that featured campy humor, sly satire and large-breasted women, such as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Russ Meyer’s lifelong unabashed fixation on large breasts featured prominently in all his films and is his best-known character trait both as an artist and as a person. His discoveries include Kitten Natividad, Erica Gavin, Lorna Maitland, Tura Satana, and Uschi Digard among many others. The majority of them were naturally large breasted and he occasionally cast women in their first trimesters of pregnancy as it enhanced their breast size even further.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a 1965 American exploitation film directed by Russ Meyer. It follows three go-go dancers who embark on a spree of kidnapping and murder in the California desert.
The movie is known for its violence, provocative gender roles, and its eminently quotable “dialogue to shame Raymond Chandler.” Faster, Pussycat! was a commercial and critical failure upon its initial release, but it has since become widely regarded as an important and influential film.
Tura Satana (1938 – 2011) was an American actress and former exotic dancer. From 13 film and television credits, some of her work includes the exploitation film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, and the science fiction horror film The Astro-Zombies (1968).
Satana’s starred as “Varla” in the 1965 film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!—a very aggressive and sexual female character for which she did all of her own stunts and fight scenes. Renowned film critic Richard Corliss called her performance “…the most honest, maybe the one honest portrayal in the Meyer canon and certainly the scariest”. Originally titled The Leather Girls, the film is an ode to female violence, based on a concept created by Russ Meyer and screenwriter Jack Moran. Both felt at her first audition that Satana was “definitely Varla.” The film was shot on location in the desert outside Los Angeles during days when the weather was more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit and freezing nights, with Satana clashing regularly with teenage co-star Susan Bernard due to Bernard’s mother’s reportedly disruptive behavior on the set. Meyer said Satana was “extremely capable. She knew how to handle herself. Don’t fuck with her! And if you have to fuck her, do it well! She might turn on you!” Satana was responsible for adding key elements to the visual style and energy of the production, including her costume, makeup, usage of martial arts, dialogue and the use of spinning tires in the death scene of the main male character. She came up with many of the film’s best lines. At one point the gas station attendant was ogling her extraordinary cleavage while confessing to a desire to see America. Varla replied “You won’t find it down there, Columbus!” Meyer cited Satana as the primary reason for the film’s lasting fame. “She and I made the movie”, said Meyer. Tura Satana’s performance as Varla in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was Meyer’s only true portrayal of the large, strong and aggressive Amazonian archetype in the classic visual sense.
The Porsche 356 is a luxury sports car which was first produced in 1948 and continued until April 1965. It was Porsche’s first production automobile. Like its cousin, the Volkswagen Beetle, the 356 was a four-cylinder, air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive car utilizing unitized pan and body construction. The chassis was a completely new design as was the 356’s body which was designed by Porsche employee Erwin Komenda, while certain mechanical components including the engine case and some suspension components were based on and initially sourced from Volkswagen.
The last revision of the 356 was the 356C introduced for the 1964 model year. It featured disc brakes all round, as well as an option for the most powerful pushrod engine Porsche had ever produced, the 95 hp (71 kW) “SC”. 356 production peaked at 14,151 cars in 1964, the year that its successor, the new 911, was introduced to the US market.
In 2004, Sports Car International ranked the 356C tenth on their list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s. Today, the Porsche 356 is a highly regarded collector car.

Sources:
Wikipedia: Russ Meyer
Wikipedia: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
IMDb: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Wikipedia: Tura Satana
Wikipedia: Porsche 356
Στα ελληνικά:
Reel.gr: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Gocar.gr: Porsche 356, Από δω άρχισαν όλα

Adrienne Ames, Ziegfeld girl ca. 1920-25

Adrienne-Ames-03

Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Adrienne-Ames

Adrienne Ames (Alfred Cheney Johnston) ca. 1920-1925

The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 through 1931. Inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris, the Ziegfeld Follies were conceived and mounted by Florenz Ziegfeld. Many of the top entertainers of the era (including W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Josephine Baker, Bob Hope, Louise Brooks, and others) appeared in the shows.
The Ziegfeld Follies also were famous for many, beautiful chorus girls commonly known as Ziegfeld girls. They were not just admired for their beauty but for their elegant Art Deco costumes by designers such as Erté, Lady Duff Gordon or Ben Ali Haggin. The Ziegfeld girls paraded up and down flights of stairs as anything from birds to battleships. These beauties, of similar size, gained many young male admirers and they became objects of popular adoration. Many were persuaded to leave the show to marry, some to men of substantial wealth. Over the years they included many future stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, Paulette Goddard, Louise Brooks, Joan Blondell, Marion Davies, Bessie Love, Dolores Costello, Iris Adrian.
Wikipedia: Ziegfeld Follies
Wikipedia: Ziegfeld girls

Ζίγκφελντ Φολλίς ήταν μουσικοχορευτικά θεάματα στο Μπρόντγουεϊ, εμπνευσμένα από τα Φολλί Μπερζέρ του Παρισιού. Από το 1907 ως το 1931, εμφανίστηκαν πολλά μεγάλα ονόματα εκεί, όπως ο Μπόμπ Χόουπ, ο Γ.Κ. Φίλντς, η Τζοζεφίν Μπέικερ και άλλοι.
Μεγάλη φήμη είχαν και τα “Κορίτσια του Ζίγκφελντ” που χόρευαν και τραγουδούσαν στις παραστάσεις φορώντας κομψά Άρτ Ντεκό κοστούμια διάσημων σχεδιαστών. Όμορφες και καλλίγραμμες καθώς ήταν, είχαν πολλούς θαυμαστές. Κάποιες έκαναν καριέρα στον κινηματογράφο κι έγιναν σταρ όπως η Μπάρμπαρα Στάνγουϊκ, η Πωλέτ Γκοντάρ, η Λουίζ Μπρούκς και η Ντολόρες Κοστέλλο. Άλλες, απλά παντρεύτηκαν πλούσιους άντρες.

Adrienne Ames (1907-1947) hit Hollywood in the late 1920s. Although her career only lasted from 1929 to 1940, she crammed a lot of living into it, with three high-profile marriages and divorces. Her reputation as a glamor queen par excellance far outshone her reputation as an actress.
In 1938 appeared before a US Tax Appeals Board to explain why she wrote off more than $9,000 (today’s equivalent of $146,000) in wardrobe and jewelry on her 1934 tax form. She claimed was necessary for “professional reasons” (as was her maid) and that her “daily expenses” included hotel, taxis, food, flowers, tips, massages and beauty work.
She appeared in about 30 films, mostly “B” pictures. Essentially played herself on screen, bedecked in furs, satin and jewellery. Her most memorable performance was as the charming princess in You’re Telling Me! (1934) with W.C. Fields.
Adrienne Ames: L.A. Times

Alfred Cheney Johnston studied painting and illustration in New York. After graduating his efforts to earn a living as a portrait painter did not meet with success. In 1917, Johnston was hired by producer Florenz Ziegfeld as a contracted photographer, and was affiliated with the Ziegfeld Follies for the next fifteen years. Johnston’s “standard” work, of course, was used by Flo Ziegfeld for the normal advertising and promotional purposes for the Follies, and mainly consisted of individual or small-group shots of the Follies showgirls in their extravagant stage costumes. However, after Johnston’s death in 1971, a huge treasure trove of extremely artistic full-nude and semi-nude full-figure studio photos was found stored. Most of these images were, in fact, showgirls from the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920s-1930s.
Wikipedia: Alfred Cheney Johnston

Η Άντριέν Έϊμς εμφανίστηκε στα τέλη της δεκαετίας του ’20, στο Χόλυγουντ, ως ηθοποιός. Λέγεται ότι ήταν τόσο όμορφη που η Πάραμάουντ την προσέλαβε χωρίς δοκιμαστικό. Ωστόσο έγινε γνωστή για τους τρεις πλούσιους γάμους και διαζύγια της, όπως και για τη χλιδάτη και κοσμική ζωή της.
Το 1934 δήλωνε στην Εφορία, ως επαγγελματικά έξοδα, 9.000 δολάρια (σήμερα 146.000$) για ρούχα, κοσμήματα και το μισθό της υπηρέτριας που τη βοηθούσε να τα φορέσει. Όπως είπε αργότερα, τα καθημερινά της έξοδα περιλάμβαναν ξενοδοχείο, ταξί, φαγητό, λουλούδια, φιλοδωρήματα, μασάζ και αισθητική περιποίηση.
Από το 1929 ως το 1940 εμφανίστηκε σε 30, κυρίως δευτεροκλασάτες, ταινίες, όπου έπαιζε βασικά τον εαυτό της, τη μοιραία γυναίκα, “πνιγμένη” στις γούνες, τα σατέν και τα κοσμήματα.
Πέθανε 40 χρονών, το 1947, από καρκίνο.

Ο Άλφρεντ Τσένεϋ Τζόνστον (1885 – 1971), ξεκίνησε ως ζωγράφος πορτρέτων αλλά μη μπορώντας να αντεπεξέλθει οικονομικά, στράφηκε στη φωτογραφία. Το 1917 τον προσέλαβε ο παραγωγός των Ζίγκφελντ Φολλίς και τα επόμενα 15 χρόνια έφτιαχνε τα διαφημιστικά των παραστάσεων, φωτογραφίζοντας τους πρωταγωνιστές και τις χορεύτριες με τα εντυπωσιακά κοστούμια τους.
Μετά το θάνατο του, ανακαλύφθηκαν σε μια αποθήκη, μια σειρά από εξαιρετικές καλλιτεχνικές φωτογραφίες, της περιόδου 1920-1930, με γυμνά και ημίγυμνα πορτραίτα, κυρίως των “Κοριτσιών του Ζίγκφελντ”. Ανάμεσα τους ήταν κάποιες κοπέλες που εξελίχθηκαν αργότερα σε διάσημες σταρ του Χόλυγουντ.

Carole Lombard, 1935

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Color & restoration: Manos Athanasiadis

Carole Lombard (Eugene Robert Richee), 1935

Carole Lombard (Eugene Robert Richee), 1935

Carole Lombard (born Jane Alice Peters; October 6, 1908 – January 16, 1942) was an American film actress. She was particularly noted for her zany, energetic roles in the screwball comedies of the 1930s. She was the highest-paid star in Hollywood in the late 1930s.
Lombard’s career was cut short when she died at the age of 33 in an aircraft crash on Mount Potosi, Nevada while returning from a World War II War Bond tour.
Today she is remembered as one of the definitive actresses of the screwball comedy genre and American comedy.
Wikipedia

Η Κάρολ Λόμπαρντ ήταν από τις πιο διάσημες και ακριβοπληρωμένες ηθοποιούς του Χόλυγουντ τη δεκαετία του ’30. Οι πιο γνωστές ταινίες που πρωταγωνίστησε ήταν: “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” το 1941 και “My Man Godfrey” το 1936. Υπήρξε σύζυγος του Γουίλιαμ Πάουελ και αργότερα του Κλάρκ Γκέημπλ. Είχε απρόσμενο τέλος όταν, το 1942 στα 33 της χρόνια, σκοτώθηκε σε αεροπορικό δυστύχημα μετά από μια περιοδεία για την εμψύχωση των Αμερικάνων στρατιωτών.