Sunday, March 21, 2010

Anna Sten

Anna Sten was born in Kiev December 3, 1908, as Anjuschka Stenski Sudakewitsch. Her father, a Russian ballet master died when she was 12. At 15, while acting in an amateur play in Kiev, Anna was discovered by Method Actor "father" Konstantin Stanislavsky, who arranged an audition for her at the Moscow Film Academy. Her first credited role was in Boris Barnet's 1927 comedy The Girl with a Hatbox (Available on Netflix). She soon relocated to Germany, where she starred in several films, including Trapeze (1931) and The Brothers Karamazov (1931), both well received. It was in the latter film she was noticed by Samuel Goldwyn, who brought her to the United States with the aim of creating a new screen personality to rival the popularity of Greta Garbo.

After arriving in Hollywood, Anna was tutored in English and taught Hollywood's film making technique. Unfortunately, Anna's first American production, Emile Zola's Nana (1934), was not successful at the box office, nor were her two subsequent Goldwyn films, We Live Again (1934) with Frederic March and The Wedding Night (1935), opposite Gary Cooper. Goldwyn reluctantly let her contract lapse. Personally, I think while Anna's performances were solid, the films themselves weren't exceptional, and American audiences were growing tired of European stars being transported to Hollywood. Anna had to walk in the footsteps Garbo and Dietrich, which probably didn't help matters either. Goldwyn's tutoring of Anna is mentioned in Cole Porter's 1934 song "Anything Goes" from the musical of the same name: "If Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction / Instruct Anna Sten in diction / Then Anna shows / Anything goes."

Rather that retreat back to Germany or Russia, probably impossible at the time anyway, Anna continued to work in Hollywood. In the 1940's she worked with Fox and Universal in films including The Man I Married (1940), So Ends Our Night (1941), again opposite Fredric March, They Came to Blow Up America (1943) with George Sanders, Three Russian Girls (1943), and Let's Live a Little (1948). In the 1950's she appeared in one film and had several television appearances. Her final film role was in The Nun and the Sergeant (1962).

Anna Sten died November 12, 1993 at the age of 84.

Double click on the images for a larger view.

Motion Picture magazine November 1932

German postcard.

Early Thirties portrait.

British postcard - hand tinted.

Nana - publicity still.

Alberto Vargas painting of Anna from the photograph above.

Another Nana publicity still, this on a postcard mailed from Rotterdam.

Nana publicity still.

Players 1934 Film Stars cigarette card.

Frame captures from We Live Again.

Publicity stills from We Live Again.

Frame captures from The Wedding Night.

Publicity still from The Wedding Night.

Frame captures from So Ends Our Night.

Anna Sten - What do you think - Allure?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Asides - The Boys Are Back In Town.

Back in April of 2008, I created a post (here) featuring active 1930 actors sporting pencil thin mustaches, quite a popular trend at the time. I decided it was time to give the clean shaven group their due as well. The images in this post all come from the same 1930 Stars of the Photoplay hardcover book that was published periodically by Photoplay magazine.

It's up to the reader to decide which crop of matinee idols fits your fancy, mustachioed or clean shaven. All but one married at least once, so the clean shaven group definitely had its admirers.

Double click on the images for a larger view.

Sandra Shaw 1933 -1961, his death

Florence Eldridge 1927 -1975, his death
Ellis Baker 1925 - 1927, divorced

Elizabeth Harkness 1950 - 1981, his death
Elizabeth Allen 1928 - 1950, divorced, 2 children, including Elizabeth

Cornelia Connie' Foster' 1926 - 1974, his death, 4 children
The good guy white hat cowboys never sported facial hair.

Grace Bradley 1937 - 1972, his death
Dorothy Sebastian 1929 - 1935, divorced
Elinor Fair 1926 - November 1929, divorced
Ruth Miller 1921 - 1924, divorced
Laura Maynard 1917 - 1921, divorced
Hoppy got around, and though a good guy cowboy, he wore, perhaps fittingly, a black hat.

Kathryn Scott 1925 -1981, her death, 2 children

Never married, was closeted during his acting years.

Diana Hall 1964 - 1996, his death, 1 child
Ginger Rogers 1934 - 1940, divorced
Lola Lane 1931 - 1933, divorced

Virginia Valli 1931 - 1968, her death
Of course he was also father to My Little Margie.

Margaret Belle ? - April 1977, his death
Christine Coniff Lee 1934 - 1940, divorced
Alma Rubens 1926 -1931, her death

Lillian Kenton Barker 1940 - ? 1 child
Suzanne Kilborn 1927 - 1939, divorced, 2 children