Music of the Roaring Twenties: Bessie Smith

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Bessie Smith (1894 – 1937) had a short but successful life. She began by busking on the streets of Chattanooga with her brother to earn money for their family. Her big break came when she was signed to Colombia Records in 1923.

Before the 1920s the Blues was considered lower class music not worthy of listening to. Fortunately, by the 1920s, Blues had become mainstream as people discovered how much the Blues had to offer the world with its simplicity and real-life gritty themes. We can thank early Blues artists for later inspiring generations of rock musicians right up until today. In 1989, Bessie Smith was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame as an ‘Early Influence’ which demonstrates the impact she had on 20th century popular music. Here’s a selection of her work:

Vintage Tattooed Ladies

After writing my post on my tattoo plans, I started searching for more photos of tattooed women from back in the day. Obviously it was not the done thing at the time and the tattooed lady was a regular feature of the travelling freak show. Luckily times have changed but I can’t help but wonder what these women were like and why they chose to get tattooed.

vintage tattoo 1940s

vintage tattoo

Tattooed older folks also help to rebut the oft-used argument against getting tattoos: “That tattoo looks good now but it will look horrible when you’re old!” In fact, the tattooed elderly look pretty darn awesome.

elderly tattoo

Lost and Found: The restoration of Beyond The Rocks

Beyond The Rocks was released in 1922 and stars Rudoloph Valentino and Gloria Swanson. It was considered a lost film until a nitrate print was discovered in the Netherlands in 2003. The Dutch Filmmuseum (which is now the EYE and a must-see for any cinefile visiting Amsterdam) had the pleasure of being able to restore the film and re-release it. In this video, they explain the process of restoring a privately kept ‘lost’ film.

Music of the Roaring Twenties: Annette Hanshaw

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Annette Hanshaw was jazz singer in the 20s and 30s. She had a lovely soft and soothing voice mixed the energy and fun of a flapper. She didn’t think much of her own voice and had a short career, quitting the music business after getting married. Personally I think some of that nonchalance added to her charm. Here’s some of my favourite songs by Annette…

Tentative Tattoo Planning

Lately I’ve been dreaming of getting a tattoo. I’ve wanted one ever since I was 15 and first got into music. Since then I’ve gone through lots of ideas but never followed through because I was young and was unsure if I would regret my choices.. Now I’m moving closer towards my mid-twenties, I have a lot more faith in myself to pick an idea that I will love for a long time. In any case, I can’t get a tattoo yet because I’m still recovering from health problems so I’m safe to brainstorm without worrying about making an impulsive mistake. I am hoping, though, that sometime next year I can finally make something permenant.

Part of me wants to be a painted lady, covered in art.

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But that’s not going to happen any time soon. Tattoos are expensive and I will stick to areas that are easy to hide for work. Also, I don’t even know what it feels like yet. Maybe I’m the biggest wimp and will end up with half a tattoo xD My first tattoo will definitely be something small and meaningful.

During my tattoo research I kept stumbling upon amazing vintage-style tattoo designs

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I soon discovered that the artist is Angelique Houtkamp, a fabulous Dutch tattoo artist with a shop full of similarly amazing artists in Amsterdam. Right on my doorstep!

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I’m definitely going to look into getting tattooed there in the future.

I also like Lina Stigsson and Emile Steenhuizen’s work at Admiraal Tattoo in Amsterdam.

Casting Scarlett O’Hara

gone with the wind

After the novel Gone with the Wind was published in 1936, the search for the right actress to play Scarlett in the MGM film adaptation had begun. 1,400 actresses were interviewed for the part and 400 were asked to do readings. In contrast, the public and the studio were unanimous about who should play the leading man, Rhett Butler. That was Clark Gable.

scarlett ohara gone with the wind

Just a few of the actresses considered: First colomn to last: Paulette Goddard, Tallulah Bankhead, Lana Turner, Lucille Ball, Joan Bennett, Katherine Hepburn, Olivia de Hallivand, Norma Shearer, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford

In Katharine Hepburn’s autobiography Me: Stories of my Life, she says that she was considered a back up option for Scarlett if they couldn’t find a better fit. George Cukor was hired as the director (and later fired) and he had worked with Katharine on A Bill of Divorcement and Little Women (later they would make The Philadelphia Story together). He thought she wasn’t the right type of girl and so they kept searching. Of course, in the end the two serious contenders are said to have been Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh.

Vivien Leigh was unknown in America but David Selznick, the producer, was impressed with what he had seen of her. Yet he considered her “too British” for the role. Vivien got a second chance to impress when she met Selznick through Laurence Olivier. He discovered that just like Scarlett, Vivien was half Irish and half French. They had found their Scarlett. Vivien Leigh went on to win an Oscar for her performance.

vivien leigh scarlett o'hara