The James Abbe Archive


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This portrait of Jeanne Eagels, taken by James Abbe in 1919, was chosen for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Kendra Bean (author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait) talks about her work at the Abbe Archive – and shares some restored photos – in a new blog post, ‘James Abbe: Capturing the Silent Screen.’

Abbe is also featured in David S. Shields’ recent book, Still: American Silent Motion Photography. On his Broadway Photographs website, Shields introduces an autobiographical essay by Abbe, first published in the Oakland Tribune from 1961-62.

Down in Philadelphia the Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal got wind of my success and perhaps remembering the brief contact I had with them that day I stopped en route to New York, asked me to submit some of my photographs to them. I did.

One of those I submitted was of actress Jeanne Eagels, and became a Post cover. For that picture I received $75. It was the first time the Post had used a photograph on its cover.

Months afterward, a poet called upon me in my New York studio with some of the prints I had sold the Post and the Journal. He had been assigned to write verses around them I had never heard of him previously, but got to know him later. His name was Christopher Morley.


Thanhouser and the Birth of Cinema


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thanhouser doc

A 52-minute documentary, The Thanhouser Studio and the Birth of American Cinema, will be screened in the US on TCM tonight, July 5, at 9 PM (Pacific Daylight Time), followed by three classic Thanhouser movies, made from 1912-13, when the studio was at its peak (their prodigious output accounting for an estimated 25% of independent films released in America.)

From 1916-17, a young Jeanne Eagels starred in three films produced at the Thanhouser lot: The World and the Woman, The Fires of Youth and Under False Colors. The first two are still in print, and can be viewed here. By 1918, however, the studio would close its doors.

‘They brought the dramatic qualities of theater to the screen as they all found their way into moviemaking, they lavished attention on elaborate film sets in their roomy studio, and they took their cameras on location,’ writes critic Sean Axmaker (who has also championed Jeanne’s later work.) ‘The resulting films were vibrant and lively, with often complex stories, dynamic staging, and creative camera angles and lighting. The Thanhouser brand was a recognized mark of quality to audiences and distributors alike and a century later, the Thanhouser brand still stands for high production values, sensitive direction, intelligent stories, and fluid, energetic storytelling.’

For those unable to catch the documentary on TCM, it is also available to view at Vimeo On-Demand, while DVDs can be purchased from Amazon or the Thanhouser website.

‘The Misfits’ at the BFI


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the-misfits-600x451The Misfits (1961) was reissued in the UK and Ireland in June, and also headlined a major retrospective, ‘Marilyn’, at the British Film Institute on London’s Southbank. The month-long season featured all but one of the sixteen films Marilyn Monroe made from 1952-62, of which The Misfits would be her last. Continue reading

More Birthday Tributes: ‘Jeanne Eagels Was Robbed!’


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1928SadieWhy did Jeanne Eagels – the original Sadie Thompson, and a Broadway legend – never bring Rain to the big screen? Author Laini Giles considers this lost opportunity, in a Classic Movie Blogathon post for Sepia Stories.

Meanwhile, Lars Nilsen has written a mini-biography of Jeanne for AFS Viewfinders, describing her as ‘an incandescent, proto-method actress.’ And over at Journeys in Classic Film, a perceptive review of Jeanne Eagels, the 1957 biopic starring Kim Novak, nails its many distortions.

Shooting Stars: Jeanne Eagels and Marilyn


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Jeanne Eagles - 1920s. Restored by Nick and jane for Dr. Macro's High Quality Movie Scans website: Enjoy!

Jeanne Eagels during filming of ‘Jealousy’ (1929)

In a new article for Immortal Marilyn, I explore the common ground between Marilyn Monroe and Jeanne Eagels. It is illustrated with rare photos from Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, and you can read it here.

Earlier this month, I posted two extracts from The Mmm Girl, my Marilyn-inspired novel, which describe Marilyn’s attempt to remake Rain. It was not to be, but many thought she was the only actress who could match Jeanne’s performance as Sadie Thompson.

Marilyn by Milton Greene, 1956

Marilyn by Milton Greene, 1956

Marilyn also features as one of several ‘other Sadies’ in Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed (co-authored with Eric Woodard.) Here is a short excerpt from the introduction to our new biography.

There are surprising parallels between the life of Jeanne Eagels and Marilyn Monroe, another tragic star. Like Jeanne, Marilyn had known poverty and pursued her career with fierce determination. The hauntingly lovely Jeanne was initially typecast as an ingénue, while Marilyn fought to escape the image of a sexy, dumb blonde. Their lives were chronicled in microscopic detail by the press, and each came to rely on an evergrowing entourage of doctors and acting coaches. Eagels’ failed marriage to a famed football player mirrored Monroe’s to a retired baseball icon, and both frequently clashed with their bosses and co-stars. Marilyn once was even considering a remake of Rain.

But while thousands of books and scores of documentaries, films, and videos have been dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, Jeanne Eagels has been unjustly neglected. She was robbed of the chance to bring Sadie Thompson to the big screen, though those who saw her onstage said her greatest performance was never surpassed. In her lifetime, Eagels briefly enjoyed the critical acclaim Monroe craved, and would finally achieve posthumously. But in the years after Jeanne’s death, a steady trickle of malicious gossip clouded her glow, reducing her to that most spectral of beings—a legend without a face. In Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, we explore the woman behind the enigma, a feisty yet fragile diva who became a genuine phenomenon. A phenomenon worth revealing … and rediscovering.

Birthday Girl: Jeanne Eagels at 125


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P1060250SFEugenia Eagles was born in Kansas City, USA, on June 26, 1890. To celebrate her 125th birthday, here’s a sneak preview from Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed. Continue reading

Jeanne Eagels: A Life On Film


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Jeanne Eagels by Clarence Sinclair Bull during filming of 'Man, Woman and Sin' at MGM (1927)

Jeanne Eagels photographed by Clarence Sinclair Bull during filming of ‘Man, Woman and Sin’ at MGM (1927)

The subject of my new book, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, was not just a Broadway legend, but also an important actress in silent film and the early days of talking pictures. I have written an article about Jeanne’s movie career, and an edited version is published today on the Classic Flix website. You can read the full article, illustrated with film stills from the book, right here. Continue reading

‘Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed’ – Out Now!


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11025743_796775497083511_8963251801759181405_nVery exciting news: as of today, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed is finally available to order! I am proud to be co-author (with Eric Woodard) of the first full-length biography of this legendary actress to be published in 85 years.

From the publisher’s website, in paperback ($24.95) or hardcover ($34.95)

Both editions now listed on Amazon US and Amazon UK (paperback £16.31, hardcover £23.) They’re slightly cheaper at The Book Depository (paperback £15.26, hardcover £20.83.) And they’re also available from Waterstones and Barnes & Noble.

I will be adding further outlets to this post, and on the book’s dedicated page (over here.)

I will also be offering specially designed bookplates and postcards to all readers – more details soon. And of course, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed will be fully promoted, with a series of articles and interviews – so watch this space for more news!


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