Sunday, September 29, 2013

Who Rode the Bike?

I spent way too much time on yesterday's post.  Research based on the semi-reliable Wikipedia requires a lot of verification and that is time consuming.  Let's keep this one simple.  Written on the back, "Mary Webb Morrison Cousin in Camden I think.  Susie Grace.  Bob took on work trip. 1948"  That's it, that's all I know.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mack the Knife

Doesn't this guy look like a low rent Bobby Darrin?  I can imagine him standing in front of a mirror, slicking back the hair, while humming Mack the Knife.

Interesting fact about that song.  It was from a German musical called Three Penny Opera written by Bertolt Brecht with songs by Kurt Weill. The first production was staged in Berlin, in 1928.  The part of Mackie Messer, AKA Mack the Knife, was played by Harald Paulsen.  But it wasn't Paulsen who sang Mack the Knife,  it was Kurt Gerron, who played two roles, Jackie "Tiger" Brown, the police chief of London, and Mackie's best friend from their days in the army, and The Street Singer, who opened the play with Mack the Knife.

Kurt Gerron had originally intended to go into medicine, but the first world war changed all that. (Gerron was drafted into the German army while in his second year of medical school. After a severe wound which made him unfit for combat, he was certified as an army doctor.)  After the war, Gerron changed his career choice and went into theater.  In the amazing art's scene of Wiemar era Germany, Gerron was a cabaret performer, actor, singer, writer,  and director, both stage and screen.  For American film fans, he's probably best know as the magician in The Blue Angel (1930), the film that made Marlene Dietrich an international star.  The Blue Angel also starred silent film star Emil Jannings, as Professor Immanuel Rath, the school teacher who has his life destroyed by his infatuation with Lola Lola.  It was Jannings' first major sound film.

In 1933, Kurt Gerron was forced to emigrate.  The Nazis had come to power, and Gerron was Jewish.  He and his wife, Olga, went to Paris, and then  moved to Amsterdam where Kurt Gerron continued to work in films, both as actor and director.   Peter Lorre and Josef von Sternberg, who had directed Gerron in The Blue Angel, begged him to abandon Europe for Hollywood.  They had secured him work, and Marlene Dietrich who had started a fund to help German artists who wanted to leave Germany, was ready with the cash needed to move.  Kurt Gerron declined the offer.  He thought of himself as European, he didn't speak English, and Amsterdam had been good to him.

In 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands.   Unable to work, Gerron and his wife did what they could to survive.  In 1943, they were arrested by the SS and transported to Westerbork Concentration Camp.  Soon afterwords, they were sent to Theresinstadt Concentration Camp, also known as Terzin.  Theresinstadt was a very unique camp.  Designated as a transportation point for other camps, without the hardware of extermination, it was, nevertheless a deadly place to be.  Malnutrition and disease were major killers of camp inmates.  It was also the model camp, used as a showplace for Red Cross inspection tours as proof that Jews were well treated by the Germans.

Not long after his arrival at Theresinstadt, camp commandant Karl Rahm ordered Kurt Gerron to put on a show.  Perhaps it was for morale, propaganda, or maybe Rahm was a fan.  Who knows.  And so was born Kurt Gerron's Karussell.  Backed by  Martin Roman's Ghetto Swingers, a top flight jazz band made up of camp inmates, Gerron would sing Mack the Knife, night after night.  It was entertain or die.  I imagine it was some of his best work.  And then came the next order.  Kurt Gerron was to write, produce, and direct a movie to be called, The Fuhrer Gives A City to the Jews.  Gerron threw himself into the work.  He finished the film in 1944.  After the final edit, he, his wife, and the entire cast and crew were deported to Auschwitz.  On October 28, 1944, Kurt Gerron and his wife were sent to the gas chambers.  He was 47 years old. The next day, with the Russian army on the horizon, Heinrich Himmler ordered the closing of the Auschwitz gas chambers.  Of the cast and crew, only Martin Roman and guitarist Heinz Jacob "Coco" Schumann survived the war.

In 1928 when Kurt Gerron cemented his place in German theater, Emil Jannings, his future Blue Angel co-star, was in Hollywood.  That year, he won the first Best Actor Academy Award.  With the coming of sound, his Hollywood career came to an end.  Unable to speak English well, and with a heavy accent, he returned to Germany.  He was also an early and enthusiastic member of the Nazi party.  As the Russian army was closing in on Berlin, Jannings fled west.  He carried his Oscar and presented it to American officers to prove his connection to the United States.  It didn't really work.  The Allies had already decided to not prosecute cultural figures for war crimes, but he did have to go through a public de-Nazification hearing.  His career was also over.  He wasn't welcome in the German film industry or in German theater.  He left his beloved Germany, moved to Austria, became a citizen, and died of liver cancer in 1955.

Karl Rahm was arrested by the Russians, tried in a Czech court for crimes against humanity.  In 1947 he was found guilty.  He was executed four hours latter.

When Rahm ordered the deportation of the children of Theresienstadt, Czech writer Ilse Weber, who specialized in poetry and songs for children, asked to be included.  She, her son Tommy, and the other children were gassed on arrival at Auschwitz.  She was 41 years old.

Anyone interested in hearing the songs of Kurt Weill should listen to Ute Lemper Sings Kurt Weill.  Cut three is Die Moritat Van Mackie Messer.  Mack the Knife.  It's in German.  The original German lyrics and an English translation are included in the CD insert.  They are not the lyrics sung by Bobby Darin.  Weill and Brecht both moved to the United States before the war.

Pianist Martin Roman died in 1996.

Coco Schumann is still alive and still performs.  He's 89 years old.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Army Hospital Album 2

I had to get through a couple of more pictures to get to the first of the hospital shots.  This will be it for awhile.  Click on army hospital collection in labels to bring up the other posts.  Actually, at this point all you've got to do is navigate back one, but at some time in the future clicking will be necessary.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Army Hospital Album 1

One collection finished, so it's time to start another.  I have to confess, had this one been over $5 I would have passed.  It's not so much that the 160 plus photos in this album aren't interesting, in the whole.  It's that photos of men in uniform are so common that, well to put it mildly, the collection gets over run by military pictures.  Justified or not, we've been in a lot of wars in the last 100 years, and every time we go into battle, the military gets a little bit larger in the following peace.

Anyway,  this album has lots of photos of guys on base, some family and travel photos from California, and here and there throughout, soldiers in hospital.  Were these photos owned by a patient, nurse, or doctor?  Haven't a clue.  Like every other large collection I've posted, it will be spread out over more than a few months.  And the tag, army hospital collection.

Raccoon Coat

Any silent movie fan has probably seen some of the college pictures from the 1920s.  Generally speaking, fast college kids corrupt the incoming freshman with fast living, fast cars, and fast women.  And of course, as the kids cruise around in their open roadsters, they're all wearing raccoon coats.  Anyway, one of the freshman is usually a farm kid, working his way through college, and thanks to his down home American values, he turns away from fast living just before things go to hell.  I know, it sounds pretty stupid, but some of those movies are really good.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The North Texas State Normal College Album 36, The Loose Ones

This is it.  The end, finito, it's all up.  The last of The North Texas State Normal College collection.  Thirty-six separate posts that can be accessed by clicking NTSNC in the labels section at the bottom of this post.

It's not just the old photos that I'm drawn to in my collecting.  It's trying to figure out the stories behind the images.  Sometimes it's easy.  Names, places, and descriptions are added to photos, and from that info it's easy to infer some sort of life story.  And, thanks to the internet, it's sometimes possible to actually look up an on-line biography.

 No such luck with this lot.  A normal college, in the first several decades of the twentieth century, was where teachers went for training.  There are some photos in the actual album that could be college pictures, but mostly, it's family photos.  Rural family photos.  There are a couple of names written in the back of the album, Miss Cypert and Mrs. Rollins.  Without first names or an exact location, it wasn't possible to find anything on-line.  The loose pictures have plenty of school photos, pretty much cementing the school teacher assumption, but beyond that....nothing much.  Since only a handful of the school photos have names, and student photos at that, it's not even possible to tell which person is Miss Cypert or Mrs. Rollins, or what their relationship, if any, might have been.  Frustrating, but it's still been a good run.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The North Texas State Normal College Album 35, The Loose Ones

Ah, the penultimate North Texas State Normal College Post.

Stamped on the back of the top two photos in the column, "Koen's Studio Plainview, Texas"  The second also has a date stamp, "FEB 27, 1943"  What's kind of interesting, and may have no real meaning at all, the first stamp has that Germanic/Gothic script that was once very popular.  The second, from the World War 2 era, has gone to a more modern type face.  The final photo of the lot, written on the back, "Rodney W. 10"

As usual, click on NTSNC in the labels section at the bottom of the post.  I'll finish up the collection in the next outing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The North Texas State Normal College Album 34, The Loose Ones

Do public schools still do the whole class photo thing?  When I was in school, once a year, we'd all troop into the cafeteria to have our pictures taken by the local photo studio.  Stamped on the back of the third photo in the column, "SMALL PHOTOS 15 CENTS EACH.  8 FOR 75 CENTS.  ENLARGEMENTS 75 CENTS, OR ALL FOR $1.00.  PLEASE REMIT PROMPTLY TO TEACHER."  Actually, it doesn't say cents, but has that "c" with the line through symbol which my keyboard doesn't have.  I wonder why such a common symbol is missing.

Click on NTSNC in labels to bring up the whole collection.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The North Texas State Normal College Album 33, The Loose Ones

I've decided to wrap up The North Texas State Normal College collection, so over the next four or five days, I'll be putting up the last of the loose photos.

The only one of the images with any writing is the color shot of the kid on the tricycle.  On the back, "Tim Garner 2 years Oct. 11, 1966"  My best guess is that the oldest pictures in this collection date from the mid to late twenties, so a photo from 1966 shows quite a time range.

I'm also breaking a bit of a precedent.  Generally, unless it's distinctive, when I scan photos, I crop out the decorative borders.  I kept them on image number four to illustrate just how those borders are made.  Many people think they're on the paper itself.  Not so.  They're projected.  An enlarger mask is used.  Usually made from a sheet of acetate, what prints black is clear on the mask, what prints white is black.  And the center, where the photo is, is clear.  The grayish area above the kids isn't sky, it's where the negative wasn't put in the mask correctly.  That gray area is actually an area exposed, on the neg,  to white light, that when developed, ends up as a black on the negative.  Too, take a look at the upper left corner of the decorative border.   See how it's softer than the rest.  It's either drop off, where the mask wasn't quite square in the enlarger, or the exposure was long, and the extra light bled through.

As usual, click on NTSNC in the labels section at the bottom of the post to bring up the whole lot.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why So Glum, Chum?

Smile for the camera.  It's less intimidating.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Surgeon's Album Page, The Verso

Almost got myself in a bit of trouble when I titled the last post The Front Side.  Logically this one should have been The Back Side, but not really a good way to go.  So, Verso it is.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Surgeon's Album Page, The Front Side

Not the most sanitary conditions in the surgical theater.  Bare hands, an empty basin on the floor, two people without masks.  Truly, not an era to get cut open by the local sawbones.  Not a thing written on either side of this old album page, and no clue as to location.

I do have to wonder, though.  When these photos were taken, would a surgeon live and work  in a small town?  I was born in a small town hospital.  It was owned by the county.  The staff doctors and nurses were all government employees.  My parents were billed costs, and nothing else.  Oh my God!  There was socialized medicine in America, in 1955!  So yes, I think it quite possible that  these photos could have been taken in some small town, somewhere in the United States.