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Old Movie Stars: Collecting Celebrity Memorabilia

Those who have read my blogs before will know that I am a seller on eBay and in our ‘store.’ I do not traditionally sell ‘widgets’, or a standard product but offer a very wide variety of items. I have sold accordions, cufflinks, buttons, sports collectibles, advertising items, china, tools; pretty much anything I can possibly carry to the house, clean up and ship. One of the benefits of selling such a diverse ‘product line’ is that you continually search for unusual items. And then you have to do some research when you do!

My latest find was a group of old movie photos, some from the original studios with names of the stars and the movie itself. Most did not have dates. My new best friend, Google, has been a tremendous help in this area. During the course of research, I have learned a lot about these early celebs. Some of it pretty darn interesting!

Movie Star Photos

The first photo I show is Nova Pilbeam. Do you think the studio heads of today would allow her to KEEP THAT NAME? Very doubtful. In fact, one of her bios said she was known as the actress with the odd name. She was the daughter of an actor and at age 5 made her acting debut in a charity show, produced by her father. She was under contract with Gaumont-British and in 1934 was the lead in Little Friend. She was also cast in the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. Nova also had various stage roles including Peter Pan. In 1937 Gaumont-British had financial difficulties and went out of Nova Pilbeam Hollywood Actressbusiness. David O.Selznick had wanted her for the lead role in Rebecca, but Hitchcock thought she was too immature and it did not happen. She also lost her dear husband in a plane crash during WWII. Nova was only 21 years old. She preferred the stage to movies after that. Read more about her fascinating life.

Another lovely lady was Wendy Barrie! This photo shows her in the RKO Radio Picture Don’t Bet on Love. She was born in Hong Kong in 1912 but lived in England in her early years. She started pursuing her career as an actress while still in her teens. Her screen debut was in 1932 in Threads. Later movies included The Private Life of Henry VIII which starred big names such as Charles Laughton and Merle Oberon, etc. Wendy played Jane Seymour. She moved to the United States in 1935 and starred opposite Spencer Tracy in the romantic comedy It’s a Small World. She also starred in the 1936 film called Speed with James Stewart. Other big names she worked with included Lucille Ball, and George Sanders. She made her final motion picture in 1943. With the dawn of television, she turned to roles in that medium. During 1948 and 1949 she hosted a DuMont TV comedy show, but is best remembered as hosting one of the first-ever television talk shows – called The Wendy Barrie Show. She starred in more than 15 films in Britain and 30 in the states – earning her a star on theWendy Barne, Hollywood Actress Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Our third ‘femme fatale’ is Gladys Swarthout. She was not only an actress but an opera star as well. Born on Christmas Day, 1900, in a small mining town, called Deepwater, Missouri. Her family had a lot of musical talent. She began singing at a young age, first as a singer in the church choir, making her professional debut on radio in 1927 for WDAF-AM. While her career began in music, becoming a well-respected opera star, she also had a high level of success in movies.

Actress / Opera Star, Gladys Swaryhout

Her first movie was in 1935 – Rose of the Ranch, for Paramount Pictures. She also starred in a movie with Fred McMurray and Jack Oakie, called Champagne Waltz. Although she was in only 5 movies, she was very highly regarded and also has a footprint in the Hollywood Walk of Fame! To read more about Ms.Swarthout, you can visit this website.

It was good fun learning about these three celebrities and their early and rather modest beginnings. While they were not familiar when I found their old photos, I have come to know and admire them. One wonders how they would have fared today. All three were classy ladies.


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Indian Bazaars Nice post! I got interested in knowing more about film memorablia when I visited an antique market in Mumbai with shops that sold Bollywood film posters. November 26th, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Katheen Norton When I was a girl in and around 1940 I wrote to Movie Stars and asked for autographed photographs of them. Do they have any value? January 4th, 2011 at 12:02 AM

john smith i have a bunch of photos of different movie stars older stars. they are incased in plastic frames. all the same size. Like they were hanging in a office some place. John March 6th, 2011 at 7:47 PM

ChildOfThe40s As a child of the '40s, I had the most wonderful collection of autographed photographs of the many stars of the Hollywood era. Those were the good old days when augographed photos were free and a movie star would sign an autograph book without hesitation. Sadly, as I grew older, and had no more need/attachment to them, my mother gave them away. I only wish I had them back today. Where or where are they now? I wonder. April 8th, 2011 at 2:34 AM

Mary Anne Mackay I have 5 snapshots of Frank Sinatra taken in 1943. One is of him and his daughter Nancy. Don't know what to do with them. June 22nd, 2014 at 4:50 PM

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