I always enjoy sets of photographs where an actor is pictured expressing a variety of emotions: ‘passion’, ‘hatred’, ‘sorrow’, ‘love’, ‘grief’, ‘surprise’, etc. A famous example of this phenomenon is this spread of Florence Lawrence (‘The Biograph Girl’), printed in A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen:
A while ago, I came across an extended example from Italy: a series of postcards of Polish-born actress Helena Makowska conveying a range of sentiments and situations. As today is the 123rd anniversary of Makowska’s birth, let’s take some moments to look at her poses!
First up, here’s a couple of very diva-esque ones:
Here, Ms Helena is haughty and heart-bearing:
Now romantic-minded; exiled.
Some of the photographs express responses, rather than emotions or situations.
“Never!!”; “Perhaps”/”Who knows!”
And even one for those Edgar Allan Poe moments.
These two reference Makowska’s striking eyes:
This one is an especial showcase for her blue irises.
And stoned visions of the past …
As is common in this type of thing, many of the descriptive captions seem to have been assigned at random. I wouldn’t have picked these two pictures to represent “chagrin”/ “discouragement” and “ennui” …
Here is “Thoughts!…” and “Frivolity!”, but wouldn’t a reversal of captions make more sense?
Likewise, I think I’d switch these two. Makowska doesn’t look particularly tortured in the left image:
There are quite a few postcards with religious imagery or themes.
A couple of close-ups in profile:
And a lovely shot of her posed with a vase.
These postcards are from the collection of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Torino (accession no. F40839). Each is signed with a distinctive ‘MD’/’DM’ logo, but even after checking with the relevant knowledgeable people (Paul of the wonderful resource European Film Star Postcards, and via him, the staff of the MNC), I was unable to find out any information about the photographer or publisher.
Regular readers were introduced to Ms. Makowska in my writeup of Caino (IT 1918) last December, in which I found her unique-looking, but underwhelming as an actress. So I’ll close with these two shots, my favourite of the bunch, where I think she’s genuinely working the camera and having fun. Happy birthday, Ms. Makowska!