Texas Guinan by Kesslere
Oh, to be kissed by Kesslere — — to be made love to by his lens. In those bygone days of "fixed focus," an ambitious camera king like George Maillard Kesslere could (and did) make his mark by snapping theatrical types as well as Park Avenue "royalty" and bluebloods.
• • Born in 1894, George Maillard Kesslere had set up a showy photo studio on East 50th Street by the early 1920s. During his long career, the lensman took pictures of TEXAS GUINAN, Tommy Guinan, Mae West, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, Charlie Chaplin, Walter Damrosch, Arturo Toscanini, Beatrice Lillie, Rudy Vallee, Tallulah Bankhead, Alexander Woolcott, William H. Paley, Gertrude Lawrence, Charles Laughton, Helen Hayes, Jascha Heifetz, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Marlon Brando, etc.
• • During Prohibition, his paintings were also attracting eyes and buyers. Kesslere's sassy canvasses for Earl Carroll's Vanities were published in the very early 1930s. Theatre-owner and producer Earl Carroll was a regular at Texas Guinan's nightspots.
• • In 1927 TEXAS GUINAN had a premiere of her revue Padlocks of 1927, and George Maillard Kesslere photographed Texas Guinan before the show opened.
• • One promotional picture appeared in The New York Times on 8 May 1927. In the Times, Texas is in the same garb as in this studio portrait, where she posed with her beloved mother Bessie and her frisky kid brother Tommy Guinan.
• • In 1952, the lifelong bachelor (who had resided on East 62nd Street for many decades) donated the G. Maillard Kesslere Collection of 6,000 photographs and 500 paintings to the New York Public Library for its permanent theatre collection. That's a well-kept secret. Kesslere's sister Hazel was his sole survivor when he died at age 84 on 1 January 1979 in a nursing home in Cresskill, NJ.
• • photo: Texas Guinan with mother Bessie and brother Tommy • • by G.M. Kesslere • • 1927 • •
Labels: 1894, Alexander Woolcott, Charles Laughton, Charlie Chaplin, Earl Carroll, Gertrude Lawrence, Helen Hayes, Jascha Heifetz, Kesslere, Marlon Brando, NY, Rudy Vallee, Tallulah Bankhead, Texas Guinan