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85 Years Ago: Oh, What a Doll!

You can buy a Madame Alexander doll wherever fine toys are sold.  Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, has a wide selection from babies to ballerinas, including Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious Cloth Dolls.

Photo by: Jennie Ivins

Photo by: Jennie Ivins

Or you can buy a vintage Madame Alexander doll on E-Bay.

Beatrice Alexander, the founder and namesake of the doll company, began her business from her kitchen table in Brooklyn, New York in 1923. The daughter of Russian immigrants, she learned her craft by the side of her father who operated the first-of-its-kind doll hospital.

Initially the Madame Alexander Dolls were homemade from cloth, but the business soon expanded. In the 1930s, Alexander added lifelike details.  With synthetics introduced in the 1940s, she began using plastic to create vinyl heads and hair that could be styled.

In the 1950s advertisements touted various models:

Madeline – fully jointed at wrist, shoulder, hip and knee for pretty posing.

Kate Smith’s Annabelle – with the pixie look.

Rosebud – soft plastic baby with voice and moving eyes.

Maggie Walker – walks where you lead her.

Dryper Baby Doll – let her drink, change her real Dryper pantie pad insert.

Alexander believed that dolls could be used to educate and created collections based on historic events, literature, music, art and film. Some of the well-known personages on whom she based her designs include Jacqueline Kennedy, Coco Chanel, the Dionne Quintuplets, and Queen Elizabeth and her daughters (at the royal family’s request). A Scarlett O’Hara doll is housed at the Smithsonian.

My mother received a Madame Alexander doll on her eighth or ninth birthday.  It was the height of the depression, so my mother wonders how her parents had the money for such a wonderful gift.  She still exclaims, “Oh, such a beautiful doll.”

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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90 Years Ago: In the Hollywood Hills

Hollywood and Vine

Another iconic symbol. Photo by: Susan Marg

Thirty-four hundred stars are imbedded in the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine, past Madame Tussauds and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Hollywood’s Walk of Fame remains one of the top ten most popular tourist attractions in the U.S., attracting ten million visitors a year.

Hollywood and Highland Center teems with tourists armed with camera and mimes in costumes willing to pose for a picture.

And far above the madding crowd is the Hollywood Sign.

The sign sits on Mount Lee, the tallest peak in Los Angeles, facing south.  It’s visible all day long, but it’s not easy to get to as fences have been erected to keep out the curious and protect the environment.  The Hollywood Reservoir is about the closest one can get to it by car. But there are plenty of places from which to take pictures.

Drive down Beachwood Canyon Drive or Franklin Avenue.  Ignore the street signs that saying that there isn’t access to the Hollywood Sign.  There isn’t, but you still get a great view.

The Hollywoodland Real Estate Group put up the hillside monument in 1923 to promote its properties, replacing its gigantic painted billboard. It was constructed of telephone poles, sheet metal, wire and pipes, and 4,000 light bulbs flashing “HOLLY,” “WOOD,” “LAND.” It wasn’t meant to last.

Subject to the elements and falling into disrepair the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce took responsibility for it in 1949 and dropped the last four letters, as well as the costly lights.

As the sign continued to crumble, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner took note.  “Hollywood is a city of dreams,” he observed. “And the Hollywood sign represents those dreams.”  He sponsored a fund drive to replace the sign with a permanent structure in 1978.  Each letter is 45 feet high and 30 feet across and fastened to a steel frame girder.

To maintain its sparkle the sign has been repainted three times, most recently in December 2012 in honor of its 90th anniversary this year.

There’s magic in them thar hills.  Movie magic.  And dreams, too.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved