Being the fan that I am (both of the collector and silent film), I couldn’t just let Mary Ann Cade go that easily after delivering her recent silent film news — I had to ask her about one of her favorite silent film stars, Annette Kellerman (also billed as Annette Kellermann and called “The Perfect Woman”).
Mary, tell us about Annette Kellerman… How did she catch your collecting fancy?
I got interested in Kellerman when I saw Esther Williams in the fictional biopic Million Dollar Mermaid, which was loosely based on Ms. Kellerman’s life. After viewing it, I started looking around to see if any of her product survived and why she is so forgotten today.
At one time, during her heyday, she was a force to be reckoned with, kind of like Madonna or Oprah Winfrey. She was writing books, making films, doing publicity stunts, designing swimsuits, performing water ballets at the Hippodrome, performing in vaudeville type shows all over the world, making movies, and she even had her own chain of fitness clubs and a health food store.
Sadly, she is all but forgotten today and when one looks at her swimming and diving contributions, including her discovery of what is considered synchronized swimming as well as the one piece bathing suit, it is a real shame.
When I started the quest on Kellerman, the only known film was Venus of the South Seas, but, along with the news mentioned earlier, I have managed to locate Siren of the Sea.
Kellerman is reputed to be in a cameo in the Fatty Arbuckle / Buston Keaton short Coney Island (1917) and a couple of other films that have not been confirmed as of yet. The Australian archives do hold some of her various water ballet footage as well.
Thank you, Mary, for sharing your collecting passion and information with us!
Photo Credits, in order of appearance:
Signed photo of Annette Kellerman and photo of Annette Kellerman’s trunk, from Mary Ann Cade.
Personal Course of Instruction In The Attainment Of Health, Beauty and Perfect Figure, by Annette Kellermann, 1932, via The Land of Pleasant Living;
Annette Kellerman movie photos, on a 1924 set of Henry Clay and Bock Co., Ltd. Cuban tobacco cards, courtesy of Cliff Aliperti.