Cary O’Dell at the Library’s National Recording Registry runs our Mystery Photo Contest. He recently wrote about readers solving several photos from a September set of pictures. He’s back with another round.
Nothing beats a good Mystery Photo Contest for the holidays and we’re here for you!
After a fantastic round of photo-solving by readers this fall, we were able to identify eight of our final unidentified stars of yesteryear. From the original cache of more than 800 unidentified celebrities in a collection of entertainment industry stills donated to the Library a few years ago, we are now down to 34. Amazing, no?
So here we go again! You know the drill: Guesses and suggestions in the comments, but please check the captions to make sure that we haven’t already ruled it out.
#1. That IS conductor Frederik Prausnitz on the left but we don’t know the man on the right. The photographer tells us that he worked out of out of Camillus, N.Y., and that Prausnitz was associated with the nearby Syracuse Symphony. Those might be clues that help us finally identify mystery man on the right wearing a trench coat and carrying what appears to be a briefcase. (The photo came to us with those editing markings already on it. We certainly wouldn’t be so rude as to X out Mr. Prausnitz.)
#2. Of all of mystery photos we’ve sorted through over the years, this is the one that might actually be a stock shot from an ad agency. You know, the generic “happy girl dancing” image that might appear in an advertisement. Then again, our mystery lady might be a budding recording star and this is a back-of-the-album photo. From previous guesses, we can rule out former 1980s pop stars Brenda K. Starr and Perri “Pebbles” Reid.
#3. This is NOT Pan Am founder Juan Trippe, although that is an excellent guess. Though this picture was found in a cache of show biz stills, this unknown gentleman might be connected to travel or shipping in some way considering the map and the photo of ships behind him. A newscaster, maybe?
#4. UPDATE: Alert reader Collin Larsen correctly identified this as former actress Marta Brennan. She appeared as a young actress in “Centennial,” a star-studded 1978 mini-series that featured Raymond Burr, Robert Conrad, Barbara Carrera, Lynn Redgrave and so on. That’s her only credit on the Internet Movie Database. She now edits a film production newsletter and confirmed for us that this publicity photo is indeed her. Thanks, Collin! This one has proved to be very frustrating, as it has generated so many different guesses. Maybe it’s because that cheerful girl-next-door look resembles so many actresses? Bangs notwithstanding, we know that she is NOT: Karen Valentine, Judy Strangis, Joyce McKinney, Sheila White, Glory Annen, Janet Munro, Jody Fair, Janice Nicholls, Barbara Flynn, Lalla Ward, Suzy Mandel or Helen Worth. By the way, as an identifying feature, I’ve always been struck by the small gap between this lady’s two front teeth.
#5. This is, we assume, a silent film actress. Is it Edwina Booth, she of the tragic filming “Trader Horn” in east Africa? Booth was sick when she left the United States, then had a terrible shoot on location, including contracting malaria, suffering from a sunstroke and other ailments. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1931, but she sued the studio, spent six years recovering her health and never returned to prominence. Or perhaps it’s Jeanette Loff, who, after her silent film career, died of ammonia poisoning in 1942 under mysterious circumstances? She was just at 35.
#6. This is NOT Maria Montez, the “Queen of Technicolor” in B movies in the early 1940s. Nor is it from the film “Sinbad the Sailor.” In fact, it might not be from a film at all—note that our heroine seems to be lying on a stage with its curtain visible in the background.
#7. UPDATE: Top MPC solver Collin Larsen correctly identifies this as Anthony “Tony” Costa, a musician from Scranton, Pennsylvania. We reached out to Costa’s son who confirmed it for us. A pianist, guitarist, vocalist and arranger, Costa formed the Town Pipers, a popular group in the 1950s. They performed in Las Vegas and Hollywood, appearing on “Tonight with Steve Allen,” the precursor of the Tonight Show. He eventually returned to Scranton and performed for years at nightclubs and other venues. Upon his death in 2014, the Scranton Times-Tribune dubbed him a local “musical icon” in his obituary. This pictures smacks of being shot at the local mall (sorry, just calling balls and strikes here) so we probably aren’t looking for a national name. I always figured he must be a musician with a local orchestra or something similar — or, of course, not. He might be a Hollywood or New York name with a long list of behind-the-scenes credits. But who is he?
#8. This one is torturous! This duo is hard to identify as they look like every punk/new wave duo that ever plugged in an amp or bought a can of hairspray. In fact, we haven’t even been able to reach an agreement if—in a binary sense–this is two men, two women or one of each. We do know that it is NOT: Wendy & Lisa, T-Rex, Heart, Suicide, The Throbs, The Slits, Scarlet Fantastic, Sparks, Tik and Tok, Alannah Myles, The Motels, the New York Dolls, Christian Death, Love and Rockets, the Jacobites, Sisters of Mercy or Haysi Fantayzee.
#9. This pin-up is NOT Kitten Navidad, though many readers who have apparently seen her in those kitschy Russ Myer movies thought so. She could be an actress, singer, a model or all of the above; she’s got the glamour smile and the dimples for show biz.
#10. We go back to an earlier era and different style of mystery guest here. The framing of the shot is straightforward; her posture is the same. There’s no vamp or vixen vibe; it’s a woman nicely dressed wearing white stockings and what might even be sensible shoes. The sepia tone, dress and hairstyle all suggests the 1920s or thereabouts. Could this be vaudeville star Stella Mayhew? Maybe Lillian Shaw, who specialized in risqué vaudeville routines, a la Sophie Tucker?
#11. UPDATE: Alert reader Brenda Zook identified this for us as the work of Pennsylvania-based artist Luther F. Kepler Jr. It’s called “Fence Fixin’ ” and depicts the Mennonite community of the “Big Valley” in central Pennsylvania. Zook tells us that, as a native of the area, she first recognized the low hills and the Amish subjects. She was also familiar with the work of artist Anne Fisher, which this piece greatly resembled. Doing her detective work online, she discovered that Fisher’s maiden name was Kepler. Aha! Going further down the rabbit hole, she found records of a 2012 book auction of the Old Country News Library in Gordonsville, Pennsylvania, that had was selling, among hundreds of other items, the July 1961 copy of a magazine called “Mennonite Life.” Further “noodling around” took her to the archives of the Mennonite Church at Bethel College, which had an online copy of that edition of the magazine. It contained a short essay and several reproductions of the work of the Kepler siblings, including our mystery piece, which turned out to be the work of Luther. (Both Anne and Luther Kepler passed away long ago.) Excellent work, Brenda! The artist’s signature on this painting is “Kepler.” It’s not the artist Fred Kepler, we checked that out. But what is his/her first name? And is this work featured in a film or TV show?
#12. These two guys have us stumped. The man on the right is NOT Richard Chamberlain and the two are NOT Chas & Dave or the Alan Parsons Project or Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager of Studio 54 fame. And, yep, that is a Donald Duck pin on the man’s lapel.
#13. Yes, the only woman at the table is a young Gloria Stuart, the actress who memorably played the late-in-life Rose character in “Titanic,” with Kate Winslet starring as the younger Rose. But, since our hearts must go on: Does anyone recognize any of the men around her?
#14. Hey kids, it’s a Hawaiian luau! But who are the two women and the man enjoying it? This looks too dressy to actually be on the beach, so maybe it’s a p.r. launch for a film, theater production or stage show?
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