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Mystery Photo Contest: Thanksgiving Edition

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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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Comments (53)

  1. Is number 6 Evelyn Ankers?

  2. #8: one of them Robert Hazard? (Wrote girls just want to have fun.)

  3. #4 – Have you already ruled out Sarah Miles?

  4. Yes, Sarah Miles was another we eliminated. Thx.

  5. The man on the right in the first picture is not carrying a briefcase. That is a case for a brass instrument–trombone, trumpet, etc.

  6. #4 seems like it could be Marta Brennan? She was in Centennial

  7. #7 possibly Tony (Antony) Costa? His album cover for “Without a Song” looks an awful lot like him

  8. I’m just going to say this, is number 10 Winston Churchill in a dress?

  9. I suggest checking the cast lists of productions of Antony and Cleopatra. It seems as if Cleopatra is being miraculously revived from her asp bites and is taking a breather before her curtain call.

  10. Collin–YOU DID IT AGAIN! Just spoke with Ms. Brennan and, yep, that is her. THANKS!

  11. This might be a stretch, but in #14, the woman on the left looks like Marite Ozers, Miss USA 1963

  12. #6 Could that be La Meri? She was an “ethnic” dancer and did a hindu version of Swan Lake.

    There is a book by an R. Magni in the New York Library that is more of a memoir as he travelled with her troupe.

  13. Am investigating all of the suggestions…except for the Churchill in drag one.

  14. #6 – Could it be Kanza Omar?

  15. I think #9 could be a very young Victoria Principal?

  16. No. 14 is not Marite Ozers. That’s Michele Metrinko the first runner up when Marite Ozers won the Miss USA title in 1963.

  17. #12 … Possibly Brit footballers?

  18. #1 on the right does look rather like Eugene Ormandy in his middle years, but given that Prausnitz was about twenty years Ormandy’s junior, that is a long shot. These gents look roughly the same age.

  19. #6 could be La Meri (Russell Meriwether Hughes) she was an American Ethnic Dancer 1928-1956.

  20. With #13, two questions and a possibility:

    1) The military officer at the table seems to have a name-tag- is it any more legible in the original copy than it is here?

    2) The men in civilian dress seem to be wearing lapel pins- can anyone make out the designs?

    3) Finally, the possibility- Gloria Stuart was active in California politics in behind-the-scenes roles when she was younger. Is there a chance that the people around her would be recognizable if we looked up California politicians of the period, rather than entertainers?

  21. The guy on the right in #12 looks a lot like Hugh Jackman, especially around 2007. I’m not convinced it is him but it might be a good jumping off point to browse lookalikes.

  22. #13 second man from left looks like her husband Arthur Shackman

  23. 10-Adelyn Hood. I just jumped to her because of the way she is sitting. She sang earthy songs like
    Calamity Jane, Madame Queen, Song of the ding Dong, etc. -Mickey Clark

  24. is #3 Boris Morros? he was a paramount executive

  25. #1 right looks like a mid-life Eugene Ormandy. He was about twenty years older than Prausnitz, though, and these gents look to be closer in age.

  26. #13 – I see one of the men is in uniform. Being that Gloria Stuart traveled the US selling war bonds, I wonder if the picture is from one of the stops? Maybe one of them is her agent…

  27. #2 (Woman dancing in front of graffiti-tagged wall) looks almost like Paula Abdul but her hair is too red. Unless that’s from the lighting.

  28. #10 maybe Winnie Lightner

  29. #6 might be Yma Sumac.

  30. #3 – I have a sneaking suspicion this is a picture of Boris Morros, which would make sense being in a stack of show biz photos.

  31. #1 looks very much like Carlos Andres Perez – President of Venezuela. The long ears and bold head are strikingly similar and recognizable.

  32. #13 – Stuart was quite active in the USO domestically. The uniform on the guy on the left looks to be from WW2, and there is obviously a large flag behind them all. So perhaps a USO benefit?

    PS: That doesn’t look like Arthur Sheekman to me. I’d go to the USO for leads.

  33. I’ve gotten in trouble before (had to revise the Comment) in responding to a L. of Congress Blog piece (by Neely Tucker) with a reference to a Wikipedia article, *but* I will say — about the woman in #10 (no, she doesn’t look much to me like Sir Winston Churchill) that Google searches for “Stella Mayhew” and “Lillian Shaw” — specifically for “Images” have shown me what they looked like, and I think that Ms. Shaw is closer to the woman in question than Ms. Mayhew was.

    On the other hand, it may be someone else entirely (and I don’t know the entertainers of the era well by image) — but perhaps you should look at more images of Ms. Shaw?

  34. Could #3 be Carmi Thompson or Ole Evinrude?

  35. Could the man in the far left in #13 be film executive Jack L. Warner? And maybe that reunion was related to the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, of which both Warner and Stuart had been founders.

  36. From a friend who is resident rock historian…commenting on unid’d ‘punk rockers.’

    “The one on the left looks like marc Bolan but I do not know who the one on the right is. They look like pop “rockers”, not punks.”

  37. La Meri’s biographer was shown the picture and didn’t think it was her. 🙁

  38. But Cary, in the second picture that comes up in a Google search for “Kanza Omar” she’s wearing that outfit. So either the picture online is misidentified or the biographer is wrong.

  39. Is #8 rocker Suzi Quatro with one of her sisters (The Pleasure Seekers)?

  40. #6 – Ninón Sevilla ????

  41. #1 could it possibly be John C. Wilson? John was Noel Cowards’ manager and Noel worked with Frederik Prausnitz ?

  42. I believe #14 to be at the Tahitian Terrace that used to be in Disneyland. In old photos you can see the same awning and it has similar binding. It was also polynesian themed.

    I believe the girl on the right to be Julie Reihm Casaletto. The man in the middle may be Paul Frees.

    I imagine this may be just a cast party at the tahitian terrace, as we tend to use facilities available to us for a variety of parties. But I can’t be sure, of course.

  43. Is #10 Julian Eltinge?

  44. #2 looks a bit like Martina McBride. I haven’t tried flipping the photo (thinking about the hair part) but you might want to check with her. Her photos are typically more sedate, but … you know… trends dictate photo styles as well.

  45. Number 5 is definitely not Edwina Booth. Different teeth.
    And thank you for this contest !! How fun.

  46. # 6 resembles the actress Mari Blanchard.

  47. Could #10 be Italian opera singer Rosetta Pampanini?

  48. #10 might also be Nina Romano.

  49. Cary, in my excitement upon seeing #14, I did not mention the ladies are my cousins. It is possible they were in California –both appear sunkissed or something like it. Older of the sisters, Marsha, moved to CA for a few years to pursue an acting/dancing career and Michele may have visited her there. Michele was Miss USA. Marsha was Miss NYC or Maryland. It was awkward when they entered the same beauty contest at least once! Too tired now to VERIFY Marsha’s details. Thanks again!

  50. #9 looks a lot like singer Deniece Williams {Let’s Hear It For the Boy); it seems I’ve seen that photo before.

  51. #2 looks like pop star Tiffany (Tiffany Renee Darwish)

  52. Thanksgiving edition,#8: Have you absolutely ruled out the members of the all-girl band “The Pleasure Seekers”? I had suggested Suzi Quatro, but there were 3 other sisters in the band.. Brother Mike Quatro was a composer and promoter; They were well-known in the Detroit Area. If one of the two in the photo is a guy, could it be brother Mike? Suzi was a big fan of sunglasses.

  53. Could #2 be Mariah Carey? Certainly looks like a younger version of her.

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