Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vamping Venus And The American Venus

VAMPING VENUS was filmed on the same sets used by German actress Maria Cordia in THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HELEN OF TROY. The story has a fantasy sequence where Charles Murray is hit over the head in a night club and dreams of being in ancient Greece, where all the others in the Nightclub are with him as Venus ( Thelma Todd ), Hercules ( Joe Bonomo ), and other fabulous characters from mythology.

Vamping Venus (1928)

Directed by
Edward F. Cline(as Eddie Cline)
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Howard J. Greenadaptation
Bernard McConvillestory
Ralph Spencetitles

Cast (in credits order)
Charles Murray... Michael Cassidy / King Cassidy of Ireland (as Charlie Murray)
Louise Fazenda... Maggie Cassidy / Circe
Thelma Todd... Madame Vanezlos the Dancer / Venus
Russ Powell... Pete Papaglos / Bacchus
Joe Bonomo... Simonides the Strongman / Hercules
Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams... Mars (as Big Boy Williams)
Spec O'Donnell... Western Union Boy / Mercury
Fred O'Beck... Vulcan
Gusztáv Pártos... Shopkeeper (as Gus Partos)
Gustav von Seyffertitz... Jupiter
Janet MacLeod... Juno
Yola d'Avril... Stenographer
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Robert Livingston... Soldier (unconfirmed)
Cammilla Johnson... Little Girl (uncredited)
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Cinematography by
Devereaux Jennings(as Dev Jennings)
Film Editing by
Paul Weatherwax
Other crew
Richard A. Rowland.... presenter


He had an eye for blondes, but he couldn't make up his mind as to which one it was.

But the gods had greater wisdom than men, and so Venus knew.

The Ideal Screen Figure

Studio publicity compared Thelma Todd to the famous statue of Venus De Milo.

Thelma Todd                            Venus De Milo ( reduced )

Height       5' 4"                                                  5' 4"

Hips           36"                                             38"          

Thigh       21"                                                 23"       

Ankle               8"                                       8.5"              

Calf                13.5"                                       14.5"    

Waist        27"                                               28.5"  

Neck           18"                                         14"     

Bust            33"                                         37"    

Weight         122 lbs.                          137 lbs.         

Thelma Todd indicates that her ankles have classical measurements.
 Or at least that the measuring tape indicates that she has perfect porportions.

Get The Point?

Louise Fazenda also worked with Thelma Todd in 1929 in THE HOUSE OF HORROR. Guin "Big Boy" Williams would work with Thelma Todd again in 1931 in CATCH AS CATCH CAN and WAR MAMMAS, and in PALOOKA in 1934. Like Thelma Todd, he had only a small part in that one, which was based on the comic strip "Joe Palooka"..

VAMPING VENUS is considered to be a lost film, along with much of the other output of that era. The film stock they used at that time was unstable nitrocellulose plastic, which tended to deteriorate with time and was also inflammable. Guncotten, an early replacement for black powder in firearms, is actually another form of nitrocellulose.

VAMPING VENUS had some similarities to the earlier movie THE AMERICAN VENUS, which featured Miss America Fay Lanphier and had a story involving a beauty contest. Some of the publicity in particular is similar, with similar "measurements" given out for another "Venus".

The American Venus ( 1926 )

Wikipedia entry:

The American Venus (1926) is an American feature film directed by Frank Tuttle, and starring Esther Ralston, Ford Sterling, Edna May Oliver, Lawrence Gray, Fay Lanphier, Louise Brooks, Kenneth MacKenna, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and released by Paramount Pictures. Brooks appears, in her first credited role as 'Miss Bayport'. Lanphier was crowned Miss America in 1925.[1]
This film is now considered a lost film, with two trailers and two short segments in Technicolor surviving in the Library of Congress collection. The film was made at Paramount's Astoria Studios in New York City, and the title cards were co-written by Robert Benchley.



Directed by
Frank Tuttle
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Robert Benchleytitles (uncredited)
Townsend Martinstory
Frederick Stowers

Cast (in credits order)

Esther Ralston... Mary Gray
Lawrence Gray... Chip Armstrong
Ford Sterling... Hugo Niles
Fay Lanphier... Miss Alabama
Louise Brooks... Miss Bayport
Edna May Oliver... Mrs. Niles
Kenneth MacKenna... Horace Niles
William B. Mack... John Gray
George De Carlton... Sam Lorber
W.T. Benda... Artist
Ernest Torrence... King Neptune
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.... Triton
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Cinematography by
J. Roy Hunt
Production Design by
Lawrence Hitt(uncredited)
Jo Mielziner(uncredited)
Art Direction by
Frederick A. Foord
Costume Design by
Gilbert Clark
Other crew
Jesse L. Lasky.... presenter
Adolph Zukor.... presenter

The American Venus
Fay Lanphier


Another poster, featuring Fay Lanphier

Film frame from the movie. It is said that this is Fay Lanphier.

Louise Brooks in the judging sequence.

A pretty girl is like a melody, and not only that, you're a Lulu.

A comaparison of the two sets of measurements, Fay in first column, Thelma in second:

Height            5' 6                         5'4

Neck                  13.5"                 13"

Bust                  34                     33"

Waist                   26.5               27

Hips                 37.5                      36

Thigh                20                    21

Ankle                   8                   8  

I would consider the bust measurement given for Thelma Todd to be suspect, because she appears slightly plumper otherwise, but is given a smaller bust. It could be related to the fact that they were pretending that women were flat-chested at the time. During the "Jean Harlow" period, they tended to think of Thelma Todd as being like Jean Harlow, including emphasis on the bosom.

Very similar measurements can also be found in PHYSICAL CULTURE CLASSICS ( Volume I ) published in 1909, which listed Bernard McFadden amoung the contributors.

 * Supposed classical ideal as represented by the statue known as the Venus De Medici.

The table gives a different set of measurements for a different statue of Venus, which are still similar.
And the measurements given for Thelma Todd in VAMPING VENUS are again similar. She probably was in real life close to the classical ideal, as represented by Venus, but Hollywood tried to change her and only made references to that resemblance when it suited them.

Special Thanks to my brother Dale for his assistance, including the graph he made from the chart in

Watch the trailer for THE AMERICAN VENUS


Read about VAMPING VENUS at the Vitaphone project http://vitaphone.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html

And at the IMDB:

Read about THE AMERICAN VENUS at this site:

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