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Anna Held: The True Story

Updated on October 21, 2015
Who was Anna Held?
Who was Anna Held? | Source

Who was Anna Held?

I had no idea until I came across this fascinating book. I think what attracted me was its subtitle - and the birth of Ziegfeld's Broadway. Now that is certainly a familiar name.

Surprisingly, there has been little written about this amazing woman so this book was a real find.

Anna Held's short but eventful life

A great deal of the information that's available about her, particularly on the internet, draws from the fables created for publicity purposes by none other than Ziegfeld. Anna herself was not shy about reinventing her past either so therefore we have the fallacies that:

  • She bathed only in milk
  • Her lower ribs were removed to create her hourglass figure
  • She was born and brought up in Paris
  • She was Mrs Florenz Ziegfeld
  • Her early death was caused by her constantly wearing corsets to maintain her tiny waist

Not one is these is true (entirely).

Let's start at the beginning

Anna was born in Warsaw to a family of Polish Jews. They were forced to flee from their country and when Anna was somewhere between the ages of eight and sixteen (her actual birthdate was never known) they settled in Paris. At an early age she worked in the garment industry becoming an amateur performer in the Jewish theatre eventually ascending to permanent work in the cafe chansons of Paris.

Mrs Ziegfeld

You'll read how her popularity increased, how she met Ziegfeld and ultimately came to America. With Ziegfeld as her manager - helped by him releasing preposterous news stories - she soon became a star. Did she marry him? Yes and no.

When you read the book you'll discover that whilst still in Paris she married a much older man - a playboy gambler - and gave birth to a daughter. The marriage was short but the couple agreed that they would never divorce (he was Catholic and she had converted).

In fact, Anna Held lived with Ziegfeld for many years and, at that time, the USA gave marriage status to couples who had lived together for seven years or more.

You'll learn much more about Anna

For example:

  • Her eyes that 'wouldn't behave'
  • The shows that some people saw as obscene and others saw as delightful
  • Her amazing gowns and jewellery
  • Her reactions to Ziegfeld's infidelities
  • The terrible theatre fire
  • The jewel robbery
  • How she became known as a heroine in the First World War
  • Her mysterious death


And there's so much more.

What happened to her daughter, for example?

That's a sub-plot in itself. So many stories in this book are.

You'll also meet fascinating characters and read astonishing stories about the early entertainment world.

Anna Held was a fascinating women in her own right. Her story and life are even more so.

I recommend this fascinating read

See photographs of Anna Held

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Isn't that hat just amazing?Oh, the frocks. Look closely, that super-tiny waist is fake :)Such a pretty girlA typical stage set of the timeSoft but dramaticShe padded above and below to get the tiny waist illusionAnother photograph that's had a little helpSaucy?She sang with one of these behind her ''my little bear behind'So glamourousAu naturelle
Isn't that hat just amazing?
Isn't that hat just amazing? | Source
Oh, the frocks. Look closely, that super-tiny waist is fake :)
Oh, the frocks. Look closely, that super-tiny waist is fake :)
Such a pretty girl
Such a pretty girl
A typical stage set of the time
A typical stage set of the time
Soft but dramatic
Soft but dramatic
She padded above and below to get the tiny waist illusion
She padded above and below to get the tiny waist illusion
Another photograph that's had a little help
Another photograph that's had a little help
Saucy?
Saucy?
She sang with one of these behind her ''my little bear behind'
She sang with one of these behind her ''my little bear behind'
So glamourous
So glamourous
Au naturelle
Au naturelle

One of the interesting aspects of Anna is that she (and her act) was loved by both men and women. Often the more 'saucy', attractive woman generates jealousy from her own sex. But Anna was known for her kindness to the chorus girls who worked for her, she had many female friends and, it appears, seemed to have been loved by all.

Although Anna was filmed briefly, no footage of her remains available today. Although the author of the book above does reference this film made in the mid-1930s.

The usual 'creative license' has been taken and Anna is portrayed as 'more naïve and languid' than the real person. Facts are fudged too, but it's still a great film from the best Hollywood era.

Also recommended

There's the film - it's still available today.

The Great Ziegfeld
The Great Ziegfeld

What more could you want?

Great music, a real-life story, the heyday of Broadway entertainment and more.

If you're buying the book as a gift (or for yourself) it's interesting to buy the movie too and compare the truth about Anna with the semi-fictionalised nineteen thirties version. Pure entertainment.

 

© 2014 Jackie Jackson

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    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Nancy Hardin: Thank you so much Nancy! Your readers on your blog and Facebook page will love this,I'm sure.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Woohoo! Love this one, gonna run it in my FB page and blog. You're the BEST Britflorida!!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Woohoo! Love this one, gonna run it in my FB page and blog. You're the BEST Britflorida!!

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