Saturday, 22 September 2012

Sepia Saturday - Ex convict

Phileas Fogg
This week Alan is suggesting that we dig in our shoe boxes to make the invisible visible. For magicians that may be a piece of cake, for me it is next to impossible. I have been looking for missing limbs or heads but to no avail. However, I did find this picture of one of my favorites. He is shown here, going around the world on a misty day, almost invisible.  Fortunately there are more angles to approach this week's theme. If we look at the theme picture, the thing that strikes me is the title of the movie The Ex-Convict and the cashier behind bars. If ever there was a contradiction in a film poster...
Anna Nilsson
Guy Coombs
Other subjects that I could write about are the boy's worn shoes, the somewhat shabby looking suit the man is wearing, the difficult to decipher text on the floor or the movie stars performing in this 1914 film.  Although the plot of this movie is unknown to me, I believe the leading actors should be given a face, that is to say , their face. So may I introduce you to Anna Nilsson and Guy Coombs, stars of the silent movie but at one time also married to each other. Anna has been awarded a Wikipedia page, Guy hasn't risen to that level yet. But there is hope for him now that he performs as an SSS, a Sepia Saturday Star. 
Speaking of movie stars, my mother was a collector of movie star picture postcards. I selected one showing Amsterdam born actress Lien Deyers. To cut a long story short, she made her first movie under Fritz Lang and eventually went to the States via the U.K.  
Lien Deyers (1909 - 1982?)
The fact that miss Deyers is/was Dutch is not the reason to select this postcard. The reason is the backside. There my grandmother wrote to her eldest daughter, my mother, who was on a school trip to Germany. The card is dated August 28, 1933.
I have always admired my grandma's handwriting, I think it is beautiful, in particular the capitals. 
I will not tire you with a translation of the text but two things are worth mentioning. The first is that grandma writes that "it is terribly warm here, too warm to do anything." So we probably had a nice summer in '34. Usually weather conditions are not part of our family history. But sometimes they can be very significant when trying to explain certain circumstances. 
The other noteworthy thing is the text of the rubber stamp to the right. Translated it says "Use preferably Dutch manufacture". Economic circumstances in the 30's were generally less than optimal and governments tried to limit imports as much as possible. Hence the consumption of homemade products was stimulated. Today we would call this "protectionism". But the days of splendid isolation are over and protectionism is now almost a dirty word. 

As a final point I like to come back to miss Lien Deyers. Things did not go too well for her in the States. She was arrested several times for being drunk in public. It is unknown when she died. One of her signs of life was a written cry for help when she was an inmate in the Clark County jail in Las Vegas. But ever since she was discharged from prison, she was an ex-convict... Maybe someday there will be a film made of ​​her .
For more interpretations by the Sepia Saturday crowd,
please see here


  1. Your grandmother's handwriting is indeed beautiful. My dad had exceptional penmanship too. His capital "F" was always my favorite. I like how you tied your "Hollywood insider" piece to the postcard and history. Masterful!

  2. What a fabulous post.
    How ironic that you wrote about a star that ended up in jail. This kind of mirrors the prompt photo of movies, prison plots and even the bars on the box office.

  3. Peter, it shows, that not everybody made it in the world of movies.I wonder why she was a drunk, perhaps she did not get any work and she was depressed; I guess it must not have been easy for a girl at that time to pack up and try her luck in Hollywood. It shows she had pluck!
    I also enjoyed the story about the family bible, so it is always sad when a mother dies so early, what happened a lot, my grandmother died when she was 33 when she gave birth to her last son. He just celebrated his 90is birthday, the last of all her children.

  4. I think you did a brilliant job with the theme this week!

    It's so great that you have this postcard from your grandmother to your mother. Very special indeed.

  5. Well, that was a surprise ending! I didn't expect the movie star would become an ex-con!

  6. @Wendy
    Believe it or not, I only found out about Lien Deyers' past, after I selected that card because of the handwriting. Coincidence??
    Thanks for the follow!
    You can imagine that when I read about the Clark County jail I thought 'bingo'. Not for her of course.
    And the story goes on. According to the German Wikipedia she was also seen on the Santa Monica beach digging worms and selling these to anglers...
    And yes, it still happened 100 years ago that women died in childbed. Also for the child that must be a very unpleasant idea when he/she grows up.
    I think I have about 30-40 cards but many of them without text. But regardless of the presence of text, it is a nice collection.
    Some pro writers seem to think that one always has to finish a piece by a kind of circular reference to where you started. well I am not a pro and it was sheer coincidence!

    I like to thank you all for dropping in.

  7. I admire the way you pick up so many different themes from the photo prompt and link them together. To have the card with your grandmother's handwriting must be a family treasure and you came so neatly back to the theme with the story of the film star's later life.

  8. My father's writing looked like copperplate. I still haven't seen anyone better it. I wonder what happened to all the documents/letters in his desk after he died.
    Unfortunately I'm sure they are many Lien Deyers about today. Entertaining post.

  9. That was a great coincidence that you selected that postcard and later discovered she had been in jail.

  10. I do love the way Sepia Saturday participants give us the back story. Its as though I launch some old half forgotten photo on the world and within a few days and a few times round the globe, it has picked up such a back story of fact, speculation and memories, it is a wonderfully collaborative process.

  11. Now following, Peter. You captured this week's ex-con sub-theme very well, indeed. Great research! And I agree that your grandma's handwriting was very elegant. It's a shame that penmanship has fallen by the wayside, for the most part. Thanks for this post!

  12. Poor Lien Deyers. I feel so bad for her, so far away from home. Someone should have come to her rescue.

    I love your grandmother's handwriting, very similar to my grandmother's.

  13. A splendid post on the back story as Alan says. The early celebrities of silent film have such interesting stories too.

    I compared your grandmother's postcard to her handwriting in her household ledger. Such beautiful penmanship came from regular practice. Sadly, it's become a lost art, in part because fountain ink pens are gone.

  14. @ScotSue
    Well, that's what you get if you don't have a family picture with missing parts :)
    You are right and the intriguing thing is that we do not even know when she died... Apparently she lead an anonymous life until the end.
    Indeed it was. If it wasn't so sad, I would say I was lucky.
    I wholeheartedly agree with you. The surprise of how other people approach your theme, is a large part of the fun!
    Thanks for the follow, much appreciated.
    And I agree with you about that it has fallen by the wayside. I notice this myself. I really have to concentrate on my own handwriting after punching my keyboard all day/week. You lose the routine.
    Maybe our grandmothers took the time to write...
    About it being a lost art, when I was at grammar school we were trained in calligraphy (in Dutch: schoonschrijven). We had these dip pens to practice italics which was in fashion then. And as I said earlier, today we don't practice handwriting anymore, we punch our keyboards...

    Thank you all for your kind comments.

  15. I guess the American dream didn't agree with Miss Deyers...
    Oh well!!
    Since you are indirectly knowledgeable about such thing, a personal question: Do you know of a famous German actor, first name: Bruno. The reason I ask is, since my name is Jean-Bruno, Jean was for the pope Jean 23, and Bruno because my mom had a crush on that actor. I'm somewhat curious as to whom may have made my mom swoon... Any such actor made it in America?
    I know the story behind my name because my mom told me, in a hushed tone...

  16. I do not regard myself as a connoisseur in these matters but the best site I know is
    They show one Bruno Kastner, possibly he was your mum's favorite? He was German but whether he made it in the States... And if this is not him may be you can ask further questions there. Good luck!

  17. If Her Movies Were As Eventful As Her Life Then They Would Be Well Worth Seeing!

  18. Thanks!! I thought it could have been a more recent memory but did it really go back to silent movies? Now, her secret is safe, and my memory is failing... I found Bruno Ganz, but I doubt this is the man that made my mom swoon over...
    Oh well!!!

  19. Great twist on the theme this week. Your grandmother's penmanship is lovely and distinctive. By the way, I like your new blog background/theme. Orange has become one of my favorite colors recently.

  20. That postcard is wonderful! No damage at all, the stamp and the mark so clear. Perhaps the postman did the postmark by hand! On top the neat handwriting of your grandmother. It's a treasure.

  21. A masterly post Peter and I do appreciate the way you have come full circle. I like a good back story myself. That beautiful handwriting would have taken much practice and I fear it is almost a lost art these days.

  22. "I have been looking for missing limbs or heads but to no avail."

    I'm thinking that's a good thing! I'd have hated to hear Alan sent you on a search which turned up a missing neighbor.

  23. @tony
    All your capitals tell me that you must have been in the advertising/sales promotion business :)
    If I run into another Bruno I'll let you know! I'll do anything to help you avoiding an identity crisis :)
    @Queen Bee
    Thank you! For some reason I lost a number of gadgets so I figured that may be I could solve that problem by redesigning the blog. And this one I like because the black letters in the right hand margin are distinctive. I have some doubts about the purple lettering of the links against the orange background. I mean I can read it but how about a color blind person? Maybe I'll ask the SS-crowd.
    About the postmark being applied manually, that could very well be. I don't think they had these machines they use today.
    @Little Nell
    You are right about the lost art, punching on keyboards doesn't make it any better! Btw Thanks for your advice re @Christine's back up procedure for blogs. It's really a piece of cake and works very well!
    @Tattered and Lost
    It is probably my limited understanding of the English language but where does the missing neighbor come from? I sense a joke but I seem to miss it.
    Btw I read on your blog about this person using your blog name. I find that odd, very odd to say the least!

    Thank you all for visiting, I've read all your comments with great pleasure!

  24. Frankly, between a pope and a German actor my mother used to lust about,
    I think I've managed well so far...


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