Thursday, August 6, 2009

The sisters - rare candids from the late 20's - MYSTERY SOLVED!!

The internet is a GREAT invention. I mean, what in the hell did we do as far as interacting with people from around the world before it? About 24 hours ago I posted this blog and also alerted the members of the WONDERFUL forum Nitrateville as to it being published. In that time the cowboy actor was identified, but more importantly, the two sisters have been identified.

When I initially wrote this blog I had ABSOLUTELY NO idea who the two sisters in the photographs were. I could see that one of the sisters names was "Venezia" but the other I had trouble with. I asked some friends what the mystery name was, and eventually we came back with the same one, "Thalia". On Thursday I published this information and also went over to Nitrateville and asked the members to help me identify some of the people who were pictured but not identified. Never in a million years would I expect Ian Elliot to get back to me and write this:

Louie, is "Thalia" possibly "Italia" or "Ytalia"? The 1930 US census has a Venezia Frandi, recorded age 28, and an Italia Frandi, age 26, living in Los Angeles. Birthplace, Spain; occupation for both, "extra actress".

AMAZING!!! Looking at the name now I see it all plainly before me:

MYSTERY SOLVED!!! A HUGE hat tip to Ian for this information!

A quick google search also found that Venezia Frandi (age 7), Italia Frandi (age 6), Elena Frandi (age 29), and Antonio Frandi (age 41) arrived on Ellis Island on October 21st, 1906 on the ship Liguria. The ship sailed on October 3rd 1906 from Genoa, Italy and that their final destination was Mexico City.

This collection of 40 or so images posted here are all I have, complete and unedited. Some of the stills have captions on the back and anything relevant I included as a caption. Mostly, though, on the back is written the sister and who the person in the picture is, but on most, nothing is written at all and that's where some of the mystery lies. The photos are trimmed and some written words on the reverse are cut off, so with the translations I can only give what I have access to. So, enough of my ramble, let's meet them:

Italia on the set of "The Loves of Carmen" (1927)

Venezia with an unknown man

literal translation on the back "With many you see your daughter.
Los Angeles, Calif.
September 12th, 1924"

the sisters on the set of an unknown film

the person who sold me these pictures claimed that this was Rudolph Valentino with one of the sisters, but I don't know enough about Valentino to give an educated guess. Anyone know for sure?

***UPDATE*** Hala over at the wonderful Forget The Talkies! website was the first to contact me and let me know that the man IS NOT Valentino. Since then many others have chimed in with the same consensus.

my personal favorite of the whole bunch where the sisters are alone.


OK, so here we go with the candids of the sisters on film sets. First off, we have a number of images from the 1927 Fox film "The Loves of Carmen" and here we have three pics of the sisters with female lead Dolores del Rio:
.......with Victor McLaglen lurking in the background

similar to the one at the beginning, here's Italia on the set

three with the film's male lead, Don Alvarado:
on the back "Don Alvarado star of cinema and Mexican nationality"

a couple with Victor McLaglen during a lunch break:

two with the man who directed the film, Raoul Walsh:

The next round come from the 1927 film "7th Heaven". Here is Venezia with assistant director Lew Borzage (brother of Frank):

2 pictures of the sisters with then star (an future director) David Butler:

Venezia with Charles Farrell:

........and Italia with him, too:

Next up we have some photos from the 1928 Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell vehicle "Street Angel". All of the photos on the back mention the filming location being Catalina Island. Here Venezia talks to the film's director Frank Borzage:
Venezia with 3 extras:
the girls with male lead Charles Farrell:


Italia with cowboy film star Tim McCoy (tip of the derby to Mr. Penfold over at Nitrateville)

These come from 1926's "The Silver Treasure". Here the girls are with the guy who plays Sotillo the bandit in the film, Lou Tellegen:

and four of someone the women seem REALLY fond of. The star of the movie, George O'Brien:


Lon Chaney looks REALLY happy to be photographed on the set of what I believe to be "The Unknown", made in 1927 for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer:


written on the reverse: "This photograph was taken in "United Studios" when we were working with the lions. The actor that is with me is Charles Howard Meredith. Doesn't it appear that he is very tall? about six feet and two inches.
In this movie you can't see us for anything, so I won't even tell you to say the name.Venezia.
October 24, 1924"

From R. Michael Pyle on Nitrateville: "The photograph of Venezia with Charles Meredith is probably on the set of "In Hollywood with Potash and Perlmutter" (aka "So This Is Hollywood" in UK) released in 1924, directed by Alfred Green." Thank you, Mr. Pyle!


and to finish up, here we have the girls clowing around with Lou Tellegen again. This time on the set of the Vitagraph Corporation film, "The Redeeming Sin" (1925)


Anonymous said...
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Ian Elliot said...
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Ian Elliot said...

Very kind of you to acknowledge me, Louie, it was a pleasure to make this small contribution to your marvelous blog.

I did a little further digging: the Frandi sisters are mentioned a twice in the LA Times in 1924. Evidently at that time they were dancers who were part of a "Spanish vaudeville troupe". It appears that later in life Italia and Venezia used their other given names, Maria and Margarita respectively. According to the California Death Index as posted at, Venezia was born 20 July 1898, and died 10 Nov 1974; and Italia, born 26 Feb 1900, died 22 May 1982. As this source has it, they were both born in Mexico City and died in LA.

Anonymous said...

This is tooo much fun! I'm in the middle of my own research project and can FULLY RELATE to the joy of unlocking the mysteries of a long forgotten photo.

These photos, by the by, are FABULOUS. Absolutely dazzling insights into life as an extra on 20s film set with a veritable whos who of contract players and stars.

Raoul Walsh before he lost his eye, Janet Gaynor on the set of the film that would bring her the first ever Oscar for best actress. And I just love the way Frank Borzage seems to be listening to intently to Venezia-- more proof to the pudding that was a terrific actor's director.

But I think my personal favorite shots are the ones with George O'Brien-- I can't blame the girls for being twitterpated and doe-eyed with him!! I'd have been a lost cause myself!

Lolita of the Classics said...

It doesn't look like Valentino, that's all I can say.
But these photos are beautiful! Irreplacable. I'm so glad for you that you got them identified!

Amy R. said...

I love unearthing obscure actresses. Fabulous! As for Valentino -- I doubt it. I'm sure it's one of his many imitators, though.

alexa757 said...

Great pictures and great detective work. How wonderful to see the life of some "extra" girls!

And I agree about George O'Brien" - as the LA Times from 1926 put it about The Silver Treasure":

"Who cares for crass, unimaginative reality when there is a chance to see romance, huge chests of silver, bandits and George O'Brien in a velvet costume?"

agirlnamedkylie said...

Love these photos, Louie :D Kudos to you for spotlighting these sisters. And who wouldn't fall in love with George O'Brien :D? My mother and I swoon whenever we see him on screen haha

Good seeing you this past weekend :D

muzykaceltyczna said...

No, this is not Rudolph Valentino.