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Photograph: Elonet

Photograph: Elonet

August 2014 marks the 100th birthday of Finnish actress and beauty queen Ester Toivonen, who was crowned Miss Europe in 1934.

Ester Toivonen was one of Finland’s first bona fide film stars: her career as an actress started in the mid-1930s, a time when Finnish production companies were only beginning to manufacture stars. But Toivonen was already a celebrity before her film career; first of her kind during the era.

A fine comedienne, Ester Toivonen began her film career as the female lead in 1930s modern comedies. In the 1940s, she was seen in supporting roles in historical costume dramas.

My friend Elina Ortamo curated an Ester Toivonen exhibit at the Shopkeeper’s Museum in Hamina, the town where Toivonen was born in 1914. The centenary exhibit focuses on Ester Toivonen as an icon of style and beauty.

My friends and I drove to Hamina to attend the opening of the exhibit earlier this month, which was also attended by Ester Toivonen’s family and friends. Some of the highlights of the exhibit include the ivory gown Ester wore when she was crowed Miss Europe in 1934, her vanity table, fan letters, photographs, and various vintage pieces from the 1930s and 1940s. I’ve loaned my autograph booklet for the exhibit; it features autographs from Finnish film stars of the 1940s, including Ester.

I’m always very happy to see Finnish film history and its stars honoured, and it was done very beautifully here. I like that the focus is on Ester Toivonen’s public image, both as a beauty queen and as a film star. The exhibit was a real treat for me both as a cinephile and a vintage lady. The 19th century setting of the Shopkeeper’s Museum was equally apt.

The exhibit, titled Ester Toivonen – Kansakunnan kaunotar, runs until August 31, 2014. Be sure to catch it if you’re in town! In addition, there will be a film screening and a seminar at Kino Hamina on August 10, where yours truly will be talking about Ester Toivonen’s star image.

A tip for those in Helsinki: Orion will be screening Syntipukki (1935) on July 16. It is Ester’s first starring role and, in my humble opinion, her most interesting as well.

Curator Elina Ortamo posing next to Ester Toivonen's iconic Miss Europe gown

Curator Elina Ortamo posing next to Ester Toivonen’s iconic Miss Europe gown

My autograph book filled with autographs of 1940s Finnish film stars

My autograph book filled with autographs of 1940s Finnish film stars

Fan letters

Fan letters and vintage post cards


The Shopkeeper’s Museum in Hamina

May 25, 2014 Events
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4  Comments Posted On This Article
Ansa! Comment posted on Sun - May 25, 2014

Oi kuinka mielenkiintoinen blogi.


Riikka Pennanen Comment posted on Sun - May 25, 2014

Kiitos paljon – ja samat sanat! Hienoa löytää muita, jotka ihastelevat vanhoja kotimaisia elokuvia.


retro rover Comment posted on Sun - Jun 01, 2014

This is so interesting! Ive never heard of her and I love the pictures, particularly the one with the german shepherd. I love your new blog, I was previously a fan of Harleans Hey Day. Your style is so inspirational

retro rover


Riikka Pennanen Comment posted on Sun - Jul 20, 2014

Thank you for commenting and following, retro rover! I’m happy to hear that non-Finnish people are enjoying the posts regarding our stars. 🙂


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Welcome to 21st Century Flapper!
My name is Riikka and I hail from Helsinki, Finland. I'm a film researcher and a freelance journalist, a sartorial devotee of vintage fashion and endlessly fascinated by early 20th century visual culture. I write about film, fashion, design, architecture - and all things old and pretty.

Olen helsinkiläinen elokuvatutkija ja toimittaja, jolle 1900-luvun alkupuolen visuaalinen kulttuuri on todellinen intohimo. Blogi sivuaa kiinnostuksen kohteitani 1920- ja 1930-luvun elokuvista aina ajan muotiin ja designiin asti.

Don’t hesitate to say hi or contact in case of any questions at
riikka @ 21stcenturyflapper.com

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