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Photograph: Elonet

Photograph: Elonet

When asked to partake in a radio show featuring film stars of the Finnish studio era, I chose actress Hanna Taini as my subject. I find Taini to be one of the most interesting of Finnish film stars. Finnish speakers can now listen to the Hanna Taini episode at Yle Areena.

The Finnish Jewish actress was born Hanna Schlimowitsch in 1911. Her career began during the final years of the silent era in films by Valentin Vaala and Theodor Tugai, later known as Teuvo Tulio.

During the Finnish silent era when national subjects dominated the silver screen, Hanna Taini portrayed characters that were new and exotic to Finnish audiences. She often played flapperesque characters associated with dancing and active sexuality.

In Mustalaishurmaaja (1929) she plays a Romanian girl competing for the affections of Theodor Tugai, Finland’s answer to Rudolph Valentino. In Jääkärin morsian (1931) Taini is a ballet dancer from Warsaw, in Laveata tietä (1931) a Spanish dancer in Paris and in Erämaan turvissa (1931) a Russian nihilist.

Hanna Taini in Mustalaishurmaaja Photograph: Kinotavast

Hanna Taini in Mustalaishurmaaja
Photograph: Kinotavast

With the success of Siltalan pehtoori in 1934, Hanna Taini became one of Finland’s first film stars. In the mid-1930s when Finnish production companies were only beginning to manufacture stars, Siltalan pehtoori broke attendance records: it was seen by an estimated million people, more than any other Finnish film at the time. In fact, it is still in the top 5 of most watched Finnish films of all time.

The character of Lilli Lind, the proud mistress of a country house, altered Taini’s star image forever. She would play similar upper-class ladies until the end of her career in the early 1940s, a fact that bothered the actress to the point of annoyance. Only the role of a scheming vamp in Morsian yllättää (1941) would allow Taini to expand her repertoire once more.

Hanna Taini in Siltalan pehtoori Photograph: Elonet

Hanna Taini in Siltalan pehtoori
Photograph: Elonet

Hanna Taini was a unique star in the 1930s and 1940s Finland. Although the fact that she was Jewish wasn’t mentioned in the press at the time, Taini was a rare dark haired and brown eyed film star when the large majority of the leading ladies were blonde. Taini was married to Josef Lefko, the President of the Jewish Community of Helsinki.

Yle Radio Suomen 12-osaisessa kesäsarjassa tutustutaan kotimaisen studiokauden elokuvanäyttelijöihin. Jakso, jossa puhun Hanna Tainin urasta ja tähtikuvasta, esitetään 14.8.2014. SF-tähtiä ja tähdenlentoja kesätorstaisin klo 19.06 Yle Radio Suomessa ja nyt myös Yle Areenassa.

Lisää Hanna Tainista kirjoittamassani biografiassa, joka löytyy Elonetistä.

June 22, 2014 Leading Ladies Press
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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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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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