'Snaps from Screenland' scrapbook: Annette Kellerman

'Snaps from Screenland' scrapbook: Annette Kellerman
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This excerpt from a 200-page scrapbook made by New Zealand-born actor Vera James is made up of magazine and newspaper clippings. Each chapter profiles a prominent actor of the time.

Many of the stills of Kellerman come from promotion for the lost film A Daughter of the Gods (Herbert Brenon, USA, 1916), so it is a valuable chance to see the costumes, hordes of extras (she claims there was 20,000) and extravagant sets from the film.

Kellerman expert Peter Cox writes that the huge sets included 'an underwater mermaid village and a Moorish city that was burnt to the ground'. You can see the city on the bottom of page three in the scrapbook.

Shot in Jamaica, the million dollar film boasts the first nude scene by an actress (Kellerman later insisted she was wearing a ‘very thin pair of tights’). 

Billed as 'the perfectly formed woman', from early in her career, Kellerman's measurements were often compared with figures from the western art and cultural canon. Hence the reference to the painting The Birth of Venus (Sandro Botticelli, Italy, 1486) in one scene from the film, pictured on page three of the scrapbook.

Kellerman's splendid, detailed costumes were made from fabrics such as gold lamé, tulle and silk, decorated with sequins, diamantés, synthetic pearls and beads. Many of them are housed in the Museum of Applied Arts and Science's collection in Sydney.

In appraising the film, Australian stage magazine The Green Room called Kellerman ‘the greatest woman swimmer in the world, a graceful, creative genius’ whose work ‘in this new spectacular film will leave behind for all time a wonderful record of her daring attainments’.

Notes by Beth Taylor