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Did The Talkies Destroy Julien Eltinge?

| Jan 30, 2012
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We featured Julian Eltinge last month in a TGF rerun. He was the biggest female impersonator in the country in the early 20th century. He was a vaudeville star, appeared in plays, graced the cover of sheet music and acted in the silent pictures of the day. He was often portraying a male who had to dress up as a woman in order to achieve something that only a lady could do.

The plot of Eltinge’s last picture, Maid to Order, was typical: “(Eltinge) plays a private detective who disguises himself as a French singer, Lottie Lorraine, performing at a nightclub where diamonds are being smuggled.”

Eltinge appeared in 11 films between 1914 and 1920. He only did four more films from 1920 to 1931. Maid to Order was his last. Could it be that the advent of talking pictures had a negative effect on Eltinge’s career? Or was he just getting too long in the tooth to pull off a good impersonation? By the time he appeared in Maid to Order he was grossly overweight and was reputed to be an alcoholic. Accounts of Eltinge’s feminine singing voice say that it was very realistic but there aren’t many examples (if any) of him in action.

If it was the talkies that killed Eltinge’s career, we’ll never know for sure. We do have one example of Eltinge performing but not singing. In the video below, taken from a short feature called The Voice of Hollywood, made in 1929 we can see that by then he was no longer suited to play the ingenue. Eltinge is introduced about a minute into the video. Enjoy.



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Category: Transgender History


About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Assoc., Inc., former editor of its newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She was the Diva of Dish for TGF in the late 1990s and Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows.

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