Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 7 March 2009

Maude Odell (fl. early 20th century),
English model of feminine beauty, 'the Original Sandow Girl'

Maude Odell
Maude Odell
not to be confused with the American actress of the same name

(photo: Bassano, London, 1906)

The references to Sandow and the body beautiful are to the internationally acclaimed German-born strongman and athlete, Eugene Sandow (1867-1925) who was billed as 'The Most Powerful Man on Earth.' Through his popular act he created something of a fad during the early years of the twentieth century for healthy living. It should also be noted that the shapely, white-clad beauties known as Sandow Girls - theatrical successors to Gibson Girls - first made their appearance in the farcical musical play, The Dairymaids at the Apollo Theatre, London, on 14 April 1906. In one scene they (played by Minna Moore, Dorothy Ward and others) and Carrie Moore, the leading lady of the show, were discovered exercising with ropes, punch-bags and dumbbells. The Dairymaids ran successfully until December that year, by which time Maude Odell had already made her mark at the Palace.

Palace Theatre of Varieties, London, November 1906.
'The Palace had added a very agreeable item to its already amusing programme. It consists of the fine poses of a lady who is known variously as "Galatea," "La Statue Humaine," and Miss Maude Odell. Under whichever name you care to take her, or by any other, she remains sweet, delicate, attractive. The pictures which she realises in her, apparently, marble figure are extremely various. "The Dancer," after Tadolini, in the Villa Borghesi, is very charming; Lord Leighton's "Bath of Psyche" is well realised; the Luxembourg "Salambo" is another difficult pose remarkably well carried out. But each of the eight pictures are worth seeing. Music by Mr. Herman Fink and odes from the graceful pen of Mr. Clifton Bingham grace the production.'
(The Bystander, London, Wednesday, 7 November 1906, p.473b)

American Music Hall, New York City, January 1909
'Maud Odell did not win any marked favour in her sketch, The Chamelion. The offering is so unpromising that comment is uncalled for. The posing of Miss Odell, however, was artistic and quite pleasing.
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 16 January 1909, p.17d)

'As she travels, Maud Odell, the English model of feminine proportions, has wrought out a definition of beauty in connection with which she has chosen to criticise American women. "Beauty is health," she is credited with saying. "American women are not beautiful because they are anaemic. The cheeks are pale, their steps are not sprightly, they look as though they never drew a long, deep breath that swept the lungs. Americans should be the most beautiful of women because they have natural style and they are clever and vivacious. But they worship intellect and neglect the body."'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 13 February 1909, p.2c)

Maude Odell

a half-tone photograph of 'Miss Maude Odell (the Original Sandow Girl)'
published probably in 1906 by Weiners of London. The remainder of the caption reads,
'Now appearing at the Palace Theatre, London as "Galatea" (La Statue Humaine),
a Type of Beauty attained by the use of the "Sandow Symmetrion."'

(photo: Wykeham, Balham, London, circa 1906)

Blaney's Lincoln Square Theatre, New York City, February/March 1909
'Maude Odell made her reappearance at Blaney's Lincoln Square last week, in what was reported as a new act written and staged by James R. Gary. The posings were practically new, but the act is laid pretty much along the same lines as the old one. William H. Turner, Harold La Coste, and Daisy Chaplin gave adequate support with little to do. Miss Odell was greatly appreciated in her poses, but what is the reason for the sketch infliction? She could score a much greater hit with the elimination of this part. The poses included "The Water Carrier," "Night," "Skating," "The Snake Charmer," "Ode to Bacchus," and "Beauty and the Beast." Her supporting models contributed "A Fantasy, "Springtime," "At the Seashore," "Cupid and Venus," and the concluding ensemble tableaux, "The Maid at the Bath."'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 6 March 1909, p.9a)

Blaney's Lincoln Square Theatre, New York City, March 1909
'Maude Odell followed and received more applause than last week. Some of the poses were new ones and caused much favourable comment.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, 13 March 1909, p.12b)

Blaney's Lincoln Square Theatre, New York City, March 1909
'Maude Odell, assisted by her six models, was seen in her newest posing act, The Maid at the Bath. As already stated in The Mirror, the sketch is stupid. The posings are well conceived and cleverly carried into effect. Miss Odell is seen to better advantage than heretofore and the entire offering is vastly superior to her former one.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 20 March 1909, p.9d)

'Why They Don't Clap.
'''Have you seen the near perfect woman, Maude Odell?'' she asked. ''No. You ought to see her. And if you want to be really amused, you ought to go and watch the men gazing at her wide-eyed, the men with their wives. They are taking in all her perfect points, but they are afraid to applied her on account of their wives. That beautiful, near perfect woman leaves the stage nearly every time without a handclap on account of the wives.'''
(Chillicothe Constitution, Chillicothe, Missouri, Saturday, 27 March 1909, p. 6d)

'Most Perfect Woman in the World Is Here
'Maude Odell, Who Won $10,000 Beauty Prize, Says It's Easy to Be Handsome.
'''Every woman can be as perfectly formed as I am,'' is the good news Maude Odell brings to dissatisfied femininity. The steady, truthful look in her large, clear brown eyes as she made the statement in the atrium at the Claypool [Indianapolis] Friday added its testimony to the conviction in her voice. She was having a week's rest from vaudeville and was enjoying it.
'It was at a little four-cornered dinner in honor of her birthday. ''Honest truth, I don't have a birthday in every city I play,'' she said in a rather startled tone, ''for I'm not that anxious to grow old.''
'After some gallant bantering on the part of the men in the party to the effect that if she told her real age the local branch of the Gerry Society would get after the management of the Colonial Theatre, where she is to pose in living pictures this week, for allowing a child to appear on the stage in violation of any child labor laws that may exist here. Miss Odell, swearing all to secrecy, told her age. And it hasn't been more than a decade since she was ''sweet sixteen,'' either.
'''No, I'm not a crank on diet, for behold!'' she said, daintily spearing a generous bit of indigestible lobster with a fork. The lobster went the way of other indigestibles, and the dinner ended with the only tribute to the ancient gods that have ruled beauties since Cleopatra's time, a glass of milk.
'Women Made to Be Attractive.
'''The real thing is exercise,'' she went on. ''From my earliest recollection my father instilled into my mind always that women were made to be attractive. I pondered on his teachings even when a small child, and when he died I sought out Eugene Sandow and told him I wanted to be a perfect woman.
'''Sandow was struck with the novelty of a girl of 14 having that as a life ambition, and he and Mrs. Sandow took me in. I soon became their favorite pupil, and it is they who set me on the road to reach my life's ambition.
'''After exhausting their methods I devised methods of my own, and today my system enables me to keep every one of my dimensions to a hair's breadth.''
'Miss Odell in her big picture hat and beautifully fitting black dress was a magnificent sight, and the lobster added to her attractiveness, showing that all this beauty was human.
'''It's proportion that makes beauty,'' she went on. It must not be supposed that she gave all this in the form of a lecture, for it was a birthday dinner, a very informal one, and her ideas on beauty were doled out in snatches, sandwiched in between bits of conversation on all sorts of common, everyday subjects.
'''It's proportion that makes beauty, and a girl four feet high can be as beautiful as the regulation five-feet, eight-inch woman. Taking her height as a basis she should develop her other dimensions to correspond, and that is what I have succeeded in doing.''
'Miss Odell, unlike the majority of physical culturists, neither swims nor rides horseback. Both exercises she considered detrimental to proper development, each tending to develop certain special muscles out of proportion to others.
'She loves automobiling, but, unlike the vast majority of her sister artists of the stage, she admits that she is an amateur when it comes to running a machine. During her stay in Indianapolis she intends to take a spin on the Motor Speedway, but she will insist that the machine be under the guidance of an expert chauffeur. She has a horror of taxicabs, having been held up in Brooklyn not so very long ago for $12 for a single trip, though she admits she and her companion were partly to blame for insisting on a circuitous route when the conscience-stricken chauffeur wanted to drive direct.
'Masters American Slang.
'Miss Odell is English through and through, and talks with a strong English accent. During her residence in New York, however, where she has been a sensational vaudeville headliner, she has picked up a number of Americanisms.
'''How do you heat your flat?'' she asked a local member of the party. '''With hot air,'' was the answer.
'''I hope you don't furnish the hot air yourself,'' she flashed.
'Her mastery of American slang startled the Indianapolis members of the party and made her English manager open his eyes.
'She has acquired the soda fountain habit - the ''American'' soda fountain in England, be it noted, is a painful joke to American tourists who have been inveigled into investing in the wretched stuff dispensed - but she has not yet mastered the American sandwich habit, though she is taking lessons. She had her first roast beef sandwich a few days ago and found it very much to her taste.
'Before coming to America, where, by the way, she will locate permanently, Miss Odell was a sensation in the capitals of Europe - London, Paris and Berlin. The winning of the $10,000 prize for the finest physical specimen of young womanhood was an incident.
'Artists raved over her when she posed in living pictures, even the Berlin artists, the hardest in the world to please. She has had many tempting offers to pose for paintings and statuary, but has accepted none of them.
'''The only think I have consented to is to have a cast made of me for the British Museum,'' she said. ''I have consented to that in order that my proportions may be permanently preserved.'''
(C.J.B., The Indianapolis Sunday Star, Indianapolis, Indiana, Sunday, Society & Stage, 23 January 1910, p. 1b-e)

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© John Culme, 2009