her slimness and athletic build, Adorján made “improvements” to the
shapes of the models’ bodies, ridding them of dreaded “curve trouble.”
Fashion magazines proclaimed fat to be a menace and offered diets to
achieve movie-star slenderness. Adorján was the doctor of the negative,
subtracting blemishes, body fullness in the models and surface irregu-larities in the props, while also adding background detail.
Married in 1920, the Wlassics were part of Vienna’s high society, yet
very little is known about their lives, education and training. Wiener
Magazin, a publication that frequently featured their work, published
rare photos of the couple with captions proclaiming the delightful
extravagance of their lifestyle and their skill at discovering international
beauties. They were early masters of the spreading dream of luxury.
Studio Manassé’s rich visual legacy in part chronicles the golden era
of cinema and theater in Europe. Expressionist filmmaking had its origins in Germany and Austria, with a crossover in talent between the two
industries of theater and film. From 1919 to 1922, the Austrian film industry produced more than 140 movies that found a global market. Popular
variety shows flourished as well, bringing in international stars such as
Josephine Baker and the Tiller Girls, a popular British dance troupe.
As the movie industry skyrocketed and the world of theater remained
robust, commercial magazines—about thirty publications in Vienna
and even more in Berlin—aimed to satisfy a public obsessed with this
world of perceived wealth and glamour. They needed images to accompany the increasing number of articles on film and theater, in addition
to gossip columns, sports news, fashion pieces and melodramatic stories of murder and mayhem. Often editors wanted simple filler: “visual
spice” without any connection to the text.
The Wlassics, one of the best-known suppliers of photos, became
popular with editors for their blend of glamour, kitsch and hemmed-in
sexiness. They provided considerable work for Austrian, German and
foreign-language magazines, helping to satisfy the growing hunger for
stories and images of the world of performing arts. Skillfully and playfully, Olga mimicked the exaggerated looks and gestures of Europe’s and
America’s silent film stars. She was more than happy to feed the star cult
while at the same time lightly mocking it.
Performers understood the value of a well-made photo: directors and
producers pursued “the girl in the picture.” The Wlassics’ private clients included performers from theater, vaudeville and film, including
actresses Magda Sonja, Lucy Doraine, Maria Korda and Lily Damita