Dance photography

Jessie Mathews, the Dancing Divinity

Jessie Mathews was a very popular dancer/singer/actress of the 1930s in the UK. Dirk Bogarde said she was a much better dancer than Ginger Rogers and I think he was right though her style was different. A collaboration between Jessie and Fred Astaire was planned but Jessie’s UK work schedule would not allow it to proceed. One of her choreographers was Buddy Bradley who was an influence on Busby Berkeley.

Jessie was a dancer on stage long before she became a film star and had been a professional dancer since the age of 12. She was often referred to as The Dancing Divinity.

Just like stars before and after her time she was featured on many postcards which have become very collectable.

She was a very versatile dancer able to cover all styles from modern ballet to tap, jazz and expressive.

Jessie was also regularly featured in film magazines of the 1930s.

Original photographs of Jessie often sell for in excess of £100 though I was lucky to obtain this 8/10 original for much less. On ebay some sellers present photos of her as if they were original prints though they are clearly reproductions. This is a common problem to avoid for any collector of such material.

Like today the studios were keen to place stills of their stars in magazines at every opportunity. Such clippings are also collectable.

Luckily many of Jessie’s films are available on DVD and they are sometimes shown on Talking Pictures TV though I don’t recollect seeing them elsewhere. If you like Fred and Ginger I’m sure you’ll enjoy her films.

Long after her film and stage careers were over Jessie found fame as Mary Dale in Mrs Dale’s Diaries on the radio after replacing the original Mrs Dale played by Ellis Powell. She was featured on This Is Your Life in 1961. She died in 1981.