Helene Anna Held: Life Story and Beautiful Photos of a Polish Stage Performer

Helene Anna Held was a Polish stage performer and singer on Broadway. Florenz Ziegfeld had spotted her in London and brought her to America as his common-law wife. While she did not receive much critical acclaims, her fame seems to have been primarily due to Ziegfeld’s marketing skills. The Ziegfeld Follies are a series of long-running revues inspired by her expressive style. In addition to her lively personality, her career as a performer grew as she became known for her risqué songs, flirtatious manner, and willingness to expose her legs onstage.

Broadway career

During the 1897-1898 season, Held had several hits on Broadway, including The Parisian Model.  She became a millionaire at the same time, apart from boosting her fortune. Holden’s name remained popular for a long time because Ziegfeld was talented at creating publicity stunts. Ziegfeld established the most lucrative phase of his career with her help by influencing the format of what would become the famous Ziegfeld Follies in 1907. When Ziegfeld became pregnant in 1908, Held did not perform in the first Follies.

She wowed the crowds with her powerful voice and risque performances. Her lavish stage shows inspired Ziegfeld Follies. The press said she had her rib removed and bathed in milk every day to achieve her perfect hourglass figure (her waist was a little over eighteen inches). She often said she didn’t want to grow old.

Film career

Hold served as the lead actor in Madame la Presidente, directed by Oliver Morosco in 1916. She was paid $25,000 for her performance, as she told Hector Ames for Motion Picture Classic. Additionally, she appeared in several silent films, including ‘The Comet (1910)’, ‘Elevating an Elephant (1913)’, and ‘Anna Held (1901).

Held left Broadway in 1901. During World War I, she performed in vaudeville and toured France, raising money for the war effort and entertaining French soldiers. Her contributions during the war earned her the title of war hero and courage in traveling to the front lines so that she could help the most people.

Held suffered from multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, for a year in 1917. The media reported that it had been caused by her practice of excessively lacing her corsets for a tiny waist. She died in 1918 at the age of 46.

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Written by Alicia Linn

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