Hollywood during the 1940s and 50s was a place of extravagant parties, fabulous style and fascinating personalities. Jean Howard, former Ziegfeld girl and wife of producer Charles K. Feldman, documented her life and friends with candid black and white photographs, leaving a portfolio of a past time and place. Born in Texas as Ernestine Hill, she danced and modeled as a teen. Ernestine's first big break was in 1930, when Samuel Goldwyn and Florenz Ziegfeld cast her in the film "Whoopee" with Betty Grable and Paulette Goodard. She was chosen as one of four from the film to be a Ziegfeld Follies girl, but had to return to Texas due to the death of her father. Fortunately, she was cast in Ziegfeld's last "Follies" on Broadway and he renamed her Jean Howard for the show.
Jean and Charles had a loving marriage and hosted large informal gatherings at their home that included stars such as Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Richard Burton, Marilyn Monroe, Mr. and Mrs. Cole Porter, Cary Grant and Vivian Leigh to name a few. Jean captured parties and trips with her camera eventually published in 1989 entitled "Jean Howard's Hollywood: A Photo Memoir". The images include Hollywood actresses talking politics with writers, musician and directors smoking cigarettes, congo lines ending in the pool and everyone with a drink in hand looking utterly glamorous. Jean and Charles had a special relationship with the Porters. In 1991, Jean published a second book, "Travels with Cole Porter" illustrating the two grand tours she took with Linda and Cole in more than 300 photographs.
Included in Jean Howard's jewelry collection are two diamond and emerald clips by designer Paul Flato. Originally designed for Linda Porter, Jean was either given the clips as a gift or inherited them with the Porter's estate. These remarkable freeform clips are not identical, but each have a different organic design that creates a unique, mysterious quality. Flato's elegant, sophisticated and often amusing designs were the rage of Hollywood's leading ladies of the time. Katherine Hepburn wore his designs in the film "Holiday" and Joan Crawford was bejeweled by Flato for movie premiers and parties.
Another designer represented in Jean Howard's collection is Madame Suzanne Belperron. Jean, an independent and creative woman, would have had an affinity with such a likeminded French woman leading jewelry design. Discovered by designer René Boivin as a shop girl, Suzanne's humble beginnings recollect Jean Howard's.
Additional pieces in the collection, such as the vanity cases from Bulgari and Buccellati, Art Deco pieces and fashionable day jewels, bring to life a free-spirited woman who was at the center of Hollywood's Golden Era.
The Property of a Lady