Reader asks about gospel music publisher Lillian Bowles
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    Auction Finds

    Questions I can’t answer – Lillian Yarbo, ram’s head

    Friday at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources for them to determine the value of the items that they own. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, these are market values, not appraisal for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.

    Sometimes, I get questions that I can’t definitively answer for a number of reasons, usually because readers don’t send photos and don’t respond when I ask for more information.

    Here are some of those questions:

    Lillian Yarbo, African American actress
    A studio photo of Lillian Yarbo, from the 1938 movie “You Can’t Take It With You,” in which she played the maid Rheba. The photo was being sold on eBay.

    Question:

    I would like to find any written information about a cute Black actress named Lillian Yarbo who played the maid in the movie “You Can’t Take It With You,” 1939, starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Ann Miller, Spring Byington. Eddie “Rochester” Anderson played her boyfriend. I watch Turner Movie Classics. Afro-Am actors are always in the background and always deferential to Caucasian players. I want to know more about Lillian Yarbo. She is just darling.

     Answer:

    The reader apparently came across a blog post I wrote two years ago in which I mentioned the actress Lillian Yarbo. I wrote that I could find little personal or professional information on the web about her and some other unsung black actresses from the first half of the 20th century. They were desperate to appear on the big screen, but Hollywood generally offered them only menial roles as someone’s maid.

    The book “Actresses of a Certain Character (2006)” noted that Yarbo was a very funny actress, a comedian, whose first movie was “Rainbow on the River” in 1936. She played what the book described as a “substantial role” as a fried chicken vendor who was the friend of the more famous black actress Louise Beavers, who also played servant roles.

    Lillian Yarbo, African American actress
    The cast of “You Can’t Take It With You,” with Lillian Yarbo and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson on the far right. Director Frank Capra is seated in front of the group. The uncredited photo was on several websites.

    Yarbo appeared in a minor role in “Café Society” in 1939 in which she was paid to spy on the two stars in the movie, and “Destry Rides Again,” also in 1939, where she played Clara, Marlene Dietrich’s maid.

    The IMDB database listed nearly 50 films in which Yarbo appeared from 1936 to 1949. The words “maid” and “uncredited” were mentioned next to most of them.

    At auction recently, I came across a paperback book called “Who Is That?,” a guide to actors who turned up on old late-night movies. Yarbo was not pictured among the African American women in the section on ethnic actors. Beavers was at the top of the list, and others included Hattie McDaniel, Nina Mae McKinney, Libby Taylor, Ruby Dandridge (Dorothy Dandridge’s mother), Butterfly McQueen, Theresa Harris and Jessie Grayson.

    Question:

    I have a necklace from Germany. My father brought it back from WW2. I was wondering if you may be able to tell me what I have and if it is worth anything.

    Answer:

    This may be a very lovely necklace that is valuable, but I’ll never know because the reader never sent a photo or answered my reply asking for photos and more information. I suspect that he was searching Google, likely came across a blog post I had written about Nazi paraphernalia at auction, and he figured I might be a good source. I can only assume that he contacted others like me and didn’t expect to get a response. So maybe he didn’t look for one in his email.

    Some mounted animals, including bear and ram heads, sold at auction.

    Question:

    Just wondering how much would one pay for a ram’s head?

    Answer:

    This probably would have produced some interesting research had the reader, again, sent me a photo. I’ve written about mounted animals – including heads, full bodies and more – that have come up for auction. I recall a ram’s head among a large group of mounted animals that sold about three years ago. I don’t recall the price for the head, but two horns sold for $22.50.

    I’d like to see the head owned by this reader before rushing off to do research. A preliminary look at eBay found asking and sale prices in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. My advice to readers is to Google first and then search eBay to find the market value of their items.

     

     

     

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    2 Comments

    1. I knew Lillian up to and thru her passing. I spent several days at her home working
      on her living room floor in Seattle and I wrote about her on my (old and outdated)
      website: elbertrogersinternational@angelfire.com, or put my name in Google and
      it shows up there.

      click on the appropriate image or link and you will have parts of the story….danny

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