The random tweet that reconnected me with a precious treasure trove of family history.

The photo below of my grandmother, Mitzi Cummings, with the great Fred Astaire and director Mark Sandrich, is a favorite of mine. I just love everything about it: how snazzy the legendary dancer looks in his tux and top hat, and his terrific expression; little Mitzi in her cute outfit; and the warm look and gentle smiles she and the young director are sharing. I’m not sure what film set Mitzi is visiting so if you know, drop me a line on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Mitzi w Fred Astaire and Mark Sandrich
Fred Astaire with Mitzi Cummings and director Mark Sandrich, in a photo taken for Mitzi’s Photoplay magazine column.

I knew Mitzi had her own Photoplay column in the 1930s – and photos like this illustrated her breezy articles about life in Hollywood – but somehow I had never actually seen one. Then a few years ago, I was on Twitter when someone tweeted that Photoplay magazines had been digitized and were now publicly available through the Media History Digital Library.

So I clicked on the link, found the Photoplay collection, searched using my grandmother’s name and voila! there was a hit! I had found Mitzi’s column about a visit to Jean Harlow’s home and it featured a photo I already had in my collection, which Mitzi titled ‘A Study in Black & White’ – perfectly apt, as you can see below.

In the photo, raven-haired Mitzi and platinum blonde Jean Harlow pose for the camera in her beautiful library, which was apparently decorated in several shades of white. And now here it was as it looked in print! It was so thrilling. So I dropped everything that weekend and searched through dozens of issues of Photoplay.

mitzi w jean harlow blue watermark

In no time at all, I was able to create a PDF collection of Mitzi’s articles and in almost all cases, I already had the accompanying photo – there are a handful that I don’t have and I certainly wish I knew where they are.

In 2015, some of you might remember, my aunt gave me Mitzi’s collection of actual Photoplay magazines, which contain her columns. So I now have the photos, the magazines, and thankfully, digital copies. All thanks to the occasional serendipity that social media can dish up.

Aunt Francie collection on dining room tableIf you’d like to visit this remarkable resource – heaven for anyone who loves silent and Classic Hollywood film magazines – here’s the link: http://mediahistoryproject.org/fanmagazines/

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