1964 was the last year for Elise in this more familiar mold and body design. She was about to graduate in 1965 into a more long neck and straight torso design. Elise had also grown to 18 inches, from her debut in 1957 of 16 1/2 inches. Now that the Alexander Doll Company was strongly moving from hard plastic to vinyl, this Elise head is vinyl. The popularity of ballet in America was still huge, and it was growing in its influence in fashion. Audrey Hepburn was one of many influences in this trend. A former ballerina herself, her iconic "Funny Face" dance sequence in black leotards and black ballet flats helped bring ballet in another form into mainstream fashion. The ballerina length for dresses was another popular inturpitation of the movement of ballet into fashion.
The romance and magic of ballet. The virtual effect created by point-work and the impression of weightlessness and floating on stage. The visual creation of time, place and mood are all part of the transformation of this glorious spectacle charged with emotion. Mid century America became the innovator for moving ballet from being severely selective to a more embracing media with new energy and talent coming from Russian, landing in New York and emerging with a unique new passion and point of view.
Madame Alexander found ballet and the ballerina a perfect subject to be interpreted by her doll company. Elise was truly unique with her flexible ankle joint and possible legs and arms. Ballet class became part of the American experience - even translated into fashion with it's demi longueur 3/4 length gowns. Tea length dresses are one of the lasting images of this period in our visual history. Ballet created new celebrities and theatrical experiences that would move into the new arena of television. Dance for us Elise... a silent grace and gentle expression makes for a romantic Valentine moment.
Back from the 2014 MADAME ALEXANDER DOLL CLUB CONVENTION in Philadelphia, and for myself, one of the highlights is the Competition Room. It's agony and ecstasy is always part of the experience, and what an experience it is! Making the selection comes quite some time ahead of the convention because your entries have to be submitted to the chairperson months in advance. I'm obsessive - compulsive about the process, and enter the maximum of ten entries. For me, it's a little like packing for a weeks trip - if there's a chance of rain, snow, heat wave or a red carpet, I've got it all crammed-in. The complications of bringing ten outstanding dolls is daunting, with all kinds of extra planning, weeping and whining. With that said, it is also one of the great joys of collecting.
My own collecting has become driven over the past five years by my article writing and seminars. I don't have a magic closet, so, off we go on another adventure to find the best examples I can to help tell the story of the people, events, social and technical transitions that create the conditions for these wonderful dolls to happen. My competition entries this year certainly are illustrative of this journey, with several very interesting dolls that represent just a fleeting moment of doll production or trends of the doll industry and whims of the public.
This is the fascinating doll I used for the poster of my MADC Philadelphia seminar. "BALLERINA" is a unique bridge in design and technology to the previous "KAREN BALLERINA" and the following "NINA BALLERINA." This example has its box with Alexander Doll Company number of 5100 for the 14" doll and the FAO sticker with their number of 16-58. A unique doll that's not easy to research, the FAO catalog and the dolls Alexander Doll Comapany box, with corresponding numbers, helps to create a research anchor and establish the dolls legacy.
Arlene Dalton, who was the voice of KSL Radio character the "STORY PRINCESS," would later go to New York and take the STORY PRINCESS to the Howdy Doddy Show. She would next move to the Perry Como Show. Coming back to Utah, she would work with the Osmond family in their Orem studio. This 1948 doll came in the trademark ZCMI gold box with the Alexander Doll Company label on the inside lid.
In a 1949 radio article, ZCMI store management is quoted saying the one thousand "STORY PRINCESS" dolls ordered sold out in four weeks. Their only regret was not ordering an additional 500. A very rare doll, this is an unusual verification of exact numbers produced - which is often next to impossible to establish.
Again, a very rare doll that ties in the department store with the radio station and their trademark personality of the "STORY PRINCESS", with printed documentation of the specific (very limited) quantity produced. Arlene Dalton would touch the lives of millions of children through both radio and TV.
This 18" Elise 1963 No. 1765 RENOIR PORTRAIT is very interesting in several ways. By a series of events out of the control of the Alexander Doll Company, Elise became the fashion doll star of their 1963 company catalog. Jacqueline (Kennedy) getting the boot via the request of the Kennedy White House, the company must have been scrambling for a quick replacement. Elise to the rescue in a stunning series of portrait dolls created that year to fill the opening left by Jacqueline. Beautifully executed, the RENOIR PORTRAIT is a surprisingly complex gown which includes some detailed accessories. The hair color for this doll is a unique dark brown and is listed in the company catalog as being patented. Even then, the doll is referred to as "a collector's item" in the 1963 company catalog.
20" COCO is remarkable for the obvious interest of the Alexander Doll Company to create their "next big thing". Just as the company did not have Shirley Temple in the 1930s, they did not have a Barbie for the 1960s. COCO required a tremendous amount of development and design to create a new doll from the ground up - not even her shoes were a carryover. To take it ever further, the portrait doll series has a slightly different mold than the thinner COCO fashion dolls. Adding to the mix, Alexander walked a very fine line of risking being censured by the fashion house of Coco Chanel. Marketing the doll was a sensitive situation possibly escalating her demise after only one year.
My personal favorite this year's convention is my 14" composition "PRINCESS MARGARET ROSE," first place and Judges Choice winner. This is such a romantic interpretation of Princes Elizabeth's younger sister, Prince Margaret Rose. At this point in time, Margaret was the glamor-puss of the royal family, and was getting many of the magazine covers. Margaret was just on the verge of her world famous, and ever so tragic love affair. Aborted by the orders of her older sister, Queen Elizabeth, this was the stuff of timeless tragedy. Sympathetic to her sisters situation, Elizabeth ultimately bowed to the objections of the Queen Mother regarding Margaret's love interest, Peter Townsend, being a divorced man.