The Lady With The Fans, Her Sexcellency Sally Rand
Earlier in 2020, History Channel’s American Pickers featured a show about buying Sally Rand’s personal memorabilia. Most viewers were probably perplexed as to why host Danielle Colby was so excited. In terms of forgotten superstars, Sally Rand, (born Hattie Helen Gould Beck, 1904-1979) would rank pretty high today. Not so for Ms. Colby who understands and admires the artistry that Sally Rand created.
Twenty five of Sally’s thirty films were silent pictures. Sally Rand’s final movie was made in 1938, The Sunset Murder Case. And yet, lacking movie popularity, during the 1930s and 1940s Sally Rand was one of the best known performers in show business.
Two Fans and A Bubble
Movies were not her bread and butter. Sally’s main work was in front of a live audience while frequently wearing nothing but shoes. Often she appeared in a “nude suit” which outlined every curve on her 35-22-35 figure. Sally’s famed fan dance was featured at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. She manipulated giant feather fans in front of her seemingly unclad body in such a way to create a peek-a-boo effect that wowed audiences. For the 1934 version of the Fair, the bubble dance she created was a display of grace and beauty.
Sally continued performing for over 45 years keeping her diminutive five foot figure in great shape. Over the decades, Sally was frequently arrested for violating local obscenity laws in an act that today would be considered very tame. Many times she was arrested even though she was not nude behind her fans.
Here is a rare 1966 radio interview of Sally Rand talking with Whatever Became Of…? author and radio host Richard Lamparski. Listen to Rand’s inflections and speech patterns. Does anyone speak like this anymore? Sally resonates intelligence and class.
This silent film footage is from the Streets of Paris exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. It does appear Sally is not wearing any clothing at the end of the film.