Posts Tagged ‘Rastellis’

Christmas magazines: bring on the clowns

December 21, 2019
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Scary stuff: Grock the Clown on the cover of Pictorial Weekly, 12 December 1934

Clowns were a central part of Christmas for most of the last century, but many of the images of them now look grotesque and have even developed a sinister air. This Pictorial Weekly cover showing Grock ‘the King of Clowns’ is a case in point (12 December 1934).

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Blighty magazine’s cheery 1947 Christmas cover by ‘SIM”

Blighty, which had been a free weekly magazine for the forces during two world wars, has a much cheerier Christmas cover with a fancy dress clown and his leggy girlfriend under the mistletoe (6 December 1947). Note the other characters, with a cowboy and Red Indian chief of the era, and a harlequin – all popular party costumes.

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Bill Ballantine, a US clown, on a 1949 Leader magazine cover (October15)

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A 1945 Leader cover (December 29)

The clown photograph on the cover of The Leader, a family news weekly dated 15 October 1949, lies somewhere between the first two covers on the creepy scale. ‘Old clowns never die’ is the cover line and the image by US photographer George Karger shows Bill Ballantine in his clown make-up.

Ballantine was a US journalist who served in England during World War II at the Office of War Information on propaganda leaflets. In 1947 he joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the US as a clown. In 1969 he became the first dean of the Clown College in Florida.

The monochrome clown photograph on the cover of The Leader, dates from December 29 in 1945. Wartime restrictions on the use of paper and ink were still in force then and British magazines were slow to move over to colour. The clowns feature is by Gladys Bronwyn Stern a popular and prolific novelist and literary critic, best known for her Matriarch series. Her first book was published in 1920, the last in 1964.

The Answers weekly ran a 1951 feature based on the clowns at Tom Arnold’s Harringay circus in London. The annual circus ran for eleven seasons from Christmas 1947 to Christmas 1957. This clown will be part of Chocolat & Co, an act by The Rastellis, one of  the longest-running clown families in circus history. According to Circopedia, The Rastellis performed from the early 1930s until 2002. At the bottom of the page in a Tom Arnold souvenir programme from 1953.

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‘Here comes the clown’ cover feature from Answers (December 29, 1951)

 

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Harringay circus souvenir programme from 1953

This is one of several Christmas cover posts I’m putting up.

More Christmas goodies: self-referential Christmas magazine covers.