Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Vintage Press Photo: Haunted Cherubs

I love vintage press photographs! They are often a little window into some amazing or tragic or amusing human story that has long been forgotten about. They always beg the question of what happened next and often the captions from the news agency as tantalizingly brief or oblique.

This one came from the 'bottom of a box' the other day and has an almost horror-film, haunted look to it and it represents a desperately poignant story. The two children are caught up in a "Hollywood" murder case. Their father, George Cline, at the time of taking the photo was accused of killing his friend, a stuntman called "Handsome Jack" in a duel over a woman. The story is told in detail at The Malefactor's Register. This photo was taken of the accused's children just after they had 'pleaded with the prosecutor' to get the trial done quickly so that daddy could come home.

Even by today's standards this seems a fairly cynical and exploitative photograph. It is easy to imagine that with the acquittal of their father (which is what happened) this story had a happy ending. But the fact remained that there was a broken home, a man who had probably killed his friend, and a huge load of publicity and public interest in some intensely private things about the family's life. What effects this might have had on the lives of these two frail and cherubic children from 1922 is anyone's guess.

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