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Was this Tragic Silent Film Star a Tonnesen Model?

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A Little Bit Of Heaven

A Little Bit Of Heaven

Lucille Ricksen - younger

Lucille Ricksen – younger

Lucille Ricksen - older

Lucille Ricksen – older

Chicago Daily Tribune archives have been very helpful in my efforts to find and identify the people who modeled for Beatrice Tonnesen’s photographic art. Using the search term “child model,” I recently discovered Lucille Ricksen (1910-1925), a Chicago-born model/actress who moved to Los Angeles in 1920, began playing adult parts around 1923, and died shockingly in 1925. A Google search on “Lucille Ricksen” yielded scores of sites that feature her biography, her photos or both. Some of the early photos of Lucille reminded me of a child I’d seen in an image by Tonnesen, so I dug a little deeper.

From online sources, primarily Wikipedia, I learned that Lucille was born Ingeborg Myrtle Elisabeth Ericksen, to Samuel and Ingeborg Ericksen in Chicago in 1910. Reportedly, she began modeling at age 4, joining the Chicago-based Essanay (silent film) Studio at around age 5 and, at some point, changing her name to Lucille Ricksen. Essanay began to shift production to California during the 1910’s, and Lucille’s mother took her to Los Angeles in 1920, where she worked in movies produced by Samuel Goldwyn, later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and others. Wikipedia lists 36 films, some of them shorts, in which Lucille appeared in the five years between her arrival in Hollywood and her death there in March of 1925. Several months before her death, Lucille became too ill to work and was ordered to bed by her doctor. Her mother, who maintained a vigil by her bedside, collapsed and died in Lucille’s arms, only weeks before Lucille herself died! The most frequently reported cause of Lucille’s death was tuberculosis, but other sources suggest overwork and/or complications from an abortion.
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