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© David S. Shields

William Mortensen: The Book of Lost Roles    May 18, '11 2:09 PM
by David for group historicalziegfeld #561

In 1924 William Mortensen surrendered his life as itinerant set painter and Bohemian in Hollywood. He convinced the executives of Western Costume Company to let him set up a studio on the 11th floor of their facilities. Adopting the name, Wescosco Studio, Mortensen exploited the resource beneath his feet. He importuned very sitter who appeared as his studio to don one of the costumes in the building. The resources of the company were enormous, covering every fashion of every period. The invitation to indulge in such opened-ended playacting proved enticing.

From 1924 through 1926 dozens of name performers visited the studio. Individual impersonations appeared in the pages of newspapers and national magazines, but Mortensen told friends he was 'making a book,' a chronicle of alter-egos. Curiously this book was never completed. These images have been collected from a variety of places. The surviving costume shots may have totaled twice this number. David S. Shields

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