Crystal Balls in Film 3

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  • Patreon Release Date: April 7th, 2023.
  • Public Release Date: April 7th, 2024.

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Further Crystal Balls in Film!

All of the material you have access to here -- the instructive booklets, the nostalgic postcards, the boldly graphic ephemera, and all of the historical information researched and shared from the mind of the woman who is making it all happen -- can easily fit into one 8 x 10 foot room in an old Victorian farmhouse, but you would never see it without the investment of the time it takes to produce such a site and the caloric input such a site requires in the form of food for the writer, graphic designer, and database manager, as well as the US currency needed to pay for the computers, software applications, scanners, electricity, and internet connectivity that bring it out of that little room and into the world.

So, as you can see, this site is the darling of many, and it is growing at a rapid rate ... but although it is "free," there also is a cost. The financial support of my Patreon subscribers -- my Patrons -- underwrites this cost.

Crystal Balls in Film, Part Three

Why would anyone spend 20 years collecting digital images of crystal balls in film, anyway?

Good question, but as you can see, this has been one of my eccentric passions for quite a while. Here we are, at Part 3, and the images have not all been uploaded yet -- and as much as i hate to admit it, there are probably dozens of movies featuring crystal gazers that have eluded my knowledge.

One reason i know that there are more films about crystallomancy out there for me to find is that i have a couple dozen still photos of movie stars posing with crystal balls -- but i cannot link them to a film. Perhaps they were just publicity shots, but the costuming is such that i think there must be a film behind each one, somewhere.

And that's where you can help! If we've missed one of your favourites, or made a mistake along the way, drop us a line at the Lucky Mojo Forum (no email or social media messages, please) and let us know about it.

This showcase list of crystallomantic films is chronological, as were previous gallery collections. Once every photo is cleaned and uploaded, the entire pile will be compiled, and one year after that, it will open to the public. In the meantime, you can say that you saw them here first.

Having talked about Hollywood's preference for glowing, smoke-filled balls, or balls so large that they can serve as small television units, it's time to address the issue of Hollywood's preferred styles of crystal gazer. These types have changed over the years, but not as much as one might think.

The Man in the Turban: This cinematic stereotype is based almost entirely of the dramatic and very influential stage presentations of Claude Alexander Conlin. As Alexander, the Man Who Knows, he and his troupe of dancing girls (one of whom was his wife) and stage hands (one of whom was his poster artist) travelled from theater to theater by rail, towing an entire box car filled with their elaborate stage props, posters, costumes, and booklets to sell at the back of the room. Alexander wore a turban as part of his act, and dressed in amazing finery imported from India and designed to lend him an air of mystery. If you are unfamiliar with him, look no farther than the book "Secrets of the Crystal Silence League," which contains not only the text of two of his instructional booklets from 1919 and 1923, but is also filled with art used to promote him, and those who assiduously, even slavishly, copied both his stage act and his sartorial style. Actors who donned the turban include Warren William, Will Rogers, Henry Kolker, and Frank Morgan.

The Man in the Black Suit: The suave male crystal gazer who does not wear a turban is best exemplified by Turhan Bey and Alan Dinehart. This character too draws his formal style from that of a stage magician, but his look is more akin to a prestidigitator than a swami.

The Exotic Spooky Woman: These women are dressed in expensive finery, their bosoms are well endowed, their hair is coifed, and very often they are surrounded by stunning Arabic brassware and yards of Chinese draperies. Pauline Frederick and Theda Bara exemplify this type to a "T."

The Mesmerized Woman: Women who stare into crystal balls until their minds become unhinged are an interesting lot. They may start out not believing in the supernatural, but the lure of the crystal is hypnotic and they end up glazed-over, drugged, or just plain weird as they stare into its depths. Jean Sothern, Ann Doran, and Carol Lombard should get Oscars for portraying this type, with Clara Bow a runner-up and Judy Garland given an honourable mention.

The Ditzy Crystal Dame: The middle-aged comedic character actress whose crystal ball never seems to tell the truth, and who is completely flustered if it does, is a special sort of Hollywood type. Marion Lorne, Emma Thomson and Erica Yohn are stand-outs in this genre.

The Fake Crystal Gazer: The carnival cheat and the private reading swindler provide the moral basis for Hollywood's notorious anti-occult stance. Some, like Warren William and Frank Morgan, also wear the turban, some, like Turhan Bey and Alan Dinehart, are suave and classy in contemporary street clothes. A bit more unusual is the nice-girl-roped-into-carny-life, portrayed by Paulette Goddard.

The Witch: Witches who read crystal balls are featured in fantasy settings. Marion Lorne is both a witch and a ditzy dame, and Emma Thompson is a half-blood witch, but when it comes to pure, unadulterated wicked witchcraft, Margaret Hamilton reigns supreme.

The Wizard: Another character from fantasy films is the wizard with a crystal. Rarely a helper, he usually is a supernormal villain. Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, and David Bowie are examples of this type.

See Also

Lovely Ladies and Their Little Balls

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Thank you.

catherine yronwode
curator, historian, and docent
Your Wate and Fate

Special thanks to my dear husband and creative partner nagasiva yronwode for illustrations, scans, and clean-ups.