This portrait depicts Janette Hackett, acclaimed dancer of the early twentieth century. Hackett came from a famed family. Her mother, Florence Hackett, was a noted silent film star. Her brother married Blanche Sweet, also of silent film stardom. Hackett’s first career performance came as a teenager, when she appeared in the Shubert’s "Passing Show". During this time, under the tutelage of Kitty Doner, Hackett learned to dance. After studying Hawaiian and “Oriental” dance, she went on a five-week tour performance with Nora Bayes and later replaced Billie Shaw in the established act of “Seabury and Shaw”. Hackett received great reviews for the twenty week engagement and as a result William Seabury extended an offer to help Hackett establish a new act. The new routine would pair her with Harry Delmar. Delmar, a Missouri native, left home at 15 and traveled to Chicago. Delmar had various vocations, most notably was his time working on the Rock Island Line as a “3rd Cook” where he fell from the train and badly injured his leg. This injury would be a condition that Delmar would have to contend with the rest of his life as it left one leg two inches shorter than the other. Hackett and Delmar debuted in 1919 and headlined the big time for eight years with a large scale flash act that starred the duo, but also featured a large ensemble of other dancers. The duo enter into a relationship offstage and were married for several years, but ended shortly after the closing of the show “Harry Delmar’s Revels”.
Hackett had a notorious, highly successful act in which she danced with “Death”, played by Cesar Romero, and then tumbled down a flight of stairs at the climax. In 1930 she married Broadway singer John Steele, continuing to dance and choreograph for many years. Among her legacies are several of these “soundies” featuring the “Janette Hackett Dancers” or the “Janette Hackett Girls”.
In this photograph, Hackett appears to be in a belly dancer pose. Her right hand grasps the back of her head and her left hand is held below her throat. Her body, though in still motion, appears to have a rhythmic and undulating posture. Hackett is exotically dressed with a sequined beaded skirt and matching bra. Hackett’s look is accentuated with a wound embellished scarf, ornate pearl-esque earrings and filmy robe. Hackett's expression looks daring in this print.