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Vintage postcards, stars and stories.

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  • 03/09/13--23:00: Brigitte Auber
  • Blonde French actress Brigitte Auber (1928) has worked extensively on the French stage and also appeared regularly in films and on TV. Her best-known role, and one of her few English-speaking parts, was opposite Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955).

    Brigitte Auber
    French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 134. Sent by mail in 1955. Photo: Sam Lévin.

    Youth Culture
    Brigitte Auber was born Brigitte Cahen de Labzac in Paris, France in 1928. She played a bit part in the comedy Antoine et Antoinette/Antoine and Antoinette (1947, Jacques Becker) featuring Roger Pigaut and Claire Mafféi. That same year she also was an extra in Les Portes de la nuit/Gates of the Night (1947, Marcel Carné) which starred Serge Reggiani and Yves Montand. Two years later she played the female lead opposite Daniel Gélin in the comedy Rendez-vous de juillet/Rendezvous in July (1949, Jacques Becker). The film about hopes, love, ambitions and friendship in a group of young jazz-loving Parisians, won the Critic’s Prize at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival. It has been credited as the first postwar European film to accurately depict European ‘youth culture’. Auber also starred in Sous le ciel de Paris/Under the Sky of Paris (1951, Julien Duvivier). Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “In episodic fashion, the story follows the grim and bloody path trod by an unknown psycho killer. Duvivier cannily plays the film's melodrama against the glamorous backdrops of fin de siecle Paris, concentrating on a handful of people whose lives are profoundly affected, directly and indirectly, by the fugitive murder. The best vignettes feature elderly character actress Sylvie as a spinster devoted to her houseful of cats, and Brigitte Auber as a wide-eyed country lass.” In Victor (1952, Claude Heyman), she co-starred with Jean Gabin, and in the comedy Femmes de Paris/Women of Paris (1953, Jean Boyer) with Michel Simon.

    Brigitte Auber
    French postcard by Edition du Globe, Paris, no. 82. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

    Brigitte Auber
    French postcard by Edition du Globe, Paris, no. 701. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

    Cat Burglar
    Brigitte Auber’s best known film is probably the romantic thriller To Catch a Thief (1955, Alfred Hitchcock). The film stars Cary Grant as a one-time cat burglar who has to save his reformed reputation by catching a new ‘cat’ preying on the wealthy tourists of the French Riviera. Grace Kelly co-stars as his romantic interest in her final film with Alfred Hitchcock. Auber played the beautiful daughter of one of Grant’s old gang members and a flame from his days in the French Resistance. Brendon Hanley at AllMovie: “There is also Hitchcock's emblematic technique of parallel characters, in this case Grant's cat burglar and Brigitte Auber's character, who is falsely accused of a crime. The latter perhaps wishes he committed the crime, and in a perverse sort of way, he actually does. To Catch a Thief appeared in the middle of Hitchcock's most popular string of films; though it may have been intended as a minor change of pace, the film is chock-full of classic images and thought-provoking peculiarity.” The athletic looking Aubert suited the part of the cat burglar. She also had success at circus galas at the trapeze or in acrobatic horse acts. Auber would never enjoy an international breakthrough. Alfred Hitchcock considered her for a role in his The Trouble with Harry (1955), but the role of the offbeat young mother and ex-wife of Harry went to Shirley MacLaine.

    Brigitte Auber
    French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 659, offered by Les Carbones Korès Carboplane. Photo: Sam Lévin.

    Brigitte Auber worked most often in the French theatre and less so in the cinema. She reportedly recommended Alain Delon to the wife of director Yves Allégret who gave him his first film role in Quand la femme s’en mêle/Send a Woman When the Devil Fails (1957). Auber played a supporting part in the comedy Mon pote le gitan/My buddy the Gypsy (1959, François Gir), starring Louis de Funès and Jean Richard. In the following decades she mostly worked for TV. One of her few films was the French sex comedy Mon curé chez les nudistes (1982, Robert Thomas). It tells about a local priest (Paul Préboist) with a good mood who is sent to teach morals at a nudist colony with hilarious consequences. Brigitte Auber also had a supporting role in the adventure film The Man in the Iron Mask (1998, Randall Wallace) based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas. Leonardo DiCaprio played Louis XIV of France and Brigitte Auber played the Queen mother's (Anne Parillaud) attendant. Despite receiving a rather mixed to negative critical response, the film was successful financially, benefitting greatly from DiCaprio's post-Titanic boost in popularity. However it was Auber’s final film. She would later only appear in a few television productions, of which the last one was Oncle Paul/Uncle Paul (2000, Gérard Vergez).

    Trailer To Catch a Thief (1955). Source: TheTrailerSiteDotCom (YouTube).

    Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Brendon Hanley (AllMovie), Cinereves.com, Notstarring.com, Wikipedia and IMDb.

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  • 03/11/13--00:00: Miss Campton
  • Miss Campton (1882 - 1930) was a British-born French stage and screen actress between 1900 and 1930. She was a fashion icon in ladies’ magazines of the Belle Epoque.

    Miss Campton
    French postcard by M.G., no. 514. Caption: Palais-Royal.

    Folies Bergère
    In her obituary, the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser wrote: “Miss Campton, a cockney originally, came to Paris as a member of one of the first Tiller troupes to visit Paris. She had personality and an accent which sent audiences at the Folies Bergere into fits of laughter. […] It was the succes of Miss Campton which made Mlle Tanguy change her name to Miss Tanguy, afterwards corrupted into Mistinguett. Miss Campton married a French comedian who has played in London [Prince], but they divorced. A few years later she married M. Paul Derval, the manager of the Folies Bergere, where she had made her first appearance.” Miss Campton, aka Aimée Campton and Emilie Campton, was born as Emily Straham Cager in Brighton, UK in 1882. Her mother was Emily Cager of Brighton, her father was unknown, according to the birth act in Brighton. She was a little British blonde with a tiny snub nose who enchanted French audiences with her gaiety and her foreign accent. In the first decade of the early 20th century, Miss Campton was a big vaudeville star at the Folies-Bergère, run at the time by the brothers Emile and Vincent Isola. On 20 December 1900 Campton married the then popular vaudeville artist Charles Prince, originally Charles Ernest René Petitdemange, who also was a star of the Folies Bergère in the early 1900's. They had one daughter Renée (1901 - 1993), but must have divorced not too long after (probably one year after), while Prince remarried in 1914. Miss Campton was a fashion icon in ladies’ magazines of the Belle Epoque and was photographed as vaudeville star by Valery,Sazerac, Cautin & Berger, Reutlinger, and Stebbing (with her name sometimes misspelled as Miss Compton). She was also known to play cross-dressing parts as in the revue Entente Cordiale (1905) by Flers, in which she played a British Lord opposite Mlle Marville as Madame de France, performed at the Theatre des Capucines. In 1904-1907 she performed at the Moulin Rouge, in 1904 in the revue La Revue du Moulin by Oudot & Branger, with music by Goublier, in 1907 in the operetta Le Toreador. In 1906 she contributed to Une Revue au Palais-Royal, a revue exceptionally staged at the fancy prose theatre. In 1907 Campton also acted in the comedy Souper d’Adieu at the Theatre des Capucines. In 1907-1910 (and perhaps earlier on already) she performed in the yearly Folies Bergère revue by Flers, together with a.o. Marville and Louis Maurel. With Maurel she sang Entrevue de Marienbad at the Folies Bergère, which was recorded as well and betrays her typical British accent while singing in French. Around 1908, she appeared in the revue Pomme d’amour (music by P. Doubis), singing songs like Déjà!, Elle a tout pour elle, L’arithmétique, Aventure américaine, and Oh, my baby! Campton performed around 1911 at the Theatre des Ambassadeurs, and in 1911-1913 at the Cigale in La revue sans culotte (1911), the comedy Miss Alice des P.T.T. by Tristan Bernard (1912-1913) and in En scene… mon president by H. Delorme (1913), both with Claudius as her male partner. In 1913 she performed in revues at the Theatre Marigny, including one by André Barre and Michel Carré. Miss Campton probably liked a gag, because the magazine Gil Blas announced in February 1913 on the cover page, she might do a box match against boxing champion Georges Charpentier.

    Miss Campton
    French postcard in the series Nos artistes dans leur loge, no. 169. Photo: Comoedia.

    Between 1912 and 1915 and under the name of Aimée Campton, Miss Campton had her own comedy series at the company Eclipse with the character 'Maud’. They were all directed by René Hervil, and with Gabriel de Gravone or Hervil himself as her male partner. Eclipse had started as of 1906 but really boomed as of 1908, with its early westerns with Joë Hammann, the Artheme comic series (1911-1916) starring Ernest Servaes and the weekly newsreel Eclipse journal. Servaes continued his success in the early 1910's with his Artheme Dupin slapstick series, and also directed the Polycarpe comics (1912-1916). As of 1912 Hervil was hired, a former actor at the Lux company, who directed the Maud series (1913-1914), plus the Fred (1914-1916) series; in the latter he played the title character as well. Unfortunately only a few of the hundreds of films produced by Eclipse survive, but one is Les charmes de Maud/Le charme de Maud (1913), which is present in the Desmet Collection of the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. In Le charme de Maud, it’s all about the harassment of attractive young female office workers. Typist Maud Simpson is too beautiful, so men harass her at her work, even her boss, who argues with her and eventually fires her. At job interviews men continue to bother her, so before starting a job at Vinnay & Co., she changes her physique into ugly and spinster-like, so men stop bothering her. Some days after, the real Maud meets Jack Vinnay, the owner’s son, and they fall in love. The next day Maud goes to work without the make-over and all colleagues, including Jack’s father are flabbergasted. Jack’s father approves of the love between Jack and Maud. During the First World War, Campton continued her stage career, a.o. at the Theatre des Capucines, where she played in 1915 in La Revue En Franchise, written by Berthez, Delorme and C.A. Carpentier (not the boxer), in which she imitated Charlie Chaplin and played a Normandy woman who learns British soldiers to speak French. Two years after she did Ou Campe-t-on? (1917) at the Theatre des Capucines. The title of the revue was a clear pun on the name of the leading lady of the show. The satirical magazine Le Strapontin wrote: “Le Strapontin malgré sa restriction habituelle d’éloges vous conseille sans hésiter d’aller “camper” aux Capucines; vous y passerez deux heures charmantes.” [Despite its usual restrain from praise, The Strapontin advises you to go and ‘camp’ at the Capucines; you’ll pass two charming hours there’]. During the war Campton also contributed to charity parties within the theatre world. In 1916 for instance she did a parody on Les Mystères de New York, together with Victor Boucher, at the Theatre de Chatelet. After the war Campton’s career was less intense. In 1921 she had a supporting part in the revue Ça va? by Rip and Gignoux, staged at the Theatre de Paris. The leading actors were George and Pauley. In 1922 Campton was critically unsuccessful in the revue Va l’dire à… Gênes! by Max Eddy at La Cigale, in which she had the lead. Georges Schmitt in La Rampe thought her poor French was now an obstacle, while a decade ago audiences and press found this one of her assets. She also performed in 1923 with Sacha Guitry’s Blanc et Noir, staged at the Variétés, and even if her role was praised, the leads were for Jane Marnac and Raimu. In the same year she had a supporting part in Un Jour de Folie, by André Birabeau, again at the Variétés, and again with Marnac and Raimu. By now Campton had become a society lady and the friend of Paul Derval, the owner of the Folies Bergère from 1918 on. Emily/Aimée Campton lived in Paris at 7, rue Albert de Neuville. Because of a cancer she died in 1930 in Paris and lies buried at the cemetery of Montmartre, in the tomb of Paul Derval. Sources disagree whether she was his cousin or his girlfriend. In 1931 the jewels and furs of Miss Campton were auctioned at Drouot by actor Henri Baudin. Visitors crammed the small auction room and paid high prices for her rings and particular her string of 95 pearls, while Sacha Guitry bought a fur coat.

    CAMPTON, Miss_Alterocca-Terni. 6145
    Italian postcard by Alterocca, Terni, no. 6145. Collection: Performing Arts/Artes Escénicas (Flickr).

    CAMPTON, Miss_Alterocca-Terni. 6145 b
    Italian postcard by Alterocca, Terni, no. 6145b. Collection: Performing Arts/Artes Escénicas (Flickr).

    CAMPTON, Miss_Alterocca-Terni. 6165
    Italian postcard by Alterocca, Terni, no. 61465. Sent by mail in 1906. Collection: Performing Arts/Artes Escénicas (Flickr).

    CAMPTON, Miss_FK. 14-1. Photo Stebbing
    French postcard by FK, no. 14-1. Photo: Stebbing. Collection: Performing Arts/Artes Escénicas (Flickr).

    Sources: Gallica (including La Rampe, Le Figaro, Le Strapontin, Gil Blas, etc.), Richard Abel (The Ciné Goes to Town), Campton and Chicksands, Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

    Special thanks to Adrien Vernardin, Le musée du music-hall.

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  • 03/12/13--00:00: David Bowie
  • The Next Day, the first album of David Bowie (1947) in ten years, has been released today. The English musician and actor has been a major pop star for over four decades now. During the 1970’s, he was an influential innovator and we love his album Changes. With various stage and film roles, he also showed to be a fine actor. So sure, we're curious about his 'come-back' album...

    David Bowie
    American postcard by Fotofolio, no. P 254. Photo: Terry O'Neill, 1975,

    Flamboyant, Androgynous Alter EgoDavid Bowie was born as David Robert Haywood Jones in Brixton, London in 1947. His mother, Margaret Mary ‘Peggy’ née Burns, worked as a cinema usherette, while his father, Haywood Stenton ‘John’ Jones, was a promotions officer for Barnardo's. David's interest in music was stimulated when his father brought home a collection of American 45’s by artists including The Platters, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and Little Richard. He studied art, music, and design, including layout and typesetting. After Terry Burns, his half-brother, introduced him to modern jazz, his enthusiasm for players like Charles Mingus and John Coltrane led his mother to give him a plastic alto saxophone in 1961. A year later, the 15-years old Davy Jones formed his first band The Konrads, playing guitar-based rock and roll at local youth gatherings and weddings. Several bands followed, without success. To prevent confusion with Davy Jones, the lead singer of The Monkees, he renamed himself after the 19th century American frontiersman Jim Bowie and the knife he had popularised. David Bowie studied dramatic arts under dancer Lindsay Kemp, from avant-garde theatre and mime to commedia dell'arte. Bowie became immersed in the creation of personae to present to the world. Kemp gave him the role of Cloud in his theatrical production Pierrot in Turquoise (1967). In the black-and-white short The Image (1969, Michael Armstrong), Bowie played a ghostly boy who emerges from a troubled artist's (Michael Byrne) painting to haunt him. Bowie also made a brief appearance in The Virgin Soldiers (1969, John Dexter). In April 1969, he met Angela Barnett (also known as Angie Bowie) and they would marry within a year. Her impact on him was immediate, and her involvement in his career far-reaching. In 1971, they had a son, later film director Duncan Jones, also known as Zowie Bowie. David Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in July 1969, when his song Space Oddity reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart. It was released at the time of the moon landing. Despite the fact that the literal meaning of the lyrics relates to an astronaut who is lost in space, this song was used by the BBC in their coverage of the moon landing, and this helped it become such a success. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single Starman and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, a concept album about a space-age rock star. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved merely one facet of a career marked by continual reinvention, musical innovation and striking visual presentation. In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single Fame and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer characterised as ‘plastic soul’. The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low (1977) — the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno over the next two years. The so-called Berlin Trilogy albums (Low, Heroes and Lodger) all reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise.

    David Bowie
    French postcard by Ebullitions, no. 8.

    David Bowie
    German postcard by O & P Agi-Sydney, Stauffenberg, no. CP 770.

    In 1976 David Bowie earned acclaim for his first major film role. In The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976, Nicolas Roeg) he played an unhappy alien from a dying planet who becomes a famous industrialist and pop star as he tries to find a way home. Mark Deming at AllMovie: “While Bowie doesn't come off as a terribly skilled actor, he's highly effective as an alien presence (and his character's jittery paranoia got an unexpected boost from Bowie's well-documented cocaine abuse in this period), and he manages to radiate a human sense of sadness and loss while maintaining a cold, unearthly emotional distance.” His performance helped the film become a modest box-office success. His next film, the Anglo-German co-production Schöner Gigolo, Armer Gigolo/Just a Gigolo (1979, David Hemmings), saw Bowie in the lead role as Prussian officer Paul von Przygodski, who, returning from World War I, is discovered by a Baroness (Marlene Dietrich in her final screen performance) and put into her Gigolo Stable. However the critics were negative and the Sunday Mirror considered Bowie ‘completely miscast’. In this period, his commercial success as a recording artist was also uneven. Towards the end of the 1970’s, Bowie finally kicked his drug habit and had smash hits with the single Ashes to Ashes (1980), its parent album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and the single Under Pressure (1981), a collaboration with Queen. On Broadway he earned high praise for his expressive performance in The Elephant Man. He played the part 157 times between 1980 and 1981. He did a cameo performance as himself in a concert sequence in the German film Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (1981, Ulrich Edel). The soundtrack of the film about a young girl's drug addiction in West-Berlin featured much material from his Berlin Trilogy albums. Bowie then starred as a vampire in The Hunger (1983, Tony Scott), with Catherine Deneuve. That same year, he played Major Jack Celliers, a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983, Nagisa Oshima), based on Laurens van der Post's novel The Seed and the Sower. Bowie also had a cameo in the pirate comedy Yellowbeard (1983, Mel Damski) created by Monty Python members. In 1983, he also reached a new commercial peak with the album Let's Dance, which yielded several hit singles. The tour which followed, Serious Moonlight, was his most successful ever.

    David Bowie
    French postcard by Underground, no. U 182. Photo: publicity still for The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976).

    David Bowie
    French Postcard by Les Editions Gil in the série chanteurs, no. 76. Publicity still for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983).

    The Next Day
    David Bowie declined to play the villain Max Zorin in the James Bond film A View to a Kill (1985, John Glen), but accepted a small part as Colin, the hitman in the comedy-thriller Into the Night (1985, John Landis). He also played a small part in Absolute Beginners (1986, Julien Temple), a rock musical featuring Bowie's music. About his role as the Goblin King in the dark fantasy Labyrinth (1986, Jim Henson), Andrea LeVasseur writes at AllMovie:“The actor most notable is David Bowie as the villain Jareth, whose glam rock wig and revealing tights give a nod to his former alter ego Ziggy Stardust. He is quite possibly the high point of the film, contributing to songwriting and creating an alluring figure in Jareth that rightfully could be borne of a young girl's imagination.” Two years later he played Pontius Pilate in the controversial The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, Martin Scorsese). Throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, David Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including blue-eyed soul, industrial, adult contemporary, and jungle. He also continued to act in films. He portrayed a disgruntled restaurant employee opposite Rosanna Arquette in The Linguini Incident (1991, Richard Shephard), and the mysterious FBI agent Phillip Jeffries in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992, David Lynch). He took a small but pivotal role as Andy Warhol in the biopic Basquiat (1996, Julian Schnabel), and co-starred in the spaghetti western Il Mio West/Gunslinger's Revenge (1998, Giovanni Veronesi) as the most feared gunfighter in the region. He played the ageing gangster Bernie in Everybody Loves Sunshine (1999, Andrew Goth), and appeared in the TV horror serial of The Hunger. In Mr. Rice's Secret (2000), he played the title role as the neighbour of a terminally ill twelve-year-old, and appeared as himself in Zoolander (2001, Ben Stiller). He portrayed physicist Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006, Christopher Nolan), about the bitter rivalry between two magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) in the late 19th century. In August (2008, Austin Chick), he played a supporting role as Ogilvie, alongside Josh Hartnett. Bowie has not toured since the 2003–2004 Reality Tour and has not performed live since 2006. Bowie's latest studio album The Next Day— his first in ten years — is scheduled for release today. The album has been produced by Bowie's longtime collaborator Tony Visconti. The music video of the track The Stars (Are Out Tonight) is very promising. It stars Tilda Swinton as Bowie's wife, and also features young models Saskia de Brauw, Andrej Pejic, and Iselin Steiro. Tim Blanks at Style File Blog: "This particular offering toys with the androgyny, the bravado, the decadence, the desire that turns an ordinary human being into a raving fan. It also has a strong contemporary-fashion quotient, appropriate given that Bowie was, in a way that the upcoming exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum will surely clarify, always inclined to the fashion experiment—from the early days of his Kansai jumpsuits to McQueen frock coats and Hedi Slimane suits." The video was directed by Floria Sigismondi, who was also behind the videos for Bowie's Little Wonder (1996) and Dead Man Walking (1997). Throughout his career, Bowie has sold an estimated 140 million albums. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him 39th on their list of the ‘100 Greatest Artists of All Time’, and 23rd on their list of the best singers of all time. Since 1992 Bowie is married to Somali-American model Iman. They have one daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones, born in 2000. The couple resides primarily in Manhattan and London.

    Trailer The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Source: Sashcat (YouTube).

    Trailer The Hunger (1983). Source: OldHollywoodTrailers (YouTube).

    Trailer Labyrinth (1986). Source: RWTesting (YouTube).

    Sources: Mark Deming (AllMovie), Andrea LeVasseur (AllMovie), Dara O’Kearney (IMDb), Tim Blanks (Style File Blog), AllMovie, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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  • 03/13/13--00:00: Anny Ondra
  • Anny Ondra (1903 - 1987) was a Czech singer and actress. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, she was a popular star of Czech, Austrian and German comedies. And she was Alfred Hitchcock’s first ‘Blonde’.

    Anny Ondra
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4451/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Schlosser & Wenisch, Prague.

    Anny Ondra
    German postcard. Ross Verlag, no. 4774/2, 1929-1930. Photo: Hom Film. Publicity still for Sündig und süss/Sinful and Sweet (1929, Carl Lamac).

    Anny Ondra
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4925/2, 1929-1930. Photo: Balzar, Praha (Prague).

    Anny Ondra
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4925/3, 1929-1930. Photo: Balzar, Praha.

    Anny Ondra
    Austrian Postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 612. Photo: Sascha Film, the Austrian film company where Anny Ondra worked for in the late 1920's.

    Sinful and Sweet
    Anny Ondra was born as Anna Sophie Ondráková in Tarnów, Austria-Hungary, now Poland, in 1903. As the daughter of an Austro-Hungarian army Colonel, she spent her childhood in Prague. After convent school she studied acting with Professor Bor. Already as a child and teenager she played big parts on the stages of Czechoslovakia, where she was discovered at the age of 16 bij actor-director Karel (or Carl) Lamac. They starred together in the film Palimpsest (1919, Joe Jencik). Lamac would also become her first husband. From 1919 on Anny Ondra often worked together with Lamac as her director and/or her co-star. With their film Gilly po prve v Praze/Gilly zum ersten Mal in Prag/Gilly for the First Time in Prague (1920, Carl Lamac) she became a big comedy star in the silent Czechoslovakian and Austrian cinema. Other popular films were Otrávené svetlo/Poisonedlight(1921, Jan S. Kolár, Carl Lamac), Führe uns nicht in Versuchung/Don't Lead Us in Temptation (1922, Sidney M. Goldin), Chytte ho!/Grabit! (1925, Carl Lamac) and Hrabenka z podskalí/Countess of Podskalí (1926, Carl Lamac). From 1928 on she also became a popular star of the British and the German cinema with films like Evas Töchter/Eve's Daughter (1928, Carl Lamac) and Sündig und süss/Sinful and Sweet (1929, Carl Lamac).

    Anny Ondra
    French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 1042. Photo: Film Osso.

    Anny Ondra
    Dutch postcard by Filma, no. 620. Photo: still from Polenblut (1934, Karel Lamac). Collection: Egbert Barten.

    Anny Ondra
    Dutch postcard by JosPe, Amsterdam, no. 285. Photo: Remaco.

    Anny Ondra
    Dutch postcard by Remaco, no. 288.

    In her British films, Anny Ondra proved an impressive dramatic actress, most notably in Alfred Hitchcock's The Manxman and Blackmail (both 1929). The Manxman, a melodrama set on the Isle of Man, was Hitchcock’s last silent film. In his first talking film, the thriller Blackmail (1929), Anny Ondra became the first of his 'Blondes'. Blackmail was also the first British feature-length sound film. Knowing that not all theaters supported talkies yet, Hitchcock also filmed a silent version of the film. Ondra's thick accent was considered unacceptable for the sound version, so her dialogue was recorded by actress Joan Barry. Ondra's strong Czech accent precluded a continuation of her international career after the conversion to sound. She settled in Germany. In 1930 she created there with the help of Carl Lamac the Ondra-Lamac Film Society, which lasted till 1936. She starred in Die vom Rummelplatz (1930, Carl Lamac) but the film got lost up till this day. She especially concentrated on operetta films and was very successful with Die Fledermaus/The Bat (1931, Carl Lamac), Mamsell Nitouche (1932, Carl Lamac) and Kiki (1932, Carl Lamac). She played in German, Czech, and French versions of all her films, always as the leading lady. Because of her talent and her various characters she became one of the most beloved German film stars and an international superstar.

    Anny Ondra
    German postcard. Photo: Norbert & Co. / HOM Film.

    Anny Ondra, Ida Wüst
    Dutch postcard by City Film, no. 492. Photo: publicity still for Fräulein Hoffmanns Erzählungen (1933, Carl Lamac) with Ida Wüst.

    Felix Bressart, Anny Ondra
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6065/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Ondra Lamac Film. Publicity still for Eine Freundin so goldig wie Du/A cute girlfriend like you (1930, Carl Lamac) with Felix Bressart.

    Anny Ondra
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8717/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Ondra-Lamac-Film. Still from Klein Dorrit/Little Dorrit (1934, Carl Lamac).

    Anny Ondra
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8048/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Atelier Mahrenholz, Berlin.

    Heavyweight Champion
    In 1933, Anny Ondra married the boxer Max Schmeling, the heavyweight champion of the world. They appeared together in the film Knockout - Ein junges Mädchen, ein junger Mann/Knockout (1935, Carl Lamac, Hans H. Zerlett). Anny Ondra suffered a miscarriage as a result of an automobile accident. The couple eventually had no children. The marriage lasted until her death in 1987. After Carl Lamac had to leave Germany in 1937, Ondra appeared only rarely in films. In Czechoslovakia they made together Duvod k rozvodu/Grounds for Divorce (1937, Carl Lamac). After Himmel, wir erben ein Schloss/Heaven, We Inherit A Castle (1942, Peter Paul Brauer) it took eight years till Anny Ondra played in a new film. Her appearance in the musical Schön muss man sein/One Must Be Handsome (1951, Ákos Ráthonyi) with Sonja Ziemann, Willy Fritsch and Hardy Krüger would be her last. All together Anny Ondra made more than 88 films. For her work she was awarded the Filmband in Gold in Germany in 1970. Anny Ondra died in 1987 in Hollenstedt, near Hamburg. Max Schmeling died in 2005 and was buried next to her at the Saint Andreas Friedhof cemetery in Hollenstedt.

    Anny Ondra in the silent version of Blackmail (1929, Alfred Hitchcock). Source: Sexena 1999 (YouTube).

    Soundtest for Blackmail (1929). Source: The Gypsy 2352 (YouTube).

    Anny Ondra as Anny Flock a scene of her first German talkie, Die vom Rummelplatz (1930, Carl Lamac). It was also the first project by their production group Ondra-Lamač-Film. The other actors are Margarete Kupfer, Viktor Schwanneke and Siegfried Arno. Source: Sexena 1999 (YouTube).

    Scene from Flitterwochen (1936, Carl Lamac) with Hans Söhnker. Source: Sexena 1999 (YouTube).

    Sources: Tim Bergfelder (Encyclopedia of British Film), Rudi Polt (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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  • 03/14/13--00:00: María Denis
  • María Denis (1916 - 2004) was one of the most popular stars of the Italian cinema under the Fascist rule. Very successful were her Telefoni Bianchi-films of the 1930´s. Charges of collaboration tarnished her career after the war. Controversial are her claims that she had not been the mistress of Nazi police chief Pietro Koch and just used his infatuation with her to help anti-fascists get released, especially film director Luchino Visconti.

    María Denis
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 205. Photo: Alfa.

    Maria Denis
    Italian postcard by ASER, 1941. Photo: Ghergo, Roma.

    Telefoni Bianchi
    María Denis was born Maria Esther Beomonte in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1916. Her parents were Italian and her sister was the actress Michela Belmonte. María moved to Italy when she was 3 years old. She was still attending high school when she was discovered for the cinema. At 16, she started her career with the film La telefonista/The Telephone Operator (1932, Nunzio Malasomma) featuring Isa Pola. She then played a small part in the comedy Gli uomini, che mascalzoni!/What Rascals Men Are (1932, Mario Camerini), which launched Vittorio De Sica as a debonair film star. She played her first lead in Treno Popolare/Popular Train (1933, Raffaelo Matarazzo), a typical Italian-style comedy about Sunday train trippers from Rome to Orvieto. In 1934 she had her breakthrough with the film Seconda B/Second B (1934, Goffredo Alessandrini) as a flirtateous adolescent, who plays a cruel joke on her young professor. The film was a huge success and it was followed by more roles that made her a star of the Telefoni Bianchi cinema: a typical Italian genre of bourgeois comedies with elegant sets that featured white telephones. She appeared in the roles of foundling, chamber maid or young teacher, and worked with such famous Italian directors of the period as Guido Brignone, Mario Camerini and Alessandro Blasetti. For the latter, she appeared in 1860 (1934, Alessandro Blasetti), his film about Garibaldi's expedition, and in his Contessa Di Parma/The Duchess of Parma (1937, Alessandro Blasetti). According to John Francis Lane in his obituary of Denis in The Guardian, Blasetti mixed in this film ”not very successfully, the worlds of soccer and fashion”. Another popular film of the “brunette with a perky Latin temperament” was the nostalgic musical Napoli d'altri tempi/Naples in the past (1938, Amleto Palermi) with Vittorio De Sica.

    Maria Denis
    Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1936.

    Maria Denis
    French postcard by EPC, no. G 305. Photo: Scalera.

    Mussolini Cup
    During the war María Denis appeared with Fosco Giachetti in the Fascist propaganda film L'assedio dell'Alcazar/The Siege of Alcazar (1940, Augusto Genina), about the besieged inhabitants of the fascist citadel in Toledo during the Spanish civil war. She played a Spanish girl whose soldier boyfriend is killed during the fighting. The film won the Mussolini Cup, the top prize at the 1940 Venice Film Festival, and one of the reviewers, who found much to praise in the film, including her performance, was Michelangelo Antonioni. Vey popular were Addio giovinezza!/Farewell, youth! (1940, Ferdinando Maria Poggioli) set among students in Turin, La maestrina/The schoolmarm (1942, Giorgio Bianchi) and Sissignora/Yes, Madam (1942, Ferdinando Maria Poggioli). Denis proved her versatility, when she played with great sensitivity and refinement a blind girl in Le due orfanelle/The Two Orphans (1942, Carmine Gallone) alongside Alida Valli. She also starred in foreign productions like the French film La vie de bohème/La Bohème (1942-1945, Marcel l'Herbier) opposite Louis Jourdan. At this time she met director Luchino Visconti and in her own words, she fell madly in love with the handsome, cultured aristocrat. When Anna Magnani had to pull out of what was to be his first film, Ossessione/Obsession (1942, Luchino Visconti), Maria hoped that she would get the part, but the director preferred Clara Calamai. Though probably aware of his homosexuality, Denis continued to pursue him. In 1944, during the Nazi occupation of Rome, she was linked to Pietro Koch, the notorious Roman police chief. In 1946, while she was shooting the film Cronaca Nero/Black Chronicle (1947, Giorgio Bianchi), Maria Denis was arrested as a collaborator and kept at the police headquarters in Rome for fourteen days. At her trial, she succeeded in convincing the court that she had only taken advantage of Koch's infatuation to help anti-fascists getting released, in particular Visconti. (Visconti had been arrested and imprisoned for political sympathies closely linked to the partisans). She was subsequently acquitted.

    Maria Denis
    Postcard by Agfa.

    Maria Denis
    Italian postcard. Photo Pesce. Rizzoli, Milano, 1938.

    Tarnished and Bitter
    Whether it was true or not that María Denis did in fact become Pietro Koch's lover either before or after Luchino Visconti´s arrest has never been confirmed. However her film career was tarnished. After the war she only found a few film parts, like in Peter Ustinov's Private Angelo (1949, Michael Anderson, Peter Ustinov), filmed on location in Tuscany. Disappointed and bitter, she decided to retire from the cinema. She married a businessman in 1953 and became an interior decorator. Her last appearance was in the five-part compilation film Tempi nostri/The Anatomy of Love (1954, Alessandro Blasetti) opposite Alberto Sordi. Throughout his life, Luchino Visconti claimed that Denis's involvement in his release was simply not true and refused to appear in court during her trial. Still she maintained her story in her autobiography, Il gioco della verità (Truth or dare) released in 1995, and again in the documentary which director Gianfranco Mingozzi was making about her shortly before her death. However, Visconti's sister Uberta claimed that Luchino's release was thanks to family connections and not to Denis. María Denis died in 2004 in Rome, Italy. She was survived by her son Filippo, who runs a coffee plantation in Costa Rica.

    Maria Denis in Sissignora
    Italian postcard by ICI / ATA. Photo: Maria Denis in Sissignora (1942, Ferdinando Maria Poggioli).

    Maria Denis
    Italian postcard by Casa Editrice Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 43090. Photo: Scalera Film/Pesce.

    Maria Denis in Sissignora
    Italian postcard by ICI / ATA. Photo: Maria Denis in Sissignora (1942, Ferdinando Maria Poggioli).

    Sources: John Francis Lane (The Guardian), France-it (IMDb), MovieMail, Wikipedia (Italian) and IMDb.

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  • 03/15/13--00:00: Bernard Lancret
  • French actor Bernard Lancret (1912 – 1983) was a popular romantic leading man of the French theatre during the 1930’s. In the cinema he had his breakthrough in the classic La Kermesse héroïque/Carnival in Flanders (1935) and he appeared in more than 30 more films.

    Bernard Lancret
    French postcard by EPC., Paris, no. 45. Photo: Roger Corbeau.

    Bernard Lancret
    French postcard by Edit. Chantal, Rueil, no. 622A. Photo: Discina, Paris.

    Jan Brueghel
    Bernard Lancret was born as Bernard Paul Mahoudeau in Gonesse, France in 1912. Very young he got involved in the theatre. He met Louis Jouvet who encouraged him to pursue his career and assigned him a role in La guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu (The Trojan War will not take place) by Jean Giraudoux. Many plays followed. He took the pseudonym Lancret in memory of French Romantic painter Nicolas Lancret. Indeed during the 1930’s, he played in the romantic leading man style. In 1935 he made his film debut in Et moi, j'te dis qu'elle t'a fait de l'oeil/And I’m telling you she has her eye on you (1935, Jack Forrester) with Jules Berry. He distinguished himself for the first time as Flemish painter Jan Brueghel alongside Françoise Rosay in La Kermesse héroïque/Carnival in Flanders (1935), the famous film by Jacques Feyder. James Travers at Films de France: “The most striking thing about La Kermesse héroïque is its epic visual feel. Huge sets and a cast of, if not thousands, several hundred, give a convincing recreation of 17th century Flanders. Feyder is reputed to have made the film to promote Flemish art. This is borne out by the elaborate sets and costumes (evidently inspired by the paintings of Frans Hals and Jordaens) which gives the feel of a painting ‘that has come to life’. Although made in black and white, it is a hugely colorful film, full of energy and humanity – in fact very typical of Feyder’s works as a whole. The film skillfully combines the spectacle of a quality historical drama with outrageous comic farce, making this one of the finest comedies in French cinema history.” Lancret continued his film career brilliantly in the following decade. His other films during the 1930’s include La citadelle du silence/The Citadel of Silence (1937, Marcel L’Herbier), Le joueur d'échecs/The Chess Player (1938, Jean Dréville) with Françoise Rosay and Conrad Veidt, and Sérénade/Schubert’s Serenade (1939, Jean Boyer), in which he played composer Franz Schubert opposite Lilian Harvey.

    Bernard Lancret
    French postcard by Editions Chantal, Paris, no. 622. Photo: Sam Lévin.

    Bernard Lancret
    French postcard by Collection Ciné Miroir.

    Bernard Lancret
    French postcard, no. 622.

    Another Flagship of the French Cinema
    During the war, Bernard Lancret appeared in the psychological thriller Le Corbeau/The Raven (1943, Henri-Georges Clouzot), another flagship of the French cinema. Craig Butler reviews at AllMovie: “Le Corbeau is a stunning examination of paranoia, distrust, and human venality. Sporting a bleak world view that is typical of much of director Henri-Georges Clouzot, it's a film that is enormously effective as both an intriguing mystery and a statement on the human condition. (...) Clouzot also makes Le Corbeau an incredibly visual experience, with a rich use of stark blacks and whites, surprising angles (including a shot from the p.o.v of a letter on the ground), and intriguing compositions. Especially noteworthy are the sequence in which one of the poison pen letters floats calmly to the ground in the middle of a church service, capturing the attention of one and all, and that in which a mob chases one of the suspects through the streets of town. The tension and the mystery that the director imparts to the film is astonishingly effective, and he's aided by a perfect cast. Pierre Fresnay is perhaps first among equals, but each one contributes to making Le Corbeau an amazing film.” Other films Lancret made in these years are the Guy de Maupassant adaptation Pierre et Jean/Pierre and Jean (1943, André Cayatte) as the brother of Gilbert Gil, and La fausse maîtresse/The false teacher (1942, André Cayatte), alongside Danielle Darrieux. After the war, Bernard Lancret played one of Michèle Morgan’s lovers in the tearjerker La belle que voilà/Here is the beauty (1949, Jean-Paul Le Chanois), based on a novel by Vicky Baum. He also appeared in the hilarious ménage à trois farce Julietta (1953, Marc Allégret) starring Dany Robin, Jeanne Moreau and Jean Marais. James Travers: “Assisted by Allégret’s light-as-gossamer directorial touch and a script that abounds in amusing comic situations, Moreau, Marais and Robin form an unbeatable combination, transforming what might have been a humdrum and rather silly comedy into an entertaining minor classic of French cinema.” In his final film he played Brigitte Bardot’s criminal father in the sex comedy Cette sacrée gamine/Naughty girl (1955, Michel Boisrond). James Travers: “Cette sacrée gamine is a chore to sit through, lacking both a decent narrative and any really good gags.” At the age of 43 he retired from show business to convert some success in real estate. Bernard Lancret died in 1983 in Mougins, France. He was married to film actress Christiane Delyne.

    Bernard Lancret
    French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 112. Photo: Roger Carlet.

    Bernard Lancret
    French postcard by Editions E.C., Paris, no. 25. Photo: Roger Carlet.

    Sources: James Travers (Films de France), Craig Butler (AllMovie), Julien B. (Artistes 1940), Notre Cinéma, Wikipedia (French), and IMDb.

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  • 03/16/13--00:00: The Choice of Jan-Hein Bal
  • In our series The Choice of..., today a special guest. Jan-Hein Bal is the stills librarian of EYE Film Institute Netherlands in Amsterdam and thus my former colleague from years ago.

    He writes: "I'm no film collector, only of information on subjects like Saul Bass, 70mm, Amsterdam cinema buildings etc. My largest collection are memories of thousands of movies I saw. I am Amsterdam EYE Filmmuseum stills librarian with over half a million stills, including tens of thousands of postcards, mostly published by Ross. About 1500 are digitized including 500 portraits but further scans are only produced on request and visible in our library only. This selection includes no portraits but a very different choice." Double click at the pictures to see them in full view.

    Here's the Choice of ... Jan-Hein Bal:

    Bambi. Dutch postcard by Rembrandt Uitg. Mij. Amsterdam. Publicity still for Bambi (1942, James Agar e.a.). Caption: "Hij kan warempel al lopen! roept konijn Stamper" ("He can even walk already! shouts rabbit Stamper").

    Jan-Hein Bal: "One of several Dutch postcards from Bambi, my first cinema experience in 1957 aged eight. I always vividly remembered Bambi on ice, the realistic forest fire and the impressive scenery, unequalled until The Lion King. Half a century later on second viewing, I was excited by the multiplanecamera depth effect."

    The Longest Day
    The Longest Day. German postcard by Filmwelt Berlin, Bakede, no. 56574, 1994 (reprint). Photo: Sam Shaw, News Productions, Baulmes-Stroud. Caption: "THE LONGEST DAY, Dar[r]yl Zanuck, Normandie, 1964".

    "I am in charge of the Amsterdam EYE Filmmuseum's stills collection and love location shots with filmmakers, like this postcard reproduction with producer Zanuck and CinemaScope camera circa 1962 (not 1964) at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy. Sam Shaw was only a visitor as Vincent Rossell was stills photographer. This was in 1963 my first widescreen cinema experience and is half a century later still my favorite black-and-widescreen film, with its exciting aerial and tracking shots. Curiously this best-bw-photography-Oscar winner was colorized later and long unavailable in bw until the DVD. I visited several French locations, saw its composer Maurice Jarre and actress Irina Demick at festivals and interviewed its actor Arnold Gelderman (German soldier opposite Demick)."

    Rita Moreno, West Side Story
    Rita Moreno in West Side Story. Dutch postcard. Photo: publicity still of West Side Story (1961, Robert Wise). Collection: Amsterdam EYE Filmmuseum.

    "One of several large size A5 postcards from my favorite musical with its impressive music, ballet, design and social issues. No quick cuts and no nervous camera movements but dancers performing their exciting choreography in long shots and long takes. Besides Bridge on the River Kwai I saw it more often than anything else but never watch my DVD as it is the only film from my youth which was always in distribution. Thanks to the Amsterdam EYE Filmmuseum it can be seen on 70mm again."

    Human Rights 1789-1989
    Human Rights 1789-1989. Dutch postcard by Art Unlimited, Amsterdam, no. A277. Poster design: Saul Bass.

    "I always admired Saul Bass for his brilliant movie title sequences and already visited the Amsterdam Filmmuseum's retrospective in 1969. When I later became involved in the museum's poster collection his printed art added a whole new dimension and I bought many of his vintage posters for their already impressive but uneven collection. This postcard reproduction shows one of his Human Rights poster designs. Not film related? Wrong, because Bass secretly used it again from his own 1956 poster for the Bette Davis movie Storm Center."

    Vondelpark Amsterdam
    Amsterdam Vondelpark. German postcard by Kunstanstalt Lautz & Balzar, Darmstadt, no. D15388. Sent by mail in 1905.

    "This Amsterdam Vondelpark renaissance palace from 1881, seen on countless vintage postcards like this, was Filmmuseum between 1974 and 2012, almost identical to my long career. Here I discovered Die Nibelungen and Metropolis etc. in total silence because it was not yet fully understood that silents too had music. Many architectural details disappeared long ago but the building's middle stairs will return during its change as a broadcasting studio after 2013."

    Metropolis. German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 71-4. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Metropolis (1927).

    "One of several Ross postcards from my favorite Fritz Lang movie, favorite silent SF, and favorite silent movie design, with the incredible Babel sequence, flood, tunnels, skyscrapers, factory, laboratory etc."

    Gold Diggers of 1933
    Gold Diggers of 1933. Dutch postcard by M. Bonnist & Zonen Amsterdam. Photo: Warner Bros. Publicity still for Golddiggers of 1933 (1933, Mervyn LeRoy).

    "One of several Dutch postcards from this musical. Besides design I also love dance sequences like those of Astaire-Rogers, Gene Kelly, Bollywood, The Red Shoes, Saura's Carmen, White Nights, Billy Elliot, Mao's Last Dancer etc. Busby Berkeley's choreographies like this postcard are almost a combination of dance and design."

    Cinerama. American postcard by Shorecolor New York, circa 1952.

    "Many decades I only knew Cinerama from my favorite Amsterdam Bellevue Cinerama 70mm cinema but in 2011 I finally experienced 3-strip projection at the Bradford widescreenfestival with This is Cinerama, seen on this vintage postcard. The closure of the Bellevue cinema in Amsterdam in 2005 triggered my Amsterdam 70mm cinema history website 70mm.nl and I even became a cinema projectionist during the final 35mm years."

    War and Peace
    War and Peace. Russian postcard by Sovexportfilm. Caption: "VOINA I MIR, WAR AND PEACE, GUERRE ET PAIX, GUERRA Y PAZ".

    "Since a festival in an East Berlin cinema I investigate Soviet widescreen history, including the world's largest and most successful 70mm production which continued until 1989. This is one of several postcards from their most ambitious 70mm film. The dance, fire and battle scenes have many impressive tracking shots and giant crane shots."

    Femme Fatale
    Femme Fatale. Caption: "FEMME FATALE, een film van Inge Calame van Alphen". Photo: Ecco Productie, Orlow Seunke.

    "This is my favorite Dutch short fiction film, a sound movie from 1987 without dialogue and resembling silent slapsticks with Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd etc. It was shot in my home town Alkmaar seen on this postcard, and as a projectionist I was allowed by producer Orlow Seunke a private 35mm screening for a scouting group during an excursion to my Alkmaar arthouse cinema."

    Thanks Jan-Hein, for this original and personal selection. I enjoyed reading your comments. All the postcards in this post are from the wonderful collection of Amsterdam EYE Filmmuseum. Look at the Vondelpark postcard: during the 1980's, Jan-Hein used to work in the library at the left part of the Filmmuseum on the ground floor, I worked under the centre roof at the poster collection.

    The Choice of... is an irregularly appearing series. Earlier guests were Egbert Barten, Véronique3, Didier Hanson, Asa, Bunched Undies, Miss Mertens, Manuel Palomino Arjona, Meiter and Gill. Do you want to share your choice? Please write a comment and I'll contact you.

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  • 03/17/13--00:00: Dora Komar
  • Austrian Dora Komar (1914 - 2006) was a Viennese opera star of the 1930’s and 1940’s. She also appeared in five successful film operettas and musicals. After the war she moved to Brazil where she continued her stage career as an opera singer.

    Dora Komar
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 144, 1941-1944. Photo: Wesel / Berlin-Film.

    Popular Soubrette
    Dora Komar was born in 1914 in Wien (Vienna), Austria-Hungary (now Austria) as Dorothea Komarek. She studied dancing and singing. As a young girl, she already performed in the children’s ballet at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera). There she also made her professional debut as an adult in 1933. Two years later she first sang as a light soprano at the Staatsoper. She would stay there until minister Joseph Goebbels ordered the closure of all German venues in the late summer of 1944. To her greatest stage successes belong Die verkaufte Braut (The Bartered Bride), Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) and Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio). From 1940 on, the popular soubrette also played leading parts in a series of films. She had a brilliant debut opposite Willi Forst in the box office hit Operette/Operetta (1940, Willi Forst). Jan Onderwater at IMDb: “It has charm, tenderness and wit; it is galant and melancholic. Forst's directing is as always that of the light touch which gives the film a feeling of charm (though the influence of Karl Hartl is unclear to me). Of course Forst was helped by a very good script by his regular (co)writer Eggebrecht, that cleverly and plausibly romanticizes the lives of 3 main operetta composers.” It was immediately followed by two films in which she was Johannes Heesters’ partner: Immer nur Du/You Only You (1941, Karl Anton) and the revue film Karneval der Liebe/Carneval of Love (1943, Paul Martin). In Glück unterwegs/Happiness on the road (1944, Miroslav Cikán) her co-star was O.W. Fischer. Her last production before the end of the war was Wiener Mädeln/Vienna Beauties (1944, Willi Forst), filmed entirely in Agfa-colour. Her partner was Willi Forst again and the operetta was shot in Prague, which had been largely unaffected by the war.

    Dora Komar
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3718/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Wesel / Berlin-Film.

    Dora Komar
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3170/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Wien-Film / Tobis.

    Rio de Janeiro
    In 1941, Dora Komar had married lawyer Hans Somborn from Köln (Cologne). He was also co-producer of the films she had starred in with Willi Forst, Operette/Operetta (1940) and Wiener Mädeln/Vienna Beauties (1944). Wiener Mädeln was the first colour film of the production company Wien-Film. It was also the last Austrian production during the Third Reich. The film about fairly unknown Austrian composer Carl Michael Ziehrer was not finished when the war ended. The film material was confiscated by the Russian army and according to Erich Körner at DamalsKino, the Soviets presented a first cut in 1949 without the consent of director Forst. After his protests Willi Forst was allowed to make his own version which had its premiere in December 1949. Three years earlier, in 1946, the couple Somborn/Komar had moved to Rio de Janeiro. There Dora Komar continued her singing career. At the Teatro Municipal in Rio, she gave concerts with songs by Mozart, Strauss, Lehár and Schubert. Guest appearances brought her to Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires and Montevideo, where she performed opera arias. In 1970, the couple returned to Austria. They often stayed in Portugal, where their youngest son was living. Both passed away there. At 92, Dora Komar died in 2006 in Lisbon. She had three sons with Hans Somborn.

    Scene with Johannes Heesters and Dora Komar in Immer nur Du/You Only You (1941). Source: Liriode100 (YouTube).

    Sources: Erich Körner (DamalsKino) (German), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Jan Onderwater (IMDb), Der Tagesspiegel (German), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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  • 03/18/13--00:00: Felix Bressart
  • German stage and screen actor Felix Bressart (1892 –1949) had to flee Germany after the Nazis seized to power in 1933. He continued his film career in Austria and later in the US, where he became a popular character actor for MGM.

    Felix Bressart
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6023/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Ufa.

    Character Comedian
    Felix Bressart (pronounced Bress-ert) was born in Eydtkuhnen in East Prussia, Germany (now Chernyshevskoe, Russia) in 1892. He got acting lessons from Maria Moissi in Berlin and made his stage debut at the Stadttheater Würzburg in the autumn of 1914. After World War I, he made a stage tour through Bavaria. From 1922 on he worked at the Deutsche Theater Hannover, at the Albert-Theater in Dresden, and from 1925 on at the Theater in der Josefstadt under Max Reinhardt. In 1927 the character comedian moved to Berlin to appear in theatres and cabarets. There he also made his film debut in the comedy Liebe im Kuhstall/Love in Kuhstall (1928, Carl Froelich) with Henny Porten. He started off in the cinema as a supporting actor in films like Es gibt eine Frau, die dich niemals vergißt (1930, Lero Mittler) starring Lil Dagover, and the mountain film Der Sohn der weißen Berge/The Son of the White Mountain (1930, Mario Bonnard, Luis Trenker). For the Ufa, he played the Bailiff in the box-office hit Die Drei von der Tankstelle/The Three from the Filling Station (1930), directed by Wilhelm Thiele and starring Willy Fritsch, Lilian Harvey and Heinz Rühmann. He also co-starred in Thiele’s musical Die Privatsekretärin/The Private Secretary (1931, Wilhelm Thiele) with Renate Müller and Hermann Thimig. He co-starred with Anny Ondra in Eine Freundin so goldig wie Du/A cute girlfriend like you (1930, Carl Lamac). Soon he established himself in leading roles of minor films, including Der Schrecken der Garnison/Terror of the Garrison (1931, Carl Boese), Holzapfel weiß alles/Holzapfel knows everything (1932, Victor Janson), and Goldblondes Mädchen, ich schenk Dir mein Herz/Gold Blonde Girl, I give you my heart (1932, Rudolph Bernauer) with Charlotte Ander. After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Jewish-born Bressart had to leave Germany and continued his career in German-speaking movies in Austria, where Jewish artists were still relatively safe. In Switzerland he appeared in Wie d'Warret würkt/How the truth works (1933, Walter Lesch), in France in C'était un musicien/Once there was a musician (1933, Maurice Gleize, Frederic Zelnik) starring Fernand Gravey, and in Austria in Salto in die Seligkeit/Somersault into bliss (1934, Fritz Schulz). He worked at Peter (1934) starring Franciska Gaál for the European division of Universal with émigré director Hermann Kösterlitz (aka Henry Koster) and producer Joe Pasternak. Bressart made 30 European films in eight years.

    Felix Bressart
    Dutch postcard, no. 519. Photo: Ufa.

    Felix Bressart
    Dutch postcard, no. 238. Photo: Remaco-Film. At the rop right is a censorship stamp, necessary in the Netherlands for all film photos at the time.

    Kindly, Friendly Characters
    Producer Joe Pasternak invited Felix Bressart to come to Hollywood. Bressart's first American film was Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939, Henry Koster), a vehicle for Universal Pictures' top attraction, Deanna Durbin. Pasternak also selected the reliable Bressart to perform in a screen test opposite Pasternak's newest discovery, Gloria Jean. The influential German community in Hollywood helped to establish Bressart in America. Bressart scored a great success in Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka (1939), produced at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. MGM signed Bressart to a studio contract in 1939. Lubitsch also directed Bressart to similar effect in the romantic comedy The Shop Around the Corner (1940) with James Stewart. Most of his MGM work consisted of featured roles in major films like Edison, the Man (1940, Clarence Brown) and Blossoms in the Dust (1941, Mervyn LeRoy) starring Greer Garson. He combined his mildly inflected East European accent with a soft-spoken delivery to create kindly, friendly characters, as in Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942), in which he sensitively recites Shylock's famous ‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’ speech from The Merchant of Venice. Bressart soon became a popular character actor in films like The Seventh Cross (1944, Fred Zinnemann), and Without Love (1945, Harold S. Buquet), starring Spencer Tracy. Perhaps his largest role was in RKO Radio Pictures' B musical comedy Ding Dong Williams (1945). Bressart, billed third, played the bemused supervisor of a movie studio's music department, and appeared in formal wear to conduct Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu. After almost 40 Hollywood pictures, Felix Bressart suddenly died of leukemia at the age of 57. His last film was My Friend Irma (1949, George Marshall), the movie version of a popular radio show. Bressart died during production, forcing the producers to finish the film with Hans Conried. In the final film, Conried speaks throughout, but Bressart is still seen in the long shots. Felix Bressart was married to Frieda Lehner.

    Felix Bressart, Anny Ondra
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6065/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Ondra Lamac Film. Publicity still for Eine Freundin so goldig wie Du/A cute girlfriend like you (1930, Carl Lamac) with Anny Ondra.

    Hermann Thimig & Felix Bressart
    Dutch postcard by Remaco-Film, no. 229. Hermann Thimig and Felix Bressart in Die Privatsekretärin (1931, Wilhelm Thiele).

    Sources: Wikipedia (English and German) and IMDb.

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  • 03/19/13--04:12: Lucy Kieselhausen
  • Austrian dancer Lucy Kieselhausen (1900 – 1926 or 1927) had a successful career on the German stages and appeared in three silent films. Only in her twenties, she died by a tragic accident in her bathroom.

    Lucy Kieselhausen
    German postcard, no. K 113. Photo: Alex Binder.

    Luxuriously Decorative Hothouse Costumes
    Lucy (or Lucie) Kieselhausen was born in Vienna, Austria in 1900. She was a dance student of Grete Wiesenthal. This Viennese dancer was, from 1907 to about 1920, the great incarnation of the waltz spirit so closely identified with the city. Around 1915, Lucy became a successful dancer herself. She became celebrated on the German stages as a performer of waltzes. In his study Empire of Ecstasy, Karl Toepfer writes: “She, too, had evolved out of ballet culture, but her embodiment of the waltz was virtually opposite that of Wiesenthal. She favored luxuriously decorative hothouse costumes and the utmost refinement of movement. For her the waltz was not a lyrical expansion of space into the freedom of nature but an almost perfumed distillation of the stirrings within an opulent boudoir, with its scenography of exquisite privileges and voluptuous secrets. An adroit sense of irony shaded her movements with abruptly ‘bizarre and jerky’ rhythms". In 1918, she made her film debut in Tausend und eine Frau. Aus dem Tagebuch eines Junggesellen/A thousand and one women. From the diary of a bachelor (1918, Iva Raffay) starring Erich Kaiser-Titz. This film was produced by Hella Moja-Film GmbH, the production company of silent film star Hella Moja. The following year, Kieselhausen appeared with Bruno Decarli in Die siebente Großmacht/The seventh superpower (1919, Willy Grunwald).

    Lucy Kieselhausen
    German Postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 107. Photo: Alex Binder. Collection: Didier Hanson.

    Lucy Kieselhausen
    German Postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 109, 1915. Photo: Alex Binder. Collection: Didier Hanson.

    Lucy Kieselhausen
    German Postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 111, 1915. Photo: Alex Binder. Collection: Didier Hanson.

    Expressionist Film
    In 1922 Lucy Kieselhausen studied at the legendary dance school of Rudolf von Laban. Her teacher there was Laban’s assistant, the dancer and choreographer Hertha Feist. Kieselhausen herself choreographed the dance drama Salambo (1923), which she based on the novel by Gustave Flaubert and was set to music by Heinz Tiessen. She also wrote the book Die Tänze der Lucy Kieselhausen for Wiener Werkstätte, a production community of visual artists in Vienna, Austria bringing together architects, artists and designers. Her third and last film was the German Expressionist film Erdgeist/Earth Spirit (1923, Leopold Jessner). This is an early and excellent silent film adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s famous play. Danish silent film diva Asta Nielsen stars as Lulu, a femme fatale leading an amoral life in a world full of lust and greed. Wedekind followed his 1895 play up with 1904's Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box). The plays also formed the basis for the better-known film Die Büchse der Pandora/Pandora's Box (1929, G.W. Pabst) starring Louise Brooks, and Alban Berg’s opera Lulu (1937). Kieselhausen only played a supporting part in Erdgeist. Her main focus were her solo dances. In 1926 or 1927(sources differ), Kieselhausen suddenly died by a tragic accident in Berlin, Germany. She was killed in a fire caused by a petrol explosion in her bathroom. A sudden end to a promising career.

    Lucy Kieselhausen
    German postcard by Kunstverlag Juno, Charlottenburg, no. 115. Photo: Atelier Eberth.

    Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Karl Toepfer (Empire of Ecstasy) Wikipedia (German and English), and IMDb.

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  • 03/20/13--00:00: Margaret Rose Keil
  • German actress Margaret Rose Keil was a blonde, buxom B-film starlet of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Till the early 1980’s she appeared in dozens of Italian comedies, spaghetti-westerns and sexploitation pictures.

    Margaret Rose Keil
    German postcard by Krüger, no. 900/288. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood.

    Women of Devil's Island
    During her film career Margaret Rose Keil was credited also as Margaret Keil, Margareth Rose Keil and Margaret Rose. One source claims she is German, but I could not find more information about her birth name nor the date or place of her birth. She was often cast as a German or Austrian character, so she was probably born in one of these countries around 1940. She started her film career in Italy in such comedies as La ragazza di mille mesi/The Girl of A Thousand Months (1961, Steno) starring Ugo Tognazzi, I magnifici tre/The Magnificent Three (1961, Giorgio Simonelli) starring Walter Chiari, and Totò di notte n. 1/Totò at Night, nr. 1 (1962, Mario Amendola) with Totò. She also appeared in a small part in the historical melodrama Le prigioniere dell'isola del diavolo/Women of Devil's Island (1962, Domenico Paolella) starring the American actor Guy Madison, who's second European film this was. Madison went on to have a successful and prolific ‘second career’ in Europe throughout the 1960's.

    Guy Madison
    Guy Madison. German postcard by ISV, no. A 46. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

    Teenage Tramp
    Margaret Rose Keil went to Great Britain to star in the entertaining B-film That Kind of Girl/Teenage Tramp (1963, Gerry O’Hara). She played a cute live-in babysitter from Austria, who spreads VD in a small British town. Reviewer Matt Moses writes at IMDb: “This one's kind of a stinker, story-wise, but as per usual the acting holds its own and the cinematography is excellent.” Back in Italy, she appeared in the drama Gli imbroglioni/The Cheaters (1963, Lucio Fulci) and in ...e la donna creò l'uomo/Full Hearts and Empty Pockets (1964) with Thomas Fritsch. Her next film, the comedy Panic Button/Let's Go Bust (1964, George Sherman, Giuliano Carnimeo) had an interesting cast. In this precursor of The Producers, Mike Connors played a businessman who plans to solve his tax problems by financing a film version of Romeo and Juliet. He hires has-been matinée idol Maurice Chevalier and Jayne Mansfield to play the title roles, and acting guru par excellence Akim Tamiroff to direct. The finished film is shown at the Venice Film Festival, where it's considered a witty parody and awarded a Golden Lion. In 1964 Margaret Rose Keil also appeared in Playboy magazine, photographed by Peter Basch for a spread in the November issue, titled 'The Girls of Germany'. She next appeared as eye candy in Kommissar X - In den Klauen des goldenen Drachen/So Darling, So Deadly (1966), an entry set in Singapore in the Kommissar X series starring Tony Kendall. Apart from films she also frequently appeared in the popular Italian phenomenon fotonovelas.

    Jayne Mansfield
    Jayne Mansfield, early 1960's. German postcard by Krüger, no. 900/78. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood.

    Stick Your Devil In My Hell
    At the end of the 1960’s, Margaret Rose Keil’s roles became smaller and less frequent, but in the early 1970’s her career seemed to revive. She played Massimo Serato’s sister in the historical drama Il ritorno del gladiatore più forte del mondo/Three Giants of the Roman Empire (1971, Bitto Albertini), and a bit part in the comedy Roma bene/Rome Well (1971, Carlo Lizzani) starring Senta Berger. She played the female lead in the spaghetti western ...e lo chiamarono Spirito Santo/He Was Called the Holy Ghost (1971, Roberto Mauri). She also featured in another popular Italian genre of this period, the sex comedy, such as in Metti lo diavolo tuo ne lo mio inferno/Stick Your Devil In My Hell (1972, Bitto Albertini), Il decamerone proibito - le altre novelle del Boccaccio/The Forbidden Decameron - the Other Novellas by Boccaccio (1972, Carlo Infascelli, Antonio Racioppi) and Novelle licenziose di vergini vogliose/Diary of a Roman Virgin (1973, Joe D’Amato). In the action-comedy Metti... che ti rompo il muso/Suppose... I Break Your Neck (1973, Giuseppe Vari) she appeared opposite Frederick Stafford. She was rumored to have an affair with her co-star, which caused that Stafford’s wife, actress Marianne Hold, had to be treated at a psychiatric clinic. Margaret Rose Keil continued to appear in Eurotrash like the gialloLa polizia brancola nel buio/The Police Are Blundering in the Dark (1975, Helia Colombo). In Germany she did another sex comedy Ein echter Hausfrauenfreund/Inn of 1,000 Sins (1975, Kurt Nachmann) about a male prostitute servicing the rich and lonely female customers at an exclusive countryside inn. Her last film was Giochi erotici nella 3a galassia/Escape from Galaxy 3 (1981, Bitto Albertini), a Disco sci-fi film with some nudity in the wake of the success of Star Wars. Then, with the death of the Italian B-film in the early 1980’s, the film career of Margaret Rose Keil was over too.

    Trailer for That Kind of Girl/Teenage Tramp (1963). Source: Surfink1963 (YouTube).

    Sources: Matt Moses (IMDb), Used magazines.com, Glamour Girl of the Silver Screen and IMDb.

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  • 03/21/13--00:00: Germaine Rouer
  • French actress Germaine Rouer (1897 - 1994) had a prolific career on stage and in the cinema during the 1920's and 1930's. She was the star of the rural drama La Terre (1921) by André Antoine.

    Germaine Rouer
    Studio G.L. Manuel Frères. Cinémagazine nr. 324.

    Les Vampires
    Germaine Joséphine Rouer was born in Paris in 1897. She attended the conservatory of dramatic art where she graduated in 1919, in comedy and tragedy. After a short engagement at the Odéon, she worked with the Theatre de Porte Saint Martin and later the Theatre de la Renaissance, touring internationally. Already at age 13, she debuted in the cinema with short silent films like Les deux orphelines/The Two Orphans (1910, Albert Capellani). As an adult, she played parts in the crime serial Les Vampires/The Vampires (1916, Louis Feuillade) and in Perdue/Lost (1919, Georges Monca). In the early 1920's Germaine Rouer was the main actress of André Antoine’s naturalist and rural drama La terre/The Earth (1921), based on Émile Zola’s novel. It was one of Rouer’s best roles. In this film a young unemployed man (René Alexandre) befriends farmer’s daughter Françoise (Rouer). He gets mixed up in her family feuds, when the old grandfather prematurely divides his goods, a la King Lear. Françoise is actually the only positive character in this story. Other films were the Arthur Conan Doyle adaptation Un drame sous Napoléon/Uncle Bernac (1921, Gérard Bourgeois), Les deux soldats/The Two Soldiers (1921, Jean Hervé) with Maurice Escande, Le pauvre village/The poor v illage (1921, Jean Hervé) shot in Switzerland, and La flamme/The flame (1925, René Hervil). Der gute Ruf/The reputation (1926, Pierre Marodon 1926) was a Franco-German co-production based on the book by Herman Sudermann and starring Lotte Neumann. She played the title role in La Glu (1927, Henri Fescourt), and La cousine Bette/Cousin Bette (1927, Max de Rieux) after Honoré de Balzac. Her last silent film was Julien Duvivier’s Au bonheur des dames (1930), again a Zola adaptation, where Rouer played the rival at the department store of the main character, played by Dita Parlo.

    Germaine Rouer
    French postcard. Photo: Studio Harcourt, Paris.

    A Modern Circe
    Germaine Rouer remained foremost a stage actress. In 1933, she was admitted to the Comédie française and was nominated honorary member in 1956. But she also continued to perform in films, and in the early 1930's, she made a smooth passage to the 'talkies'. She played leading roles in Deux fois vingt ans/Twice Twenty Years (1931, Charles-Félix Tavano) with Annabella; Roger la Honte/Roger the Menace (1933, Gaston Roudès), opposite Constant Rémy and France Dhélia; La pocharde/The Drunkard (1936, Jean Kemm, Jean-Louis Bouquet); and Le chemin de lumière/The light path (1937, Paul Mesnier). She played a modern Circe in La femme du bout du monde/The woman at the end of the world (1937, Jean Epstein). Then, it took over a decade to see her return to the cinema with smaller parts in Le dolmen tragique/The tragic dolmen (1948, Léon Mathot) and L’enfant des neiges/The snow child (1951, Albert Guyat). Her last, uncredited part was that of Mademoiselle Molière in Sacha Guitry’s Si Versailles m’était conté…/Affairs in Versailles (1956). In Kevin Brownlow and David Gill's wonderful TV series Cinema Europe: The other Hollywood (1995), Rouer at the time in her nineties memorizes her role in La terre. Germaine Rouer died in 1994 in her hometown Paris. She was married to film director Pierre Mardodon. Their daughter was the stage actress Thérèse Marney (1927 - 1968).

    Scene from Au bonheur des dames (1930). Source: Facetsmultimedia (YouTube).

    Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), 1895.revues (French), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

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  • 03/22/13--00:00: Edmund Purdom
  • Darkly handsome Edmund Purdom (1924 – 2009) was a British character actor, who wore togas and sandals for a great deal of his career. In Hollywood he replaced Marlon Brando in The Egyptian (1954) and Mario Lanza in The Student Prince (1954) and in Italy he starred in countless peplums and other genre films.

    Edmund Purdom
    Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 941. Photo: MGM. Publicity still for The Student Prince (1954, Richard Thorpe).

    Striking Dark Good Looks
    Edmund Anthony Cutlar Purdom was born in Welwyn Garden City, England in 1924. His father was artist and London drama critic Charles Benjamin Purdom. Edmund was educated by Jesuits at St Ignatius College and by Benedictines at Downside School. He began his acting career in 1945 by joining the Northampton Repertory Company, appearing in productions which included William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Molière's The Imaginary Invalid. Followed by two years of military service where he joined the Army Pool of Artists. He made his screen Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (1951, Leonard Brett). He then joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon. In 1951-1952, Purdom was part of the company that Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh took to Broadway for alternating performances of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra and George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra. He tested at Twentieth Century-Fox for the leading male role in My Cousin Rachel (1952), but Richard Burton got the part. The studio cast him instead as ship's officer Lightoller in Titanic (1953, Jean Negulesco). His performance caught the attention of MGM, and he got a small role in the classic Julius Caesar (1953, Joseph L. Mankiewicz) starring Marlon Brando. Purdome played Strato, the young servant of Brutus (James Mason), who holds the sword out for his master to run on to at the climax. Then he was cast in the title role in opposite Jean Simmons in the epic The Egyptian (1954, Michael Curtiz), 20th Century-Fox's most lavish production of 1954. He played a brilliant physician in the service of the Pharaoh in 18th-dynasty Egypt. Ronald Bergan in The Guardian: “Purdom's reputation as a surrogate is underlined by the fact that he got his first chance of stardom when he replaced Marlon Brando in The Egyptian (1954) after Brando wisely cried off, preferring to play Napoleon in Desirée instead. (...) Purdom's striking dark good looks and dimpled cheeks made up for his rather wooden personality and inability to pronounce his 'r's, but not even Brando could have known how to react to dialogue such as: ‘You have bold eyes for the son of a cheesemaker.’”

    Edmund Purdom, Edmund Gwenn, The Student Prince
    British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, no. D 598. Photo: Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Publicity still for The Student Prince (1954, Richard Thorpe).

    Edmund Purdom
    Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit., no. 3227. Photo: Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Publicity still for The Student Prince (1954, Richard Thorpe).

    A Huge Build-up
    Edmund Purdom then played the leading role opposite Ann Blyth in the MGM musical The Student Prince (1954), a part originally intended for Mario Lanza. According to Wikipedia, Lanza’s disagreement with director Curtis Bernhardt over the way a certain song was to be sung had led to his dismissal by MGM. (Ronald Bergan adds: “Mario Lanza's drugs-alcohol-weight problems got the better of him”). The film was subsequently directed by Richard Thorpe and Purdom lip-synched to Lanza's singing voice. MGM gave the young unknown a huge build-up. In the same year, he appeared in another MGM musical, Athena (1954, Richard Thorpe), opposite Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds. In The Independent, Tom Vallance cites Debbie Reynolds saying: “The only relief on the set was the action going on off camera. Linda Christian, who was Mrs Tyrone Power at the time, was also in the picture. She was a temptress, and right before our eyes we saw the tempted, who was Edmund Purdom. They would go to his little trailer, close the door and be gone for quite a while.” Christian later divorced Power and married Purdom. He then played the title role opposite superstar Lana Turner in the biblical epic The Prodigal (1955, Richard Thorpe), MGM's most lavish production of 1955. It was a huge flop. He partnered with Ann Blyth again in the swashbuckling CinemaScope adventure film The King's Thief (1955, Robert Z. Leonard). Purdom's MGM contract was terminated. On television he starred as Marco del Monte in the swashbuckler series Sword of Freedom (1957-1958, Peter Cotes, Anthony Squire). In 1959 he filmed the crime drama Malaga/Moment of Danger (1960, Laslo Benedek) in Europe. The American premiere of the film, co-starring Trevor Howard and Dorothy Dandridge was delayed for nearly two years. After that, he did not work in Hollywood anymore except for some cameos, such as in the MGM production The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964, Anthony Asquith) in which peer Rex Harrison buys his wife (Jeanne Moreau) the titular limousine, unaware that she will be using the back seat to make love to Purdom.

    Edmund Purdom
    Italian postcard.

    Edmund Purdom
    German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. I 414. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

    Peplums and Spaghetti Westerns
    When his Hollywood career sizzled out, Edmund Purdom went to Italy to star in the crime drama Agguato a Tangeri/Trapped in Tangiers (1957, Riccardo Freda) with Geneviève Page. He decided to stay in Europe. In Italy, he made the peplums (sword and sandal epic) Erode il grande/Herod the great (1959, Viktor Tourjansky) with Sylvia Lopez, I cosacchi/The Cossacks (1960, Viktor Tourjansky, Giorgio Venturini) opposite John Drew Barrymore, and
    Salambò/The Loves of Salammbo (1960, Sergio Grieco) featuring Jeanne Valérie. In France he played Rasputin in Les nuits de Raspoutine/The Night They Killed Rasputin (1960, Pierre Chenal) with Gianna Maria Canale. In Austria, he appeared in Das große Wunschkonzert/Big Request Concert (1960, Arthur Maria Rabenalt) with Carlos Thompson and Linda Christian. In Great Britain he played with Ian Hendry and Janette Scott in The Beauty Jungle (1964, Val Guest) about the dangerous world of beauty contests. Another British film was the drama The Comedy Man (1964, Alvin Rakoff) starring Kenneth More as a struggling actor. He lived in Rome for the rest of his life, and continued to work extensively in Italian B-films and on television. His later films include the spaghetti western Crisantemi per un branco di carogne/Chrysanthemums for a Bunch of Swine (1968, Sergio Pastore), the horror film Thomas e gli indemoniati/Thomas and the Bewitched (1970, Pupi Avati) and the thriller Giornata nera per l'ariete/Evil Fingers (1971, Luigi Bazzoni) starring Franco Nero. He also worked as a voice actor. He dubbed dialogue translated from Italian into English for sales of Italian films in English-speaking countries. During the 1970’s and 1980’s he appeared in interesting films like the crime drama L'onorata famiglia/The honourable family (1974, Tonino Ricci) with Raymond Pellegrin, the TV film Sophia Loren: Her Own Story (1980, Mel Stuart) in which he convincingly played actor-writer-director Vittorio de Sica, and Don Bosco (1988, Leandro Castellani) featuring Ben Gazzara. On TV he was seen in The Scarlet and the Black (1983, Jerry London) starring Gregory Peck, and the mini-series The Winds of War (1983, Dan Curtis) starring Robert Mitchum. In 1984, he directed the horror mystery Don't Open 'Til Christmas, about a psychopath who slaughters Santas. Purdom also played the leading role as a police inspector. It would be his first and last film direction. He was also very active as a sound-engineer for music, recording many classical concerts in Florence and Vienna and devised a technique transferring mono (sound) to stereo. He narrated two Christian documentaries, one on the life of Padre Pio, and 7 Signs of Christ's Return. His final film was the adventure film I cavalieri che fecero l'impresa/The Knights of the Quest (2001, Pupi Avati) starring Raul Bova. Purdom was married four times. His first three wives, all divorced, were actress and ex-ballerina Tita Phillips (1951-1956), the mother of his children; Alicia Darr (1957-1958), and Carlos Thompson and Linda Christian (1962-1963); and. In 2000 he married his fourth wife, the photographer Vivienne Purdom. Edmund Purdom died from heart failure in 2009, in Rome. He was 89. His daughter Lilan Purdom is a journalist with the French television channel TF1.

    Trailer for The Student Prince (1954). Source: Warner Archive (YouTube).

    Sources: Ronald Bergan (The Guardian), Tom Vallance (The Independent), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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  • 03/23/13--00:00: Maria Roasio
  • Italian actress Maria Roasio (? - ?) appeared as a star of the Italian silent cinema of the late 1910's and early 1920's, in particular at the Ambrosio studio.

    Maria Roasio
    American Photocine-postcard by A.G.F.

    Fresh And Natural Acting
    Little is known about the personal life of Maria Roasio. She was born in Milan, but her birthyear is unknown. Her first part was in Febo Mari’s historical film Attila (1918) with Mari himself in the title role and produced by Ambrosio. Roasio played Onoria, the Roman woman who is given to him because he spared the destruction of Rome. But she kills him in their wedding night. The film came out in Italy in February 1918, during the First World War. Pier da Castello in the Italian magazine La vita cinematografica drew a comparison between Attila the Hun and Emperor Wilhelm II, who was considered as the culprit of the First World War and its massive slaughter. Da Castello indicated that Mari’s film appealed to the call of the government to make patriotic films. These must show audiences why the blood-shedding was necessary. He forgave Mari’s ‘playing’ with history. The British magazine Bioscope showed the same permissiveness in their 1918 review of Attila, justifying Mari’s spectacle but also its ideological warning against ‘barbarians’ then and now. Bioscope also praised the beauty of the two leading actresses, newcomer Roasio and Ileana Leonideff as the sensual Bulgarian dancer Ildico – who according to Bioscope had been the real assassin of Attila. Roasio’s success led to star roles in several films by Ambrosio. In La cantoniera n. 13/Roadhouse no. 13 (1919, Luigi Maggi), she played an ex-circus girl, who becomes a signalman and prevents a train crash. One of the survivors is a sculptor, who takes her to the city, where she starts to blossom, causing the jealousy of the sculptor’s lover. In Champagne Caprice (1919, Achille Consalvi) the script was quite silly – about an orphan girl who proves to be a princess daughter and is abducted by a rich gypsy violin player who proves to be her father. The Italian press praised nevertheless the fresh and natural acting by Roasio, so contrasting with the Italian divas. Less fortunate was La Gibigianna (1919, Luigi Maggi) in which all actors, excluding the star Lucy SanGermano, were considered artificial and grotesque. Roasio played a supporting part in the film. Also Zavorra umana/Human Ballast (1919, Gustavo Zaremba de Jaracewsky), in which Roasio had the female lead opposite René Maupré, was condemned by the press because of its banal script and unfitting action scenes. Cuor di ferro e cuor d’oro/Heart of iron and heart of gold (1919, Luigi Maggi, Dante Capelli) was a classic sentimental story about two aristocratic families reconciling because of the love between two members of their families (Roasio and Angelo Vianello). In La farfalla della morte/The butterfly of death (1920, F.G. Viancini, Arturo Ambrosio jr.) Roasio is the rich bride of an entomologist who owns a poisonous exotic butterfly. Under the spell of an adventuress, her husband humiliates her in presence of his lover. The wife tries to commit suicide with the butterfly, but her sister saves the situation. In Sillabe ardenti/Burning Syllables (1920, Achille Consalvi) an ex-prostitute marries and has a child but her husband is informed about her past. When she swears on the head of her gravely ill child that he may die if she betrayed her husband, the child seems to die for real, but resuscitates (of course). In the social drama Gens nova (1920, Luigi Maggi), an aristocratic family unites with that of a farmer. After conflicts because of the pride and stiffness of the aristocracy and feelings of revolt and revenge by the farmers, the story ends with weddings and the message that nobility of labour counts more than aristocracy of the blood. The topic was quite sensible for 1919, a year full of political upheaval in Italy, so e.g. a scene with stones thrown through the window of the count’s villa was eliminated. In another social drama, Terra/Earth (1920, Eugenio Testa), a poor farmer’s family moves to town in hope of better gain, but misery strikes them and the family falls apart. The protagonist Viola (Roasio) is the only one to return to the countryside. The press was split: some thought it unfit for the cinema and wooden, others called it a genuine social drama, while one source remarked the film had been made quite incomprehensible because if the heavy cuts by the censor.

    Maria Roasio
    Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 239.

    Ideology in Silent Film
    Social dramas continued for Maria Roasio in 1921 with Angeli e demoni/Angels and Demons (1921, Luigi Maggi), a miner’s drama about the daughter of an old miner (the angel) and an aggressive head of the miners (the demon). The film was praised for Roasio’s acting but also for the genuine image of work in the mines. The topic which also dealt with strikes, request of salary raises, accidents at work and cruel industrials, alarmed the censors. The whole part of a propagandist had to be eliminated from the film, plus a scene in which a miner was seen hurt by an explosion in the mines. Roasio played that year also in Il castello dei gufi/The castle of the Owls (1921, Max Sullivan), scripted by the future film director Augusto Genina and by Aldo De Benedetti. The story deals with a Russian scientist (Gustavo Serena), who lives in castle of owls where he keeps his niece Maria, supposedly mad, but the man is mad himself. A young, courageous man liberates the girl and punishes the uncle. Apart from a minor film, Il palazzo dei sogni/The Palace of Dreams (1921, Alessandro Rosenfeld), released in Italy only in 1923. Roasio’s main film of 1921 was Mara West (1921, Arturo Rosenfeld), written by Fantasio (Riccardo Artuffo). It is the by now well-known ideology in silent cinema and beyond that women cannot have a career and a happy married life as well. Young Maria leaves home, and becomes the acclaimed actress Mara West. A young actor helps her, they fall in love and have a child. When at the apex of her success, the man leaves the theatre and herself, returning to a normal life. He meets Mara’s sister and marries her, while broken hearted Mara continues her career. The press praised the script, realizing it was a well-known plot, but played out with convincing emotionality. In particular the press praised the scene in which Mara looks out and oversees the dawn of the city, with all the artificial light going out in the centre, connecting this to the end of her own relationship. Also another film scripted by Fantasio and starring Maria Roasio, La rondine/The swallow (1921, Gabriellino D’Annunzio), released in 1922, was praised by the Italian press. The film dealt with a girl who resembles a swallow and who warms the hearts of an old prince and three grandsons living in a cold and boring castle. As of 1922 Roasio’s films were less and less frequently produced. In 1922 she acted in only one film, Manolita (Guido di Sandro), released in 1923, for which the press praised the setting and Roasio’s acting. The plot resembled that of Sillabe ardenti: a poor girl haunted by her dark past, on the verge of being kicked out by her husband. Their little son and this time also the man’s mother provide a reconcilement. In 1923 Roasio played in Notte di tempesta/Stormy night (1923, Riccardo Cassano), shot in Sardinia. Il trittico di Bonnard/Bonnard's Triptych (1924, Mario Bonnard) was a triptych in which Roasio played in A morte/A death, the first part set in the Middle Ages. The press praised the film for is structure – it was the first Italian episode film without a clear thread uniting the different stories. Critics appreciated the upcoming child actor Marcella Sabattini and Rina De Liguoro in the second and third episode. In 1924 Roasio played in La bambola vivente/The living doll (1924, Luigi Maggi), a film designed to establish Roasio as star and launch a Maria Roasio film series, but all to no avail. In 1927 Roasio did a last attempt to revamp her career in I rifuti del Tevere/The Wasted of the Tiber (1927, G. Orlando Vassallo), in which Roasio starred with Raimondo van Riel, Franz Sala and Augusto Bandini. The title hinted at a popular section in the newspaper Il Tevere on Rome’s criminality. According to the press the film was quite successful, even if not being in the range of the kolossal films. What happened with Mario Roasio afterwards we don’t know. Rumour has it that Roasio was the mistress of Arturo Ambrosio. Her date of death is unknown as well. Maria Roasio had a sister Fernanda who also acted in Italian silent cinema in the early 1920's.

    Maria Roasio
    Italian postcard by Ed. Traldi, no. 634. Photo Pinto, Roma.

    Sources: Vittorio Martinelli (Il cinema muto italiano, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921-1922, 1923-1931), and IMDb.

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  • 03/24/13--00:00: Tamara Desni
  • Exotic, brunette actress Tamara Desni (1910 – 2008) was the daughter of Ukrainian-born film star Xenia Desni. Tamara started her stage and film career as a child in Berlin, and appeared in several British films during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

    Tamara Desni
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 6125/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Ufa. Collection: Didier Hanson.

    Tamara Desni
    British postcard for Coliseum Theatre, London. Photo: publicity still for the play Casanova.

    Tamara Desni
    British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, no. 795. Photo: Gaumont.

    Fire Over England
    Tamara Desni was born as Tamara Brodsky, in Berlin in 1910 (some sources say 1913). She was the daughter of Ukrainian-born film star Xenia Desni. She took her mother's surname as her stage-name. Her father, James Brodsky, left his family to settle in the United States. Tamara studied ballet as a child and appeared on stage. In 1929 she married Hans Wilhelm, a dentist while a teenager, but they divorced a year later. She also played in German films like the comedy Der Schrecken der Garnison/Terror of the Garrison (1931, Carl Boese) with Felix Bressart, and Im Geheimdienst/In the Employ of the Secret Service (1931, Gustav Ucicky) starring Brigitte Helm. That same year she came with her mother to London for a stage role in the operetta White Horse Inn (1931). For this spectacular production, credited with saving the Coliseum, which was faltering as a music hall, the entire theatre was transformed into the Tyrol. The production was based on the German operetta Im weissen Roessl, which had been a great success in her then home town, Berlin, the year before. White Horse Inn was a smash hit and ran for 500 performances at the Coliseum Theatre. She followed this up with another leading role at the Coliseum in a German import, the musical Casanova, featuring music by Johann Strauss, Jr. His music was adapted by Ralph Benatsky, who had done much the same kind of thing for White Horse Inn with music from various Viennese composers, including Robert Stolz. Desni's British film career took off with the comedy Falling for You (1933, Robert Stevenson, Jack Hulbert), supporting the popular musical comedy team of Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge. Her next films were the thriller Forbidden Territory (1934, Phil Rosen) starring Gregory Ratoff, another Jack Hulbert comedy Jack Ahoy (1935, Walter Forde) and the musical romance Bypass to Happiness/The Diplomatic Lover (1934, Anthony Kimmins) starring Harold French. She played the lead in Dark World (1935, Bernard Vorhaus), but the film, released by Fox Film Corporation, is now considered lost. Desni played a supporting part in the historical drama Fire Over England (1937, William K. Howard), notable for providing the first pairing of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Leigh's performance in the movie helped to convince David O. Selznick to cast her as Scarlett O'Hara in his production of Gone with the Wind. Mike Cummings at AllMovie: “But what really sets the film apart is the outstanding performance of Flora Robson as a stout-hearted, quick-tongued Queen Elizabeth I. Robson delivers barbs at court as sharp as the crossed swords on the field of battle. In private, though, she exhibits a gentle side, even spoon-feeding broth to her ailing counselor, Baron Burleigh, portrayed with grandfatherly benignity by Morton Selten. The plot moves swiftly, depicting battles, captures, narrow escapes, and wooing on the fly -- all enhanced by the stunning black-and-white cinematography of James Wong Howe. Richard Addinsell serves up a rousing music score, and two of early filmdom's exquisite beauties -- Tamara Desni (Elena) and Vivien Leigh (Cynthia) -- turn strait-laced Elizabethan gowns into fashion statements.”

    Tamara Desni
    Vintage postcard. From Tatiana.

    Tamara Desni
    Vintage postcard. From Tatiana.

    Tamara Desni
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin. Photo: Otto Kurt Vogelsang, Berlin. From Tatiana.

    Tamara Desni
    Vintage postcard. From Tatiana.

    Lithe Steps And High-kicks
    Tamara Desni’s film career continued through 1950. She played the lover of a small-time crook in Edgar Wallace's mystery The Squeaker (1937, William K. Howard), with Robert Newton, Edmund Lowe and Ann Todd. Tom Valance in his obituary in The Independent: “Playing a cabaret performer named Tamara in The Squeaker, she sang two songs, ‘He's Gone’ and ‘I Don't Get Along Without You’, in a light, sub-Dietrich voice, and performed some lithe steps and high-kicks wearing a see-through evening gown.” In the wartime thriller Traitor Spy (1939, Walter Summers) she co-starred with Bruce Cabot. Other film credits include the musical comedy Flight from Folly (1945, Herbert Mason), the crime film Send for Paul Temple (1946, John Argyle) featuring Anthony Hulme, and her final film, Dick Barton Strikes Back (1950, Godfrey Grayson) about special agent Dick Barton (Don Stannard). Tom Vallance: “The radio show Dick Barton – Special Agent (1946) had built an audience of 15 million within a year, and was the third most popular radio show of its time after Radio Forfeits and Woman's Hour, but the investigator's screen adventures were lamentably low-budget, poorly written and weakly acted. Desni was second billed to its star Don Stannard in Dick Barton at Bay, but as Madame Anna, one of the leaders of a gang out to steal a death-ray, she had little to do but accept compliments for her beauty and make observations about her cohorts (‘You're getting jumpy, Fingers’).” Dick Barton Strikes Back was the second of three films Hammer Film Productions made about the British agent, although it was the last released. A fourth Barton film was scheduled, Dick Barton in Africa, but Don Stannard was killed in a car crash driving back from the wrap party and Hammer elected not to continue the series. At the time, Tamara Desni was separating her fourth husband. Her second husband had been actor Bruce Seton, who she had met on the set of the forgettable film Blue Smoke (1935, Ralph Ince) in 1934. They married in 1936, and divorced in 1940. Husband three was film producer Bill Gillet, who served in WWII as a naval flyer. The strains of that ended the marriage in 1945. Husband four was Canadian-born actor Raymond Lovell. They married in 1947, and separated in 1951. Her stepdaughter during this short marriage was the actress Simone Lovell. After her divorce, Desni moved to the South of France, where she became romantically involved with Albert Lavagna, a builder. Given her track record, she did not wish to marry him initially, but when she became pregnant Albert insisted due to his strong religious faith. It was his first marriage and it would last for half a century. They built 'L'Auberge Chez Tamara', a restaurant and bar which became a popular attraction around Grasse in the Alpes Maritimes. The couple had two daughters. While in her late eighties, Tamara Desni’s health began declining. Aged 97 and a widow, she died in Valence d'Agen, France in 2008.

    Tamara and Xenia Desni
    Tamara and Xenia Desni. Photo. Collection: Didier Hanson. Given to Didier by Madeleine, Tamara's daughter.

    Tamara Desni, Xenia Desni
    Tamara Desni, Xenia Desni. Vintage photo. From Tatiana.

    Tamara Desni
    Photo. Collection: Didier Hanson. Tamara Desni and Raymond Lovell wedding 1946. Given to Didier by her daughter.

    Tamara Desni, Raymond Lovell
    Vintage photo of Tamara Desni and Raymond Lovell. Collection: Didier Hanson. Given to Didier by Tamara's daughter.

    Tamara Desni
    British card. Photo: B.I.P. Publicity still for McGlusky the Sea Rover (1935, Walter Summers).

    Thank you, Tatiana and Didier, for sharing your postcards and photos with us!

    Sources: Tom Vallance (The Independent), Mike Cummings (AllMovie), The Telegraph, AllMovie, Wikipedia and IMDb.

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  • 03/25/13--00:00: Zarah Leander
  • Glamorous, mysterious diva Zarah Leander (1907 - 1981) was a Swedish actress and singer, who is now best remembered for her German songs and films from the late 1930's and early 1940's. With her fascinating and deep voice, she sang melancholic and a bit frivolic songs that were specifically composed for her. Zarah was for a time the best-paid film star of the Third Reich. In her Ufa vehicles she always played the role of a cool femme fatale, independently minded, beautiful, passionate, self-confident and a bit sad. It gave her the nickname 'the Nazi Garbo', but a recent book claims that she was in fact a Soviet spy.

    Zarah Leander
    French postcard by EPC, no. 249. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

    Zarah Leander
    French postcard by SERP, Paris, no. 77. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

    Zarah Leander
    French postcard by EPC, no. 29. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

    Zarah Leander
    French postcard by Film-Foto Verlag, Berlin/ Continental Films, Paris, no. 134A. Photo: Ufa.

    A New muse
    Zarah Leander was born Sara Stina Hedberg in Karlstad, Sweden, in 1907. Her parents were Anders Lorentz Sebastian Hedberg and Matilda Ulrika Hedberg. Although she studied piano and violin as a small child, and sang on stage for the first time at the age of six, Sara initially had no intention of becoming a professional performer and led an ordinary life for several years. As a teenager she lived two years in Riga (1922–1924), where she learned German, took up work as a secretary. She married actor Nils Leander in 1926, and they had two children: Boel (1927) and Göran (1929). In 1929 she had her breakthrough when her counter alt voice was recognized by revue king Ernst Rolf. In his touring cabaret she sang for the first time Vill ni se en stjärna (Do you want to see a star?) which soon would become her signature tune. She got a record contract with the Odeon company, for which she recorded 80 songs till 1936. One of the songs she recorded in 1930 was Marlene Dietrich's Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt from Der Blauen Engel/The Blue Angel (1930, Josef von Sternberg). In the early 1930's, Leander played in several shows and performed in three Swedish films, including Dantes Mysterier/Dante's Mysteries (1930, Paul Merzbach) and Falska Millionären/The False Millionaire (1931, André Berthomieu, Paul Merzbach). Her persona in those films was already that of the singing, mundane vamp. She had her definitive break-through as Hanna Glavari opposite the legendary Swedish film star Gösta Ekman in Franz Lehár's operetta Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) (1931). In 1932 she divorced Nils Leander. She declined American work offers but she opted for an international career on the European continent because of her two school-age children. In 1936 she went to Vienna to star at the Theater an der Wien in the operetta Axel an der Himmelstür, composed by Ralph Benatzky and directed by Max Hansen. This parody on Hollywood and Greta Garbo was a huge success. She also got the role of a successful revue star in the Austrian film Premiere (1936, Geza von Bolvary) with Karl Martell. Then she was offered a three-film contract by the German Universum Film AG (Ufa) studio's, as propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels was looking for a new muse of the cinema of the Third Reich. She would earn approximately 200,000 Reichsmark, and 53% of her gage would be paid in Swedish Kronor (crowns). Leander said yes, in spite of the political situation.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 124, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Quick / Ufa.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 203, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Quick / Ufa.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 153, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Quick / Ufa.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard. Editor unknown.

    Yes, Sir
    Zarah Leander's first film at Ufa was Zu neuen Ufern/To New Shores (1936) directed by Detlef Sierck (later known as Douglas Sirk). After the other two films of her contract, La Habanera/Cheated by the Wind (1937, Detlef Sierck) with Ferdinand Marian, and Heimat/Home (1938, Carl Froelich) with Heinrich George, she was so popular that Josef Goebbels, who according to his diaries did not like her, had to continue her contract. On renewal, her salary increased even further, and in 1940 the Ufa would offer her a contract for six films, to be produced in the following two years, for a total of 1 million Reichsmark. Zu neuen Ufern had launched songs such as Ich steh' im Regen (Standing in the rain) and Yes, Sir, that were sold on record in various languages. Actually, these songs earned her more money than her films, even if she was the best paid German female film star in the early 1940's. Her songs Davon geht die Welt nicht runter (It is not the End of the World) and Ich weis, es wird einmal ein Wunder gescheh'n (I Know One Day a Miracle Will Happen) from her film Die grosse Liebe/The Great Love (1942, Rolf Hansen) received double entendre in the time they were distributed and struck chords with the Germans. Among her other films in those years were the comedy Der Blaufuchs/The Blue Fox (1938, Viktor Tourjansky) with Paul Hörbiger, a biopic of Pyotr Ilyich TchaikovskyEs war eine rauschende Ballnacht/It was a Gay Ball Night (1939, Carl Froelich) with Marika Rökk, Der Weg ins Freie/The Way to Freedom (1941, Rolf Hansen) with Hans Stüwe, and the crime film Damals/In the Past (1942, Rolf Hansen) again opposite Hans Stüwe. In her films, Leander often portrayed independent, fatal women, with strong will-power but haunted by destiny. In real life she was a 'tough cookie' too, as she demanded that she should select her own scripts and composers. At a party , Goebbels once asked her ironically: "Zarah... Isn't this a Jewish name?" "Oh, maybe", she answered him, "but what about Josef?" "Hmmm... yes, yes, a good answer", Goebbels had replied, according to IMDb.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 9957/2, 1935-1936. Photo: Gloria-Syndikat-Film.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3474/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Quick / Ufa.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3742/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Quick / Ufa.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3872/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Quick / Ufa.

    Zarah Leander never became a party member and refused to take German citizenship, but her films and song lyrics were viewed by some as propaganda for the Nazi cause. After her villa in the fashionable Berlin suburb of Grunewald was bombed during an air raid in 1942 and the increasingly desperate Nazis pressured her to apply for German citizenship, she decided to break her contract with Ufa. In 1943, she secretly left Germany and retreated to Sweden, where she had bought a mansion at Lönö, not far from Stockholm. Initially she was shunned by much of the artistic community and public in Sweden (In 1936 the reactions had been completely different when she started to work in Nazi-Germany. Most of her Ufa films were very popular in Sweden as in the rest of Europe). In November 1944, Swedish radio decided to no longer play her records. But, as Antje Ascheid describes in her in-depth study Hitler's Heroines, Zarah's role was complex: "She regularly supported communal fundraisers and appeared in 'reguest concerts' - live radio shows in which famous star singers performed songs requested mostly by soldiers at the front - that aired all over the Reich. In addition, Leander was frequently depicted attending social functions at the homes of political leaders, which further linked her ublic persona to Nazi officials in power." After the war she was severely questioned, but in 1947 she managed to record her songs again in Switzerland, where she also sang for the radio. Concert tours followed, first in Switzerland, then in 1948-1949 in Germany; and in 1949 she performed in Sweden again. Leander tried her luck once more in film. Gabriela (1950, Geza von Cziffra) was the third biggest box office hit of that year in Germany. The following films, Cuba Cubana (1952, Fritz Peter Buch) with the new and younger idol O. W. Fischer, and Ave Maria (1953, Alfred Braun) with her old partner Hans Stüwe, were both disappointments.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3872/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Quick / Ufa.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3742/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick / Ufa.

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3474/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Georgi / UFA.

    Zarah Leander, Hans Stüwe
    With Hans Stüwe. German postcard by Ross-Verlag, no. A 3145/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Lindner / Ufa.

    Thus Zarah Leander's film career came to an end, even though she still did four more films till 1966. Her last film was the Italian comedy Come imparai ad amare le donne/Love Parade (1966, Luciano Salce) with Michèle Mercier, Nadja Tiller and Anita Ekberg. Leander would continue with musicals and operettas on stage however, and she also sang her by now evergreens in TV-shows. She published her memoirs, Zarah's minnen (Zarah's memories), in 1972. In 1975 she played in her last musical, Das Lächeln einer Sommernacht by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler based on Ingmar Bergman's 1955 film Sommernattens leende (Smiles of a Summer Night). In 1979 Zarah Leander officially retired and in 1981 she died of a stroke in Stockholm and was buried on her estate Lönö. She was married three times. After Nils Leander she was married to journalist Vidar Forsell (1932-1943). Her third husband was pianist Arne Hülphers from 1956 till his death in 1978. In 2003 a bronze statue was raised in Zarah Leander's hometown of Karlstad at the Opera house of Värmland where she began her career. After years of discussions, the town government at last accepted this statue on behalf of the first Swedish local Zarah Leander Society. A year later the book The Mystery of Olga Chekhova (2004) by Anthony Beevor was published, in which the author claimed that both Olga Tschechova and Zarah Leander worked for Soviet intelligence during World War II. According to the author she supplied information about Nazi Germany to a Soviet contact during her visits home to Sweden. In Germany, Zarah Leander is still an icon of the gay community, and her persona has been recreated by many drag queens. Performers like Nina Hagen have covered her songs, and director Quentin Tarantino used her song Davon geht die Welt nicht runter (It is not the End of the World) in his successful war thriller Inglourious Basterds (2009).

    Zarah Leander
    German postcard by Das Programm von heute/Ross Verlag. Photo: Ufa-Baumann. Publicity still for Das Herz einer Königin/A Queen's Heart (1940, Carl Froehlich) on the life of the Scottish Queen Mary Stuart.

    Zarah Leander sings Kann denn liebe sünde sein? (Can Love be a Sin?) in Der Blaufuchs/The Blue Fox (1938). Source: zarahlilawen (YouTube).

    Zarah Leander sings Davon geht die Welt nicht runter (It is not the End of the World) in Die grosse Liebe/The Great Love (1942). Song writer Bruno Balz wrote this song in 1941, when he was in Gestapo arrest because of his homosexuality. Source: zarahlilawen (YouTube).

    A campy Zarah Leander sings Wunderbar in 1977 at one of her last concerts in Stockholm. Source: Creaturefree (YouTube).

    Sources: Antje Ascheid (Hitler's Heroines), Paul Seiler (Das Zarah-Leander-Archiv), Lennart Haglund (Find A Grave), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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  • 03/26/13--00:00: Bernhard Wicki
  • Swiss actor Bernhard Wicki (1919 – 2000) was a star of the German cinema in the 1950’s. After his successful direction of Die Brücke/The Bridge (1959), he directed several international co-productions during the 1960’s.

    Bernhard Wicki
    German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. F 120. Photo: Huster.

    Bernhard Wicki, Hilde Krahl, Ewiger Walzer
    German postcard by DLF. Promotion card for Ewiger Walzer/The Eternal Waltz (1954, Paul Verhoeven).

    Bernhard Wicki
    German postcard by ISV, no. M 9. Photo: Real / Europa-Film / Gabrielle.

    Concentration Camp
    Bernhard Wicki was born in St. Pölten, Austria in 1919. His father was a Swiss engineer and co-owner of a machine factory, and his mother was Austrian with Hungarian roots. He studied Art History, History and German Literature in Breslau. In 1938, he transferred to the drama school of the Staatliches Schauspielhaus in Berlin under Gustav Gründgens. In 1939, because of his membership in the Bündischen Jugend (a forbidden, non-Nazi youth organization) he was imprisoned for ten months in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He was released after an intervention by Gründgens, and moved to Vienna, where he studied acting and directing at the Max Reinhardt Drama School. At Schönbrunn Palace Theatre he played the Urfaust, and had further engagements in Bremen, at the Salzburg Festival, in Basel and Zurich. He married actress Agnes Fink. Before the end of the war, they moved to Switzerland, where they performed at the Schauspielhaus Zürich. There he met author Friedrich Dürrenmatt, who became a lifelong friend. In 1940, Wicki had made his film debut as an extra in the Alexander Pushkin adaptation Der Postmeister/The Stationmaster (1940, Gustav Ucicky) starring Emil Jannings and Hilde Krahl. Ten years later, after the end of World War II, he played his second, small part in Der fallende Stern/The Falling Star (1950, Harald Braun) with Werner Krauss. He had his breakthrough in the war drama Die letzte Brücke/The Last Bridge (1953, Helmut Käutner) with Maria Schell. In Ewiger Walzer/The Eternal Waltz (1954, Paul Verhoeven) he portrayed Johann Strauss II. Other films were Das zweite Leben/A Double Life (1954, Victor Vicas) with Michel Auclair, and the war film Kinder, Mütter und ein General/Children, Mother, and the General (1955, László Benedek), starring Hilde Krahl. He appeared as Oberst Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg in Es geschah am 20. Juli/It Happened on July 20th (1955, Georg Wilhelm Pabst), a dramatic reconstruction of the July 1944 attempt by German Army Officers to assassinate Hitler with a bomb and end the war before Germany was totally destroyed. Popular successes were Skandal um Dr. Vlimmen/Scandal surrounding Dr. Vlimmen (1956, Arthur Maria Rabenalt), and the comedy Die Zürcher Verlobung/Getting Engaged in Zürich (1957, Helmut Käutner) starring Liselotte Pulver.

    Bernhard Wicki
    German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. A 1125. Photo: H. Grimm / Rhombus / Süd-Film / Herzog-Film. Publicity still for Gefangene der Liebe/Prisoners of Love (1954, Rudolf Jugert).

    Bernhard Wicki
    German postcard by Ufa, no. FK 3826. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Weisse / Berolina / DFH.

    Oscar Nomination
    In 1952, Bernhard Wicki saw a photography exhibition of the Magnum agency in Luzern, and he decided to learn photography. He asked director Helmut Käutner to be a camera assistant on the film Monpti (1957, Helmut Käutner) starring Romy Schneider. His first attempt at directing came with the documentary Warum sind sie gegen uns?/Why are they against us? (1958). He became internationally famous with his anti-war film Die Brücke/The Bridge (1959), in which he tells the tragic story of the senseless defense of a bridge by youths (among who Fritz Wepper) at the end of World War IIr. Die Brücke is based on the eponymous 1958 novel by journalist and writer Gregor Dorfmeister (published under the pseudonym Manfred Gregor). The story was based on an actual event, upon the personal report of a surviving veteran who in his own youth experienced a similar situation in World War II. Die Brücke won four awards at the German Film Awards in 1960, and also received several international prizes, notably the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, but lost to the French film Black Orpheus. Wicki had a supporting role in another classic, Antonioni’s drama La Notte/The Night (1961, Michelangelo Antonioni) starring Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, and Monica Vitti. The film about a day in the life of an unfaithful married couple and their deteriorating relationship, received the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, in 1961. That year, Wicki himself won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the festival for his film The Miracle of Father Malachia/Das Wunder des Malachias (1961, Bernhard Wicki) starring Horst Bollmann. The film is based on the 1938 novel Father Malachy's Miracle by Bruce Marshall and tells the story of a supposed miracle in a West German town that is soon exploited and sensationalized by the media and profiteers. The film won several awards and was the official West German submission to the 34th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. The international attention for his films resulted in Wicki’s participation in co-directing the classic war film The Longest Day (1962). Two years later followed The Visit (1964, Bernhard Wicki). This was an international coproduction, distributed by 20th Century Fox, and starring Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn. It was an adaptation from Friedrich Dürrenmatt's 1956 play Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit of the Old Lady). A year later followed Morituri/The Saboteur (1965, Bernhard Wicki) about the sabotage of a German merchant ship full of rubber. The film starring Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner, and Trevor Howard, did not do well on its original release, probably at least in part because few people understood its title. In an attempt to be more commercial, the film was reissued as Saboteur: Code Name Morituri, and was nominated for two Oscars.

    Bernhard Wicki
    German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. S 596. Photo: Gabriele / Rank Film / Real Film.

    Bernhard Wicki
    German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 171. Photo: Constantin.

    Bernhard Wicki
    German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/West., no. 1924. Photo: Bayer / Divina / Gloria Film. Publicity still for Weil du arm bist, musst du früher sterben (1956, Paul May).

    Golden Palm
    After the financial failure of Morituri, Bernhard Wicki returned to acting. He often appeared on TV such as in the mini-series Affäre Dreyfuss/The Dreyfuss Affair (1968, Franz Josef Wild) as Emile Zola. He played a role in the West-German western Carlos (1971, Hans W. Geißendörfer) starring Gottfried John and Anna Karina, Ace Up My Sleeve (1976, Ivan Passer) starring Omar Sharif, and appeared in the art house hit Die linkshändige Frau/The Left-Handed Woman (1978, Peter Handke) produced by Wim Wenders. Wicki directed the West German drama Die Eroberung der Zitadelle/The Conquest of the Citadel (1977, Bernhard Wicki), which was entered into the 27th Berlin International Film Festival. He had a small role in Despair (1978, Rainer Werner Fassbinder) with Dirk Bogarde, and played Romy Schneider’s father in the science fiction film La Mort en direct/Death Watch (1980, Bertrand Tavernier). Four years later he had a supporting part in Paris, Texas (1984, Wim Wenders) starring Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski. The film won the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Other films include Frühlingssinfonie/Spring Symphony (1983, Peter Schamoni) starring Nastassja Kinski, Eine Liebe in Deutschland/A Love in Germany (1983, Andrzej Wajda) with Hanna Schygulla, and Killing Cars (1986, Michael Verhoeven) with Jürgen Prochnow. Wicki’s last direction was Das Spinnennetz/Spider's Web (1989, Bernhard Wicki) based on the novel by Joseph Roth. In this film he shows the risk of entanglement of the German bourgeoisie in extreme right-wing ideology and anti-Semitism in the Weimar Republic. Since 1990, Wicki was a patron of the International Film Festival in Emden-Norderney. His later films as an actor include Erfolg/Success (1991, Frans Seitz) with Bruno Ganz, Prinzenbad (1993, Richard Blank) and Das Geheimnis/The secret (1994, Michael Schottenberg). Bernhard Wicki died in 2000 in Munich, Germany. He was married twice. First to actress Agnes Fink, and after her death to actress Elisabeth Endriss. After Wicki’s death, a fund was started in 2001 and named after him in Munich, the Bernhard Wicki Memorial Fund. Since 2002, it has awarded a film prize, The Bridge, considered a peace prize. A further prize was endowed in 2006 with 15,000 euros, a prize given in the city of Emden since 2000. In the documentary Verstörung - und eine Art von Poesie/Distraction - and a kind of poetry (2007), Elisabeth Wicki-Endriss portrayed the life and work of Bernhard Wicki.

    Unofficial trailer Die Brücke/The Bridge (1959). Source: Filmidiote (YouTube).

    Trailer The Visit (1964). Source: OldHollywoodTrailers (YouTube).

    Trailer Das Spinnennetz/Spider's Web (1989). Source: Arild Rafalzik (YouTube).

    Sources: Wikipedia (English and German) and IMDb.

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  • 03/27/13--00:00: Nicolas Koline
  • Nicolas Koline (1878 - 1966) was one of the Russian actors fleeing from the country after the revolution. He played in several French and German films directed by Russian emigré directors.

    Nicolas Koline as Tristan Fleuri in Napoléon
    French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 460. Photo: publcity still of Nicolas Koline as Tristan Fleuri in Napoléon (1927, Abel Gance).

    Nathalie Lissenko, Nicolas Koline & Nicolas Rimsky in Calvaire d'amour
    French postcard, with names written in Russian. The Russian actors Nathalie Lissenko, Nicolas Koline and Nicolas Rimsky in the Albatros producton Calvaire d'amour (1923, Viktor Tourjansky).

    Between Yalta and Paris
    Nicolas Koline was born Nikolaj Kolin in Russia in 1878. He was one of the Russian actors fleeing from the country after the revolution and during the Civil War. Together with his compatriots he moved to France. There he played in several films directed by Russian emigré directors. The first was L'angoissante aventure/Agonizing Adventure (1920, Yakov Protazanov), a film with several fled Russian actors: Ivan Mozzhukhin (the lead and the scriptwriter of the film, together with Alexander Volkov), Nathalie Lissenko, Dimitri Buchowetzki, Vera Orlova and Nicolas Panoff. The film was started during the trip of the emigrés from Yalta to Paris and finished in the Montreuil studio in Paris. It was the second film of the Ermolieff company, which a few years after turned into Albatros Films. The newly formed company Ermolieff Films (1920) gathered the Russian emigrés; this also included Russian cameramen such as Fédote Bourgassoff and Nicolas Toporkoff.

    Nicolas Koline
    German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1063/1, 1927-1928. Photo: DeWesti Film-Verleih.

    Leading Parts
    After this first film Nicolas Koline appeared in La tourmente/The Storm (1921, Serge Nadejdine), Justice d'abord/Justice at First (1921, Yakov Protazanov), Les Contes de mille et une nuits/The Tales of a Thousand and One Nights (1921, Viatcheslav/Victor/Viktor Tourjansky), the serial La maison du mystère (1922, Alexander Volkov) which was also released as a feature, Nuit de carnaval (1922, Viktor Tourjansky), and Calvaire d'amour/Ordeal of Love (1923, Viktor Tourjansky). Koline had leading parts in Le brasier ardent/The Burning Brazier (1923, Ivan Mozzhukin, Alexander Volkov), Le Chant de l'amour triomphant/The Triumphant Love Song (1923, Viktor Tourjansky 1923), and Kean/Edmund Kean: Prince Among Lovers (1923, Alexander Volkov). He was even the main star of Le Chiffonnier de Paris/The Ragman of Paris (1924, Serge Nadejdine), after the famous drama by Félix Pyat. In the same year he played leading roles opposite Nathalie Kovanko and Nicolas Rimsky in La Dame masquée/The Masked Lady (1924, Viktor Tourjansky) and opposite Andrée Brabant and again Rimsky in La Cible/The Target (1924, Serge Nadejdine).

    Nicolas Koline
    French postcard by Cinémagazine Editions, no. 135.

    In the late 1920's, Nicolas Koline started to play in German films by the UFA. First he appeared in the Franco-German coproduction Die geheimnisse des Orients/The Secrets of the Orient (1928, Alexander Volkov), a film with an internatinal cast including Hungarian Ivan Petrovich, Italian Marcella Albani and French Gaston Modot. It was followed by Hurrah! Ich lebe!/Hurray! I Live! (1928, Wilhelm Thiele) where Koline played opposite his compatriot Natalia Lissenko, and Gaukler/Les saltimbanques (1929/1930), a multilingual directed by Robert Land in the German version and by Jacquelux in the French version.

    Nicolas Koline
    Vintage postcard.

    Viktor Tourjansky
    From 1934 on, Nicolas Koline played minor parts in German films such as the coproduction Variétés/Vaudevilles (1935, Nicolas Farkas) with Annabella, Menschen ohne Vaterland/People Without Fatherland (1936, Herbert Maisch) with Willy Fritsch, Patrioten/Patriots (1937, Karl Ritter) with Lida Baarova, Ab Mitternacht/From Midnight (1938, Carl Hoffmann) with Gina Falckenberg, and several films directed by Victor Tourjansky: Geheimzeichen LB17/Secret Sign LB17 (1938), Der Gouverneur/The Governor (1939), Feinde/Enemies (1940), and in particular Illusion (1941) with Johannes Heesters and Brigitte Horney, and Tonelli (1943) with Ferdinand Marian and Winnie Markus. Koline had one major part in those years, in Johann (1943, Robert A. Stemmle). He also played several small roles until the end of the decade. He appeared in films by a.o. G.W. Pabst and Hans Steinhoff such as Komödianten/The Comedians (1941) and Rembrandt (1942).

    Nathalie Kovanko & Nicolas Koline in La dame masquée
    Nathalie Kovanko & Nicolas Koline in La dame masquée
    Belgian postcard. Verso. Publicity postcard for the screening of the Albatros production La dame masquée (1924, Viktor Tourjansky) at the Brussels Ciné Palladium, from 12 to 18 September 1924. Palladium was a Brussels cinema on the Rue Neuve No. 35. It opened in 1920 and probably closed in 1954, at the opening of its neighbour on no. 37, cinema Astor.

    Zarah Leander
    After the war, Nicolas Koline remained in Germany and played small parts in films from 1947 on again, but in 1948 he also had a major lead again in Tragödie einer Leidenschaft/Tragedy of a Passion by Kurt Meisel, an adaptation of the Nikolai Leskov novel. Koline continued to play in German films until his death in 1954. He usually played small parts but occasionally a bigger one as in Cuba Cabana (1952, Fritz Peter Buch), starring Zarah Leander. Some of Koline's parts were again in films by Tourjansky, such as Dreimal Komödie/Three Times Comedy (1949), Der blaue Strohhut/The Blue Straw Hat (1949) and Salto mortale (1953). Nicolas Koline died in 1954.

    Nicolas Koline
    French postcard.

    Sources: François Albéra, Albatros - des Russes à Paris 1919-1929 (1995), filmportal.de, and IMDb.

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  • 03/27/13--00:55: Guest post on Starland
  • Please check out Starland. Edited by my friend David - better known as Bunched Undies, Starland is is one of my favourite 'Stars in the Blogosphere'. David invited me for a guest post and I decided to write about the poster De vrouw met den blauwvos (The woman with the blue fox) for the film Der blaufuchs (1938, Victor Tourjansky) featuring Zarah Leander.

    Vrouw met den blauwvos, 1938

    Frans Mettes
    This poster from the collection of the EYE Film Institute Netherlands in Amsterdam was created by Dutch artist and illustrator Frans Mettes. Gielijn Escher,Paul Mertz and I co-wrote a book on Mettes, Frans Mettes Affichevirtuoos (yes, in Dutch). It got very kind reviews in the Dutch newspapers De Volkskrant and Het Parool. This Friday, Starland will publish a review (in English) and a short interview with me about Frans Mettes Affichevirtuoos.

    David, thank you!

    Walter Slezak
    Bob a.k.a. Paul van Yperen

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  • 03/28/13--00:00: Helen Vita
  • Helen Vita (1928 - 2001) was a Swiss cabaret singer, actress and comedian, who appeared in 58 films. During the 1950’s, she was the sexy counterpart to Caterina Valente and Sonja Ziemann in silly schlager and heimat films. Later she played Fraulein Kost alongside Liza Minnelli in the classic musical Cabaret and appeared in films directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

    Helen Vita
    German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 3763. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Arthur Grimm / Arca / NF.

    Helen Vita
    German collector's card. Photo: Divina / Gloria-Film / Bayer.

    Bertolt Brecht
    Helen Vita was born Helene Vita Elisabeth Reichel in Hohenschwangau, Germany in 1928. She was the daughter of concert master Anton Reichel and solo cellist Jelena Pacic. After the expulsion from Germany in 1939, the family moved to Geneva in Switzerland. Helen studied at the Conservatoire de Genève, where she got lessons from Françoise Rosay. In 1945 she made her stage debut in Geneva. A year later she performed at the Theatre du Vieux Colombier in Paris. In France she also appeared in the film Torrents (1947, Serge de Poligny) with Georges Marchal. For two years she was then engaged at the Schauspielhaus in Zurich, where she took part in the premiere of Bertolt Brecht’s epic comedy Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (Mr Puntila and his Man Matti) in 1948. Bertolt Brecht was also the discoverer of her comic talent and encouraged her to do cabaret. She did not join him at the Berliner Ensemble though, because she did not share Brecht’s enthusiasm for a socialist Germany. Instead, she joined in 1949, the Zürich Cabaret Fédéral. She played in the Swiss film Der Geist von Allenwil/The spirit of Allenwil (1950, Max Haufler). In 1952 she went to Munich and played at the cabaret-theatre Die Kleine Freiheit (The Little Freedom), for which Erich Kästner wrote the texts. Here she met Friedrich Hollaender, whose songs she took into her repertoire. Later, she appeared at the Berlin cabaret-theatre Die Wühlmäuse. In the early 1950’s, Helen Vita had been discovered for the German cinema, and appeared in films like Palace Hotel (1952, Emil Berna, Leonard Steckel) with Paul Hubschmid, and the comedy Die kleine Stadt will schlafen gehen/The Little Town Will Go to Sleep (1954, Hans H. König) starring Gustav Fröhlich. A breakthrough was her role opposite Joachim Fuchsberger in the 08/15-trilogy (1954-1955, Paul May) based on the war novels by Hans Hellmut Kirst. In the following decades, she starred in more than 100 films and television productions. These were mostly Heimat films as Zwei blaue Augen/Two Blue Eyes (1955, Gustav Ucicky) with Marianne Koch, schlager musicals like Bonjour Kathrin (1956, Karl Anton) and sex farces in which she often played the buxom counterpart to Caterina Valente and Sonja Ziemann. The sex bomb cliché stuck to her for years. Different was her role of Cornelia Gatzka fit in the television classic Am grünen Strand der Spree/At the green beach of the Spree (1960, Fritz Umgelter), with Gerhard Just and Günter Pfitzmann. Another success was the romantic comedy Ferien auf Immenhof/Holiday at Immenhof (1957, Hermann Leitner) from the film series about the pony hotel Immenhof. In 1956 she married Swiss composer Walter Baumgartner and had two sons with him.

    Helen Vita
    German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. T 646. Photo: K.-L. Haenchen / Real Film / Rank Film.

    Helen Vita
    German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Georg Bockemühl.

    Sassy Songs
    In 1965 Helen Vita moved into their second home in Berlin. In 1966, she recorded Freche Chansons aus dem alten Frankreich (Sassy songs from the old French), traditional French chansons translated into German by Walter Brandin. The frivolous, explicit but relatively harmless content of the folk and children's songs was under scrutiny by the conservative courts in Germany before the Protests of 1968. What followed were years of legal battles: the songs were banned by the state, there were penalty orders issued, verdicts were announced and cancelled, processes reopened. The banned records were sold under the counter, and became very successful. Critics praised the songs and Vita received the German Record Prize twice. She also recorded Dolce Helen Vita Vol. I and Vol. II, which contained ‘bawdy songs’ from English troubadours. In the cinema she appeared in Ganovenehre/A Scoundrel's Honour (1966, Wolfgang Staudte) with Gert Fröbe, and the remake Die Feuerzangenbowle/The Fire Tongue Bowl (1970, Helmut Käutner) with Walter Giller. Better known internationally is her role as Fräulein Kost in the musical Cabaret (1972, Bob Fosse) alongside Liza Minnelli and Michael York. Vita was most proud of her roles in some films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. She appeared in his films Satansbraten/Problem Child (1976) with Kurt Raab, and Lili Marleen (1981) featuring Hanna Schygulla. She also played in his monumental TV series Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980, Rainer Werner Fassbinder). During her film career, Vita always kept her passion for the ‘serious’ theatre. She performed in classics by Shakespeare, Molière and Goethe, but convinced as well as in modern plays by Thornton Wilder, TS Eliot or Hans Henny Jahnn. Alongside Hans Albers, she starred in Liliom and later played for many years an acclaimed ‘Pirate Jenny’ in Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) at the Munich Volkstheater. Later she had numerous solo programs in which she performed repertoire by Hollaender, Brecht/Weill, Kästner and Tucholsky. In the late 1990’s, she had her last major success with Evelyn Künneke and Brigitte Mira as one of the Drei alte Schachteln (three old boxes). Helen Vita died from cancer in 2001 in Berlin. She was 72.

    Scene from Satansbraten/Problem Child (1976). Source: BubbafromNepal (YouTube).

    Helen Vita sings Der Bauch muss weg. Source: Haraldius (YouTube).

    Sources: Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-Line) (German), Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

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