26 September 2016

Louis Bouwmeester

Every year in early autumn, the Netherlands Film Festival (NFF) takes place. For ten days, the city of Utrecht is the cinema capital of the Netherlands, and we join the fun with our own Unofficial Dutch Film Star Postcards Festival (UDFSPF). Dutch stage and film actor Louis Bouwmeester (1842-1925) is often seen as ‘the greatest actor of the Netherlands’ ever. He was born in a dynasty of traveling actors and some of his 12 children would become well known actors too. His career span 65 years, and included several silent films.

Louis Bouwmeester as Shylock
Dutch postcard by N.J. Boon, Amsterdam. Photo: Louis Bouwmeester as Shylock in the play The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.

Louis Bouwmeester
Dutch postcard from 1910 showing Louis Bouwmeester as Shylock.


Louis Frederik Johannes Bouwmeester was born in Middelharnis in 1842. His parents were the traveling actors Louis Rosenfeldt and Louisa Bouwmeester. He had three siblings and his youngest sister became the famous actress Theo Mann-Bouwmeester.

Louis started his stage career as a young boy and he would continue to play till he was 82. He made his start in popular melodramas, but in 1880 he was engaged by the prestigious theatre company Het Nederlandsch Tooneel (The Dutch Stage). There he became famous for his passionate and fiery roles in classic tragedies and comedies by William Shakespeare, Molière, Sophocles and Joost van den Vondel.

Bouwmeester caused a sensation in 1880 with his Shylock in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Recordedly, his Shylock was a rendering of remarkable originality and great tragic force. In the following forty years he would play this part over two thousand times.

The role established his fame throughout Europe. He played Shylock at the Comédie Francaise in Paris, in the Royal Theatre Berlin (1911), the Burgtheater in Vienna (1921) and in the Duke of York’s Theatre in London (1920).

The Times wrote in 1920 that Bouwmeester “speaking his native language, roused his English auditors to the highest pitch of excitement and enthusiasm.”

Louis Bouwmeester
Dutch postcard by Uitg. N.J. Boon, Amsterdam. Sent by mail in 1901. Photo: publicity still for the stage play Gier-Wally (Die Geier-Wally/The Vulture Maiden, 1885) by Wilhelmina von Hillern.

Louis Bouwmeester as Herod(es)
Dutch postcard by Ed. N.J. Boon, Amsterdam. The card seems dated as 14 December 1901. Louis Bouwmeester as Herod. It was on 19 December 1901 that Bouwmeester first performed Herod, a part created in 1900 by Herbert Beerbohm Tree on basis of a text by Stephan Phillips. Bouwmeester did so at his regular stage company Nederlandsch Tooneel, during a special night to remember the 40 years of his stage career.

Car Accident

Strikingly Louis Bouwmeester was the first major Dutch actor who worked for the cinema. In 1909 he made his film debut in De Greep/The Grip (Leon Boedels, 1909) based on La griffe by Jean Sartène, produced by Filmfabriek F.A. Nöggerath.

Between 1909 and 1924 he acted in several more silent films, including the Dutch-French coproduction Het vervloekte Geld/L'or qui brule/Arson at Sea (Alfred Machin, 1911-1912), Koning Oedipus/Oedipus (Leon Boedels, 1912), Fatum (Theo Frenkel, 1915) with Henriëtte Davids, De duivel in Amsterdam/The Devil in Amsterdam (Theo Frenkel, 1918) with Eduard Verkade, and Pro Domo (Theo Frenkel, 1918).

In Pro Domo, his sister Theo Mann-Bouwmeester appeared as his wife and their grand-niece Lily Bouwmeester played their daughter.

His last film part was as a circus director in Cirque Hollandais/Circus Hollandais (Theo Frenkel, 1924) with a young Johan Heesters in a supporting part. Bouwmeester was already more than 80 years old, when he played this role.

Sadly only fragments of his feature films have survived. He often performed live in cinemas before the screenings.

Bouwmeester died in Amsterdam in 1925 after a car accident. In 1955 the Louis d’Or, the award for the best male stage performance in The Netherlands was named after him. Among his many children of his six marriages and several extra-marital relationships are the actresses Tilly Perin-Bouwmeester and Wiesje Bouwmeester. Actor Henri de Vries was his nephew and the film actresses Dolly Bouwmeester and Lily Bouwmeester were grand-nieces.

Louis Bouwmeester
Modern Dutch postcard. Louis Bouwmeester as Jacques Frochard in the stage play De Twee Weezen (Les Deux Orphelines/The Two Orphans) by Adolph D'Ennery and Eugene Cormon, 1875. Photo: Albert Greiner.

Louis Bouwmeester
Modern Dutch postcard by Witcard, Amsterdam. Photo: collection Nederlands Theater Instituut, Amsterdam. Publicity still for the stage tragedy Narciss (Narziss/Narcisse, 1875) by Albert Emil Brachvogel.

Louis Bouwmeester
Dutch postcard in the series Hollandsche Kunstenaars (Dutch Artists) by Nederlandsche Uitgevers-Mij, Den Haag, 1920, Series I. Photo: Frits Geveke.

Sources: Simon Koster (De Bouwmeesters - Dutch), H.H.J. de Leeuwe ( - Dutch), Film in NL (Eye - Dutch), Een leven lang theater (Dutch), Wikipedia (Dutch) and IMDb.

25 September 2016

Johannes Heesters

Every year in early autumn, the Netherlands Film Festival (NFF) takes place. For ten days, the city of Utrecht is the cinema capital of the Netherlands, and we join the fun with our own Unofficial Dutch Film Star Postcards Festival (UDFSPF). Dutch born actor, singer, and entertainer Johannes Heesters (1903-2011) was active both on stage, television and in film. The Dutch tenor was specialized in the Viennese operetta. His 91-year career began in Amsterdam in 1920 and in 1935 Heesters moved to Germany. There he enjoyed many successes and reportedly became 'Adolf Hitler’s favourite actor', which would colour his further career.

Johannes Heesters
Czech postcard, no. 2071-B. Photo: UFA.

Johannes Heesters
German postcard by Verlag und Druckerei Erwin Preuss, Dresden-Freital. Photo: Charlott Serda.

Johannes Heesters
German collectors card by Lux.

Johannes Heesters
Vintage promotion card.

From Amsterdam to Vienna

Johan Marius Nicolaas Heesters was born in 1903 in Amersfoort, Netherlands. 'Jopie' made his stage debut in 1921 as a 17-year-old.

In 1923 he had his first singing role in a Dutch stage production of August Strindbergs Ett Drőmspel (A Dream Play). Many roles in operettas like Walzertraum, Dreimäderlhaus and König der Vagabunden followed.

A year later he made his film debut in the Dutch silent film Cirque hollandais/Dutch Circus (Theo Frenkel, 1924) starring the legendary stage actor Louis Bouwmeester.

When sound film was introduced, Johan Heesters played and sang in the Dutch film comedies Bleeke Bet (Alex Benno, Richard Oswald, 1934) and De vier Mullers/The Four Mullers (Rudolf Meinert, 1935). The latter was filmed in Vienna and was also shot there in a German spoken version as Alles für die Firma/Everything for the Firm (Rudolf Meinert, 1935).

In 1934 Heesters had made his Viennese stage debut at the Volksoper in Karl Millöcker's Der Bettelstudent/The Beggar Student. It was a huge success and many more operettas followed. Over the decades, Da geh' ich ins Maxim, Count Danilo Danilovitch's entrance song from Franz Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe/The Merry Widow would become Heesters's signature tune. He played Danilo with white silk scarf and top hat for 32 years 1600 times on stage, from 1938 to 1970.

Johannes Heesters, Bleeke Bet
Dutch postcard by M. B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Monopole Film, Rotterdam / Maarseveen, Den Haag. Publicity still for Bleeke Bet (1934).

Fien de la Mar in Bleeke Bet
Photo: Monopole Film, Rotterdam / Maarseveen, Den Haag. Publicity still for Bleeke Bet (1934). Johan Heesters as the bridegroom at the far right.

Johannes Heesters in De vier Mullers (1935)
Dutch postcard by Habé Film. Sent by mail in 1935. Photo: publicity still for De Vier Mullers/The Four Mullers (Rudolf Meinert, 1935).

Johan Kaart en Johan Heesters in De Vier Mullers
Dutch postcard by Habé Film. Photo: publicity still for De Vier Mullers/The Four Mullers (Rudolf Meinert, 1935) with Johan Kaart.

Johannes Heesters (1903 - 2011)
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 143, 1941-1944. Photo: Berlin-Film / Wesel.

Happy 107, Johannes Heesters
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3479/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / UFA.

Dream Couple

From 1936 on, Johannes Heesters played in various Ufa films. Many of his stage successes were also made into musical films, such as the Der Bettelstudent/The Beggar Student (Georg Jacoby, 1936) with Carola Höhn.

In Gasparone (1937, Georg Jacoby) and the musical Hallo Janine!/Hello, Janine! (1939, Carl Boese), he starred with Marika Rökk. They were called the Dream Couple of the German Musical film.

Other popular films with Heesters were Das Hofkonzert/The Court Concert (Detlev Sierck aka Douglas Sirk, 1936) with Márta Eggerth; and Illusion (Viktor Tourjansky, 1941) with Brigitte Horney.

In the spring of 1939 he performed in the operetta Gräfin Mariza/Countess Maritza in Amsterdam and The Hague with an ensemble of emigrated Jewish performers. The Nazis later criticized him for this cooperation, but till almost the end of WW II Heesters worked extensively for the Nazi-controlled UFA.

His last wartime film was Die Fledermaus/The Bat (Géza von Bolváry, 1946, produced in 1945) with Marte Harell. After the war he was never accused of being a Nazi propagandist, and the Allies allowed him to continue performing in post-war Germany and Austria.

He played both on the stage and in films. Die Czardasfürstin/The Csardas Princess (Georg Jacoby, 1951) reunited him with Marika Rökk. Memorable was his lead in the film Bel Ami (Louis Daquin, 1955). Little known is his part in the German version of Otto Preminger's The Moon is Blue, entitled Die Jungfrau auf dem Dach/The Girl on the Roof (Otto Preminger, 1953).

After the Schlagerfilm Junge Leute brauchen Liebe/Young People Need Love (Géza von Cziffra, 1961) with Conny Froboess and Peter Weck, he stopped making films and concentrated on stage and television appearances and on producing records.

Johannes Heesters
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3713/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Berlin-Film / Wesel.

Johannes Heesters
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3713/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Manninger / Berlin-Film.

Happy 107, Johannes Heesters
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3713/3, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / UFA.

Johannes Heesters
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 109, ca. 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / Bavaria Filmkunst.

Johannes Heesters
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3570/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / Bavaria Filmkunst.

Booed Off the Stage

Johannes Heesters had moved to Germany in 1935. There he performed for Adolf Hitler (according to IMDb he was the Führer’s favourite actor) and he visited the Dachau concentration camp. After the war, many Dutch people could not forgive him this visit. In the early 1960s he was booed off the stage in Amsterdam when he tried to make a comeback in the Netherlands with The Sound of Music.

Since then he performed notably in Germany and Austria. Heesters has two daughters by his first wife, the Belgian actress Louise ‘Wiesje’ Ghijs, whom he married in 1930 and who was his co-star in De vier Mullers (Rudolf Meinert, 1935).

After her death in 1985, Heesters remarried in 1991 with German actress Simone Rethel. His younger daughter Nicole Heesters and his granddaughter Saskia Fischer are well-known actresses in the German-speaking countries.

In 2008 he apologised for his cooperation with the Nazi regime. In February of that year Johannes Heesters performed in his birthplace Amersfoort. This was the first stage appearance in four decades in his home country. Despite protests against his Nazi associations the performance became a triumph for the old star.

In 2008 he also played a scene in another film, 1 1/2 Ritter - Auf der Suche nach der hinreißenden Herzelinde/1½ Knights - In Search of the Ravishing Princess Herzelinde (Til Schweiger, 2008). His final film was the short Ten (Stefan Hering, 2011) in which he played St. Peter. At the gates of heaven, a man (Christof Arnold) has only one chance to come back to his little ill daughter: to win a bet against St. Peter. He has to break all ten commandments within 30 minutes in Munich's most notorious bar!

Heesters could not attend the premiere, while at 29 November 2011 he was admitted to a hospital because of a fever. He thus also missed the Bambi award show, where he was offered his 10th Bambi statue. And on 25 December 2011, the 108 year old 'Jopie' passed away for good in a hospital in Starnberg.

Happy 107, Johannes Heesters
Vintage postcard.

Marika Rökk and Johannes Heesters in Die geschiedene Frau (1953)
German collectors card. Photo: Cine-Allianz / Gloria / Film Ewald. Publicity still for Die geschiedene Frau/The Divorcée (George Jacoby, 1953) with Marika Rökk.

Johannes Heesters and Johanna von Koczian in Viktor und Viktoria (1957)
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. CK-60. Photo: Arthur Grimm / Central Europa Film / Prisma. Publicity still for Viktor und Viktoria/Viktor and Viktoria (Karl Anton, 1957) with Johanna von Koczian.

Johannes Heesters
German postacrd by Rüdel-Verlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. 125. Photo: Junge Film Union / Foto Wesel.

Johan (Johannes) Heesters sings De ode aan de Westertoren in Bleeke Bet (1934). The tower (the Westertoren in Amsterdam) is the same one as Anne Frank describes in her diary. The lovely girl in the clip is Bleeke Bet herself, played by Jopie Koopman. Source: brassens66 (YouTube).

Johannes Heesters and Edith Schollwer sing Ich werde jede nacht von Ihnen traumen in a clip from Gasparone (1937). Source: Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt (YouTube).

Johannes Heesters in Amersfoort in 2008. He sings Nou tabé dan. Source: Mokum tv (YouTube)

Sources: Wikipedia, Eric Kelsey (Reuters), (German), and IMDb.

24 September 2016

Anton Geesink

Every year in early autumn, the Netherlands Film Festival (NFF) takes place. For ten days, the city of Utrecht is the cinema capital of the Netherlands, and we join the fun with our own Unofficial Dutch Film Star Postcards Festival (UDFSPF). Today we feature a Duch non-actor and strongman who became a film star by accident. 10th-dan judoka Anton Geesink (1934–2010) destroyed the myth of Japanese invincibility in judo by becoming the first non-Japanese judoka to win a world title in 1961. He was a three-time World Judo Champion (1961, 1964 and 1965), Olympic Gold Medalist (1964) and won 21 European championships. With his 1,98 m and 130 kilo he was also an imposing figure in a few Dutch and Italian action films.

Anton Geesink
Dutch postcard by 't Sticht, Utrecht, no. AX 4883. Caption: Anton Geesink World Champion Judo Paris 2-12-1961.

Anton Geesink
Dutch postcard by 't Sticht, Utrecht, no. 6040. Photo: J.J. Herschel jr.

Anton Geesink
Dutch postcard by 't Sticht, Utrecht, no. 6049.


Antonius Johannes Geesink was born in Utrecht, The Netherlands in 1934. He first participated in the European Championships in 1951, and placed second in his category. The following year, he won his first European title. Through to 1967, twenty more European titles followed.

At the 1956 World Championships, Geesink was eliminated in the semi-finals against Yoshihiko Yoshimatsu. At the 1961 World Championships, Geesink became World Champion in the open class, defeating the Japanese champion Koji Sone. Japanese judokas had won all the World Championship titles contested up to that point.

Judo debuted as an official sport at the 1964 Summer Olympics, which were held in the sport's home country, Japan. Anton Geesink provided one of the surprises of the Games by winning the open class through defeat of Akio Kaminaga. Although Japan had won all other judo events, the loss of the blue riband open class saddened the hosts.

His reputation as a strongman won Geesink roles in a few European action films. He played a supporting part as a detective in the Dutch crime film Rififi in Amsterdam (Giovanni Korporaal, 1962) based on a novel by W.H. van Eemlandt. The film was a Dutch example of the Rififi films, a popular subgenre of the French cinema in the 1950s. These were fast moving crime films, full of familiar faces, fancy camera-work and a couple of laughs. ‘Rififi’ was French slang for 'trouble in the underworld'. At IMDb, Chip Douglas reviews the film: “The result is as much fun as a Roger Corman film from the same period, perhaps even a bit classier.”

Geesink then starred in an early Spaghetti Western, Oklahoma John (Jaime Jesús Balcázar, Roberto Bianchi Montero, 1965) with Sabine Bethmann. Geesinks’s best known film is probably the Italian peplum I Grandi Condottieri/Great Leaders of the Bible (Marcello Baldi, Francisco Pérez-Dolz, 1965) with Fernando Rey, in which Geesink starred as the biblical super hero Samson.

Anton Geesink
Dutch postcard by 't Sticht, Utrecht, no. AX 4884. Caption: Anton Geesink World Champion Judo Paris 2-12-1961. Tension during the match Anton Geesink - Koji Sone at the World Judo Championships in Paris.

Anton Geesink
Dutch postcard by 't Sticht, Utrecht, no. AX 4886. Caption: Anton Geesink World Champion Judo Paris 2-12-1961.
This headlock during the match against Koji Sone made Anton Geesink Judo world champion during the world championships in Paris.

Anton Geesink and Princess Beatrix at the Olympic Games of 1964
Dutch collectors card by Brio, no. 434, 1964. Caption: Princess Beatrix visited on the first day of her stay in Tokyo during the Games the Dutch department of the Olympic village and had a long and animated conversation with judo giant Anton Geesink.

Part-time Wrestler

After winning the 1965 World Championships and a last European title in 1967, Anton Geesink quit competitive judo. In October 1973, All Japan Pro Wrestling owner Giant Baba recruited Anton Geesink to join AJPW. Baba sent him to Amarillo, where TX, Dory Funk Jr. and Terry Funk trained him for a month. He worked for All Japan from 1973 to 1978, as a popular part-time wrestler.

Years after his short-lived film career, he re-appeared as an actor in some Dutch TV shows, such as the children’s series Pipo en de Noorderzon/Pipo and the Northern Sun (Wim Meuldijk, 1978) and the comedy series Zoals u wenst, mevrouw/As You Wish, Milady (Frans Boelen, 1984) with popular comedienne Carry Tefsen.

In 1986, Geesink was the first European judoka to receive the 9th-dan grade. A year later, he became a member of the board of the Dutch National Olympic Committee, and a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In 1999, he was among the IOC members suspected of accepting bribes during the scandal surrounding the election of Salt Lake City as the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Geesink's name was cleared by the IOC which nevertheless issued him a warning for the appearance of a conflict of interest which could have damaged the reputation of the IOC.

His reputation as a sportsman was never damaged, and in 1997 he received the 10th-dan. This made him one of the highest graded judokas in the world. Only 18 people got ever a 10th-dan, and Geesink was one of the only three non-Japanese judokas who had this qualification. The International Judo Federation (IJF) placed him in their Hall of Fame in 2004.

At the age of 76, Anton Geesink died in 2010 in a hospital in his hometown Utrecht, where he lived above his own sports school in a street named after him, the Anton Geesinkstraat.

Anton Geesink at the 1961 World Championships. Source: beeld en geluid (YouTube).

With Anton Geesink 1962. Source: Tony Baretta (YouTube).

Scene from I Grandi Condottieri/Great Leaders of the Bible (1965). Source: Joe36Xcel (YouTube).

Sources:, Wikipedia (Dutch and English), and IMDb.