26 May 2016

Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003) was the notorious director of Triumph des Willens (1935), a fascinating propaganda documentary about Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, commissioned by the Nazi government. Before she started directing films, she worked as a dancer and on screen she became a star in the mountain films, directed by Arnold Fanck.

Leni Riefenstahl
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1626/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa / Parufamet. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Leni Riefenstahl
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4803/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Jacobi, Berlin. Collection: Egbert Barten.

The Perfect German Female

Helene Bertha Amalie 'Leni' Riefenstahl was born in Berlin, German Empire in 1902. Her family was Lutheran Protestant and she had a brother, Heinz, who was killed on the Eastern Front in World War II.

Her father, Alfred Theodor Paul Riefenstahl, owned a successful heating and ventilation company and wanted his daughter to follow him into the business world. Leni was athletic, and at the age of twelve joined a gymnastic and swim club. Without her father's knowledge, she enrolled in dance and ballet classes at the Grimm-Reiter Dance School in Berlin in 1918, where she quickly became a star pupil.

Riefenstahl later also studied dance with Jutta Klamt, Eugenie Eduardova and Mary Wigman. She became well known for her self-styled interpretive dancing skills. She travelled across Europe with Max Reinhardt in a show funded by Jewish producer Harry Sokal. She appeared with Wigman in the documentary Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit - Ein Film über moderne Körperkultur/The Way to Strength and Health: a film of modern body culture (Nicholas Kaufmann, Wilhelm Prager, 1925), an artifact of the Naturist fad that swept Germany at this time.

Riefenstahl began to suffer foot injuries that led to knee surgery, which threatened her dance career. A poster for the mountain film Der Berg des Schicksals/The Mountain of Destiny (Arnold Fanck, 1924) inspired her to move into film acting. She got in touch with director Arnold Fanck, who was the pioneer of the mountain film genre.

Riefenstahl persuaded Fanck to feature her in his next film, Der heilige Berg/The Holy Mountain (Arnold Fanck, 1926) with Luis Trenker and Frieda Richard. The film cost 1.5 million Reichsmarks to produce, and was released during the 1926 Christmas season. Der heilige Berg/The Holy Mountain was popular in Berlin, where sold out performances extended its premiere run for five weeks. The film was also screened in Britain, France and US and was the first international success of its director

Between 1926 and 1931, Leni Riefenstahl starred in five successful films. First she made Der Große Sprung/The Great Leap (Arnold Fanck, 1927) and Das Schicksal derer von Habsburg/Fate of the House of Habsburg (Rolf Raffé, 1928). The film that brought Riefenstahl into the limelight was Fanck's Die Weisse Hölle vom Piz Palü/The White Hell of Piz Palü (Arnold Fanck, G. W. Pabst, 1929) with Gustav Diessl. Her fame spread to countries outside Germany. Her next two films were Stürme über dem Mont Blanc/Storm Over Mont Blanc (Arnold Fanck, 1930) with Sepp Rist, and Der Weisse Rausch/The White Ecstasy (Arnold Fanck, 1931).

From Arnold Fanck, she had learned acting but also film editing techniques. His use of cinematic technique - filters, special film stock, slow motion - to endow magnificent natural scenery with dramatic stature - provided her with key elements of her towering visual style and fostered her technical skill.

Leni Riefenstahl decided to try to produce and direct her own film. It was called Das Blaue Licht/The Blue Light (1932), co-written by Carl Mayer and Béla Balázs. In the film, Riefenstahl played an innocent peasant girl in the Tyrolean mountains who is hated and cast out by the villagers because they think she is diabolic. She is protected by a secret cave of blue crystals. With the blue light, she lures young men to their deaths. The film attracted the attention of Adolf Hitler, who saw talent in Riefenstahl and arranged a meeting. He believed Riefenstahl epitomised the perfect German female.

Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 24/5. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit/Ways to Strength and Beauty (1925, Nicholas Kaufmann, Wilhelm Prager). Pictured are members of the Tanzgruppe Mary Wigman performing Die Wanderung (The Hike). Collection: Didier Hanson.

Leni Riefenstahl
Spanish postcard, no. C-23. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü//The White Hell of Piz Palü (Arnold Fanck, G. W. Pabst, 1929).

Leni Riefenstahl and Sepp Rist in Stürme über dem Mont Blanc (1930)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5679/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Aafa-Film. Publicity still for Stürme über dem Mont Blanc/Storm Over Mont Blanc (Arnold Fanck, 1930) with Sepp Rist.

A friendly relationship with Hitler

In 1933, Leni Riefenstahl appeared in the American-German co-productions SOS Eisberg (Arnold Fanck, 1933; German version) and SOS Iceberg (Tay Garnett, 1933; US version). The two versions were filmed simultaneously in English and German and produced and distributed by Universal Studios. Riefenstahl co-starred with Gustav Diessl and Ernst Udet in S.O.S. Eisberg, and with Gibson Gowland and Rod La Rocque in S.O.S. Iceberg. Her part in SOS Iceberg would be her only English language role in film.

Riefenstahl heard Nazi Party (NSDAP) leader Adolf Hitler speak at the Berlin Sportpalast in 1932 and by her own account, she was mesmerised by his talent as a public speaker. After meeting Hitler, Riefenstahl was offered the opportunity to direct Der Sieg des Glaubens/The Victory of Faith (1933), an hour-long propaganda film about the fifth Nuremberg Rally in 1933. Riefenstahl agreed to direct the movie. She and Hitler got on well, forming a friendly relationship. The propaganda film was funded entirely by the NSDAP.

Impressed with Riefenstahl's work, Hitler asked her to film Triumph des Willens/Triumph of the Will (1935), a new propaganda film about the the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. More than 700,000 Nazi supporters attended the rally. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by Nazi leaders at the Congress, including Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, and Julius Streicher, interspersed with footage of massed Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel troops and public reaction.

Riefenstahl's techniques — such as moving cameras, aerial photography, the use of long focus lenses to create a distorted perspective, and the revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography — made Triumph des Willens/Triumph of the Will a prominent example of propaganda in film history.

Riefenstahl won several awards, not only in Germany but also in the United States, France, Sweden, and other countries. Despite allegedly vowing not to make any more films about the Nazi Party, Riefenstahl made the 28-minute Tag der Freiheit: Unsere WehrmachtDay of Freedom: Our Armed Forces (1935) about the German Army.

Hitler then invited Riefenstahl to film the 1936 Summer Olympics scheduled to be held in Berlin. She visited Greece to take footage of the route of the inaugural torch relay and the games' original site at Olympia, where she was aided by Greek photographer Nelly's. This material became the two-part Olympia (Festival Of Nations/ Festival Of Beauty) (1938), a hugely successful film which has since been widely noted for its technical and aesthetic achievements.

Riefenstahl began work on the opera film Tiefland/Lowlands. On Hitler's direct order, the German government paid her seven million Reichsmarks in compensation. Sinti and Roma people from the Marzahn detention camp near Berlin were compelled to work as extras. Almost to the end of her life, despite overwhelming evidence that the concentration camp occupants had been forced to work on the film unpaid, Riefenstahl continued to maintain all the film extras survived and that she had met several of them after the war.

In October 1944 the production of Tiefland moved to Barrandov Studios in Prague for interior filming. Lavish sets made these shots some of the most costly of the film. The film was not edited and released until almost ten years later. Tiefland would be her last feature film.

Leni Riefenstahl
German postcard. Photo: Karl Schenker. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Leni Riefenstahl
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1814/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Karl Schenker. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Leni Riefenstahl
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3168/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Ufa. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Fellow Traveller

In 1945, after the war, Leni Riefenstahl was arrested  at her chalet in Kitzbühel in the Tyrol by US soldiers. Throughout 1945 to 1948, she was held by various Allied-controlled prison camps across Germany. She was also under house arrest for a period of time. She had never been a Nazi party member and was cleared of active involvement by a de-Nazification tribunal. She was declared a Mitläufer or fellow traveller, which disbarred her from ever seeking public office.

During the 1950s and 1960s, she tried many times to make more films, but was met with resistance, public protests and sharp criticism. Triumph des Willens and her other work for the Nazis had significantly damaged her career and reputation. Despite her protests to the contrary, Riefenstahl was considered an intricate part of the Third Reich's propaganda machine.

In the 1960s, Riefenstahl discovered Africa and reinvented herself as a still photographer. She published two photo books on the Nuba tribes, The Nuba and The Nuba of Kau. In 1968, she began a lifelong companionship with her cameraman Horst Kettner. She was 60 and he was 20. He assisted her with her photographs.

She also photographed the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. In 1978, Riefenstahl published a book of her sub-aquatic photographs called Korallengärten (Coral Gardens), followed by the 1990 book Wunder unter Wasser (Wonder under Water). Riefenstahl also released the autobiography A Memoir (1995).

Leni Riefenstahl died of cancer in 2003 in Pöcking, Germany at the age of 101. She was buried at Munich Waldfriedhof. Riefenstahl was married twice. From 1944 till 1947, she was married to Peter Jacob. Shortly before her death, she married her longtime companion Horst Kettner.

German trailer for Der Weisse Rausch/The White Ecstasy (1931). Source: FREERIDE FILMFESTIVAL (YouTube).

German trailer for Das Blaue Licht/The Blue Light (1932). Source: Filmportal (YouTube).

Trailer Olympia. Source: Jesse Abdenour (YouTube).

Clip from Tiefland/Lowlands (1954). Source: Канал пользователя samoslav01 (YouTube).

Sources: Richard Falcon (The Guardian), Rainer Rother (Leni Riefenstahl: The Seduction of Genius), Wikipedia and IMDb.

25 May 2016

Le Grand bleu (1988)

Le Grand bleu/The Big Blue (Luc Besson, 1988) is a beautiful and serene French film. Jean-Marc Barr plays French diver Jacques Mayol, alongside Rosanna Arquette and Jean Reno. Le Grand bleu became the most financially successful film in France in the 1980s.

Jean-Marc Barr in Le Grand Bleu (1988)
French postcard by Ciné Passion, no. GB 7. Photo: publicity still for Le Grand Bleu (Luc Besson, 1988) with Jean-Marc Barr.

Eternal Heaven

Le Grand bleu/The Big Blue (1988) is a fictionalised and dramatised story of the friendship and sporting rivalry between two leading contemporary champion free divers in the 20th century: Jacques Mayol (played by Jean-Marc Barr) and Enzo Maiorca (renamed to Enzo Molinari and played by Jean Reno), and Mayol's fictionalised relationship with his girlfriend Johana Baker (played by Rosanna Arquette).

The film covers their childhood in 1960s Greece to their deaths in a 1980s Sicilian diving competition. Jacques and Enzo are fascinated by the sea but for different reasons. If Reno devotes all his energies to diving so as to an access to success and glory, the sea is more than this for Jacques.

For Jacques the ocean is a place of athletic competition, an ideal place for rest and entertaining where dolphins are his real and sole friends, and finally it's his eternal heaven. He was born with it, he swears by it and the sea will lead him to his death.

Mayol's and Maiorca's story was heavily adapted for cinema. In real life Mayol lived from 1927 to 2001 and Maiorca retired from diving to politics in the 1980s. Both set no-limits category deep diving records below 100 metres, and Mayol was indeed involved in scientific research into human aquatic potential, but neither reached 400 feet (122 metres) as portrayed in the film, and they were not direct competitors. Mayol himself was a screenwriter for the film.

Jean Reno in Le Grand Bleu
French postcard by Ciné Passion, no. GB 4. Photo: publicity still for Le Grand bleu (Luc Besson, 1988) with Jean Reno.

Jean Reno and Sergio Castellitto in Le Grand Bleu (1988)
French postcard by Ciné Passion, no. GB 1. Photo: publicity still for Le Grand bleu (Luc Besson, 1988) with Jean Reno and Sergio Castellitto.

Le Look

Luc Besson was initially unsure of whom to cast in the main role of Jacques Mayol. He initially offered the role to Christopher Lambert and Mickey Rourke and even considered himself for the role until someone suggested Jean-Marc Barr. Besson has a cameo appearance as one of the divers in the film.

Le Grand bleu/The Big Blue meant Besson's international breakthrough. It's a key-film which divided the French public between those who saw the film only as a tedious documentary about the ocean and those who acclaimed this as passionate filmmaking.

The film is one of the finest examples of the Cinéma du look visual style if the 1980s. Besson, Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax are the main directors of 'le look'. Their films had a slick, gorgeous visual style and a focus on young, alienated characters.

Le Grand bleu/The Big Blue is a cult-classic in the diving fraternity. It was nominated for several César Awards and won César Award for Best Music Written for a Film (Eric Serra) and Best Sound in 1989. The film also won France's National Academy of Cinema's Academy Award in 1989.

Besson's film also became one of France's biggest box office hits. It sold 9,193,873 tickets in France alone, and played in French theatres for a year. While popular in Europe, an adaptation for US release was a commercial failure in that country.

DB Dumonteil at IMDb: "Le Grand bleu also ranks among the movies that you must watch rather than telling it. Of course, there isn't almost any plot, dialogues are short and rare but the pictures are gorgeous enough to create an entrancing climate supported by Eric Serra's mesmerising music.

Jean-Marc Barr, Rosanna Arquette and Luc Besson at the set of Le Grand Bleu (1988)
French postcard by Especially for you, Ref. 30. Photo: publicity still for Le Grand bleu (Luc Besson, 1988). Jean-Marc Barr, Rosanna Arquette and Luc Besson at the set.

Jean Reno with director and cast Le Grand Bleu in Cannes
French postcard by News Productions, Beaulmes, no 56063. Photo: Eric Coiffier. Director and cast of Le Grand bleu (Luc Besson, 1988) at the Festival de Cannes, 1988. With in the front row from left to right: Marc DuretJean-Marc Barr, Rosanna Arquette, Luc Besson, Sergio Castellitto and Andréas Voutsinas. In the back: Jean Reno.

Sources: DB Dumonteil (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

24 May 2016

Livio Pavanelli

Italian actor Livio Pavanelli (1881-1958) was a star of the Italian and in particular the German silent cinema. He also worked in Italian sound cinema as actor and production manager. And he directed four Italian films, in the silent and the sound era.

Livio Pavanelli
Italian postcard by La Rotofotografia, no. 83. Photo: Rinoscimento Film.

Xenia Desni and Livio Pavanelli in Küssen ist keine Sünd'
Austrian photo by Willinger, Wien. From Tatiana. Xenia Desni and Livio Pavanelli in the German silent film Die letzte Einquartierung aka Küssen ist keine Sünd'/Kissing is no sin (Rudolf Walther-Fein, Rudolf Dworsky, 1926).

Livio Pavanelli
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5154. Photo: Aafa / Lux Film Verleih.

Livio Pavanelli
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5311. Photo: Aafa Film / Lux-Film-Verleih.

Livio Pavanelli
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1769/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Atelier Willinger, Wien (Vienna).


Livio Cesare Pavanelli was born in Copparo, Italy in 1881. He was member of a big family of farmers and merchants from the Ferrara area. His father Andrea was also a notable patriot in the Italian Risorgimento. As a consequence of financial disasters in the family he moved with his parents to Bologna where he visited the technical school. During his adolescence he wandered around Italy, eager for excitement. When in Venice in 1898, he fell in love with the stage while assisting a show of wandering artists. He performed with various companies like that of Antonio Gandusio, and in 1902 the Venetian company of Emilio Zago. He then shifted to the company of Gustavo Salvini and Ermete Zacconi, before reaching Eleonora Duse’s company with whom he stayed for 9 years, accompanying her at her foreign tours as well.

In the early 1910s he performed leads in various films, starting in a series of short silent films with Pina Fabbri including Il delitto della via di Nizza (Henri Etievant, 1913) and Il romanzo di due vite/The novel of two lives (Attilio Fabbri, 1913). From 1914 on he starred in a series of films with Hesperia like L’ereditiera/The heiress (Baldassarre Negroni, 1914) and L’agguato/The trap (Guglielmo Zorzi, 1915); with Mercedes Brignone like Il re dell’Atlantico/The king of the Atlantic (Baldassarre Negroni, 1914) and Mezzanotte/Midnight (Augusto Genina, 1915); and with Gianna Terribili-Gonzales.

In 1916-1917 Pavanelli didn’t appear in a film, but in 1918 he was back in business. He starred opposite Francesca Bertini in various parts of the series I sette peccati capitali/The seven capital sins (Camillo De Riso a.o., 1918), La piovra/The Octopus (Edoardo Bencivenga, 1919) and Anima allegra/Happy soul (Roberto Roberti, 1919). He also appeared opposite another diva, Lyda Borelli, in Carnevalesca/Carnival (Amleto Palermi, 1918) and Una notte a Calcutta/A Night in Calcutta (Mario Caserini, 1918). In 1918 he also played Saint Sebastian in Enrico Guazzoni’s epic Fabiola (1918), with Elena Sangro in the title role, and he had a part in the propagandist fake biopic of Francesca Bertini: Mariute (Edoardo Bencivenga, 1918), starring the diva herself.

In those years, Thea Pavanelli aka Thea played with Pavanelli in La reginetta Isotta/The queen Isotta (1918), based on a story by Honoré de Balzac. Reportedly she was his wife, but no additional information is available about this. In the following years, Pavanelli became a superstar of the Italian silent cinema. He was the star of epic films like Il sacco di Roma/The Sack of Rome (Enrico Guazzoni, Giulio Aristide Sartorio, 1920), but he also appeared in a long list of diva films with Pina Menichelli such as La storia di una donna/A Woman's Story (Eugenio Perego, 1920), La verità nuda/Woman Against Woman (Telemaco Ruggeri, 1921), L’età critica/The critical age (Amleto Palermi, 1921), La seconda moglie/The second wife (Amleto Palermi, 1922), and La biondina/The Blonde (Amleto Palermi, 1923).

Other actresses opposite whom Pavanelli acted in the early 1920s were Tilde Kassay, Diomira Jacobini, and Cecyl Tryan. In Saitra la ribelle/Saitra the rebel (Amleto Palermi, 1924), Coiffeur pour dames/Ladies' hairdresser (Amleto Palermi, 1924) and Vedi Napoli, poi muori/You see Naples and then you die (Eugenio Perego, 1924), Pavanelli played opposite Leda Gys. He also played the lead of Turiddu opposite Tina Xeo as Santuzza in the adaptation of Giovanni Verga’s story and Pietro Mascagni’s opera Cavalleria rusticana/Rustic Chivalry (Mario Gargiulo, 1924).

Livio Pavanelli
Italian postcard. by Ed. A. Traldi, Milano, no. 5. Photo: Pinto, Roma.

Pina Menichelli in La seconda moglie
Italian postcard by Ed. G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 262. Pina Menichelli and Livio Pavanelli in La seconda moglie (Amleto Palermi, 1922).

Pina Menichelli in La seconda moglie
Italian postcard by Ed. G.B. Falci, Milano. Pina Menichelli, Livio Pavanelli and Orietta Claudi in the Italian silent film La seconda moglie (Amleto Palermi, 1922).

Livio Pavanelli and Xenia Desni
Italian postcard, No. 67?. Photo: Aafa Film. Perhaps for the film German silent film Die letzte Einquartierung aka Küssen ist keine Sünd'/Kissing is no sin (Rudolf Walther-Fein, Rudolf Dworsky, 1926) with Livio Pavanelli and Xenia Desni.

Livio Pavanelli
German postcard by Verlag Hermann Leiser, Berlin-Wilm., no 6126. Photo: T. De Virgiliis.

Weimar Cinema

In 1924, there was a serious crisis in the Italian cinema. Livio Pavanelli moved to Austria first and then to Germany, where he could continue his successful career. He performed opposite many female stars of the Weimar cinema, such as Lee Parry in Die schönste Frau der Welt/The Most Beautiful Woman of the World (Richard Eichberg, 1924), Fern Andra in Die Liebe is der Frauen Macht/Love is the Women's Power (Erich Engel, Georg Bluen, 1924), Liane Haid in Ich liebe dich!/I Love You (Paul L. Stein, 1924), Im weissen Rössl/The White Horse Inn (Richard Oswald, 1926), and Als ich wieder kam (1926); and Ossi Oswalda in Niniche (1924).

Other films were Der Ritt in die Sonne/The ride in the sun (Georg Jacoby, 1926), Das Gasthaus zur Ehe/The Marriage Guesthouse (Georg Jacoby, 1926), and Mein Freund der Chauffeur/My Friend the Chauffeur (Erich Waschneck, 1926) with Hans Albers. In 1926 Pavanelli played in various boulevard comedies: he had the male lead as the industrial Franz Kaltenbach in Familie Schimeck/Wiener Herzen/The Schimeck Family (Alfred Halm, Rudolf Dworsky, 1926) opposite Olga Tschechova, and also the male lead in Der lachende Ehemann/The Laughing Husband (Rudolf Walther-Fein, Rudolf Dworsky, 1926) with Elisabeth Pinajeff as his wife.

1926 was Pavanelli’s most prolific year. The next year, films with Mary Nolan, Mady Christians and Xenia Desni followed, but also parts in the Henny Porten drama Die grosse Pause/The big break (Carl Froehlich, 1927). He returned temporarily to Italy to play Florette in the adaptation of the popular boulevard comedy Florette e Patapon/Florette and Patapon (Amleto Palermi, 1927), with French actor Marcel Lévesque as Patapon.

In 1928 followed parts in the Lya de Putti comedy Charlott etwas verrückt/Charlott a bit crazy (Adolf E. Licho, 1928), the Spanish-German production Herzen ohne Ziel/Corazones sin rumbo/Hearts Without Soul (Benito Perojo, Gustav Ucicky, 1928), the Italo-German coproduction Scampolo (Augusto Genina, 1928), and the Ossi Oswalda vehicle Das Haus ohne Männer/The House Without Men (Rolf Randolf, 1928).

Pavanelli played the lead in Liebfraumilch (Carl Froehlich, 1929) and Sir Henry Baskerville in Der Hund von Baskerville/The Hound of the Baskervilles (Richard Oswald, 1929). Even in 1930 Pavanelli continued to play in German films, such as Freiheit in Fesseln/Freedom in chains (Carl Heinz Wolff, 1930), starring Fritz Kampers and Vivian Gibson, and Ehestreik/Marriage strike (Carl Boese, 1930), with Georg Alexander and Maria Paudler.

Ossi Oswalda and Livio Pavanelli in Niniche (1925)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 685/5, 1919-1924. Photo: Westi Film. Publicity still for Niniche (Victor Janson, 1925) with Ossi Oswalda.

Livio Pavanelli in Mademoiselle Josette ma femme (1926)
French postcard by Europe, no. 198. Photo: Société des Cinéromans. Livio Pavanelli in Fräulein Josette - meine Frau (Gaston Ravel, 1926), starring Dolly Davis and Pavanelli. Its French release title was Mademoiselle Josette ma femme. It was based on a play by Robert Charvay.

Livio Pavanelli
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1598/1,1927-1928 . Photo Willinger, Vienna. Livio Pavanelli in the German silent film Die letzte Einquartierung aka Küssen ist keine Sünd' (Rudolf Walther-Fein, Rudolf Dworsky, 1926), starring Xenia Desni.

Livio Pavanelli and Lya de Putti in Charlott etwas verrückt (1928)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3221/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Phoebus-Film AG. Livio Pavanelli and Lya de Putti in the German silent film Charlott ertwas verrückt/Charlott a little crazy (Adolf E. Licho, 1929).

Livio Pavanelli
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 602. Photo: Aafa Film / Sascha Film.

Producer, Scriptwriter and Director

When sound cinema was there to stay, Livio Pavanelli returned to Italy. He first played opposite former silent star Maria Jacobini in the film Perché no?/Why Not? (Amleto Palermi, 1930), an Italian language version of The Lady Lies (Hobart Henley, 1929), shot in the Paramount studios in Paris. Pavanelli next had a part in the German sound film Liebeskommando/Love's Command (Geza von Bolvary, 1931) with Dolly Haas.

Then he returned to Italy, where he acted in films like Pergolesi (Guido Brignone, 1932) with Elio Steiner in the title role, and L’ultimo dei Bergerac/The last of the Bergeracs (Gennaro Righelli, 1933). However, his star had declined. Pavanelli had one last film performance in Germany in the film Frühlingsmärchen/Spring Fairy Tale (Carl Froehlich, 1934), in which he appropriately played a singing master from Milan.

According to Wikipedia Pavanelli played both in the Italian and the German version of Max Neufeld’s La canzone del sole/Das Lied der Sonne/The Song of the Sun (1934), starring Vittorio De Sica. He also performed in Gustav Machaty’s Italian production Ballerine/Ballerinas (1936).

In the 1930s Pavanelli also became producer, scriptwriter and director. Wikipedia claims that one of his productions was opera singer Tito Schipa’s success film Vivere/To Live (Guido Brignone, 1937), while IMDb lists Pavanelli not as producer but as production manager or unit manager for 10 different films between 1939 and 1954. He often worked thus for director Guido Brignone such as La mia canzone al vento (Guido Brignone, 1939) and Romanzo di un giovane povero/The novel of a poor young man (Guido Brignone, 1942), but also for the postwar epic Messalina/The Affairs of Messalina (Carmine Gallone, 1951). In 1939 Pavanelli was also scriptwriter for La mia canzone al vento/My Song to the Wind.

In 1941 he directed his sole sound feature Solitudine/Loneliness, starring Carola Höhn. In the silent era, Pavanelli had already directed three films: Silvio Pellico (1915), La complice muta/The Mute Accomplice (1920), and Madonnina (1921). Livio Pavanelli’s last film as an actor was L’altra/The Other (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1947), in which he played a French impresario. After that he continued to work only as production or unit manager. His last job was production management of the epic Cortigiana di Babilonia/The Queen of Babylon (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1954), starring Rhonda Fleming. Livio Pavanelli died at the hospital San Giovanni in Rome in 1958. He was 76.

Livio Pavanelli
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 744. Photo: Atelier Willinger.

Livio Pavanelli
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3222/1, 1928-1929.

Livio Pavanelli
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4070/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Jacobi, Berlin.

Livio Pavanelli
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4070/2, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Jacobi, Berlin.

Livio Pavanelli
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4484/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Jacobi, Berlin.

Livio Pavanelli in Pergolesi
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 5. Livio Pavanelli as Nicola d'Arcangeli in Pergolesi (Guido Brignone, 1932).

Livio Pavanelli, Carlo Lombardi and Dria Paola in Pergolesi
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 57. Photo: Cines-Pittaluga. Livio Pavanelli, Carlo Lombardi and Dria Paola in Pergolesi (Guido Brignone, 1932). Bystanders gossip while Nicola d'Arcangeli (Livio Pavanelli) introduces his sister Maria (Dria Paola) to the man he has selected for her, the aristocrat Raniero di Tor Delfina (Carlo Lombardi). She is in love with Pergolesi (Elio Steiner), though, whom the brother considers too low in class.

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos),, Wikipedia (Italian), and IMDb.