26 October 2016

Ihr Sport (1919)

Henny Porten (1890-1960) was one of Germany's most important and popular film actresses of the silent cinema. She appeared both as the tragic heroin in many dramas and as the zany girl in comedies. We love the images of the postcards produced for her comedy Ihr Sport/Her Sport (Rudolf Biebrach, 1919).

Henny Porten in Ihr Sport
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 609/1. Photo: Messter Film, Berlin. Publicity still of Henny Porten in the German silent film Ihr Sport (1919).

Henny Porten in Ihr Sport
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 609/2. Photo: Messter Film, Berlin. Publicity still of Henny Porten in the German silent film Ihr Sport (1919).

Henny Porten in Ihr Sport
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 609/3. Photo: Messter Film, Berlin. Publicity still of Henny Porten in the German silent film Ihr Sport (1919).

The Man Hater

Henny Porten plays in Ihr Sport/Her Sport (Rudolf Biebrach, 1919) Adelina von Gentz, known as 'Männerfresserin' (man hater) .

When her friend Helga (Wally Koch) is about to marry old-fashioned Rudolf Walters (George Schnell), Adelina writes Helga to rebel against her new husband.

On their honeymoon the newly married couple travel to the Silesian Karpates where Adelina lives. Upon their arrival, the couple is at odds with each other.

This is the ideal condition for Adelina to try to break up her friend's new marriage. She disguises herself as a maid and assumes a position in the hotel where the couple Walters has descended. She wants to tease Helga's husband.

In the hotel, Adelina meets namesake Rudi Walters (Hermann Thimig), who causes Adelina to quickly cast aside her hostile attitude towards men. At the end of the film, Adelina has not only found love, but has also reconciled Helga and her husband.

As the shooting in the snow proves, Ihr Sport was shot in early 1919, immediately after the shooting of the Porten film Irrungen. The script was written by Robert Wiene, cinematography was by Willibald Gaebel, and the sets were designed by Ludwig Kainer. Actress Wally Koch (Helga) also edited the film.

The film passed censorship in March 1919, but was forbidden for young people. Ihr Sport premiered at the Berlin Mozartsaal cinema on 12 April 1919. In the weekly Austrian film programme Paimann’s Filmlisten, Franz Paimann wrote about the film: "Humor very good. Cinematography, acting and sets excellent."

Henny Porten in Ihr Sport
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 609/4. Photo: Messter Film, Berlin. Publicity still of Henny Porten in the German silent film Ihr Sport (1919).

Henny Porten in Ihr Sport
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 609/5. Photo: Messter Film, Berlin. Publicity still of Henny Porten in the German silent film Ihr Sport (1919).

Henny Porten in Ihr Sport
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 609/6. Photo: Messter Film, Berlin. Publicity still of Henny Porten in the German silent film Ihr Sport (1919).

Sources: Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

25 October 2016

Heinrich Peer

Austrian stage and film actor Heinrich Peer (1867–1927) belonged to the pioneers of the German cinema and appeared in more than hundred films between 1911 and 1927. The tall, thin actor with the distinctive, almost sinister face often played supporting parts in adventure and detective films, but also played in melodramas and historical films.

Heinrich Peer
German postcard by NPG. no. K 116. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Heinrich Peer
German postcard by NPG. no. 547. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

The famous sleuth Harry Reep

Heinrich Friedrich Peer was born in Vienna, Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1867. He began his stage career at the Raimundtheater in Vienna and from 1892 on, he played in a theatre in Esseg (now Osijek, Croatia). After stopovers in Innsbruck and Pressburg (now Bratislava, Slovakia), he made his Berlin debut in 1902 at the Intimen Theater.

Heinrich Peer often appeared in operettas, especially at the Theater des Westens. There he played leading roles in Oscar StrausEin Walzertraum (A Waltz Dream) and Franz Lehár’s Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow).

Already in 1911, he made his film debut. That year he played in the short silent melodrama Nachtfalter/Moth (Urban Gad, 1911), which was only the second German film with Danish diva Asta Nielsen. The shooting took place in Bioscope-Atelier Chausseestrasse in Berlin, a studio with glass walls and artificial lighting with electric light. The silent film is now considered lost, like many other films of this period.

Peer also played in the silent short Mutters Todestag/Mother’s death (Adolf Gärtner, 1911) for the Messter studio. Peer then appeared for the Vitascope studio in the very popular detective comedy Wo ist Coletti?/Where is Coletti? (Max Mack, 1913), featuring Hans Junkermann, and in the comedy Die blaue Maus/The Blue Mouse (Max Mack, 1913), featuring Fritzi Lustig.

Peer also played a count in Der Geheimsekretär/The private secretary (Joe May, 1915), a part in another popular crime series about detective Joe Deeb played by Max Landa. He next played the best friend of the title figure in the comedy Hampels Abenteuer/Hampel's Adventure (Richard Oswald, 1915) with Georg Baselt as Hampel and a supporting part in Schlemihl (Richard Oswald, 1915) starring Rudolph Schildkraut and his son Joseph Schildkraut.

Peer also appeared in dramas such as Die Ruf der Liebe/The call of love (Rudolf Biebrach, 1916) with Henny Porten, and Die Liebe der Hetty Raymond/The love of Hetty Raymond (Joe May, 1917), featuring Mia May.

In the late 1910s, Peer now and then played leading roles, such as in Im stillen Ozean/In the Silent Ocean (Danny Kaden, 1917). He played the famous sleuth Harry Reep in Eine Nacht in der Stahlkammer/A night at the vault (Felix Basch, 1917) with Harry Liedtke as a shameless bank director, and Leopoldine Konstantin as his accomplice.

In 1918, he played an English officer in Ernst Lubitsch´s silent drama Carmen (Ernst Lubitsch, 1918), which established the stardom of actress Pola Negri. Carmen was based on the novella by Prosper Mérimée. Peer played another detective, Council Anheim, in a fairly short-lived detective series, including Der grüne Vampyr/The green Vampire (William Kahn, 1918). This crime film with horror elements was one of the first films that brought vampirism on the screen.

Heinrich Peer in Der Fidele Bauer
German postcard by Verlag Louis Blumenthal, Berlin, no. 6003. Caption: `Janz feudal! Heinrich Peer als Leutnant von Grumow in Der fidele Bauer.` Der fidele Bauer (The Merry Farmer) is a 1907 German-language operetta composed by Leo Fall with a libretto by Viktor Léon. It premiered at the Mannheim Hoftheater on 27 July 1907 and was Fall's first major hit.

Heinrich Peer
German postcard by Pm. no. 5342.

Heinrich Peer in Eine Nacht in der Stahlkammer
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K.2025. Photo: Union Film. Heinrich Peer in the German silent film Eine Nacht in der Stahlkammer/A night in the tack room (Felix Basch, 1917).

Premature end

During the early 1920s, Heinrich Peer was often cast opposite Lya Mara by director Friedrich a.k.a. Frederic Zelnik, such as in the Tolstoi adaptation Anna Karenina (1920), and in Die Tochter Napoleons/Napoleon’s Daughter (1922).

Peer had supporting roles in such German silent films as the comedy Die Geliebte des Grafen Varenne/Count Varenne's Lover (Friedrich Zelnik, 1921) again opposite Lya Mara, Graf Festenberg/Count Festenberg (Urban Gad, Friedrich Zelnik, 1922) starring Charles Willy Kayser, and the drama Der Evangelimann/The Evangelist (Holger-Madsen, 1924) starring Paul Hartmann.

In 1925, Heinrich Peer had another supporting part in the silent historical film Bismarck (Ernst Wendt, 1925). It portrays the life of the nineteenth century German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck (Franz Ludwig) and was part of a popular trend of Prussian films released in Germany after the First World War.

Bismarck was followed by a second film, Bismarck 1862-1898 (Kurt Blachy, 1927), also starring Ludwig and with Peer again as an Austrian diplomat. In between, Peer appeared in another Prussian film, Die Mühle von Sanssouci/The Mill at Sanssouci (Siegfried Philippi, Frederic Zelnik, 1926) about an episode in the life of the Prussian king Friedrich II (Otto Gebühr), the construction in the 18th Century of the historic mill of Sanssouci. Peer played the king’s chamberlain.

In 1927, Heinrich Peer suddenly died in Vienna, Austria. He was 59. Peer was married to actress Bella Friese. Thomas Staedeli at Cyranos: “his career was ended premature, a career which would have certainly continued in a great way in the 30's.”

Heinrich Peer
German postcard by Verlag Hermann Leiser, Berlin. no. 5296. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin, 1916.

Heinrich Peer
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin. no. K. 115. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Heinrich Peer
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 167. Photo: Alex Binder.

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-Line – German), Filmportal,de, Wikipedia (English and German) and IMDb.

24 October 2016

Jacques Brel

Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel (1929-1978) was one of the most important and influential representatives of the French chanson. At the height of his success, in 1966, he chose to stop singing to devote himself to theatre and cinema. Brel has sold over 25 million records worldwide. There have been at least 400 recorded versions of his song Ne me quitte pas/If You Go Away, in over 15 different languages by performers like Marlene Dietrich, Rod McKuen, Nana Mouskouri, Nina Simone and Sting. Seasons in the Sun, Terry Jacks' version of Le Moribond , became a global pop hit in 1974. Brel’s boundless enthusiasm towards life, his inexhaustible energy and his respect for ordinary people remain unforgettable.

Jacques Brel
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 262. Photo: Herman Léonard.

Jacques Brel
Belgian collectors card by Merbotex, Brussels for Cine Memlinc. Photo: Studio Vauclair.

Jacques Brel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 36.

Jacques Brel
Dutch postcard by Uitgeverij Syba, Enkhuizen. Promotional postcard for Philips records. Sent by mail in 1963.

Jacques Brel
French postcard by PSG, no. 263. Offered by Corvisart, Epinal. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Jacques Brel
French postcard by E.D.U.G., Paris, no. 179. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Catholic-humanist Troubadour

Jacques Romain Georges Brel was born in 1929 in Schaarbeek, a district of Brussels, Belgium. Brel was the son of Romain Brel, who worked in an import-export firm, but later became co-director of a company that manufactured cardboard cartons, and Elisabeth (Lambertine) Brel. Although the Brel family spoke French, they were of Flemish descent, with some of the family originating from Zandvoorde, near Ieper (Ypres).

After quitting school, Jacques started his working life at his father's cardboard factory, apparently destined to follow his father's footsteps. However, he showed an interest in culture, and began playing the guitar at the age of 15. He joined the Catholic-humanist youth organisation Franche Cordée, which organised concerts and shows and Brel began to sing in public, accompanying himself on the guitar. Here he met Thérèse Michielsen ('Miche') who was to become his wife in 1950. A year later, their first daughter, Chantal, was born. Two years later, daughter France was born.

In the early 1950s, Brel achieved minor success in Belgium singing his own songs. In 1953, Jacques Canetti, a talent scout and artistic director with Philips, invited him to come to Paris. A 78 record, La foire/Il y a, was released, which sold 200 copies. Brel carried on writing music and singing in cabarets and music-halls, where he delivered his songs with great energy. He also went on stage at the famous Olympia theatre, as a supporting act.

Juliette Gréco made a recording of his song Ca va, le Diable. Brel did his first French tour, and at the end of 1954 Philips released his debut album, Jacques Brel et Ses Chansons. By 1956 he was touring Europe and he recorded the song Quand on n'a que l'amour (later adapted into English as If We Only Have Love) that brought him his first major recognition and reached number three in the French charts.

He made his film début in the title role of the short La Grande Peur de Monsieur Clément/The Big Fear of Mr. Clément (Paul Diebens, 1956), which he also co-wrote. With his career taking off, his wife and daughters joined him in Paris in February 1958. In August, his third daughter, Isabelle, was born, but by the end of the 1950s Miche and Brel's three daughters had returned to Brussels, while Jacques was always on tour.

From then on he and his family led separate lives. Under the influence of his friend Georges Pasquier ('Jojo') and pianists Gérard Jouannest and Francois Rauber, Brel's style changed. He was no longer a Catholic-humanist troubadour, but sang grimmer songs about love, death, and the struggle that is life. The music became more complex and his themes more diverse, exploring love, society, and spiritual concerns.

Jacques Brel
French postcard in the series Portraits de Stars - Chanteurs Français by L'Aventure Carto, no. 2. Photo: Marcel Thomas Collection Gérard Gagnepain. This postcard was printed in an edition of 120 cards.

Jacques Brel
French postcard by Edition du Globe, Paris, no. 782. Photo: Studio Vauclair.

Jacques Brel
Dutch postcard by Hercules, Haarlem, no. 862.

Jacques Brel and Heidi Brühl
Dutch postcard by NS, no. 12. With Heidi Brühl.

Jacques Brel
French postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 4421.

Jacques Brel
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg (SPARO), Rotterdam, no. 892.

Jacques Brel
French postcard by Humour à la Carte, Paris, no. 3393. Photo: J.L. Rancurel.

Darkness and Bitter Irony

Jacques Brel was in 1961 contracted by Bruno Coquatrix, director of l'Olympia. Marlène Dietrich had pulled out from a series of shows at the very last moment. Coquatrix wanted Brel to replace her. October 12 to 29, Jacques Brel had star billing at the Olympia for the first time. In 1962 Brel signed with a new record company, the recently formed Barclay Records. Together with his wife, he also founded a publishing company, Editions Musicales Pouchenel.

During the 1960s, Brel was almost constantly on tour. He performed on all the famous stages in the world, including Estrade Theatre in Moscow and Carnegie Hall in New York, where he made his U.S. performing début in 1963. American poet and singer Rod McKuen began writing English lyrics to Brel's songs, and the Kingston Trio recorded Seasons in the Sun, McKuen's version of a song Brel had titled Le Moribond, on their Time to Think LP in 1964.

Brel's romantic lyricism now sometimes revealed darkness and bitter irony. At moments his tender love songs might show flashes of barely suppressed frustration and resentment. His insightful and compassionate portraits of the so-called dregs of society: the alcoholics, drifters, drug addicts, and prostitutes described in L’Ivrogne, Jef, La chanson de Jacky and Amsterdam evaded easy sentimentality, and he was not shy about portraying the unsavoury side of this lifestyle.

On stage, Brel gave additional dimensions to many of his songs, thanks to a strong theatrical sense and an apparently boundless energy. Brel’s appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1965 inspired a musical revue created by composer Mort Schuman and poet Eric Blau. Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris featured 25 songs by Brel translated into English. The piece ran for five years in New York and played in a number of countries including Great Britain, Canada, South Africa and Sweden.

Brel occasionally included parts in Dutch in his songs as in Marieke, and also recorded Dutch versions of a few songs such as Le Plat Pays (Mijn vlakke land) and Ne me quitte pas (Laat Me Niet Alleen. Brel's attitude towards the Flemish was marked by a love of Flanders and the Flemish countryside, but a marked dislike of the Flemish nationalists ('les Flamingants').

Jacques Brel
French postcard by Edition P.I., Paris, offered by Les Carbones Korès 'Carboplane', no. 1147A. Photo: Hermann Léonard.

Jacques Brel
French postcard by Sofraneme, Levallois Perret, no. R 43.

Jacques Brel
French postcard by Editions F. Nugeron, Star 134. Photo: Air France / Distribution VU. Caption: Jacques Brel, 20 Novembre 1964.

Jacques Brel
Dutch promotion card by N.V. Dureco, Amsterdam. Photo: Barclay.

Jacques Brel
French promotional card by Barclay, no. 248. Photo: Herman Léonard.

Jacques Brel
French promotion card by Barclay. Photo: Hermann Léonard.

Jacques Brel
French postcard, no. 214.

Cinema & Theatre

In 1964 Jacques Brel began to consider retiring from music. He was searching out new forms with which to express himself. He got tired of the exstensive touring and he announced in 1966 that he would no longer go on concert tours. He appeared in the film Les risques du metier/Risky Business (André Cayatte, 1967) opposite Emmanuelle Riva.

In 1968 he starred on stage at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels and the Champs-Elysées Theatre in Paris in the musical L'Homme de la Mancha/Man of La Mancha which he had also translated into French and directed. Then he took the lead role opposite Claude Jade in the film Mon oncle Benjamin/My Uncle Benjamin (Edouard Molinaro, 1969).

Other films in which he appeared were La Bande à Bonnot/Bonnot's Gang (Philippe Fourastié, 1969) with Annie Girardot, Les Assassins de l'Ordre/Law Breakers (Marcel Carné, 1971), L'Aventure, c'est l'Aventure/Money Money Money (Claude Lelouch, 1972) opposite Lino Ventura and Johnny Hallyday, and Le Bar de la Fourche/The Bar at the Crossing (Alain Levent, 1972) with Isabelle Huppert.

His most successful role was again opposite a stone-faced Lino Ventura in the classic black comedy L'Emmerdeur/A Pain in the A... (Edouard Molinaro, 1973). The film was remade with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as Buddy Buddy (Billy Wilder, 1981). Brel also directed, co-wrote and appeared in two films: Franz (Jacques Brel, 1971) with singer Barbara, and the comedy Le Far-West/Far West (Jacques Brel, 1973), which competed for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

In 1973, Terry Jacks released a revival of Seasons in the Sun that hit number one in both the U.S. and the U.K., followed by a chart entry with his version of If You Go Away. That year Brel had embarked in a yacht, planning to sail around the world. When he reached the Canary Islands, Brel, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He returned to Paris for treatment and later continued his ocean voyage.

In 1975 he reached the Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia), and decided to stay, remaining there until 1977 when he returned to Paris and recorded his well-received final album. Jacques Brel died of lung cancer in 1978 in Bobigny in the suburbs of Paris, at age 49. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Atuona at the Hiva Oa island in French Polynesia, just a few metres from the painter Paul Gauguin. Quotation: " a man's life, there are two important dates: his birth and his death. Everything we do in between is not very important."

Jacques Brel sings Le Moribond. Source: Pa Patrice (YouTube).

Jacques Brel sings Ne Me Quitte Pas. Source: Agora Vox France (YouTube).

Jacques Brel sings Marieke. Source: alenaapril (YouTube).

Jacques Brel sings Dans le Port d Amsterdam. Source: Lukáš Slunečko (YouTube).

French trailer for L'emmerdeur (1973). Source: TV5 Monde (YouTube).

Trailer Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (1974). Source: Kino International / Kino Classics (YouTube).

Sources: William Ruhlmann (AllMovie), Louis Girard and Hiram Lee (WSWS), Wikipedia, Éditions Jacques Brel, Europopmusic, and IMDb.