23 April 2017

Yvonne Monlaur (1939-2017)

On Thursday 18 April 2017, French film actress Yvonne Monlaur has passed away. She starred in several European film productions of the late 1950s and 1960s. The glamorous French starlet is best known for her roles in a few Hammer horror films.

Yvonne Monlaur
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/395. Photo: Gérard Decaux.

The Year's Sexiest Screen Newcomer

Yvonne Monlaur was born Countess Yvonne Thérèse Marie Camille Bedat de Monlaur in Pau, France in 1939. Her father was a White Russian count and her mother was a ballet dancer, who had great plans with her daughter. Yvonne followed her mother's footsteps and took ballerina lessons.

She eventually worked as a teenage model for magazines like Elle, when director André Hunebelle discovered her. He gave her small parts in his films Treize à table/Thirteen at the Table (André Hunebelle, 1955) with Micheline Presle, and Mannequins de Paris/Mannequins of Paris (André Hunebelle, 1956) starring Madeleine Robinson. She then had a supporting part in the Fernandel comedy Honoré de Marseille/Honoré from Marseille (Maurice Régamey, 1956).

Then Italian director Franco Rossi called her to Rome for the Italian-Spanish co-production Amore a prima vista/Love at First Sight (Franco Rossi, 1958) starring Walter Chiari. She appeared in more Italian films such as Non sono più Guaglione/I am not Guaglione anymore (Domenico Paolella, 1958) with Sylva Koscina, and Tre straniere a Roma/Three Strangers in Rome (Claudio Gora, 1958) with Claudia Cardinale in one of her first leading roles.

That year Monlaur was also spotted by the British producer Anthony Hinds. He asked to come to England to play in the an episode of the TV series Women in Love (1958) with George Sanders as the host.

In 1959 she suddenly seemed to be ‘hot’ all over Europe. In France a Paris magazine voted her the year's sexiest screen newcomer, in Great Britain she was featured with a four-page pictorial in the September issue of Male magazine and in Italy she is on the cover of a June issue of Tempo magazine and an Italian newspaper called her 'the year's most promising actress'. But during the shooting of the comedy Avventura a Capri/Adventure on Capri (Giuseppe Lipartiti, 1959) she had a serious accident. She suffered bad facial burns in a speedboat accident, resulting in months of recovery at a hospital.

Claudia Cardinale, Yvonne Monlaur and Francoise Darnell in Tre straniere a Roma (1958)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, no. 1187, 1960. Publicity still for Tre straniere a Roma/Three Strangers in Rome (Claudio Gora, 1958) with Francoise Darnell, Claudia Cardinale and Yvonne Monlaur.

Hammer Horror

In 1960 Yvonne Monlaur travelled, accompanied by her mother, to England for a series of films. First she co-starred in the comedy Inn for Trouble (C.M. Pennington-Richards, 1960). Then followed the Hammer horror film The Brides of Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1960). She was introduced in the trailer as 'the latest sex kitten from France'.

Hal Erickson writes at AllMovie: “One of the best of the Hammer horrors, Brides of Dracula stars Peter Cushing as tireless vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing. Though Drac himself doesn't make an appearance, his influence is felt thanks to teenaged bloodsucker Baron Meinster (David Peel). The baron's loving mother (Martita Hunt) shelters her son from harm, all the while scouring the countryside for potential female victims. When misguided schoolteacher Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) falls in love with young Meinster, Van Helsing is forced to take drastic measures to show her the error of her ways. Excellent (and very bloody) special effects highlight this sumptuous production.”

In Circus of Horrors (Sidney Hayers, 1960), this time produced by Amalgamated studios, Monlaur appeared alongside Donald Pleasance and Anton Diffring as a deranged German plastic surgeon.

She played a Chinese lady in the Hammer production The Terror of the Tongs (Anthony Bushell, 1961) with Christopher Lee as the vicious leader of a Chinese Tong gang operating in 1910 Hong Kong. Hal Erickson describes it as “a gory, garishly colored melodrama written by Jimmy Sangster in the tradition of the Fu Manchu films.”

Back in Italy she had a small part in the romantic comedy It Started in Naples (Melville Shavelson, 1960) starring Clark Gable and Sophia Loren.

She continued to work in England too and appeared in Time to Remember (Charles Jarrett, 1962), one of a series of second feature films based on Edgar Wallace novels released in the UK between 1960 and 1965.

Yvonne Monlaur
French postcard by Editions du Globe, no. 791. Photo: Studio Vauclair.

Lemmy Caution

In France Yvonne Monlaur played a supporting part in Lemmy pour les dames/Ladies’man (Bernard Borderie, 1962), one of the cult action films starring Eddie Constantine which were based on the crime novels by Peter Cheney.

She stayed in France for the crime comedy À cause, à cause d'une femme/Because of a Woman (Michel Deville, 1963) with Jacques Charrier and Mylène Demongeot, and the crime potboiler Le concerto de la peur/Night of Lust (José Bénazéraf, 1963) with a fabulous free-jazz score by Chet Baker.

The latter was a thriller about two rival mobsters who fight for control of the local drug traffic. The film also included a lesbian nightclub act, which was featured prominently on the international posters.

Monlaur then screentested for the role of Domino Derval in the James Bond film Thunderball (Terence Young, 1965). In his book The James Bond Films (1981), author Steven Jay Rubin features a picture of Monlaur posing in a 'Domino' bathing suit. The role eventually went to another French actress, Claudine Auger.

Yvonne Monlaurs moment seemed to be over. After the German crime thriller Die Rechnung - eiskalt serviert/Tip Not Included (Helmut Ashley, 1966) with George Nader as G-man Jerry Cotton, Monlaur left the cinema to return to France. Her last appearance was in the German TV series Der Tod läuft hinterher/The death runs behind (Wolfgang Becker, 1967) starring Joachim Fuchsberger.

Since then she attended film conventions, and wrote on her official Yvonne Monlaur blog, on which she shared memories of her 1960s Hammer films and other Eurospy and action films. Yvonne Monlaur died of cancer. She was 77.

Trailer for The Brides of Dracula (1960). Source: SuperNaturalEarth (YouTube).

Hammer Homage: The Terror of The Tongs (1961). Source: Time For Toast Productions (YouTube).

Sources: Yvonne Monlaur (Official blog), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Cult Sirens, Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

22 April 2017

Béatrice Altariba

Béatrice Altariba (1939) was the pretty star of many French comedies of the 1950s, often opposite her partner Darry Cowl. Till 1969 she appeared in more than 30 productions, including several Italian films.

Béatrice Altariba
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris. Photo Sam Lévin.

Béatrice Altariba
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 733. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Béatrice Altariba
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 204. Photo: Studio Pietri.


Béatrice Altariba was born Béatrice Florence Andrée Altarriba in Paris, France in 1939. She is the granddaughter of painter Émile Bernard and the small-niece of symbolist poet Paul Fort.

She started her career in revues and musical theatre, then she made her debut in the cinema at 17 in the French-Italian drama Club de femmes/Women's Club (Ralph Habib, 1956) starring Nicole Courcel, Dany Carrel and Ivan Desny.

Her early film appearances included supporting parts in films like Pardonnez nos offenses/Forgive our insults (Robert Hossein, 1956) starring Marina Vlady, Lorsque l'enfant paraît/When the Child Appears (Michel Boisrond, 1956) with Gaby Morlay, and L'homme et l'enfant/Man and Child (Raoul André, 1956) featuring Eddie Constantine.

Success came when her fiancé at the time, Darry Cowl, made her Popeline, the pretty heroine of the burlesque comedy Le Triporteur/The Tricyclist (Jacques Pinoteau, 1957) and its sequel Robinson et le triporteur/Monsieur Robinson Crusoe (Jacques Pinoteau, 1959).

Meanwhile, they were also partners in other comedies such as L'Ami de la famille/A Friend of the Family (Jacques Pinoteau, 1957), Sois belle et tais-toi/Be Beautiful But Shut Up (Marc Allégret, 1958) starring Mylène Demongeot, and Le Petit Prof/The Little Professor (Carlo Rim, 1959).

Remarkable is also her role as Cosette in Les Misérables (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1958), the French-East German-Italian film adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel. It stars Jean Gabin as Jean Valjean and Bernard Blier as Javert. This memorable version was filmed in East Germany and is according to Wikipedia overtly political. It was a massive hit in France, the second most popular of 1958.

Béatrice Altariba
French postcard by Editions P,I,, Paris, offered by Les Carbones Korès 'Carboplane', no. 869. Photo: Bernard et Vauclair, Paris.

Béatrice Altariba
French autograph card. Photo: Teddy Piaz, Paris.

Beatrice Altariba in Les Misérables (1958)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 141/576, 1959. Photo: DEFA / Corbeau. Publicity still for Les misérables (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1958) with Béatrice Altariba as Cosette. The film was a co-production of DEFA (East-Germany), P.A.C. (France), Serena (Italy) and Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma (France).

Béatrice Altariba and Gianni Esposito in Les misérables (1958)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb. Photo: DEFA. Publicity still for Les misérables (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1958) with Béatrice Altariba as Cosette and Giani Esposito as Marius.

Beautiful Victim

Without Cowl's assistance, Béatrice Altariba continued her film career successfully into the 1960s. In the excellent horror film Les yeux sans visage/Eyes Without A Face (Georges Franju, 1960) she played one of the young and beautiful victims of a mad surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) and his assistant (Alida Valli).

The film was influential on several directors, including Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar who stated his La piel que habito/The Skin I Live In (2011), which features Antonio Banderas as a mad scientist who performs skin grafts and surgeries on an unwilling victim, was heavily influenced by Les yeux sans visage.

In Italy, Béatrice Altariba appeared opposite Anita Ekberg in the comedy A porte chiuse/Behind Closed Doors (Dino Risi, 1961) and with Brett Halsey in the historical adventure film Le sette spade del vendicatore/The Seventh Sword (Riccardo Freda, 1962). It is a remake of Freda's debut film Don Cesare di Bazan (1942). She was also Jean-Paul Belmondo’s mistress in the crime drama Un nommé La Rocca/A Man Named Rocca (Jean Becker, 1961) based on a novel by José Giovanni.

In the American B-film The Young Racers (Roger Corman, 1963) starring Mark Damon, she played a small role. The film was shot on location in Europe to take advantage of the real life grand prix. Again in Italy she played in the Totò comedy Totò diabolicus (Steno, 1963), the parody I quattro moschettieri/The Four Musketeers (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1963), and in a segment of the anthology film Su e giù/Up and down (Mino Guerrini, 1965).

Her roles got smaller through the late 1960s including an uncredited part in La prisonnière/Female Prisoner (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1968) starring Laurent Terzieff, and a bit role as a saloon woman in the Spaghetti Western Cimitero senza croci/Cemetery Without Crosses (Robert Hossein, 1969), starring Michèle Mercier and Robert Hossein.

Her last television appearance was in the first episode of the French children's TV series Les chevaliers du ciel/The Aeronauts (1967), based on a comic book series by Jean-Michel Charlier and Albert Uderzo titled Tanguy et Laverdure, about two pilots, and their adventures in the French Air Force.

Gianni Esposito and Beatrice Altariba in Les Misérables (1958)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 951, 1958. Photo: DEFA. Publicity still for Les misérables (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1958) with Béatrice Altariba as Cosette and Giani Esposito as Marius.

Béatrice Altariba
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 679. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Béatrice Altariba
German postcard by UFA, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 3400. Photo: Sam Lévin / Unifrance Film.

Sources: Jean-Pascal Consrtantin (Les Gens du Cinéma), Wikipedia (French and English) and IMDb.

21 April 2017

Reinhold Schünzel

German actor and director Reinhold Schünzel (1888-1953) started his successful film career during the first World War. He helmed and appeared in more than 100 productions, specialising in light comedies such as the classic ‘drag’ farce Viktor und Viktoria/Victor and Victoria (1933). In 1937 he had to flee Nazi-Germany and continued his career in Hollywood.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Verlag Herm. Leiser, Berlin-Wilm., no. 5070. Photo: Becker & Maass.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 1837. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1907/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Self-indulgent Bonvivant and Seducer

Reinhold Schünzel was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1888 (some sources: 1886). After finishing school, he completed an apprenticeship as a merchant in the Berlin-based publishing company Scherl. He then worked in Berlin, later in Hamburg, as a branch manager for the publishing company.

Besides, he worked as a part-time extra in films. He became a full-time actor in 1912. He then performed at Stadttheater Bern and at Berlin's Komödienhaus at Schiffbauerdamm and at Theater at Königgrätzer Straße. His film debut was in Werner Krafft (Carl Froelich, 1916) with Erika Glässner.

In the same year he was discovered by Richard Oswald. From then on he often played the part of the self-indulgent bonvivant and seducer, the sly pander and extortionist in Oswald's films. He starred in the Aufklärungsfilms (educational film) Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen/The Diary of a Lost Woman (Richard Oswald, 1918) with Erna Morena, Werner Krauss, and Conrad Veidt, and Das gelbe Haus/Prostitution (Richard Oswald, 1919) starring Anita Berber.

With Veidt he starred in Anders als die Andern/Different from the Others (Richard Oswald, 1919), where he embodied the blackmailer of a homosexual violinist, played by Veidt. He also appeared as the villain in the crime films of the Max Landa series, such as Das Geheimnis des Amerika-Docks/The Secret of the America Dock (Ewald André Dupont, 1919).

In 1919 he directed his first film, Maria Magdalena/Mary Magdalena (Reinhold Schünzel, 1919) with Lucie Höflich. He followed this up with the Aufklärungsfilm Das Mädchen aus der Ackerstraße/The Girl From the Ackerstrasse (1920) and the elaborate history film Katharina die Große/Catherine the Great (1920).

Henny Porten and Reinhold Schünzel in Höhenluft
German postcard by Film-Sterne Verlag, no. 508/4. Henny Porten and Reinhold Schünzel in the Messter comedy Höhenluft (Rudolf Biebrach, 1917).

Eduard von Winterstein, Rosa Porten and Reinhold Schünzel in Die Erzkokette (1917)
German collectors card by Ross Verlag for the album Vom Werden deutscher Filmkunst. Teil I. Der stumme Film (Cigaretten-Bilderdienst Altona-Bahrenfeld 1935), Bild no. 43, Gruppe 41. Photo: Treumann-Larsen-Film. Publicity still for Die Erzkokette/The Superflirt (Franz Eckstein, Rosa Porten, 1917) with left Eduard von Winterstein and Rosa Porten.

Reinhold Schünzel in Das Karussell des Lebens
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K.2931. Photo: Union. Reinhold Schünzel in Das Karussell des Lebens (Georg Jacoby, 1918). According to German Wikipedia Schünzel's presence in the film is unsure, but this postcard seems to prove it.

Henny Porten and Reinhold Schünzel in Auf Probe gestellt
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 520/3. Photo: Messter Film. Henny Porten and Reinhold Schünzel in the German silent comedy Auf Probe gestellt (Rudolf Biebrach, 1918).

Pola Negri in Madame Dubarry
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 627/6. Photo: Union Film. Publicity still of Reinhold Schünzel and Pola Negri in Madame DuBarry (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919). After the death of King Louis XV (Emil Jannings), his minister Choiseul (Schünzel) chases DuBarry (Negri) from the Royal palace.

Classic Drag Farce

Still in 1920, Reinhold Schünzel set up the production company Schünzel-Film and merged it several months later with the Vienna-based production company Micheluzzo & Co. (Micco-Film). The new production company then produced Der Graf von Cagliostro/The Count of Cagliostro (1920), starring Conrad Veidt and Anita Berber. Schünzel helmed the film as producer, director and actor.

Schünzel also starred in ambitious productions like Madame Dubarry/Passion (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919) starring Pola Negri, and the Friedrich Schiller adaption Luise Millerin (Carl Froelich, 1922) featuring Lil Dagover.

From the second half of the 1920s on he specialised as a director in light comedies. He displayed his full comedic potential in films such as Adam und Eva/Adam and Eve (1923), Halloh Caesar!/Hello Cesar! (1926), and Don Juan in der Mädchenschule/Don Juan in the Girl’s School (1928) with Adolphe Engers.

Even when he was at his busiest as a director, Schünzel found time to act in other men's films, notably Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s adaptation of Die 3-Groschen-Oper/The Beggar's Opera (G.W. Pabst, 1931), in which he played crooked constable Tiger Brown.

With the introduction of sound film his comic talent as a director came even to better advantage. From 1931 on, Schünzel worked as a director for Ufa and finished a number of very successful musical films, including Saison in Kairo/Cairo Season (1933), the classic ‘drag’ farce Viktor und Viktoria/Victor and Victoria (1933), and Amphitryon - the clouds comes from the happiness/Amphitryon – Aus den Wolken kommt das Glück (1935). In all these film Renate Müller played the leading role.

Schünzel also directed the simultaneously film French-language version of Viktor und Viktoria: George et Georgette (Roger Le Bon, Reinhold Schünzel, 1933) starring Meg Lemonnier. Viktor und Viktoria would also lead to such remakes as Victor, Victoria (Blake Edwards, 1981) starring Julie Andrews.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Herm. Leiser, Berlin-Wilm. Photo: Atelier Eberth, Berlin.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1328/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Alex Binder.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1328/3, 1927-1928. Photo: Alex Binder.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1585/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.


After 1933, Reinhold Schünzel was only by special permission of the Nazis allowed to work because he was described as ‘half-Jew’. Though he tried to make the best of things after Adolph Hitler's ascent to power, the ironic undertone of his films eventually got Schünzel in trouble with the Nazi regime. There were so many interventions in his films that he left the country after finishing Land der Liebe/Land of Love (1937) with Albert Matterstock.

He resettled in Hollywood. His American directorial debut was Rich Man Poor Girl (1938). Although the three musical films he made for MGM were quite successful - the others were Balalaika (1939) and The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939) - and featured stars like Joan Crawford and James Stewart, Schünzel was not able to make his breakthrough in Hollywood. Thus, New Wine (1941) happened to be his last film as a director.

From then on he concentrated solely on playing character roles. He appeared as a Nazi villain in major films as Hangmen Also Die! (Fritz Lang, 1943) and Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946). Amidst the requisite Nazis and Professorial types, Schünzel enjoyed one of his best-ever screen roles in Paramount's The Man in Half-Moon Street (Ralph Murphy, 1945), playing the conscience-stricken associate of murderous ‘eternal-life’ experimenter Nils Asther.

In 1949 (some sources say 1952) he returned to Germany and worked again at on stage in Munich, as he appeared as a supporting actor in films. For his role in Meines Vaters Pferde/My father's horses (Gerhard Lamprecht, 1954), he received the Bundesfilmpreis (Federal Film Award) as Best Male Supporting Actor.

Shortly after, Reinhold Schünzel died in Munich of a heart disease. He was the father of Marianne Stewart. On the occasion of Schünzel’s 100th Birthday in 1988, CineGraph – the Hamburg Institute Center for Film Research dedicated a congress to the work of the director and actor.

Subsequently a biography was published: Reinhold Schunzel: Schaupieler und Regisseur (1989), by Hans-Michael Bock, Wolfgang Jacobson, and Joerg Schoening. The publication inspired Hans-Christoph Blumenberg to make a film about Schünzel, Beim nächsten Kuß knall ich ihn nieder!/The Next Kiss I’ll Shoot Him! (1995). Since 2004 CineFest, the International Festival of German Film Heritage, has the Reinhold Schünzel Award, a yearly honorary award for long service to the care, preservation and dissemination of the German film heritage.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 361/1. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 361/2. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 361/3, 1919-1924. Photo: Alex Binder.

Dolly Haas, Reinhold Schünzel and Lucie Mannheim in Der Ball (1931)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6079/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Vandal & Delac. Publicity still for Der Ball/The Ball (Wilhelm Thiele, 1931) with Dolly Haas and Lucie Mannheim.

Reinhold Schünzel
German postcard by Deutsche London Film. Photo: Intercontinental-Film / London-Film / Lilo.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos),, TCM, Wikipedia (German), and IMDb.