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29 September 2011

Willy Walden and Piet Muyselaar

Dutch comedians Willy Walden (1905 - 2003) and Piet Muyselaar (1899 - 1978), aka the ladies Snip & Snap, were the stars of the Sleeswijk Revue which filled the biggest theatres of the Netherlands between 1937 and 1977. The duo also starred together on TV and in the film Sterren stralen overal/Stars Twinkle Everywhere (1953).

Willy Walden en Piet Muyselaar
Dutch promocard, ca. 1980.

Bouwmeester Revue
Willy Walden was born as Herman Jan Jacob Kaldewaaij in Amsterdam in 1905. His brother would also become an artist, known as Gerard Walden. During his youth, Willy was a good friend of the later film star Johan(nes) Heesters. In the 1920's they would appear together in a revue. Willy Walden made his stage debut in 1927 with the Stapperrevue, in Hallo Parijs (Hello Paris). The stars were singer-comedian Louis Davids and the chansonniére Louisette. For the next years he often performed together with Davids. During the 1930’s he also performed with another great Dutch comedian of this era, Lou Bandy. In 1935 he joined the Bouwmeester Revue, famous for its luxurious and spectacular outfits. Star of these revues was the clown Johan Buziau. One of the extras was Piet Muyselaar. Muyselaar was born in Zaandam in 1899. He started his stage career at the Henvo-revues in Amsterdam. These revues, under the direction of Henk Voogd (HenVo), were small but popular. After a few years, Muyselaar was discovered by Louis Bouwmeester Jr., the director of the Bouwmeester-revues. He engaged Muyselaar reportedly while 'he could wear a tuxedo so well'. Piet Muyselaar was indeed a true gentleman. He started as an extra, but soon his singing talents were discovered. In 1936 he appeared in the revue De lachende komedianten (The laughing comedians), next to Johan Buziau. Another extra was the comedian Willy Walden.

Piet Muyselaar
Dutch postcard by Uitg. Handelsonderneming Triëm, Utrecht. Photo: Decca.

Piet Muyselaar
Dutch promocard.

Drag Act
In 1937 Willy Walden and Piet Muyselaar were brought together as a comic duo by chance. The radio show De Bonte Dinsdagavondtrein/The Colourful Tuesday Night Train was the most popular Dutch radio program of the era. The show presented amusement and cabaret, and was created by the young revue producer René Sleeswijk. One legendary night, he had engaged Louis Davids, but happily the famous entertainer fell ill. Sleeswijk asked Muyselaar and Walden to appear together as a replacement. He also suggested them to do the sketch Juffrouw Snip en Juffrouw Snap/Miss Snip and Miss Snap, written by Davids and Jacques van Tol. At first Walden and Muyselaar didn’t like to do a drag act and thought the humor was silly, but finally they agreed to do it. Their crosstalks on stage were mostly improvisations. The radio public loved it, and two stars were born. Snip (Walden) & Snap (Muyselaar) became a Dutch phenomenon and the act would endure for four decades. The first revue with the ladies Snip and Snap was a promotour for radio broadcaster AVRO. After a year this show evolved into the Snip & Snap Revue, under the direction of René Sleeswijk. In 1938 Snip & Snap made their first recordings, including Ja, meneer (Yes Sir), a parody on the popular Zarah Leander song, and Snap je dat nou, juffrouw Snip (Do You Understand that, miss Snip). During the Second World War the revues were continued, like most of the Dutch theatre activities. Piet Muyselaar was married to revue actress Serah van der Heijm. She was Jewish and during the war the couple divorced formally. Serah was hidden in the house of Piet Muyselaar and survived thus the holocaust. After the war the couple remarried.

Willy Walden and Piet Muyselaar
Dutch postcard by L. Nieweg, Amersfoort. Photo: W. Schuurman, Den Haag.

Piet Muyselaar and Willy Walden
Dutch postcard. Sent by mail in 1955. Publicity still for the Snip and Snap revue Hollandse Nieuwe/Dutch Newest in Carré, Amsterdam.

Lots of feathers, glitter and glam
In the post-war years the Snip & Snap revue became immensely popular in the Netherlands. For the Netherlands (yes, our country is small and calvinistic), those revues were incredible spectacles with beautiful showgirls, an orchestra, big sets and lots of feathers, glitter and glam. Willy Walden developed into a great comedian with superb mimicry and perfect timing. Muyselaar was perfect as his distinguished sidekick who could also sing well. They starred in a popular film, Sterren stralen overal/Stars Twinkle Everywhere (1953, Gerard Rutten) with Johan Kaart. The subject was the then actual item of Dutch emigration to Canada and Australia. For the comic interludes, producer Rudi Meyer engaged Walden and Muyselaar and also the complete cast of the Snip & Snap revue. The film became a success with more than 1 million visitors. (More than one tenth of the Dutch population in 1953!). The following year the Snip & Snap Revue was broadcasted on Dutch television. This would become a popular tradition. In 1977 Walden and Muyselaar performed for the last time together. Piet Muyselaar died a half year later, at age 78. Willy Walden was married twice. His second wife was the Danish actress Aase Rasmussen who often appeared in the Snip & Snap revues. Willy and Aase presented the radio show Raad een lied (of niet)/Guess the Song (or Not) till 1987. Then they retired after their 500th show. Willy Walden wrote his memoirs, published as Ja, dat was revue (Yes, that was revue). He died in 2003 in Bennekom, two weeks before his 98th birthday.


Scene about dislike for coffee from one of the Snip and Snap revues, broadcasted in 1965. Source: Nightowl7071 (YouTube).

Source: Aart Laferte (Aart Laferte’s Sentimental Journey)(Dutch), Coen Verbraak (Vrij Nederland)(Dutch), Wikipedia(Dutch) and IMDb.

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