Béatrice Bretty (1893-1982) was a French actress who dedicated her career to the Comédie française, often playing Soubrette types. She was the TV presenter during the inauguration of the first French TV channel in 1935. Incidentally she also appeared in silent and sound films.
French postcard by Pathé Consortium, nr. 67. Bretty as La belle hôtelière in the film Vingt ans après (1922), the sequel of Les trois mousquetaires (1921).
Béatrice Bretty was born Béatrix Anne-Marie Bolchesi in La Fere, France, in 1893. In 1915 she went to the Comédie française and stayed there for 42 years, becoming a classic interpreter of Molière. In 1917 she debuted on screen in the film Par la vérité/For The Truth (1917, Gaston le Prieur, Maurice de Féraudy). In 1922 she played in both the documentary Molière, sa vie, son oeuvre/Molière, His Life, His Work (1922, Maurice de Féraudy) and in Vingt ans après/Twenty Years Later (1922, Henri Diamant-Berger). After a long absence from the screen, she returned in Julien Duvivier's film Le Petit Roi/The Little King (1933, Julien Duvier) with Arlette Marchal. In 1935 she was televised at the official inauguration of television in France, which was broadcast in 60 lines. The program of 15 minutes showed Béatrice Bretty in the studio of Radio-PTT Vision in Paris. The broadcast had a range of 100 km. By then she was an acclaimed actress of the Comédie française, often playing soubrette types. In 1938 she played on stage in various comedies such as Un chapeau de paille d'Italie but she also performed as the casher in the play Cantique des cantiques by Jean Giraudoux, directed by Louis Jouvet for the Comédie française.
Louis Jouvet. French postcard by Editions O.P., Paris, nr. 123. Photo: Paramount.
In 1940 Béatrice Bretty was one of the artists who fled France aboard the steamship Massilia, along with left wing-politicians, among whom former prime minister Daladier and minister Georges Mandel. They thought of raising a government in exile in Casablanca. Once they arrived in Casablanca, though, the armistice in France had been signed. By order of the pro-nazi admiral Darlan, all were interned and the politicians were sent back to France, where some were trialed for desertion or defeat. After the war, Bretty went back to play at the Comédie française, playing e.g. in André Gide's Les Caves du Vatican (1950). In 1957 she shifted to the Theatre Antoine, sometimes alternated with the Theatre de la Madeleine. In the 1950's Bretty also played parts in films, such as in the Fernandel comedies Le Chomeur de Clochemerle/Easiest Profession (1957, Jean Boyer), and Le Vigne du Seigneur/Vines of the Lord (1958, Jean Boyer). About Le Chomeur de Clochemerle James Travers writes at Films de France: "With its colourful characters, sunny rural setting and distinctive lead actors (Fernandel, Ginette Leclerc and Rellys), Le Chômeur de Clochemerle is immediately evocative of the films of Marcel Pagnol." Bretty also played in La Sentence/The Sentence (1959, Jean Valère) starring Marina Vlady, and Arrêtez les tambours/Women and War (1960, Georges Lautner) with Bernard Blier, her last film role. In her last years Bretty played often with the stage company Pitoëff, in plays by André Roussin (Les Glorieuses, 1960) and Françoise Dorin (Un sale égoïste, 1970). In the 1960's she occasionally played parts in French television plays as the Charles Dickens adaptation Le magasin d'antiquités/The Old Curiosity Shop (1964, René Lucot) and Les glorieuses/The Glorious Ones (1968, Pierre Sabbagh). Her last role on television was the lead in the TV play La terrasse des Bernardini/The Terrace of the Bernardini's (1976). She died in 1982 in Paris. Béatrice Bretty lies buried at the Cimetière de Passy, together with aviation pioneer and writer Louis Castex. Catherine Frot interpreted Beatrice Bretty in the TV film Le Dernier Été/The Last Summer (1997, Claude Goretta) about the Jewish-French politician Georges Mandal who warned everybody in the 1930's that the Nazis would make a terrible war. Nobody listened to him, because he was a jew. When the Germans entered France, Mandal refused to collaborate to the Petain government and was sent to jail. Mandel would be shot in 1944.
Marina Vlady. German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. CK-76. Photo: Unifrance Film.
Sources: James Travers (Films de France), Wikipedia (French), and IMDb.