27 August 2011

Blanche Montel

Blanche Montel (1902 - 1998) was a French actress who had a long career in French silent and sound cinema between the 1910's to the 1940's.

Blanche Montel
French postcard by A.N., Paris, in the series Les Vedettes de Cinéma, no. 56.

Blanche Montel
French postcard, no. 75.

Blanche Montel
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Édition, Paris, no. 1075. Photo: Studio Piaz.

Sensibility, Seductiveness and Freshness
Rose Blanche Jeanne Montel was born in Tours, France in 1902. When she was only 11, she was already engaged by filmmaker Alfred Machin to play a young Dutch girl, Kaatje, in /A Tragedy in the Clouds (1914, Alfred Machin). The film was shot at the Belgium Pathé studio of Chateau Karreveld at Molenbeek-Saint-Jean near Brussels. Montel then worked in scenography until she met Gaumont film director Louis Feuillade, who was impressed by her sensibility, her seductiveness and her freshness. He directed her in various short films but also in long running serials like Barrabas (1919) with Édouard Mathé, Les deux gamines/The Two Girls (1921), and L'orpheline/The orphan (1921), often starring Sandra Milovanoff. From the early 1920's on, Montel had leading parts in La fille des chiffoniers/The Girl of the Dust Bin (1922, Henri Desfontaines), Son altesse/Her Higness (1923, Henri Desfontaines), Une vieille marquise très riche/An old very rich marchioness (1923, Emilien Champetier), La belle Nivernaise/The Beauty from Nivernais (1924, Jean Epstein), L'éveilleur d'instincts/ (1925, Emilien Champetier) with Armand Bernard, La vocation d'André Carel/The Vocation of André Carel (1925, Jean Choux) with Michel Simon, Le roi de la pédale/King of the pedal (1925, Maurice Champreux), and her last silent film La ronde infernale/The infernal round (1928, Luitz-Morat) starring Jean Angelo. Montel's first sound film was L'Arlésienne (1930, Jacques de Baroncelli) and she remained quite active in the early 1930's in films such as the comedy Flagrant délit/Flagrante delicto (1930, Hanns Schwarz, George Tréville), Clair de lune/Moonlight (1932, Henri Diamant-Berger) with Henri Garat, the drama L'enfant du miracle/The Miracle Child (1932, D.B. Maurice), Miquette et sa mère/Miquette and Her Mother (1933, Diamant-Berger) with Montel as Miquette, Les bleus du ciel/The Blue Ones of the Sky (1933, Henri Decoin) with Albert Préjean, La maison du mystère/The house of the mystery (1933, Gaston Roudès), Les trois mousquetaires/The Three Musketeers (1933, Henri Diamant-Berger) as Constance opposite Aimé Simon-Girard as D'Artganan, L'aventurier/The Adventurer (1934, Marcel L'Herbier) starring Victor Francen, and Durand bijoutier/Durand Jeweler (1938, Jean Stelli). In addition to these films Montel played smaller roles in various French films of the 1920's and 1930's. In those two decades she was also an acclaimed stage actress.

Armand Bernard
Armand Bernard. French postcard by Cinémagazine Edition, no. 21. Photo: Pathé Consortium Cinéma.

Aimé Simon-Girard
Aimé Simon-Girard. French postcard by Cinemagazine, no. 278.

The Beautiful Nivernaise
In the documentary series Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood (1995) Kevin Brownlow and David Gill interviewed Blanche Montel. She tells ironically how surprised she was, that after she was asked to play the female lead in La belle Nivernaise, she found out that the Nivernaise was not a beautiful young girl but a very old and ugly boat. This quite naturalist film on life aboard a barge precedes Jean Vigo's better known L' Atalante. Between 1927 and 1934 she was married to film director Henri Decoin, but she did not play in many of his films. In the early 1930's she played more often in films by Henri Diamant-Berger. Montel and Decoin had one son, Jacques(1928 - 1998). After she had divorced Henri Decoin she had an affair with Jean-Pierre Aumont, until 1940 when Aumont fled to the United States. Blanche Montel's last performance was that of Madame Brown in a film by her ex-husband, L' Homme de Londres/The London Man (1943, Henri Decoin), a Georges Simenon adaptation. In 1946 she started a new career as an impressario for artists. After her son Jacques died in 1998, she soon also passed away in Luzarches, at the high age of 95.

Blanche Montel
French postcard by EC, no. 75. Photo: Piaz. Collection: Performing Arts@Flickr.

011 Blanche Montel
French postcard by Cineémagazine, no. 11. Photo: Gerschell, Paris. Collection: Performing Arts@Flickr.

Sources: Wikipedia (French), Cinememorial, CinéArtistes and IMDb.

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