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28 September 2011

Sylvain Poons

During the Netherlands Film Festival (21 - 30 September 2011), EFSP presents the Unofficial Dutch Film Star Postcards Festival. Today's subject is Sylvain Poons (1896 - 1985). This Jewish actor and singer from Amsterdam appeared in many popular Dutch musical films from the 1930’s. After the war he sang a famous duet with the then 14 year old Oetze Verschoor, the sad fisher ballad Zuiderzeeballade. It became an evergreen of the Dutch pop music.

Sylvain Poons
Dutch postcard by M. B.& Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Loet C. Barnstijn Productie. Still for De familie van mijn vrouw/My Wife's Family (Jaap Speyer, 1935).

Natural Way of Acting
Sylvain Albert Poons was born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 1896. As the son of the singer Salomon Poons and the actress Elise van Biene, he was destined to become an artist, like his elder sister Fanny Ella, who became known as Fanny Lohoff-Poons. Sylvain debuted as a stage extra in the season of 1912-1913 for Colnot & Poons, a company named after the two directors of the Plantage Schouwburg (Plantage Theatre): Guus Colnot and Salomon Poons, Sylvain’s father. He played in operettas and variety shows and once in a while he appeared in a ‘serious’ role. Poons also worked for the early Dutch cinema. He appeared in silent films as Levensschaduwen/ Life's Shadows (1916, Theo Frenkel), De Duivel/The Devil (1918, Theo Frenkel), Het Proces Begeer/The Begeer Case (1918, Theo Frenkel) and Moderne Landhaaien/Modern Land Sharks (1926, Alex Benno). He was remarked for his natural way of acting. With Henriëtte ‘Heintje’ Davids he played in the early Belgian sound film Jeunes filles en liberté/Young Girls in Freedom (1933, Fritz Kramp). Poons also appeared in one of the first Dutch sound films, De Jantjes/The Tars (1934, Jaap Speyer). This musical film was an enormous box office hit and starred popular Dutch stage stars as Fien de la Mar, Heintje Davids and Louis Davids, Heintje's even more popular brother. In the film, Poons sings a song with Heintje,Omdat ik zoveel van je hou (Because I Love You So). It became a classic duet and the success of De Jantjes created a wave of Dutch sound films. That same year, Poons appeared as the smart icecream man Sally in Bleeke Bet/Pale Beth (1934, Alex Benno, Richard Oswald) with Corry Vonk and Johannes Heesters. Other films in which he appeared were De Familie Van Mijn Vrouw/My Wife’s Family (1935, Jaap Speyer), De Big Van Het Regiment/The Big of the Regiment (1935, Max Nosseck) with Frits van Dongen a.k.a. Philip Dorn, Kermisgasten/Carnival People (1936, Jaap Speyer) with Johan Kaart, and Oranje Hein/Orange Hein (1936, Max Nosseck) with Herman and Aaf Bouber.

Henriëtte Davids and Sylvain Poons
Dutch postcard. Photo: Loet C. Barnstijn/Hollandia Film Prod. Publicity still for De Jantjes (1934) with Heintje Davids in the background.

Johan Kaart, Suzy Klein, Willy Castello, Henriette Davids, Jan van Ees and Sylvain Poons in De Jantjes
Dutch postcard by Hollandia Film Prod./Loet C. Barnstijn. Photo: publicity still for De Jantjes (1934). Collection: Egbert Barten.

Fien de la Mar in Bleeke Bet
Dutch Postcard by Monopole Film, Rotterdam. Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag (The Hague). Publicity still for Bleeke Bet (1934).

Hiding Place
During the Second World War, Sylvain Poons was a member of the Joodsch Kleinkunstensemble (Jewish Variety Company). They performed in the Hollandse Schouwburg (Dutch Theatre) in Amsterdam, which was renamed Joodsche Schouwburg (Jewish Theatre). When he could not perform anymore and it was no longer save for Jews, he fled into a hiding place. After the liberation he appeared again in a lot of plays on stage and on TV. For a long time he was a permanent member of the radio actors company. He also appeared in some films, such as the Belgian-German crime film Le Banquet des Fraudeurs/The Smugglers' Banquet (1952, Henri Storck) with Francoise Rosay. He also played supporting parts in the Dutch films Vier Jongens en een Jeep/Four Boys and a Jeep (1955, Ernst Winar) and Fietsen Naar De Maan/Cycling to the Moon (1963, Jef van der Heyden). He had a huge hit with his duet De Zuiderzeeballade (1959, The Southern Sea Ballad), sung with the 14 year-old Oetze Verschoor as an old man and his grandson. The record became gold (more than 100,000 records were sold). Poons also recorded several Jewish songs and classics from his pre-war film musicals, including Sally met de roomijskar from Bleeke Bet (1934) and his classic duet with Heintje Davids from De Jantjes (1934), Omdat ik zoveel van je hou. In later life, he often played the Jewish schlemiel, like his character Abraham Mossel in the popular TV series De kleine waarheid/The Little White Lie (1971-1972, Willy van Hemert) starring singer Willeke Alberti in her acting debut. His final stage play was the comedy Getrouwd of niet? (Black on White) by Ephraim Kishon in 1967/1968, which also marked his 50 years Jubilee in the theatre. In 1973 he had to retire because of bad health. Later, he was made Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau. After the death of his wife Ilse Becker, he lived the last years of his life in a elderly home in Amsterdam. Sylvain Poons died in 1985, 89 years old.

Johan Kaart, Sylvain Poons, Hansje Andriesen, Matthieu van Eysden, and Adolphe Engers
Dutch postcard by Monopole Film N.V. Photo: Dick van Maarseveen. Still for De Big van het Regiment (1935, Max Nosseck). Collection: Egbert Barten.

Loesje Bouwmeester in De familie van mijn vrouw
Dutch postcard by M. B.& Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Loet C. Barnstijn Film. Still for De familie van mijn vrouw (Jaap Speyer, 1935).


Sylvain Poons and Heintje Davids sing Omdat ik zoveel van je hou in De Jantjes (1934). Source: Pieteroyama (YouTube).


Sylvain Poons sings Draaien, altijd maar draaien in the TV show Top of Flop. Source: Levi1955 (YouTube).

Sources: Muziekencyclopedie.nl (Dutch), Wikipedia (Dutch) and IMDb.

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