31 July 2012

Karl Schönbock

Austrian gentleman-actor Karl Schönböck (1909–2001) with his always meticulously trimmed moustache had a major film and stage career of 70 years. He was a star of the Munich cabarets, performed in many sophisticated boulevard plays and also played more than 100 elegant roles in German films and TV series.

Karl Schönbock
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 114, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Binz, Berlin.

Karl Schönböck
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3572/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Foto Binz, Berlin.

Bon Vivant Or Grand Seigneur
Karl Ludwig Josef Maria Schönböck was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary (now Austria) in 1909. He was the son of Emanuel Schönböck, a Danube steamboat ship captain, and his wife Louise Schönböck-Bogner. He grew up in Vienna and already performed on stage with an amateur theatre group while he still went to school. He seemed to go on with a career as a successful athlete. He was second in the heavyweight category at the boxing championship for newcomers in 1926. Later he also won the West German championship in fencing. After studying one year at the University of Vienna, he enrolled at Vienna’s Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst (Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) and also took singing lessons from Professor Jekelius in Berlin. He worked for the radio station Ravag. In 1930 he had his stage debut in the Stadttheater in Meissen as Ashley in Vater sein dagegen sehr (To be a father on the other hand very much). In the following 70 years he had engagements and guest appearances in theaters in Hannover, Salzburg, Königsberg, Bonn, Berlin and Munich. At the beginning of his career he played dramatic roles, but his focus later moved to the boulevard theater where he usually was cast as the bon vivant or grand seigneur. In 1936 he made his film debut in was also his film debut in Das Mädchen Irene/The Girl Irene directed by Reinhold Schünzel and starring Lil Dagover and Sabine Peters. Filmportal.de: “At just 27 years old, he already played a graying British aristocrat in this melodrama – a role type that he increasingly specialized on during the following years. Thus, the tall Schönböck who always wore a meticulously trimmed moustache convincingly portrayed gallant bon vivants, aristocrats, and distinguished socialites”. His charming womanizing characters were often a bit vain and therefore not quite taken seriously. Many roles followed in films such as Daphne und der Diplomat/Daphne and the Diplomat (1937, Robert A. Stemmle) with Karin Hardt, the comedy Der Blaufuchs/The Blue Fox (1938, Viktor Tourjansky) starring Zarah Leander, Casanova heiratet (1940, Viktor de Kowa) with Lizzi Waldmüller, the operetta Frau Luna/Lady Moon (1941, Theo Lingen) and Titanic (1942, Herbert Selpin), a film about the most known ship disaster of the 20th century.

Karl Schönbock
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3437, 1941-1944. Photo: Star-Foto-Atelier / Tobis.

Karl Schönbock
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2808/1, 1939-1940. Photo: Haenchen / Tobis.

Sophisticated Boulevard Theater
After the Second World War, Karl Schönböck made his first appearance at Munich’s Kammerspiele. In Munich he also appeared in the revue theater Die Schaubude (the show tent) and was one of the founders of the cabaret Der Kleinen Freiheit (the little freedom). In both cabarets he appeared with his then wife, actress Herta Saal. Besides, Schönböck performed at theatres in Stuttgart, Vienna, and Berlin, in sophisticated boulevard theater plays, like Private Lives by Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham’s Lady Frederick. He also appeared in many film and TV roles, mostly as the nonchalant grand seigneur or the suave gentleman.Successes were Berliner Ballade (1948, Robert A. Stemmle) starring Gert Fröbe, the musical comedy Feuerwerk/Fireworks (1954, Kurt Hoffmann) with Lili Palmer and Romy Schneider, the remake of Der Kongreß tanz/The Congress Dances (1955, Franz Antel) starring Johanna Matz, and Der Traum von Lieschen Müller/The Dream of Lieschen Mueller (1961, Helmut Käutner) featuring Sonja Ziemann. Late highlights of his self-mocking, caricaturing style were his impersonations as a professor in the satire Schtonk! (1992, Helmut Dietl) about the affair of the forged Hitler diaries, and Halali oder der Schuss ins Brötchen/Halali or the Shot in the Buns (1994, Joachiem Roering), in which Schönböck played an old landowner and hunter, who’s last will is to shoot his final deer. His last major role was as the father of hobby-detective Friedrich von Thun in several episodes of the German Krimi series Die Verbrechen des Professor Capellari/The crimes of Professor Capellari (1998-2001). Schönbock was honored with major awards: the Bundesverdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland I. Klasse (Germany’s cross of merit) in 1979, the Filmband in Gold in 1985 and Österreichisches Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst (Austria’s cross of merit) in 1989. In 1988 he published his memoirs, Wie es war durch achtzig Jahr (How it was through 80 years). Schönböck was married twice. First to actress Herta Saal, who passed away in 1964. They had a daughter, Christine (1942). From 1965 on he was married to actress Corinna Genest. Karl Schönbock died of a stroke in 2001 in Munich, Germany. He was 92.

Karl Schönbock
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 2931/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Star-Foto-Atelier / Tobis.

Karl Schönbock, Romy Schneider
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 483, 1957. Retail price: 0,20 DM. Photo: NDF / Schorcht. Publicity still for Feuerwerk/Fireworks (1954, Kurt Hoffmann).

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-Line) (German), Filmportal.de, (German), Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

30 July 2012

Camilla Horn

Ethereally blonde Camilla Horn (1903 - 1996) was a German dancer and film star. Her breakthrough role was Gretchen in the silent film classic Faust (1926, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau). She also starred in some Hollywood films of the late 1920's and in a few British and Italian productions.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag no. 1806/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3944/2, 1928-1929. Photo: United Artists.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3154/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6648/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Atelier Schneider, Berlin.

Dancer in a Cabaret
Camilla Martha Horn was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 1903. She was the daughter of a civil servant. Horn was educated as a dressmaker and worked at Erfurt. She took dance lessons and made her stage debut as a dancer in a cabaret. Her film debut was in the Alexandre Dumas père adaptation Kean (1921, Rudolph Biebrach). In the following years she had a few appearances as an extra. In 1925, she worked as an extra in Madame wünscht keine Kinder/Madame Doesn't Want Any Children (1925, Alexander Korda) with Marlene Dietrich, and in Tartüff/Tartuffe (1925, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau) she was a double for the female star, Lil Dagover.

Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Faust
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 66/2. Photo: Ufa. Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings and Camilla Horn in Faust (1926). Collection: Didier Hanson.

Camilla Horn in Faust
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 66/3. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Faust (1926).

Gösta Ekman and Camilla Horn in Faust
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 62/3. Photo: Parufamet. Publicity still for Faust (1926).

Camilla Horn, Faust
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 62/8. Photo: Parufamet. Publicity still for Faust (1926).

Gösta Ekman, Camilla Horn, Faust
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 66/6. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Faust (1926).

Ideal Casting
Camilla Horn's great chance came when director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau prepared a film version of Goethe's Faust. He had asked Hollywood star Lillian Gish to play Gretchen in the lavish Ufa production, but she insisted that the film should be shot by her favorite cinematographer, Charles Rosher. Therefor, Murnau decided to cast the newcomer he had met on the set of Tartüff. The completely unknown Horn proved to be the ideal casting for the role and Faust (1926, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau) made her a star. She signed a four-year contract with the Ufa and acted in Jugendrausch/Youth Frenzy (1927, Georg Asagaroff, Wladyslaw Starewicz) and Der fröhliche Weinberg/The Merry Weinberg (1927, Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck).

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4449/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Schrecker, Berlin.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5049/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.

Camilla Horn
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 3705. Photo: Verleih Dr. Hauser & Co. / United Artists.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5264/2, 1930-1931. Photo: Deutsche Universal.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7916/2, 1932-1933. Photo: Gerstenberg-Dührkoop, Berlin.

Monetary Offense
In 1928 Camilla Horn sailed for Hollywood where she became the mistress of producer Joseph Schenck and played in two United Artists productions. She starred in Tempest (1928, Sam Taylor) and in Eternal Love (1929, Ernst Lubitsch) both opposite John Barrymore. She returned to Europe, and made popular films like Die grosse Sehnsucht/The Great Desire (1930, Steve Sekely), Hans in allen Gassen (1930, Carl Froelich) with Hans Albers, Moral und Liebe/Morals and Love (1933, Georg Jacoby), Die grosse Chance/The Big Chance (1934, Victor Janson), Ein Walzer für dich/A Waltz for You (1934, Georg Zoch), Der rote Reiter/The Red Rider (1935, Rolf Randolf), Gauner im Frack/crook in Tails (1938, Johannes Riemann) and Fahrendes Volk/Driving People (1938, Jacques Feyder) again at the side to Hans Albers. She refused to follow the official line of the Nazis and was prosecuted for a monetary offense. During the war she got only minor parts or she acted in Italian productions like Paura d'amare/Fear of Loving (1942, Gaetano Amata).

Camilla Horn, Gene Gerrard, The Love Nest
British postcard in the Filmshots series Film Weekly. Photo: B.I.P. Publicity still for The Love Nest (1933, Thomas Bentley).

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4845/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Camilla Horn
German postcard in the Ross Luxus series by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 673. Photo: Ufa.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 588. Photo Atelier Balazs, Berlin.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 9129/2, 1935-1936. Photo: Atelier Yva, Berlin.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 5779/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Atelier Binder.

Late Comeback
The German cinema of the post-war years offered Camilla Horn only rarely roles in films like Königin der Arena/Queen of the Arena (1952, Rolf Meyer) and Vati macht Dummheiten/Daddy Does Dumb (1953, Johannes Häussler). Late in life, she made a comeback in Schloss Königswald/Castle Königswald (1988, Peter Schamoni), a hommage to former film stars like Camilla Horn as Marianne Hoppe, Carola Höhn, Marika Rökk and Rose Renée Roth. The all-star cast was awarded the Bavarian Film Award for Best Actress of 1988. Her last appearance was in the TV drama Die Spinnen/The Spiders(1989, Pál Erdöss). Camilla Horn died in Gilching, Germany, in 1996.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross. Photo: Terra-Baumann.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 1777/1, 1937-1938. Photo: Tobis.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Das Filmprogramm von Heute. Zeitschrift für Film und Theater. Photo: Tobis.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross / Das Programm von Heute, Berlin. Photo: Märkische - Panorama - Schneider - Südost.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3792/1, 1941-1944. Photo: S.A. Bertazzini.

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

29 July 2012

Silvia Sorente

French starlet Silvia Sorente (1941) appeared as a sensual leading lady in a dozen French, Spanish and Italian B-films of the 1960’s.

Silvia Sorente
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/232. Photo: Gérard Decaux.

Magnificent Body
Silvia Sorente was born in 1941 in Paris, France. She is sometimes credited as Sylvia Sor(r)ent(e) or Jane Fleming. She made her first film appearances in French films like the actioner Hold-up à Saint-Trop' (1960, Louis Félix) and the rather sordid drama L'Eternite Pour Nous/Sin on the Beach (1961, Jose Benazeraf). According to the IMDb reviewer “the main raison d'etre of this minor films is to show off the magnificent body of Sylvia Sorrente, which it does to great effect in teasing states of semi-undress and wetness. The film reflects the zeitgeist of the early 60's before outright nudity, panting and grappling took charge.” More interesting is her next film, Taras Bulba, il cosacco/Plains of Battle (1963, Ferdinando Baldi). This Italian production had the same title, plot and release date as the famous Hollywood treatment Taras Bulba (1962), but no stars nor budget. However, in the opinion of the IMDb reviewer, it is a superior film to the Hollywood version. Sorente then appeared as the dancer-informant Lolita in the Euro-western El Llanero/Jaguar (1963, Jess Franco) starring Jose Suarez and Roberto Camardiel. This was cult director Franco’s only foray into the genre of the Western. It tells the story of the civil war in Venezuela in the 1860’s. Robert Monell calls it on his blog I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind “a beautifully composed (by Emilio Foriscot) period adventure/melodrama which looks and plays like a classical US western with its Fordian images of silhouetted riders seen on distance ridges, while also providing a glimpse of the coming Sergio Leone Eurowestern style”. And according to Robert Firsching at AllMovie “Sylvia Sorente's steamy performance is the highlight of this entertaining curio”. Sorente created a stir by going topless in the Italian haunted house production Danza Macabra/Castle of Blood (1964) from genre director Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony M. Dawson. In Danza Macabra  a cast including horror icon Barbara Steele is terrorized in a haunted castle. According to Robert Girsching it is “one of the best Italian horror films of the decade” and “one of the handful of definitive Italian gothics”. Later Margheriti would remake the film in widescreen color as Nella Stretta Morsa del Ragno/Web of the Spider (1971). In the British sex comedy Mission to Paradise/Bikini Paradise (1965, Gregg G. Tallas) two military officers are shipwrecked on an island. The island is populated by beautiful young and nearly naked girls who want to use them for marriage and mating purposes. Silvia is of course one of these virgins.

Clip from L'Eternite Pour Nous (1961). Source: Arnoux Stéphane (Daily Motion).

Opium and Heroin
Silvia Sorrente then worked in France and appeared in Ne nous fachons pas/Let's Not Get Angry (1966, Georges Lautner). Lino Ventura stars in this crime comedy as a former gangster who comes out of retirement to help a petty thief. Silvia played Ventura’s girlfriend. She played a small part in The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966, Terence Young). This spy adventure provides a look into the manufacture and trafficking of opium and heroin. The original story, set in Iran, was written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming who died shortly before he was to pen the screenplay. The film was originally made for TV and starred Senta Berger and Yul Brynner. Funded in part by a grant from Xerox, it was the last of four television films commissioned by the United Nations, to publicise its missions and roles in world peace and diplomacy. The film was narrated by Grace Kelly (as Princess Grace of Monaco) and also contains several cameos from stars like Angie Dickinson, Rita Hayworth and Marcello Mastroianni. The stars worked for a salary of $1 to support the anti-drug message. In 1967 a theatrical version was released into American theaters. One of Silvia Sorente's last films was the espionage thriller Le vicomte règle ses comptes/The Viscount (1967, Maurice Cloche). She starred opposite Hollywood star Kerwin Mathews, who plays a smooth-talking insurance investigator who looks into a bank robbery and ends up breaking up two famous gangs involved in a drug war. The story was based on one of the popular OSS 117 spy books by Jean Bruce. When The Viscount was shown in the US in May 1967 Silvia’s name was dubbed into Jane Fleming. The American distributors felt that her alliterative name was not appealing enough to American audiences, while alliterative names used to be so popular (Brigitte Bardot, Claudia Cardinale, Diana Dors, Marilyn Monroe …). And then her career stopped. Where did Silvia Sorente go? I could not find more information on the web about her.

Trailer for Danza Macabra/Castle of Blood (1964). Source: Synapse Films (YouTube).

Sources: Robert Monell (I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind), Robert Firsching (AllMovie), Answers.com, Boxoffice, Wikipedia, and IMDb. See for more pictures of Silvia Sorente and a re-use of this text: Retrorambling.

28 July 2012

Andrea Checchi

Andrea Checchi (1916 – 1974) was a prolific Italian film and television actor, who peaked as a leading actorin the early 1940's. He had important supporting parts in post-war Neorealism and beyond.

Andrea Checchi
Italian postcard by ASER (A. Scararamaglia Edizioni Roma).

Andrea Checchi was born in Florence in 1916. He was the son of painter Amedeo Checchi. At a very young age he moved to Rome, where he frequented the film academy Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. At age 18, he debuted in the historical film 1860 (1934, Alessandro Blasetti), and less than one year after he had a secondary role in Blasetti’s Vecchia guardia/Old Guard  (1934, Alessandro Blasetti). Many secondary parts in film followed until he had his breakthrough in the war propaganda film L'assedio dell'Alcazar/Alcazar (1940, Augusto Genina) starring Fosco Giachetti, and even more in the comedy Ore 9 lezione di chimica/Schoolgirl Diary  (1941, Mario Mattòli), in which he had he male lead opposite Alida Valli, Irasema Dilian and Bianca Della Corte. Then came the realist romantic comedy Avanti c'è posto/Before the Postman (1941, Mario Bonnard), in which he rivalled with Aldo Fabrizi for the hand of the young Adriana Benetti. The film was written by the young Federico Fellini. Other memorable parts were his leads in Via delle cinque lune/Street of the Five Moons (1942, Luigi Chiarini), Malombra (1942, Mario Soldati) starring Isa Miranda, and La contessa Castiglioni/The Countess of Castiglione (1942, Flavio Calzavara) with Doris Duranti. By the mid-1940s, Checchi was one of the most wanted young Italian actors, both in dramatic as in comical parts. Checchi was considered a modern antihero, impersonating loss, resignation and insecurity, and contrasting with the exuberance of young male actors like Rossano Brazzi, Roberto Villa, Massimo Serato, Leonardo Cortese, or the male star of the era, Amedeo Nazzari. His characters wore wrinkled clothes and his ties askew, rivalled with Massimo Girotti, even if less handsome, in the part of the tormented and fragile protagonist. Checchi was the natural heir of Fosco Giachetti (whom he had seconded in films like L’assedio dell’Alcazar), but he was less harsh and more flexible. Moreover, he gifted his characters with a vulnerability which was unusual for the cinema of the 1930's and early 1940's. It was because of actors like Checchi, Girotti, Anna Magnani and up to a point Gino Cervi and Ignatio Lupi as well, that Italian cinema knew how to move more and more towards neorealism. Checchi had a raw but sensual voice, which considerably contributed to his image of a man with weaknesses but essentially good. He surely was a star in the Italian cinema of the 1940's, and thus he was photographed by the famous studio photographer Luxardo in Rome: with a cigarette between his lips and his face partly covered by his own smoke.

Andrea Checchi
Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit (Casa Editrice Ballerini & Fratini Firenze), no. 21950. Photo: Bragaglia.

Andrea Checchi
Italian postcard by Unione Fotoincisori Firenze. Photo: Prod. INCINE. Caption: The actors of the Tirrenia film studio, no. 3. Andrea Checchi in the film Brivido (1941, Giacomo Gentilomo).

Losing, Conquered Persons
In the postwar era things changed for Andrea Checchi. Though he won his first Nastro d'Argento for best actor in Due lettere anonime/Two Anonymous Letters  (1946, Mario Camerini), he received less opportunities to play leads. His face, which wore its signs at an early stage, was soon borrowed to represent losing, conquered persons, who don’t lose their dignity despite all. His sober and restrained acting resulted in memorable secondary parts which adorned films like Caccia tragica/Tragic Hunt (1947, Giuseppe De Santis) – in which he played the bad guy as the leader of gang that terrorises the local farmers Carla del Poggio and Massimo Girotti. Other important parts were Isa Miranda’s husband in Le mura di Malapaga/The Walls of Malapaga (1949, René Clement), the antifascist in Achtung! Banditi!/Attention! Bandits (1950, Carlo Lizzani), the film producing husband of Lucia Bosè in La signora senza camelie/Camille Without Camelias (1953) by Michelangelo Antonioni (which earned him a Grolla d'oro for best actor), and a part in L'assassino/The Assassin (1961) by Elio Petri, in which Marcello Mastroianni’s character is innocently accused of murder. In this new attire of supporting actor Checchi repeated his 1946 success in 1958, winning a second Nastro d'Argento for best supporting actor in Parola di ladro/Honor Among Thieves (1957, Gianni Puccini, Nanni Loy). Within this second phase of his film career, Checchi played countless supporting parts, which enabled him to work with the great directors of the post-war era and act in several neorealist films. Often he played military characters, and while he played fascist characters under Mussolini, he often played partisans and antifascists in the post-war Italian cinema. From the 1960's Checchi had an active career in television as well, in particular under the direction of Anton Giulio Majano. In 1962 he was Father McMillan in his series Una tragedia Americana/An American tragedy (after Theodore Dreiser). Later he played captain Ivan Mironov in La figlia del capitano/The Captain's Daughter (1965, Leonardo Cortese) and that same year he acted as Valkov in Leo Tolstoi’s Resurrezione/Resurrection (1965, Franco Enriquez). In 1967 he was John Sedley in Majano's mini-series La fiera della vanità/Vanity Fair. He played the lead of Robert Fenwick in Majano's E le stelle stanno a guardare/The Stars Look Down (1971) opposite Giancarlo Giannini, and Head of Police Bonsanti in the popular mini-series Il segno del commando/The sign of the commando (1971, Daniele D'Anza), where he reunited with Massimo Girotti nearly 25 years after Caccia tragica. Checchi also played in two episodes of the detective series Le inchieste del commissario Maigret/The investigations of Inspector Maigret (1965-1968, Mario Landi), starring Gino Cervi. Andrea Checchi was married to the Hungarian Erika Schwarze with whom he had a son - Enrico Roberto Checchi – a television playwright. Like his father he also painted, exhibiting his work in various solo exhibitions. Afflicted by an auto-immune disease – knotty polyarteritis. After a treatment in a specialised clinic in Geneva Checchi returned to Rome, where died in the Salvator Mundi hospital in 1974. He was 57.

 Andrea Checchi
 Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit (Casa Editrice Ballerini & Fratini Firenze), no. 4359 A. Photo: Lux Film / Foto Vaselli. Publicity still for Malombra (1942, Mario Soldati), in which Checchi played Corrado Silla, opposite Isa Miranda as Marina di Malombra.

Sources:  Wikipedia (Italian, French, German and English) and IMDb.

27 July 2012

Xenia Desni

Ukrainian-born actress Xenia Desni (1894 - 1954) was a star of the German silent cinema, whose career ended with the coming of sound film. She was the mother of actress Tamara Desni.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 571/1, 1919-1924. Photo: A. Eberth, Berlin.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 886/3, 1925-1926. Photo: Decla / Ufa.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3151/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Xenia Desni
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 195.

Variety Dancer
Xenia Desni (or Desny) was born in Kiev, Russian Empire (now Ukraine) in 1894 (according to some sources 1897). During the Russian revolution she flew to Constantinople where she worked as a variety dancer. Xenia - also known as Dada - traveled at the beginning of the 1920's to Berlin where she would have a short but successful film career. She made her film debut with Sappho (1921, Dimitri Buchowetzki). She often worked with director Johannes Guter such as for Weib und Palette/Wife and Palette (1921), Die Schwarze Pantherin/The Black Panther (1921), Bardame/Barmaid (1922) and her breakthrough film Die Prinzessin Suwarin/The Princess Suwarin (1923) starring Lil Dagover. In the next years followed other successful productions such as Wilhelm Tell (1923, Rudolf Dworsky, Rudolf Walther-Fein), Der Sprung ins Leben/Leap Into Life (1924, Johannes Guter), and Die Andere/The Other (1924, Gerhard Lamprecht). An international hit became the silent operetta Ein Walzertraum/A Waltz Dream (1925, Ludwig Berger) with Willy Fritsch. This was followed by Familie Schimeck/The Schimeck Family (1926, Alfred Halm, Rudolf Dworsky) with Olga Tschechowa, Madame wagt einen Seitensprung/Madam dares an Escapade (1927, Hans Otto) opposite Hermann Thimig, and Erzherzog Johann/Archduke John (1929, Max Neufeld) with Igo Sym.

Xenia Desni, Willy Fritsch, Ein Walzertraum
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 48/5, 1925-1926. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Ein Walzertraum/The Waltz Dream (1925, Ludwig Berger).

Walther Rilla and Xenia Desni
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5014. Photo: National Film / Verleih Mondial-Film.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1735/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3760/1, 1928 - 1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Xenia Desni
German card by Ross Verlag, no. 3738/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Balázs, Berlin.

Declining Career
After the advent of sound film, Xenia Desni's career declined soon. She would only appear in one more film, Kriminalkommissar Eyck/Detective Superintendent Eyck (1940, Milo Harbich). Xenia had a strong influence in shaping the career of her daughter Tamara Desni (1913 - 2008). In 1931, Tamara acted in three German sound films before leaving with her mother to Great Britain. In 1931, she made her triumphant London stage debut in the successful operetta White Horse Inn at the Coliseum Theatre. Subsequently she worked for decades as an actress on the West End and in the British film industry. Her father, James Brodsky, had left his family to settle in the United States. Tamara was married five times, a.o. with Canadian actor Raymond Lovell . In the early 1950's Tamara moved to France and her mother probably moved along. Xenia Desni died in  Roquefort-les-Pins, France.

Xenia Desni
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 962. Photo: Verleih E. Well & Co.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1735/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Xenia Desni
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 513/1. Photo: Sascha.

Tamara and Xenia Desni
Photo of Xenia and her daughter Tamara Desni. Collection: Didier Hanson. Given to Didier by Madeleine, Tamara's daughter.

Scenes from Ein Walzertraum/A Waltz Dream (1925). Source: Sittichfan (YouTube).

Source: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Stephanie D'heil (Steffi-line) (German), Wikipedia, BritMovie.co.uk and IMDb.

26 July 2012

Carole Lesley

Sexy Carole Lesley (1935 - 1974) or Leslie Carol(e) rivaled Diana Dors in popularity in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The glamorous starlet could always be seen at film premieres and her photograph was constantly in the British film magazines and annuals of the day. She emphasized her physical structure in some comedies, but she never lived up to her early potential. Her lack of acting skill meant that as the 1960' s wore on she was soon forgotten.

Carole Lesley (Leslie Carole)
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/186. Photo: Farabola. On this postcard Carole Lesley is credited as Leslie Carole. Double click for the whole picture.

Showgirl and Pin-up Model
Carole Lesley was born as Maureen Lesley Carole Rippingale in Chelmsford, England, in 1935. At the age of 12, she made her film debut in the British drama Silver Darlings (1947, Clarence Elder). Four years later, the naive and starry-eyed but gorgeous sixteen-year-old ran away from home to break into show business. According to Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, she was wearing her father's shirt and had only two and fourpence in her pocket. She got a job as a showgirl at London's Cabaret Club and became a good dancer. She went to Paris to try modeling and worked as a pin-up model under the name Leslie Carol(e). In the mid-1950’s she signed a 7 years contract to Associated British Pictures and as Carole Lesley she appeared in their productions. She was seen in films like Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957, J. Lee Thompson), These Dangerous Years (1957, Herbert Wilcox) with teenage idol Frankie Vaughan, and No Trees in the Street (1959, J. Lee Thompson) starring Sylvia Syms. She was often seen at film premieres and her photograph was constantly in the British film magazines and newspapers. Gary Brumburgh at IMDb: "she was one of a few starlets who briefly rivaled notorious blonde bombshell Diana Dors as Britain's answer to Marilyn Monroe during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The stunning actress, whose slim face was slightly reminiscent of comedic actress Kay Kendall and the more contemporary Sean Young, willingly exploited her obvious physical endowments in an elusive attempt to drum up public attention."

Carole Lesley (Leslie Carol)
Italian postcard. On this postcard Carole Lesley is credited as Leslie Carol.

Suicide or accident?
In 1960 Carole Lesley starred on television as legendary temptress Helen of Troy in the ITV Play of the Week Tiger at the Gates (1960, Paul Almond). That year she was also seen in the comedy Doctor in Love (1960, Ralph Thomas) opposite handsome doctor Michael Craig. The following years she appeared in more light slapstick comedies like Three on a Spree (1961, Sidney J. Furie), What a Whopper (1961, Gilbert Gunn) with Adam Faith, and The Pot Carriers (1962, Peter Graham Scott). In these films she always emphasized her curves, but nothing out of the ordinary came out of her appearances and Associated decided to release her from her contract. Gary Brumburgh comments at IMDb: "The devastated actress pulled a virtual disappearing act following the unhappy news, retreating completely from the limelight.". In 1964 she married Michael Dalling and would have two sons with him. In 1974 Carole Lesley died by an overdosis of pills at age 38 in New Barnet, England. Although some sources state it was a suicide, her relatives felt that it was an accident. She is still an inspiration to British artist Paul Harvey.

Tribute Carole Lesley Movie Star on YouTube by blondebombshell59.

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Whirligig Message Board, Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, and IMDb.