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18 August 2012

André Berley

André Berley (1890 - 1936) was a French stage and screen actor, known for his part in Carl Dreyer’s La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928).

André Berley
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 644. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Evil Judge
André Berley was born André Edmond Obrecht in Paris in 1890 (according to IMDb he was born in 1880). From the early 1910's on, he was highly active on stage. Berley worked both in music-halls and on the classical stage. Among his greatest stage successes were L'Age de raison (1924) by Paul Vialar, Les Marchands de gloire (1925) by Marcel Pagnol, and  the musical comedy Le Renard chez les poules (1929). He debuted in film during the last years of the silent cinema. He performed a major part in La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc/The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer) featuring Maria Falconetti as Jeanne. Berley played Jean d'Estivet, one of the evil judges, which also included Sylvain, Maurice Schutz, Michel Simon and Antonin Artaud. Hal Erickson at AllMovie: " The Passion of Joan of Arc is a silent film, but the original transcripts of Joan's trial are brilliantly conveyed by the pantomime of the actors. The film's title is supremely double-edged -- Joan's 'passion' is shown to be as erotic as it is spiritual." Berley also acted in a second silent film, the steamy melodrama Harakiri (1928, Marie-Louise Iribe, Henri Debain).

Sylvain in La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc
Sylvain. French postcard by Ed. Cinémagazine, Paris, no. 83. Photo: Alliance Cinématographique. Publicity still for La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928).

Franco-German multilinguals
Thanks to a contract with MGM, André Berley stayed around 1930 for a year in Hollywood. He acted in seven French versions of MGM’s early sound films, including Buster se marie/Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931, Claude Autant-Lara) starring Buster Keaton. He did one more Hollywood movie at Paramount: Le petit café (1931, Ludwig Berger), the French-language version of Playboy of Paris, with Maurice Chevalier essaying the same role in both versions. Based on a play by Tristan Bernard, Le petit café was regarded as a vast improvement on the English-language original. In Hollywood Berley was directed by several famous European directors, like Jacques Feyder, Henri Chomette, Reinhold Schünzel and Arthur Robison. After his return to France, he mainly acted in French sound cinema. Until his death in 1936, Barley participated in many French versions of Franco-German multilinguals. Berley played for instance the part of Emil Jannings in the French version of Die Abenteuer des Königs Pausole/The Adventures of King Pausole (1933, Alexis Granowsky): Les aventures du roi Pausole (1933). He also acted in the Franco-British coproduction Juanita (1935, Pierre Caron), and in three Franco-American co-productions, including the French version of The Merry Widow (1934) with Maurice Chevalier. Only 46, André Berley died in 1936, shortly after the shooting of La Maison d'en face/The House Across the Street, an adaptation of the play by Paul Nivoix directed by Christian-Jaque. The film, which starred Elvire Popesco, was released in January 1937. His daughter Denise Berley is a stage and cinema actress.

Maurice Chevalier
Maurice Chevalier in Le petit café (1931). Dutch postcard, no. 74. Photo: Paramount.

Sources:  Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Ciné-Ressources (French), Wikipedia (French and English), and IMDb.

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