31 January 2013

Edy Darclea

Italian actress Edy Darclea (1895 - ?) was active in Italian and foreign silent cinema in the late 1910's and early 1920's. She appeared in several biblical epic spectacles.

Edy Darclea
Italian postcard by Ed. A. Traldi, Milano, no. 609. Photo Pinto, Rome.

Gay Telephone Girl
Edy Darclea (also Edi Darclea) was born as Iole De Giorgio in Rome in 1895. Her father Alfredo De Giorgio had been a singer from Naples, who became a singing master in the American city of Baltimore. There he married Conception Walsh, originally Irish and educated in a college in Monza, Italy. They had four children, Amerigo (1891) and Maria (1892), born in Baltimore, and Edoardo (1893) and Iole (1895), both born in Rome, where the family had moved to in the mid-1890's. De Giorgio pursued his teaching career but also became a notable amateur photographer, specialised in stereoscopic photography. His rich collection can still be found in Rome at the Istituto centrale per il catalogo e la documentazione. Iole’s brother Amerigo started to act in the same year as his sister: 1917. While he kept his name Amerigo De Giorgio (also written as Americo De Giorgio (IMDb’s version) and Amerigo Di Giorgio), Iole changed her name into Edy Darclea. Iole and her brother played together in many films between the late 1910's and early 1920's, mainly in Italy, but in the mid-1920's also in Germany and the US. Darclea debuted in La duchessa del Bal Tabarin/The Duchess of Bal Tabarin (1917, Bob aka Nino Martinengo), in which she played a gay telephone girl who competes with a duchess for the hand of a nice young man. The film, based on a popular operetta, was an early attempt to synchronize sound with records, so Darclea might well have sung in the film, educated by her father. Darclea's first films were directed by various directors like Martinengo, Alexandre Devarennes, and Giuseppe De Liguoro. In 1919 she did two films with Romolo Bacchini, L’ombra fatale/The fatal shadow (1919) and Via Crucis/Way of the Cross (1919) with Elena Sangro. In the following years, she worked four times with prolific director Augusto Genina: Debito d’odio/A Debt of Hate (1920), La ruota del vizio/Conscience (1920) with Bruto Castellani, La crisi/The crisis (1921) and I diabolici/The evil (1921).

Edy Darclea & Mario Parpagnoli
Italian postcard, no. 1099. Edy Darclea and Mario Parpagnoli.

Edy Darclea
Italian postcard by Ed. A. Traldi, Milano, no. 495. Photo: Pinto, Rome.

Big-Budget Spectacles
During the 1920's, Edy Darclea was casted in various epic spectacles. She had already acted in Enrico Guazzoni’s early 'kolossal' La Gerusalemme liberata/Jerusalem Liberated (1918), together with Amleto Novelli, Elena Sangro, and Edy’s brother Amerigo. In 1922 she played Acte, the first mistress of Emperor Nero (Jacques Grétillat)in the American production Nero/Nerone (1922, J. Gordon Edwards). Janiss Garza writes at AllMovie: "The Fox studio wasn't known for its big-budget spectacles, but when it needed to, it could really come through, as proven here. Director J. Gordon Edwards spent eight months in preparation and a couple of months in Italy filming the story of the last of the Caesars - quite a long time in those days. Except for Violet Mersereau, who played the part of the Christian heroine Marcia, the whole cast was made up of Italian actors (appropriate, considering that the film was about ancient Rome). For the most part, Edwards made good use of the 11 reels it took to tell Nero's story, showing off the immense Circus Maximus, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and giving heated life to the burning of Rome (accomplished with a combination of miniatures and full-size sets)." The success of the film lead to more parts in historical films for Darclea. First she played in Edwards’ epic The Shepherd King (1923, J. Gordon Edwards), starring Nerio Bernardi as (King) David. Janiss Garza at AllMovie: "After being made into a stage play by Wright Lorimer and Arnold Reeves, the Old Testament story of David was adapted for the screen. Director J. Gordon Edwards spent over a year in Palestine, Jerusalem and Egypt filming, with a primarily Italian cast. Unfortunately all this effort was in vain, as there were too many title cards and not enough thrills. In addition, it had heavy competition due to the concurrent release of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments." It culminated in the title role of Manfred Noa’s epic, two-part German production Helena/Helen of Troy (1924), shot at the Bavaria Studios in Munich. Helen is adored by her husband Menelaos (Friedrich Ulmer) and by his rival Achilles (Carlo Aldini). But eventually she falls in love and elopes with Paris of Troy (Vladimir Gajdarov), thus causing war between the Greeks and the Trojans. When Achilles’ buddy Patroklos (Carl Lamac) is killed wearing Achilles’ armour, Achilles kills the culprit, Hektor (Carl De Vogt). Then Achilles is killed himself at his only weak spot, his Achilles heel. Eventually the Greeks invade Troy, misleading the Trojans by using a giant horse filled with soldiers. Paris is killed but Menelaos spares his infidel wife. After Helena, Darclea played in one more silent film, Da Icaro a De Pinedo/From Icarus to De Pinedo (1927, Silvio Laurenti Rosa), a series of tableaux on the Italian conquest of the air, from Icarus and Leonardo to modern aviators like De Pinedo. The film was her swan song. Nothing more is known about Edy Darclea, not even the date and place of her death.

Scenes from Helena/Helen of Troy (1924). Source: Sexena1999 (YouTube).

Sources: Janiss Garza (AllMovie), Maria Francesca Bonetti (Biblioteca Treccani) (Italian), Filmportal.de, Vittorio Martinelli (Il cinema muto italiano), Wikipedia (Italian) and IMDb.

30 January 2013

Nicole Maurey

Glamorous French beauty Nicole Maurey (1926) appeared in 65 film and television productions between 1944 and 1997. She flirted with Hollywood stardom in the 1950’s, co-starring with Bing Crosby in Little Boy Lost (1953) and Danny Kaye in Me and the Colonel (1958). She probably remains most noted as Charlton Heston's leading lady in Secret of the Incas (1954), often cited as the primary inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

Nicole Maurey
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 361. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Robert Bresson
Nicole A. Maurey was born in Bois-Colombes, a northwestern suburb of Paris, in 1926. Her father was an architect, her mother housewife. She had one sister. Besides going to school, she took ballet lessons. She entered as a ‘petit rat’ at the Paris Opera, but her family preferred a career in the theatre. So she took drama lessons at the Cours d'Art Dramatique from Maurice Escandre. Nicole played her first film role in Blondine (1944, Henri Mahé) opposite Georges Marchal. Other films were Le cavalier noir/The black knight (1945, Gilles Grangier) with Georges Guétary, and La bataille du feu/The Battle of fire (1949, Maurice de Canonge). In 1950 she married the young actor Jacques L. Gallo whom she had met on the Paris metro. An important film on her résumé is Journal d'un curé de campagne/Diary of a Country Priest (1951) directed by Robert Bresson. It tells the story of an inexperienced and frail priest (Claude Laydu), who has just arrived in his first parish, a village in northern France, where he is not welcome. He tries to fulfill his duties even as he fights a mysterious stomach ailment. The film won eight international awards, including the Grand Prize at the Venice International Film Festival, and the Prix Louis Delluc. It was a financial success in France and established Bresson's international reputation as a major film director. Film critic André Bazin wrote an entire essay on the film, calling it a masterpiece "because of its power to stir the emotions, rather than the intelligence." The film also had considerable influences on Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Two years later Maurey appeared in the American drama Little Boy Lost (1953, George Seaton) about a war correspondent (Bing Crosby) stationed in Paris during World War II and once married to a French girl (Maurey) who was murdered by the Nazis. Following the war, he returns to France trying to find their son, whom he lost during a bombing raid but has been told is living in an orphanage in Paris. Filmed on location in Paris, Little Boy Lost received the Golden Globe Award for Best Film Promoting International Understanding and was also entered into the 1954 Cannes Film Festival. Maurey was then Charlton Heston's leading lady in Secret of the Incas (1954, Jerry Hopper), often cited as the primary inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Secret of the Incas was filmed by Paramount Pictures on location in Peru at Cuzco and Machu Picchu, the first time that a Hollywood studio filmed at this archeological site. Five hundred native Indians were used as extras in the film, which also featured the Peruvian singer Yma Sumac. The film caused a surge in tourism to Peru in 1954. Many of the scenes in Secret of the Incas bear a striking resemblance in tone and structure to scenes from the Indiana Jones films. Heston and Maurey reprised their roles in 1954 in a Lux Radio Theater version of Secret of the Incas.

Nicole Maurey
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Yma Sumac
Yma Sumac. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 589, offered by Les carbones korès 'Carboplane'. Photo: Paramount, 1954.

The Day of the Triffids
In the following decade, Nicole Maurey worked as well in France as internationally. In France she was one of the many stars in the historical drama Si Versailles m'était conté/Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954, Sacha Guitry), which portrayed the personalities who lived in the Royal Palace, the Chateau of Versailles. The following year, she also appeared in Guitry’s historical epic Napoléon (1955, Sacha Guitry) that follows the life of Napoleon from his early years in Corsica to his death at Saint Helena. Other French films were the crime film Section des disparus/The Missing Section (1956, Pierre Chenal) with Maurice Ronet, and the crime comedy Action immédiate/To Catch a Spy (1957, Maurice Labro), starring Henri Vidal. In Great Britain she appeared in the comedy The Constant Husband (1955, Sidney Gilliat) starring Rex Harrison. Then she co-starred in the American war film The Bold and the Brave (1956, Lewis R. Foster), which traces the destinies of three American soldiers (Wendell Corey, Mickey Rooney, and Don Taylor) stationed in Italy during World War II. Other international films were the thriller The Weapon (1957, Val Guest) with Lizabeth Scott, the war comedy Me and the Colonel (1958, Peter Glenville) starring Danny Kaye and Curd Jürgens, the crime film The Scapegoat (1959, Robert Hamer) with Alec Guinness and Bette Davis, and the western The Jayhawkers! (1959, Melvin Frank). In 1960 she divorced Jacques L. Gallo. Maurey reunited with Bing Crosby in the comedy High Time (1960, Blake Edwards), about a middle-aged widower who goes back to college, enters the world of a new generation of postwar youth and falls for professor Maurey. She settled in England and appeared pleasantly in a variety of films but without much fanfare. One of her best known British films is the science-fiction classic The Day of the Triffids (1962, Steve Sekely) based on the novel by John Wyndham. Triffids are plants with a deadly sting that are able to uproot themselves, walk and even communicate. Craig Butler at AllMovie: “Although it takes entirely too many liberties with the excellent novel upon which it is based, The Day of the Triffids is generally an entertaining sci-fi romp. It has many of the classic (some might say clichéd) elements often associated with the genre - an alien invasion, stalwart hero, rag-tag band of allies, and a race against time to save the entire planet.” In 1965, Maurey was back in France for the comedy thriller Pleins feux sur Stanislas/Killer Spy (1965, Jean-Charles Dudrumet), starring Jean Marais. Later, she moved into television appearing in different made-for-TV movies and mini-series, like the hit series La demoiselle d'Avignon/The Maid of Avignon (1972, Michel Wyn) starring Marthe Keller. Her final film was the British-French historical drama Chanel Solitaire (1981, George Kaczender) starring Marie-France Pisier as legendary couturier Coco Chanel. On television Nicole Maurey was last seen in the drama Le grand Batre/The great Batre (1997, Laurent Carcélès) starring Marie-Christine Barrault and Jean-Claude Drouot.

Scene from Little Boy Lost (1953) with Nicole Maurey and Bing Crosby singing Darktown Strutters' Ball. Source: Nicoley133 (YouTube).

Trailer The Day of the Triffids (1962). Source: OcpCommunications (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Craig Butler (AllMovie), Nicole Maurey.voila.net, Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, Wikipedia and IMDb.

28 January 2013

Belinda Lee

English actress Belinda Lee (1935 - 1961) was a knock-out peroxide starlet who became an authentic brunette star.

Belinda Lee
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. C D 21. Photo: Rank-Film.

Belinda Lee
Belgian card by Cox, no. 20.

Belinda Lee
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. CK-309. Photo: Klaus Collignon / Ufa.

Dumb Blonde Pulp-thriller Addict
Belinda Lee was born in Budleigh Salterton, England, in 1935. Her parents were Robert Esmond Lee, a former army captain and owner of the Rosemullion Hotel, and Stella Mary Graham, a florist. They raised Belinda as a good class-English country girl. She pesters her parents to send her to drama school. They finally relent, and Belinda attends the Tudor Arts Academy in Minehead / Hindhead, Surrey, and later the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). While playing in one of the Academy’s productions, she was spotted by director Val Guest and cast for the comedy The Runaway Bus (1954) with Frankie Howerd and Margaret Rutherford. Val Guest introduces her to Rank’s still photographer Cornel Lucas, who takes some glamour publicity photographs for The Runaway Bus. Lucas is 14 years her senior. They fall madly in love and become engaged. For her role as a dumb blonde pulp-thriller addict in the film she received good notices. She was then cast as Amanda, one of the nubile and naughty schoolgirls in The Belles Of St.Trinians (1954, Frank Launder). This anarchic comedy is set in the riotous, thankfully fictional girls' school St Trinian's, created between 1942 and 1951 by British cartoonist Ronald Searle. It was the first of a series of five films wand starred Alastair Sim in a dual role. When the Rank Organisation offered her a seven-year contract in 1954, Belinda Lee readily accepted. That same year Lee and Lucas married. Lucas takes thousands of photographs of his wife and sends them to leading newspapers and magazines around the world.

Belinda Lee
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H, Minden/Westf., no. 2720. Photo: Cornel Lucas / J. Arhur Rank Organisation.

Belinda Lee
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel. Photo: dpa-Bild.

Belinda Lee
Yugoslavian postcard by Irzarda Nas Glas, Smederevo, no. 105. Photo: Cornel Lucas.

Glamorous Starlet
Rank typecasted Belinda Lee as one of their glamorous starlets. Dylan Cave at BFI Screenonline: "At the 1955 Cannes film festival she led Rank's glitterati during the studio's uncharacteristic attempt to generate British Cinema glitz. This may well have prompted Diana Dors' outrageous mink bikini at the same event - a barely concealed method of stealing back the limelight." Lee was often seen as a second-string Diana Dors. Lucas advises her to stop bleaching her hair. She landed bigger comedy roles opposite stars like Benny Hill in Who Done It? (1956, Basil Dearden) and was served up as typical window dressing in Miracle in Soho (1957, Julian Amyes). The swashbuckler Dangerous Exile (1957, Brian Desmond Hurst) concerns the fate of Louis XVII, who died in 1795 as a boy, yet was popularly believed to have escaped from his French revolutionary captors. Lee played a spirited young woman looking after the refugee heir (Richard O'Sullivan). That year, British exhibitors voted her the 10th most popular British film star at the box office.

Belinda Lee
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg, Rotterdam, no. 963.

Belinda Lee
Postcard. Photo: Rank.

Belinda Lee
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H, Minden/Westf., no. 2942. Photo: J. Arthur-Rank-Film. Publicity still for The Secret Place (1957, Clive Donner) .

Scandalous Romance
Belinda Lee then went to Rome to play the female lead, Aphrodite, in La Venera Di Cheronea/Goddess of Love (1958, Fernando Cerchio, Victor Tourjansky) opposite Jacques Sernas and Massimo Girotti. She met intelligent, and good-looking Prince Filippo Orsini, head of one of the oldest and finest families in Italy, with many popes and generals in their lineage. Soon there was a romance between the married prince and the also married film star, and it became an international scandal. Wikipedia: "Italian newspapers reported that Miss Lee had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. Three days later, papal prince Filippo Orsini, who had been linked to her by the papers, was reported to have been hospitalised after slashing his wrists. Police refused to comment on the newspaper reports linking the two romantically. Orsini, whose injuries were light, refused to tell the police why he had done it. Lee said that she had been suffering from insomnia and had taken an overdose by mistake. Both were married to others at the time. The Vatican said that Orsini would lose his title if it were proven that he had attempted suicide" Belinda Lee returned to England for Nor The Moon By Night (1958, Ken Annakin) in which she was even allowed to suggest sexual desire. However, the scandal significantly had damaged the image that Rank had built for Lee and, by the end of 1958, her contract was terminated, with her husband filing for divorce.

Belinda Lee
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 731. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Belinda Lee
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 927, presented by Les Carbones Korès Carboplane. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Belinda Lee, Albert Lupo
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, no. 1636, 1961. Photo: publicity still for Il sicario/Blood Feud (1960, Damiano Damiani) with Albert Lupo.

Voluptuous Temptresses
In 1959, after her divorce from Cornel Lucas, Belinda Lee moved definitively to Italy. Her personal drama worked to Lee's advantage. Avoiding the complete obscurity suffered by many Rank starlets, the European film industry offered her a range of riskier roles that played on her previously contained sexuality. The parts she played, the colour of her hair, her publicity photographs: all were in marked contrast to her British period. She played voluptuous temptresses in lowbudget epics as Le Notti di Lucrezia Borgia/The Nights of Lucretia Borgia (1959, Sergio Grieco) and Messalina Venere imperatrice/Messalina (1960, Vittorio Cottafavi), but she also gave credible dramatic performances in Francesco Rosi's immigration drama I Magliari/The Magliari (1959), in Il Sicario/Blood Feud (1960, Damiano Damiani) and in the intense war story La lungha notte del 43/The Long Night of '43 (1960, Florestano Vancini). While on holiday in California with her boyfriend, filmmaker Gualtiero Jacopetti, she suddenly died in a car accident. Near San Bernardino, California, on US 91, their driver, driving too fast, loses control on the winding road. A tire blows, the car somersaults and is flipped over on its top, and Belinda is thrown out. She is seriously injured and dies twenty minutes later of a fractured skull and broken neck in the arms of a California police officer. Belinda Lee was only 25. It all ended much too soon. In 1962 Gualtiero Jacopetti presented Mondo Cane, the first and commercially most successful of several sensational feature-length documentaries that focuses on lurid and cruel aspects of life.

Belinda Lee and Ian Carmichael in a scene from The Big Money (1958). Source: Jim Beattie (YouTube).

Scene from Nor The Moon By Night with Michael Craig. Source: Mr. Tobyjug3 (YouTube).

Sources: Dylan Cave (BFI ScreenOnline), Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, LoveGoddess.info, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

27 January 2013

Francis Huster

Film and stage actor Francis Huster (1947) is one of French cinema's most recognizable faces. With his dark good looks, he is adept at drama and comedy alike, and played both classic heroes and amiable sidekicks.

Francis Huster
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Jeune PremierFrancis Huster was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in 1947. His parents were Charles Huster, commercial director at Lancia, and his wife, the Polish Jewish Suzette Cwajbaum, who owned a sewing atelier. His grandmother, a passionate film fan, introduced the young Francis to the cinema and the boy was soon captivated. His heroes on the big screen were John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Steve McQueen. At 15, he studied acting at the Conservatoire of Paris, and at the Cours Florent. A few years later he was a teacher there himself. In 1968 Huster went to the National Conservatory, where he won three first prizes. During his studies, he made his film debut in the title role of the religious drama La faute de l'Abbé Mouret/The Demise of Father Mouret (1970, Georges Franju). But the film was not a success, and neither were Faustine et le bel été/Faustine and the Beautiful Summer (1972, Nina Companéez) and L'histoire très bonne et très joyeuse de Colinot Trousse-Chemise/The Edifying and Joyous Story of Colinot (1973, Nina Companéez) with Brigitte Bardot in her final role. Huster decided to focus himself on the stage. In 1971, he joined the Comédie-Française, where he became sociétaire in 1977. Huster played important stage roles like Lorenzaccio, Don Juan and Guy Blas. After a decade, he left the famous theatre company in order to play more than just the jeune premier, the classic young romantic type. Later, he founded the theatre group Compagnie Francis Huster.

Francis Huster
French postcard by Sopraneme, Levallois Perret, no. 159.

Big StarAfter leaving the Comédie-Française in 1981, Francis Huster set himself to become a big star of the French cinema. He wanted to play leading roles in major films. First he played opposite Charles Aznavour in Qu'est-ce qui fait courir David?/What Makes David Run? (1981, Élie Chouraqui). Then he was among the many international stars of the successful musical epic Les uns et les autres/Boléro (1981, Claude Lelouch). He also starred opposite Valérie Kaprisky in La femme publique/The Public Woman (1984), directed by Andrzej Zulawski. Further films he played in were the thriller Equateur/Ecuador (1983, Serge Gainsbourg) with Barbara Sukowa, L'amour braque/Mad Love (1985, Andrzej Zulawski) with Sophie Marceau, and Parking (1985, Jacques Demy), a modern update of the Orpheus myth taking place in an underground parking garage with Jean Marais as the devil. In 1986 he directed his first film On a volé Charlie Spencer/Charlie Spencer is stolen (1986, Francis Huster) with Béatrice Dalle. The comedy about an unassuming bank clerk who joins up with the group of thieves who have robbed his bank, was a flop. He played the lead in Claude Lelouch’s crime comedy Tout ça... pour ça!/All That... for This?! (1993). Huster became Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 1991, and was awarded the rank of Officier by Jacques Chirac in 2006. Chirac commented: "C'est un comédien absolument exceptionnel qui se donne sans réserve à son art" ("He is an absolutely exceptional actor who dedicates himself totally to his art").

Francis Huster
French postcard by Edition Delta-Productions, Saint-Jean-De-Vedas, no. CP 207.

Francis Huster had a big hit in France with the witty comedy Le dîner de cons/The Dinner Game (1997, Francis Veber). He played the friend and former rival of an arrogant publisher (Thierry Lhermitte) undone by the very man he intends to humiliate at his weekly ‘dinner of idiots’. James Travers at Films de France: “Not only is Le Dîner de cons one of Francis Veber’s funniest films, it is also his most minimalist, staged almost as a theatrical piece. The cast is small (but beautifully formed, thanks to the presence of Catherine Frot and Francis Huster) and most of the action takes place almost entirely in one set, in the manner of an American sitcom.” In 2008 he directed his second feature film, Un homme et son chien/A Man and His Dog (2008, Francis Huster). This was a remake of the neorealist classic Umberto D. (1952, Vittorio De Sica). It was the cinematic comeback for Jean-Paul Belmondo, who previously retired from acting after suffering a major stroke. Sadly the film was another flop. Huster’s most recent film is Je m'appelle Bernadette/My Name is Bernadette (2011, Jean Sagols) about Bernadette Soubirous, the peasant girl from Lourdes and her miraculous visions of the holy Mary. Francis Huster was married to Brazilian actress Cristiani Réali, and they have two daughters, Elisa (1998) and Toscane (2003). The couple lives separated since 2008.

Scene from L'histoire très bonne et très joyeuse de Colinot Trousse-Chemise/The Edifying and Joyous Story of Colinot (1973) with Brigitte Bardot. Source: DivineBB (YouTube).

French Trailer for La femme publique/The Public Woman (1984). Source: Dani77744 (YouTube).

French Trailer for Le dîner de cons/The Dinner Game (1997). Source: Thegilou42 (YouTube).

Sources: James Travers (Films de France), Rebecca Flint Marx (AllMovie), Aernout Fetter (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

26 January 2013

Sandra Milowanoff

Sandra Milowanoff (1892 – 1957), also written as Milovanoff or Milonavow, was a Russian actress who fled her country after the Revolution in 1917 and became French citizen. She was a star of the French silent cinema in the 1920's, acting for such prominent directors as Louis Feuillade, Jacques De Baroncelli, Henri Fescourt and René Clair.

Sandra Milowanoff
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 403.

Sandra Milowanoff was born Alexandrine Milowanoff in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, in 1892, and she was the daughter of Alexis and Marie Milowanoff. She already dedicated herself to dance at a young age, and entered the corps de ballet of the famous Anna Pavlova. She was a great success as princess Aurora in Ivan Vsevolozhsky's and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Sleeping Beauty (Wikipedia incorrectly writes ‘in the role of Anna'). After a triumphant tour along various European capitals, Alexandrine left her homeland in 1917 to escape the October revolution. Her family found shelter in Monte Carlo. While looking for work, she got a small part in a film by René Hervil and Louis Mercanton, La p’tite du sixième/The Little One of the Sixth (1917) with Lillian Hall-Davis. Fascinated by her beauty, director Louis Feuillade gave her a leading part in the 12-part serial Les Deux Gamines/The Two Girls (1921). Together with Olinda Mano, the child actor from Feuilllade’s Judex, Milowanoff played the two title characters in Les Deux Gamines/The Two Girls. Also in the cast of this Gaumont production were Blanche Montel, Georges Biscot, Edouard Mathé, Fernand Herrmann and a debuting, young René Clair. This serial proved to be a massive success, and Feuillade casted Milowanoff and the rest of the cast again in three other 12-part serials: L’Orphéline/The Orphan (1921), Parisette (1921) and Le fils du filibustier/The son of the financier (1922). The male lead in Le fils du filibustier was for Aimé Simon-Girard, by then the dashing hero of the successful series film Les Trois Mousquetaires/The Three Musketeers (1921, Henri Diamant-Berger). Sandra Milowanoff played again the female lead in Feuillades feature Le gamin de Paris/The Kid of Paris (1922) with former child star René Poyen and the new child actor Bouboule. It was the last time she worked with the Feuillade.

Sandra Millowanoff, Aimée Simon Girard
With Aimé Simon-Girard. French Postcard, no. 171. Photo: Gaumont. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Sandra Milowanoff in L'Orphéline
French postcard for the Gaumont serial L'Orphéline (1921, Louis Feuillade), starring Sandra Milowanoff.

Les Misérables
From 1923 on, Sandra Milowanoff became a regular actress for director Jacques de Baroncelli, who casted her in his drama Néné (1923) with France Dhélia, in the title role of La légende de soeur Béatrix/The Legend of Sister Beatrix (1923), La flambée des rêves/Soaring dreams (1924) and in particular the Pierre Loti adaptation Pêcheur d'Islande/Island Fishermen (1927), filmed in Brittany. She played the tragic protagonist Gaud opposite Charles Vanel (and not Romuald Joubé, as Wikipedia incorrectly writes). Vanel played the fisherman Yann who is in love with Gaud, the sister of his best friend Sylvestre (Roger San Juana), but is too proud to ask for her hand in marriage. Milowanoff also played female leads in Jocaste (1924, Gaston Ravel) starring Thomy Bourdelle, and Le Fantôme du Moulin-Rouge/The Phantom of the Moulin-Rouge (1925, René Clair) starring Albert Préjean. Henri Fescourt gave Milowanoff the double role of Fantine and her daughter Cosette in Les Misérables (1925), based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel. This 4-part historical drama starred Gabriel Gabrio as Jean Valjean and Jean Toulout as Javert. Milowanoff's career remained highly successful throughout the silent era. She played in Mauprat (1926, Jean Epstein), a lavish costume drama set in pre-Revolutionary France, adapted from a novel by George Sand, and with Maurice Schutz in a double role. Other films were Les larmes de Colette/The Tears of Colette (1926, René Barberis) with Paul Jorge, and the romantic drama La proie du vent/The Prey of the Wind (1927, René Clair) starring Charles Vanel.

Sandra Milowanoff
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 114.

Sandra Milowanoff
French postcard in the Les Vedettes de Cinéma Series by A.N., Paris, no. 185. Photo: G.L. Manuel Frères.

Virtuoso Masterpiece
Then Milowanoff embarked on an international career. She first acted with the Spanish director Benito Perojo in La condesa Maria/La comtesse Marie (1927) with José Nieto, then with the German director Felix Basch in Da hält die Welt den Atem an/Make Up (1927) with Marcella Albani and Werner Krauss, and next with the Swedish director Gustav Molander in Förseglade läppar/Closed lips (1927) with Fred Louis Lerch and Mona Märtenson. Curious is that some of these French as well as the international productions were Albatros (co-)productions, while Milowanoff did not act in the earlier productions of this studio in which Russian actors and directors were so prominent. After her international adventures, Milowanoff returned to France to act in La veine/The vein (1928, René Barberis) with Rolla Norman, La faute de Monique/ Monique's Fault (1928, Maurice Gleize) with Rudolf Klein-Rogge, and La meilleure maîtresse/The best mistress (1929, René Hervil) starring Tramel. Her last silent film was directed by Charles Vanel, Dans la nuit/In the night, which co-starred Vanel and Milowanoff. The film is now recognized as a virtuoso masterpiece, especially after its restoration and relaunch in 2002. Critic Guillemette Olivier-Odicino compared in Télérama Vanel's style with his daring framing, editing and mobile framing to that of famous directors like Jean Renoir, Jean Gremillon and Georges Franju. But in 1928, Dans la nuit came out in France at the same time as the sensational first sound film The Jazz Singer, and Dans la nuit was completely ignored. After one more film in 1932, Vanel quitted film directing altogether. When sound cinema set in, Sandra Milowanoff stopped with film acting. In the 1940's she came back and acted in a handful of films. They were only minor parts. The best known of these films is Le comédien/The Private Life of an Actor (1947, Sacha Guitry) in which she played a Russian servant. In 1950 she quitted the screen definitively. Almost completely forgotten, Sandra Milowanoff died in Paris in 1957. She was 64. She lies buried at the Pantin cemetery in Seine-Saint-Denis.

Scene from Dans la nuit/In the night (1929). Source: Vintagezelle (YouTube).

Another scene from Dans la nuit/In the night (1929). Source: Vintagezelle (YouTube).

Sources: Ann Harding's Treasures (French), Ciné-Ressources (BiFi), Allo-Ciné, Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (French, Spanish and Italian) and IMDb.

25 January 2013

Tommy Steele

Entertainer Tommy Steele (1936) was Britain's first teen idol and rock 'n roll star. His cheeky Cockney image and boy-next-door looks won him success as a musician, singer and actor.

Tommy Steele
German postcard by ISV, no. H 14.

Tommy Steele
Vintage postcard.

Tommy Steele
Dutch postcard by Takken, Utrecht, no. 3248.

Tommy Steele
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. CK 345. Photo: Dezo Hoffman / UFA.

The British Answer to Elvis
Tommy Steele was born Thomas William Hicks in London, England, in 1936. He was the son of a tailor. Tommy had tried many odd jobs before he turned up at the famous 2 I's coffee bar in London. There he was 'discovered' by manager Larry Parnes and became one of Britain's first manufactured pop stars. Parnes believed he could be Britain's answer to Elvis Presley. Steele shot quickly to fame in the UK as the frontman for a rock and roll band, The Steelmen, after their first single, Rock With The Caveman, reached number 13 in the UK singles charts in 1956. His second single Singin' the Blues was a number 1 hit and, as a result, his sudden stardom was compressed quickly into a film as well (The Tommy Steele Story (1957, Gerard Bryant)) even before there was a story to tell. Most of Steele's 1950's recordings were covers of American hits, such as Singing the Blues and Knee Deep in the Blues. Steele co-wrote many of his early songs with Lionel Bart and Mike Pratt, but he used the pseudonym of Jimmy Bennett from 1958 onwards. And on film he played his Cockney self in such teen comedies as The Duke Wore Jeans (1958, Gerald Thomas) and Tommy the Toreador (1959, John Paddy Carstairs) with Janet Munro.

Tommy Steele
Dutch postcard by Takken, Utrecht, no. 3729.

Tommy Steele
Dutch postcard by Internationale Filmpers (I.F.P.), no. 1326.

Tommy Steele
Dutch postcard by N.V. v.h. Weenenk & Snel, Baarn, no. 161. Photo: Centra.

Tommy Steele
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 6083. Photo: Combi Press, Amsterdam.

Somewhat Overwhelming
During the 1960's Tommy Steele progressed to a career in stage and film musicals, leaving behind his pop idol identity. He appeared in such films as Light Up the Sky! (1960, Lewis Gilbert) with Ian Carmichael and Benny Hill, and in the West End in the title role of Hans Christian Andersen. He was nominated for Broadway's 1965 Tony Award as Best Actor (Musical) for Half a Sixpence in the role of Arthur Kipps - which he later recreated for the film version of the same name, Half A Sixpence (1967, George Sidney) with Julia Foster. One of his other co-stars was John Cleese. He played character roles in The Happiest Millionaire (1967, Norman Tokar) with Fred MacMurray and Greer Garson, and Where's Jack? (1969, James Clavell), although many critics found his personality to be somewhat overwhelming on screen.

Tommy Steele
Dutch postcard by Takken, Utrecht, no. 3280. Photo: Decca.

Tommy Steele, Elvis Presley, Lizabeth Scott
Dutch postcard by Uitgeverij Takken, Utrecht, no. 3823, 1958. The photo of Elvis with Lizabeth Scott was a publicity still for the film Loving You (1957, Hal Kanter).

Tommy Steele
Dutch postcard.

Tommy Steele
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 5194/1059.

Longest Running One-man Show
In Finian's Rainbow (1968, Francis Ford Coppola), co-starring with Petula Clark and Fred Astaire, he had his best known appearance in the movies. His one-man show, An Evening with Tommy Steele, ran for fourteen months in 1979-1980 and is in the Guinness Book of Theatre Facts and Feats as "the longest running one-man show in West End history”. In 1983, he directed and starred in the West End stage production of Singin' in the Rain and in 2003-2005 he had a triumphant return on the stage as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge: The Musical. Tommy Steele married Ann Donoghue in 1960. They have one daughter, Emma.

Tommy Steele singing the blues. Source: Hellcat54 (YouTube).

Tommy Steele sings Elevator Rock. Source: eirebeldon (YouTube).

Tommy Steele sings Little White Bull in Tommy the Toreador (1959). The song is written by Lionel Bart. Source: aap 257 (YouTube).

Scene from Finian's Rainbow (1968). Source: Leighg5226 (YouTube).

Sources: IMDb and Wikipedia.

24 January 2013

Yvonne Printemps

French singer and actress Yvonne Printemps (1894 - 1977) was a huge star of the European stage. A true diva, she loved the spotlight, and would be seen draped with jewels, wearing enormous hats and having her pet dogs on a leash. Printemps also appeared in ten international silent and sound films.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by EPC (Editions et Publications Cinématographiques), Paris, no. 25.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions A.N., Paris, no. 24. Photo: G.L. Manuel Frères.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions A.N., Paris, no. 2. Photo: Emera.

Folies Bergère
Yvonne Printemps was born Yvonne Willigniolle Dupre in Ermont, Ile-de-France, France in 1894. Her parents were Léon-Alfred Wigniolle, a cashier, and Palmyre Vignolle. At age 10, Yvonne started appearing in amateur productions. She was discovered by music hall director Paul-Louis Flers, who let her play at his famous music hall Folies Bergère. He gave her the stage name ‘Mademoiselle Printemps’(Miss Springtime) because of her sunny disposition. She made her professional stage debut at the age of 14 in the revue Nue Cocotte at La Cigale in Paris. The following year she returned to the Folies Bergères, where she appeared for four years. The charming and intelligent beauty with the exceptional voice soon became a 'grande vedette', and appeared with such great stars of the day as Maurice Chevalier and Mistinguett. As a lyrical soprano she appeared in operettas like Les Contes de Perrault/The Stories of Perrault (1913) and Le Poilu/The Soldier (1916). Her first film appearance was in the silent film Un roman d'amour et d'aventures/A Love and Adventure Novel (1918, René Hervil and Louis Mercanton). Her co-star and script-writer was actor-playwright Sacha Guitry. They married a year later. Together they performed in a number of his plays. Printemps had worldwide success with Reynaldo Hahn's Mozart in which she played the title role in travesty. In 1925, Gance and Printemps brought this extremely popular production to cities in North America, including New York City, Montreal, Quebec, and Boston, Massachusetts. In America she appeared in a curious silent film version of La Dame aux Camélias, Camille (1926, Ralph Barton) starring Paul Robeson as Alexandre Dumas fils and Anita Loos as Camille.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions Chantal, Rueil, no. 5 A.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 12. Photo: Films Orange.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions A.N., Paris, no. 1176. Photo: Harcourt.

Grand Diva
In 1931, Sacha Guitry directed Yvonne Printemps in Franz Hals opposite Pierre Fresnay. While married to her director, she fell in love with her co-star. In 1932 she divorced Guitry for Fresnay, whom she did not marry, but the pair remained with each other for life. In 1934 Printemps and Fresnay received international acclaim for their performances in the Noel Coward play, Conversation Piece. They performed in Paris and at London's West End before going to the United States to star on Broadway. That year Printemps also starred as courtesan Marguerite Gautier in a new film version of Camille, La dame aux camélias/The Lady of Camelias (1934, Fernand Rivers, Abel Gance), opposite Fresnay as Armand Duval. Fresnay also directed her in the film Le Duel/The Duel (1939, Pierre Fresnay). Printemps appeared in a total of ten films, including the starring role in both the stage and screen versions of Les trois valses/Three Waltzes (1938, Ludwig Berger, Albert Willemetz) as Fanny, Yvette and Irène Grandpré, and in the tile role of Adrienne Lecouvreur (1938, Marcel L'Herbier), in both films opposite Fresnay. Loving the spotlight, she would be seen draped with jewels and wearing enormous hats. Personifying the 'grand diva', she made a great spectacle wherever she went with her pet dogs on a leash. Her last film appearance was in the comedy Le Voyage en Amérique/Trip to America (1951, Henri Lavorel). She continued to perform on stage until she was well into her sixties. With Pierre Fresnay, she co-directed the Théâtre de la Michodière in Paris until his death in 1975. Two years later, Yvonne Printemps died in the Paris suburb of Neuilly in 1977. In 1994, the government of France placed her image on a postage stamp.

Clip of the Luce News of Printemps and Guitry performing in Rome at the Teatro Valle in 1932. Source: CinecittaLuce (YouTube).

Yvonne Printemps sings Une Heureuse Rencontre in La valse de Paris (1950, Marcel Achard). Source: Stephen Joeagi (YouTube).

Yvonne Printemps in an Opéra Comique by Jacques Offenbach in La valse de Paris (1950, Marcel Achard). Source: Stephen Joeagi (YouTube).

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

23 January 2013

Marianne Hoppe

Her ‘Aryan’ face made Marianne Hoppe (1909-2002) a popular Ufa star and a darling of the Nazi elite. She was Germany's best paid actress of the 1930s and 1940s. After the war she labeled this period as a ‘black page in her golden book’, and she evolved into the Queen of the German contemporary theatre. Her career spanned eight decades.

Marianne Hoppe
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 119. Photo: Binz, Berlin.

Marianne Hoppe
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 163, 1941-1944. Photo: Star-Foto-Atelier / Tobis.

Marianne Hoppe
German postcard by Ross-Verlag, no. A 2498/1, 1939-1940. Photo: Baumann / Ufa.

Home-Front Morale-Booster
Marianne Stefanie Paula Henni Gertrud Hoppe was born in Rostock in 1909. Her family were wealthy land owners and she was initially privately educated on her father's estate Felsenhagen in Mecklenburg. Later she attended school in Berlin and in Weimar, where she took private lessons from the actress Lucie Höflich. Hoppe first performed at 17 as a member of Berlin's Deutsches Theater under legendary director Max Reinhardt. Her film debut was in Judas of Tyrol/The Judas of Tyrol (1933, Franz Osten) starring Fritz Rasp. Her leading role in Der Schimmelreiter/The Rider of the White Horse (1933, Hans Deppe) made her famous almost overnight. Other of her popular Ufa-films were Schwarzer Jäger Johanna/Black Fighter Johanna (1934, Johannes Meyer), Wenn der Hahn kräht/When the Cock Crows (1936, Carl Froelich), the Oscar Wilde adaptation Eine Frau ohne Bedeutung/A Woman of No Importance (1936, Hans Steinhoff), and Der Herrscher/The Ruler (1937, Veit Harlan) featuring Emil Jannings. She later excelled in the melodramas of Helmut Käutner, like the home-front morale-booster Auf Wiedersehen, Franziska!/Goodbye, Franziska! (1941), and Romanze in Moll/Romance in a Minor Key (1942).

Marianne Hoppe
German postcard by Ross-Verlag, no. A 3021/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Greinert.

Marianne Hoppe
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3755/1. 1941-1944. Photo: Star-Foto-Atelier / Tobis.

Marianne Hoppe
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3890/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Star-Foto-Atelier / Tobis.

Darling of the Nazi Elite
In 1935 Marianne Hoppe was hired by the controversial German actor and director of the Prussian State Theatre under the Third Reich, Gustav Gründgens. Her ‘Aryan’ face and boyish figure made her a darling of the Nazi elite. The Svengali-like Gründgens controlled her career, both on-stage and in films like Capriolen/Love in Stunt Flying (1937) and the Effi Briest adaptation Der Schritt vom Wege/The False Step (1939) with Karl Ludwig Diehl. They were married from 1936 till 1946. Years later she stated: "He was my love, but never my great love, that was work." Characters in the film Mephisto are based on them. Hoppe later made no secret of her contacts with the Nazi elite in the 1930's and 1940's, including being invited to dinner by Adolph Hitler. She labeled this period as "the black page in my golden book". During her time acting at the home of the Prussian State Theatre, the Schauspielhaus, Hoppe developed her analytical approach to acting, which she stated consisted in her "taking apart every sentence" and giving the use of language a brilliance. This method was to be associated with Hoppe throughout her working life.

Marianne Hoppe
German postcard by Ross Verlag, nr. A 3266/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick / Terra.

Marianne Hoppe
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3351/1. Photo: Quick / Terra.

Marianne Hoppe
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3515/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz, Berlin.

Avant-garde Roles
After the war Marianne Hoppe worked briefly in a Berlin refugee camp. She appeared in films like Das Verlorene Gesicht/Secrets of a Soul (1948, Kurt Hoffmann), and Schicksal aus zweiter Hand/Second-hand Future (1949, Wolfgang Staudte). In 1950 she had a great success in the theatre as Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. She also appeared extensively on television, and played in films like Der Mann meines Lebens/The Man of My Life (1954, Erich Engel), the Edgar Wallace adaptation Die seltsame Gräfin/The Strange Countess (1961, Josef von Báky), and the Karl May western Der Schatz im Silbersee/Treasure of Silver Lake (1962, Harald Reinl) starring Lex Barker and Pierre Brice. Increasingly she played avant-garde roles, written by authors such as Heiner Muller and Thomas Bernhard. The latter became her partner in private life as well. She was a favourite of the young and iconoclastic directors Claus Peymann, Robert Wilson and Frank Castorf. To her last films belong Falsche Bewegung/False Movement (1975, Wim Wenders) with Rüdiger Vogler and Hanna Schygulla, and Schloss Königswald (1988, Peter Schamoni), for which she won the Bavarian Film Award for Best Actress. Marianne Hoppe died in Siegsdorf, Bavaria, in 2002, aged 93. Her final stage performance had been in Bertolt Brecht's Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, in December 1997. She had an illegitimate son, Benedikt Johann Percy, with British journalist Ralph Izzard. The documentary Die Königin - Marianne Hoppe/The Queen (2000, Werner Schroeter) deals with her moving life and career.

Karin Dor, Marianne Hoppe in Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. E 60. Photo: Constantin. Still from Der Schatz im Silbersee (1962, Harald Reinl) with Karin Dor.

Der Schatz im Silbersee
German postcard, no. ED 62. Photo: Constantin. Still from Der Schatz in Silbersee (1962, Harald Reinl).

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Hans J. Wollstein (All Movie), Wikipedia, and IMDb.