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03 January 2013

Huguette Duflos

Huguette Duflos (1887 - 1982) was a prolific leading lady of the French silent cinema of the 1920's.

Huguette Duflos
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 16. Photo: Reutlinger.

Huguette Duflos
Postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 155. Photo: V. Henri. Perhaps a card referring to Duflos' role as princess Olga in La princesse aux clowns (1924, André Hugon).

Huguette Duflos
French postcard in the Europe series, no. 199. Photo: Films Aubert.

Radiant Youth
Huguette Duflos was born Hermance Meurs in Limoges, France, in 1887. She studied acting at the Conservatoire in Paris, first with Leloir, then with Raphaël Duflos. She married Duflos in 1910 and they divorced in 1928. In 1912, she started to play at the Comédie Française. From 1915 on she was a pensionnaire and had bigger roles. However, when film director Henry Pouctal offered her a role in his film L'Instinct/The Instinct (1916) starring Raphaël Duflos, she eagerly accepted in spite of protests by her stage colleagues. Eight years before, she had already made her film debut in the legendary Film d'art production L'assassinat du duc de Guise/The Assassination of the Duke de Guise (1908, André Calmettes, Charles Le Bargy). Her radiant youth, her expressive charme and her photogenic qualities were appreciated and would turn her in one of the most prolific stars of the French silent cinema.

Huguette Duflos
French postcard in the series Nos artistes dans leur loge by Editions La Fayette, Paris. Photo: Comoedia.

Huguette Duflos in Koenigsmark
Italian postcard by A. Traldi, Milano, no. 674. Photo: Huguette Duflos in the silent film Koenigsmark (1923, Léonce Perret).

Huguette Duflos
French postcard in the Les Vedettes du Cinéma Series by Editions Filma, no. 5. Photo: Films Eclipse.

Huguette Duflos
French postcard.

International Stardom
Huguette Duflos played in many films, from L'Ami Fritz/Friend Fritz (1919, René Hervil) to Travail/Work (1919, Henri Pouctal) with Léon Mathot, from Mademoiselle de la Seiglière (1921, André Antoine) to the 12-part serial Les Mysteres de Paris/Mysteries of Paris (1922, Charles Burguet). Duflos magnificently performed the grandduchess Aurora in Léonce Perret's opulently staged Koenigsmark/The Secret Spring (1923), based on Pierre Benoit's popular novel and co-starring Jaque Catelain, Marcel L'Herbier's fetish-actor. They played together again in Der Rosenkavalier/The Knight Of The Rose (1925, Robert Wiene), which lifted her to international stardom. A huge success was Julien Duvivier's L'Homme à l'Hispano (1927), in which she is the rich lady who falls for a man who is ruined but has borrowed a fancy car. At the advent of the sound era, Duflos went to the States to play opposite Charles Boyer in Le Procès de Mary Dugan (1931, Marcel de Sano), the French version of The Trial of Mary Dugan (1930). She also played in two early sound films by Marcel L'Herbier: Le mystère de la chambre jaune/The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1930) and Le Parfum de la dame en noir/Scent of the Woman in Black (1931). In the mid-1930's, she did only a few films, but she rather played on stage in revues and comedies.

Huguette Duflos
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, Paris, no. 40.

Huguette Duflos
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no.3613/1, 1928-1929. Photo: G.L. Manuel Frères. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Huguette Duflos
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine (EC), no. 904. Photo: Studio G.L. Manuel Frères. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Huguette Duflos in Palace
Italian postcard by Edizione E.F.A. A. Traldi, Milano, mo. 950. Photo: Huguette Duflos in the silent film Palace (1927) by Jean Durand.

Deluded in Life
In the late 1930's, and early 1940's, Huguette Duflos played again several film roles, such as Queen Hortense in Les Perles de la couronne (1937, Sacha Guitry, Christian-Jacque) with Jacqueline Delubac. Most of Huguette Duflos' sound productions were commercial mainstream films. One wonders what would have happened if she had had directors then like Abel Gance or Marcel L'Herbier who had guided her during the silent days? A glimpse of that can be noticed in her sound film Maman Colibri (1937) with Jean-Pierre Aumont.In this film directed by the talented Jean Dreville, Duflos plays a woman in her forties who is deluded in life. She falls in love with a friend of her son, but he abandons her. Here, Duflos showed a memorable performance, leaving aside her usual aplomb and showing a real woman, with her bitterness, her frustrations, up to her final humiliation. After the war, Huguette Duflos continued to play in films and on stage, though less frequently. She played on stage in successful plays like Marcel Aymé's Clérambard, directed by Claude Sainval. Her last film role was in Les Petits Matins/Hitch-Hike (1962, Jacqueline Audry) with Gilbert Bécaud. Huguette Duflos died in 1982 in Paris.

Huguette Duflos
French postcard in the Europe series, no. 1106. Photo: MGM. This card might be for her only American film, the French version of The Trial of Mary Dugan (1930).

Huguette Duflos
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 999. Photo: Studio Rudolph.

Huguette Duflos
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1223. Photo: Ancrenaz / C.F.C.C. Publicity still of Huguette Duflos as Maria de Medici in Le Capitan (1946, Robert Vernay).

Huguette Duflos
French postcard by S.E.R.P., Paris. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Sources: Vittorio Martinelli, Le dive del silenzio (Italian); Philippe Pelletier (CinéArtistes) (French), Wikipedia (French), and IMDb.

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