13 March 2013

Anny Ondra

Anny Ondra (1903 - 1987) was a Czech singer and actress. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, she was a popular star of Czech, Austrian and German comedies. And she was Alfred Hitchcock’s first ‘Blonde’.

Anny Ondra
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4451/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Schlosser & Wenisch, Prague.

Anny Ondra
German postcard. Ross Verlag, no. 4774/2, 1929-1930. Photo: Hom Film. Publicity still for Sündig und süss/Sinful and Sweet (1929, Carl Lamac).

Anny Ondra
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4925/2, 1929-1930. Photo: Balzar, Praha (Prague).

Anny Ondra
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4925/3, 1929-1930. Photo: Balzar, Praha.

Anny Ondra
Austrian Postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 612. Photo: Sascha Film, the Austrian film company where Anny Ondra worked for in the late 1920's.

Sinful and Sweet
Anny Ondra was born as Anna Sophie Ondráková in Tarnów, Austria-Hungary, now Poland, in 1903. As the daughter of an Austro-Hungarian army Colonel, she spent her childhood in Prague. After convent school she studied acting with Professor Bor. Already as a child and teenager she played big parts on the stages of Czechoslovakia, where she was discovered at the age of 16 bij actor-director Karel (or Carl) Lamac. They starred together in the film Palimpsest (1919, Joe Jencik). Lamac would also become her first husband. From 1919 on Anny Ondra often worked together with Lamac as her director and/or her co-star. With their film Gilly po prve v Praze/Gilly zum ersten Mal in Prag/Gilly for the First Time in Prague (1920, Carl Lamac) she became a big comedy star in the silent Czechoslovakian and Austrian cinema. Other popular films were Otrávené svetlo/Poisoned light (1921, Jan S. Kolár, Carl Lamac), Führe uns nicht in Versuchung/Don't Lead Us in Temptation (1922, Sidney M. Goldin), Chytte ho!/Grab it! (1925, Carl Lamac) and Hrabenka z podskalí/Countess of Podskalí (1926, Carl Lamac). From 1928 on she also became a popular star of the British and the German cinema with films like Evas Töchter/Eve's Daughter (1928, Carl Lamac) and Sündig und süss/Sinful and Sweet (1929, Carl Lamac).

Anny Ondra
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 1042. Photo: Film Osso.

Anny Ondra
Dutch postcard by Filma, no. 620. Photo: still from Polenblut (1934, Karel Lamac). Collection: Egbert Barten.

Anny Ondra
Dutch postcard by JosPe, Amsterdam, no. 285. Photo: Remaco.

Anny Ondra
Dutch postcard by Remaco, no. 288.

In her British films, Anny Ondra proved an impressive dramatic actress, most notably in Alfred Hitchcock's The Manxman and Blackmail (both 1929). The Manxman, a melodrama set on the Isle of Man, was Hitchcock’s last silent film. In his first talking film, the thriller Blackmail (1929), Anny Ondra became the first of his 'Blondes'. Blackmail was also the first British feature-length sound film. Knowing that not all theaters supported talkies yet, Hitchcock also filmed a silent version of the film. Ondra's thick accent was considered unacceptable for the sound version, so her dialogue was recorded by actress Joan Barry. Ondra's strong Czech accent precluded a continuation of her international career after the conversion to sound. She settled in Germany. In 1930 she created there with the help of Carl Lamac the Ondra-Lamac Film Society, which lasted till 1936. She starred in Die vom Rummelplatz (1930, Carl Lamac) but the film got lost up till this day. She especially concentrated on operetta films and was very successful with Die Fledermaus/The Bat (1931, Carl Lamac), Mamsell Nitouche (1932, Carl Lamac) and Kiki (1932, Carl Lamac). She played in German, Czech, and French versions of all her films, always as the leading lady. Because of her talent and her various characters she became one of the most beloved German film stars and an international superstar.

Anny Ondra
German postcard. Photo: Norbert & Co. / HOM Film.

Anny Ondra, Ida Wüst
Dutch postcard by City Film, no. 492. Photo: publicity still for Fräulein Hoffmanns Erzählungen (1933, Carl Lamac) with Ida Wüst.

Felix Bressart, Anny Ondra
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6065/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Ondra Lamac Film. Publicity still for Eine Freundin so goldig wie Du/A cute girlfriend like you (1930, Carl Lamac) with Felix Bressart.

Anny Ondra
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8717/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Ondra-Lamac-Film. Still from Klein Dorrit/Little Dorrit (1934, Carl Lamac).

Anny Ondra
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8048/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Atelier Mahrenholz, Berlin.

Heavyweight Champion
In 1933, Anny Ondra married the boxer Max Schmeling, the heavyweight champion of the world. They appeared together in the film Knockout - Ein junges Mädchen, ein junger Mann/Knockout (1935, Carl Lamac, Hans H. Zerlett). Anny Ondra suffered a miscarriage as a result of an automobile accident. The couple eventually had no children. The marriage lasted until her death in 1987. After Carl Lamac had to leave Germany in 1937, Ondra appeared only rarely in films. In Czechoslovakia they made together Duvod k rozvodu/Grounds for Divorce (1937, Carl Lamac). After Himmel, wir erben ein Schloss/Heaven, We Inherit A Castle (1942, Peter Paul Brauer) it took eight years till Anny Ondra played in a new film. Her appearance in the musical Schön muss man sein/One Must Be Handsome (1951, Ákos Ráthonyi) with Sonja Ziemann, Willy Fritsch and Hardy Krüger would be her last. All together Anny Ondra made more than 88 films. For her work she was awarded the Filmband in Gold in Germany in 1970. Anny Ondra died in 1987 in Hollenstedt, near Hamburg. Max Schmeling died in 2005 and was buried next to her at the Saint Andreas Friedhof cemetery in Hollenstedt.

Anny Ondra in the silent version of Blackmail (1929, Alfred Hitchcock). Source: Sexena 1999 (YouTube).

Soundtest for Blackmail (1929). Source: The Gypsy 2352 (YouTube).

Anny Ondra as Anny Flock a scene of her first German talkie, Die vom Rummelplatz (1930, Carl Lamac). It was also the first project by their production group Ondra-Lamač-Film. The other actors are Margarete Kupfer, Viktor Schwanneke and Siegfried Arno. Source: Sexena 1999 (YouTube).

Scene from Flitterwochen (1936, Carl Lamac) with Hans Söhnker. Source: Sexena 1999 (YouTube).

Sources: Tim Bergfelder (Encyclopedia of British Film), Rudi Polt (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.


Bunched Undies said...

Anny was married to Max Schmeling huh? How about that. Wonderful post Bob. I really don't know how you find all these interesting stories. Thank you.

Bob of Holland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob of Holland said...

Thanks. Her films are great, and I mean not only Blackmail. Something to rediscover.

Beth Niquette said...

She has one of those classic faces. I loved reading about her life. Thank you for sharing her with us.