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05 March 2013

Georges Ulmer

Danish born singer, composer, and actor Georges Ulmer (1919 - 1989) found a permanent place in the musical firmament with his French evergreen Pigalle (1946). During the 1950’s, he also sang and acted in several films.

Georges Ulmer
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris. Photo: Star.

Georges Ulmer
French postcard by Editions O.P., Paris. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Scandal and Megahit
Georges Ulmer was born Jørgen Frederik Ulmer, in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1919. Young Jørgen grew up in Spain where he started to work as a musical performer, writer, and composer. In 1939, he moved to France and became a member of the orchestra of Fred Adison in Nice. Soon he moved to Paris to perform at the cabaret Le Boeuf sur la Toil where he was ‘discovered’ by French singer and composer Charles Trenet. He started to write songs, and wrote an evergreen with the song Pigalle. In 1944, he co-wrote this ‘immortal cliché of Parisian tourism’, as Wikipedia describes it, with lyricist Géo Koger, and composed it with Guy Luypaerts. When the song was presented in 1946, it first caused a scandal and was forbidden on the radio. However, the song became a megahit in many countries. It is used on the soundtracks of several films, including the successful film noir 56, rue Pigalle (1949, Willy Rozier), the British thriller Golden Salamander (1950, Ronald Neame) starring Trevor Howard and Anouk Aimée, and Encore (1951, Harold French, Pat Jackson, Anthony Pelissier), an anthology film based on three stories by W. Somerset Maugham. Through time, Pigalle would be covered by Colette Renard, Jean Sablon, Paul Anka, Les Compagnons de la Chanson, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Petula Clark, and many others. Ulmer developed into an entertainer of world class and was constantly on tour performing to packed houses in Paris, London, Las Vegas, New York and Tokyo.

Georges Ulmer
French postcard, no. 47. Photo: Star, Paris.

Georges Ulmer
French postcard by Editions du Globe, no. 671. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Paris Still Sings!
During the 1950’s, Georges Ulmer was a popular chanson singer, who sang in the style of Yves Montand. His compositions were translated and performed by American artists. He also appeared in several films. His film debut was the Mexican comedy La vida en broma/Life in jest (1950, Jaime Salvador). For this film he also wrote the score. He also wrote scores for the Mexican dramas El ciclón del Caribe/The Caribbean hurricane (1950, Ramón Pereda) and Mujeres sacrificadas/Self-sacrificing Women (1953, Alberto Gout). He was among the French stars who performed in the musicals Paris chante toujours!/Paris Still Sings! (1951, Pierre Montazel), headlined by Tino Rossi, Yves Montand and Édith Piaf, and La route du bonheur/The Road to Happiness (1953, Maurice Labro, Giorgio Simonelli) with Luis Mariano and Georges Guétary. He played a role in the Spanish-French crime film La canción del penal/One Bullet Is Enough (1954, Juan Lladó, Jean Sacha) and he was one of the stars who did a cameo in C'est arrivé à 36 chandelles/It happened at Chandelles no. 36 (1957, Henri Diamant-Berger). He also appeared in the French crime film À pleines mains/In handfuls (1960, Maurice Régamey). D.B. du Monteil at IMDb: “little forgotten French film noir, unpretentious but entertaining; the first minutes, which take place in Spain, might disconcert the viewer, for they are entirely in Spanish, without any subtitles - the movie was made for the French audience.“ His final film was the Italian-American musical Canzoni nel mondo/38-24-36 (1963, Vittorio Sala) with Gilbert Bécaud and Marpessa Dawn. In the 1960’s Ulmer appeared incidentally on TV. He retired to Cagnes-sur-Mer, and it became quiet around him. In 1981 he gave a farewell concert in Copenhagen and was knighted by the queen. Georges Ulmer died in 1989 at Marseille, France. He preserved his Danish citizenship all his life, and he was buried in Copenhagen beside his parents in accordance with his own wish. The singer Laura Ulmer is his daughter.


Scopitone clip of Ping Pong Li. Source: SpikePriggen (youTube).


Scopitone clip of L'homme du bar. Source: SpikePriggen (youTube).

Sources: Erik Skytte (Find A Grave), D.B. du Monteil (IMDb), Films de France, Wikipedia (English, French and German) and IMDb.

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