Pages

30 September 2013

Esther de Boer-van Rijk

Every year during the last week of September, Utrecht is the Dutch capital of film with the Netherlands Film Festival. During the festival, EFSP provides you daily with postcards of Dutch films and stars from the past. Esther de Boer-van Rijk (1853-1937) was the most popular Dutch actress ever. She was a national icon as the tragic fisherwoman Kniertje in the stage classic Op hoop van zegen (The Good Hope) by Herman Heijermans and played the role again in both a silent (1918) and a sound film version (1934). She also appeared in a dozen other Dutch silent films.

Esther de Boer van Rijk in Op Hoop van Zegen
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z / M.H.D. Film. Photo: Maarseveen, Den Haag. Publicity still for Op hoop van zegen/The Good Hope (Alex Benno, 1934).

Ultramodern Pieces


Esther van Rijk was born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 1853. She was the daughter of administrator Moses van Rijk and seamstress Adriana Wolfhart. Esther was the fourteenth and youngest child in a simple Jewish orthodox family. From an early age, the stage attracted her, against the wishes of her parents.

In 1874, she played her first role as a professional actress as Laura in Emma Berthold by J.J. Cremer. In 1881, she married the musician Henri de Boer, with whom she had a child, Sophie de Vries-de Boer. A year later they moved to Amsterdam.

After several years of farces and vaudevillians, she developed into an actress specialized in avant-garde theatre pieces by authors like Ibsen, Strindberg and Zola. These were for that time ultramodern pieces about everyday reality, in which actors had to play as faithful as possible.

From 1893, she worked for the Nederlandsche Toneel Vereeniging (The Dutch Theatre Association) under director Louis Chrispijn and later for its successor De Toneelvereeniging (The Theatre Association).

Esther de Boer van Rijk
Dutch postcard by Weenenk & Snel, Den Haag. Photo: Willem Coret.

Esther de Boer van Rijk in Op Hoop van Zegen
Dutch postcard by Foto-Industrie De Voorkeur, Amsterdam. Photo: Leenheer. Inscription by author Herman Heijermans.

Poverty And Honour


With her natural acting style, she became the key feature of the social conscious stage work by Herman Heijermans. Her first roles in his plays were Ester in Ghetto (1898) and Engel in Het Zevende Gebod (The Seventh Commandment) (1899).

In 1900 followed the highlight of her career, as the fisherman’s widow Kniertje in Op hoop van Zegen (The Good Hope) (1900), a role she played 1200 times. Driven by poverty and honour Kniertje sends the last of her kin to sea. Her two sons will work on the Op hoop van zegen. Unknown to them, the ship in question is falling apart at the seams and rotting to boot, so the greedy owner Bos has gotten it heavily insured.

Later, De Boer-van Rijk was also featured in the film versions of 1918 and 1934. Other roles in Heijermans plays included Annemie the maid in De Meid (The Maid) (1908), mother Schulz in Glück Auf, spel van de mijnen (Glück Auf, play of the mines) (1911), and Eva in Eva Bonheur (1917).

Heijermans did not admire her work unconditionally: "The great artiste is great in the petty bourgeois environment, into the atmosphere that I loved. She is more or less deficit in the romantic and classical repertoire or in the salon pieces”, he wrote in 1916.

Esther de Boer-van Rijk in Op Hoop van Zegen
Dutch postcard by Foto-Industrie De Voorkeur, Amsterdam, no 22927. Photo: Leenheer. Esther de Boer-van Rijk in her Kniertje costume.

Esther de Boer-van Rijk in Op Hoop van Zegen
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z / M.H.D. Film. Photo: Maarseveen, Den Haag. Publicity still for Op hoop van zegen/The Good Hope (Alex Benno, 1934). Collection: Egbert Barten.

Socially Conscious Drama


After the dissolution of De Toneelvereeniging in 1924, Esther de Boer-van Rijk founded the Gezelschap Esther de Boer-van Rijk (Company Esther de Boer-van Rijk) and in 1933 the De Boer-van Rijk ensemble. But she has also played in all the major companies of its time, also abroad. In a London performance as Kniertje she made a big impression, although she played the role (in an entirely English-speaking cast) in Dutch.

Her popularity was great, partly because her game had contributed to the elimination of wrongs for which Heijermans in his socially conscious drama had raised the issue.

She also appeared in several Dutch silent films. In 1913, she made her film debut in the sea drama De Bertha/The Bertha (Louis H. Chrispijn Senior, 1913) with Annie Bos.

The next year, she appeared in Een telegram uit Mexico/A Telegram from Mexico (Louis H. Chrispijn Senior, 1914) about a Dutch colonist who gets caught up in the Mexican revolution. It was produced by Hollandia Filmfabriek, the main Dutch silent film studio.

Other Hollandia productions were Gebroken levens /Broken Lives (Louis H. Chrispijn Senior, 1914), De vrouw Clasina/The Woman Clasina (Maurits Binger, 1915) and Het geheim van den vuurtoren/The Secret of the Lighthouse (Maurits Binger, 1915) as the mother of smuggler Alex Benno.

Esther de Boer-van Rijk, Frits van Dongen, Op Hoop van Zegen
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z / M.H.D. Film. Photo: Maarseveen, Den Haag. Publicity still for Op hoop van zegen/The Good Hope (Alex Benno, 1934) with Frits van Dongen.

Jan van Ees, Esther de Boer-van Rijk, Op hoop van Zegen
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag/M.H.D. Film. Publicity still for Op Hoop van Zegen (1934, Alex Benno, Louis Saalborn) with Jan van Ees. Collection Egbert Barten.

The Good Hope


Esther de Boer-van Rijk also worked for other studios, such as for Rembrandt Film in the family drama Diamant/Diamond (Johan Gildemeijer, 1916) as the wife of Louis Bouwmeester.

Then followed the first film version of Op hoop van zegen/The Good Hope (Maurits Binger, 1918) with Annie Bos and Jan van Dommelen. Only a part of this film is known to exist.

Later silent films include Cirque Hollandais/Circus Hollandais (Theo Frenkel Senior, 1924) with Louis Bouwmeester, and De cabaret-prinses/The Cabaret Princess (Theo Frenkel Senior, 1925).

Her final film and her only sound production was the second version of Op hoop van zegen/The Good Hope (1934), directed by Alex Benno. The film, co-starring Frits van Dongen and Jan van Ees as her sons, became one of most successful productions of the Dutch pre-war cinema.

Chip Douglas at IMDb: “Esther de Boer van Rijk carries the picture as Kniertje and gives a moving performance. It's a good thing she got the chance to be seen and heard on film so her iconic portrayal has been preserved (and luckily, it has).” Her autobiography Ik kijk terug. Episodes uit mijn leven (I look back. Episodes of my life) appeared also in 1934.

Esther de Boer-van Rijk died in 1937 in Amsterdam. She was 84.

Esther de Boer-van Rijk, Aaf Bouber in Op Hoop van Zegen
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag / M.H.D. Film. Publicity still for Op Hoop van Zegen/The Good Hope (Alex Benno, Louis Saalborn, 1934) with Aaf Bouber.

Esther de Boer van Rijk, Aaf Bouber, Cissy van Bennekom, Clara Visscher, and Annie Verhulst, in Op Hoop van Zegen
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag/M.H.D. Film. Publicity still for Op Hoop van Zegen (1934, Alex Benno, Louis Saalborn) with Aaf Bouber, Cissy van Bennekom, Clara Visscher and Annie Verhulst.

Esther de Boer van Rijk in Op Hoop van Zegen
Dutch postcard by Cinema Palace / M.H.D.-Film. Publicity still for Op hoop van zegen/The Good Hope (Alex Benno, 1934). Probably published to commemorate the death of De Boer-van Rijk in 1937.

Sources: Joosje Lakmaker (Ons Amsterdam) (Dutch), Chip Douglas (IMDb), Film in Nederland, Historici.nl (Dutch), Wikipedia (Dutch) and IMDb.

No comments: