28 September 2013

Heleentje van Cappelle

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. Child star Heleentje van Cappelle (1944) sang the first Dutch number 1 hit ever. Her song Naar de speeltuin was also turned into a popular short film, Naar de speeltuin/To the Playground (1952).

Heleentje van Cappelle
Dutch postcard. Photo: Henk Booms. Publicity still for Naar de speeltuin/To the playground (1951).

Cheery Tune

Heleentje van Cappelle (sometimes Capelle) was born in Hilversum, The Netherlands in 1944. Her father was Frans van Cappelle, an accordionist and musical director of the orchestra Les Gars de Paris.

In 1951 she sang along with children's choir De Karekieten (The reed warblers) and the Orkest zonder naam (Orchestra Without Name) the song Naar de speeltuin/To the playground. She was 7 years old at the time.

The song is the Dutch version of Pack die Badehose ein, which was sung by the German child star ‘die kleine Cornelia’ aka Conny Froboess and was written by Froboess father. Pack die Badehose ein (Pack your swimsuit) is a cheery tune about a group of children going swimming on a hot summer's day at Wannsee.

For the humorous Dutch version, the setting is a playground. At first, Ger de Roos of the Orkest zonder naam and Willy François of De Karekieten could not find a suitable soloist among the members of the choir, so Heleentje had been asked as a singer.

On 1 February 1952 the song reached the highest position of the first Dutch charts, where it stayed for three months. The song was followed by an eponymous LP and a short film was made, also entitled Naar de speeltuin/To the playground (1952), with again Heleentje in the lead.

Conny Froboess
‘die kleine Cornelia’ aka Conny Froboess. German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel. Photo: Schönbrunn / Constantin-Film.


Heleentje van Cappelle also recorded the song Meisje klein/Little Girl, with singer Annie de Reuver, but Naar de speeltuin proved to be a case of single luck. About two years after her breakthrough she disappeared again from the spotlights.

During the 1960s, she worked in a record store and later she was employed by Philips. In the early 1970s, she worked as a receptionist at a hotel in Paris and in 1972 she married a French Antillean from Guadeloupe. She opened a restaurant with a cabaret in Paris. In 1973 she was featured in a Dutch TV program that looked back at the history of broadcasting. After that, Van Cappelle disappeared again.

In 2011, the Dutch television program Vermist/Missing paid attention to Heleentje van Cappelle. Former colleagues like Annie de Reuver and Marga van Praag helped to figure out where the former child star had gone. It was discovered that Van Cappelle had a home address in Guadeloupe and worked in France in a hotel in Grasse, France. In the studio, Heleen van Cappelle told that she had chosen to leave the Netherlands to escape from all confrontations with her hit song Naar de speeltuin.

That year, her song was rereleased in a version with Belgian singer Jo Benna, and in 2013 the song was used again for a commercial by Dutch supermarket C1000.

Naar de speeltuin/To the Playground (1952). Source: Eric Kiel (YouTube).

Sources: Esther Groenewegen (Back to the 50’s) (Dutch) and Wikipedia (Dutch).

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