23 September 2013

Suzanne Bianchetti

French film actress Suzanne Bianchetti (1889-1936) was one of France's most loved and respected actresses of her time. She played Marie Antoinette in Abel Gance's epic Napoléon (1927) and worked with many other great names of the silent cinema. After her death the Prix Suzanne Bianchetti was created in her memory, an annual French award to be given to the most promising young actress.

Suzanne Bianchetti
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 175. in the series 'Les Vedettes de Cinéma'. Photo: J. des Boutin.

Short Silent Comedies

Suzanne Bianchetti was born in Paris in 1889. During the First World War she made her cinema debut. Her first appearance was in the propaganda film La femme française pendant la guerre/The French Woman during the War (Alexandre Devarennes, 1917).

She quickly became popular with short silent comedies like Riquette se marie/Riquette marries (Alexandre Devarennes, 1918).

Her first dramatic part was in La Marseillaise (Henri Desfontaines, 1920) opposite André Nox. According to IMDb, she later “said in an interview that she thought of quitting film acting when she saw herself in that film”.

Suzanne Bianchetti
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 344. Photo: Alban. Suzanne Bianchetti in Verdun, visions d'histoire/Verdun (1928).

Violettes impériales
French postcard by Edition Cinémagazine. Photo: publicity still for Violettes impériales (1924) with Raquel Meller and Suzanne Bianchetti.

Ideal As Sovereigns

During the 1920s Suzanne Bianchetti became one of France's most loved and respected actresses, and worked with many of the notables of the silent film era, such as Antonin Artaud and the singer Damia.

Her silent films include Flipotte (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1920) starring Gabriel Signoret and based on a novel by Henry Kistemaekers, Jocelyn (Léon Poirier, 1922), the popular serial Les Mystères de Paris/The Mysteries of Paris (Charles Burguet, 1922), Violettes imperials/Imperial Violets (Henry Roussel, 1924) with Raquel Meller, and the American romantic costume comedy-drama Madame Sans-Gêne (Léonce Perret, 1925), a Paramount production starring Gloria Swanson.

The talented Bianchetti was ideal for roles as sovereigns. In 1927, Bianchetti appeared in her two most famous films, as Marie Antoinette in the classic epic Napoléon (Abel Gance, 1927) and as Catherine II in Casanova (Alexandre Volkoff, 1927) featuring Ivan Mozzhukhin.

A year later she appeared in another silent classic, Verdun, visions d'histoire/Verdun (Léon Poirier, 1928) as the wife of the French soldier (Albert Préjean).

Violettes impériales
French postcard by Edition Cinémagazine. Photo: publicity still for Violettes impériales (1924) with Raquel Meller as Violetta and Suzanne Bianchetti as Empress Eugénie. Visible in the back is the Chateau de Compiègne, Napoleon III's residence.

Suzanne Bianchetti
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, no. 35. Photo: Wyndham.

A Martyr

After the introduction of sound film, Suzanne Bianchetti could be seen in re-edited versions with sound-effects of Verdun, visions d'histoire, retitled as Verdun, souvenirs d'histoire (1931), Violettes impériales (1932) and Napoléon as Napoléon Bonaparte (1935).

Her final film was L'Appel du Silence/The Call (Leon Poirier, 1936), based on the life of Charles de Foucauld (Jean Yonnel). Foucauld was a French priest living among the Tuareg in the Sahara in Algeria. He was assassinated in 1916 outside the door of the fort he built for the protection of the Tuareg, and is considered by the Catholic Church to be a martyr.

In 1936 Suzanne Bianchetti died in Paris at the age of 47. Bianchetti was married to writer and actor René Jeanne who served as the director of L'Etablissement Cinématographique des Armées.

Suzanne Bianchetti
French postcard.

Suzanne Bianchetti
French postcard. Spa - Rueil.

Prix Suzanne Bianchetti

A year after her death, her husband created an award in her memory to be given annually to the most promising young actress. It was given for the first time in 1937 to Junie Astor for her performance in Club de femmes.

The award comes in the form of a medallion engraved with Suzanne Bianchetti's image. Since its inception, the Prix Suzanne Bianchetti has been awarded to many of the greatest names in French cinema who went on to national and international success.

Among the winners are Micheline Presle, Simone Signoret, Marina Vlady, Annie Girardot, Pascale Petit, Isabelle Adjani, Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche and Audrey Tautou. The winner in 2013 was Belgian actress Pauline Étienne.

Suzanne Bianchetti
French postcard by Editions FILMA, Paris, no. 109. Photo: Wyndham.

Suzanne Bianchetti
French postcard by Editions Filma in the series Les vedettes de l'ecran, no. 109. Photo: Manuel Frères.

Sources: Marlène Pilaete (CinéArtistes) (French), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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