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11 October 2013

Gina Relly

Gina Relly (1891-1985) was an actress of the French silent cinema. Her Hollywood adventure was not a success, but she revenged herself with the prestigious production L'empereur des pauvres/The Emperor of the poor (1921).

Gina Relly
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 32. Photo: Cliché Pathé.

The Secret Document


Gina Relly was born Anne-Marie Geneviève Boyer in Thenon, France in 1891.

During the First World War, probably in 1916, she played her first film role, a bit part in René Navarre’s film Le Document secret/The Secret Document with Navarre himself and Denise Grey in the lead. However, IMDb mentions La dette/The Debt (Charles Burguet, 1912) as her film debut 

Her film career, however, only really set off after the First World War. In the Pathé production Perdue/Lost (Georges Monca, 1919) starring René Alexandre, she was one of the leading actresses, together with Marie Fromet (Pathé’s former child actor) and Germaine Rouer.

In the same year, Relly acted in La chimère/The chimera (Lucien Lehmann, 1919), starring Edmond Van Daële as a provincial whose plan to conquer Paris with his journal fails because of schemes. He also loses his mistress but wins a nice countryside girl in the end.

Gina Relly
French postcard by Éditions Filma in the series Les Vedettes du Cinéma, no. 69. Photo: Pathé Consortium Cinéma.

Reckless Life

In 1920 Gina Relly had the female lead as Jeanne de Rosan in La dette/The Debt by Gaston Roudès, a remake of the earlier film of 1912.

Pierre Magnier plays a count who wants to make up for his reckless life, which has caused one dead person. Chance brings together the son of his victim (Marcel Vibert) with the count’s own daughter (Relly).

In the same year Gina Relly also played the female lead in Nine ou la jeune fille au masque (Robert Péguy, 1920), opposite Paul Amiot and Renée Carl.

Relly then had a supporting part in the feature-length comedy Les femmes collantes (Georges Monca, Charles Prince, 1920), starring Charles Prince.

Finally also in 1920, Relly tried her luck in the US, playing the female lead in the Fox production The Face at Your Window (Richard Stanton, 1920), a patriotic, anti-bolshevist production. It didn’t materialize in a Hollywood career, so Relly returned to France.

Gina Relly and Léon Mathot in L'empereur des pauvres
French postcard by M. Le Deley, Paris. Photo: Pathé Consortium Cinema. Gina Relly and Léon Mathot in the French silent film L'empereur des pauvres/The Emperor of the poor (René Leprince, 1921), an adaptation of the novel by Felicien Champsaur.

Prestigious Revenge


Gina Relly perfectly revenged herself for her failed American career with the prestigious production L'empereur des pauvres/The Emperor of the poor (René Leprince, 1921), based on the novel of Félicien Champsaur, and starring Léon Mathot.

The film tells about rich, young and spoiled Marc Anavan (Mathot), who decides to change his life, becomes a vagabond and starts doing good around him. He becomes the peaceful spokesperson for the disinherited, helped by the love of pure, young Sylvette (Relly).

Marc has to face revolution, anarchism and the Great War, before retaking his humanitarian mission. In the end he overcomes all the hardships on his way.

L’empereur des pauvres was released in France in 1922. Other main actors in the film were Henry Krauss, Gilbert Dalleu, Andrée Pascal and Lily Damita. In small parts appeared Charles de Rochefort (as Charlot) and Maurice Schutz (Marc’s father).

Gina Relly in L'empereur des pauvres (1921)
French postcard by M. Le Deley, Paris. Photo: Pathé Consortium Cinéma. Publicity still for L'empereur des pauvres/The Emperor of the poor (René Leprince, 1921).

German Films


In 1922 Relly played in two German films: Der falsche Dimitri (Hanns Steinhof, 1922)  starring Alfred Abel as Iwan the Terrible and Eugen Klöpfer as Boris Gudunow, and Sünden von gestern (Robert Wüllner, 1922).

In the same year Relly had the lead in Le Sang des Finoël (Georges Monca, Rose Pansini, 1922) about the last survivor of a family of lumberjacks. Her life is a series of miseries: her adoption by a nice old gentleman fails, her aunts mistreat her, she prefers an infidel painter to a solid young coalman but the artists dumps her. In the end she dies of misery.

In 1923 Relly played with Edouard Mathé opposite the Italian strongman Mario Guaita ‘Ausonia’ in Mes p’tits, mostly shot on location for Laurea Films in Marseille and directed by Charles Keppens and Paul Barlatier.

The story is draped around Ausonia, who raises his two children on his own and is kicked out of a circus. Meanwhile he is falsely accused of murder and his rival (Mathé) manages to steal the man’s lover away. In the end Ausonia is acquitted from the accusation and reunited with his children, he hits the road again.

Gina Relly in L'empereur des pauvres
French postcard by M. Le Deley, Paris. Photo: Pathé Consortium Cinéma. Publicity still for L'empereur des pauvres/The Emperor of the poor (René Leprince, 1921).

Dreaming The Whole Old Testament


In 1924 Gina Relly acted in a second film with Mario Guaita ‘Ausonia’  and Edouard Mathé, La course à l’amour/The race to love (Charles Keppens, Paul Barlatier, 1924). This time it was a romantic comedy, about a girl (Relly) who has three suitors: an old marquis and two young men.

In the same year, Relly had a supporting part in Les deux gosses/The two kids (Louis Mercanton, 1924), about a rich child who is raised together with a poor son of circus acrobats.

In 1926 Relly acted in her last two films: the comedy Eh bien dansez maintenant/Well, Now Let's Dance (Emilien Champetier, 1926), with Henry Baudin and Madeleine Guitty, and the religious drama Le berceau de Dieu/The Cradle of God (Fred LeRoy Granville, 1926).

The latter film starred Léon Mathot as a man who loses faith but finds it again in Jerusalem when meeting a humble Christian girl and dreaming the whole Old Testament – in which an all star cast of the French silent cinema of the 1920s performed. Relly played Bethsabé, the woman king David (Lucien Dalsace) falls in love with.

After this, Relly completely retired from the screen. Gina Relly died in 1985 at the age of 93 in Colombes, France.

Gina Relly
French postcard by A.N., Paris, in the series Les Vedettes de Cinéma, no. 98. Photo: Sartony.

Sources: DVDtoile (French), CinéRessources (French), Filmportal.de and IMDb.

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