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28 August 2014

Vera Korène

Russian born actress Véra Korène (1901-1996) played seductive spies and vamps in the French cinema of the 1930s. After a dozen films, the Nazi occupation of France cut her screen career short.

Vera Korène
French postcard. Photo: G.L. Manuel Frères. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Vera Korene
German postcard by Das Programm von Heute, Berlin. Photo: Klawi-Film. Publicity still for Les bateliers de la Volga/The Volga Boatman (Vladimir Strizhevsky, 1935).

Coolly Elegant


Véra Korène was born as Rebecca Véra Koretzky in Bakhmut in the Russian Empire (now Artemivsk, Ukraine) in 1901. With her family, she fled the Russian Revolution of 1917 and settled in Paris, France.

There she made her film debut in the French film Son excellence le Bouif/His Excellency Le Bouif (Louis Osmont, 1922) with Tramel. Using the Francized name Korène, she made a career in the theatre and entered the prestigious Comédie-Française in 1931.

In the sound era, she returned to the screen in the film La voix sans visage/The faceless voice (Leo Mittler, 1933) opposite Lucien Muratore and Jean Servais.

She had her breakthrough the following year with her lead role in La belle de nuit/The beauty of the night (Louis Valray, 1934) with Aimé Clariond. Kinsayder at IMDb: “In the dual role, the statuesque Véra Korène is coolly elegant as the actress Maryse and coldly severe as the world-weary, man-hating prostitute Maïthé. It was her second feature film [sic], but Korène was already an established stage actress and her performance here, while less alluring than that of the eroticised Marie Bell in (Jacques) Feyder's picture (Le Grand Jeu), is intense, striking and complex.”

The following year Korène played the female lead opposite Pierre Blanchar and Charles Vanel in the drama Les bateliers de la Volga/The Volga Boatman (Vladimir Strizhevsky, 1935), based on a novel by Joseph Kessel. Korène then starred as Erna Flieder, a notorious female spy of the WWI era in the Espionager Deuxième Bureau/Intelligence Service (Pierre Billon, 1935).

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “Though she seemingly has ice water in her veins, Erna forgets all about her mission in life when she falls in love with her AEF adversary Captain Benoit (Jean Murat). In time-honored tradition, our heroine ultimately lays down her own life to save Benoit from harm.”

Vera Korène
French postcard by Edition Roger Tricot. Photo: Harcourt.

Vera Korène
French postcard by Editions et Publications Cinematographiques (EPC), no. 111. Photo: Harcourt.

Rare and Subtle


In 1936, Vera Korène starred opposite Pierre Richard Willm and Olga Tschechova in L’Argent/Money (Pierre Billon, 1936). They reunited the next year in the historical drama Au service du tsar/Serving the Tsar (Pierre Billon, 1936).

In another historical drama, La danseuse rouge/The red dancer (Jean-Paul Paulin 1937), her co-star was Maurice Escande. The following year, she played the title role in Tamara la complaisante/Tamara (Jean Delannoy, Félix Gandéra, 1938) opposite Victor Francen.

One of her best films was the murder mystery Café de Paris (Yves Mirande, Georges Lacombe, 1938) with Jules Berry.

Didier Fort at IMDb: “It's a treat. Many subplots are going on, all supported by brilliant and funny dialogs, among which the regular phone calls of a journalist (Carette) to his redaction, giving step by step the progress of the inquiry in an emphatic tone. Most of the (very numerous) cast is at his best. Above all of them, Jules Berry, rather restrained here, hence more efficient than ever, and the rare and subtle Véra Korène, acting with a 'natural' rarely seen in those times.”

She then played opposite Charles Vanel in the war drama La brigade sauvage/Savage Brigade (Marcel L'Herbier, Jean Dréville, 1939).

Then Korène's promising film career was cut short by the Nazi Occupation. As a Jew, she was forbidden from acting and fled to Canada.

After the war, she returned to France. In the 1950s she organized her own theatre production company, putting on performances at the Comédie Française.

In 1956 she was named director of the Théâtre de la Renaissance, a position she held until 1978.

Vera Korène died in 1996 in Louveciennes, France. She was 95.

Vera Korène
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1057 Photo: Manuel Frères. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Vera Korene
French postcard by Erpé, no. 644. Photo: Piaz.

Sources: Caroline Hanotte (CinéArtistes) (French), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia (French and English) and IMDb.

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