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28 September 2014

Bleeke Bet (1934)

On the fourth day of the 2014 Nederlands Film Festival, it's time for a film special in our unofficial Dutch film star postcards festival. The tragi-comedy Bleeke Bet/Pale Betty (Richard Oswald, Alex Benno, 1934) was one of the first Dutch sound films, and the distributor Monopole Film ordered a series of postcards with pictures by photographer Dick van Maarseveen to promote the film. It probably worked, the film was a success in the Dutch cinemas.

Aaf Bouber, Bleeke Bet
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag / Monopole Film. Publicity still of Aaf Bouber in Bleeke Bet (Alex Benno, Richard Oswald, 1934). Collection: Egbert Barten.

Jopie Koopman, Bleeke Bet
Dutch postcard by Monopole Film, Rotterdam. Photo: Dick van Maarseveen. Still of Jopie Koopman in Bleeke Bet (Alex Benno, Richard Oswald, 1934). Collection: Egbert Barten.

Fien de la Mar & Jopie Koopman in Bleeke Bet
Dutch postcard by Monopole Film, Rotterdam. Photo: Dick van Maarseveen. Still of Fien de la Mar and Jopie Koopman in Bleeke Bet (Alex Benno, Richard Oswald, 1934).

Fien de la Mar
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Monopole Film/Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag. Publicity still of Fien(tje) de la Mar in Bleeke Bet (Alex Benno, Richard Oswald, 1934).

A greengrocer in the Jordaan


The directors of Bleeke Bet/Pale Betty (1934) were Alex Benno, who had already directed several silent Dutch films and the Austrian director, producer, and screenwriter Richard Oswald.

From 1914 on, Oswald had already made dozens of films in Weimar Germany, including the comedy Der Hauptmann von Köpenick/The Captain from Köpenick (1931) and the horror-comedy Unheimliche Geschichten/Uncanny stories (1932) starring Paul Wegener.

Being Jewish, Oswald was forced to flee Nazi Germany, first for occupied France and later emigrating to the United States.

Alex Benno had also written the screenplay for Bleeke Bet. It was based on a popular stage melodrama, written by Herman Bouber in 1917.
Benno and Bouber had already made a silent version of Bleeke Bet in 1923 with Alida van Gijtenbeek as Bet.

After the amazing box office success of the sound film De Jantjes/The Tars (Jaap Speyer, 1933), also based on a play by Bouber, Benno got the green light for a sound version of Bleeke Bet.

In the new sound version, Bouber's wife, Aaf Bouber, played the title role of Bleeke Bet, a greengrocer in the Jordaan, the old neighbourhood in the heart of Amsterdam.

Bet wants her daughter Jans (Jopie Koopman) to marry to the son of a dodgy businessman, but Jans loves sailor Ko (the young Johannes Heesters).

Bet's attempts to drive them apart come to nothing but when Ko is reported lost at sea, a desperate Jans gives in to her mother's wishes. On the day of the wedding Ko turns out to be alive and just in time to take his rightful place at the altar next to Jans.

The still on the last postcard of this post by shows the happy ending with in the centre Fien de la Mar as Ka.

Fien de la Mar, Bleeke Bet
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag / Monopole Film. Publicity still of Fien(tje) de la Mar in Bleeke Bet (1934, Alex Benno, Richard Oswald). Collection: Egbert Barten.

Johannes Heesters, Bleeke Bet
Dutch postcard by M. B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Monopole Film, Rotterdam / Maarseveen, Den Haag. Publicity still of Johannes Heesters in Bleeke Bet (1934).

Corry Vonk
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Monopole Film / Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag. Publicity still of Corrie Vonk in Bleeke Bet (Alex Benno, Richard Oswald, 1934).

Johan Elsensohn
Dutch postcard by M.B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag / Monopole Film. Publicity still of Johan Elsensohn in Bleeke Bet (1934). Collection: Egbert Barten.

Fien de la Mar
Dutch Postcard by Monopole Film, Rotterdam. Publicity card of Fien de la Mar in Bleeke Bet (1934). Photo: Dick van Maarseveen.

Nazi Censors


Bleeke Bet was a commercial success and would be re-issued in 1941 and 1961.

In 1941 the Jewish actors like Sylvain Poons were cut out of the picture by the Nazi censors.

Poons as the icecream salesman Sally sings an evergreen in the film, IJslied (Icecream Song).

The music was composed by emigrant Hans May and the lyrics were written by the later collaborator, Jacques van Tol.

There are more wonderful songs in the film, including Fien de la Mar's torch song Ik wil gelukkig zijn (I want to be happy).

Fien de la Mar, Sylvain Poons and Johan Elsensohn as Bet's husband got positive reviews in the Dutch newspapers for their performances. The voice of Johannes Heesters was also complimented.

However, the reviews about the film were mixed, but it did not matter to the producer: the public loved it.

Bleeke Bet
Dutch postcard by Monopole Film, Rotterdam. Photo: Dick van Maarseveen. Still of a set built for Bleeke Bet (Alex Benno, Richard Oswald, 1934), a street in the old neighbourhood De Jordaan in Amsterdam. Set designer was Hans Ledersteger. The set would be used again for several other films.

Fien de la Mar & Jopie Koopman in Bleeke Bet
Dutch postcard by Monopole Film. Photo: Maarseveen, Den Haag. Publicity still of Fien(tje) de la Mar and Jopie Koopman in the tragicomedy Bleeke Bet (Alex Benno, Richard Oswald, 1934).

Bleeke Bet (1934)
Dutch postcard by Monopole Film, Amsterdam. Photo: Maarseveen, Den Haag. Johan Elsensohn, Jopie Koopman, Clara Vischer-Blaaser, Corry Vonk, Fien de la Mar and Jan van Ees in Bleeke Bet (Richard Oswald, Alex Benno, 1934).

Aaf Bouber, Sylvain Poons, Corrie Vonk, Fien de la Mar, Jopie Koopman, Mevr. Fischer in Bleeke Bet
Dutch postcard by Monopole Film, Amsterdam. Photo: Maarseveen, Den Haag. Clara Vischer-Blaaser, Aaf Bouber, Sylvain Poons, Corry Vonk, Fien de la Mar and Jopie Koopman in Bleeke Bet (Richard Oswald, Alex Benno, 1934).

Fien de la Mar in Bleeke Bet
Dutch Postcard by Monopole Film, Rotterdam. Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag (The Hague). Publicity still for Bleeke Bet (1934) with the main cast for the happy ending.

Sources: Wikipedia (Dutch and English) and IMDb.

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