28 May 2015

Harry Cort

Polish actor Harry Cort (1905-?) came from a royal dynasty and had a short film career with starring roles in three silent films, 9:25. Przygoda jednej nocy (1929), Halka (1930) and Karuzela zycia (1930). A 'social scandal' ended the career of the handsome actor.

Harry Cort
Polish postcard by Polonia, Krakow, no. 923. Collection: Joanna.

Dressed as a Girl

Harry Cort was born Prince Stanisław Józef Gedyminowicz-Bielski in Trzeszczany near Zamosc, Russia (now Poland). Staś Bielski was born in the lineage of the Gediminids dynasty of monarchs in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, that reigned from the 14th to the 16th century.

At the age of seven years, he and his family went abroad and toured southern Europe, Africa and Asia. In Austria, he witnessed the outbreak of World War I, and in 1919, he survived the Budapest Hungarian communist revolution.

In 1924 he returned to Poland and joined the Corps of Cadets Lviv. He graduated high school in Warsaw and then went to study in Paris.

At the end of the 1920s he returned to Poland. The Polish site Queer relates how the very handsome 21-years old Staś Bielski once visited a ball dressed as a girl. The result turned out to be impressive: "He looked phenomenal, moving up beautifully, it took only fakes for what he was lacking in the figure, his neck was covered with a scarf and his low voice was explained by a cold."

Pola Negri
Italian postcard by Ed. Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze. Photo: publicity still of Pola Negri in Good and Naughty (Malcolm St. Clair, 1926).

Social Scandal

Staś Bielski met author and film critic Maria Jehanne Wielopolska who persuaded him to try to play for the cinema.

His film debut was the adventure film 9:25. Przygoda jednej nocy/9:25. Adventure one night (Adam Augustynowicz, Ryszard Biske, 1929) in which he co-starred with Iza Norska. The film is now considered lost.

The following year he played the male lead in the drama Halka (Konstanty Meglicki, 1930). Halka was played by Zorika Szymanska. The film was a remake of the early Polish film Halka (1913), based on an opera by Wlodzimierz Wolski. Later followed a sound version, Halka (Juliusz Gardan, 1937) starring Liliana Zielinska as Halka.

Harry Cort’s third and final film was the romantic comedy Karuzela zycia/Carousel of life (Boleslaw Micinski, 1930) in which he co-starred again with Iza Norska. This film is also considered as lost.

With the advent of the sound films Harry Cort began an intensive study to learn singing and diction. In the early days of the sound era, films were recorded in various languages. Harry Cort prepared to play in films spoken in Polish, German and French. With his knowledge of languages and contacts with Polish Hollywood star Pola Negri, he wanted to play in foreign films.

By the late 1930s he was involved in a ‘social scandal’ that shattered his plans for acting, according to the Polish website Nitrofilm. I could not find more details about this scandal. Probably he then went abroad.

The further fate of Harry Cort or Prince Gedyminowicz-Bielski is unknown.

Sources: Queer (Polish), Nitrofilm (Polish), Film Polski (Polish), Filmweb (Polish) and IMDb.

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