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08 February 2017

Carte blanche for Didier Hanson

Didier Hanson has a collection of over 6,000 vintage - and often rare - postcards of film actors and other celebrities. We asked him for a new guest post and gave him carte blanche. Didier did not select from his amazing postcards of artists from the Russian Empire, but chose 12 European and American film stars who deserve to be rediscovered, with a focus on France before and during the war.

1. Albert Morys

Après Mein Kampf mes crimes (1940)
French poster, dating 16/05/1940, six days after the fall of France! Poster for Après Mein Kampf mes crimes/My Crimes After Mein Kampf (Alexandre Ryder as Jean-Jacques Valjean, 1940). Collection: Didier Hanson.

Didier Hanson: "This poster dates 16/05/1940, six days after the fall of France! What can one say? A lot, it is one of the first anti-Nazi films produced, maybe the first ever produced in an occupied country, absolutely incredible. And in the role of young Hitler.... Albert Morys! He was very lucky to finish the war alive. His career includes other films, theatre and writing..."

Albert Morys
French postcard, 1944. Collection: Didier Hanson.

2. Olive Thomas

Olive Thomas
American postcard by Photocard Co., L.A., no. 105.

"Thomas (1894-1920) was the sweetheart and wife of Jack Pickford. On vacation, at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, she swallowed (by error, suicide?) a very toxic medication prescribed to her husband for his chronic syphilis. This was the first and official version. The second was sleazier. Thomas, a heavy drug addict, went out at night in the seedy Parisian bas quartiers to buy her ration of white powder. Was it cut with strychnine, or did she ingest too much of it? A mystery. This scandal was the first big scandal in Hollywood before Fatty Arbuckle. Ah! What a hard life these movie stars had!"

3. Lya de Putti

Lya de Putti
Vintage postcard. Collection: Didier Hanson.

"If you read some of my occasional texts, you know my love (yes, the word is correct. I love her, a post-mortem platonic love. By the way, I am happily married...) as I love Anita Berber, La Jana and some others.) So... Why this picture? Because she has a hairdo which was not her trademark, and which makes her a more feminine vamp than the usual one. Rest peacefully Lya, your life has been complicated enough."

4. Corinne Luchaire

Corinne Luchaire
French postcard, no. 63. Photo: Studio Piaz. Collection: Didier Hanson.

"Young star, daughter of a press magnate, but unfortunately a collaborationist. She was in fact raised by Nazis and collaborationists. She became ill (tuberculosis) but still, she kept living a life of banquets at Maxim's, parties, etc. Her film career is very thin. To make it short, she was arrested in May 1945 and condemned to 10 years of 'national indignity'. Her father was executed in 1946. She herself died from tuberculosis in 1950. La vie n'est pas toujours du cinéma....."

5. Mireille Balin

Mireille Balin
French postcard by Viny, no. 4. Photo: R.A.C.

"Another collateral war damage. Superb actress... remember Pepe le Moko? She was also discredited by her fraternisation with Nazis, but not only... Nothing precise can be said about her. She died penniless, from alcoholism, but fortunately a wealthy ex-lover, T.R., paid for the funeral expenses, as he did also for Jean Tissier. So, T.R. redeemed himself, his life had not been a immaculate model. But this is another story."

6. Jean Tissier

Jean Tissier
French postcard, no. 16. Photo Studio Paz. Collection: Didier Hanson.

"Today, this actor is relatively unknown, but he played in more than 200 movies, nobody knows the exact number, and numerous theatre plays. In the thirties/forties he was one of the top French stars, just below Fernandel, Michel Simon, Gabin.... But the success faded away with the years. Tissier loved a luxurious life, and became almost indigent. BUT, after being engaged by Jean Pierre Mocky, his name resurfaced for a while, and he ended his life with honours for his part in La veuve Couderc (1971). During his career, he starred in numerous turkeys, but he brought something to each of them. And he was a really great actor. In my opinion he has a place among the 10 most valuable French actors (you won't get the names for the 9 others, I am a well educated person)."

7. Robert Le Vigan

Robert Le Vigan
French postcard by Edit. Chantal, Rueil, no. 576. Photo: U.F.P.C. Collection: Didier Hanson.

"Great actor, theatre and cinema.... Unfortunately, ideologies - fallacious or not - can induce vertigo, and a downloading spiral... Remember La Bandera? Le Quai des brûmes? Well, my comment stops here. He died in 1972, he had fled to South America to escape a certain death penalty... Immanent justice was served. Period."

8. Tamara Desni

Tamara Desni
German postcard. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin. Collection: Didier Hanson.

"Here she was a beautiful young dancer in Berlin, only 14. The postcard has no number, because it was a proof that Tamara's daughter gave me. Desni was not an immense actress, more a dancer. Her real name was Tamara Brodski. Her father abandoned her and her sister to try his luck in the US, and nobody knew what ever became of him. I found, by chance the pressing with its reference number some years ago... In 2008, Tamara Desni died, at a grand age."

9. Theda Bara

Theda Bara
British postcard in the Lilywhite Photographic series. Photo: William Fox. Collection: Didier Hanson.

"Her real name was Theodosia Goodman. She was the daughter of a Jewish tailor and his wife. THE archetypal Vamp, and one of the greatest stars of the silent era. Theda Bara is an anagram, no need to reveal what it means. Maybe without her, there would have been no Vampira, no Elvira.... Who knows? I selected this postcard because her attire was not what we are used to see worn by our vamps."

10. Max Dearly and Mistinguett

Mistinguett and Max Dearly
French postcard by F.C. & Cie, no. 283. Photo: Boyer & Bert. Collection: Didier Hanson.

"A more than superb dancing duo. Their Apache dance was a triumph, to say the least. The whole world knew Mistinguett as a show girl, singer and revue leader... Less known was Max Dearly. He was not English as his name suggests, but a French actor, spiritual, gifted. After having begun his career as a dancer and acrobat, he had a film and theatre career. (Superb photo by Boyer et Bert)."

11. Yvette Guilbert

Emil Jannings and Yvette Guilbert in Faust (1926)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 62/2. Photo: Parufamet / Ufa. Still with Emil Jannings as Mephisto and Yvette Guilbert as Marthe in Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926). Collection: Didier Hanson.

"Nothing really special, if not for the duo Emil Jannings and Yvette Guilbert. Guilbert was a curiosity, famous for the song Le Fiacre. She was immortalised by Toulouse-Lautrec... and Faust was a film by F.W. Murnau. Guilbert had a nice, rather short but prestigious cinematographic career!"

12. Barbara La Marr

Barbara LaMarr
Scandinavian postcard, no. 812. Photo: Eneret. Collection: Didier Hanson.

"A special picture with bicorne before the ravages of 'the powder of joy' on her beautiful face....."

Thank you, Didier! 

Read here an earlier guest post by Didier Hanson. At Flickr we've made an album with rare vintage postcards from the amazing collection of Didier.

N.B. Marlène Pilaete commented on this post: "The 'carte blanche' post of today is a good idea. The mix of American and European stars is interesting. I think that there is a chronological mistake regarding the movie Mein Kampf, mes crimes, whose filming began at the end of 1939. That movie was produced when France was still a free country. The fall of France didn’t happen on the 10th of May 1940. The 10th of May is the beginning of what has been called 'La Bataille de France'. On that date, the German troops began to invade the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. It marked the end of the 'Drôle de guerre' and the beginning of the real fights. The official date for the fall of France is the 22nd of June 1940, with the defeat of the French army and the signature of the Armistice by Petain. The fact that the poster is dated 16/05/1940 is normal as, at that date, Paris was still a free city and the movie theaters could show an anti-nazi film. The German troops only invaded Paris on the 14th of June."

Thank you, Marlène, for adding this information.

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