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15 November 2017

Claude France

Claude France (1893-1928) was a star of the French silent cinema of the 1920s. Two months before her greatest triumph opened in the cinemas, she committed suicide by opening the gas.

Claude France
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine no. 441. Photo: Sartony.

Claude France in L'île d'amour (1929)
French postcard postcard by JRPR, Paris, no. 115. Photo: France-Film. Publicity still for L'île d'amour/Island of Love (Berte Dagmar, Jean Durand, 1929).

Claude France
Belgian postcard by Weekblad Cinema, Antwerpen.

Memorable Films


Claude France was born Jane Joséphine Anna Françoise Wittig in Emden, Germany, in 1893.

In 1920, she made her cinema debut opposite Paul Capellani and Jaque Catelain in Le Carnaval des Vérités/The carnival of the truths by Marcel L'Herbier.

Afterwards she performed in such memorable films as Le Père Goriot/Father Goriot (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1921) after Honoré de Balzac, Le Diamant vert/The Green Diamond (Pierre Marodon, 1922), Pax Domine (René Leprince, 1923) with Camille Bert, and Violettes impériales/Imperial violet (Henry Roussel, 1923) with the temperamental Spanish star Raquel Meller.

In Germany she appeared in Moderne Ehen/Modern marriages (Hans Otto, 1924) with Helena Makowska, and in Pension Groonen (Robert Wiene, 1925) with Carmen Cartellieri. Back in France she worked on Le prince charmant/Prince Charming (Viktor Tourjansky, 1925) opposite Jaque Catelain, Le Bossu/The hunchback (Jean Kemm, 1925) featuring Gaston Jacquet, and L'Abbé Constantin/Abbot Constantin (Julien Duvivier, 1925) starring Jean Coquelin.

Raquel Meller, André Roanne
Raquel Meller and André Roanne. French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition. Photo: publicity still for Violettes impériales/Imperial Violets (Henry Roussel, 1924).

Violettes impériales
Raquel Meller. French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition. Photo: publicity still for Violettes impériales/Imperial Violets (Henry Roussel, 1924).

Charlotte Ander, Claude France, and Carmen Cartellieri
Charlotte Ander, Claude France, and Carmen Cartellieri. Croatian (former Jugoslavian) postcard by Pan-Film, Zagreb. Photo: publicity still for Pension Groonen (Robert Wiene, 1925).

Le bossu
French postcard by Editions Cinématographiques Jacques Haïk, no. 1. Photo: publicity still for Le Bossu/The hunchback (Jean Kemm, 1925). Caption: Scene in the Salon of the Regent.

Madame de Pompadour


Claude France was very busy film actress in the mid-1920s. She played Madame de Pompadour in the adventure film Fanfan-la-Tulipe (Rene Leprince, 1925) featuring Aimé Simon-Girard, Potiphar's wife in Le berceau de dieu/The Cradle of God (Fred LeRoy Granville, 1926) with Léon Mathot, and the title character in Lady Harrington (Hewitt Claypoole Grantham-Hayes, Fred LeRoy Granville, 1926).

Then she had a double role as Mme Cornelis and Mme Termonde in André Cornelis (Jean Kemm, 1926), and she won the female leads in Simone (E.B. Donatien, 1926), and L'ile d'amour/Island of Love (Berthe Dagmar, Jean Durand, 1927), costarring Pierre Batcheff.

In January 1928, two months before her greatest triumph La Madone des Sleepings/Madonna of the Sleeping Cars (Marco de Gastyne, Maurice Gleize, 1928), costarring Olaf Fjord and Vladimir Gajdarov, would open in the cinemas, Claude France's career was cut short.

She committed suicide by opening the gas in her house in Paris. At his wonderful French blog Sniff & Puff, Tom Peeping writes that the press at the time wrote that she died because of a broken heart. Sniff & Puff presents a postcard of France with a dedication to her co-star of Le prince charmant/Prince Charming (1925), Jaque Catelain.

Was he also her dream prince charming in real life? If so, her dream must surely have become a deception: Catelain was gay and the lover of the director who gave France her first role, Marcel L'Herbier. Poor, sweet Claude France, she was only 34 at the time of her horrible death.

Jaque Catelain
Jaque Catelain. French postcard by Cinémagazine, no. 179.

Jaque Catelain
Jaque Catelain. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1936/1, 1927/1928. Photo: Trude Heiringer, Dora Horovitz, Wien.

Claude France
Romanian postcard

Claude France
French postcard postcard in the Les Vedettes de Cinéma series by A.N., Paris, no. 179. Photo: G.L. Manuel Frères.

Sources: Sniff & Puff (French), Wikipedia (French), and IMDb.

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