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Showing posts with label Tamara Desni. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tamara Desni. Show all posts

27 July 2014

A donation of rare postcards and other memorabilia

When we returned from our holidays in Italy, there was this little package from East-Hartford, USA, waiting for us at our neighbour's house. It contained rare postcards, photos and a clipping on the silent, Ukrainian-born film star Xenia Desni and her daughter Tamara Desni, who had an impressive film and stage career herself in Great Britain. Of course, we were very happy with the content. The postcards were sent to us by a relative of the Desni's, their niece Tatiana. In the past, Tatiana already had sent us some scans of the postcards of Tamara Desni and she gave us 39 Ross postcards, which she had collected as a little girl. EFSP did a  post on this collection. And of course, we share this beautiful new donation with you too.

Xenia Desni and Willy Fritsch in Ein Walzertraum
Austrian photo by Willinger, Wien. From Tatiana. Xenia Desni and Livio Pavanelli in the German silent film Die letzte Einquartierung aka Küssen ist keine Sünd'/Kissing is no sin (Rudolf Walther-Fein, Rudolf Dworsky, 1926).

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 886/2, 1925-1926. Photo: Decla / Ufa. From Tatiana.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 886/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Decla / Ufa. From Tatiana.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1069/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa. From Tatiana.

Xenia Desni


Ukrainian-born actress Xenia Desni (1894-1954) was a star of the German silent cinema. Xenia - also known as Dada - was born in Kiev, but travelled at the beginning of the 1920s to Berlin.

She made her film debut with Sappho (Dimitri Buchowetzki, 1921). She often worked with director Johannes Guter such as for her breakthrough film Die Prinzessin Suwarin/The Princess Suwarin (1923) starring Lil Dagover.

In the next years followed other successful productions such as Die Andere/The Other (Gerhard Lamprecht, 1924). An international hit became the silent operetta Ein Walzertraum/A Waltz Dream (Ludwig Berger, 1925) with Willy Fritsch.

This was followed by Familie Schimeck/The Schimeck Family (Alfred Halm, Rudolf Dworsky, 1926), Madame wagt einen Seitensprung/Madam dares an Escapade (Hans Otto, 1927), and Erzherzog Johann/Archduke John (Max Neufeld, 1929).

After the coming of sound film, her career soon ended. But Xenia helped to shape the film and stage career of her beautiful daughter.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1026/4, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa. From Tatiana.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1028/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa. From Tatiana.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1026/3, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa. From Tatiana.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 571/3, 1919-1924. Photo: A. Eberth, Berlin. From Tatiana.

Tamara Desni


Tamara Desni (1910–2008) started her stage and film career as a child in Berlin. Tamara acted in three German sound films before leaving with her mother to Great Britain.

In 1931, she made her triumphant London stage debut in the operetta White Horse Inn. For this spectacular production, the entire Coliseum theatre was transformed into the Tyrol. The production was based on the German operetta Im weissen Roessl. White Horse Inn was a smash hit and ran for 500 performances at the Coliseum. The production is even credited with saving the theatre, which was faltering as a music hall.

Tamara followed this up with another leading role in a German import at the Coliseum, the musical Casanova, featuring music by Johann Strauss, Jr.

Desni's British film career took off with the comedy Falling for You (Robert Stevenson, Jack Hulbert, 1933), supporting the popular musical comedy team of Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge.

Later films included the thriller Forbidden Territory (Phil Rosen, 1934), another Jack Hulbert comedy Jack Ahoy (Walter Forde, 1935) and the historical drama Fire Over England (William K. Howard, 1937), with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

Tamara Desni’s film career continued through 1950. After that she moved to the South of France, where her bar and restaurant L'Auberge Chez Tamara, became a popular attraction around Grasse in the Alpes Maritimes.

Tamara Desni
German postcard for Otto Kurt Vogelsang Lichtbildner, Berlin. From Tatiana.

Tamara Desni
British postcard. From Tatiana.

Tamara Desni
British postcard. From Tatiana.

Tamara Desni
British photo by Vivienne 20th Century Studios Ltd, London. From Tatiana.

Dear Tatiana, thank you so much for this wonderful donation!

24 March 2013

Tamara Desni

Exotic, brunette actress Tamara Desni (1910–2008) was the daughter of Ukrainian-born film star Xenia Desni. Tamara started her stage and film career as a child in Berlin, and appeared in several British films during the 1930s and 1940s.

Tamara Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 6125/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Ufa. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Tamara Desni
British postcard for Coliseum Theatre, London. Photo: publicity still for the play Casanova.

Tamara Desni
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, no. 795. Photo: Gaumont.

Fire Over England
Tamara Desni was born as Tamara Brodsky, in Berlin in 1910 (some sources say 1913). She was the daughter of Ukrainian-born film star Xenia Desni. She took her mother's surname as her stage-name. Her father, James Brodsky, left his family to settle in the United States. Tamara studied ballet as a child and appeared on stage. In 1929 she married Hans Wilhelm, a dentist while a teenager, but they divorced a year later. She also played in German films like the comedy Der Schrecken der Garnison/Terror of the Garrison (Carl Boese, 1931) with Felix Bressart, and Im Geheimdienst/In the Employ of the Secret Service (Gustav Ucicky, 1931) starring Brigitte Helm. That same year she came with her mother to London for a stage role in the operetta White Horse Inn (1931). For this spectacular production, credited with saving the Coliseum, which was faltering as a music hall, the entire theatre was transformed into the Tyrol. The production was based on the German operetta Im weissen Roessl, which had been a great success in her then home town, Berlin, the year before. White Horse Inn was a smash hit and ran for 500 performances at the Coliseum Theatre. She followed this up with another leading role at the Coliseum in a German import, the musical Casanova, featuring music by Johann Strauss, Jr. His music was adapted by Ralph Benatsky, who had done much the same kind of thing for White Horse Inn with music from various Viennese composers, including Robert Stolz. Desni's British film career took off with the comedy Falling for You (Robert Stevenson, Jack Hulbert, 1933), supporting the popular musical comedy team of Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge. Her next films were the thriller Forbidden Territory (Phil Rosen, 1934) starring Gregory Ratoff, another Jack Hulbert comedy Jack Ahoy (Walter Forde, 1935) and the musical romance Bypass to Happiness/The Diplomatic Lover (Anthony Kimmins, 1934) starring Harold French. She played the lead in Dark World (Bernard Vorhaus, 1935), but the film, released by Fox Film Corporation, is now considered lost. Desni played a supporting part in the historical drama Fire Over England (William K. Howard, 1937), notable for providing the first pairing of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Leigh's performance in the film helped to convince David O. Selznick to cast her as Scarlett O'Hara in his production of Gone with the Wind. Mike Cummings at AllMovie: “But what really sets the film apart is the outstanding performance of Flora Robson as a stout-hearted, quick-tongued Queen Elizabeth I. Robson delivers barbs at court as sharp as the crossed swords on the field of battle. In private, though, she exhibits a gentle side, even spoon-feeding broth to her ailing counselor, Baron Burleigh, portrayed with grandfatherly benignity by Morton Selten. The plot moves swiftly, depicting battles, captures, narrow escapes, and wooing on the fly -- all enhanced by the stunning black-and-white cinematography of James Wong Howe. Richard Addinsell serves up a rousing music score, and two of early filmdom's exquisite beauties -- Tamara Desni (Elena) and Vivien Leigh (Cynthia) -- turn strait-laced Elizabethan gowns into fashion statements.”

Tamara Desni
German postcard. Photo: Otto Kurt Vogelsang Lichtbildner, Berlin. From Tatiana.

Tamara Desni
Vintage postcard. From Tatiana.

Tamara Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin. Photo: Otto Kurt Vogelsang, Berlin. From Tatiana.

Tamara Desni
Vintage postcard. From Tatiana.

Lithe Steps And High-kicks
Tamara Desni’s film career continued through 1950. She played the lover of a small-time crook in Edgar Wallace's mystery The Squeaker (William K. Howard, 1937), with Robert Newton, Edmund Lowe and Ann Todd. Tom Valance in his obituary in The Independent: “Playing a cabaret performer named Tamara in The Squeaker, she sang two songs, ‘He's Gone’ and ‘I Don't Get Along Without You’, in a light, sub-Dietrich voice, and performed some lithe steps and high-kicks wearing a see-through evening gown.” In the wartime thriller Traitor Spy (Walter Summers, 1939) she co-starred with Bruce Cabot. Other film credits include the musical comedy Flight from Folly (Herbert Mason, 1945), the crime film Send for Paul Temple (John Argyle, 1946) featuring Anthony Hulme, and her final film, Dick Barton Strikes Back (Godfrey Grayson, 1950) about special agent Dick Barton (Don Stannard). Tom Vallance: “The radio show Dick Barton – Special Agent (1946) had built an audience of 15 million within a year, and was the third most popular radio show of its time after Radio Forfeits and Woman's Hour, but the investigator's screen adventures were lamentably low-budget, poorly written and weakly acted. Desni was second billed to its star Don Stannard in Dick Barton at Bay, but as Madame Anna, one of the leaders of a gang out to steal a death-ray, she had little to do but accept compliments for her beauty and make observations about her cohorts (‘You're getting jumpy, Fingers’).” Dick Barton Strikes Back was the second of three films Hammer Film Productions made about the British agent, although it was the last released. A fourth Barton film was scheduled, Dick Barton in Africa, but Don Stannard was killed in a car crash driving back from the wrap party and Hammer elected not to continue the series. At the time, Tamara Desni was separating her fourth husband. Her second husband had been actor Bruce Seton, who she had met on the set of the forgettable film Blue Smoke (Ralph Ince, 1935) in 1934. They married in 1936, and divorced in 1940. Husband three was film producer Bill Gillet, who served in WWII as a naval flyer. The strains of that ended the marriage in 1945. Husband four was Canadian-born actor Raymond Lovell. They married in 1947, and separated in 1951. Her stepdaughter during this short marriage was the actress Simone Lovell. After her divorce, Desni moved to the South of France, where she became romantically involved with Albert Lavagna, a builder. Given her track record, she did not wish to marry him initially, but when she became pregnant Albert insisted due to his strong religious faith. It was his first marriage and it would last for half a century. They built 'L'Auberge Chez Tamara', a restaurant and bar which became a popular attraction around Grasse in the Alpes Maritimes. The couple had two daughters. While in her late eighties, Tamara Desni’s health began declining. Aged 97 and a widow, she died in Valence d'Agen, France in 2008.

Tamara and Xenia Desni
Tamara and Xenia Desni. Photo. Collection: Didier Hanson. Given to Didier by Madeleine, Tamara's daughter.

Tamara Desni, Xenia Desni
Tamara Desni, Xenia Desni. Vintage photo. From Tatiana.

Tamara Desni
Photo. Collection: Didier Hanson. Tamara Desni and Raymond Lovell wedding 1946. Given to Didier by her daughter.

Tamara Desni, Raymond Lovell
Vintage photo of Tamara Desni and Raymond Lovell. Collection: Didier Hanson. Given to Didier by Tamara's daughter.

Tamara Desni
British card. Photo: B.I.P. Publicity still for McGlusky the Sea Rover (1935, Walter Summers).

Thank you, Tatiana and Didier, for sharing your postcards and photos with us!

Sources: Tom Vallance (The Independent), Mike Cummings (AllMovie), The Telegraph, AllMovie, Wikipedia and IMDb.

27 July 2012

Xenia Desni

Ukrainian-born actress Xenia Desni (1894 - 1954) was a star of the German silent cinema, whose career ended with the coming of sound film. She was the mother of actress Tamara Desni.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 571/1, 1919-1924. Photo: A. Eberth, Berlin.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 886/3, 1925-1926. Photo: Decla / Ufa.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3151/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Xenia Desni
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 195.

Variety Dancer
Xenia Desni (or Desny) was born in Kiev, Russian Empire (now Ukraine) in 1894 (according to some sources 1897). During the Russian revolution she flew to Constantinople where she worked as a variety dancer. Xenia - also known as Dada - traveled at the beginning of the 1920's to Berlin where she would have a short but successful film career. She made her film debut with Sappho (1921, Dimitri Buchowetzki). She often worked with director Johannes Guter such as for Weib und Palette/Wife and Palette (1921), Die Schwarze Pantherin/The Black Panther (1921), Bardame/Barmaid (1922) and her breakthrough film Die Prinzessin Suwarin/The Princess Suwarin (1923) starring Lil Dagover. In the next years followed other successful productions such as Wilhelm Tell (1923, Rudolf Dworsky, Rudolf Walther-Fein), Der Sprung ins Leben/Leap Into Life (1924, Johannes Guter), and Die Andere/The Other (1924, Gerhard Lamprecht). An international hit became the silent operetta Ein Walzertraum/A Waltz Dream (1925, Ludwig Berger) with Willy Fritsch. This was followed by Familie Schimeck/The Schimeck Family (1926, Alfred Halm, Rudolf Dworsky) with Olga Tschechowa, Madame wagt einen Seitensprung/Madam dares an Escapade (1927, Hans Otto) opposite Hermann Thimig, and Erzherzog Johann/Archduke John (1929, Max Neufeld) with Igo Sym.

Xenia Desni, Willy Fritsch, Ein Walzertraum
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 48/5, 1925-1926. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Ein Walzertraum/The Waltz Dream (1925, Ludwig Berger).

Walther Rilla and Xenia Desni
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5014. Photo: National Film / Verleih Mondial-Film.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1735/2, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3760/1, 1928 - 1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Xenia Desni
German card by Ross Verlag, no. 3738/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Balázs, Berlin.

Declining Career
After the advent of sound film, Xenia Desni's career declined soon. She would only appear in one more film, Kriminalkommissar Eyck/Detective Superintendent Eyck (1940, Milo Harbich). Xenia had a strong influence in shaping the career of her daughter Tamara Desni (1913 - 2008). In 1931, Tamara acted in three German sound films before leaving with her mother to Great Britain. In 1931, she made her triumphant London stage debut in the successful operetta White Horse Inn at the Coliseum Theatre. Subsequently she worked for decades as an actress on the West End and in the British film industry. Her father, James Brodsky, had left his family to settle in the United States. Tamara was married five times, a.o. with Canadian actor Raymond Lovell . In the early 1950's Tamara moved to France and her mother probably moved along. Xenia Desni died in  Roquefort-les-Pins, France.

Xenia Desni
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 962. Photo: Verleih E. Well & Co.

Xenia Desni
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1735/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Xenia Desni
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 513/1. Photo: Sascha.

Tamara and Xenia Desni
Photo of Xenia and her daughter Tamara Desni. Collection: Didier Hanson. Given to Didier by Madeleine, Tamara's daughter.


Scenes from Ein Walzertraum/A Waltz Dream (1925). Source: Sittichfan (YouTube).

Source: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Stephanie D'heil (Steffi-line) (German), Wikipedia, BritMovie.co.uk and IMDb.