23 September 2019

Agnes Ayres

Agnes Ayres (1898-1940) was an American silent film actress. After her debut with Chaplin at Essanay and acting for Fox, Ayres had her breakthrough as Lady Diana Mayo in The Sheik (1921) featuring Rudolph Valentino. Important parts for Cecil B. DeMille at Paramount followed such as in The Affairs of Anatol (1921) and the epic The Ten Commandments (1923). After a dip in the mid-1920s, she made a comeback in The Son of the Sheik (1926), but the arrival of sound cinema finished her career.

Agnes Ayres
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 874/1. Photo: Paramount.

Agnes Ayres
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 1a.

Agnes Ayres
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 874/3, 1925-1926. Photo: Paramount.

The O. Henry Girl

Agnes Ayres was born as Agnes Eyre Henkel in Carbondale, Illinois, in 1898, to Solon and Emma (née Slack) Henkel. She had an older brother, Solon William Henkel, who was a decade her senior.

She began her career in 1914 in Chicago, where she was studying at school. During a studio tour, she was noticed by an Essanay Studios staff director and cast as an extra in a crowd scene. She appeared in His New Job (Charles Chaplin, 1915) with Charlie Chaplin. More bit parts and extra roles followed in Essanay productions.

After moving to Manhattan with her mother she pursued a career in acting. Her first big break came at Vitagraph when Ayres was spotted by actress Alice Joyce. Joyce noticed the physical resemblance the two shared. Ayres was cast as Joyce's character's sister in Richard the Brazen (Perry N. Vekroff, 1917).

I the following years, Agnes Ayres was nicknamed 'The O. Henry Girl' because she appeared in so many two-reel films based on O. Henry short stories for Vitagraph.

In 1920, Ayres was signed by Paramount Pictures. Her career began to gain momentum when Paramount founder Jesse Lasky began to take an interest in her. Lasky gave her a starring role in the Civil War drama Held by the Enemy (Donald Crisp, 1920).

It was during this time that Ayres married, and quickly divorced, Captain Frank P. Schuker, an army officer whom she had wed during World War I. She had also begun a romance with Jesse Lasky.

In 1921, Ayres shot to stardom when she was cast as Lady Diana Mayo, an English heiress in the romantic melodrama The Sheik (George Melford, 1921). The film was a box-office hit and helped propel 'Latin lover' Rudolph Valentino to stardom. Ayres later reprised her role as Lady Diana in the sequel Son of the Sheik (George Fitzmaurice, 1926), which premiered nationwide after Valentino's death in August 1926.

Following the release of The Sheik, she went on to have major roles in many other films. Lasky lobbied for parts for her in several Cecil B. DeMille productions. She starred in the comedy-drama The Affairs of Anatol (Cecil B. DeMille, 1921) starring Wallace Reid and Gloria Swanson, Forbidden Fruit (Cecil B. DeMille, 1921), and the epic The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, 1923). In the latter, Ayres appeared briefly as 'the Outcast' in the film's closing Nativity tableau.

Agnes Ayres
French postcard. Photo: Paramount.

Agnes Ayres
French postcard in the Les vedettes de l'écran series by Editions Filma, no. 93. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Agnes Ayres
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, Paris, no. 99.

A waning career

By 1923, Agnes Ayres' career began to wane following the end of her relationship with Jesse Lasky. She married Mexican diplomat S. Manuel Reachi in 1924. The couple had a daughter before divorcing in 1927.

Ayres lost her fortune and real estate holdings in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. That same year, she also appeared in her last major role in the sound film The Donovan Affair (Frank Capra, 1929), starring Jack Holt and Dorothy Revier. Nothing much came of it. To earn money, she left acting and played the vaudeville circuit.

She returned to acting in 1936, confident that she could make a comeback with a small part in Souls at Sea (Henry Hathaway, 1937), starring Gary Cooper and George Raft. However, she was unable to secure starring roles. Somewhat overweight, Ayres appeared in mostly uncredited bit parts at MGM, where she had a stock-player contract. In 1937, she finally retired from acting for good.

After her retirement, she wanted to start a real-estate business in Beverly Hills, California. However, Ayres became despondent and was eventually committed to a sanatorium. In 1939, she also lost custody of her daughter to Reachi.

Agnes Ayres died from a cerebral hemorrhage on Christmas Day 1940, at her Hollywood home. She was only 42, and had been ill for several weeks. Ayres is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In 1960, Ayres was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a motion pictures star at 6504 Hollywood Boulevard for her contributions to the film industry.

Agnes Ayres and Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3373/2. Photo: United Artists. Agnes Ayres and Rudolph Valentino in The Son of the Sheik (George Fitzmaurice, 1926), retaking a scene from the original Paramount production The Sheik (George Melford, 1921).

Agnes Ayres and Rudolph Valentino in Son of the Sheik (1926)
French postcard in a series by Shampoing Butywave. Photo: Allied Artists. Agnes Ayres and Rudolph Valentino in The Son of the Sheik (George Fitzmaurice, 1926). Despite the card telling the lady in question is Vilma Bánky, it is Agnes Ayres. Ayres and Valentino play the parents of the leading character, who is also played by Valentino. Actually the parents are the former protagonists of the earlier film The Sheik, now grown older.

Agnes Ayres
Vintage postcard, country and editor unknown, no. 67.

Agnes Ayres
British postcard in the Famous Filmstar series for the Continental Nuss, J.M.H., Laren, Holland. Picture: Frank Godefroy. Paramount.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

22 September 2019

The Kessler Twins

In the 1950s and 1960s the gorgeous twin sisters Alice & Ellen Kessler (1936) were very popular in Europe, especially in Germany and Italy. In 1959 the singing, dancing and acting duo represented Germany at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/199. Photo: Gérard Decaux.

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel. Photo: Gloria-Film.

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/154. Photo: UFA.

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by UFA (Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft, Berlin-Tempelhof), no. CK-115. Retail price: 30 Pfg. Photo: Joe Niczky / UFA.

Alice & Ellen Kessler in Scherben bringen Glück (1957)
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. FT 18. Photo: Erma / Gloria-Film / Czerwonski. Alice and Ellen Kessler in Scherben bringen Glück/Seven Years Hard Luck (Ernst Marischka, 1957).

Featherlight films

The German twin sisters Alice and Ellen Kessler (originally Kaessler) were born in Nerchau, Germany in 1936. They are usually credited as the Kessler Twins (Die Kessler-Zwillinge in Germany and Le Gemelle Kessler in Italy).

Their parents, Paul and Elsa Kaessler, sent them to ballet classes at the age of six, and they joined the Leipzig Opera's child ballet program at age 11. In 1952, their parents used a visitor's visa to escape to West Germany, where the 18-year-old twins performed at the Palladium in Düsseldorf.

Soon followed parts in such featherlight entertainment films like Solang' es hübsche Mädchen gibt/Beautiful Girls (Arthur Maria Rabenalt, 1955) with Georg Thomalla, the operetta Der Bettelstudent/The Beggar Student (Werner Jacobs, 1955) and another operetta Der Graf von Luxemburg/The Count of Luxemburg (Werner Jacobs, 1957) with Gerhard Riedmann.

Between 1955 and 1960, they also performed at the famous Lido variety hall at the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and they also appeared in French musical films as La garçonne (Jacqueline Audry, 1957) with Fernand Gravey, Tabarin (Richard Pottier, 1958) starring Michel Piccoli, and the anthology film La française et l'amour/Love and the Frenchwoman (Henri Verneuil a.o., 1960), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo.

A year later, the twins represented West Germany at the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest. They finished in 8th place with 'Heute Abend wollen wir tanzen geh'n' (Tonight we want to go dancing).

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by Kolibri Verlag G.m.b.H, Minden/Westf., no. 2797. Photo: CCC / Constantin Film/ Arthur Grimm. Alice & Ellen Kessler in Der Graf von Luxemburg/The Count of Luxemburg (Werner Jacobs, 1957).

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 398. Photo: Polydor / Seitz / Constantin / Looschen.

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by Netter's Star Verlag, Berlin.

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 305. Photo: Defir.

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by Filmbilder-Vertrieb Ernst Freihoff, Essen, no. 734. Photo: Polydor / Klaus Collignon.


Alice & Ellen Kessler moved to Italy in 1960. There they had already appeared as themselves in Le bellissime gambe di Sabrina/The Beautiful Legs of Sabrina (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1959) featuring American sex symbol Mamie van Doren.

Gradually they got more serious roles in such films as the adventure film Gli Invasori/Erik the Conqueror (Mario Bava, 1961) starring Cameron Mitchell and Sodom and Gomorrah (Robert Aldrich, 1962) starring Stewart Granger.

In the USA, they were not as popular, but in 1963 they appeared on the cover of Life Magazine and during the 1960s they often worked for TV and in Las Vegas.

During the following decades they worked mostly for TV in Europe. At the age of 40, they agreed to pose on the cover of the Italian edition of Playboy. That issue became reportedly the fastest-selling Italian Playboy up until that point.

They moved back to Germany in 1986 and currently live in Munich. They received the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande (highest German order) in 1987 and the Premio Capo Circe for their achievements in German-Italian understanding.

Most recently, Alice and Ellen Kessler played in the episode Das Dorf/The Village (Justus von Dohnányi, 2011) of the popular German Krimi series Tatort. They live in Grünwald.

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 2964.

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by Graphima, Berlin.

Alice and Ellen Kessler in Vier Mädel aus der Wachau (1957)
German collectors card by Druckerei Hanns Uhrig, Frankfurt a.M. Photo: Cosmos / NF / Wanke. Alice and Ellen Kessler in Vier Mädel aus der Wachau/Four girls from the Wachau (Franz Antel, 1957).

Alice & Ellen Kessler
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 495.

The Kessler Twins and Peter Alexander perform Ich spiel mit dir (1962). Source: Fritz51251 (YouTube).

The Kessler Twins sing Heute Abend wollen wir tanzen geh'n at the 1959 Eurovision Song Contest. Source: Joao Velado (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.

21 September 2019

New acquisitions: Cinémagazine, Part 2

Last Saturday, EFSP had a post with a series of French postcards by Editions Cinémagazine, recently acquired by Ivo Blom. We love these sepia postcards of the 1920s, and have many more in our collections. Last week, we published 25 Cinémagazine cards with Hollywood stars. For today, we chose 25 cards with European stars, which we did not publish before.

Rachel Devirys
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 53. Photo: Jean Desboutin.

Rachel Devirys (1890-1983) was a Franco-Russian actress, who started in French cinema in 1917 and is known for such films as Visages d'enfants (Jacques Feyder, 1923) as the stepmother of Jean Forest, Monte Carlo (Louis Mercanton, 1925) with Betty Balfour, and Croquette (Mercanton, 1928) again with Balfour. Devirys continued well into the sound era, with films such as Maternité (Jean Benoît-Lévy, 1930). One of her last parts was in Les enfants terribles (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1950).

Denise Legeay
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 54. Photo: Jean Desboutin.

Denise Legeay (1898-1968) was a French film actress whose career and popularity peaked in the first half of the 1920s. Legeay debuted in L'infante à la rose (Henry Houry, 1921), starring Gabrielle Dorziat. In the episode film Vingt ans après (Henri Diamant-Berger, 1922), the sequel to Les trois mousquetaires (1921), Legeay played Anne Geneviève de Bourbon, Duchess of Longueville. She also acted opposite Maurice Chevalier in Le mauvais garçon (Henri Diamant-Berger, 1923). Legeay was paired with Harry Piel in Der Mann ohne Nerven (1924) and Face à la mort/ Au secours!/Schneller als der Tod (1924), both directed by both Gérard Bourgeois and Harry Piel. The collaboration lead to two other Harry Piel films in Germany: Zigano (1925), and Achtung Harry! Augen auf! (1926). These were her last films.

Gilbert Dalleu
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 70. Photo: Studio Rahma.

Gilbert Dalleu (1861-1931) was a French actor of the silent era.

Monique Chrysès
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 72. Photo: Jean Desboutin.

Little is known about Monique Chrysès. Her life dates are lacking. She debuted in French silent film in Le père Goriot (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1921), where she played Madame de Restaud opposite Gabriel Signoret as the title character. In 1922 she acted in the Oscar Wilde adaptation Le crime de Lord Arthur Savile (René Hervil, 1922) with the British actor Cecil Mannering as the title character. In 1923 she appeared in Germaine Dulac's serial Gossette (1923) starring Régine Bouet and costarring Maurice Schutz. Then, she was Mme Belmont in L'enfant des halles (René Leprince, 1924) and Marthe Guéroy in L'aventurier (Maurice Mariaud, Louis Osmont, 1924) with Jean Angelo. After years of absence from the screen, Chrysès had a last, supporting part in the sound film La voix qui meurt (Gennaro Dini, 1934) starring André Burdino.

Gaston Rieffler
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 75. Photo: Monférino, Nice.

Gaston Rieffler (1880-1959) was a French actor who peaked in the French silent cinema of the 1910s and early 1920s.

Ivan Mozzhukhin
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 93.

Russian actor Ivan Mozzhukhin (1889-1939) was a legendary star of the European silent film. He escaped from execution by the Soviet Red Army and made a stellar career in Europe, but he suffered in Hollywood.

Ginette Maddie
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 107. Photo: Wyndham.

Ginette Maddie (1898-1980) was a French actress who acted in French and German silent films. She started opposite Claude Merelle in Le diamant noir (André Hugon, 1922). Maddie had female leads in Sarati le terrible (René Hervil, Louis Mercanton, 1923), the comedy Les héritiers de l'oncle James (Alfred Machin, Henry Wulschleger, 1924), and La lueur dans les ténèbres (Maurice Charmeroy, 1928), while she often played the second woman in the story in French and German films opposite e.g. Dolly Davis, Madeleine Erickson, Xenia Desni, and Dita Parlo.

Eric Barclay
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 115. Photo: Wyndham.

Eric Barclay (1894–1938) was a Swedish film actor. Barclay became a prominent actor in French silent films of the early 1920s, often working with director Jacques de Baroncelli. He also appeared in German and British films and those of his native Sweden.

Jean Devalde
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 127. Photo: Rahma.

Jean Devalde (1888-1982) was a Belgian actor in French silent cinema. After his career as actor, Devalde became impresario of Pierre Fresnay, Yvonne Printemps, Pierre Richard-Willm and Edwige Feuillère.

Max Maxudian
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 134. Photo: Rahma.

Max Maxudian (1881-1976) was a French stage and film actor with tall, broad shoulders, a high forehead under hair thrown-back, a Bourbon nose, a black beard framing an energetic face, tempered by Oriental eyes. He appeared in supporting parts in 77 films, including some of the silent classics of Abel Gance like the epic Napoleon (1927).

Arlette Marchal
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 142. Photo: P. Apers.

Elegant French actress Arlette Marchal (1902-1984) started as a fashion model and from the 1950s on she dedicated herself mostly to her fashion enterprise. Between 1922 and 1951 she starred in 41 European and American films.

Lucien Dalsace
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 153.

Lucien Dalsace (1893-1980) was a French stage and screen actor who peaked in French silent cinema of the 1920s.

Marcya Capri
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 174. Photo: Fretté.

Little is known about Marcya Capri, no life dates are known. She was first seen in The Empire of Diamonds (Léonce Perret, 1920), an American film shot on location in the South of France and elsewhere. Perret then hired her for major parts in The Money Maniac (1921) starring Robert Elliott, and his French production, L'écuyère (1922). She had a smaller part in Perret's superproduction Koenigsmark (1923), starring Huguette Duflos as Grandduchess Aurore and Jaque Catelain as her tutor Raoul Vignerte. Capri played Melusine de Graffenfried, the Grand Duchess's head of staff. Afterwards, Capri acted in La closerie des Genets (André Liabel, 1925) opposite Henry Krauss and Ninna Vanna. In Les deux mamans (Giuseppe Guarino, 1925), and the Franco-Romanian production Calvaire/ Drumul iertarii (Ion Niculescu-Bruna, Gabriel Rosca, 1927). Capri acted opposite Soava Gallone as the Other Woman in Celle qui domine (Carmine Gallone, Léon Mathot, 1927). After some bit parts and years of absence from the screen, she returned in 1936 for a small part in the sound film Marinella (Pierre Caron, 1936), starring Tino Rossi and Yvette Lebon.

Gaston Norès
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 188. Photo: V. Henry.

Gaston Norès (1894-1958) was a Belgian actor, who first chose operetta as his career and triumphed as Prince Danilo in 'The Merry Widow', just before the First World War. After four years at the front, his vocal cords were ruined and he could not sing anymore. He was introduced to film director Gérard Bourgeois and became the lead in the two-part film La dette de sang (1922) and instantly a star. Several films followed, a.o. the serial Tao (Gaston Ravel, 1923), in which he played the young adventurer Jacques Chauvry opposite Joë Hamman. The 10-episodes serial was a huge success. He only played in 12 films and often had supporting parts. At the advent of sound cinema, Norès's career was over. His last film was the early sound film Les papillons de nuit (Maurice Kéroul, 1930).

Cameron Carr
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 216.

Cameron Carr (1876-1944) was a British film actor of the silent era. Carr started his career in 1918, working for Broadwest, directed by Walter West. Often he was the other man opposite leading man Stewart Rome, with actress Violet Hopson in the middle. In 1922 he alternated his work at Broadwest with Stewart and Hopson, with roles at Stoll Pictures. There he worked in films by and with Guy Newall, and with Ivy Duke. Carr had his first lead in 1925 in the Stoll production The Notorious Mrs. Carrick, playing David Carrick. In several films, Carr played second fiddle to Clive Brook or Victor McLaglen. From 1927, he mainly played supporting parts for BIP.

Maurice Chevalier
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 230. Photo: Studio G.L. Manuel Frères.

Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972) was a French actor, singer and entertainer. His trademark was a casual straw hat, which he always wore on stage with a cane and a tuxedo.

Constant Rémy
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 256.

Constant Rémy (1882-1957) was a French actor and director, who played in almost 70 films.

Percy Marmont
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 265.

Percy Marmont (1883-1977) was a British actor, who had a prolific career in 1920s Hollywood and 1930s British cinema.

Jean Dehelly
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 268.

Jean Dehelly (1896-1964) was a French film actor, who was active in French cinema of the 1920s and early 1930s.

Maria Dalbaicin
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 309. Photo: Studio G.L. Manuel Frères.

María Dalbaicín (1902-1931) was a Spanish flamenco dancer who became an actress. Dalbaicín grew up in a gypsy family and her mother Agustina Escudero Heredia was nicknamed the 'Queen of Gypsies'. From 1925 on, she appeared in French and German films. When she died in 1931, she was only 28.

Claude Merelle
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 312.

Claude Mérelle (1888-?) was a French film actress of the silent era. She is best remembered as the evil Milady de Winter in Les trois mousquetaires/The Three Musketeers (Henri Diamant-Berger, 1921).

Raquel Meller
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 339. Photo: Studio G.L. Manuel Frères.

Spanish actress, singer, and diva Raquel Meller acted mainly in French silent films. She was already a highly popular singer before debuting as a film actress in 1919.

Camille Bardou
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 365.

Camille Bardou (1872-1941) was a French stage and screen actor, who acted in cinema between 1904 and 1934.

Armand Tallier
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 399.

Armand Tallier (1887-1958) was a stage and screen actor, who peaked in the silent era. Theatre director Jacques Copeau, who had opened the alternative Théâtre du Vieux Colombier, directed Tallier on stage from 1913 for several years. Inspired by him, Tallier began with Laurence Myrga the Studio des Ursulines, one of the first Parisian art houses, founded to ensure the diffusion of avant-garde cinema. The first session took place in January 1926. As an homage, the Prix Armand Tallier for the best book on film is awarded since 1958 (since 1977 called Prix littéraire du syndicat français de la critique de cinéma).

Catherine Hessling in Nana (1926)
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 411. Catherine Hessling as the title character in Nana (Jean Renoir, 1926), based on the homonymous novel (1880) by Emile Zola.

Catherine Hessling (1900-1979) was an attractive brunette with bee-stung lips, who started as a model for the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1917-1919) in the Provence. She married his son Jean in 1920 and they had a son Alain in 1921. From 1924 Hessling acted in Jean Renoir's first films, first in Catherine/Une vie sans joie (1924, re-edited by Albert Dieudonné in 1927), about an orphan girl who is a victim of the jealousy of women and the greed of men. In her second film, La fille de l'eau/The Whirlpool of Fate (1925), Hessling is the daughter of a pole man, whose father drowns and whose uncle tries to rape and rob her. Renoir's next production was the prestigious and costly Nana (Jean Renoir, 1926), filmed at the Bavaria Studios in Munich, and with stars like Jean Angelo and Werner Krauss. Hessling and Renoir became household names.

Léon Mathot in Dans l'Ombre du Harem (1928)
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, no. 540. Photo: Franco Film. Léon Mathot in the French silent film Dans l'ombre du harem/In the Shadow of the Harem (Léon Mathot, André Liabel, 1928). The title on the postcard is slightly incorrect.

Léon Mathot (1886-1968) was a French actor and director, who became well-known for his role of Edmond Dantès in the French serial Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (1918), directed by Henri Pouctal. Mathot became one of the most popular stars of French silent film of the 1920s with such film as L'Empereur des pauvres (René Leprince, 1922) and Coeur fidèle (1923) by Jean Epstein. From 1927, he also became a film director, directing over 20 films.