17 August 2022


Belgian-Portuguese singer Lio (1962) had a huge success in 1979 in France and Belgium with her song 'Banana Split'. With more than 1 million singles sold, it became one of the most popular hits in French-language music of the 1980s. She had further pop hits with 'Amoureux solitaires' (1980), 'Amicalement votre' (1981) and 'Mona Lisa' (1982). She also appeared in several French films.

French postcard by CO, no. 937. Photo: Tony Frank (Sigma).

French postcard, no. 32. Photo: Tony Frank (Sigma).

The perfect European Electro Pop starlet

Lio was born as Vanda Maria Ribeiro Furtado Tavares de Vasconcelos in 1962 in Mangualde, a small town in Portugal. Her parents were politically left-wing, and Lio has remained true to this social vision. Her parents divorced and, in 1968, Vanda moved with her mother and new stepfather to Brussels, Belgium, where her sister, actress Helena Noguerra, was born.

In her teens, she was determined to become a singer, and she was encouraged by singer-songwriter Jacques Duvall (né Eric Verwilghem), a family friend. She took her stage name, Lio, from a character in the Barbarella comic books by Jean-Claude Forest. Lio is a lolitesque teenager that Barbarella must save from the bad guys.

In 1979, together with songwriter Jay Alanski, she and Duvall began working with Marc Moulin and Dan Lacksman from the electro-trio Telex. According to Dutch Wikipedia, she owed her record deal to the Belgian tax laws, which obliged her music company to take on Belgian artists as well. To the amazement of everyone, including Lio herself, her song 'Banana Split (1979)' became a big hit in Belgium and France.

'The follow-up 'Amoureux solitaires' (1980), a song originally by punk rock band Stinky Toys, also became a hit in the Netherlands. Moulin and Lacksman produced her self-titled first album which established Lio as the perfect European Electro Pop starlet. Other songs like 'Amicalement votre' (1981) and 'Mona Lisa' (1982) also sold well.

Lio has, in her own words, "a voice with a high acidity content". Her repertoire meets this requirement by its lack of sentimentality, which is quite exceptional in French light music. In 1982 the American music duo Ron and Russell Mael, of Sparks, worked with her on the album 'Suite sixtine', on which some of her previous songs were translated into English. In 1985, she met record company executive and producer Michel Esteban, of ZE Records.

She continued to have hit singles in Europe, including 'Les brunes comptent pas pour des prunes', and travelled to Los Angeles with Esteban to record her next album 'Pop model' (1986). Several of the tracks were co-produced by John Cale, formerly of the Velvet Underground, and the album produced the hits 'Fallait pas commencer', 'Je casse tout ce que je touche'. and 'Chauffeur'. Lio performed four days of concerts at the Olympia of Paris and in 1987, she gave birth to Nubia, the first of her six children.

Swiss postcard by News Productions, Baulmes, no. 55959. Photo: Bettina Rheims / Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne. Caption: Lio et les cérises, 1986.

French postcard by Humour a la Carte, Paris, no. ST-100. Photo: Jean Ber / VU.

French postcard by Humour a la Carte, Paris, no. ST-145. Photo: Marie France Laval.

Getting rid of her babydoll image

Lio entered the film world in 1983. She played a carefree hairdresser in Golden Eighties (Chantal Akerman, 1986), a lighthearted, humorous French pop musical about the people who work together in a Parisian shopping centre. It was followed by the romantic comedy Elsa, Elsa (Didier Haudepin, 1985) with François Cluzet. Then followed Itinéraire d'un enfant gâté/Itinerary of a Spoiled Child (Claude Lelouch, 1988), the last big hit of the career of Jean-Paul Belmondo.

After Lio's album 'Can Can' (1988) flopped, she decided to become a fashion designer. It became a commercial success and from 1988 to 1990 she was allowed to design for Prisunic. In 1990, she stopped designing and resumed making films. She played with Michel Blanc and Jacques Dutronc in the comedy Chambre à part (Jacky Cukier, 1989). Her next films were Jalousie/Jealousy (Kathleen Fonmarty, 1991), the romantic drama Sale come un ange/Dirty Like an Angel (Catherine Breillat, 1991) with Claude Brasseur, and the drama Sans un cri/Without a shout (Jeanne Labrune, 1991).

In Après l'amour (Diane Kurys, 1992) she co-starred with Isabelle Huppert and Bernard Giraudeau. Lio also appeared in various men's magazines, such as the French Playboy. In 1991, she recorded her album 'Des fleurs pour un caméléon' which had little more success than 'Can Can'. Around her 30th birthday, Lio decided that it was time to get rid of her babydoll image, but the studios did not agree. She starred in the Spanish film La Madre muerta/The Dead Mother (Juanma Bajo Ulloa, 1993). the French film Personne ne m'aime (Marion Vernoux, 1994) opposite Bernadette Lafont and Bulle Ogier, and the Spanish-French coproduction Niña de tus sueños (Jesús R. Delgado, 1995).

Her 1996 album 'Wandatta' was more mature, but the general public was not very interested in her new style. Lio's singing career took an unexpected turn in 1999 with her album 'Lio chante Prévert', with classical chansons based on texts by the French literary great Jacques Prévert. The album received good reviews, and earned Lio some significant concerts, in Paris and Spa. In 1999 she also appeared in 50 performances of the French adaptation of 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers', a musical staged at the Folies Bergère. But her success never became what it was in the 1980s.

In 1999 she divorced her husband, singer Zad and sued him for assault. In 2004, the then 42-year-old Lio published her autobiography 'LIO popmodel' in collaboration with the journalist Gilles Verlant. she released the live album 'Cœur de rubis' in 2004. That year, she also appeared in over 250 performances of the theatre play 'Le Bébé', an adaptation of a book by Marie Darrieussecq staged by Marc Goldberg. She also continued to appear in films such as Pas douce/A Parting Shot (Jeanne Waltz, 2007), Une vieille maîtresse/The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat, 2007) with Asia Argento, and La robe du soir/The evening dress (Myriam Aziza, 2009).

Since 2008, Lio has been a judge on the French "pop idol" show Nouvelle Star. In 2009, she returned to music with the rock band Phantom. In 2011, she became a judge on another TV show, The Voice Belgique. In the following years, several of Lio's songs, like 'Mona Lisa' (1982) have been rediscovered and used as samples in songs by artists in the Nu-disco, House and EDM genres. Later films include Un poison violent/Love like poison (Katell Quillévéré, 2010) with Michel Galabru, Stars 80 (Frédéric Forestier, Thomas Langmann, 2012) with Richard Anconina, and the TV film Elle m'a sauvée/She saved me (Ionut Teianu, 2022). Her most recent album is 'Lio canta Caymmi' (2018). It consists of half-Portuguese, half-French covers of songs by the Brazilian composer Dorival Caymmi. It was the first time she recorded an entire album in Portuguese, her mother tongue. Lio has six children.

French postcard by Media Com +, no. Record 111. Caption: Je casse tout à L'Olympia (I break everything at the Olympia).

Lio at L'Olympia
French postcard by Editions NLS, Paris, no. A-6. Caption: Lio en concert à L'Olympia.

Sources: ZE Records, Wikipedia (Dutch and English), and IMDb.

16 August 2022

Oscar Beregi, Sr.

Hungarian stage and film actor Oscar Beregi, Sr. (1876-1965) appeared in 27 European and American films between 1916 and 1953. He is best remembered as Dr. Baum in Fritz Lang’s Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933).

Oscar Beregi Sr.
Hungarian postcard by L.D.F., Budapest, Series no. 1343.

Oszkár Beregi (Oscar Beregi)
Hungarian postcard by KI.V, Budapest. Photo: Mártoney, Budapest.

Oscar Beregi Sr.
Hungarian postcard by S.S.Bpt., no. 235.

Oscar Beregi Sr. in Vier Nächte einder schönen Frau (1924)
Austrian postcard by Arenberg Verlag, Wien (Vienna), no 576. Photo: Rudo Film, Wien. Oscar Beregi Sr. in Vier Nächte einder schönen Frau/Four nights of a beautiful woman (Josef W. Beyer, 1924).

Laura La Plante and Oscar Beregi in Butterflies in the Rain (1926)
Austrian postcard by Iris-Verlag, no. 5097. Photo: Universal-Film. Laura La Plante and Oscar Beregi in Butterflies in the Rain (Edward Sloman, 1926).

An attack on the aristocracy

Oscar Beregi, Sr. was born Beregi Oszkár or Oszkár Beregi (according to Wikipedia) or Berger Oszkár (according to IMDb) in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, in 1876.

In the 1910s, he was the leading actor in the National Theatre in Budapest, and would later perform in plays in Vienna and Berlin.

The sources differ about Beregi’s film debut in 1916. Was it with the lead role in the silent Hungarian production Mire megvénülünk/The time we get old (Ödön Uher ifj., 1916) or with the male lead in Hófehérke/Snowwhite (Márton Garas, 1916) with Ica von Lenkeffy?

A year later he starred in the drama A Gólyakalifa/The Stork Caliph (Korda Sándor a.k.a. Alexander Korda, 1917), co-starring Gyula Bartos and Judit Bánky. It was the second film made by the legendary director-producer for his newly established Corvin Film company. Korda pulled off what was considered a literary coup by persuading the author Mihály Babits to allow him to film a version of his 1916 novel of the same name.

Two years later, Beregi appeared in another drama by Korda, Ave Caesar! (Alexander Korda, 1919) with Gábor Rajnay and María Corda. The film tells the story of a debauched Habsburg Prince, who sends out one of his aides-de-camp to bring him back a gipsy girl.

Ave Caesar! was considered an attack on the aristocracy. It was made by Korda for the state-owned film industry during the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Once the regime fell later that year Korda was arrested and eventually compelled to leave Hungary as part of the White Terror.

Beregi also worked with another Hungarian who would later become famous in Hollywood, Mihaly Kertész (later known as Michael Curtiz), on the drama Jön az öcsém/My Brother is Coming (Mihaly Kertész, 1919) with Lucy Doraine.

Like many other Hungarian filmmakers, Oscar Beregi, Sr. fled with his family from the Béla-Kun-Regime and moved to Austria. There he appeared as Cesare Borgia in Meriota, die Tänzerin/Neriota – the dancer (Julius Herska, 1922) opposite Maria Mindzenty as Meriota and Nora Gregor as Lucrezia Borgia.

Later he played Amenmeses opposite María Corda in the epic Die Sklavenkönigin/The Moon of Israel (Mihaly Kertész, 1924), produced by Sascha Kolowrat-Krakowsky and Arnold Pressburger. The script was written by Ladislaus Vajda, based on H. Rider Haggard's novel Moon of Israel, which in its turn was inspired by the Biblical story of the Exodus.

The shooting took place in Vienna with about 5,000 extras, in the studios of Sascha-Film, and outdoors on the Laaer Berg. Vienna was touted as 'the Hollywood of Europe,' and the film brought Kertész to the attention of the American studio head Jack Warner. Warner invited Kertész to Hollywood in 1926, where he rapidly became Michael Curtiz and made a career with Warner Studios.

Die Sklavenkönigin was entirely lost for many years, but in 2005 the film was restored and re-copied by the Filmarchiv Austria and presented in the Wiener Metro Kino.

Beregi then starred in the drama Der Fluch/The Curse (Robert Land, 1924). The film marked the screen debut of Lilian Harvey as a young Jewish woman in an Eastern European shtetl, who struggles to reconcile her aspirations with her duty to her family. As her lifestyle grows wilder, her mother is shocked by her immoral behaviour and commits suicide by drowning - repeating ‘the curse’ which has haunted the family for centuries.

He also starred in the Austrian-Polish coproduction Ssanin (Friedrich Feher, 1924) with Magda Sonja and the Jewish production Jiskor (Sidney M. Goldin, 1924) with Maurice Schwartz and Dagny Servaes.

Oscar Beregi Sr.
German postcard by NPG. Photo: Mátrai, Budapest.

Oscar Beregi
Hungarian postcard. NPG (Neue Photographische Gesellschaft). Photo: Matrai, Budapest.

Oscar Beregi Sr.
Hungarian postcard. Photo: Mátrai, Budapest.

Oszkár Beregi (Oscar Beregi)
Hungarian postcard by Színházi Élet / City, no. 93. Photo; Angelo. 'Színházi Élet' (Theatre Life) was a popular Budapest theatre, literary and art weekly between 1912 and 1938. The founding editor-in-chief of the journal was Sándor Incze.

Oscar Beregi Sr. in Die Räuber
German postcard by Verlag Louis Blumenthal, Berlin, no. 3150. Photo: Becker & Maass. Oscar Beregi as Karl Moor in the play 'Die Räuber' (The Robbers) by Friedrich Schiller.

A menace to public health and safety

From 1926 on, Oscar Beregi, Sr. appeared in several Hollywood films, including the romantic comedies The Love Thief (John McDermott, 1926) and Butterflies in the Rain (Edward Sloman, 1926), with Laura La Plante.

He also had a supporting part in the silent drama The Flaming Forest (Reginald Barker, 1926) starring Antonio Moreno and Renée Adorée. The film is remarkable while a two-strip Technicolor sequence was shot for the climactic blaze sequence of the film.

When the sound film was introduced in Hollywood, Beregi’s possibilities as an actor were limited and he returned to Europe. He appeared there in several Hungarian films, but he is best remembered for his performance as Dr. Baum in Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse/The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1933).

This German crime film is a sound sequel to Lang's silent film Dr. Mabuse der Spieler/Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (Fritz Lang, 1922) and features Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Dr. Mabuse who is in an insane asylum where he is found frantically writing his crime plans. When Mabuse's criminal plans begin to be implemented, Inspector Lohmann (Otto Wernicke) tries to find the solution with clues from the gangster Thomas, the institutionalized Hofmeister and Professor Baum (Beregi) who becomes obsessed with Dr. Mabuse.

According to Wikipedia, the film was scheduled for release on 24 March 1933 at the UFA-Palast am Zoo, but Adolf Hitler came to power at the end of January 1933 and on 14 March, Hitler established the new Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda headed by Joseph Goebbels. By 30 March, the Ministry of Propaganda banned Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse as a menace to public health and safety. Goebbels stated that he would not accept the film as it "showed that an extremely dedicated group of people are perfectly capable of overthrowing any state with violence".

On the French release, The New York Times wrote that "It is the French version of Fritz Lang's production, Le Testament du Dr. Mabuse (Dr. Mabuse's Will). It is a hallucinating and horrifying story, depicted with great power and the extraordinary beauty of photography that Lang has led his admirers to expect."

During the Third Reich, he lived in Budapest. Because of the anti-Semitic laws of 1939, he was only allowed to work as a stage actor in Omike, and he just barely escaped the Holocaust.

In the late 1940s, he emigrated to the US where he played a supporting role in the Oscar-winning film Call Me Madam (Walter Lang, 1953) starring Ethel Merman.

Oscar Beregi, Sr. died in 1965 in Hollywood, California. He was the father of actor Oscar Beregi, Jr., who also worked as a film and TV actor in Hollywood.

Eduard von Winterstein, Oscar Beregi, and Else Heims in Sommernachtstraum
German postcard by Jos Paul Böhm, München, no. 32. Photo: Jos Paul Böhm, München. Eduard von Winterstein, Oscar Beregi, and Else Heims in the play 'Sommernachtstraum', Max Reinhardt's staging of William Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream', first staged by Reinhardt in 1905.

Oscar Beregi Sr.
German postcard by Verlag Louis Blumenthal, Berlin, no. 3151. Photo: Becker & Maass. Oscar Beregi as Romeo in 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare.

Oscar Beregi Sr.
German postcard by NPG, no. 1275 Photo: Angelo, Budapest, 1918.

Oscar Beregi Sr.
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5103. Photo: Kitty Hoffmann.

Oscar Beregi
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5104. Photo: Kitty Hoffmann.

Sources: Daniel Rudolf (Ralph’s Cinema Trek), Wikipedia (English and German), and IMDb.

15 August 2022

Margaret Leighton

Tall, reedy, thin-browed, light-haired Margaret Leighton (1922-1976) was a British award-winning theatre and film actress. She appeared with her future husband Michael Wilding in the Hitchcock film Under Capricorn (1949). She won two Tony Awards for Broadway performances as Best Actress (Dramatic): in 1957 for 'Separate Tables' and in 1962 for Tennessee Williams' 'The Night of the Iguana'. Leighton received an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA award for her role in The Go-Between (Joseph Losey, 1971). She also won an Emmy Award for a 1970 television version of 'Hamlet'.

Margaret Leighton in The Elusive Pimpernel (1949)
Vintage card. Photo: London Films. Margaret Leighton in The Elusive Pimpernel (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1949).

Margaret Leighton
British Real Photograph postcard, no. F.S. 63. Caption: Lovely Margaret Leighton won universal praise for her part as Flora Macdonald in Bonnie Prince Charlie. She is now co-starring with David Niven in The Elusive Pimpernel, an Archer's production for London Films.

Stunning portrayals of neurotic, brittle matrons

Margaret Leighton was born in Barnt Green, Worchestershire, England, in 1922, the daughter of a businessman. Expressing an early desire to act, she quit school at age 15 and auditioned and joined Sir Barry Jackson's Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Becoming one of his star students, he hired her as a stage manager and offered her the small role of Dorothy in the stage play 'Laugh with Me' (1938). Thereby, the play marked her professional debut on stage. The play was immediately taken to BBC-TV, Laugh with Me (Herbert C. Prentice, 1938). During these productive repertory years, she involved herself in the classical plays by Chekov, Shakespeare, and Shaw.

In 1944, Margaret made her London debut for the Old Vic Company playing the daughter of the troll king in 'Peer Gynt'. Joining the company under the auspices of Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson, she earned distinction as a classical stage actress. In 1946, she made her Broadway debut as the Queen in 'Henry IV', starring Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson during a visit of the Old Vic to the U.S. The company performed a total of five plays from its repertoire before returning to London.

The opulent actress with the strikingly odd, yet fascinating facial features stole more than a few plays and films away from the stars with her stunning portrayals of neurotic, brittle matrons. Her unique brand of sophisticated eccentricity went on to captivate both Broadway and London audiences with her many theatre offerings, particularly her portrayals of Celia Coplestone in 'The Cocktail Party (1950) and Orinthia in a revival of 'The Apple Cart' (1953). Her New York performance as Mrs. Shankland in Terence Rattigan's drama 'Separate Tables' (1956) earned her a Tony Award.

She returned to Broadway to play Beatrice in William Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing' in 1959, before returning in 1962 as Hannah in 'The Night of the Iguana' and earning her second Best Actress Tony trophy. She would continue to return to Broadway throughout the 1960s with the plays 'Tchin-Tchin', 'The Chinese Prime Minister', 'Slapstick Tragedy' and the heralded production of 'The Little Foxes (1967)', first playing Birdie before taking over the role of Regina.

Margaret Leighton in A Midsummer Night's Dream
British postcard in the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre series number 20. Photo: Angus McBean. Margaret Leighton as Ariel in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', Stratford-upon-Avon, 1952.

Alternating between films in London and Hollywood

During the 1950s and 1960s, Margaret Leighton would alternate between British and U.S. filming. She made her British debut as Catherine Winslow in Terrence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy (Anthony Asquith, 1948) starring Robert Donat. Then she co-starred opposite David Niven in the period biopic Bonnie Prince Charlie (Anthony Kimmins, 1948).

Hitchcock used her next in one of his lesser-known romantic crime films Under Capricorn (Alfred Hitchcock, 1949) before entangling herself in a romantic triangle with Celia Johnson and Noël Coward in The Astonished Heart (1950), which was both written and directed by Coward.

In the crime film Calling Bulldog Drummond (Victor Saville, 1951), Margaret plays a Scotland Yard sergeant who pulls the master sleuth (Walter Pidgeon) out of retirement to infiltrate a vicious gang together, while in the mystery crime drama, Home at Seven (Ralph Richardson, 1952), the touching drama The Holly and the Ivy (George More O'Ferrall, 1952) and the saucy comedy The Passionate Stranger (Muriel Box, 1957), she reunited with her Old Vic theatre mentor Sir Ralph Richardson.

Richardson was her frequent co-star on both stage and screen. She had played Roxane to his Cyrano in the 1946 London stage revival of 'Cyrano de Bergerac', one of Richardson's greatest stage successes.

Margaret married (1947) and divorced (1955) noted publisher Max Reinhardt (of Reinhardt & Evans), known for his collection of letters and photographs from playwright and novelist George Bernard Shaw. Her second husband would be actor Laurence Harvey who starred in the British crime thriller The Good Die Young (Lewis Gilbert, 1954) in which Margaret made a co-starring appearance as his abused wife. They would marry in 1957.

Margaret Leighton
Vintage card.

Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis

Margaret Leighton earned her first top cinematic billing as Helen Teckman in The Teckman Mystery (Wendy Toye, 1954) and reunited with David Niven in the military film Carrington V.C. (Anthony Asquith, 1954). Playing a Southern aristocrat in the U.S. filming of William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (Martin Ritt, 1959) starring Yul Brynner, she followed that in the 1960s with a co-starring part opposite Peter Sellers in the comedy Waltz of the Toreadors (John Guillermin, 1962) and an all-star American cast headed by Henry Fonda in the potent political drama The Best Man (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1964).

The black comedy The Loved One (Tony Richardson, 1965) and the dramatic 7 Women (John Ford, 1966), playing one of several ladies in peril at a Chinese mission, followed. Appearing in TV-movie versions of literary classics including 'Arms and the Man', 'As You Like It' and 'The Confidential Clerk', Margaret began to make guest appearances on TV programs such as 'Suspicion,' 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 'The Alfred Hitchcock Hour', 'Playhouse 90', 'Ben Casey', 'Burke's Law', 'The F.B.I.', 'The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.' and 'Judd for the Defense', in addition to a recurring role on 'Dr. Kildare'.

Divorced from Laurence Harvey in 1961, Margaret's third and final marriage to actor Michael Wilding in 1964 was an enduring matchup. The couple went on to co-star in the period piece Lady Caroline Lamb (Robert Bolt, 1972) starring Sarah Miles. Other notable screen credits around that time include The Madwoman of Chaillot (Bryan Forbes, 1969) and the TV movie Great Expectations (Joseph Hardy, 1974) as Miss Havisham. Margaret would receive her only Oscar nomination for her support role in The Go-Between (Joseph Losey, 1971) starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates as Christie's manipulative, class-conscious mother.

In 1971, Margaret was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but didn't let it slow her down for quite some time. She continued to perform in such films as Zee and Co. (Brian G. Hutton, 1972) with Elizabeth Taylor, Bequest to the Nation (James Cellan Jones, 1973), and the TV horror offering Frankenstein: The True Story (Jack Smight, 1973).

By 1975 when she was no longer capable of walking, she continued to act giving an over-the-top comic performance in Trial by Combat (Kevin Connor, 1976). Her final TV performance was in the first season of Space: 1999 where she played Queen Arra in the episode "Collision Course. She was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1974 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to drama. She breathed her last in 1976 in Chichester hospital in Chichester, Sussex, at the age of 56. Margaret Leighton had no children in any of her marriages.

Margaret Leighton
British autograph card.

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Wikipedia (Dutch and English), and IMDb.