21 October 2018

Gilberte Savary

French child actress Gilberte Savary (1921-1992) appeared in six films such as Le rêve (1931), La ronde des heures (1931) and Les Miserables (1934).

Gilberte Savary
French postcard in the Nos Artistes series. Caption: Jeune Vedette des Films Parlants (Young star of the sound cinema).

Gilberte Savary
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Édition, Paris, no. 2064. Photo: Studio Arnal, Paris.

Gilberte Savary
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 718.

The daughter of a clown

Gilberte Thérèse Louise Savary was born in 1921 in Paris.

She made her film debut as a little girl in the silent film La faute de Monique/Monique’s fault (Maurice Gleize, 1928), with Sandra Milovanoff and Rudolf Klein Rogge.

The following year, she had a small part in the Alexandre Dumas adaptation Le collier de la reine/The Queen's Necklace (Tony Lekain, Gaston Ravel, 1929) starring Marcelle Chantal and Diana Karenne.

She had one of the leading roles in the circus drama La ronde des heures/Round of Hours (Alexandre Ryder, 1931) as the daughter of clown André Baugé. The success of the film made her a child star and in 1931, she appeared in a total of four films.

One was a bit role in Tout ça ne vaut pas l'amour/All that is not worth the love (Jacques Tourneur, 1931) with Marcel Lévesque and the young Jean Gabin both falling in love with Josseline Gael.

Gilberte Savary
French postcard by Photo Combier, Macon. Photo: Arnal, Paris. Caption: Gilberte Savary, star of Boite à Joujoux/The Toy-Box. The most amazing artist of the era of sound cinema, radio, Music Hall.

Gilberte Savary
French postcard by Photo Combier, Macon. Caption: "Our artists. Gilberte Savary, realistic star of Boite à Joujoux/The Toy-Box."

A mystical atmosphere

In 1923, director Jacques de Baroncelli had made the fairy tale-like Le rêve/The Dream (1923), a silent film version of the sixteenth volume in Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart saga.

In 1931 he made a sound version, Le rêve/The Dream (1931), now with Gilberte Savary as a lost child who is adopted by a humble family. When she has grown up, the girl (now played by Simone Genevois) falls in love with the bishop's son (Jaque Catelain), and the old man who plans a beau marriage is not prepared to accept it.

D.B. DuMonteil at IMDb: “The painstaking pictures, the use of the settings in the cathedral and of the canticles create a mystical atmosphere. Unfortunately, the two lovers verge on ludicrous. Simone Genevois's and Jacques Catelain's playing make the movie some kind of middle-brow show. A curiosity.”

Finally in her last film appearance, Savary played the young Eponine Thénardier in the epic Les Miserables (Raymond Bernard, 1934) starring Harry Baur as ex-convict Jean Valjean and Charles Vanel as the obsessive police inspector Javert.

Now an adolescent, Gilberte retired from the screen. Marlene Pilate suggests at La Collectionneuse that Savary possibly also worked on stage and for the radio. And indeed Gilberte Savary appeared as variety artist singing chansons in theatres, even in the Netherlands in 1938.

Little is known about her later life. Gilberte Savary died in 1992 in Clayes-sous-Bois near Paris, when she was 70.

Gilberte Savary
French postcard by Photo Combier, Macon. Caption: "En souvenir des films Gilberte Savary." With pictures of Tout ça ne vaut pas l'amour a.k.a. Un vieux garçon (Jacques Tourneur, 1931), Le collier de la reine/The Queen's Necklace (Tony Lekain, Gaston Ravel, 1929), La ronde des heures/Round of Hours (Alexandre Ryder, 1931) and Le rêve/The Dream (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1931).

Gilberte Savary
French postcard. Photo: Studfio Intran.

Sources: Marlene Pilaete (La Collectionneuse – French), D.B. DuMonteil (IMDb), Delpher (Dutch), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

20 October 2018

Photo by Nicola Perscheid

German photographer Nicola Perscheid (1864-1930) is primarily known for his artistic portrait photography. He developed the 'Perscheid lens', a soft focus lens for large format portrait photography. For several film star postcards of the 1910s and 1920s by Verlag Hermann Leiser, Photochemie, Rotophot and Ross Verlag, Perscheid took the photos.

Lisa Weise
Lisa Weise. German postcard by Verlag Hermann Leiser, Berlin Wilm., no. 5209. Photo: Nicola Perscheid.

Fritzi Massary
Fritzi Massary. German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 278. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Grete Weixler
Grete Weixler. German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 1324. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Lu Synd
Lu Synd. German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin. no. K. 1605. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Nils Chrisander
Nils Chrisander. German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin., no. 1642. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Court photographer

Nicola Perscheid was born as Nikolaus Perscheid in Moselweiß near Koblenz (now part of Koblenz), Germany, in 1864. There he also went to school.

At the age of 15, he began an apprenticeship as a photographer in the studio Reuss & Müller in Koblenz. Subsequently, Perscheid earned his living as an itinerant photographer. He worked in Saarbrücken, Trier, and Colmar, but also in Nice, Vienna, or Budapest.

In Klagenfurt in Austria he finally found a permanent position and on 1 March 1887, he became a member of the Photographic Society of Vienna (Wiener Photographische Gesellschaft). In 1889, he moved to Dresden, where he initially worked in the studio of Wilhelm Höffert, a well-known studio in Germany at that time.

In 1891, Perscheid opened his own studio in Görlitz. The next year, he was appointed court photographer at the court of Albert, King of Saxony. In 1894, he moved to Leipzig, where he mainly made conventional studio photography.

Perscheid had his first publication of a photo in a renowned photography magazine in 1897, and from then on his work started to show new artistic impulses. He brought what was then a newer, painterly side to photography. His photography focused on portraiture, and especially his portraits of women are often in soft focus.

From 1899 to 1902, he participated in numerous national and international exhibitions in connection with the art photography movement and the artistic criteria this movement proclaimed. Perscheid also had contacts with the artist Max Klinger, whom he also photographed.

As an established and well-known photographer, he moved in 1905 to Berlin, where he opened an elegant studio. Among the celebrities he portrayed are the physician Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, politician Paul von Hindenburg, singer Fritzi Massari, author Gerhart Hauptmann and flying ace Manfred von Richthofen. 

From 1903 on, he experimented with early techniques for colour photography, without much success. When his assistant Arthur Benda left him in 1907, Perscheid gave up these experiments altogether.

His portraits, however, won him several important awards. In 1909 he received the Grand Silver Medal, the highest award for professional photographers at the 38th convention of the German Photographers Association in Weimar.

Apparently his studio was not an economic success: he sold it in 1912. In October 1913, he held a course at the Swedish society of professional photographers, the Svenska Fotografernas Förbund, which must have been a success as it was praised even ten years later. In 1923, he followed a call by the Danish college for photography in Kopenhagen.

Max Landa
Max Landa. German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 2391. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Maria Widal
Maria Widal. German postcard in the Filmsterne series by Rotophot, no. 112/1. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Paul Heidemann
Paul Heidemann. German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 124/1. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Friedrich Zelnik
Friedrich Zelnik. German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 126/3. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Paul Hartmann
Paul Hartmann. German postcard in the Film-Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 161/3. Photo: Nicole Perscheid, Berlin.

The Perscheid lens

Sabine Schnakenberg notes about Nicola Perscheid: "With Rudolph Dührkoop (1848-1918) and Hugo Erfurth (1875-1948) Perscheid belonged to those professional photographers who followed their own design ideas and were able to implement them for a small, affluent clientele. Characteristic was their closer examination of the person to be portrayed, whereby Perscheid succeeded in fulfilling the demanded contemporary demands on 'individuality', 'characteristics' and 'truth' of the portrayed by the use of simple clothes and backgrounds, the abandonment of studio props and to fulfil the economical use of retouching while exploiting the technical potential."

Perscheid had several students who would later become renowned photographers themselves. Arthur Benda studied with him from 1899 to 1902, and joined him again in 1906 as his assistant for experimenting with colour photography. Benda left Perscheid in 1907. Together with Dora Kallmus, he went to Vienna and worked in her studio Atelier d'Ora, which he eventually took over. The studio continued to exist under the name d'Ora-Benda until 1965.

Kallmus herself also had studied from January to May 1907 at Perscheid's. Henry B. Goodwin, who later emigrated to Sweden and in 1913 organised Perscheid's course there, studied with Perscheid in 1903. In 1924 the Swedish photographer Curt Götlin studied at Perscheid's studio. Perscheid also influenced the Japanese photographer Toragorō Ariga, who studied in Berlin from 1908 to 1914 and also followed Perscheid's courses. He returned in 1915 to Japan.

The Perscheid lens was developed around 1920. It is a soft-focus lens with a wide depth of field, produced by Emil Busch AG in Rathenow Germany, after the specifications of Perscheid. The lens is designed especially for large format portrait photography. Ariga introduced the Perscheid lens in Japan, where it became very popular amongst Japanese portrait photographers of the 1920s.

Even after the sale of his studio, Perscheid continued to work as a photographer and even rented other studio rooms in 1917. In these years, he made dozens portraits of film stars of the burgeoning German silent cinema. They were used for postcards by such Berlin publishers as Verlag Hermann Leiser, Photochemie and Rotophot with was later transformed into Ross Verlag.

Besides artistic photography, Perscheid also always did 'profane' studio portraits, for instance for the Postkartenvertrieb Willi Sanke in Berlin that between 1910 and 1918 published a series of about 600 to 700 numbered aviation postcards, including a large number of portraits of flying aces, a number of which were done by Perscheid.

Towards the end of the 1920s, Perscheid had severe financial problems. In autumn 1929 he had to sub-rent his apartment to be able to pay his own rent. Shortly afterwards, he suffered a stroke, and was hospitalised in spring of 1930. While he was at the hospital, his belongings, including his cameras and photographic plates, but also all his furniture were auctioned off to pay his debts.

Two weeks after the auction, on 12 May 1930, Nicola Perscheid died at the Charité hospital in Berlin.

Henny Porten
Henny Porten. German postcard in the Film Sterne Series by Rotophot, no. 167/2. Photo: Nicola Perscheid / Messter Film, Berlin.

Arnold Rieck
Arnold Rieck. German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 185/4. Photo: Nicola Perscheid / Messter Film, Berlin.

Hella Moja
Hella Moja. German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 313/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Nicola Perscheid.

Ernst Hofmann
Ernst Hoffmann. German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 439/3, 1919-1924. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Margarete Schlegel
Margarete Schlegel. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 841/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Sources: Sabine Schnakenberg (Deutsche Biografie - German), Lomography and Wikipedia.

19 October 2018

Horst Caspar

German actor Horst Caspar (1913-1952) was prominent in German theatre, radio and a few films in the 1930s and 1940s. His postwar career was cut short by his sudden death at 39.

Horst Caspar
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3155/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis.

Horst Caspar
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3208/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Dähn.

Mischling of the second degree

Horst Joachim Arthur Caspar was born in 1913 in Radegast, Germany. He was the son of Max Caspar, an army officer. He had one Jewish grandparent. Caspar’s mother named Emmy (birth name Hentschel) was twelve years younger than his father. She was the daughter of a hotelier. She gave birth to three sons: Theodor, Hans and Horst. Emmy passed away of a pneumonia at the age of 25 years, when Horst was only 18 months old.

He was raised by an aunt in Berlin, Nora Hartwich, and attended the Treitschke-Reform-Realgymnasium in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. In 1932 he took his abitur (school leaving exam), but did not go to university, since he had already decided to be an actor.

The Roman herald in William Shakespeare’s Coriolan was Caspar's first stage role, performed in 1933. He took acting lessons at the school of Ilka Grüning and Lucie Höflich, along with future stars of German cinema such as Lilli Palmer, Inge Meysel and Brigitte Horney.

In 1933, the handsome young man was taken up by the director Saladin Schmitt and became a leading man at the Bochumer Stadttheater. In Bochum, he performed in plays by William Shakespeare and Friedrich Schiller, often in youthful heroic roles.

Under the Nazi regime's anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws, Horst Caspar was classed as a Mischling (mixed race) of the second degree. Despite his part-Jewish ancestry, he continued to work as an actor. This was partly because he enjoyed the protection of Saladin Schmitt, who as a homosexual was no friend of the Nazi regime.

But he also enjoyed the patronage of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels personally vetted cases of part-Jewish performers and allowed a number of popular part-Jewish actors to continue working.

When he gave his final performance in Bochum in Richard II in 1939, he received 108 curtain calls. He moved to Munich where he was working at the Munich Kammerspiele (1938-1940).

His first leading film role was as the young Schiller in Friedrich Schiller – Der Triumph eines Genies/Friedrich Schiller – The Triumph of a Genius (Herbert Maisch, 1940). The film focuses on the early career of the German poet Friedrich Schiller.

Horst Caspar
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3397/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Dähn.

A 'rare and special privilege'

In 1940, Horst Caspar joined one of the most important German theatres of the time, the Schiller Theatre in Berlin. He worked there until 1944 when the theatre was closed as a result of the war.

In 1942 he also performed at the prestigious Burgtheater in Vienna. This was regarded as a 'rare and special privilege' for a part-Jewish actor in a city where all Jews had been purged from cultural life.

In 1943, Caspar was engaged by film director Veit Harlan to play the young Prussian field marshal August Neidhardt von Gneisenau in Kolberg (Veit Harlan, 1945). He defended the fortress town of Kolberg against the troops of the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807, alongside the city’s mayor (Heinrich George) and lieutenant Schill (Gustav Diessl). The film entered production in 1943, and was made in Agfacolor with high production values.

At a cost of more than eight million marks, it was the most expensive German film of World War II, with the actual cost suppressed to avoid adverse public reaction. Produced on the orders of Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, it was intended as a Nazi propaganda piece to bolster the will of the German population to resist the Allies. The result was a monumental, but historically inaccurate propaganda film, Kolberg (Veit Harlan, 1945), one of the last films of the Third Reich.

This was only Caspar's second leading film role, but it is the one for which he is now best remembered, despite the fact that film was finished only shortly before the end of World War II and was seen by few people at the time.

In 20 January 1944, Horst Caspar married 22-year-old actress Antje Weisgerber. She gave birth to a son called Frank and a daughter named Renate.

After the end of WW II, Caspar moved to Düsseldorf where he joined the ensemble of the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus. In 1949 he played the leading role in the film Begegnung mit Werther (Karlheinz Stroux, 1949).

His last role was in the crime film called Epilog. Das Geheimnis der Orplid/The Orplid Mystery (Helmut Kautner, 1950). He played a reporter named Peter Zabel who wants to solve the reasons behind a ship disaster.

Caspar also performed the character of Goethe’s Faust in a radio play produced by the German radio station WDR in 1949 and 1952. In 1952 he recorded an LP of poetry readings, including works by Schiller and Goethe.

In December 1952, Horst Caspar suddenly died of a stroke in Berlin. He was only 39. Tragically, his son Frank died on the day of his father's funeral, aged eight. His widow, Antje Weisgerber, had a successful film career extending into the 1970s. All three are buried at St Anne's churchyard in Berlin-Dahlem.

Horst Caspar
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3438/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Dähn.

Sources: Filmportal.de, Radegast-Anhalt.de, Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.