01 June 2020

André Deed

André Deed (1879-1940) was one of the most popular comedians in French and Italian silent cinema. He was one of the first of the named actors in the cinema, and his film series based around Boireau and Cretinetti aka Foolshead were a global success. He also worked as a film director and scriptwriter.

André Deed
French postcard by Edition Pathé Frères. Photo: X.

Le fils du diable
French postcard by Théâtre Pathé Grolée, Lyon. Photo: Pathé Frères. André Deed in Le fils du diable/The Devil's Son (Charles Lucien Lépine, 1906), with cinematography by Segundo De Chomon.


André Deed was born Henri André Augustin Chapais in Le Havre, France in 1879. He was the son of a customs official. The family moved to Nice when Henri André was young.

He attended lycée in Nice while acting with a small theatre company. Around 1900, he started his career as a circus acrobat and then became a singer in vaudeville theatre and cabaret, including at the Folies Bergères.

In 1901 he did his first steps in the film world for film pioneer Georges Méliès. He played a Pierrot in the short comic fantasy Dislocation mystérieus/An Extraordinary Dislocation (Georges Méliès, 1901). Several body parts of a dancing clown float away from his body and come back again.

In 1906 Deed started at Pathé Frères his own series of short comedies around Boireau, a comic character designed by himself. Among them are comedies like La course à la perruque/The Wig Chase (Georges Hatot, André Heuzé, 1906) with Léon Mathot, Boireau déménage/Foolshead Moved (Georges Hatot, 1906), and Les débuts d'un chauffeur/The Inexperienced Chauffeur (Georges Hatot, 1906).

Between 1906 and 1908, Deed made some 27 films for Pathé, directed by pioneer filmmakers like Georges Hatot and Georges Monca, though of several films the director is not known.

Because of the huge popularity of the Boireau comedies, the Torinese company Itala Film lured Deed to Italy in 1908. There Deed started the series of Cretinetti (which can be translated as ‘little stupid’). He not only acted but also directed his own films now. Just like in the French films, Deed behaved in a quite anarchic way, creating destruction and pursuits all over.

Between 1909 and 1911 and between 1915 and 1920, Deed interpreted Cretinetti in some 90 shorts. A highlight is the absurdist Cretinetti e le donne/Cretinetti and the Women (André Deed, 1910), in which fanatic women tear the man to pieces. In the end, all his loose limbs gather again.

At the time, Deed was after Max Linder the most popular film comedian of the European cinema. His Boireau and Cretinetti characters were even famous all over the world world, although under different names. He was known as Foolshead in English, Müller in German, Toribio in Spanish, Turíbio in Portuguese, Lehmann in Hungary, Glupyuskin in Russia, and so on.

The silent film stars Emilio Ghione and Alberto Collo started their careers in Deed’s films at Itala. He also met his future wife Valentina Frascaroli there. She would perform in many of his films.

Valentina Frascaroli
Valentina Frascaroli. French postcard. Photo: Pathé.

André Deed
French postcard, no. 3. Cliché X.

André Deed in Boireau à l'école (1912)
French postcard by Sadag de France, Imp., Paris, no. 40. Photo: Pathé Frères. André Deed in Boireau à l'école/Boireau at school (André Deed, 1912).

Nightwatch in the Pathé Studios

In 1912 André Deed went back to Pathé to perform as Boireau again. Cretinetti was named Gribouille in France, and so his first film for Pathé was entitled Comment Gribouille redevient Boireau/How Gribouille became Boireau again (André Deed, 1912). Valentina Frascaroli collaborated under the character name of Gribouillette.

From 1912 on Deed would make some 70 new shorts as Boireau. In 1913 Deed and Frascaroli did a big European and Latin American theatrical tour. When the First World War broke out in 1914, Deed was drafted first, but in 1915 Itala producer Giovanni Pastrone called him back to Italy. There he directed and played in the war propaganda film La paura degli aereomobili nemici/The fear for Zeppelins (André Deed, 1915) with Domenico Gambino, and Cretinetti e gli stivali del brasilero/Cretinetti and the Brazilian's boots (André Deed, 1916), which had Bartolomeo Pagano alias Maciste in a supporting part as a police officer, plus special effects by Segundo De Chomon.

Afterward, Deed returned to France where he served in various sections of the army, though it is unknown whether he fought in the trenches. In 1918 he married Frascaroli and in 1919 he was demobilised.

In 1920-1921 Deed started a trilogy of Italian fantasy-adventure-films: Il documento umano/The human document (André Deed, 1920), L’uomo meccanico/The Mechanical Man (André Deed, 1921) and Lo strano amore di Mado/The Strange Love of Mado.

L’uomo meccanico was regarded as lost, but some reels of the Portuguese release version were discovered in Brazil. The discovered film amounted to 740 meters which is believed to be approximately 40% of the complete film. This was restored by the Cineteca Comunale di Bologna. L’uomo meccanico/The Mechanical Man is about an indestructible robot which in the end only creates havoc. At the end of the film, there is a spectacular scene with a battle of the two robots in the Opera House.

The latter film of the trilogy, Lo strano amore di Mado/The Strange Love of Mado, was never realised. The popularity of Deed had diminished and new comedians like Charlie Chaplin had taken his place. Deed returned to France, where he still acted in films. In the early sound era, he only could find minor parts.

By the late 1930s, Deed was forgotten by the industry that he helped to launch. He worked as a nightwatch at the Pathé studios, located in the Parisian suburb of Joinville-le-Pont.

Broke and forgotten, André Deed died in 1940 in Paris. He was 61. His wife Valentina Frascaroli passed away in 1955.

André Deed as Cretinetti in Le delizie della caccia/The Delights of Hunting (André Deed, 1910). Source: YasHY2804 (YouTube).

Scene from L’uomo meccanico/The Mechanical Man (André Deed, 1921). Source: JH Banner (YouTube).

Sources: Ivo Blom (All the Same or Strategies of Difference: Early Italian Comedy in International Perspective), Wikipedia (Italian, French and English), and IMDb.

31 May 2020

Anita Stewart

American silent film actress Anita Stewart (1895-1961) was one of the earliest actresses who achieved success and public recognition in the cinema. From 1911 on, she worked with director Ralph Ince for Vitagraph and was often paired in romantic roles with real-life husband, actor Rudolph Cameron. Later she had her own film company. The advent of the sound film ended her successful career.

Anita Stewart
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 703/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Transocean Film-Co, Berlin.

Anita Stewart in Rose o' the Sea (1922)
American postcard by M.B.S.C.Co. (Max B. Sheffer Card Ci., Chicago), 1922. Photo: First National. Anita Stewart in Rose o' the Sea (Fred Niblo, 1922).

Anita Stewart,
Spanish card by La Novela Semanal Cinematográfica, no. 89.

An actress in the foreground

Anita Stewart was born Anna Marie Stewart in Brooklyn in 1895. Her two siblings, actor/director George Stewart and actress Lucille Lee Stewart, would also act in films.

In 1911, when she was still attending Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, 16-year-old Anita started her career playing extra and bit parts in films for the Vitagraph Studios at their New York City location.

She had her breakthrough with the box office hit A Tale of Two Cities (William J. Humphrey, 1911), adapted from Charles Dickens, and with an all-star cast including Maurice Costello, Florence Turner, Norma Talmadge, and John Bunny.

Over the next years, she quickly grew into an actress in the foreground. She appeared in a string of short comedies and dramas including The Forgotten Latchkey (Ralph Ince, 1913) with Harry Morey, and The White Feather (William J. Bauman, 1913).

Director Ralph Ince gave Stewart leading roles in his films A Million Bid (1914), her first real feature-length film, and The Sins of the Mothers (1914) with Julia Swayne Gordon.

She also starred with Earle Williams in a series of films: the trainwreck drama The Juggernaut (Ralph Ince, 1915), The Goddess (Ralph Ince, 1915), and the romantic drama My Lady's Slipper (Ralph Ince, 1916).

In 1917 Stewart married Rudolph Cameron, the brother of Ralph Ince. Stewart grew into a popular actress and was cast with big names such as Mae Busch and Barbara La Marr.

Anita Stewart
British postcard by Rotary Photo, no. S.75-5. Photo: Moody, N.Y.

Anita Stewart (Vitagraph)
British postcard in the Novelty Series, no. D6-12. Photo: Vitagraph Films.

Anita Stewart
British postcard in the Pictures Portrait Gallery by Pictures Ltd., London, no. 111.

Her own production company

Anita Stewart left Vitagraph in 1918 for a contract with Louis B. Mayer and received a substantial salary increase. Stewart was promised her own production company at the Mayer studios in Los Angeles.

Between 1918 and 1919 Stewart produced seven moderately successful vehicles, starring in all of them. Her best-known film is Virtuous Wives (George Loane Tucker, 1918) with Conway Tearle and Hedda Hopper. Other titles include the Lois Weber film A Midnight Romance (1919) with Jack Holt, Marshall Neilan's Her Kingdom of Dreams (1919), and In Old Kentucky (Marshall Neilan, 1919).

Her films were enormously successful during the early 1920s, such as Sowing the Wind (John Stahl, 1921), The Woman He Married (Fred Niblo, 1922), etc.

From the mid-1920s, Stewart acted at various production companies, including Tiffany, Cosmopolitan, Fox, and even her old company Vitagraph. She mostly got first billing until 1928.

Her last silent film was Romance of a Rogue (King Baggot, 1928), starring H.B. Warner, and Stewart co-starring. After the emergence of the sound film in 1928, however, it went badly with Stewart's career.

Following Stewart's divorce from Cameron in 1928, Stewart married George Peabody Converse the following year. They divorced in 1946.

After making just one musical short, The Hollywood Handicap (Charles Lamont, 1932) with Bert Wheeler and the young John Wayne, Stewart retired from the screen. She was one of the wealthiest women in Hollywood.

Stewart wrote the murder mystery novel 'The Devil's Toy', published in New York in 1935 by E.P. Dutton. Though the book's dust jacket traded on the author's Hollywood connection, the plot concerned the killing of a stage actor and was set in San Francisco.

Anita Stewart died of a heart attack in 1961 in Beverly Hills, California. She was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, in the Sanctuary of Liberty. Anita Stewart has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Anita Stewart
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 585/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Transocean Film-Co, Berlin.

Anita Stewart
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 585/2, 1919-1924. Photo: Puffer, N.Y. / Transocean Film-Co, Berlin. Mistake! Actually, this is not Anita Stewart but Norma Talmadge. See our Flickr site

Anita Stewart
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 727/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Transocean Film-Co, Berlin.

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

30 May 2020

Croissant Revisited

In February, EFSP paid attention to the French editor Croissant and its beautiful series of coloured postcards for early films Pathé Frères and Gaumont. Croissant published more interesting postcards with a link to the early cinema. My partner in crime, Ivo Blom collected this series of hand-coloured portrait postcards of French actors, who often appeared both in the theatre and in the cinema. The photographers were Henri Manuel and later Paul Boyer.

Constant Coquelin

Coquelin in Cyrano de Bergerac
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3609. Photo: Henri Manuel, Paris. Constant Coquelin in the first act of the play 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (1897).

Constant Coquelin Ainé as Cyrano de Bergerac
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3609. Photo: Henri Manuel, Paris. Constant Coquelin in the first act of the play 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (1897).

Coquelin in Cyrano de Bergerac
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3609. Photo: Henri Manuel, Paris. Constant Coquelin in the second act of the play 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (1897).

Coquelin in Cyrano de Bergerac
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3609. Photo: Henri Manuel, Paris. Constant Coquelin in the third act of the play 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (1897).

Coquelin in Cyrano de Bergerac
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3609. Photo: Henri Manuel, Paris. Constant Coquelin in the third act of the play 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (1897).

Coquelin in Cyrano de Bergerac
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3609. Photo: Henri Manuel, Paris. Constant Coquelin in the fourth act of the play 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (1897).

Benoît-Constant Coquelin (1841-1909), known as Coquelin aîné (Coquelin the Elder), was a French actor, who was known as one of the greatest theatrical figures of the age. He entered the Comédie-Française in 1860, became sociétaire there in 1864, left in 1887 to go on European and American tours, and returned as a Pensionnaire between 1890 and 1892. Despite the strict rules of the Comédie not play afterwards on other stages, Coquelin had a triumph in 1897 with Edmond Rostand's 'Cyrano de Bergerac' and would play it many times. In 1900, when he was almost sixty, Coquelin toured in America with Sarah Bernhardt and appeared on Broadway's Garden Theatre in a production of 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (Bernhardt played Roxane). On their return to France, he continued with his old colleague to appear in 'L'Aiglon', at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt. For his booming voice and his lyrical and fiery temperament, Rostand wrote 'Chantecler', but the actor died in 1909 before it could be performed by him. The only film of Coquelin senior was an early sound film shot by the Lumiere brothers operator Felix Mesguich in 1900, though some sources state Clement Maurice as the responsible one. It was a scene from Edmond Rostand's duel scene from 'Cyrano de Bergerac', a role Coquelin sr. had created in 1897. The film was shown at the Phono-Cinema-Theatre in Paris during the famous 1900 Exposition. After the exposition closed, Mesguich took the films on a three-month tour all over Europe. In 1930, the film was found back, together with early sound films. In 1952 it was inserted in the film Cinema parlant 1900.

French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3523. Photo: Henri Manuel. Caption: Silvain de la Comédie Française.

Eugène Sylvain or Eugène Silvain (1851-1930), also known as Sylvain and Silvain, was a prominent French stage actor, though he is best remembered as the evil bishop Cauchon in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s silent film La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928). He entered the Comédie Française in 1878, became a Sociétaire in 1883, a Doyen between 1916 and 1928, and he left the company in 1928.

Louis Leloir
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3523. Photo: Henri Manuel. Caption: Leloir de la Comédie Française.

Louis Leloir a.k.a. Leloir (1860-1909), originally Louis Pierre Sallot, was a French actor, and a Sociétaire of the Comédie-Française between 1889 and 1909. Parallel to his stage career, he was appointed teacher at the Conservatoire de musique et déclamation in 1894, and vice-president of the Société des artistes dramatiques in 1897. Because of his courageous behaviour during the 1900 fire at the Comédie-Française, he was awarded the Légion d'Honneur the same year. When he died in 1909, he was a board member of the Comédie Française and one of its regular stage directors. Little is known about Leloir's involvement in the cinema. He may have written the script for the Film d'Art production Louis XI (André Calmettes, 1910), starring Emile Dehelly, while he may have made the poster for the Film d'Art production Un Duel sous Richelieu (André Calmettes, 1908), starring Henry Krauss.

Jacques Fenoux
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3523. Photo: Henri Manuel, Paris. Caption: Jacques Fenoux de la Comédie Française.

Jacques Fenoux entered the Comédie-Française in 1895, became a Sociétaire in 1906, retired in 1924, and became a Sociétaire Honoraire in 1925. As the site of the Comédie states: "Fenoux was the type of a conscientious member, able to move effortlessly from one job to another, from small to large parts. He was appointed honorary member in 1925 but continued to play until his last days. He barely disappeared two weeks after having last interpreted Bazile, from 'The Barber of Seville'." As far is known, his only film performance was in Jacques de Féraudy's Molière, sa vie, son oeuvre (1922), in which actors of the Comédie-Française can be seen rehearsing plays by Molière.

Jules Truffier
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3523. Photo: Henri Manuel, Paris. Caption: Truffier de la Comédie Française.

Jules Truffier (1856-1943) was a respected actor of the Comédie-Française. As far as known, he didn't act in a film, but as a teacher at the Conservatoire (from 1906 onward) he trained future screen actors. Jules Truffier's father, who had acted before starting in commerce, and was befriended with the actors Got and Delaunay, let his son study at the Parisian Conservatoire from 1873. Truffier jr. entered the Comédie-Française in 1875, became a Sociétaire there in 1888, retired in 1913, and in 1922 became a Sociétaire Honoraire. All in all, he played some 150 parts in an almost 40 years time span. In 1914, he quit acting in 'Maître Favilla', an adaptation by himself of a piece by George Sand, and in the same year he became manager of the Études classiques de la Comédie-Française, so the staging of the classic repertory by the Comédie. This he did until 1918/1919. Among his pupils at the Conservatoire, where he taught between 1906 and 1929, were Berthe Bovy, Pierre Dux, and Pierre Blanchar.

Albert Lambert
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3523. Photo: H. Manuel. Albert Lambert as Orestes.

Albert Lambert (1865-1941), aka Albert Lambert fils, was a French stage and screen actor, who was for a long time part of the Comédie-Française. He also played in several early French Film d’Art films, first of all in L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise (1908).

Therese Kolb
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3524. Photo Henri Manuel, Paris. Caption: Mme. Kolb de la Comédie Française.

Thérèse Kolb (1856-1935) was a reputed French stage actress, who also had a career in French silent cinema. Born Marie-Thérèse Kolb in Altkirch (Alsace, Haut-Rhin), she won the first prize at the Conservatoire de Paris and began to act at the Théâtre de l'Odéon with Coquelin the Elder and Sarah Bernhardt, whom she followed on a tour around the United States in 1882. Kolb entered the Comédie-Française in 1898, before becoming the 338th member in 1904. She was named an honorary member in 1923. While she had one occasional first role in 1912 in Le Fils prodigue by Camille de Morlhon, from the late 1910s Kolb started a steady second career in acting in French silent cinema. In 1921-1922, she was Mme Bicard in four Le Bouif comedies with Tramel, directed by Henri Pouctal and Louis Osmont, while she also had major parts in L'ami Fritz (René Hervil, 1920), Blanchette (Hervil, 1921), Yasmina (André Hugon, 1927), L'île d'amour (Berthe Dagmar, Jean Durand, 1929), L'appassionata (André Liabel, Léon Mathot, 1929), and Le crime de Sylvestre Bonnard (André Berthomieu, 1929). In 1935 Thérèse Kolb died in Levallois-Perret (Seine) and she was buried in the Altkirch cemetery. She was the mother of Jean Kolb.

Constant Coquelin
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3609. Photo: Henri Manuel. Caption: M. Constant Coquelin.

Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt in L'Aiglon
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3690. Photo: Paul Boyer. Sarah Bernhardt in the play 'L'Aiglon' (1900) by Edmond Rostand.

Sarah Bernhardt in L'Aiglon
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3690. Photo: Paul Boyer. Sarah Bernhardt in the play 'L'Aiglon' (1900) by Edmond Rostand.

Sarah Bernhardt in L'Aiglon
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3690. Photo: Paul Boyer. Sarah Bernhardt in the play 'L'Aiglon' (1900) by Edmond Rostand.

French vedette Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) has been referred to as 'the most famous actress in the history of the world'. She developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress, earning her the nickname 'The Divine Sarah'. Bernhardt made her fame on the stages of Europe in the 1870s and was soon high in demand in both Americas too. And she was one of the first film stars. What a woman!

Sources: Comédie-Française (French), Filmographie Le Film d'Art by Eric Le Roy (French), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

And please, check out our earlier post on Croissant.