15 January 2021

Maria von Tasnady

Maria von Tasnady (1911-2001) was a Hungarian singer, stage, and film actress. She started her career as the Hungarian entrant at the 1931 Miss Europe pageant and then appeared in 25 German, Hungarian, and Italian films.

Maria von Tasnady
German postcard for "Das Programm von Heute", Zeitschrift für und Theater G.m.b.H., by Ross Verlag, Berlin. Photo: Binder, Berlin.

Maria von Tasnady
Big German card by Ross Verlag. Photo: Ufa.

Maria von Tasnady and Willy Fritsch in Menschen ohne Vaterland (1937)
Big German card by Ross Verlag. Photo: Hämmerer / Ufa. Maria von Tasnady and Willy Fritsch in Menschen ohne Vaterland/People without a fatherland (Herbert Maisch, 1937).

Moving to Weimar Germany


Maria von Tasnady was born in 1911 as Mária Tasnádi Fekete or Magdalena Fekete (sources differ) and used a variety of other professional names including Maria De Tasnady, and Mária Tasnádi during her career.

Von Tasnady was born to ethnically Hungarian parents in Transylvania, then still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Following its transfer to Romania after the First World War, she emigrated to Hungary.

She was the Hungarian entrant at the 1931 Miss Europe pageant, losing out to the French winner Jeanne Julia. She studied literary history and German at the University of Budapest and wanted to become a journalist.

Moving to Weimar Germany, she made her film debut in 1932 in Durchlaucht amusiert sich (Conrad Wiene, 1932) with Georg Alexander and Lien Deijers, and Wenn Die Liebe Mode macht/When Love Sets the Fashion (Franz Wenzler, 1932), starring Renate Müller and again, Georg Alexander.

Maria von Tasnady had the lead in several German films including Schlussakkord/Final Accord (Detlef Sierck, 1936). It was the first melodrama directed by Detlef Sierck, who later had a career in Hollywood as Douglas Sirk and specialised in melodramas. It was made under contract for Universum Film AG (UFA), stars Lil Dagover, and Willy Birgel. It shows stylistic features later developed by Sierck/Sirk and makes symbolic and thematic use of music.

She also appeared in the drama Die Frau ohne Vergangenheit/Woman Without a Past (Nunzio Malasomma, 1939) starring Sybille Schmitz and Albrecht Schoenhals.

Miss Hungary 1931: Maria von Tasnady
French postcard for the Miss Europe 1931 pageant. A.N., Paris. Photo St. Mano. Hungary's representative was Maria Tasnady-Fekete.

Willy Fritsch and Maria von Tasnady in Menschen ohne Vaterland (1937)
German collectors card in the Bunte Filmbilder series by Greiling-Zigaretten / Ross Verlag, Series II, no. 288. Photo: Ufa. Willy Fritsch and Maria von Tasnady in Menschen ohne Vaterland/Men Without a Fatherland (Herbert Maisch, 1937).

Maria von Tasnady
German collectors card by Ross Verlag. Photo: Ufa.

Radio Free Europe


Maria von Tasnady appeared in her native Hungary in the historical film Sarajevo (Ákos Ráthonyi, 1940) starring Von Tasnady, Ferenc Kiss, and József Timár. The film is set against the backdrop of events leading up to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914.

She returned to Germany for crime film Alarm (Herbert B. Fredersdorf, 1941), also starring Karl Martell and Paul Klinger. The production was made by the independent Aco-Film rather than one of Germany's major film companies. It was shot at the Althoff Studios and various locations around Berlin including Tempelhof Airport and the Karstadt Department Store.

In Italy, she then appeared e.g. in the patriotic war film Bengasi (Augusto Genina, 1942) with Fosco Giachetti. The film was a propaganda work, designed to support the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini.

Bengasi is set in 1941 during the Second World War when the city of Benghazi in Italian-ruled Libya was occupied by British forces. It portrays Allied atrocities, such as the murder of a peasant by a group of drunken Australian soldiers. Bengasi was presented at the Venice Film Festival and won the Mussolini Cup as the best Italian film while Fosco Giachetti won the best actor award. It proved popular with audiences and was re-released in 1955 with some new scenes added.
She reunited with Giachetti for the Italian drama Inferno giallo/Yellow Hell (Géza von Radványi, 1942) also starring Pál Jávor. A Doctor working in the tropics falls in love with another man's wife but is killed in a native uprising before he can confess his feelings to her.
Following the Second World War, she was employed by Radio Free Europe. She still did three films, playing e.g. Enrico Caruso's mother in Enrico Caruso - Leggenda di una voce/The Young Caruso (Giacomo Gentilomo 1951) with Ermanno Randi in the title role and also with Gina Lollobrigida. The film follows the life of the legendary tenor from childhood poverty in Naples to the beginning of his rise to fame.

She stopped film acting in the late 1950s. One of her last films was the drama André und Ursula/Andre and Ursula (Werner Jacobs, 1955) starring Ivan Desny, Elisabeth Müller, and Ina Peters. It was based on the 1937 novel of the same title by Polly Maria Höfler. The film updates the book's storyline from the First to the Second World War.

Maria von Tasnady passed away in 2001. All in all, she appeared in twenty-five films during her career. Von Tasnady was married to the film producer Bruno Duday.

Maria von Tasnady
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3340/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Inkey Felvétele.

Maria von Tasnady
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3791/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Vaselli.

Maria von Tasnady
Big German card by Ross Verlag. Photo: Ufa / Hämmerer.

Sources: Wikipedia (English and German) and IMDb.

14 January 2021

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

One of our favourite films of the 1990s is the hip and highly stylised British gangster comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998). The story revolves around four friends who become indebted to the local crime lord after a card game goes horribly wrong. The debuting Ritchie brings us an original and hilarious look into the London criminal underground. The film is unforgettable for its inventive, pyrotechnic camera work, great actors, and its flawless, puzzle-perfect screenplay.

Nick Moran in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 04. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Nick Moran as Eddy in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Dexter Fletcher in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 05. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Dexter Fletcher in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Jason Flemyng in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 07. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Jason Flemyng as Tom in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

A film full of testosterone


The quartet of twenty-something East End friends in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are the cool and handsome Eddie (Nick Moran), Bacon (Jason Statham), Tom (Jason Flemyng), and Soap (Dexter Fletcher).

It was Statham's film debut and the former diver would go on to star in such action films as The Transporter (Corey Yuen, 2002) and its three sequels.

Sting appears briefly in several scenes as JD, Eddie's bar-owning father. P.H. Moriarty is wonderful as the hard-as-nails villain and crime boss 'Hatchet' Harry Lonsdale.

And former Wales international footballer Vinnie Jones seems to naturally fit his part as debt-collector Big Chris, both tough guy, and family man.

It's a film full of testosterone. In fact, one of the very few females in the film doesn't even speak, though she handles a machine gun fairly well. The acting from all involved is great.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was nominated for a British Academy Film Award in 1998 for the outstanding British Film of the Year. Based on a $1.35 million budget, the film had a box office gross of over $28 million, making it a commercial success.

Nick Moran in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 08. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Nick Moran in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Jason Statham, Nick Moran, Dexter Fletcher, and Jason Flemyng in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 09. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Jason Statham, Nick Moran, Dexter Fletcher, and Jason Flemyng in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

P.H. Moriarty in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 10. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. P.H. Moriarty in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Nick Moran in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 12. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Nick Moran in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

His energetic, ultra-contemporary camera work


With Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Guy Ritchie took his first step in establishing his own brand. His energetic, ultra-contemporary camera work incorporates such devices as slow motion, fast motion, and freeze-frame coupled with narration.

It actually expands upon Martin Scorsese's visual style and camera movements in Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973) and Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990).

Critics also compared Ritchie's film with the works of Quentin Tarantino and Danny Boyle's Trainspotting (1996) but Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is inventive and a true original. Ritchie's film is an involved, complex, and layered work and is essential viewing.

The soundtrack is first-rate, from the hits of James Brown to 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' by The Stooges. The groovy, pulsating music and lyrics are often succinctly synchronised with the action and dialogue in the film, creating a theatrical rhythm.

While the picture's main focus is on four lads who invest money in a high-stakes, rigged card game and lose, the broader story concerns approximately eight different groups of criminals whose paths cross during various illegal pursuits: money, guns, drugs, even revenge. And although Guy Ritchie's film debut is quite violent, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is also humorous throughout.

Vinnie Jones in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 13. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Vinnie Jones in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Jason Statham, Nick Moran, and Dexter Fletcher in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 14. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Jason Statham, Nick Moran, and Dexter Fletcher in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 15. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Publicity still from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 16. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Publicity still from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

In a time when movies follow formulas like zombies, it's alive


Laura Abraham at AllMovie: "A rabid, farcical look at gangsters in East End London, it contains mayhem at the center of every scene and gains additional intensity from the slow-motion technique Ritchie employs in many of his death sequences.

Ritchie's manipulation of these sequences forces his audience to experience the full pain of the events by seeing every detail frame by frame, something particularly apparent in the director's handling of the boxing-ring poker game that catalyses the story.

A series of different angles and techniques convey the pressure each character at the table is feeling, and the use of slow-motion makes it impossible for the audience to ignore the pain and anguish that Eddy (expertly played by Nick Moran) must feel when he realizes he is losing a lot of money."

and the late Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Lock, Stock'' is fun, in a slapdash way; it has an exuberance, and in a time when movies follow formulas like zombies, it's alive."

Stephen Marcus and Vas Blackwood in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 17. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Stephen Marcus and Vas Blackwood in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Victor McGuire and Jake Abraham in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 18. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Victor McGuire and Jake Abraham in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 19. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Publicity still from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Lenny McLean in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
British postcard by Star-Images, London, no. Lock 20. Photo: SKA Films, 1998. Lenny McLean as Barry the Baptist in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998).

Sources: Laura Abraham (AllMovie), Roger Ebert (the Chicago Sun-Times), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

13 January 2021

Simone Valère

Discretely beautiful and charming Simone Valère (1923-2010) was primarily a famous French stage actress, but she also appeared in more than forty films from 1941 to 1993. She often worked together with her husband, Jean Desailly.

Simone Valère
French postcard by Editions O.P., Paris, no. 115. Photo: Teddy Piaz.

Simone Valère
French postcard by S.E.R.P., Paris, no. 81. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Marriage after 48 years


Simone Valère was born Simone Jeannine Gondolf in 1923 in Paris, France. Her parents divorced and she spent a large part of her youth with an aunt in Arnouville.

At the age of 17, she made her first film appearance in Premier rendez-vous/Her First Affair (Henri Decoin, 1941) starring Daniëlle Darrieux.

In 1942, Simone made her stage debut at the théâtre Hébertot in Paris in the play 'Mademoiselle Bourrat'. The play was situated in a village called 'Valère' and she took this as her stage name.

Simone Valère met Jean Desailly on the set of the film Le Voyageur de la Toussaint/The traveler of the Toussaint (Louis Daquin, 1943), while he was working for the Comédie-Française and married to Nicole Desailly (pseudonym of Ginette Nicolas).

Valère and Desailly started to live together in 1950 on tour in Brazil. 48 years later, they married in Paris.

Simone Valère in Le cavalier noir (1945)
French postcard by Editions d'Art BelFrance (EAP), Paris, no. 900. Photo: Sirius-Gaumont. Simone Valère in Le cavalier noir/The black rider (Gilles Grangier, 1945).

Simone Valère and Jean Desailly in Jocelyn (1952)
Italian postcard by Alterocca, Terni, no. 26710. Photo: Simone Valère and Jean Desailly in Jocelyn (Jacques de Casembroot, 1952), based on "the immortal poem by A. de Lamartine". Sent by mail in 1953.

One of the most famous couples in French theatre


Simone Valère and Jean Desailly participated in the theatrical revival of the post-war period as part of the Renaud-Barrault company. There she performed in plays by Shakespeare, Kafka, Marivaux, Giraudoux, Molière, Ionesco, and she starred in the operetta 'Vie Parisien' by Offenbach.

Later she and Desailly founded the company Valère-Desailly. With Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault, they were one of the most famous couples in French theatre. Simone Valère and Jean Desailly performed 450 times their favorite play, 'L'Amour fou ou la first surprise', by André Roussin.

Valère also worked for the cinema in such films as La revanche de Roger la Honte/The Revenge of Roger (André Cayatte, 1946), and Violetas imperiales/Imperial violets (Richard Pottier, 1952) with Luis Mariano and Carmen Sevilla.

She played the princess in the allegorical tragicomedy La Beauté du diable/Beauty of the Devil (René Clair, 1950), based on Goethe's 'Faust' adaptation. Set in the early 19th century, it is about an ageing alchemist, Henri Faust (Gérard Philipe), who is given the chance to be eternally young by the devil Mephistopheles (Michel Simon).

Other highlights were Le Franciscain de Bourges/Franciscan of Bourges (Claude Autant-Lara, 1968), starring Hardy Krüger, Un flic/A Cop (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1972), and L'Assassinat de Trotsky/The Assassination of Trotsky (Joseph Losey, 1972) starring Richard Burton and Alain Delon.

Her last film was Équipe de nuit/Night crew (Claude d'Anna, 1990). She made her last screen appearance in the Mini series La cavalière/The horsewoman (Philippe Monnier, 1993). She was married to Jean Desailly till his death in 2008.

Simone Valère died in 2010 in Roinville-sous-Dourdan, Essonne, France. She was 87.

Simone Valère
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 106.

Simone Valère
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 168. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

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