26 September 2011

Jacques Reule

Jacques Reule (1879-1954) was a Dutch stage actor who played in three Dutch films as well.

Jacques Reule
Dutch postcard by Weenenk & Snel, Den Haag, Photo: Willem Coret.

Hefty Melodrama

Jacobus Johannes Laurens Reule was born in The Hague in 1879.

He graduated from the Conservatory in 1907 and debuted at the Koninklijke Vereeniging Het Nederlandsch Tooneel (Royal Company The Dutch Stage) where he remained for 17 years. After that he joined the Verenigd Rotterdams Hofstad Toneel.

Between 1932 and 1935, Reule worked at the theatre company of Cor Ruys, and from then on he only did guest appearances and declamations.

Reule became well-known for his jeune premier parts. His major roles were Helmer in Henrik Ibsen’s Nora, Arend in Joost van den Vondel’s Gysbreght, Cassio in Othello, Orsino and the Buffoon in Twelfth Night, Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream (all three plays by William Shakespeare), and Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand.

Reule played in two Dutch silent films, Pro domo/For His Own House (1918) and De duivel in Amsterdam/The devil in Amsterdam (1919), and in one sound film, Blokkade (1934).

Pro domo was a drama by Theo Frenkel who had engaged half of his theatre family (Louis Bouwmeester, Theo Mann-Bouwmeester, Lily Bouwmeester a.o.) to perform in this hefty melodrama. It was based on a play by A.W.G. van Riemsdijk from 1914. The play was especially written for Bouwmeester, while his sister Theo also acted in the stage version. Famous Dutch playwright Herman Heijermans had directed this stage version.

In the film Reule played the degenerated son of a count (Louis Bouwmeester). The son blames his mental decay to his roots and society, following the determinist attitude of French author Emile Zola in his Rougon-Macquart series. His father, however, cannot appreciate this point of view, and in order to keep up the family’s reputation, he shoots his own son. The judges in turn don’t accept the father’s plea in court and imprison him.

When the film was released in Amsterdam, the press praised the construction of the narrative, using flashbacks of the son’s life, but had mixed feelings about the overall result. Nowadays the little fragment that remains of the films, shows much overacting, a defect that remained in Dutch cinema for decades. Apparently director Frenkel did not restrain the stage actors for playing in film.

Louis Bouwmeester
Louis Bouwmeester. Dutch postcard from 1910 showing Bouwmeester in his famous stage role as Shylock.

The Devil in Amsterdam

De duivel in Amsterdam/The devil in Amsterdam (1919), Frenkel’s next film, also had Reule performing, this time as a painter. As the year before a film called The Duivel/The Devil had been released in the Netherlands, ‘in Amsterdam’ was added. It was based on a play by Ferenc Molnár.

The film narrates of the devil (Eduard Verkade) going to earth the ruin people’s lives. In Amsterdam he meets a sincere, honest girl (Margie Morris), a banker (Louis Bouwmeester) and a painter (Reule) and creates a triangular affair which will make each miserable. At first he succeeds, but in the end no fatal love drama occurs, the painter and the girl elope, and the devil wishes all to go to hell after they die. The film is lost now.

Reule’s last film part was in the science fiction detective Blokkade/Blockade (Willem de Hoog, 1934), which evolves in 1950. The League of Nations threatens the Netherlands with a blockade if the country doesn’t stop secretly delivering arms to the fictive country of Paruma, which is at war. Louis de Vries played the Dutch head of Intelligence who investigates the affair, while Reule played the consul of Paruma, an evil arms trader, pursued by the first mentioned.

Willem Bon, who scripted the film, left fragments of the film to EYE Filmmuseum, but a complete copy never showed up. The film was an interesting experiment by young avant-garde filmmakers, but wasn’t a commercial success.

Until 1950, Reule taught private lessons to young actors and was active as actor himself . In occasion of the 75 years jubilee of the Amsterdam Conservatory in 1950, he performed as Karl Heinz in Old Heidelberg by Wilhelm Meyer-Forster.

Jacques Reule died in The Hague in 1954. A painted portrait of him is permanently exhibited in the Stadsschouwburg, the municipal theatre of Amsterdam.

Eduard Verkade, De Duivel
Eduard Verkade. Dutch postcard. Photo: Coret, Den Haag. Picture of Verkade as the Devil in the stage play De duivel in Amsterdam (Az Ördög/The Devil) by Ferenc Molnár.

Sources: Theaterencyclopedie (Dutch), Een leven lang theater (Dutch), Film in Nederland (Dutch), and IMDb.

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