22 January 2012

Johan Elsensohn

Dutch actor Johan Elsensohn (1884-1966) was active in the Dutch cinema of the 1920s and 1930s. He was also a well-known playwright of popular folk plays.

Johan Elsensohn
Dutch postcard by M. B. & Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam). Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag / Monopole Film. Publicity still for Bleeke Bet (1934). Collection: Geoffrey Donaldson Institute.


Johan Elsensohn was born in Amsterdam, The Nederlands in 1884.

He made his stage debut in 1916 with the company of Johan Langenaken. His later work was tightly connected to the Jordaan, an old neighbourhood of Amsterdam.

For decades he was a member of the ensemble of actor-author Herman Bouber and played in many of his folk plays situated in the Jordaan.

Elsensohn appeared in Bouber’s most successful stage plays including Mooie Neel/Beautiful Neel (1917), Bleke Bet/Bleak Beth (1917), Oranje Hein/Orange Hein (1918) and De Jantjes/The Tars (1920).

Together with Bouber, Elsensohn wrote the play Duif en Doffer/Dove and Cock (1922). Elsensohn also wrote successful plays by himself like Een huishouwe van Jan Steen/A household of Jan Steen (1923) and Allemaal Jan Klaassen/All Punch (1928). The latter was a risky undertaking, because there was a financial crisis in 1928.

In 1930 he published his novel Arie, again situated in the Jordaan and with dialogues in the local dialect. In 1934 Herman Bouber transformed the book in a stage play, Het kind van de buurvrouw/The child of a neighbor aka Het kind van de zonde/The child of sin. It was his last play and it would be reprised many times in the following decades.

Bleeke Bet (1934)
Dutch Postcard by Monopole Film, Rotterdam. Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag (The Hague). Publicity still for Bleeke Bet/Bleak Beth (Richard Oswald, Alex Benno, 1934) with Jopie Koopman, Clara Vischer-Blaaser, Corry Vonk, Fien de la Mar and Jan van Ees.

Fien de la Mar in Bleeke Bet
Dutch Postcard by Monopole Film, Rotterdam. Photo: Dick van Maarseveen, Den Haag (The Hague). Publicity still for Bleeke Bet/Bleak Beth (Richard Oswald, Alex Benno, 1934) with Corry Vonk, Clara Vischer-Blaaser, Lau Ezerman, Sylvain Poons, Fien de la Mar, Johan ElsensohnAaf Bouber, Jopie Koopman and Johan Heesters.

New Boost

Johan Elsensohn also appeared in the film versions of Herman Bouber’s plays. He costarred with Maurits de Vries and Louis Davids in De Jantjes/The Tars (Maurits Binger, B.E. Doxat-Pratt, 1922), a silent production of the Hollandia film factory.

Other films from the silent era are Bleeke Bet/Bleak Beth (Alex Benno, 1923), the comedy Kee en Janus naar Parijs/Kee and Janus to Paris (Alex Benno, 1924) featuring Adrienne Solser, Mooi Juultje van Volendam/Beautiful Girl of Volendam (Alex Benno, 1924) starring the Dutch film diva Annie Bos, and Oranje Hein/Orange Hein (Alex Benno, 1925) in which he played the title character.

In 1925, he stopped with making films and chose for the stage. He worked for the stage company Vereenigd Rotterdamsch-Hofstad Tooneel. There he played with Annie van Ees, Cor van der Lugt and Mary Dresselhuys in the play De Keizer van Amerika/The Emperor of America.

After the advance of sound film, the Dutch cinema got a new boost. In 1934 Johan Elsensohn starred in a new, sound version of Bleeke Bet/Bleak Beth (Richard Oswald, Alex Benno, 1934). He now played Tinus, the husband of the title figure, played by Aaf Bouber.

He also appeared in the sound version of Oranje Hein/Orange Hein (Max Nosseck, 1936). Other films in which he appeared were De Suikerfreule/The Sugar Lady (Haro van Peski, 1935), Kermisgasten/Carnival People (Jaap Speyer, 1936) with Johan Kaart, and Merijntje Gijzen’s jeugd/The Youth of Merijntje Gijzen (Kurt Gerron, 1936).

During this period, he met actress Fien de la Mar with whom he made the cabaret revue De Blokkendoos/The Blocks Box in 1935.

After the war he was a member of the legendary ABC-cabaret with the stage stars Wim Kan, Corry Vonk and Albert Mol. In 1954 he appeared in the TV film, De Brug/The Bridge (Willy van Hemert, 1954) with his old companion Herman Bouber.

Johan Elsensohn died in 1966 in Amsterdam. He was 82. His great-granddaughter Monica Muns works as a film producer.

Johan Elsensohn
Dutch postcard by Ned. Organisatie van Tooneelkunstenaars, no. 241. Photo: Haeck, Amsterdam. Publicity still for the theatre production Dulcinea by Gaston Baty, with Johan Elsensohn as Sancho Panza. In 1941 he celebrated his 25th stage anniversary with this play.

Source: Theaterencyclopedie (Dutch), Wikipedia (Dutch) and IMDb.

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