French actress Barbara Laage (1920 - 1988) was a popular leading lady in French and American films during the 1950's. Her breakthrough role was the prostitute Lizzie in La Putain Respectueuse/The Respectful Prostitute (1952), based on the play by Sartre.
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 528, presented by Les Carbones Korès 'Carboplane'. Photo: Sam Lévin.
Barbara Laage was born as Janine Antoinette Laage in Menthon-Saint-Bernard, France in 1920. At the end of the 1930's she followed acting classes from Raymond Rouleau, and interprets the classical plays. She made her film debut as an extra in Signé illisible/Signed unreadable (1942, Christian Chamborant). After WWII she performed in theaters and nightclubs in Paris. Noticed by a photographer from the American magazine Life in 1946, she left for Hollywood where she was approached for the title role in The Lady from Shanghai (1947, Orson Welles). Some sources say that the script was even originally written for her. However, Orson Welles decided to cast his then-wife Rita Hayworth in the part. Laage made her American film debut in a secondary role in B.F.'s Daughter (1948, Robert Z. Leonard) as the Dutch girlfriend of Van Heflin. She then returned to France, where she appeared in La rose rouge/The Red Rose (1951, Marcello Pagliero) with Françoise Arnoul. Her breakthrough role was the prostitute Lizzie in La Putain Respectueuse/The Respectful Prostitute (1952, Charles Brabant, Marcello Pagliero), an adaptation of the play by Jean-Paul Sartre. DB du Monteil writes in his IMDb review: "Brabant/Pagliero's film is faithful to the writer's play. It sure was not easy to locate the story in America, to find an actress in the Gloria Grahame mold and to recreate the riots and the atmosphere of America but they manage quite well. Barbara Laage is convincing and her last scene with the unfortunate black young man very moving. No exit indeed. It's quite possible that Sartre's story was inspired by black writer Richard Wright who took refuge in France." In the following decade Laage mixed roles in American films like Act of Love/Un acte d’amour (1953, Anatole Litvak) opposite Kirk Douglas, and The Happy Road (1957, Gene Kelly) starring Gene Kelly himself, with parts in French films such as L’esclave/The Slave (1953, Yves Ciampi) with Daniel Gélin, and the spy thriller Action immédiate/Immediate Action (1957, Maurice Labro) opposite Henri Vidal.
Dutch postcard by Takken, no. AX 1940.
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 630. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.
Erotic Cult Movie
During the 1960’s, Barbara Laage appeared in several mediocre international productions. In Germany she played in Orientalische Nächte/Oriental Nights (1960, Heinz Paul) with Pero Alexander, and Bomben auf Monte Carlo/Bombs on Monte Carlo (1960, Georg Jacoby) opposite Eddie Constantine. In France she starred in the comedy Le Caïd/The Boss (1960, Bernard Borderie) opposite Fernandel, and in Vacances portugaises/Portuguese Vacation (1963, Pierre Kast) with Françoise Arnoul. In Portugal she appeared in O Crime da Aldeia Velha (1964, Manuel Guimarães). Interesting were Paris Blues (1961, Martin Ritt) in which she played a secondary part next to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and the erotic cult movie Therese and Isabelle (1968, Radley Metzger), based on the lesbian themed novel by Violette Leduc. In the film she played the mother of Therese (Essy Persson). In the fourth installment of the great Antoine Doinel film series, Domicile Conjugale/Bed & Board (1970, François Truffaut), she played Jean-Pierre Léaud’s colleague with whom he has an affair. During the 1970’s Barbara Laage appeared mainly on television. Among her few theatrical films in this period were Défense de savoir/Forbidden To Know (1973, Nadine Trintignant) with Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Projection privée/Private Projection (1973, François Leterrier) with Jane Birkin and Bulle Ogier. Barbara Laage played her last film part in the TV-film Une place forte/A Strong Place (1976, Guy Jorré) with Ivan Desny her co-star from La Putain Respectueuse/The Respectful Prostitute (1952). She retired and during her last 12 years she lived with her sister in Deauville in Normandy, where she died in 1988. During her life she had relationships with Olympic ski champion Guy de Huertas and assistant director Noël Howard.
Trailer of Therese and Isabelle (1968). Source: Megacalm (YouTube).
Sources: Caroline Hanotte (CinéArtistes),
Wikipedia (German), Sandra Brennan (Rovi) and IMDb.