03 October 2012

Louis de Bree

This week EFSP has its yearly Netherlands Film Star Postcards Festival again. During the Netherlands Film Festival (26 September - 5 October 2012) we provide you daily with postcards and bios of Dutch film stars. In the Netherlands, Louis de Bree (1884 - 1971) is best remembered as a radio star. But before he was the leading man in countless Dutch radio plays, he had an extensive stage career. In the 1930's, he also starred in several Dutch films.

Louis de Bree in Malle Gevallen
Dutch postcard by M. B.& Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam), no. 12. Photo: Loet C. Barnstijn Film. Publicity still for Malle gevallen/Silly Situations (1934).

Highly Active
Louis de Bree was born as Louis Christiaan Davids in Amsterdam in 1884. In order to avoid confusion with the popular vaudeville actor Louis Davids , who also performed in several Dutch films in the 1930's, he changed his name. After having started as a diamond cutter, he went on stage in 1907, getting known for his comic roles in theatre but also in vaudeville and operetta. For the latter section he often collaborated with Annie Bakker, his wife as of 1922. The highly active De Bree was (co-)director for several comedy companies: De Kluchtspelers (1916-1918), Het Vrolijk Tooneel (1918-1919, 1924-1928, 1938-1939), Het Nederlandsch Vaudeville Gezelschap (1920-1923), Het Centraal Tooneel (1927-1933), De Speeldoos (1928-1929), De Zomercombinatie Ruys - De Bree (1932-1933), De Komedianten (1936-1938), and Cabaret De Carroussel (1937-1938). He also directed plays at Het Nederlandsch Tooneel, and other companies. De Bree was also a singer and composed some songs.

Annie van Duyn, Enny Meunier, Johan Kaart jr., Roland Varno in Malle gevallen
The other cast members of Malle gevallen/Silly Situations (1934). Dutch postcard by M. B.& Z. (M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam), no. 3. Photo: Loet C. Barnstijn Film.

Silly Situations
In 1934, Louis de Bree's film career started with a part in the comedy Malle gevallen/Silly Situations (1934, Jaap Speyer). The production was truly international. Dutch director Jaap Speyer had had an extensive film career in Berlin. The script was written by German Hans Martin and was an adaptation of his novel. Music was by Ralph Erwin, creator of the famous song Ich küsse Ihre Hand, Madame. Sets were by the Viennese set designer Hans Ledersteger and cinematography was by Akos Farkas, a Hungarian Jew. While Erwin fell victim to the nazi's, Ledersteger pursued a career in Germany and Austria. Farkas married the daughter of... the producer of Malle gevallen: Loet Barnstijn. During the war, Farkas did not join his (Jewish) father-in-law in the US but went into hiding. Louis de Bree became the leading actor of the comedy De kribbebijter/The Grumbler (1935, Hermann Kosterlitz - the future Henry Koster). In this film, his regular co-actor and -director of the stage Cor Ruys plays a grumpy old baron who is only softened by his brother-in-law, played by De Bree. The film was based on the play Willis Frau (Willy's Wife) by Reimann and Schwartz; De Bree wrote the dialogue himself. Then followed the role of an inspector in Het mysterie van de Mondscheinsonate/The Mystery of the Mondschein Sonata (1935, Kurt Gerron), a detective film based on a murder story by Willy Corsari. De Bree had a major part in De suikerfreule (1935, Haro van Peski), a comedy set in the Dutch East Indies, and a small part in the romance Jonge harten/Young Hearts (1936, Charles Huguenot van der Linden, Heinz Josephson). The later film was remarkable for its location shooting while most Dutch films then were studio productions.

Louis de Bree, Johan Kaart, Malle gevallen
Dutch postcard, no. 1. Photo: Loet C. Barnstijn Film. Publicity still for the comedy Malle gevallen (1934).

Louis de Bree played in two Dutch versions of multilinguals, a much tried phenomenon in the 1930's. Both films were shot at the Photo-Sonore-Studio in Paris. In Klokslag twaalf/At Twelve Sharp (1936, Léo Joannon), the Dutch version of Quand minuit sonnera. De Bree plays the leading role of an industrial whose crime ten years before is about to expire, and his old gang wants to blackmail him. Cinematography was by Boris Kaufman and André Bac. Shortly after, De Bree performed in a second film by Joannon, De man zonder hart/L'homme sans coeur/The Man Without a Heart (1937), again based on a book by Alfred Marchard, and again with cinematography by Kaufman. Here De Bree is an industrial who kills his partner when the other gives him (false) proof of his wife's infidelity. After 15 years imprisonment, he plots to kill the daughter of his wife and her second husband. For both films, De Bree wrote the dialogues, together with Sam Wagenaar. After that, he quitted film acting, perhaps because of the unfavorable reception of the Léo Joannon films. In 1949-1950, he ended his stage career after 40 years of stage tours. He became a member of the Nederlandse Radio Unie and would be the leading man in countless Dutch radio plays, until his death in 1971. Most notably, he was Sir Graham Forbes in the popular Paul Vlaanderen radio plays, adaptations of the BBC radio plays of Paul Temple by Francis Durbridge. Louis de Bree was married twice. After Annie Bakker, Louis de Bree was married to actress Myra Ward (1941-1947).

De kribbebijter
Dutch film poster for De kribbebijter/The Grumbler (1935). Design: Frans Mettes.

Jonge harten
Dutch film poster for Jonge harten/Young Hearts (1936). Design: Titus Leeser.

Sources: Kathinka Dittrich (Achter het doek. Duitse emigranten in de Nederlandse speelfilm in de jaren dertig), IMDb, Hoorspelhelden in het kort and Hermanca.nl.

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