24 January 2013

Yvonne Printemps

French singer and actress Yvonne Printemps (1894 - 1977) was a huge star of the European stage. A true diva, she loved the spotlight, and would be seen draped with jewels, wearing enormous hats and having her pet dogs on a leash. Printemps also appeared in ten international silent and sound films.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by EPC (Editions et Publications Cinématographiques), Paris, no. 25.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions A.N., Paris, no. 24. Photo: G.L. Manuel Frères.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions A.N., Paris, no. 2. Photo: Emera.

Folies Bergère
Yvonne Printemps was born Yvonne Willigniolle Dupre in Ermont, Ile-de-France, France in 1894. Her parents were Léon-Alfred Wigniolle, a cashier, and Palmyre Vignolle. At age 10, Yvonne started appearing in amateur productions. She was discovered by music hall director Paul-Louis Flers, who let her play at his famous music hall Folies Bergère. He gave her the stage name ‘Mademoiselle Printemps’(Miss Springtime) because of her sunny disposition. She made her professional stage debut at the age of 14 in the revue Nue Cocotte at La Cigale in Paris. The following year she returned to the Folies Bergères, where she appeared for four years. The charming and intelligent beauty with the exceptional voice soon became a 'grande vedette', and appeared with such great stars of the day as Maurice Chevalier and Mistinguett. As a lyrical soprano she appeared in operettas like Les Contes de Perrault/The Stories of Perrault (1913) and Le Poilu/The Soldier (1916). Her first film appearance was in the silent film Un roman d'amour et d'aventures/A Love and Adventure Novel (1918, René Hervil and Louis Mercanton). Her co-star and script-writer was actor-playwright Sacha Guitry. They married a year later. Together they performed in a number of his plays. Printemps had worldwide success with Reynaldo Hahn's Mozart in which she played the title role in travesty. In 1925, Gance and Printemps brought this extremely popular production to cities in North America, including New York City, Montreal, Quebec, and Boston, Massachusetts. In America she appeared in a curious silent film version of La Dame aux Camélias, Camille (1926, Ralph Barton) starring Paul Robeson as Alexandre Dumas fils and Anita Loos as Camille.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions Chantal, Rueil, no. 5 A.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 12. Photo: Films Orange.

Yvonne Printemps
French postcard by Editions A.N., Paris, no. 1176. Photo: Harcourt.

Grand Diva
In 1931, Sacha Guitry directed Yvonne Printemps in Franz Hals opposite Pierre Fresnay. While married to her director, she fell in love with her co-star. In 1932 she divorced Guitry for Fresnay, whom she did not marry, but the pair remained with each other for life. In 1934 Printemps and Fresnay received international acclaim for their performances in the Noel Coward play, Conversation Piece. They performed in Paris and at London's West End before going to the United States to star on Broadway. That year Printemps also starred as courtesan Marguerite Gautier in a new film version of Camille, La dame aux camélias/The Lady of Camelias (1934, Fernand Rivers, Abel Gance), opposite Fresnay as Armand Duval. Fresnay also directed her in the film Le Duel/The Duel (1939, Pierre Fresnay). Printemps appeared in a total of ten films, including the starring role in both the stage and screen versions of Les trois valses/Three Waltzes (1938, Ludwig Berger, Albert Willemetz) as Fanny, Yvette and Irène Grandpré, and in the tile role of Adrienne Lecouvreur (1938, Marcel L'Herbier), in both films opposite Fresnay. Loving the spotlight, she would be seen draped with jewels and wearing enormous hats. Personifying the 'grand diva', she made a great spectacle wherever she went with her pet dogs on a leash. Her last film appearance was in the comedy Le Voyage en Amérique/Trip to America (1951, Henri Lavorel). She continued to perform on stage until she was well into her sixties. With Pierre Fresnay, she co-directed the Théâtre de la Michodière in Paris until his death in 1975. Two years later, Yvonne Printemps died in the Paris suburb of Neuilly in 1977. In 1994, the government of France placed her image on a postage stamp.

Clip of the Luce News of Printemps and Guitry performing in Rome at the Teatro Valle in 1932. Source: CinecittaLuce (YouTube).

Yvonne Printemps sings Une Heureuse Rencontre in La valse de Paris (1950, Marcel Achard). Source: Stephen Joeagi (YouTube).

Yvonne Printemps in an Opéra Comique by Jacques Offenbach in La valse de Paris (1950, Marcel Achard). Source: Stephen Joeagi (YouTube).

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


AnitaNH said...

Hi Bob, what nice post card. My mother's sister is named Yvonne. I love that name. Very French!

Irene said...

You have the most informative post. Great cards as well.

steviewren said...

It was kind of shocking to me when I read that this screen star was born in the 1880s. As always, you given us another interesting post with lots of information!

Sheila said...

This is a new one for me. I've never heard of Yvonne Printemps before today.

Beth Niquette said...

What a lovely woman. I adore her face--she would have been such a fun person to meet. They just don't make 'em like that anymore. Happy PFF!

Stacey said...

What a lovely images- I just love old starlets!