13 November 2013

Gina Manès

French actress Gina Manès (1893-1989) starred in some 90 films between 1916 and 1966. 'The Vamp with the Emerald Eyes' is best known for her roles in the silent films Coeur fidèle (1923) and Thérèse Raquin (1928).

Gina Manès
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 686. Photo: Film Pathé-Natan.


Gina Manès was born as Blanche Moulin in Paris in 1893, as the daughter of a furniture salesman.

After small roles at the Theatre du Palais Royal and other theatres, and dance performances in the revues by Rip, she was discovered by actor René Navarre. He considered her photogenic and introduced her to film director Louis Feuillade.

Changing her name to Gina Manès, she made her film debut in Les Six Petits Coeurs des Six Petites Filles/The Six hearts of Six Little Girls (Edouard-Emile Viollet, 1916).

After some more years on the stage, her film career really went off with L’Homme sans visage/Eyes Without a Face (Louis Feuillade, 1919).

She became a well-known film actress thanks to her role as the innkeeper’s daughter in L’Auberge Rouge/The Red Inn (Jean Epstein, 1923), who subsequently gave her the lead in his Coeur fidèle/The Faithful Heart (1923) both opposite Léon Mathot.

In this film Manès is a woman married to a drunken brute from whom she does not dare to separate, although she dreams of running off with a sympathetic dockworker.

Next she played an actress in a film by the avant-garde director Germaine Dulac, Ame d’artiste/Heart of an Actress (1924).

Gina Manès
French postcard, no. 102. Studio Pathé Consortium Cinéma.

Gina Manès
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 708.

The Vamp with the Emerald Eyes

Because of her troubling beauty, her heavy and poisonous look and her feline movements, Gina Manès soon became type-casted as seductress and femme fatale. Her nicknames became 'The Vamp with the Emerald Eyes', and 'The Athena with the Green Look'.

In 1927, director Abel Gance casted her as Joséphine de Beauharnais in his epic production Napoléon (1927).

Gance asked her to do a screen-test in the studio dressed only in a nightgown and jewels, Directoire styled. "I had to hum a cheerful song, then a complaining song, after which he decided that I was the perfect character for the role, as I had the historic Creole mood."

In the following year Jacques Feyder directed Manès in what is considered to be her best role, the title character in Thérèse Raquin/Shadows of Fear (1928), after the novel by Émile Zola.

The film was a Franco-German production, involving German scriptwriters, a German production manager, art direction by a Russian and a German, cinematography by a Dane and a German, and both French and German actors (including Hans Adalbert Schlettow and La Jana).

The story deals with a truck driver (Schlettow) who kills the husband of the woman (Manès) he loves, but a blackmailer threatens to reveal the murder. Unfortunately no copy of the film remains.

In the late 1920s foreign studios called, so Manès acted in Germany and Sweden in Die Heilige und ihr Narr/The Saint and Her Fool (Wilhelm Dieterle aka William Dieterle, 1928), Die Todesschleife/Looping the loop (Arthur Robison, 1928), and Synd/Sin (Gustav Molander, 1928) with Lars Hanson.

Manès married Georges Charlia, her partner in Naples au baiser du feu/The Kiss of Fire (Serge Dadejdine, 1925) and Le trains sans yeux/Train Without Eyes (Alberto Cavalcanti, 1927).

The following years they were often coupled in films.

Gina Manès
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3225/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Defu (Deutsche Film-Union). This card was issued for Manès' lead in Die Heilige und ihr Narr/The Saint and Her Fool (Wilhelm Dieterle aka William Dieterle, 1928), a film she made for Defu. She plays an envious stepmother who wants to destroy the happy marriage of her stepchild (Lien Deyers) with the young neighbour (William Dieterle).

Gina Manès
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 191.

Gina Manès
Austrian postcard by Iris-Verlag, no. 5868. Photo: Gaumont Film. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Plotting Demi-mondaines

The arrival of sound cinema did not change her status and Gina Manès continued to be a star.

She had a big commercial success in 1931 as – again – a vamp in Une belle garce/A Beautiful Bitch (Marco de Gastyne, 1930).

At the apex of her career, Manès quitted it all and with her husband Georges Charlia, she went to Morocco to open a bar on a road 100 km from Marrakech.

When she returned after two years, the film business considered her too old for being a star – she was 40 by now. Younger actresses such as Ginette Leclerc, Mireille Balin and Viviane Romance had taken over as the femme fatales of the French cinema.

Manès had to be content with secondary roles as older women still in love but neglected, such as the plotting demi-mondaine Marinka in Mayerling (Anatole Litvak, 1935) starring Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux.

In Les caves du Majestic/Majestic Hotel Cellars (Richard Pottier, 1944) she even became the female equivalent of Emil Jannings in Der letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1924): a toilet cleaner.

Gina Manès
French postcard by J.R.P.R., Paris, no. 374. Photo: Studio Lorelle.

Gina Manès
French postcard by J.R.P.R., Paris, no. 373. Photo: Studio Lorette, Paris. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Tiger Act

More and more attracted to the circus, Gina Manès started an act with tigers at the Cirque du Hiver and the Médrano. But in November 1942 she was severely wounded by a wild animal and had to retire.

After the war, while in Morocco for the shooting of La Danseuse du Marrakech/The Dancer of Marrakech (Léon Mathot, 1949), Manès stayed there and opened up a drama course in Rabat.

She acted in two shorts, but disappointed she returned to France in 1954. Almost forgotten, she only was offered bit parts in French cinema – which she played frequently in the mid-1950s.

She turned towards the stage with the Grenier de Toulouse, where she could play parts that fit her age.

After two memorable film roles in Bonheur est pour demain/Happiness is for Tomorrow (Henri Fabiani, 1960) and Pas de panique/No Panic (Sergio Gobbi, 1966) with Pierre Brasseur, Gina Manès ended her career.

Gina Manès  moved to a home in Toulouse, France, where she died in 1972, at the age of 96.

Gina Manès
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 172. Photo: Star.

Gina Manès sings Mois je n´dois rien à personne, the French version of Brigitte Horney's success So oder so ist das Leben in Liebe, Tod und Teufel/Love Death and Devil (1934). The French film version is called Le diable en bouteille/The Devil in the Bottle (1935). Source: Alparfan (YouTube).

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

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