30 December 2013

Lewis Waller

Lewis Waller (1860-1915) was best known as a matinee idol in the popular romantic plays of his day. He also worked as a playwright and a stage manager, and appeared in several films.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by J. Beagles & Co, E.C., no. G 703 O. Photo: Langfler Ltd.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by J. Beagles & Co, E.C., no. 703 B. Photo: Langfler Ltd., London.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., no. 4222 C. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the stage production Robin Hood (1906).

Lewis Waller
British postcard by Rotary Photo, EC, no. 107 G. Sent by mail in 1905.

Vigorous Acting

Lewis Waller was born William Waller Lewis in Bilbao, Spain, in 1860, as the son of a civil engineer.

He first appeared on the London stage in 1883, and came to the front by a fine performance as Buckingham in The Three Musketeers under legendary English actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree's management at His Majesty's in 1895.

Soon afterwards Waller organized a company of his own, first at the Haymarket and afterwards at other theatres. His fine voice and vigorous acting earned him critical acclaim in a number of Shakespeare roles, such as the title character in Henry V, Brutus in Julius Caesar, and Faulkenbridge in King John.

He had his greatest successes, however, in romantic roles, such as Monsieur Beaucaire, a dramatic adaptation of Booth Tarkington's novel.

He married Florence West, an actress who appeared often with Waller in his most successful romances.

Grace Lane, Lewis Waller
Grace Lane and Lewis Waller. British postcard, no. 1595. Photo: Rotary Photo.

Lewis Waller as Monsieur Beaucaire
British postcard by Raphael Tuck & Sons in the Play Pictorial Series, no. 5A. Photo: publicity still for the stage play Monsieur Beaucaire.

Lewis Waller, Evelyn Millard
British postcard by J. Beagles & Co., London, no. 756V. Photo: Langfier Ltd. Lewis Waller and Evelyn Millard.

Lewis Waller, Valli Valli
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., no. 2183 E. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the stage play The Duke's Motto (1908) with Lewis Waller and Valli Valli.

Fires of Fate

In 1899 Lewis Waller appeared in the short film drama King John (Walter Pfeffer Dando, William K.L. Dickson, 1899), based on a scene from Shakespeare's play. King John was played by Sir Henry Beerbohm Tree.

Fifteen years later Waller played the title role in the historical drama Brigadier Gerard (Bert Haldane, 1915), an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel.

Two of his plays were filmed after his death. His Fires of Fate, based on another novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Tragedy of Korosco, was filmed in 1923 by Tom Terriss.

Finally Maurice Elvey directed Henry, King of Navarre (1924), based on Waller’s adaptation of the historical novel by Alexandre Dumas père.

Lewis Waller died in 1915, only 55 years old.

Lewis Waller
British postcard in The Wrench series, printed in Saxony, no. 997. Photo: Biograph Studio.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by E. Hildesheimer & Co, London/Manchester. Sent by mail in 1905. Photo: Lafayette. Waller in his stage role as Brutus in Julius Caesar.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by Rotary Photo, no. 4252 K. Sent by mail in 1908. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the play The White Man (1908). In this play, based on the Western play The Squaw Man (1905) by Edwin Milton Royle, Lewis Waller appeared as Cowboy Bronco Buster at the Lyric Theatre in London. In the cast there were also several American performers.

Lewis Waller and George Fawcett in A White man
British postcard by Rotary Photographic Series, no. 4298 D. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the play A White Man (1908). This play, based on the Western play The Squaw Man (1905) by Edwin Milton Royle, was presented at the Lyric Theatre in London.

Sources: Harry Rusche (Shakespeare & The Players), IMDb and Wikipedia.

29 December 2013

Sissi (1955)

The Austrian film Sissi (Ernst Marischka, 1955), starring Romy Schneider and Karlheinz Böhm, is the first instalment in the hugely popular trilogy of films about Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was known to her family as 'Sissi'.

Romy Schneider, Karlheinz Böhm
Dutch postcard by N.V. Int. Filmpers (I.F.P.), Amsterdam, no. 1027.

Carefree, Impulsive And Nature-Loving

Sissi (Ernst Marischka, 1955) is based around Elisabeth's young years 1852–1854. Princess Elisabeth, nicknamed Sissi (Romy Schneider), is the second oldest daughter of Duke Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria (Gustav Knuth) and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria (Magda Schneider).

Elisabeth is a carefree, impulsive and nature-loving child. She is raised with her seven siblings at the family seat Possenhofen Castle on the shores of Lake Starnberg in Bavaria. She has a happy childhood free of constraints associated with her royal status.

With her mother and her demure older sister Helene (called Néné), 16-year-old Sissi travels from Possenhofen to the spa town of Bad Ischl in Upper Austria. Ludovika's sister, Archduchess Sophie (Vilma Degischer), is the mother of the young emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (Karlheinz Böhm).

Helene (Uta Franz) is called by Archduchess Sophie to meet the young emperor Franz Joseph in the imperial villa so that the two might be immediately engaged. Sissi is unaware of the real reason for the journey and is forbidden by her aunt to participate in any social events due to her rebellious ways.

Sissi spends her time fishing in the forest where by chance she meets Franz Josef. The emperor is unaware that the girl is his cousin Sissi. He takes a liking to her and invites her for an afternoon hunting trip in the Alps.

Romy Schneider, Karlheinz Böhm
Dutch postcard by Takken, Utrecht, no. 2064. Romy Schneider and Karlheinz Böhm.

Future Empress

They meet as arranged in the mountains where they talk and become acquainted. Sissi falls in love with him but does not reveal her true identity. During their trip, Sissi learns of the planned marriage between Franz Joseph with her sister. The Emperor confesses that he envies the man who will marry Sissi and confesses that he feels no connection to Néné.

Upon hearing his indirect declaration of love, Sissi becomes distraught due to her loyalty to Néné. She runs away from Franz Joseph without any explanation.

When Sissi returns to their residence, Néné reveals the reason for the trip to Bad Ischl: to become engaged with Franz Joseph. Unexpectedly, Franz Josef's brother, Carl-Ludwig (Peter Weck), arrives and Sissi is invited by the Archduchess to act as his partner at the Emperor's birthday celebration.

At his birthday party, Franz Joseph is suddenly confronted by Sissi's appearance there with her mother and sister. He realises who Sissi is and tries to talk to her, openly confessing his love and asking her to marry him. Sissi rejects Franz Joseph in order not to betray her sister.

He defies his mother's reservations and Sissi's resistance and announces, to the surprise of his guests, his betrothal to Sissi. Néné is heartbroken and leaves the party crying. Sissi, in a state of shock, is forced to obey the Emperor's wishes.

In Possenhofen, preparations for the wedding have started. Sissi is not excited for her impending marriage, as the hurt Néné has left for an indefinite period. For her sister's sake, Sissi attempts to break her engagement, however, Néné returns with a new suitor, Maximilian Anton, Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis. The sisters reunite and Néné gives her blessings to Sissi for her marriage.

For the wedding ceremony, Sissi travels with her family on the steamboat Franz Joseph down the Danube to Vienna. People line the banks, waving flags and cheering their future Empress. As part of a grand procession, Sissi enters the city in a gilded carriage. The wedding takes place in the Augustinian Church on 24 April 1854.

Although he played her husband in this trilogy, Karlheinz Böhm is only 10 years older than Romy Schneider.

Romy Schneider & Karlheinz Böhm
Dutch postcard by Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 1980. Photo: Filmex N.V.

Christmas Special

Sissi was filmed in the original places locations where the Empress visited. These locations included Schönbrunn Palace, the Imperial Villa in Bad Ischl and St. Michael's Church.

Sissi was viewed by 20 to 25 million people in the European cinemas. It is one of the most successful German-language films ever.

The film was followed by Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin/Sissi: The Young Empress (Ernst Marischka, 1956) and Sissi - Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin/Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress (Ernst Marischka, 1957). In 1962, a condensed version of the trilogy was released in English under the title Forever My Love.

The trilogy is a popular Christmas television special in several European countries. The Empress' date of birth on Christmas Eve 1837 adds to the appeal of the film as a Christmas special.

The success of the film marked Empress Elisabeth's entrance to popular culture which made the historical figure even more legendary. The popularity of the films attracted tourists to places which were associated with the Empress, specifically those in Austria. The popularity also led to the creation of the 1992 musical Elisabeth, which became the most successful German-language musical of all time. The trilogy was parodied in the animated film Lissi. (2007)

Romy Schneider's role as Elisabeth is considered her acting breakthrough. She became synonymous with her role in the film, even as she progressed in her acting career.

Schneider reprised the role of Elisabeth in Luchino Visconti's film Ludwig (1972), this time portraying the Empress as a mature yet cynical woman.

Romy Schneider, Ivan Petrovich
Dutch postcard by Takken, no. AX 3028. Photo: Filmex N.V. Still: scene with Romy Schneider and Ivan Petrovich from Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin/Sissi: The Young Empress (Ernst Marischka, 1956).

Romy Schneider, Walter Reyer
Dutch postcard by Int. Filmpers (I.F.P.), Amsterdam, no. 1535. Publicity still for Sissi – Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin/Sissi – Fateful Years of an Empress (Ernst Marischka, 1957) with Walter Reyer.

Romy Schneider, Karlheinz Böhm
Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no. 3720. Photo: ERMA / Herzog-film-Wien. Publicity still for Sissi - Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin/Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress (Ernst Marischka, 1957).

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.

28 December 2013

Márta Eggerth (1912-2013)

On 26 December 2013, Hungarian-born singer and actress Márta Eggerth (1912-2013), who maintained a global career for over 70 years, died in Rye, New York. She was the popular and talented star of 30 German and Austrian operetta films of the 1930s. Many of the 20th century's most famous operetta composers, including Franz Lehár, Fritz Kreisler, Robert Stolz, Oscar Straus, and Paul Abraham, composed works especially for her. After the rise of the Nazis, she continued her career with her partner Jan Kiepura in the US. Ms. Eggerth was 101.

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8356/2, 1933-1934. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.

Latvian postcard by JUR, Riga, no. 2734. Photo: Ars.

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6799/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Freiherr v. Gudenberg.

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7875/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.


Márta (or Martha) Eggerth's was born in Budapest in 1912. Her mother, a dramatic coloratura soprano, dedicated herself to her daughter, who was called a 'Wunderkind'.

At the age of 11 she made her theatrical debut in the operetta Mannequins. Marta began singing the demanding coloratura repertoire by composers including Rossini, Meyerbeer, Offenbach, and Johann Strauss II.

Soon she was hailed as Hungary's 'national idol'. She performed at the Hungarian state opera in Budapest. Eggerth made her film debut in Budapest in such silent films as Csak egy kislány van a világon/There Is Only One Girl in the World (Belá Gaál, 1929).

While still a teenager, Márta Eggerth embarked on a tour of Denmark, Holland and Sweden before arriving in Vienna at the invitation of Emmerich Kalman. Kalman had invited her to understudy Adele Kern, the famous coloratura of the Vienna State Opera, in his operetta Das Veilchen von Montmarte (The Violet of Montmarte). Eventually she took over the title role to great critical acclaim after Kern suddenly became indisposed.

Next she performed the role of Adele in Max Reinhardt's famous 1929 Hamburg production of Die Fledermaus (The Bat). At the age of 17, she was perhaps the youngest singer ever to undertake this part. Her silvery soprano voice made her in the following years a popular star of the operetta.

Dutch postcard by JosPe, no. 593.

Dutch postcard by Filma, no. 664.

Dutch postcard by JosPe, no. 547.

German Talkie

Marta Eggerth's film career really career took off with the German sound film Bräutigamswitwe/Let's Love and Laugh (Richard Eichberg, 1931) co-starring Georg Alexander.

The success of the film resulted in international fame.

Her German film debut was soon followed by more film operettas like Trara um Liebe/Trumpet Call of Love (Richard Eichberg, 1931) and Moderne Mitgift/Modern Dowry (E.W. Emo, 1932).

Franz Léhar composed the music for Es war einmal ein Walzer/Once There Was a Waltz (Victor Janson, 1932), especially for Eggerth.

Dutch postcard by Filma, no. 450. Photo: publicity still for Die Blume von Hawaï/The Flower of Hawaii (Richard Oswald, 1933), an adaptation of the operetta The Flower of Hawaii by Paul Abraham.

Latvian postcard, no. 2284. Photo: J. Rolin (?), Riga. With Hans Söhnker.

Dutch postcard by JosPe, no. 468. With Richard Tauber.

Cheeky, Captivating Girl

In the silver age of the operetta Márta Eggerth starred in numerous successful film operettas and musical comedies as the cheeky, captivating girl, but she also played more tragic roles.

To her great successes belong Das Blaue vom Himmel/The Blue from the Sky (Victor Janson, 1932), Leise flehen meine Lieder/Lover Divine (Willi Forst, 1933), Unfinished Symphony (Anthony Asquith, Willi Forst, 1934), Der Zarewitsch (Victor Janson, 1933), Die Czardasfürstin/The Csardas Princess (Georg Jacoby, 1934), Die ganze Welt dreht sich um Liebe/The World's in Love (Viktor Tourjansky, 1935), and Das Schloss in Flandern/The Castle in Flanders (Géza von Bolváry, 1936).

Critics praised her musical abilities, but also her nuanced acting.

In favour of her film work, she appeared less and less on stage.

Dutch postcard.

Dutch postcard, no. 237. Photo: City Film.

Dutch postcard.

Dazzling Pair

On the set of Mein Herz ruft nach dir/My Heart Calls You (Carmine Gallone, 1934), Marta Eggerth fell in love with the young Polish tenor and film star Jan Kiepura.

The couple married in 1936, and they were the most dazzling Liebespaar (Love Pair) of the European cinema.

Together they starred in Zauber der Boheme/The Charm of La Boheme (Géza von Bolváry, 1937), based on motives from Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème.

They caused a sensation wherever they appeared. But the political situation became more and more uncomfortable for her in Austria, being a foreigner and of Jewish descent.

Jan Kiepura. German Postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8515/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Ufa / Cine-Alianz.

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7096/2, 1932-1933. Photo: Atelier Kiesel, Berlin / Aafa Film.

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8583/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Ufa / Cine-Allianz / Frhr. von Gudenberg.

MGM Musicals

In 1938, Jan Kiepura and Márta Eggerth fled Austria after its annexation by the Nazis. They first settled down in the South of France, and later in the USA.

Eggerth was signed by the Schubert Theater to appear on Broadway in Richard Rodgers' musical Higher and Higher.

She subsequently signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Hollywood, but she only performed in two MGM musicals. At the side of Judy Garland, she appeared in For Me and My Gal (Busby Berkeley, 1942), and Presenting Lily Mars (Norman Taurog, 1943).

Together with her husband, she returned to the theatre, and they first starred on the operatic stage in La Bohème to rave reviews.

Then they had a huge, three-year long success with Franz Léhar's operetta Die lustige Witwe/The Merry Widow, with Robert Stolz conducting and George Balanchine as choreographer. They would eventually perform The Merry Widow more than 200 times, in five languages throughout Europe and America.

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8939/2, 1933-1934. Photo: Atelier Binder.

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8356/3, 1933-1934. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7677/2, 1932-1933. Photo: Angelo Photos.


After the war, Márta Eggerth and Jan Kiepura returned to France. They toured through Europe and starred in such films as La Valse Brilliante/Brilliant waltz (Jean Boyer, 1948) in France and Das Land des Lächelns/Land of Smiles (Hans Deppe, Erik Ode, 1952) in Germany.

Eggerth wasn't able to gain a foothold again in the German cinema, and would further only appear in Frühling in Berlin/Spring in Berlin (Arhur Maria Rabenalt, 1957) starring Sonja Ziemann.

In the 1950s she became American citizen, but her connection to Europe remained. In 1954 Eggerth and Kiepura brought The Merry Widow to London's Palace Theatre and they often toured through Germany with The Merry Widow and other productions.

After Jan Kiepura died in 1966, Eggerth stopped singing for several years. Finally, persuaded by her mother, she decided to revive her career.

In the 1970s she began to make regular television appearances, and to actively perform concerts in Europe. In 1979, she was awarded the Filmband in Gold for her longtime achievements in the German cinema.

In 1984, she returned to the American stage. She co-starred in the Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt musical Colette opposite Diana Rigg in Seattle and Denver, and later in Stephen Sondheim's Follies in Pittsburgh.

In 1999 Eggerth had a comeback appearance on German television as a chamber singer in the episode Nie wieder Oper/Never Opera Again of the popular crime series Tatort. In 2005 she brought out a new album, Marta Eggerth: My Life My Song, with recordings from throughout her career.

In 2007 the Silent Film Festival of Pordenone in Italy presented one of her first Hungarian films, but the then 95-year old star was not able to attend. The reason: she had to perform at a concert in New York!

Mártha Eggerth always stayed an advocate of the operetta: "In opera, everybody dies. In operetta, everybody is flirtatious", she said of her favourite art form.

Marta Eggerth owned an 18-story apartment building in Rye, New York, where she died 26 December  2013. She was 101.

Latvian postcard by JUR, Riga.

Dutch postcard by JosPe, no. 330. Photo: City Film.

German postcard by Das Programm von Heute / Ross Verlag. Photo: Atelier Schenker, Berlin.

Sources: Anne Midgette (The Washington Post), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia and IMDb.

27 December 2013


Today, it's Postcard Friendship Friday again on the net. A weekly event in which postcard blogs present themselves. Start at Beth's blog with the great title The Best Hearts Are Crunchy, and enjoy some rare vintage postcards that are preserved on the net by bloggers like me.

Totò (1898–1967) was one of the most popular Italian film stars ever, nicknamed il principe della risata (the prince of laughter). He starred in about 100 films, many of which are still frequently broadcast on Italian television. Totò is an heir of the Commedia dell'Arte tradition, and can be compared to Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. His style and some of his recurring jokes and gestures are universally known in Italy.

Small Italian collectors card, no. 291. Photo: Ivo Meldones.

His Imperial Highness

Totò was born Antonio Clemente in the Rione Sanità, a poor district of Naples, in 1898. Totò is a typical pet name for Antonio in Naples and it most properly comes from the Neapolitan dialect variant Totonno. He was the illegitimate son of Anna Clemente from Sicily and the penniless Marquis Giuseppe De Curtis from Naples, who did not legally recognize him until 1937.

The young Totò preferred sports to studying, and in an incident with either a football or in the boxing ring, part of his nose became paralyzed. It gave him that look which later became his trademark.

Totò much regretted growing up without a father, to the point that at the age of 35, when he was already very popular, managed to have Marquis Francesco Maria Gagliardi Focas adopt him in exchange for a life annuity. As a consequence, when Marquis de Curtis recognized him, Totò had become an heir of two noble families, hence claiming an impressive slew of titles.

In 1946, when the Consulta Araldica—the body that advised the Kingdom of Italy on matters of nobility—ceased operations, the Tribunal of Naples recognized his numerous titles, so his complete name was changed from Antonio Clemente to Antonio Griffo Focas Flavio Ducas Komnenos Gagliardi de Curtis of Byzantium, His Imperial Highness, Palatine Count, Knight of the Holy Roman Empire, Exarch of Ravenna, Duke of Macedonia and Illyria, Prince of Constantinople, Cilicia, Thessaly, Pontus, Moldavia, Dardania, Peloponnesus, Count of Cyprus and Epirus, Count and Duke of Drivasto and Durazzo.

For someone born and raised in one of the poorest Neapolitan neighbourhoods this must have been quite an achievement, but in claiming the titles (at the time they had become meaningless) the comedian also mocked them for their intrinsic worthlessness. In fact, when he was not using his stage name Totò, he mostly referred to himself simply as Antonio De Curtis.

Totò's mother wanted him to become a priest, but as soon as 1913, at the age of 15, he was already acting as a comedian in small theatres, under pseudonym Clerment. In the minor venues where he performed, Totò had the chance to meet artists like Eduardo De Filippo, Peppino De Filippo and Carlo Scarpetta.

He served in the army during World War I and then went back to acting. He learned the art of the Guitti, the Neapolitan scriptless comedians, heirs to the tradition of the Commedia dell'Arte, and began developing the trademarks of his style, including a puppet-like, disjointed gesticulation, emphasized facial expressions, and an extreme, sometimes surrealistic, sense of humour.

In 1922, Totò moved to Rome to perform in bigger theatres. He performed in the genre of Avanspettacolo, a vaudevillian mixture of music, ballet and comedy preceding the main act. He became adept at these revues and in the 1930s he had his own company, with which he travelled across Italy.

Italian postcard by Il Piùlibri. Photo: youth portrait of Antonio De Curtis (Totò) with dedication.

Italy's Favourite Comedian

In 1937, Totò appeared in his first film Fermo con le mani/Hands Off Me! (Gero Zambuto, 1937). His debut contains some classic scenes, like the one in which he tries to give a haircut to a bald man. Another scene where he fishes from the fishmonger's counter was repeated in later films like Guardie e ladri/Cops and Robbers (Mario Monicelli, Steno, 1951) and Totò a Parigi/Totò in Paris (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1958).

As middle aged orphan Gaspare in I due orfanelli/The Two Orphans (Mario Mattoli, 1947) he had his big breakthrough. The majority of his films were essentially meant to showcase his performances, and contain his name Totò in the title.

Often they were parodies of established film genres. Fine examples are Totò al Giro d'Italia/Totò at the Tour of Italy (Mario Mattoli, 1948) with a cameo of famous cyclist Fausto Coppi, Totò Sceicco/Totò the Sheik (Mario Mattoli, 1950), Totò Tarzan/Tototarzan (Mario Mattoli, 1950), Totò terzo uomo/Totò the Third Man (Mario Mattoli, 1951), and Totò a colori/Totò in Color (Tonino Delli Colli, Steno, 1952).

Totò a colori, filmed in Ferraniacolor, was the first Italian colour film. It is widely regarded as Totò's masterpiece. He appears in a chase scene where he hides from his pursuers by disguising himself as a wooden marionette on stage. Once the show is over, his body collapses just like a dead puppet.

Another masterpiece is Guardie e ladri/Cops and Robbers (Mario Monicelli, Steno, 1951) with Aldo Fabrizi. The style of the film, produced by Dino De Laurentiis and Carlo Ponti, is close to Italian neorealism. For his part Totò won the Nastro d'Argento (Silver ribbon award), and the film was a huge success with the public and was also liked by the critics. For Totò, Guardie e ladri represented a real turning point, for the first time his film got exclusively positive reviews, and his interpretation is still considered one of the best of his career.

Totò had the opportunity to act side by side with virtually all major Italian actors of the time. In Fifa e arena/Fright in the Arena (Mario Mattoli, 1948) and several other comedies his co-star was the beautiful Isa Barzizza. His co-star in 47 morto che parla/47 dead speak (Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, 1950) was another film beauty, Silvana Pampanini. And Sophia Loren was the beauty in Miseria e nobiltà/Poverty and Nobility (Mario Mattoli, 1954).

He co-starred with Orson Welles in L'uomo, la bestia e la virtù/Man, Beast and Virtue (Steno, 1953). The most renowned and successful team which Totò formed was with Peppino De Filippo. De Filippo was one of the few actors to have his name appear in film titles along with that of Totò, for example in Totò, Peppino e la malafemmina/Toto, Peppino, and the Hussy (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1956) and Totò, Peppino e i fuorilegge/Totò, Peppino and the outlaws (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1956), for which Peppino De Filippo was awarded with a Nastro d'Argento (Silver ribbon award) for best supporting actor.

During a tour in 1956 Totò lost most of his eyesight due to an eye infection that he had ignored to avoid canceling his show and disappointing his fans. The handicap however almost never affected his schedule and acting abilities.

Among Totò’s best-known films are also the anthology film L'Oro di Napoli/The Gold of Naples (Vittorio De Sica, 1954), the classic crime comedy I soliti ignoti/Big Deal on Madonna Street (Mario Monicelli, 1958) with Marcello Mastroianni and Vittorio Gassman as a pair of thieves who head a group of criminals in a break-in attempt, and the French-Italian comedy La Loi C'est la Loi/La legge è legge/The Law Is the Law (Christian-Jacque, 1958) with Fernandel as a French customs sergeant who conducts an on-going war of nerves with Italian smuggler Totò on the Franco-Italian border. The publicity attending the long-anticipated teaming of France's favourite comedian and his Italian counterpart helped to make The Law Is the Law one of the most successful films in both comedians' careers.

Italian postcard.

Controversial, Spicy Gags

Totò's unmistakable figure, with his peculiarly irregular ‘stone-face’, and his unique ability to disarticulate his body like a marionette, were very popular and his comic gags are now part of the Italian culture. Wikipedia notes that his typical character is uneducated, poor, vain, snobbish, selfish, naïve, opportunist, hedonist, lascivious and generally immoral, although fundamentally good-hearted.

Partly because of the radical, naïve immorality of his roles, some of his most spicy gags raised much controversy in Italian society. Che fine ha fatto Totò Baby?/Whatever happened to Totò Baby? (Ottavio Alessi, 1964) a parody of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962), included a cheeky and gross celebration of cannabis, in an era when drugs were generally perceived as depraved and dangerous. Nevertheless, such controversies never affected the love of the Italian public for him.

In Pasolini's Uccellacci e uccellini/The Hawks and the Sparrows (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1966) with Ninetto Davoli as Totò’s son, the episode La Terra vista dalla Luna/The Earth As Seen From The Moon from Le streghe/The Witches (Pier Paolo Pasolini a.o., 1965-1967) with Silvana Mangano, and the episode Che cosa sono le nuvole/What are clouds? from Capriccio all'italiana/Caprice Italian Style (Steno, Pier Paolo Pasolini a.o., 1968 - released after his death), he displayed his dramatic skills. These roles gave him the artistic acknowledgment that had eluded him so far by more stringent critics, who only began to recognize his talent after his death.

Despite his physical appearance Totò had a reputation as a playboy. He had for example a relationship with gorgeous film star Silvana Pampanini in the 1940s. One of his lovers, the cafe-concert singer Liliana Castagnola, committed suicide in 1930 after their relationship ended. This tragedy marked his life. He buried Liliana in his family's chapel, and named his only daughter Liliana De Curtis. She was born in 1933 to his first wife Diana Bandini Rogliani, whom he had married in 1932 (according to IMDb in 1935). He dedicated his most famous song Malafemmena (Wayward Woman) to Diana after they separated in 1939.

From 1951 on he lived with Franca Faldini and they married in 1954. A personal tragedy was the premature birth of their son Massenzio in 1954. The boy died a few hours later.

In 1967, Totò passed away at the age of 69 in Rome, after a series of heart attacks. Wikipedia: “Even in death he was unique — due to overwhelming popular request there were three funeral services: the first in Rome, a second in his birth city Naples — and a few days later, in a third one by the local Camorra boss, an empty casket was carried along the packed streets of the popular Rione Sanità quarter where he was born. Totò's birth home has been recently opened to the public as a museum, and his tombstone is frequently visited by fans, some of whom pray to him for help, as if he were a saint.”

Trailer Totò a Parigi/Totò in Paris (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1958). Source: Unidisjollyfilm (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Volker Boehm (IMDb), AllMovie, Wikipedia and IMDb.

26 December 2013

Julie Andrews

English film and stage actress, singer, and author Julie Andrews (1935) was a former child actress and singer who rose to prominence starring in such stage musicals as My Fair Lady and Camelot. She is best known for her roles in the films Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965). Her voice spanned four octaves until it was damaged by a throat operation in 1997. In the 2000s she had a major revival of her film career in family films like The Princess Diaries (2001) and the Shrek animated films (2004–2010).

Julie Andrews
Vintage postcard. Photo: still from Mary Poppins (1964).

Julie Andrews
Vintage postcard made in Hong Kong.

Julie Andrews
Italian postcard by Rotalcolor, Milano, no. 299.

Big Break

Julie Andrews was born Julia Elizabeth Wells in Walton-on-Thames, England, in 1935. Her mother, music hall performer Barbara Wells (née Morris), was married to Edward C. ‘Ted’ Wells, a teacher of metal and woodworking, but Andrews was conceived as a result of an affair her mother had with a family friend.

With the outbreak of World War II, Barbara and Ted Wells went their separate ways. Ted Wells assisted with evacuating children to Surrey during the Blitz, while Barbara joined Ted Andrews in entertaining the troops. Barbara and Ted Wells were soon divorced and Barbara remarried to Ted Andrews in 1939.

Julie had lessons at the Cone-Ripman School, an independent arts educational school in London, and with the famous concert soprano and voice instructor Lilian Stiles-Allen. She continued her academic education at the Woodbrook School, a local state school in Beckenham. Julie performed spontaneously and unbilled on stage with her parents for about two years beginning in 1945.

She got her big break when her stepfather introduced her to Val Parnell, whose Moss Empires controlled prominent venues in London. Andrews made her professional solo debut at the London Hippodrome singing the difficult aria Je Suis Titania from Mignon as part of a musical revue called Starlight Roof in 1947. She played the Hippodrome for one year.

In 1948 she became the youngest solo performer ever to be seen in a Royal Command Variety Performance. Julie followed her parents into radio and television and reportedly made her television debut on the BBC program RadiOlympia Showtime in 1949. She garnered considerable fame throughout the United Kingdom for her work on the BBC radio comedy show Educating Archie (1950- 1952).

In 1954 on the eve of her 19th birthday, Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut portraying 1920s flapper Polly Browne in the already highly successful London musical The Boy Friend. To the critics, Andrews was the stand-out performer in the show. In November 1955 Andrews was signed to appear with Bing Crosby in what is regarded as the first made-for-television movie, High Tor.

Julie Andrews
French postcard by Les Presses de Belleville, no. 107. Photo: Walt Disney Productions. Still from Mary Poppins (1964).

Julie Andrews
Spanish postcard by Ediciones Tarje Fher / Ediciones Mandolina, 1964. Photo: Walt Disney Productions. Still from Mary Poppins (1964).

Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins (1964)
Spanish postcard by Ediciones Tarje Fher / Ediciones Mandolina, 1964. Photo: Walt Disney Productions. Still from Mary Poppins (1964) with Dick van Dyke.

Oscars and Golden Globes

In 1956 Julie Andrews appeared in the Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner musical My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle to Rex Harrison's Henry Higgins. Producer Moss Hart had mercilessly drilled her for 48 hours to help her get her lines, songs and dialect in proper working order.

Richard Rodgers was so impressed with her talent that concurrent with her run in My Fair Lady she was featured in the Rodgers and Hammerstein television musical, Cinderella (Ralph Nelson, 1957). Cinderella was broadcast live and attracted an estimated 107 million viewers.

She married set designer Tony Walton in 1959 in Weybridge, Surrey. They had first met in 1948 when Andrews was appearing at the London Casino in the show Humpty Dumpty. The couple filed for a divorce in 1967.

Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe - also the composers of My Fair Lady - developed the role of Queen Guinevere in their musical Camelot (1960) with Andrews in mind. The result, Camelot, with Richard Burton, was another Broadway triumph.

However, studio head Jack Warner decided Andrews lacked sufficient name recognition for her casting in the film version of My Fair Lady; Eliza was played by the established film actress Audrey Hepburn instead. As Warner later recalled, the decision was easy, "In my business I have to know who brings people and their money to a movie theatre box office. Audrey Hepburn had never made a financial flop."

Andrews played the title role in Disney's Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964), a lavish musical fantasy that combined live-action and animation. Walt Disney had seen a performance of Camelot and thought Andrews would be perfect for the role of the British nanny who is "practically perfect in every way!"

Andrews initially declined because of pregnancy. With her husband, she headed back to the United Kingdom in 1962 for the birth of daughter Emma Katherine Walton. But Disney politely insisted. As a result of her performance in Mary Poppins, Andrews won the 1964 Academy Award for Best Actress and the 1965 Golden Globe Award.

She and her Mary Poppins co-stars also won the 1965 Grammy Award for Best Album for Children. As a measure of ‘sweet revenge’, as Poppins songwriter Richard M. Sherman put it, Andrews closed her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes by saying, "And, finally, my thanks to a man who made a wonderful movie and who made all this possible in the first place, Mr. Jack Warner."

Next she appeared opposite James Garner in The Americanization of Emily (Arthur Hiller, 1964), which she has described as her favourite film.

Trailer Cinderella (1957). Source: Dylles (YouTube).

Original 1964 Mary Poppins Theatrical Trailer. Source: ThreeDogShampoo (YouTube).

Original Trailer of The Americanization of Emily (1964). Source: SupportingActor (YouTube).

The Sound of Music

Now, Julie Andrews was a real star, and it was her star power that helped make her third film, The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965), the highest-grossing film of its day and one of the highest-grossing of all time. For her role as Maria von Trapp, she won her second Golden Globe Award in 1966 and was nominated for the 1965 Academy Award.

After completing The Sound Of Music, Andrews appeared as a guest star on the NBC-TV variety series The Andy Williams Show, which gained her an Emmy nomination. She followed this with an Emmy Award-winning color special, The Julie Andrews Show in 1965.

By the end of 1967, Andrews had appeared in the television special Cinderella; the biggest Broadway musical of its time, My Fair Lady; the largest-selling long-playing album, the original cast recording of My Fair Lady; the biggest hit in Disney's history, Mary Poppins; the highest grossing movie of 1966, Hawaii (George Roy Hill, 1966); the biggest and second biggest hits in Universal's history, Thoroughly Modern Millie (George Roy Hill, 1967) and the espionage thriller Torn Curtain (Alfred Hitchcock, 1967); and the biggest hit in 20th Century Fox's history The Sound of Music.

Then Andrews, appeared in Star! (Robert Wise, 1968), a biopic of Gertrude Lawrence, and Darling Lili (Blake Edwards, 1970), co-starring Rock Hudson, but both films bombed at the box office. The problem was that audiences identified her with singing, sugary-sweet nannies and governesses, and could not accept her in dramatic roles.

She married American director Blake Edwards in 1969. Hal Erickson at AllMovie: "By marrying Edwards and aligning herself with him creatively, then, Andrews was also consciously or unconsciously bucking to change her image." They adopted two children from Vietnam: Amy in 1974 and Joanna in 1975.

Julie Andrews in Star!
Italian photo by Rotograph, Roma. Photo: 20th Century Fox. Publicity still for Star! (Robert Wise, 1968).

Julie Andrews and Daniel Massey in Star!
Italian photo by Rotograph, Roma. Photo: 20th Century Fox. Publicity still for Star! (Robert Wise, 1968) with Daniel Massey.

Julie Andrew and Richard Crenna in Star!
Italian photo by Rotograph, Roma. Photo: 20th Century Fox. Publicity still for Star! (Robert Wise, 1968) with Richard Crenna.

Bared Breasts

Julie Andrews continued working in television. In 1969 she shared the spotlight with singer Harry Belafonte for an NBC-TV special, An Evening with Julie Andrews and Harry Belafonte. In 1971 she appeared as a guest for the Grand Opening Special of Walt Disney World, and that same year she and Carol Burnett headlined a CBS special, Julie and Carol At Lincoln Center.

In 1972–73, Julie Andrews starred in her own television variety series, The Julie Andrews Hour, on the ABC network. The show won seven Emmy Awards, but was cancelled after one season. Between 1973 and 1975, Andrews continued her association with ABC by headlining five variety specials for the network. She guest-starred on The Muppet Show in 1977 and appeared again with the Muppets on a CBS-TV special, Julie Andrews: One Step Into Spring, which aired in 1978.

Then, she returned to the cinema with an appearance in 10 (1979), directed by husband Blake Edwards. He helped to keep her on the rise by directing her in subsequent roles that were entirely different from anything she had been seen in before.

There was the film star Sally Miles who bared her breasts on-screen in S.O.B. (1981), and the woman (Victoria Grant) playing a man (Count Victor Grezhinski) playing a woman in Victor Victoria (1982).

At IMDb, Tommy Peter writes: “the sheer novelty of seeing Julie Andrews in these roles, not to mention her brilliant performances in both of them, undoubtedly helped make them successes”. Her roles in Victor/Victoria earned Andrews the 1983 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, as well as a nomination for the 1982 Academy Award for Best Actress, her third Oscar nomination.

Victor/Victoria was followed by Edwards's François Truffaut remake, The Man Who Loved Women (Blake Edwards, 1983) with Andrews as the lover of sculptor Burt Reynolds and the excellent mid-life crisis comedy-drama That's Life! (Blake Edwards, 1986), starring Andrews and Jack Lemmon.

In 1987, she starred in an ABC Christmas special, Julie Andrews: The Sound Of Christmas, which went on to win five Emmy Awards. Two years later she was reunited for the third time with Carol Burnett for a variety special which aired on ABC in 1989.

Trailer of Torn Curtain (1966). Source: MovieTrailersGuy (YouTube).

Trailer of Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Source: modernmillie (YouTube).

Trailer of Star! (1968). Source: S7ilver (YouTube).

Career Revival

In 1991 Julie Andrews made her television dramatic debut in the ABC made-for-TV movie, Our Sons (John Erman, 1991), co-starring Ann-Margret. The following year she starred in her first television sitcom, Julie (1992), which co-starred James Farentino.

In 1995 she starred in the stage musical version of Victor/Victoria, her first appearance in a Broadway show in 35 years. She was forced to quit the show towards the end of the Broadway run in 1997 when she developed vocal problems. She subsequently underwent surgery to remove non-cancerous nodules from her throat and was left unable to sing.

In 1999 she was reunited with James Garner for the TV film, One Special Night (Roger Young, 1999). In the 2000 New Year's Honours, Andrews was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).

She had a career revival when she appeared in The Princess Diaries (Garry Marshall, 2001), her first Disney film since Mary Poppins (1964). She starred as Queen Clarisse Marie Renaldi and reprised the role in a sequel, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (Garry Marshall, 2004). In The Princess Diaries 2, Andrews sang on film for the first time since having throat surgery.

Andrews continued her association with Disney when she appeared as the nanny in two 2003 made-for-television movies based on the Eloise books, a series of children's books by Kay Thompson about a child who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

The same year she made her debut as a theatre director, directing a revival of The Boy Friend, the musical in which she made her 1954 Broadway debut. In 2004 Andrews performed the voice of Queen Lillian in the animated blockbuster Shrek 2 (2004), reprising the role for its sequels, Shrek the Third (2007) and Shrek Forever After (2010).

She narrated Enchanted (2007, Kevin Lima), a live-action Disney musical comedy that both poked fun and paid homage to classic Disney films such as Mary Poppins. In 2007 Andrews was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild's awards and stated that her goals included continuing to direct for the stage and possibly to produce her own Broadway musical.

Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music
Austrian postcard by MM-Verlag, Salzburg, no. FS 3000. Photo: publicity still for The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965).

Julie Andrews
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/410.

Julie Andrews
Romanian postcard by Filmului Acin, no. 43078.

London Come-back

Julie Andrews published Home: A Memoir of My Early Years (2008), which she characterised as 'part one' of her autobiography. Home chronicles her early years in UK's music hall circuit and ends in 1962 with her winning the role of Mary Poppins.

For a Walt Disney video release  she again portrayed Mary Poppins and narrated the story of The Cat That Looked at a King in 2004. In 2010, Andrews made her London come-back after a 21 year absence (her last performance there was a Christmas concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 1989).

She also maintained her status as a family-film icon by voicing Gru's mother in the animated Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, 2010), and playing opposite The Rock in Tooth Fairy (Michael Lembeck, 2010).

Her husband Blake Edwards passed away in 2010 at the age of 88.

In 2011, Andrews received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and, with her daughter Emma, a Grammy for best spoken word album for children (for A Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies).

At the age of 77, Andrews undertook her first tour of Australia and New Zealand in 2013. The tour was hosted by Nicholas Hammond who was a boy of 14 when they appeared together in The Sound of Music. In place of singing, she planned a series of speaking engagements in the five mainland state capitals.

Julie Andrews has long had something of a dual image, being both a family-friendly star and an icon for gays and lesbians. Andrews herself has acknowledged her strange status, commenting that "I'm that odd mixture of, on the one hand, being a gay icon and, on the other, having grandmas and parents grateful I'm around to be a babysitter for their kids."

Julie Andrews guest stars on The Muppet Show (1977-1978) and sings The Lonely Goatherd. Source: Sparklesinbrum (YouTube).

Trailer SOB (1981). Source: JLEPSS96 (YouTube).

Trailer of Victor/Victoria (1982). Source: GayMovieReviews (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Tommy Peter (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

25 December 2013

C. Aubrey Smith

C. Aubrey Smith (1863–1948) was an English cricketer and actor, who started his film career in the British silent cinema. He went to Hollywood where he had a successful career as a character actor playing stereotypical Englishmen with the stiff upper lip and a stern determination. His bushy eyebrows, beady eyes, and handlebar moustache made him one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood.

C. Aubrey Smith
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 790A. Photo: Walter Wanger.

Lurid, Sensationalist and Distasteful

Sir Charles Aubrey Smith CBE was born in London, England in 1863. He was educated at Charterhouse School and St John's College, Cambridge.

He played cricket for Cambridge University 1882-85 and for Sussex at various times between 1882 and 1892. He settled in South Africa to prospect for gold in 1888-89. He developed pneumonia and was wrongly pronounced dead by doctors. While in South Africa he captained the Johannesburg English XI. He captained England to victory in his only cricket Test match, against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 1888-1889.

Aubrey Smith began acting on the London stage in 1895. He was 30 then. His first major role was in The Prisoner of Zenda the following year, playing the dual lead roles of king and look-alike. He married Isabella Wood in 1896.

Despite the theatrical community's disdainful attitude towards the cinema, Smith enthusiastically launched his film career in 1914. He appeared in silent dramas as The Builder of Bridges (George Irving, 1915), The Witching Hour (George Irving, 1916), and Red Pottage (Meyrick Milton, 1918), co-starring Mary Dibley and Gerald Ames. He was already in his forties at the time.

Other British silent films were the drama Castles in (Horace Lisle Lucoque, 1920) with Lilian Braithwaite, the crime film The Face at the Window (Wilfred Noy, 1920) with Gladys Jennings, and The Shuttle of Life (D. J. Williams, 1920) starring Evelyn Brent.

In 1922 he co-starred in the romance The Bohemian Girl (Harley Knoles, 1922), starring Gladys Cooper and Ivor Novello. It was inspired by the opera The Bohemian Girl by Michael William Balfe and Alfred Bunn which was in turn based on a novel by Cervantes.

In the drama Flames of Passion (Graham Cutts, 1922) his co-star was Hollywood actress Mae Marsh. The film was made by the newly formed Graham-Wilcox Productions company, a joint venture between Cutts and producer Herbert Wilcox. The entrepreneurial Wilcox tempted American star Marsh to England with a high salary offer, believing this would improve the film's marketability in the US. The gamble paid off as it became the first post-war British film to be sold to the US, where it was shown under the title A Woman's Secret.

The final reel of the film was filmed in the Prizmacolor process. Flames of Passion proved controversial with critics, many of whom found the subject matter lurid, sensationalist and distasteful. Cinemagoers had no such qualms, and turned the film into a big box-office hit.

Aubrey Smith made his Broadway debut in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion in the starring role of Henry Higgins.

In Hollywood, he played a supporting part in the silent drama The Rejected Woman (Albert Parker, 1924), featuring Alma Rubens in the title role and Béla Lugosi in a supporting role.

He returned to England to the theatre and it was his 1928 stage hit Bachelor Father that led to Smith's phenomenally successful career in talking pictures.

C. Aubrey Smith, Cyril Maude
British postcard by J. Beagles & Co. Ltd., London, no. 184E. Photo: Dover St. Studios. Publicity still for the play The Flag Lieutenant with Cyril Maude as Lieutenant Richard Lascelles and C. Aubrey Smith as Major Thesiger at The Playhouse, 1908.

C. Aubrey Smith and Charles Hawtrey in Inconstant George
British postcard in the Rotary Photographic Series, no. 4208D. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield, London. Publicity still for the play Inconstant George with Charles Hawtrey as Georges Bullin and C. Aubrey Smith as Luciene de Versannes. The play written by Gladys B. Unger and directed by Charles Hawtrey was performed during the 1910-1911 season at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London.

The Hollywood Raj

First C. Aubrey Smith appeared in the early British sound film Such Is the Law (Sinclair Hill, 1930). A year later, he was back in America to co-star with Marion Davies and Ralph Forbes in the MGM drama The Bachelor Father (Robert Z. Leonard, 1931).

In Hollywood, Smith would have a successful career as a character actor playing military officers, successful business men, ministers of the cloth and ministers of government in films like the romantic comedy Just a Gigolo (Jack Conway, 1931) with William Haines, the romance Son of India (Jacques Feyder, 1931), and the magnificent comedy Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932).

In the classic jungle adventure Tarzan the Ape Man (W. S. Van Dyke, 1932), featuring Johnny Weissmuller, he played Jane’s (Maureen O’Sullivan) father.

Smith was also regarded as being the unofficial leader of the British film industry colony in Hollywood, the Hollywood Raj. Other British actors who were considered to be ‘members’ of this select group were David Niven (whom Smith treated like a son), Ronald Colman, Rex Harrison, Robert Coote, Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Leslie Howard and Patric Knowles.

In 1932, he founded the Hollywood Cricket Club and created a pitch with imported English grass. He attracted fellow expatriates such as David Niven, Laurence Olivier, Nigel Bruce (who served as captain), Leslie Howard and Boris Karloff to the club as well as local American players.

His films include such classics as The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg, 1934) starring Marlene Dietrich, The Prisoner of Zenda (John Cromwell, 1937), as the wise old advisor opposite Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and The Four Feathers (Zoltan Korda, 1939).

Smith became infamous for expecting his fellow countrymen to report for regular duty at his Hollywood Cricket Club, and anyone who refused was known to "incur his displeasure".

He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1938, and knighted by King George VI in 1944 for services to Anglo-American amity. Fiercely patriotic, Smith became openly critical of the British actors of enlistment age who did not return to fight after the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

His later films include Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Victor Fleming, 1941), and the Agatha Christie adaptation And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians (René Clair, 1945) in which he played General Mandrake.

Smith died from pneumonia in Beverly Hills in 1948, aged 85. His body was cremated and nine months later, in accordance with his wishes, his ashes were returned to England and interred in his mother's grave at St Leonard's churchyard in Hove, Sussex. With Isabella Wood, he had one child. His last film appearance as Mr. Lawrence in Little Women (Mervyn LeRoy, 1949) was released posthumously.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Tony Fontana (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

23 December 2013

Matthias Fuchs

German actor Matthias Fuchs (1939-2001) was well known as the young Ethelbert in the popular Immenhof film series in the 1950s. Later he evolved into one of the most respected character actors of the German theatre, and worked on film and TV with director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Matthias Fuchs
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 1159. Photo: Ultra Film / Lilo. Publicity still for Mit 17 weint man nicht/17 Year Olds Don't Cry (Alfred Vohrer, 1960).

Heimat Comedies

Matthias Fuchs was born in Hannover, Germany, in 1939.

He became known in the role of Ethelbert in the Heimat comedies about the Immenhof farm, at the side of Angelika Meissner and Heidi Brühl.

He made his film debut in the first part of the series, Die Mädels vom Immenhof/The Girls from Immenhof (Wolfgang Schleif, 1955) and also appeared in the sequels Hochzeit auf Immenhof/Wedding at Immenhof (Volker von Collande, 1956) and Ferien auf Immenhof/Holiday at Immenhof (Hermann Leitner, 1957).

Other films in which he appeared were Der erste Frühlingstag/The First day of Spring (Helmut Weiss, 1956) with Luise Ullrich, the historically unaccurate war film U47 - Kapitänleutnant Prien/ U-47 Lt. Commander Prien (Harald Reinl, 1958), the comedy-fantasy Der Engel, der seine Harfe versetzte/The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp (Kurt Hoffmann, 1959) and the Thomas Mann adaptation Buddenbrooks - 2. Teil/Buddenbrooks, part 2 (Alfred Weidenmann, 1959) starring Liselotte Pulver.

Matthias Fuchs
German postcard by Rüdel Verlag (Franz Josef Rüdel Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf), no. 3213. Photo: Erwin Schneider.

Matthias Fuchs
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin, no. FK 1750. Photo: Spörr / Arca-Film / NF.

Death Is My Trade

After attending drama school Matthias Fuchs evolved into one of the most respected character actors of the German theatre.

Throughout his life he was closely associated with the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. Famous became his work with director Peter Zadek.

During the 1960s and 1970s he also appeared in TV films and he played supporting parts in films like Das Mädchen und der Staatsanwalt/The Girl and the District Attorney (Jürgen Goslar, 1962) with Elke Sommer, The Cardinal (Otto Preminger, 1963), and Mutter Küsters' Fahrt zum Himmel/Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975) with Brigitte Mira.

He also appeared in Aus einem deutschen Leben/Death Is My Trade (Theodor Kotulla, 1977), a disturbing biography of Rudolph Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, played by Götz George.

Matthias Fuchs
German postcard by Rüdel Verlag (Franz Josef Rüdel Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf), no. 1723. Photo: A. Grimm / CCC / Deutsche London. Publicity still for Der erste Frühlingstag/The First Spring Day (Helmut Weiss, 1956).

Matthias Fuchs
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 4810. Retail price: 25 Pfg. Photo: Lilo-Publicity / Ultra-Europa. Publicity still for Mit 17 weint Mann nicht/17 Year Olds Don't Cry (Alfred Vohrer, 1960).

Jurassic Park Spoof

Matthias Fuchs worked several times with director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, including the TV mini-series Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) and the second chapter of Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy, Lola (1981) starring Barbara Sukowa.

Other interesting films were Die flambierte Frau/A Woman in Flames (Robert van Ackeren, 1983) starring Gudrun Landgrebe, Decoder (Muscha, 1983), and the Sci-Fi film Das Arche Noah Prinzip/The Noah’s Ark Principle (Roland Emmerich, 1984).

The latter was the most expensive (about 1.2 million DM) student film ever made in Germany. On TV he guest-starred in popular Krimi series like Der Fahnder/The Investigator (1988), Der Alte/The Old Fox (1989) and Derrick (1990).

He regularly appeared in films such as the comedy Rotwang muß weg!/Rotwang Must Go (Hans-Christoph Blumenberg, 1994), a spoof of Jurassic Park with Udo Kier, and the creepy thriller Der Totmacher/Deathmaker (Romuald Karmakar, 1995), starring Götz George.

Also interesting is Beim nächsten Kuß knall ich ihn nieder/At the Next Kiss I'll Shoot Him (1996), a biography of German film director Reinhold Schünzel, who had to emigrate from Germany in the 1930s, and went to Hollywood.

After the death of Peter Pasetti, Fuchs represented from 1995 until his death in 2001, the role of the narrator in 39 episodes of the radio drama series, Die drei????/the three???? (Episode 65 to 103). He was also a narrator of television documentaries and the animation series Max und Moritz/Max and Moritz (Veit Vollmer, 1999).

Matthias Fuchs died of lung cancer in 2001 in Hamburg, Germany. His final film was Prüfstand VII/Test Stand VII (Robert Bramkamp, 2002) with Robert Forster.

Trailer of Lola (1981). Source: Railto Film (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia, and IMDb.

22 December 2013

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Anglo-French actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg (1971) is the daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. The tall, long-necked, and elegantly gawky Gainsbourg appeared in several films by Lars von Trier and many other major directors and received both a César Award and the Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award.

Charlotte Gainsbourg in Charlotte for Ever (1986)
French postcard by Edition F. Nugeron, no. 11. Photo: Publicity still for Charlotte for Ever (Serge Gainsbourg, 1986).

Lemon Incest

Charlotte Lucy Gainsbourg was born in London in 1971. She is the daughter of English actress Jane Birkin and French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Her maternal grandmother was actress Judy Campbell and her uncle is the screenwriter Andrew Birkin, who directed her in The Cement Garden.

Gainsbourg grew up Paris where she attended the École Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel. Later she studied at the Collège Alpin International Beau Soleil in Switzerland.

At 13, Gainsbourg made her musical debut with her father on the song 'Lemon Incest' in 1984. The music video featured the two, cuddling on a bed surrounded by feathers. Not unexpectedly, the song raised a lot of controversy in France.

Gainsbourg made her film debut the next year playing Catherine Deneuve's daughter in Paroles et musique/Love Songs (Élie Chouraqui, 1984) with Christophe Lambert. More roles soon followed.

Successful was L'effronté/An Impudent Girl (Claude Miller, 1985), a free adaptation of the novel 'The Member of the Wedding' by Carson McCullers. James Travers at French Film Guide: “In her first substantial film role, Gainsbourg is magnificent. Her sensitive portrayal of a thirteen-year-old girl captures the harrowing insecurity and irrational behaviour of adolescence, without resorting to the kind of manipulative sentimentality or loud-mouthed histrionics that most cinema audiences have come to expect of teenage actors.”

L'effronté won the Louis Delluc Prize and received in 1986 César nominations for Best Film, Best Director, Most Promising Actor, Best Writing, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound. Gainsbourg won the César for Most Promising Actress. Charlotte was fifteen at the time.

In 1986 she also released her debut album 'Charlotte for Ever', which was produced by her father. They also played together in his poorly received film Charlotte for Ever (Serge Gainsbourg, 1986) in which Stan (Serge Gainsbourg) depressed over his wife's death turns his affection over to his daughter Charlotte (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

With her mother and her half-sister Lou Doillon, she appeared in the drama Kung Fu Master/Le Petit Amour (Agnès Varda, 1988).

A box office hit was the drama La Petite Voleuse/The Little Thief (Claude Miller, 1988), as a sullen teenager experimenting with sex and various illegal pursuits. The film was based upon an unfinished script by François Truffaut, who died before being able to direct the film himself.

Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte Gainsbourg
With her father Serge Gainsbourg. French postcard.

Charlotte Gainsbourg, Serge Gainsbourg
With her father Serge Gainsbourg. French postcard, no. A197. Sent by mail in 1995.

What It Feels Like For A Girl

In 1990 Charlotte Gainsbourg co-starred with Julian Sands in the Italian film Il sole anche di notte/The Sun Also Shines at Night (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, 1990).

It was followed by the French black comedy Merci la vie (Bertrand Blier, 1991), in which she and Anouk Grinberg played two young women on a rampage against men and just about whomever else crosses their path. Merci la vie was nominated for the César for Best Film, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Writing, and Best Editing.

She made her English speaking debut in The Cement Garden (1993), written and directed by her uncle, Andrew Birkin. The film based on the novel by Ian McEwan, was entered into the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival, where Birkin won the Silver Bear for Best Director.

Gainsbourg made her stage debut in 1994 in David Mamet's 'Oleanna' at the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse.

In 1996, she starred opposite William Hurt as the title character in Jane Eyre (Franco Zeffirelli, 1996), a film adaption of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel.

In Love Etc. (Marion Vernoux, 1996), she co-starred with French-Israeli actor/director Yvan Attal. The two fell in love a few years earlier and in 1997 their son Ben was born. Together they also have a daughter Alice (2002) and another son Joe (2011).

In 2000, Gainsbourg won the Cesar for Best Supporting Actress for the film La Bûche/Season's Beatings (Danièle Thompson, 1999).

Gainsbourg was also featured on the Madonna album 'Music' (2000) on the track 'What It Feels Like For A Girl'. There is a long, spoken intro by Gainsbourg, taken from the film The Cement Garden, which inspired the title of the song.

In the romantic comedy-drama Ma Femme est une actrice/My Wife is an Actress (Yvan Attal, 2001), she co-starred with her partner Yvan Attal. Attal plays a journalist who becomes obsessively jealous when his actress wife gets a part in a film with an attractive co-star (Terence Stamp). Attal also wrote the script.

In a popular French TV series Les Miserables (Josée Dayan, 2002), she played Fantine opposite Gérard Depardieu and John Malkovich.

Gainsbourg made her Hollywood debut with the successful drama 21 Grams (2003) directed by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. It also stars Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benicio del Toro.

With Attal she appeared again in a romantic comedy, Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants/Happily Ever After (Yvan Attal, 2004), with a lengthy cameo appearance of Johnny Depp, who speaks fluent French.

Charlotte Gainsbourg
French postcard, no. 1175.

Charlotte Gainsbourg
French postcard, no. 207.

Exuberant Sense Of Fun

In 2004, Charlotte Gainsbourg sang a duet with French pop star Étienne Daho on his single 'If'. It led to more. In 2006, more than twenty years, after the release of her debut album 'Charlotte for Ever', she released the album '5:55', to commercial and critical success. It reached the top spot on the French charts and achieved platinum status.

That year, Gainsbourg also appeared alongside Gael García Bernal in Michel Gondry's surrealistic science fantasy comedy La Science des rêves/The Science of Sleep (2006). James Travers at French Film Guide: “it is hard not to be seduced by its naïve poetry, romanticism and exuberant sense of fun. A cinematic oddity it may be, but La Science des rêves is also probably one of the cutest and most authentic French rom-coms you will ever see.”

In 2007, Gainsbourg appeared as Claire in the Todd Haynes-directed Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, also contributing a cover of the Dylan song 'Just Like a Woman' to the film soundtrack.

On 5 September 2007, Gainsbourg was rushed to a Paris hospital where she underwent surgery for a cerebral hemorrhage. She had been experiencing headaches since a minor water-skiing accident in the United States several weeks earlier.

She returned in grand style to the screen in the Danish art film Antichrist (2009), written and directed by Lars von Trier, co-starring Willem Dafoe. It follows horror film conventions and tells the story of a couple who, after the death of their child, retreat to a cabin in the woods where the man experiences strange visions and the woman manifests increasingly violent sexual behaviour.

After premiering at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, where Gainsbourg won the festival's award for Best Actress, the film immediately caused controversy, with critics generally praising the film's artistic execution but strongly divided regarding its substantive merit. Other awards won by the film include the Robert Award for best Danish film, The Nordic Council Film Prize for best Nordic film, and the European Film Award for best cinematography.

In late 2009, Gainsbourg released her third studio album, 'IRM', which was produced by Beck. One of the influential factors in the album's creative process was her time spent filming Antichrist. Gainsbourg's head injury in 2007 influenced the title of the album. 'IRM' is an abbreviation for the French translation of ‘magnetic resonance imaging’. While receiving a brain scan, she began to think about music.

She co-starred with Romain Duris and Jean-Hugues Anglade in the romantic drama Persécution (Patrice Chéreau, 2009) which was nominated for a Golden Lion at the 66th Venice International Film Festival.

Gainsbourg starred in the French/Australian production The Tree (Julie Bertuccelli, 2010), for which she got another César nomination, and in Lars von Trier's apocalyptic drama, Melancholia (2011), with Kirsten Dunst and Alexander Skarsgård.

Dimitri Ehrlich in Interview magazine: “she has managed to avoid all of the ego-trappings of movie stardom, instead working with a seriousness and purity that seem to belong to a different era. Onscreen, she can radiate emotions like a filament about to erupt, with a tenderness and honesty that give her work its gravitational pull.”

Then she starred in Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier, 2013), with Stellan Skarsgård, and in the German 3D drama Every Thing Will Be Fine (Wim Wenders, 2014) with James Franco.

Among her more recent films are Samba (Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano, 2014) with Omar Sy, La promesse de l'aube (Eric Barbier, 2017) and Lux Æterna (Gaspar Noë, 2019) with Béatrice Dalle.

Trailer Samba (Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano, 2014). Source: FRESH Movie Trailers (YouTube).

Sources: James Travers (French Film Guide), Dimitri Ehrlich (Interview), Rebecca Flint Marx (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

This post was last updated on 5 June 2021.