22 August 2016

Dany Carrel

French starlet Dany Carrel (1932) was a welcome breath of sexy exoticism in the French cinema of the 1950s and 1960s. With her bob haircut of dark reddish hair, a pair of incredible oriental eyes, and her friendly manners, she played good-willed flirtatious girls in many melodramas and comedies, alongside top directors and stars.

Dany Carrel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, offered by Les carbones Korès (Carboplane), no. 665. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Dany Carrel
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 268. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Dany Carrel
French postcard by Editions du Globe, no. 386. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Dany Carrel
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 436. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Dany Carrel
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. 3543. Photo: Sam Lévin / Unifrance Film.

Saucy Girls

Dany Carrel was born as Yvonne Suzanne Chazelles du Chaxel in Tourane, French Indochina (now Da Nang, Vietnam), in 1932. She was the child of French customs agent Aimé Chazelles of Chaxel and native Kam. Only many years later she would learn of this heritage. Aimé had a legitimate wife back in Europe and still produced two children with Kam (Yvonne and her sister Alice). He died soon after, and Yvonne was shipped to France to meet a godmother that placed her in a religious institution.

After some acting classes Dany got an entry in the cinema. She made her film début in Dortoir des grandes/Inside a Girls' Dormitory (Henri Decoin, 1953), starring Jean Marais and Françoise Arnoul.

Decoin proposed to change her name, suggesting Carrel as a medical book written by a doctor named Alexis Carrel was lying on his desk. Yvonne, tired of being nicknamed Vovonne ou Vonette, chose herself the Dany part, a diminutive that couldn’t be played with or distorted.

For the next few years, Dany Carrel could be seen in minor melodramas and light comedies, often playing saucy girls from the working-class neighbourhood, but never with a really mean streak.

Quickly, she got the main female starring roles in lower-budgeted pictures, and she also co-starred with such acting giants as Gérard Philipe in Les grandes manoeuvres/The Grand Manoeuvre (René Clair, 1954) and Pot-Bouille/Lovers of Paris (Julien Duvivier, 1957), or Jean Gabin in Des gens sans importance/People of No Importance (Henri Verneuil, 1956).

Dany was a big revelation to the public in Portes des Lilas/Gate of Lilacs (René Clair, 1957), opposite Pierre Brasseur. Sometimes tricked by wanna-be bad boys, Dany always retained her intelligence and never played dumb.

Dany Carrel, Gérard Philipe and Danièle Darrieux in Pot-Bouille (1957)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, no. 1294, 1960. Photo: publicity still for Pot-Bouille/Lovers of Paris (Julien Duvivier, 1957) with Gérard Philipe and Danielle Darrieux.

Dany Carrel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, offered by Les Carbones Korès 'Carbopane', no. 922. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Dany Carrel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1030. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Dany Carrel
French postcard by Editions du Globe, no. 810. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Dany Carrel
French postcard by St. Anne, Marseille. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Damsel in Distress

Then Dany Carrel began a phase of international projects, such as the German-French co-production Die Gans von Sedan/Without Trumpet or Drum (Helmut Käutner, 1959) with Hardy Krüger, and the Hollywood production The Enemy General (George Sherman, 1960) starring Van Johnson.

In 1960 she appeared also in two interesting horror films, Il mulino delle donne di pietra/Mill of the Stone Women (Giorgio Ferroni, 1960) and The Hands of Orlac (Edmond T. Gréville, 1960). The Franco-Italian co-production Il mulino delle donne di pietra, starring Pierre Brice, has effective macabre touches. Dany makes for a very believable damsel in distress, and also gets to reveal a bit more of herself when she’s tied down on a table and menaced by a mad doctor.

A couple of times Dany appeared ‘nude’ on screen, but in the early 1960s nude usually meant a sideway glimpse at a naked breast. In The Hands of Orlac, which was simultaneously filmed in a French version, Les mains d’Orlac, she starred with Mel Ferrer and Christopher Lee.

For the first half of the 1960s, she was seen in several gangster pictures, with serious or comedic plots. She co-starred with some of the great comedians of that era, including Louis de Funès in Une souris chez les hommes/A Mouse with the Men (Jacques Poitrenaud, 1964), and Jean Lefebvre in Un idiot à Paris/Idiot in Paris (Serge Korber, 1967).

She got a good supporting part in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s La prisonnière/Woman in Chains (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1968) starring Romy Schneider. Dany played a nude model sweating it out when only wearing a see-through raincoat under harsh lights for a fetish photo session.

Then she began to slow down on film roles. After the heist film Trois milliards sans ascenseur/3000 Million Without an Elevator (Roger Pigaut, 1972) she mainly appeared in TV roles. In the early 1980s she returned to the screen in comedies like Faut s'les faire!... Ces légionnaires/Let Them Do It!... These legionnaires (Alain Nauroy, 1981) with Henri Garcin.

In 1991 she published her book L’annamite/The Vietnamese, recalling her youth. She supervised the TV adaptation L’annamite (Thierry Chabert, 1995), in which actress Gaëlle Le Fur played the Yvonne/Dany role, and Dany Carrel herself appeared as the adult Dany. That same year, she could also be seen in the play Laisse parler ta mère/Let Your Mother Talk.

At Cult Sirens, the webmaster concludes in his excellent profile on her: "One of a kind in the looks department in French cinema of the fifties and part of the list of actress who began to push the boundaries of frank eroticism on the big screen, Dany Carrel is often remembered for her bob haircut of dark reddish hair, exquisite cheekbones and friendly manners, always being able to save a movie from tedium from her mere presence."

Dany Carrel
German postcard by ISV, no. M 7. Photo: Les Films Morceau / Europa-Film.

Dany Carrel
Belgian collectors card by Merbotex, Brussels for Palace, Izegem, no. 23. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Dany Carrel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, offered by Korès (Carboplane), no. 1064.

Dany Carrel
Italian postcard, no. 3.

Dany Carrel
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Trailer for The Hands of Orlac (1960). Source: Sinister Cinema (YouTube).

Sources: Cult Sirens, Wikipedia (French), and IMDb.


Sheila said...

This is one I hadn't known. She had an interesting start in life! I enjoyed the video clip, as I always do.

Postcardy said...

Happy PFF.

There seems to be a problem with your link that links to "home"--it links to MY home.

Mary said...

I had the same issue as Postcardy. Interesting actress - doesn't really look particularly asian, but definitely unusual look.

Funoldhag said...

I would not have minded looking like that pretty little gal! She was born about 4 years after I was but is definitely my generation. Happy PFF

Linda said...

I had the same problem as Postcardy. The link on Best Hearts led back to my blog. Had to find this page through my Google reader. Worth tracking you down, as always!

Dorincard said...

I always learn something new from your posts, Darth The Bicyclist! :)