12 September 2017

Maria Fromet

Maria Fromet (1902-1967), aka 'la petite Fromet', is mostly known for her countless parts as a little girl in the films by Pathé Frères of the early 1910s.

Maria Fromet
French postcard by Edition Pathé Frères. Photo: Félix.

La petite Fromet

Marie Léonie Fromet was born in 1902 in Chauny, Picardie, France. She was the daughter of the stage actors Paul and Marie Fromet. In 1906, Maria started to appear on stage at the age of four. It was the time when the French theatre was ruled by stars such as Réjane, Mistinguett, and Lucien Guitry.

In 1908, Fromet played in L'Oiseau bleu (The Blue Bird) by Maurice Maeterlinck. At the same time, her name was mentioned for the first time in the distribution of a film: Les Orphelins/The Orphans (Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset, 1908), a production by La Société Française des Films Éclair with Eugénie Nau.

It was in 1909 that Maria Fromet entered the Pathé stable, where directors Michel Carré, Georges Denola, Camille de Morlhon, and Georges Monca made her the inevitable little girl of the cinema of the day. She often struggled with evil characters, sometimes she was abandoned, or evolved on the contrary in comedy plots. An example is La récompense d'une bonne action/A Kindness Never Goes Unrewarded (Camille de Morlhon, 1909) in which a little rich girl is kidnapped by ruffians, but is saved by a little barefooted girl whom she earlier handed some pennies.

Publicity called her ‘la petite Fromet’ (little Fromet) and in some films her parents and her sisters - actresses too - were her partners. She appeared in the amusing comedy La tournée des grands ducs/The Grand Dukes Tour (Léonce Perret, 1910) with Polaire doing an Apache dance.

Polaire. French postcard. Photo: Stebbing.


In 1910 Albert Capellani directed Maria Fromet for the first time in the drama Athalie (Albert Capellani, Michel Carré, 1910) with Édouard de Max. She would be his performer in at least six films in three years.

Her starring role was that of Cosette in Capellani's four-part Victor Hugo adaptation Les Misérables (Albert Capellani, 1912) with Henry Krauss as Jean Valjean. In this film, Fromet showed real qualities as an actress, with remarkable finesse and the right tones.

Unfortunately for her career, Maria Fromet grew up too fast, and as early as 1913 the catalogues no longer called her "little" but just "Maria Fromet". So no more child roles were offered. On the stage of the Grand-Guignol she played in 1914 a teenage girl strangled by a madman in Les Morts étranges d'Albury by Albert-Jean. The rest of her trajectory was difficult, the roles less and less numerous.

After L’Ile sans nom/The Nameless Island (René Plaissetty, 1922), a big gap in her film career followed until a minor role in Jean Grémillon's silent film Gardiens de phare/The Lighthouse Keepers (1929) with her father Paul Fromet in the leading role.

In the theatre, Maria Fromet took her revenge, creating Mélo by Henri Bernstein in 1929. On screen she played a minor part in the film adaptation Mélo/The Dreamy Mouth (Paul Czinner, 1932), starring Gaby Morlay, Pierre Blanchar and Victor Francen.

Then Maria Fromet played in pieces by Édouard Bourdet: Les Temps difficiles and Margot. She was engaged by the Comédie-Française in 1937, where she played the classical and modern repertoire until her retirement. She also did a handful of minor film parts in the early 1930s and some occasional ones after that.

Maria Fromet died in Paris in 1967. She was 64. All in all she acted in over 100, mostly short, films.

Henry Krauss
Henry Krauss. French postcard in the Les Vedettes de l' Écran series by Editions Filma, no. 51. Photo: Pathé Consortium Cinéma.

Source: Jacques Richard (1895 - French) and IMDb.

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