30 September 2018

Henriëtte Davids

The Netherlands Film Festival in the city of Utrecht is both the home of Dutch cinema and the leading platform for the Netherlands’ national film culture. The 38th edition takes place from 27 September till 5 October 2018, and celebrates the achievements of Dutch filmmakers. And EFSP joins the fun again with The Netherlands Film Star Postcard Festival. Dutch variety artist and comedian Henriëtte 'Heintje' Davids (1888-1975) was the sister of talented cabaret star Louis Davids. She appeared in De Jantjes/The Tars (1934) and several other Dutch films of the 1920s and 1930s.

Henriëtte Davids and Sylvain Poons
Dutch postcard. Photo: Loet C. Barnstijn / Hollandia Film Prod. More interesting than the pair in front on this postcard of the Dutch classic De Jantjes/The Tars (Jaap Speyer, 1934) is the strange pair in the background. They are the street singers Na Druppel and De Mop, played by the Jewish comedians Heintje Davids and Sylvain Poons. Their love duet Omdat ik zoveel van je hou (Because I Love You So) became a Dutch evergreen and both were popular stars in many films of the 1930s.

Henriëtte Davids and Jopie Koopman in Op stap (1935)
Dutch postcard. Photo: Nationaal-film. Publicity still for Op stap/On the road (Ernst Winar, 1935) with Jopie Koopman.

The Gas Chambers of Sobibor

Dutch variety artist and comedian Henriëtte Davids was born as Hendrika David in Rotterdam in 1888. She was the daughter of comedian and bar owner Levie David and soubrette Francina Terveen. The poor family had eight children of which four died young.

Her siblings were artists. She was the sister of actress Rika Davids, actor/singer Louis Davids and musician Hakkie Davids. Louis would die just before the Second World War. In 1943 both Rika and Hakkie did not survive the Nazi gas chambers of Sobibor.

So after the war, Henriëtte was the sole survivor of the Jewish stage family. Originally, her siblings performed together as Familie-theater Davids on carnivals, where they performed songs during the summers. Heintje, as Hendrika was lovingly called, was an ugly duckling: small, fat and with a funny voice. So she was not allowed to join the family theatre.

Against the will of her father, she started her stage career in 1907 as a chanteuse comique in a revue by Henri ter Hall. In 1910 she began to work together with her talented brother Louis. Louis Davids and his sister Rika had formed a popular singing duo, but after Rika's marriage in 1910 to British magician John Weil, Heintje took her place.

Louis had his doubts about his 'talentless' sister, but Heintje was ambitious and opportunistic, and made people laugh with her smart and domineering personality. The duo proved to be such a success that they even made tours through Germany and Great Britain.

Henriëtte Davids made her film debut as a dancer in the silent film Fatum (Theo Frenkel sr., 1914) starring Louis Bouwmeester. She also played in three silent film versions of Jordaan plays by Herman Bouber, Bleeke Bet/Pale Beth (Alex Benno, 1923), Amsterdam bij Nacht/Amsterdam By Night (Theo Frenkel sr., 1924) with Willem van der Veer, and Oranje Hein/Orange Hein (Alex Benno, 1925) featuring Johan Elsensohn.

De Jantjes, Joan Remmelts, Jan van Ees, Sylvain Poons, Johan Kaart jr., Henriëtte Davids, Willy Costello, Susie Klein
Dutch postcard by Hollandia Film Prod. / Loet C. Barnstijn. Photo: publicity still for De Jantjes/The Tars (1934).

Johan Kaart, Suzy Klein, Willy Castello, Henriette Davids, Jan van Ees and Sylvain Poons in De Jantjes
Dutch postcard by Hollandia Film Prod. / Loet C. Barnstijn. Photo: publicity still for De Jantjes/The Tars (1934).

Never Can Say Goodbye

Henriette Davids' sound debut was in the Belgian film Jeunes filles en liberté/Young Girls in Freedom (Fritz Kramp, 1933) with Georges Charlia.

Following the huge success of De Jantjes/The Tars (Jaap Speijer, 1934), she performed in the comedies Op stap/On the Road (Ernst Winar, 1935), De big van het regiment/The Big of the Regiment (Max Nosseck, 1935) and Kermisgasten/Carnival People (Jaap Speyer, 1936) opposite Johan Kaart.

She was married to the journalist/writer Philip 'Rido' Pinkhof who wrote several songs for De Jantjes (1934), including her hit Draaien (Turning). He also wrote some of the dialogues for Kermisgasten/Carnival People (1936) and the script for her last film, Een koninkrijk voor een huis/A Kingdom for a House (Jaap Speyer, 1949), in which she starred once again with Johan Kaart.

Heintje and her husband Rido had miraculously survived the war in several hiding places. In 1948, she got on her sixtieth birthday the now historical Davids-ring of the Municipality of Rotterdam 'in recognition of her great achievements in the field of cabaret and as a posthumous tribute to Rika, Hakkie and Louis'.

In 1954 she officially took leave of the stage, and she gave the Davids-ring to Dutch cabaret artist Wim Kan who passed it forward in 1976 to Herman van Veen. However, after her husband died in 1956 the lonely Heintje soon made her comeback. She kept performing on stage and TV till the late 1960s, often announcing that this was her farewell performance.

Nowadays her name is a synonym in the Netherlands for someone who can’t say goodbye (heintjedavidseffect). Henriëtte Davids finally said farewell to life in 1975 in Naarden, the Netherlands.

Henriëtte Davids
Dutch autograph card, no. 1054.

Heintje Davids and Sylvain Poons sing Omdat ik zoveel van je hou (Because I Love You So) in De Jantjes/The Tars (1934). Source: Pieteroyama (YouTube).

Louis Davids sings Als je voor een dubbeltje geboren bent... (If You Are Born For a Dime) in Op stap/On the Road (1935) with Frits van Dongen and Henriëtte Davids. Source: Brassens66 (YouTube).

Sources: Wim Ibo (Historici.nl - Dutch), Wikipedia (Dutch) and IMDb.

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