04 July 2020

What letter? THE letter

Long before WhatsApp, before e-mail, even before the telephone, there was... the letter. People wrote them by hand, with ink and in the early days even with a feather. In films, letters were mostly mysterious. Especially in the silent era, letters could carry secrets and lies, but also many love letters were written and read and discovered. Ivo and I searched through our collections and chose 21 film European star postcards with a letter.

Henny Porten in Die Faust des Riesen II (1917)
German postcard in the Film Sterne Series by Rotophot, no. 515/2. Photo: Messter Film, Berlin. Henny Porten in the German two-part silent film drama Die Faust des Riesen (Rudolf Biebrach, 1917).

Hesperia and Claudio Nicola in La Cuccagna (1917)
Italian postcard by IPA CT. V. Uff. Rev. St. - Terni, no. 5074. Photo: Tiber Film. Postcard for La Cuccagna (Baldassarre Negroni, 17 1917), starring Hesperia as Renata Beraud, here also with Claudio Nicola as Aristide Saccard. Caption: "Saccard cannot pay the bills of his wife anymore."

Lyda Borelli in Il dramma di una notte
Spanish collectors card for Chocolat Imperiale by Imp. Bayer Hnos. y C.a. Chromophotography. Lyda Borelli in the Italian melodrama Il dramma di una notte/The Drama of One Night (Mario Caserini, 1918).

Suzanne Grandais in Lorena (1918)
Spanish postcard by Amatller Marca Luna, Series 6, no. 14. Photo: Eclipse. Suzanne Grandais in the French drama Lorena (Georges Tréville, 1918).

Rosa Porten and Theodor Loos in Die Augen der Schwester (1918)
German postcard by Verlag Hermann Leiser, Berlin, no. 3239. Photo: Treumann-Larsen-Film. Rosa Porten and Theodor Loos in Die Augen der Schwester/The eyes of the sister (Franz Eckstein, 1918). Porten also scripted the film.

Lya Mara in Die Serenyi (1918)
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, K. 2268. Photo: Berliner Film-Manufaktur. Lya Mara and Victor Janson in Die Serenyi (Alfred Halm, 1918).

Bruno Kastner and Hanni Weisse in Zwischen zwei Welten (1919)
German postcard by Verlag Ross, no. 590. Photo: Ring-Film. Bruno Kastner and Hanni Weisse in the German silent film Zwischen zwei Welten/Between two worlds (Adolf Gärtner, 1919).

Fern Andra
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 288/2, 1919-1924. Fern Andra Atelier. Caption: Fern Andra in ihrem Heim (Fern Andra at her home).

Pina Menichelli in La seconda moglie (1922)
Italian postcard. Photo: Rinascimento Film, Roma. Pina Menichelli in La seconda moglie (Amleto Palermi, 1923). Caption: That monotonous and grey life awoke in the rebel a whole lost world.

Pina Menichelli and Livio Pavanelli in La seconda moglie (1923)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano. Pina Menichelli and Livio Pavanelli in La seconda moglie (Amleto Palermi, 1923).

The rising gorge of the wicked woman

In her fascinating, ironic text, 'Short Manual for the Aspiring Scenario Writer', the French author Colette gave a typical description of the femme fatale in cinema, largely based on Pina Menichelli. Talking about the 'arms' of the femme fatale Colette indicates the hat and the rising gorge:

"The femme fatale's hat spares her the necessity, at the absolute apex of her wicked career, of having to expend herself in pantomime.

When the spectator sees the evil woman coiffing herself with a spread-winged owl, the head of a stuffed jaguar, a bifid aigrette, or a hairy spider, he no longer has any doubts; he knows just what she is capable of.

And the rising gorge? The rising gorge is the imposing and ultimate means by which the evil woman informs the audience that she is about to weep, that she is hesitating on the brink of crime, that she is struggling against steely necessity, or that the police have gotten their hands on the letter.

What letter? THE letter."

Ernst Rückert
Ernst Rückert. Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 686. Photo: Naxos-Film / Verleih E. Weil & Co.

Lars Hanson in The Scarlet Letter
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 403. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Roma. Lars Hanson as Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale in the period piece The Scarlet Letter (Victor Sjostrom, 1926), set in the era of the Puritans.

Corinne Griffith
Corinne Griffith. Spanish postcard by La Novela Semanal Cinematografica, no. 87.

Henny Porten in Tragödie (1925)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1192/3, 1927-1928. Photo: Henny-Porten-Film. Henny Porten in the German silent drama Tragödie/Tragedy (Carl Froelich, 1925).

Elisabeth Bergner in Fräulein Else (1929)
German postcard by Verlag Herm. Leiser, Berlin-Wilm, no. 6656. Photo: Poetic-Film. Elisabeth Bergner in Fräulein Else/Miss Else (Paul Czinner, 1929), based on the play by Arthur Schnitzler.

Rod La Rocque in The Locked Door (1929)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3851/2, 1928-1929. Photo: PDC. Rod La Rocque in The Locked Door (George Fitzmaurice, 1929).

Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh. Dutch postcard by Foto-archief Film en Toneel, no. AX 283. Photo: Warner Bros.

Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 288. Photo: Warner Bros.

Cécile Aubry (1928-2010) RIP
Cécile Aubry. Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no. 377. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Nadia Gray in Puccini (1953)
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano, no. 135. Photo: Dear Film. Nadia Gray in Puccini (Carmine Gallone, 1953).

Gardy Granass
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no 2323. Photo: Berolina / Constantin. Gardy Granass in Die Christel von der Post (Karl Anton, 1956).

Sean Connery in From Russia with Love (1963)
Dutch postcard. Sean Connery as James Bond in From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963).

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