Paul van Yperen's Blog

June 19, 2021

Grease (1978)

John Travolta had his breakthrough as disco dancer Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977). He followed it up with the part of leather jacket wearing, hunky greaser Danny Zuko in the romantic film musical Grease (1978) opposite Olivia Newton-John as goody-goody Sandy. The film, an adaptation of the 1950s musical 'Grease' about the highs and lows of a group of teenagers at a California high school in 1958, was directed by Randal Kleiser. Its box-office success even surpassed Saturday Night Fever's and catapulted Travolta to international stardom.

John Travolta in Grease (1978)
German promotion card by Polydor, no. 118. John Travolta in Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978).

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease (1978)
Dutch postcard, no. AG 1009. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978).

John Travolta and Olivia Newton John in Grease (1978)
Dutch postcard. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978).

John Travolta and Olivia Newton John in Grease (1978)
Dutch postcard. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978).

Sandy and Danny
Grease (1978) is an American musical romantic comedy film based on the 1971 musical of the same name by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Written by Bronte Woodard, the film depicts the summer romance of greaser Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Australian transfer student Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John). In the fall, the first day of school arrives and little does Danny expect he and Sandy will be reunited. Sandy is shocked to find the nice guy she met at the beach is at school the leader of a greaser gang called 'The T'birds'. She joins the Pink Ladies, led by the sex-happy Rizzo (Stockard Channing) who acidly observes that virginal Sandy is "too pure to be Pink".

John Travolta, who had previously worked with producer Robert Stigwood on Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977), had recorded the top-10 hit 'Let Her In' in 1976, and had previously appeared as Doody in a touring production of the stage version of 'Grease'. He made a number of casting recommendations that Stigwood ultimately accepted, including suggesting Randall Kleiser as director. Kleiser had never directed a theatrical feature before this but had directed Travolta in the telefilm The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976).

Travolta also suggested Olivia Newton-John, then known almost exclusively as a multiple Grammy-winning pop and country singer, as Sandy. Newton-John had done little acting before this film, with only two film credits to her name up to that time: the Australian comedy  Funny Things Happen Down Under (Joe McCormick, 1965) and the little-seen space musical Toomorrow (Val Guest, 1970), which predated her singing breakthrough. Before accepting the role, Newton-John requested a screen test for Grease to avoid another career setback. The screen test was done with the drive-in movie scene. Newton-John, who was born in England and spent most of her childhood in Australia, was unable to perform with a convincing American accent, and thus her character was rewritten to be Australian.

Like Travolta, Jeff Conaway (as Danny's right hand Kenickie) had previously appeared in the stage version of Grease. He had played Danny Zuko during the show's run on Broadway. Jamie Donnelly reprised her role as Jan from the Broadway show, the only cast member to do so. Kelly Ward had previously appeared as a similar sarcastic supporting character in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble with Travolta under Kleiser. He was cast as Putzie, a mostly new character.

Lorenzo Lamas (Tom Chisum) was a last-minute replacement for Steven Ford, who developed stage fright shortly before filming and backed out. His role contained no spoken dialogue and required Lamas to dye his hair blond to avoid looking like one of the T-Birds. Adult film star Harry Reems was originally signed to play Coach Calhoun. However, executives at Paramount nixed the idea, concerned that his reputation as a porn star would hinder box office returns in the Southern United States, and producers cast Sid Caesar instead. Caesar was one of several veterans of 1950s television (Eve Arden as Principal McGee, Frankie Avalon, Joan Blondell , Edd Byrnes) to be cast in supporting roles.

Director Randal Kleiser took numerous liberties with the original source material, most notably moving the setting from an urban Chicago setting as the original musical had been to a more suburban locale, reflecting his own teenage years at Radnor High School in the suburbs of Philadelphia. However, the best part of the film is the music with such fun songs as 'Summer Nights', 'You're the One That I Want' and 'Greased Lightining'.

Grease (1978) was successful both critically and commercially, becoming the highest-grossing musical film ever at the time. David Abolafia at AllMovie: "One of the last of the big movie musicals, Grease succeeds in spite of itself, with singers who can't act, actors who can't sing, and a plot so corny it should have a husk. But this tale of true love and teen angst circa 1955 is sure to leave one's toes a-tapping, thanks to a dynamite soundtrack of golden oldies, plus original music". The film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song, 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' by John Farrar. The soundtrack album ended in 1978 as the second-best-selling album of the year in the United States, behind the soundtrack of that other blockbuster Saturday Night Fever (1977).

Retrospective reviews have generally been positive. In 1998, Roger Ebert wrote: "It is now clear that, slumps or not, comebacks or not, Travolta is an important and enduring movie star whose presence can redeem even a compromised Grease. This is not one of his great films - it lacks the electricity of Saturday Night Fever or the quirky genius of Pulp Fiction - but it has charm." In 1982 a sequel was launched, Grease 2 (1982), produced by Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood and directed and choreographed by Patricia Birch, who also choreographed the first film and the Broadway musical. Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer starred as a newer class of greasers. Didi Conn, Sid Caesar, and Eve Arden of the original cast reprised their roles. The film grossed a little over $15 million against a production budget of $11 million.

John Travolta in Grease
Dutch postcard, no. AX 7381. John Travolta in Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978).

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease (1978)
Dutch postcard, no. AX 7377. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978).

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease (1978)
Dutch postcard, no. AX 7377. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978).

John Travolta in Grease (1978)
Dutch postcard, no. AX 7375. John Travolta in Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978).

Sources: Roger Ebert, David Abolafia (AllMovie), Lucia Bozzola (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.
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Published on June 19, 2021 22:00

June 18, 2021

G. Dupont-Emera (G.D.E.)

Amazing is the right word for this series of early 20th Century postcards by G.D.E. French actors are portrayed in unusual, sometimes lively poses which seem like improvisations for the camera. The photos and the postcards were made in Belgium by G. Dupont-Emera in Brussels and the French actors probably visited his studio at the Rue Royale 124 and 142 between 1898 and 1909 when they performed on a stage in the Belgian capital. Dupont started his first studio in Brussels in 1896 at 43 Montagne de la Cour (1896-1900). His final studio was located at 44 rue de la Ligne. Little else is known about photographer and publisher G. Dupont-Emera (1865-?) or Dupont, but EFSP salutes his work!

André Brulé in Vieil Heidelberg
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera), Rue Royale 142, Bruxelles. André Brulé in the play 'Vieil Heidelberg' (Alt Heidelberg) (1906). The card was sent by mail in 1909. 'Alt Heidelberg' was a popular German stage play by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster. It was staged in France for the first time in 1906, at the Theatre Antoine, in a translation by Maurice Remon & W. Bauer. It knew many adaptations for the cinema. Ernst Lubitsch adapted it as The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg (1927), starring Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer.

French actor André Brulé (1879-1953) created Arsène Lupin on the stage (1908, Athenee, Paris). Brulé also played in such films as Werther (1910), Le club des élégants (1912), and Les frères corses (1917). in the late 1930s, he also played several protagonists such as the lead in Vidocq (1938), Fernand in Les gens du voyage (1938), and Monsieur de Nogrelles in Retour de flamme (1943).

Jules Berry
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera), Rue Royale 142, Bruxelles.

French actor and director Jules Berry (1883-1951) is best remembered for his superb character work in the films by Jean Renoir and Marcel Carné.

Maurice de De Féraudy
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera), Rue Royale 142, Bruxelles.

Maurice de Féraudy (1859-1932) was a French director and an actor of the Comédie-Française. He was also a notable actor and director in French silent cinema.

Henry Krauss
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera), Rue Royale 142, Bruxelles.

French actor and director Henry Krauss (1866-1935) was a veteran of European cinema. From 1908 on he starred in several powerful character roles in early silent films.

Jules Berry
Jules Berry
French postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera). At the start of his stage career, actor Jules Berry played for twelve years at the Galeries Saint-Hubert theatre in Brussels. The Brussels public gave him a very warm welcome. He played in particular in the comedy Le Mariage de Mademoiselle Beulemans, which had its premiere in 1910 at the Théâtre de l'Olympia in Brussels, and became a big success in Belgium and abroad, and was also turned into an operetta (1912) and film adaptations (1927, 1932, 1950). Berry's outfit in this card may well refer to this popular play. He played Albert, a Parisian employee of the brewer Beulemans, and this not only in Brussels but also in the Paris and London performances of the play.

Jules Berry
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera).

Jules Berry
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera).

André Brulé
André Brulé in Vieil Heidelberg
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera).

André Brulé
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera, Bruxelles). André Brulé must have done a large photo shoot for Dupont, as many cards by GDE exist of him, either in his princely uniform from the play 'Vieil Heidelberg', or in his "ordinary" clothes.

André Brulé in Vieil Heidelberg
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera, Bruxelles). André Brulé an unknown actor in the play 'Vieil Heidelberg' (Old Heidelberg). Sent by mail in Belgium in 1908.

André Brulé
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera, Bruxelles).

André Brulé
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera, Bruxelles).

Andre Brulé
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera, Bruxelles).

André Brulé
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera, Bruxelles).

André Brulé in Vieil Heidelberg
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera, Bruxelles).

Henry Krauss
Henry Krauss
Belgian postcard by G.D.E. (G. Dupont-Emera, Bruxelles).

Henry Krauss in Don César de Bazan
Belgian postcard by Ed. Vanderauwera & Cie., Bruxelles. Photo: Dupont. Caption: Henry Krauss in 'Don César de Bazan'. 'Don César de Bazan' is an opéra comique by Jules Massenet, based on the drama 'Ruy Blas' by Victor Hugo.

Henry Krauss
Belgian postcard by Ed. Vanderauwera & Cie., Bruxelles. Photo: Dupont. Caption: Henry Krauss in 'Don César de Bazan'. 'Don César de Bazan' is an opéra comique by Jules Massenet, based on the drama 'Ruy Blas' by Victor Hugo.

Henry Krauss
Belgian postcard by Ed. Vanderauwera & Cie., Bruxelles. Photo: Dupont. Caption: Henry Krauss in 'Don César de Bazan'. 'Don César de Bazan' is an opéra comique by Jules Massenet, based on the drama 'Ruy Blas' by Victor Hugo.

Henry Krauss
Belgian-French postcard by Vanderauwera & Co., Bruxelles / Paris. Photo: Dupont. Henry Krauss in the lead role of the stage play 'Paillasse' by Adolphe d'Ennery.

Henry Krauss as Hamlet
Franco-Belgian postcard by Vanderauwera & Co., Brussels / Paris. Photo: Dupont. Henry Krauss in 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare.

Henry Krauss in Hamlet
Franco-Belgian postcard by Vanderauwera & Co., Brussels / Paris. Photo: Dupont. Caption: Henry Krauss as Hamlet.

Four extra cards
Beulemans marie sa fille
Belgian postcard. Photo: G. Dupont-Emèra (G.D.E.), Bruxelles. Alfred Jacque as Beulemans and Suzanne Gay as his daughter Suzanne in the operetta 'Beulemans marie sa fille' (1912), an adaptation of the stage comedy 'Le marriage de Mlle Beulemans' (1910) by Frantz Fonson et Fernand Wicheler, with music by Arthur Van Oost, and staged at the Brussels Théàtre Royal des Galeries St. Hubert.

Beulemans marie sa fille
Belgian postcard. Photo: Photo G. Dupont-Emera (G.D.E.), Bruxelles. Publicity still for the operetta 'Beulemans marie sa fille' (1912), an adaptation of the stage comedy 'Le marriage de Mlle Beulemans' (1910) by Frantz Fonson et Fernand Wicheler, with music by Arthur Van Oost, and staged at the Brussels Théàtre Royal des Galeries St. Hubert.

Beulemans marie sa fille
Belgian postcard. Photo: Photo G. Dupont-Emera (G.D.E.), Bruxelles. Publicity still for the operetta 'Beulemans marie sa fille' (1912), an adaptation of the stage comedy 'Le marriage de Mlle Beulemans' (1910) by Frantz Fonson et Fernand Wicheler, with music by Arthur Van Oost, and staged at the Brussels Théàtre Royal des Galeries St. Hubert.

Jules Berry and Jane Delmar in La Demoiselle du magasin (1913)
Belgian postcard. Photo: G. Dupont-Emèra (G.D.E.). Jules Berry as André and Jane Delmar as Claire in the play 'La Demoiselle du magasin' (The shop girl), a 1913 theatrical play in three acts written by Belgians Frantz Fonson and Fernand Wicheler, who had already had a big success with their play 'Le marriage de Mlle Beulemans' (1910). 'La Demoiselle du magasin' was first performed in Paris at the Théâtre du Gymnase, from 13 February 1913. From 12 October of the same year, it was shown at the Théâtre des Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels - to which this card refers. For Delmar, the play meant her claim of fame. After months of performances in Paris, the success was repeated in Brussels. In 1915 the play was staged again in Paris, but this time without Berry. In 1921 there were plans to stage it once more, now again with Berry.

Sources: and BnF.
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Published on June 18, 2021 22:00

June 17, 2021

Barbara La Marr

Beautiful Barbara La Marr (1896–1926) was an American film actress, who appeared in twenty-seven films during her career between 1920 and 1926. The 'Girl Who Is Too Beautiful' was noted for her beauty and her tempestuous marital history. After some early experience in Vaudeville, she became a screenplay writer, and then a performer, appearing with Douglas Fairbanks, Ramon Novarro, and others in over thirty films, as well as dancing on Broadway. Her hedonistic lifestyle in Hollywood, with heavy drug dependence, led to her early death.

Barbara La Marr
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 793/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Transocean-Film-Co., Berlin.

Barbara La Marr
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 159. Photo: Hoover.

Discovered by Mary Pickford
Barbara La Marr was born Reatha Dale Watson in Yakima, Washington, in 1896. Her parents were William and Rosana 'Rose' Watson. Her father was an editor for a newspaper and her mother, a native of Corvallis, Oregon, already had one son, Henry, and a daughter, Violet, from a previous marriage.

She spent her early life in the Pacific Northwest before relocating with her family to California when she was a teenager. She made her acting debut as Little Eva in a Tacoma stage production of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' in 1904.

After performing in Vaudeville and working as a dancer in New York City, she moved to Los Angeles with her husband, Vaudevillian Ben Deely. She became a screenwriter for Fox Film Corporation and wrote six films for the company. She was credited as writer Barbara La Marr Deely on the films The Mother of His Children, The Rose of Nome, Flame of Youth, The Little Grey Mouse, and The Land of Jazz (all released in 1920).

La Marr was finally "discovered" by Mary Pickford, who reportedly embraced her and said, "My dear, you are too beautiful to be behind a camera. Your vibrant magnetism should be shared by film audiences."

She made her film debut in Harriet and the Piper (Bertram Bracken, 1920), starring Anita Stewart . Though a supporting part, the film garnered her attention from audiences. La Marr made the successful transition from writer to actress with her supporting role in The Nut (Theodore Reed, 1921). Under her new name of Barbara La Marr, she played a femme fatale opposite Douglas Fairbanks . Later the same year, she was hired by Fairbanks to play the substantial part of Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers (Fred Niblo, 1921), starring Douglas Fairbanks as d'Artagnan.

Barbara La Marr
Spanish collectors card by Chocolates selectos Evaristo Juncosa Pañella, Barcelona, in the Notabilitades de la pantalla. Series B, no. 8. (A series of 15 pictures). Barbara La Marr as Antoinette de Mauban in The Prisoner of Zenda (Rex Ingram, 1922).

Too beautiful and young to be on her own in the big city
In the following years, Barbara La Marr acted frequently in films. She became known to the public as "The Girl Who Is Too Beautiful", after Adela Rogers St. Johns, a Hearst newspaper feature writer, saw a judge sending her home during a police beat in Los Angeles because she was "too beautiful and young to be on her own in the big city." This publicity did much to promote her career.

She also made two further career-boosting films with director Rex Ingram , The Prisoner of Zenda (1922), and Trifling Women (1922), both with Ramon Novarro .

Then, La Marr signed with Arthur H. Sawyer to make several films for various studios, including The Hero (Louis J. Gasnier, 1923), Souls for Sale (Rupert Hughes, 1923) with Eleanor Boardman, and The Shooting of Dan McGrew (Clarence G. Badger, 1924), the first and last of which she co-wrote.

During her career, she became known as the pre-eminent vamp of the 1920s. She partied and drank heavily, once remarking to the press that she only slept two hours a night.

In 1924, during the filming of Thy Name Is Woman (Fred Niblo, 1924), production supervisor Irving Thalberg made regular visits to the set to ensure that La Marr's alcoholism was not interfering with the shoot. The same year, La Marr's first starring, above-the-title role came in the drama Sandra (Arthur H. Sawyer, 1924). La Marr had served as a co-writer on the film, which focused on a woman suffering from a split-personality disorder. Upon release, the film received dismally negative reviews.

Ramon Novarro and Barbara La Marr in The Prisoner of Zenda (1922)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 697/5, 1919-1924. Photo: BAFAG (British-American-Films A.G.). Ramon Novarro and Barbara la Marr in The Prisoner of Zenda (Rex Ingram, 1922).

 A series of crash diets for comeback roles
Barbara La Marr's health began to falter after a series of crash diets for comeback roles further affected her lifestyle. It led to her death from pulmonary tuberculosis and nephritis.

While shooting The Girl from Montmartre (Alfred E. Green, 1925) in early October 1925, La Marr collapsed on set and went into a fatal coma. She was only 29. The studio wrapped production without her with the use of a double in long shots. The Girl from Montmartre was a critical success.

Barbara La Marr was posthumously honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to the film industry. La Marr officially was married four times.

La Marr's first marriage in 1914, was to a Max Lawrence, who later turned out to be a former soldier of fortune named Lawrence Converse. He already was married with children when he married La Marr under a false name and was arrested for bigamy the following day. Converse died of a blood clot in his brain three days later.

In 1916, La Marr married Philip Ainsworth, a noted dancer. Although the son of well-off parents, Ainsworth eventually was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison for passing bad checks, and the couple divorced in 1917.

She married for a third time to Ben Deely, also a dancer, in 1918. He was over twice her age, an alcoholic and a gambling addict, which led to the couple's separation in 1921.

Before the divorce from Deely was finalised, La Marr married actor Jack Dougherty in 1923. Despite separating a year later, they remained legally married until her death.

Some years after La Marr's death, she was revealed to have given birth to a son, Marvin Carville La Marr, in 1922. The name of the boy's father has never been released. During her final illness, La Marr entrusted the care of her son to her close friend, actress ZaSu Pitts, and Pitts' husband, film executive Tom Gallery. After La Marr's death, the child was legally adopted by Pitts and Gallery and was renamed Don Gallery. Don Gallery died in 2014.

Barbara La Marr
Danish postcard by J. Chr. Olsons Kunstforlag, Eneret, no. 812. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Barbara La Marr
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London. Photo: Metro.

Sources: Wikipedia and .
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Published on June 17, 2021 22:00

June 16, 2021

Fernand Ledoux

Fernand Ledoux (1897-1993) was a French character actor of Belgian origin who appeared in close to 80 films. Although films such as La Bête humaine (1938) and Remorques (Jean Grémillon, 1941) made him popular, he was above all a man of the theatre. For twenty-two years, he was a leading member of the Comédie-Française.

Fernand Ledoux
French postcard, no. 94. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Fernand Ledoux in On ne badine pas avec l'amour
Original photo by Studio Harcourt. Fernand Ledoux in On ne badine pas avec l'amour (Jean Desailly, 1955).

Coryphée at the Comédie-Française
Fernand Ledoux was born Jacques Joseph Félix Fernand Ledoux in Tienen/Tirlemont, Belgium, in 1897. He was the son of Joseph Ledoux, a Belgian wine wholesaler, and a Frenchwoman, Florentine Loos, the daughter of a lacemaker. His paternal great-grandfather was Napoleon I's coachman who, after the farewell at Fontainebleau in 1815, went to live in Belgium where he established himself.

Fernand Ledoux studied at the college in Tienen, then at the seminary in Saint-Trond (Sint-Truiden). He was 17 when the 'Great War' broke out. Ledoux chose his mother's French nationality and, during the First World War, joined the infantry. He finished the campaign as a machine gun sergeant.

After the armistice, in 1919, he arrived in Paris and began to attend classes with Raphaël Duflos at the Conservatoire National d'Art Dramatique (CNSAD). There, he obtained the second prize in acting. Ledoux then began to play small roles, in particular at the Comédie-Française where he was hired in 1921 by Maurice de Féraudy for small roles (at the time called 'coryphée'). He made his debut as a peasant in 'Monsieur de Pourceaugnac'. From 1931 to 1942, he was a member of the Comédie-Française.

Jacques Feyder, who had noticed him at the Conservatoire, offered him his first film role in the short silent comedy La Faute d'orthographe/The spelling mistake (Jacques Feyder, 1919.) He cast him again in the fantasy L'Atlantide/Lost Atlantis (Jacques Feyder, 1921).

Ledoux was particularly known as the stationmaster and the deadly jealous husband of Séverine ( Simone Simon ) in Jean Renoir 's famous film La Bête humaine/The Human Beast (1938). In 1941, Maurice Tourneur gave him a beautiful role as a shady character in his Volpone (1941).

In the meantime, in 1938, Pierre Dux, Fernand Ledoux, and Alfred Adam opened an acting class in a studio on the top floor of the Théâtre Pigalle. Although it was the cinema that made him popular, Ledoux was above all a man of the theatre.

On 3 September 1939, he was at sea off the coast of Dakar when the radio onboard announced the outbreak of war. He returned to Paris, but at the age of 42, he could not be mobilised. Wishing to fight, he enlisted in April 1940 in the 212th regional regiment in Fontainebleau, from where the retreat took him and his corps to the village of Coudures in the Landes.

In 1942, he stopped his activities at the Comédie-Française to avoid acting in front of the occupying forces and devoted himself exclusively to the cinema. That same year, he was remarkable in Goupi Mains Rouges/It Happened at the Inn (Jacques Becker, 1942) and in Les Visiteurs du soir/The Devil's Envoys (Marcel Carné, 1942).

La bête humaine (1938)
French postcard by Ed. Hazan, Paris. Poster or lobbycard of La bête humaine (Jean Renoir, 1938), starring Jean Gabin and Simone Simon , co-starring Fernand Ledoux and Carette.

Remorques (1941)
French postcard by Fernand Hazan ed., Paris, no. 1605 C. French poster for the film Remorques/Stormy Waters (Jean Gremillon, 1941), starring Jean Gabin , Michèle Morgan and Madeleine Renaud, co-starring Charles Blavette and Fernand Ledoux. Design poster: Henry Monnier.

Goupi Mains Rouges
French poster for the film Goupi Mains Rouges/It Happened at the Inn (Jacques Becker, 1942). Collection: José Vicente Salamero @ Flickr.

A special status boarder
In September 1944, after the Liberation, Fernand Ledoux was worried for a while by the resistance, because he had participated in the films of the German-owned Continental company. But it was soon proven that this participation was purely professional and non-political.

Between 1940 and 1945 Fernand Ledoux was very popular in France, acting in such films as Remorques/Stormy Waters (Jean Grémillon, 1941) in which he was reunited with Jean Gabin after La Bête humaine/The Human Beast, Premier Bal/First Ball (Christian Jaque, 1941) in which he was the father of the leads Marie Déa and Gaby Sylvia , and Le Lit à colonnes/The Four-poster (Roland Tual, 1941) in which he is a prison warden who becomes successful by stealing compositions from a prisoner.

Ledoux had the male leads in the Georges Simenon adaptation L'Homme de Londres/The London Man (Henri Decoin, 1943) as a railwayman who witnesses a murder and grabs a suitcase filled with money, in Des jeunes filles dans la nuit/Young girls in the night (René Le Hénaff, 1943) about the sudden return home of six boarding girls after their boarding house burns down, in Béatrice devant le désir/Behold Beatrice (Jean de Marguenat, 1944) about an unscrupulous doctor, and in Sortilèges/The Bellman (Christian Jaque, 1945) also with Madeleine Robinson .

In the immediate postwar years, Ledoux continued to have male leads in e.g. La Rose de la mer/The Sea Rose (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1946) also with Roger Pigaut , Danger de mort/Mortal danger (Gilles Grangier, 1947), Éternel Conflit/Eternal Conflict (Georges Lampin, 1948), L'Ombre/The shadow (André Berthomieu, 1948), Pattes blanches/White Paws (Jean Grémillon, 1949), Le Mystère Barton/The Barton Mystery (Charles Spaak, 1949), and Monseigneur/Monsignor (Roger Richebé, 1949).

From 1950 to 1954, Ledoux returned to the Comédie-Française as a special status boarder where he made several striking creations. Also, after an absence in 1950-1951, Ledoux had again a prolific film career in the 1950s with e.g. the Italo-French coproduction La ragazza di Trieste/Les Loups chassent la nuit/Wolves Hunt at Night (Bernard Borderie, 1952) with Carla Del Poggio and Jean-Pierre Aumont , and the Franco-American film An Act of Love (Anatole Litvak, 1953) with Kirk Douglas and Dany Robin .

In 1954, he played a grumpy middle-class Frenchman in the film Papa, maman, la Bonne et moi/Papa, Mama, the Maid and I (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1954), starring Robert Lamoureux , as well as the sequel Papa, maman, ma femme et moi/Papa, Mama, My Woman and Me (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1956), another Franco-Italian production by Borderie: Fortune carrée/Square Fortune (Bernard Borderie, 1955), Les Aventures de Till l'Espiègle/Tyll Ulenspiegel's adventures (Gérard Philipe, Joris Ivens, 1956), Les Violent/The violents (Henri Calef, 1957), Les Misérables (Jean-Paul Le Chanois, 1958) in which he played Mgr. Le Myriel, and Christine (Pierre Gaspard-Huit, 1958) in which he played Romy Schneider 's father.

Fernand Ledoux in L'homme de Londres (1943)
French postcard by Carterie artistique et cinématographique in the Series Encyclopédie du cinéma, no. 1732. French poster for L'Homme de Londres (Henri Decoin, 1943) starring Fernand Ledoux. Design: Hervé Moran.

Till l'Espiegle (Gérard Philipe 1956)
French postcard by Carterie artistique et cinématographique in theSeries Encyclopédie du cinéma, no. 647. French poster for Les Aventures de Till L'Espiègle (Gérard Philipe, Joris Ivens, 1956), starring Gérard Philipe and also with Fernand Ledoux, Nicole Berger, and Jean Carmet. Design: Marcel Jeanne.

The oldest French actor
From 1958 to 1967, Fernand Ledoux taught drama at the Conservatoire national d'art dramatique. His students included Suzanne Flon, Claude Brosset, Guy Tréjan, Élisabeth Alain, Jacques Lassalle and Michel Duchaussoy.

He also acted in a few American productions, such as The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, a.o., 1961), Freud: The Secret Passion (John Huston, 1962) in which he played the role of Professor Charcot, The Trial (1962) by Orson Welles , and Up from the Beach (Robert Parrish, 1964).

He also worked with such directors as Jacques Demy on the musical Peau d'âne/Donkey Skin (1970) starring Catherine Deneuve , and Claude Chabrol on the fantasy Alice ou la Dernière Fugue/Alice or the Last Escapade (1977), featuring Sylvia Kristel . He retired from the screen after acting again in Les Misérables (Robert Hossein, 1982), now as Mr. Gillenormand, the oncle of Marius.

He was also seen in numerous television films. Ledoux completely retired in 1984. After the death of the actor Charles Vanel in 1989, he became the oldest French actor until his death in 1993. Just as for Charles Vanel , between 1989 and 1993, on his birthdays, he was visited by TV news teams or the written press, or he recounted his memories during reports on his person.

Fernand Ledoux married Fernande Thabuy in 1931, The couple had four children: Claude, Françoise, Thierry and Jacques. Fernande died in 1997. A great lover of the Normandy coast, which he loved to paint, Ledoux lived in Pennedepie, then in Villerville in the Côte-d'Or region. In this town, he died at the age of 96. Fernand Ledoux is buried in Villerville.

Fernand Ledoux
French postcard by SERP, Paris, no. 88. Photo: Studio Harcourt, Paris.

Fernand Ledoux
French postcard, no. 39. Photo: Studio Carlet Ainé.

Sources: Wikipedia (French and English), and .
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Published on June 16, 2021 22:00

June 15, 2021

Lea Massari

Lea Massari (1933) is an Italian actress who worked in both Italian and French cinema. She is best remembered for such film classics as Michelangelo Antonioni's L'avventura (1960) as the missing girl Anna, and Louis Malle's Le Souffle au Coeur (1971) as Clara, the mother of a sexually precocious 14-year-old boy.

Lea Massari
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. N. 154.

Lea Massari
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. 694.

A sweet girl in love
Lea Massari was born in 1933 in Rome, in the district of Monteverde Vecchio, as Anna Maria Massatani. She was the daughter of a Roman engineer, and also of Umbrian descent on her mother's side.

During her childhood, she lived in Spain, France, and Switzerland. Back in Rome, she enrolled at university and attended architecture courses in the early 1950s. In the meantime, she worked as a model and collaborated with the set and costume designer Piero Gherardi, a family friend, who soon introduced her to the world of cinema.

On the set of the film Proibito/Forbidden (1954), where Gherardi worked, director Mario Monicelli noticed her aristocratic and refined features, underlined by her feline gaze and hoarse voice. He convinced her to play a passionate Sardinian girl, alongside Amedeo Nazzari and Mel Ferrer.

On the occasion of her debut on the big screen, at the age of 21, she assumed a stage name in memory of her fiancé Leo, with whom she was supposed to be married, but who died in a tragic accident a few days before the wedding.

The role of the sweet girl in love was repeated in I sogni nel cassetto/Dreams in a Drawer (Renato Castellani, 1957), where she was dubbed by Adriana Asti.

Lea Massari,
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmverleih Starfoto no. 1101. Photo: Rizzoli Film. Lea Massari in I sogni nel cassetto (Renato Castellani, 1957), in East-Germany titled Träume in der Schublade.

A dreamy young woman who suddenly disappears
In the 1960s Lea Massari took part in many Italian and French productions, playing increasingly challenging roles, mostly as a middle-class woman. She began to gain international notoriety alongside Gabriele Ferzetti and Monica Vitti in Michelangelo Antonioni's film L'avventura/The Adventure (1960). She played perhaps the most iconic role of the first phase of her career, that of Anna, a dreamy young woman who suddenly disappears during a boating trip in the Mediterranean. L'Avventura was nominated for numerous awards and was awarded the Jury Prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.

In the same period, she was in the cast of more important films such as La giornata balorda/From a Roman Balcony (Mauro Bolognini, 1960), Il colosso di Rodi/The Colossus of Rhodes (Sergio Leone, 1960) alongside Rory Calhoun, and especially Una vita difficile/A Difficult Life (Dino Risi,1961) opposite Alberto Sordi and Franco Fabrizi .

Although uncredited, she is notable in Le quattro giornate di Napoli/The Four Days of Naples (Nanni Loy, 1962), based on a subject by Vasco Pratolini, followed by participation in another war-themed film, La città prigioniera/The Captive City (Joseph Anthony, 1962) with David Niven , Ben Gazzara, and Martin Balsam.

In that period she received a special David di Donatello award for her performance in I sogni muoiono all'alba/Dreams Die at Dawn (Mario Craveri, Enrico Gras, 1961). The film is set during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and based on a play by Indro Montanelli.

In 1963 she was proposed for the role of Marcello Mastroianni's wife in by Federico Fellini , later assigned to Anouk Aimée ; it seems that during the audition for this part the director was not convinced because of inadequate make-up by Gherardi. In the same year she starred with Francisco Rabal in the drama Llanto por un bandido/I cavalieri della vendetta/Weeping for a Bandit (Carlos Saura, 1963).

Lea Massari
West-German postcard by Ufa/Film-Foto, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. FK 2251. Photo: Unitalia Film, Roma.

A sensational accusation for corruption of minors
Since the early years of her career, Lea Massari was often paired with well-known French actors, such as Jean Sorel in the aforementioned La giornata balorda (Mauro Bolognini, 1960), Alain Delon in the Film Noir L'insoumis/The Unvanquished (Alain Cavalier, 1964), and La prima notte di quiete (Valerio Zurlini, 1972) for which she won the first of her two Nastri d'argento, and Maurice Ronet in Il giardino delle delizie/The garden of delights (1967), a debut film by Silvano Agosti which was heavily censored in Italy.

She also appeared with Jean-Louis Trintignant in La course du lièvre à travers les champs/And Hope to Die (René Clément, 1972), Yves Montand in Le fils/The Son (Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1973), Philippe Leroy in La linea del fiume/The river line (Aldo Scavarda, 1976) and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Chi dice donna dice donna/Whoever says woman says woman (Tonino Cervi, 1976).

In 1970 she teamed up with Michel Piccoli and Romy Schneider in the controversial Les Choses de la vie/The Things of Life, the first success of director Claude Sautet, for which the Roman actress won the Louis-Delluc award. she would return to work with Piccoli in Le divorcement (Pierre Barouh, 1979).

Much appreciated especially in France, after having dealt with the scabrous theme of incest in Louis Malle's French comedy-drama Le Souffle au Coeur/Murmur of the Heart (1971), where she played probably the most important role of her maturity and which also cost her a sensational accusation in Italy for corruption of minors, closed with a full acquittal. The film was screened at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival and was a box office success in France. In the United States, it received positive reviews and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. In 1973 she received an Étoile de Cristal as the best foreign actress.

In 1969 she had also starred with Gérard Blain and debutant Teo Teocoli in Gianni Vernuccio's film Paolo e Francesca, released two years later. She appeared in John Frankenheimer's Story of a Love Story (1973), opposite Alan Bates and Dominique Sanda , and Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's historical drama Allonsanfàn (1974), opposite Marcello Mastroianni . In 1975 she was called to participate as a juror at the Cannes Film Festival.

In 1977, she took part in the film Antonio Gramsci - I giorni del carcere/Antonio Gramsci: The Days of Prison (Lino Del Fra, 1977) with Riccardo Cucciolla which won the Pardo d'oro at the Locarno Festival. In 1979 she received her second Nastro d'argento for the role of Luisa Levi in Cristo si è fermato a Eboli/Christ Stopped at Eboli (Francesco Rosi, 1978) where she played alongside Gian Maria Volonté, whom she herself considered the best colleague she had ever worked with.

Lea Massari
Small Romanian collectors card.

Lea Massari
Small Romanian collectors card.

An actress notoriously disinclined to be a star
Lea Massari has also worked successfully in the theatre, including in William Gibson's 'Due sull'altalena' (Two for the Seesaw) (1960), directed by Arnoldo Foà, and on television, as in Capitan Fracassa/Captain Fracasse (1958), I promessi sposi/The Betrothed (1967), in the role of the Monaca di Monza (the nun of Monza), I fratelli Karamazov/The Brothers Karamazov (1969) and Quaderno proibito/Forbidden notebook (1980).

She was particularly appreciated by audiences and critics was her performance in Anna Karenina (Sandro Bolchi, 1974), which was repeated several times by the RAI. Her last appearance on the small screen was opposite Erland Josephson in Una donna spezzata/A broken woman (Marco Leto, 1988), based on the novel 'La femme rompue' by Simone de Beauvoir and scripted by Massari herself.

Passionate about hunting from a young age, following the example and encouragement of her father, she reduced her artistic activity from the early 1980s onward, to devote herself decisively to ecological and animal rights campaigns. She appeared again in Giuseppe Bertolucci's film Segreti Segreti/Secrets Secrets (1985) in which she played the painful role of Lina Sastri's suicidal mother.

An actress notoriously disinclined to be a star, shy and reserved, and often forced to live and work abroad partly because of her husband's work, she retired for good in 1990, at the age of 57. After that she rarely appeared in public and gave few interviews, refusing various invitations to return to the set, such as the one received by Ferzan Özpetek, who wanted her in Cuore sacro/Sacred Heart (2005), in a role then assigned to Lisa Gaston.

Her last film, which had little success, was Viaggio d'amore/Journey of Love (Ottavio Fabbri, 1990), based on a subject by Tonino Guerra, in which she starred alongside Omar Sharif. After retiring from the stage, she moved to Sardinia with her husband, the former Alitalia pilot Carlo Bianchini, whom she had married in 1963.

Following a financial crisis, she put her important collection of antique jewelry up for auction in 1994. In addition to her campaigns in defense of animals and against vivisection, which also led her to support various dog pounds, her passion for the guitar and Brazilian music is well known.

Lea Massari
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. 1066.

Lea Massari in La giornata balorda (1960)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 1743, 1962. Lea Massari in La giornata balorda/A Crazy Day (Mauro Bolognini, 1960).

Sources: Wikipedia (Italian and English) and .
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Published on June 15, 2021 22:00

June 14, 2021

Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe (1919)

Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe/The King of Thieves and His Love (Viggo Larsen, 1919) was a four-part German film which premiered in Berlin on 4 November 1919. Director and star was Danish actor, director, scriptwriter, and producer Viggo Larsen. The scriptwriter was Hans Hyan, and the photographer Julius Balting. Initially, the state censorship of 1921, completely forbade the film but after cuts, it remained only forbidden for youngsters.

Viggo Larsen in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe (1919).

German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 626/1. Photo: Viggo Larsen Tempelhof. Viggo Larsen and Erra Brognar in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe/The King of Thieves and His Love (Viggo Larsen, 1919).

Viggo Larsen in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe (1919).
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 626/2. Photo: Viggo Larsen Tempelhof. Viggo Larsen in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe/The King of Thieves and His Love (Viggo Larsen, 1919).

A terrifying experience
While no content description of the film could be found, it is clear the plot of Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe/The King of Thieves and His Love (Viggo Larsen, 1919) deals with a gentleman criminal, played by Larsen himself.

In 1920, critic Friedrich Sieburg wrote about a terrifying experience he had when viewing this very film when suddenly the musicians stopped playing while the film went on.

"In act 3, as Der Fürst der Diebe was roaring along in his car (his shawl fluttering like a flag, wind blowing briskly through the high grass of the passing landscape), the musicians in the small orchestra - violin and piano for lively scenes, organ for deathly scenes - suddenly decided to break for dinner. The music stopped. Silence. The reels whirred. The light hissed. The action sped ahead. I tell you, it was frightening. I felt as if I was six feet under."

Viggo Larsen in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe (1919).
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 626/3. Photo: Viggo Larsen Tempelhof. Viggo Larsen in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe/The King of Thieves and His Love (Viggo Larsen, 1919). The man behind Larsen must be the actor Franz Verdier.

Viggo Larsen in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe (1919)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 626/4. Photo: Viggo Larsen Tempelhof. Viggo Larsen and Erra Brognar in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe/The King of Thieves and His Love (Viggo Larsen, 1919).

Viggo Larsen in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe
German postcard by Verlag Ross, no. 626/5. Photo: Viggo Larsen, Tempelhof. Viggo Larsen and Erra Brognar in Der Fürst der Diebe und seine Liebe/The King of Thieves and His Love (Viggo Larsen, 1919).

Sources: Anton Kaes / Michael Cowan ed. (The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory, 1907–1933), The German Early Cinema Database,  and IMDb
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Published on June 14, 2021 22:00

June 13, 2021

Jurassic Park (1993)

Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993) ranks as one of the most successful Science-Fiction adventure films of all time. The film is based on Michael Crichton's book of the same name and is the first installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, and the first film in the Jurassic Park trilogy. Jurassic Park was a major breakthrough for digital special effects. For the first time, moving animals could be generated entirely by computer. Previously, stop-motion and go-motion techniques were used for this.

Joseph Mazzello and Sam Neill in Jurassic Park (1993)
British postcard by Film Posters Merchandising, no. 869. Photo: UCS & Amblin. Joseph Mazzello and Sam Neill in Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993).

Joseph Mazzello in Jurassic Park (1993)
British postcard by Film Posters Merchandising, no. 871. Photo: UCS & Amblin. Joseph Mazzello in Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993).

During a control visit, things get completely out of hand
The story of Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) is about billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) who with the help of a team of genetic scientists, has managed to recreate prehistoric dinosaurs from their DNA.

On Isla Nublar, a fictional island off the coast of Costa Rica, he has concocted a wildlife park full of living dinosaurs, Jurassic Park (called after the geological era Jura).

After a Velociraptor attacks and kills one of the employees while she is being placed in her enclosure, the investors want to have the park's security checked before the official opening.

Hammond wants approval as soon as possible, so persuades paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to spend a weekend in his park. Their mission is to show that everything is okay.

The lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) and the chaos theory expert Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) also join. Hammond invites them along with his two grandchildren (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards), to join him for a control visit before the official opening of Jurassic Park, but during this control visit, things get completely out of hand.

Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), the park's computer technician, attempts to steal embryos from all the animals in the park for the competing company Biosyn and shuts the critical security systems down. For Hammond and his guests, it now becomes a race for survival with dinosaurs roaming freely over the island.

Jurassic Park (1993)
British postcard by Film Posters Merchandising, no. 872. Photo: UCS & Amblin. Publicity still for Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993).

Jurassic Park (1993)
British postcard by Film Posters Merchandising, no. 873. Photo: UCS & Amblin. Publicity still for Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993).

Recordings of rutting and mating animals represent the sound of the dinosaurs
In October 1989, author Michael Crichton and producer Steven Spielberg had a talk about the screenplay for what would later become the television series ER. In addition, the conversation was also about Crichton's future novel 'Jurassic Park', and Spielberg already had the idea of a film adaptation at that time.

With the backing of Universal Studios, Spielberg acquired the rights for $1.5 million before its publication in 1990 The film was produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. Crichton was hired for an additional $500,000 to adapt the novel for the screen.

The dinosaurs were created with groundbreaking computer-generated imagery by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and with life-sized animatronic dinosaurs built by Stan Winston's team.

Initially, Spielberg had intended not to release Jurassic Park until after Schindler's List. This order was reversed because the director of the Music Corporation of America (then the parent company of Universal Pictures), Sid Sheinberg, made it a condition of his approval of Schindler's List. Both films were released in 1993.

After 25 months of pre-production, filming started on 24 August 1992 on the Hawaiian islands of Kauai and Oahu. Hurricane Iniki made landfall during the shooting on Kauai. Some storm scenes were also recorded during this hurricane.

The sound effects that represent the sound of the dinosaurs were made by recordings of rutting and mating animals. Among other things, the Jack Russell terrier of an employee of the film was used for the sound of the Tyrannosaurus.

The Velociraptors are completely covered with scales in the film, as during the production of the film it was assumed that they actually looked like this in the past. The current theory that many dinosaurs had feathers was not widely accepted at the time 'Jurassic Park' was published. In the second sequel, Jurassic Park III, the appearance of the raptors has been slightly adapted to this by giving them some feathers on the head.

Jurassic Park (1993)
British postcard by Film Posters Merchandising, no. 875. Photo: UCS & Amblin. Publicity still for Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993).

Jurassic Park (1993)
British postcard by Film Posters Merchandising, no. 876. Photo: UCS & Amblin. Publicity still for Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993).

You want great dinosaurs, you got great dinosaurs
Jurassic Park (1993) won all three Oscars for which the film was nominated: the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, the Academy Award for Best Sound, and the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

At AllMovie , Brendon Hanley writes: "One of the most influential special effects movies of the early 1990s, Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park helped show the world that the future of cinema was inside a computer. With digital dinosaurs courtesy of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, the film helped redefine the summer blockbuster for a new generation."

Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times : "Jurassic Park throws a lot of dinosaurs at us, and because they look terrific (and indeed they do), we're supposed to be grateful. I have the uneasy feeling that if Spielberg had made Close Encounters today, we would have seen the aliens in the first 10 minutes, and by the halfway mark they'd be attacking Manhattan with death rays. Because the movie delivers on the bottom line, I'm giving it three stars. You want great dinosaurs, you got great dinosaurs.

Spielberg enlivens the action with lots of nice little touches; I especially liked a sequence where a smaller creature leaps suicidally on a larger one, and they battle to the death. On the monster movie level, the movie works and is entertaining. But with its profligate resources, it could have been so much more."

Jurassic Park went on to gross over $912 million worldwide in its original theatrical run, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1993 and the highest-grossing film ever at the time, until this title was taken over by Titanic in 1997.

Five sequels have been made or are in the works: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1997), Jurassic Park III (Joe Johnston, 2001), Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow, 2015), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2018), and Jurassic World: Dominion (Colin Trevorrow, scheduled for a 2022 release). Although Spielberg did not direct the last four films in the series, he always remained involved as a producer.

Following its 3D re-release in 2013 to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Jurassic Park became the seventeenth film in history to surpass $1 billion in ticket sales. In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Steven Spielberg directing The Lost World - Jurassic Park (1997)
French postcard. Photo: Sygma. Caption: Steven Spielberg during the shooting of The Lost World - Jurassic Park (1996).

Sources: Brendon Hanley (AllMovie), Roger Ebert, Wikipedia (Dutch and English), and IMDb.
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Published on June 13, 2021 22:00

June 12, 2021

La Collectionneuse: The Renée Adorée mystery

The name of Renée Adorée doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of 'mystery girls' from the golden age of the movies. You wouldn’t rank her among the likes of Jetta Goudal or Merle Oberon who chose to reinvent their pasts for career purposes.
And yet…


Renée Adorée and John Gilbert, The Big Parade (1925)
Dutch postcard by M. Bonnist & Zonen, no. 115. Renée Adorée and John Gilbert in The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925). Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renee Adoree
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 501-A. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn Films. Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 600. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Collection: Marlene Pilaete. This card refers to the film The Cossacks (George W. Hill, Clarence Brown, 1928).

Renée Adorée
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 613. Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée
Belgian postcard by Cinema en Toneelwereld, Antwerpen. Photo: Gaumont-Metro-Goldwyn. Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

The Renée Adorée mystery
For several decades, it was commonly assumed that Renée Adorée was French and that she was born as Jeanne (or Renée) de la Fonte in Lille (France) on the 30th of September 1898. That information is still available on websites such as IMDb , Wikipedia (English), Silent Hollywood , Golden Silents , Silents are Platinum, or Find a Grave .

But, of all this, only one thing is correct: Renée Adorée was indeed born on the 30th of September. All the rest is untrue. Research has proven crucial in this matter and, fortunately, some Internet sources have now begun to give a much more accurate version of the real story. I’ve also taken a keen interest in Renée Adorée’s life myself and I would like to share with you the results of my investigations.

According to the Altona births register, she was born as Emilia Louisa Victoria Reeves on the 30th of September 1897 in the Altona district of the city of Hamburg in Germany. According to her baptism certificate, her father was 'James Reeves' and her mother was 'Victorine Reeves, born Schreiber'. Let’s immediately set the record straight: Renée Adorée was not German. At the time of her birth, the principle and rules of “jus soli” did not apply in Germany. A child born from foreign parents in Germany was not considered German.

Her father, James Reeves, was British and was born in London on the 28th of April 1866. He died in Sweden in 1913. Her mother, Victorine Schreiber, was born in Ghent (Belgium) on the 4th of April 1865. She died in London in 1937. Her parents, who married in 1891, were circus artists and she had a brother, Victor, born on the 6th of September 1896, and a sister, Mira, born on the 22nd of December 1898.

In fact, Renée Adorée herself, despite taking great care to hide her origins, gave a hint of the truth in her 1921 marriage license to Tom Moore by giving away her father’s family name: 'Reeves'. By doing so, she also, indirectly, admitted that her family name was also 'Reeves'. We don’t know what lead Renée to reveal a small part of the truth at the time. Maybe she reckoned that an official document should at least contain some true fact in it. Nevertheless, she could not restrain herself to alter her real parentage by claiming that her mother was someone called Marie de la Floente, born in Spain (!!!).

So, it may come as a shock to you but Renée Adorée, who became a symbol of France in Hollywood, was not French but was, in fact, British. As she had been born outside of England, the British nationality had been passed on to her through her father. That was called 'British by descent' in the British Nationality law. Children born in England were “British by birth”. Let’s note that the same 'British by descent' rules applied to Audrey Hepburn , who, having a British father, was officially British, although she had been born in Belgium and had a Dutch mother.

Just like her mother, Renée Adorée’s brother and sister passed away in England. Victor died in Southgate in 1967 and Mira died in London in 1979. Mira left a box of personal documents which is now preserved at the London Cinema Museum and contains, among other things, interesting photos of her famous sister and messages of condolence sent by many Hollywood personalities when Renée passed away in 1933. Among the documents, an especially moving piece can be found: A 23rd of November 1933 agreement to purchase the crypt no. 219 in the Hollywood Cemetery, which was made by Mira in relationship with the Los Angeles British consulate.

Several years ago, British film historian Tony Fletcher showed this box to Peter Reeves, Victor’s son and Renée Adorée’s nephew. In a way, the actress went back on that occasion to her British roots and family… I would like here to take the opportunity to wholeheartedly thank Tony Fletcher, who gave me interesting and helpful information about Renée and her family.


Renée Adorée
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5521. Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée
French postcard by Cinémagazine Edition, Paris, no. 45. Photo: Gaumont-Metro-Goldwyn. Collection: Marlene Pilaete. Renée Adorée in The Exquisite Sinner (Phil Rosen, Josef von Sternberg, 1928).

Renée Adorée
French postcard by JRPR, Paris, no. 277. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn. Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée
British postcard by Picturegoer, no. 242b. Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée
American card by Blatz Gum. This was part of a set of movie stars cards published in the second half of the 1920s to promote a chewing-gum brand. Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

The life and career of Renée Adorée
Renée Adorée was born Emilia Louisa Victoria Reeves on the 30th of September 1897 in Altona (Germany). Her father, James Reeves, born in London, was British and her mother, Victorine Schreiber, was born in Belgium. They were both circus artists. Renée Adorée had a brother, Victor, and a sister, Mira.

Regarding her childhood and teenage years, we have to rely on the interviews Renée gave during her career and on the articles published at the time in magazines and newspapers. Coming from a family of performers, she declared that, from an early age, she toured with her parents and that she learned such acts as acrobatics, bareback riding, and toe-dancing. She repeatedly mentioned that she had worked since childhood as a circus artist and, later, as a dancer.

Some period sources claim that "she appeared at an early age as a daring horserider and classical dancer" and that “she studied modern dancing in England and was acknowledged to be an extraordinary graceful performer in London theatres”. We’ve also noticed mentions of a "legitimate stage debut in London" and of a stint in the chorus of the "Folies-Bergère" in Paris. This is just a sample of what can be found. A busy youth, to say the least...

There’s no doubt to have about Renée Adorée’s circus and show business background. However, it’s difficult to tell if all these facts about her younger days have to be taken for granted or if some of them have been embroidered, or maybe even invented, for publicity purposes by the actress herself or by journalists. For example, at the time of Renée’s death, her mother wanted to clear things up by declaring that the skillful equestrienne of the family was herself, not her daughter. We’ll let you judge.

James Reeves passed away in Sweden in 1913 and, at the outbreak of World War I, Victorine and her three children relocated to England. In 1918, the future Hollywood star was in Australia where, pretending to be French, she was praised by the critics and the public for her dancing skills. Her partner on stage was then American-born Guy Magley.

In an article entitled 'All Round Stage Artist' published in the Sydney Sunday Times on the 10th of February 1918, "Rene Magley, the beautiful Parisienne" (sic!) declared that she made her debut at the age of five and that "she cannot remember the time when any of her ancestors were not stage folks". The photo illustrating this article was captioned "Rene and Guy Magley, two delightful American-Parisianed dancers who were a big success in Samples, the revue which commenced at the Tivoli Theatre yesterday".

Another article was published on the 15th of March 1918 in The Arrow, in which she was still referred to as "Rene Magley" but, this time, the caption under the photo was: "Mrs. Renée Adorée and Mr. Guy Magley, two dancers who make their re-appearance at the Tivoli Theatre in Samples on Saturday". In July 1918, The Sydney Morning Herald mentioned, "Renee Adore (sic) and Guy Magley” at the Tivoli. On the 29th of October, the same newspaper published an article about the preview of the Australian movie £500 Reward featuring “Renee Adoree, the graceful partner in the Magley dances". And the 21st of December 1918 Evening Star evoked "Rene (sic) Adoree, the co-partner of Guy Magley on the Tivoli circuit".

£500 Reward (1918), directed by Claude Flemming, gave the first opportunity for audiences to judge her film potential, as a kidnapped heroine rescued by her beloved. So, at the end of her stay in Australia, she was clearly identified as 'Renée Adorée', although Australian newspapers sometimes seemed to have difficulties with the correct spelling of her pseudonym. From then on, she was going to be known under her new identity and to be faithful to her 'French' image.

Renée Adorée and John Gilbert, The Big Parade (1925)
American postcard. Renée Adorée and John Gilbert in The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925). Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée and John Gilbert in La Boheme (1926)
Italian postcard, no. 128. Renée Adorée and John Gilbert in La Boheme (King Vidor, 1926). Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée and Ralph Graves
Italian postcard, no. 132. Renée Adorée and Ralph Graves. They co-starred in Blarney (Marcel De Sano, 1926). Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée and Ralph Forbes in Mr. Wu (1927)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 67. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Renée Adorée and Ralph Forbes in Mr. Wu (William Nigh, 1927). Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée and Ramon Novarro in Forbidden Hours (1928)
French postcard by Europe, no. 393. Renée Adorée and Ramon Novarro in Forbidden Hours (Harry Beaumont, 1928). Collection: Marlene Pilaete.
A hot property among Hollywood stars
In 1919, she was in the U.S.A. and notably appeared on Broadway in 'Oh, What a Girl' and 'The Dancer'. She then had the female lead in her first American movie, The Strongest (Raoul Walsh, 1920), based upon a story written by a famous French statesman, Georges Clémenceau.

Year after year, her popularity increased. She made three films with John Gilbert : Honor First (Jerome Storm, 1922), Monte Cristo (Emmett J. Flynn, 1922), and A Man’s Mate (Edmund Mortimer, 1924) and one, Made in Heaven (Victor Schertzinger, 1921), with Tom Moore , who was her husband from 1921 to 1924. She also had an especially well-received dramatic role in The Eternal Struggle (Reginald Barker, 1923).

In 1925, she rose to new heights by playing the charming and touching French peasant Melisande alongside John Gilbert in The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925), which made her hot property among Hollywood stars. She continued to form a handsome cinematographic screen couple with John Gilbert in La Boheme (King Vidor, 1926), The Show (Tod Browning, 1927), and The Cossacks (George W. Hill, 1928).

She also appeared with Lon Chaney in The Blackbird (Tod Browning, 1926) and Mr. Wu (William Nigh, 1927) and with Ramon Novarro in A Certain Young Man (Hobart Henley, 1928), Forbidden Hours (Harry Beaumont, 1928), and The Pagan (W.S. Van Dyke, 1929).

Among her other films were The Flaming Forest (Reginald Barker, 1926), Back to God’s Country (Irvin Willat, 1927), The Mating Call (James Cruze, 1928), in which she had a nude swimming scene, and Tide of Empire (Allan Dwan, 1928). She had a second and brief marriage from 1927 to 1929 to William Sherman Gill, who was at the time the proprietor of a tailoring shop. Her first 100% talkie was Redemption (Fred Niblo, 1930), with John Gilbert for the last time. It was not a success.

Her last movie was Call of the Flesh (Charles Brabin, 1930), again co-starring Ramon Novarro . Renée Adorée was already seriously ill with tuberculosis during filming and, after she had finished all her scenes, she was rushed to a sanatorium, where she spent many months, hoping to recover. In 1932, she announced that she was cured and that she was ready to go back to work. Unfortunately, this was never going to happen. Tuberculosis had not said its last word and she passed away on the 5th of October 1933 in Tujunga, California.

Renee Adoree in La Boheme (1926)
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 282. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn, Rome. Renée Adorée in La Boheme (King Vidor, 1926). Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renée Adorée
Italian postcard by Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze, no. 182. Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renee Adoree and Ramon Novarro in The Pagan (1929)
British postcard by Picturegoer, no. 522. Renée Adorée and Ramon Novarro in The Pagan (W.S. Van Dyke, 1929). Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Renee Adoree and Ramon Novarro in Call of the Flesh (1930)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6932/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Renée Adorée and Ramon Novarro in Call of the Flesh (Charles Brabin, 1930). Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

The creation of Renée Adorée’s image
Renée Adorée carefully hid the fact that she was born in Germany. We can easily understand why. Although she had never been German, she certainly didn’t want to be associated in any way with a country that, because of World War I, had become synonym with death, destruction, and cruelty.

But, not only she choose to forget about her place of birth, but she also erased her British roots for the creation of her new persona. It was in fact very clever of her. In Australia and in the U.S.A., being a British performer was not uncommon. Being French was another matter. It was exotic and immediately gave glamour and piquant charm to your personality.

So disappeared Emilia Reeves and so began the Renée Adorée / Jeanne-Renée de la Fonte legend. The choice of the pseudonym 'Renée Adorée' was a really good one. 'Renée' perfectly rhymes with 'Adorée', which means 'Adored'. What more can you ask in terms of euphony and evocative power? 
Let’s note that she was not the only one to go the 'French way' at the time. Jetta Goudal , who was Dutch, and Fifi D’Orsay, who was Canadian, also pretended to be French during their careers.

Let’s pay homage to Renée Adorée’s talent and determination: what a notable achievement it was that, although not being French, she became one of the embodiments of French womanhood in Hollywood!

Félicitations, Mademoiselle Renée Adorée - Congratulations, Miss Emilia Reeves.

Renee Adoree
Spanish postcard by M.C. Barcelona, no. 65. Collection: Marlene Pilaete.

Text and postcards: Marlene Pilaete.
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Published on June 12, 2021 22:00

June 11, 2021

Ross Luxus cards

Between 1930 and 1933 Ross Verlag published a series of film star postcards in the 'Luxus klasse' (luxury class). The Lucus cards were first advertised in the German magazine Die Filmwoche (Film week) no. 48 (26 November 1930) as 'Die letzte Neuheit!' (the latest novelty). These new Luxus-Filmpostkarten were printed in what was called 'Weltformat' (world size) 10,5 x 14,8 cm. Advertised were the first 24 Luxus cards, which counted from number 500, Greta Garbo. And although not mentioned in this ad, these new postcards were published in two versions, schwarz Hochglanz (black-and-white glossy), and schwarz chamois (chamois matte). On the back of many cards, you can find the golden Luxus emblem. 1933 was the final year Luxus cards were published. The last Luxus card was no. 803: Lilian Harvey.

Greta Garbo in Anna Christie (1930)
French postcard by Edition Ross in the Luxus series, no. 500. Photo: Clarence Sinclair Bull. Greta Garbo in the German version of Anna Christie (Jacques Feyder, 1930). Mark how Garbo is often portrayed with her hands around her head.

Swedish Greta Garbo (1905-1990) is often regarded as one of the greatest and most glamorous movie stars ever produced by the Hollywood studio system. She was part of the Golden Age of the silent film of the 1920s and was one of the few actors who made a glorious transition to the talkies. She started her career in European cinema and would always stay more popular in Europe than in the USA.

Marlene Dietrich in Morocco (1930)
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 501. Photo: Paramount. Marlene Dietrich in Morocco (Josef von Sternberg, 1930).

Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) is regarded as the first German actress to become successful in Hollywood. Throughout her long career, she constantly re-invented herself, starting as a cabaret singer, chorus girl, and film actress in 1920s Berlin, she became a Hollywood movie star in the 1930s, a World War II frontline entertainer, and finally an international stage show performer from the 1950s to the 1970s, eventually becoming one of the entertainment icons of the 20th century.

Willy Fritsch
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 502. Photo: Ufa.

Willy Fritsch (1901-1973) was the immensely popular ‘Sunny Boy’ of the Ufa operettas of the 1930s and 1940s.

Laura La Plante
French postcard by Ross in the Luxus series, no. 506. Photo: Universal.

Laura La Plante (1904–1996) was an American actress, best known for her work in the silent film era, such as Smouldering Fires (Clarence Brown, 1925) with Pauline Frederick, Skinner's Dress Suit (William Seiter, 1926) with Reginald Denny, and The Cat and the Canary (Paul Leni, 1927) with Creighton Hale. In the 1920s she acted in over 60 films, mostly for Universal, including the two-part-talkies The Love Trap (William Wyler, 1929) and Showboat (Harry A. Pollard, 1929).

Nancy Carroll
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxusklasse series, no. 510. Photo: Paramount.

Red-haired, cupid-bow-mouthed Nancy Carroll (1903-1965) became a very popular Hollywood star upon the advent of sound film because of her singing and dancing abilities. She was reported to have received more fan mail than any of her Hollywood peers of the same era. As she expanded her acting range from flaming flapper to ditzy comedienne to sensitive heroine, she was nominated for an Oscar for The Devil's Holiday (1930).

Anita Page
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 512. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Hollywood star Anita Page (1910-2008) starred in the silent era opposite Ramon Novarro in The Flying Fleet (1928) and William Haines in Telling the World (1927). Her success in Our Dancing Daughters (1928) opposite Joan Crawford and Broadway Melody (1929) opposite Bessie Love paved the way for a smooth career in sound cinema. In the early 1930s, Anita Page had a busy career in American movies opposite actors like Buster Keaton, John Gilbert, Walter Huston, Robert Montgomery, and Clark Gable (with whom she was romantically involved). After Garbo, she was the actress who got the most fan mail and Mussolini supposedly kept proposing to her.

Willi Forst
Postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 519. Photo: Atelier Balázs, Berlin.

The Austrian actor Willi Forst (1903-1980) was a darling of the German-speaking public. He was also one of the most significant directors, producers, writers, and stars of the Wiener Filme, the light Viennese musical comedies of the 1930s. On stage, he played in operettas and revues but also worked with Erwin Piscator and Max Reinhardt.

Willy Fritsch
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 526. Photo: Ufa.

Willy Fritsch (1901-1973 ) was the immensely popular ‘Sunny Boy’ of the Ufa operettas of the 1930s and 1940s.

Maurice Chevalier
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 531. Photo: Paramount.

Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972)'s trademark was a casual straw hat, which he always wore on stage with a cane and a tuxedo.

Charles Rogers in Heads Up (1930)
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 540. Photo: Paramount. Charles Rogers in Heads Up (Victor Schertzinger, 1930).

Charles 'Buddy' Rogers (1904-1999) was an American film actor and musician. During the peak of his popularity in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was publicised as "America's Boy Friend". Rogers starred in such films as Wings (1927) and My Best Girl (1927), opposite his later wife Mary Pickford. He also found success as a bandleader and a musician.

Lien Deyers
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxusklasse series, no. 551. Photo: Wa-Kie, Berlin. Collection: Geoffrey Donaldson Instituut.

Dutch actress Lien Deijers (1910-1965) - also known as Lien Deyers and Lien Dyers - was discovered by famous director Fritz Lang who gave her a part in Spione (1928). She acted in a stream of late silent and early sound films. After 1935 her star faded rapidly and her life ended in tragedy.

Greta Garbo
German postcard by Ross-Verlag in the Luxusklasse series, no. 580. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Greta Garbo in Romance (Clarence Brown, 1930).

Gary Cooper
German postcard in the Luxus-Klasse series by Ross Verlag, no. 592. Photo: Paramount.

American screen legend Gary Cooper (1901-1961) is well remembered for his stoic, understated acting style in more than one hundred Westerns, comedies and dramas. He received five Oscar nominations and won twice for his roles as Alvin York in Sergeant York (1941) and as Will Kane in High Noon (1952).

Lien Deyers
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxusklasse series, no. 608. Photo: Atelier Binder. Collection: Geoffrey Donaldson Instituut.

Mady Christians
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxusklasse series, no. 609. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.

Austrian-born stage actress Mady Christians (1892-1951) was a star of the German silent cinema and appeared in Austrian, French, British and Hollywood films too.

Jenny Jugo in Die nackte Wahrheit (1932)
German postcard in the Luxus-Klasse series by Ross Verlag, no. 614. Photo: Paramount. Jenny Jugo in Die nackte Wahrheit/The Naked Truth (Karl Anton, 1932). It was shot at the Joinville Studios in Paris, where many of Paramount Pictures' multiple-language versions were made. It is the German version of Nothing but the Truth (Victor Schertzinger, 1929) and was also known by the alternative title of Heut' küsst Paris.

Lilian Harvey
German postcard in the Luxus-Klasse series by Ross Verlag, no. 627. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin / Ufa.

British-born, German actress and singer Lilian Harvey (1906-1968) was Ufa's biggest star of the 1930s. With Willy Fritsch, she formed the 'Dream Team of the European Cinema'. Their best film was the immensely popular film operetta Der Kongress tanzt/The Congress Dances (Erik Charell, 1931).

Pretty Austrian actress Jenny Jugo (1904-2001) had a prolific career in German cinema, from the late silent era well into the war years. She did particularly well as a comedienne and starred between 1931 and 1942 in eleven smart and charming comedies directed by Erich Engel.

Camilla Horn
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxusklasse series, no. 673. Photo: Ufa.

Ethereally blonde Camilla Horn (1903-1996) was a German dancer and film star. Her breakthrough role was Gretchen in the silent film classic Faust (1926, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau). She also starred in some Hollywood films of the late 1920s and in a few British and Italian productions.

Lien Deyers
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxusklasse series, no. 700. Photo: Atelier Binder. Collection: Geoffrey Donaldson Instituut.

Dutch actress Lien Deijers (1910-1965) - also known as Lien Deyers and Lien Dyers - was discovered by famous director Fritz Lang who gave her a part in Spione (1928). She acted in a stream of late silent and early sound films. After 1935 her star faded rapidly and her life ended in tragedy.

Renate Müller
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 745. Photo: Godfried de Groot, Amsterdam.

Popular actress Renate Müller (1906-1937) was the toast of late 1920s Berlin. She had a comet-like career in the early German sound cinema, that was abruptly ended by her mysterious early death.

Hans Albers in F.P.1 antwortet nich (1932)
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 762. Photo: Ufa. Hans Albers in F.P.1 antwortet nicht/F.P.1 Doesn't Answer (Karl Hartl, 1932).

Jovial, pleasantly plump Hans Albers (1891-1960) was a superstar of the German cinema between 1930 and 1945. He was also one of the most popular German singers of the twentieth century. His song 'Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins' (On the Reeperbahn at half past midnight) is the unofficial anthem of Hamburg’s neighbourhood of St. Pauli, famous for its brothels, music, and night clubs.

Dolly Haas
German postcard by Ross Verlag in the Luxus series, no. 766. Photo: Atelier Yva, Berlin.

German-born, British stage and screen actress Dolly Haas (1910-1994) was popular in the 1930s as a vivacious, red-haired gamine often wearing trousers in German and British films. Although she got a 3-year contract with Columbia and she worked with Alfred Hitchcock in Hollywood, Dolly's American career mainly took place on and Off-Broadway.

Source: Hans Schnepper (Ross Postcards).
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Published on June 11, 2021 22:00

June 10, 2021

Sylvia Sidney

Sylvia Sidney (1910-1999) was an American stage, screen, and film actress whose career spanned over 70 years. She rose to prominence in dozens of leading roles in the 1930s, such as An American Tragedy (1931), City Streets (1931), Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage (1936), and Fritz Lang's Fury (1936) and You Only Live Once (1937). She later gained attention for her role as Juno, a caseworker in the afterlife, in Tim Burton's film Beetlejuice (1988), and she was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973).

Sylvia Sidney
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7216/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Paramount.

Sylvia Sidney and Cary Grant in Madame Butterfly (1932)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 168/1. Photo: Paramount. Sylvia Sidney and Cary Grant in Madame Butterfly (Marion Gering, 1932).

Sylvia Sidney and Gene Raymond in Behold My Wife! (1934)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 9244/1, 1935-1936. Photo: Paramount. Sylvia Sidney and Gene Raymond in Behold My Wife! (Mitchell Leisen, 1934).

Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936)
British postcard in the Film Partners Series, London, no. P 193. Photo: Paramount. Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (Henry Hathaway, 1936).

Sylvia Sidney
British Real Photograph postcard by Art Photo, no. 27. Photo: Paramount Pictures Inc.

A reputation for being difficult to work with
Sylvia Sidney was born Sophia Kosow in 1910 in the Bronx, New York. She was the daughter of Rebecca (née Saperstein), a Romanian Jew, and Victor Kosow, a Russian Jewish immigrant who worked as a clothing salesman. Her parents divorced by 1915, and she was adopted by her stepfather Sigmund Sidney, a dentist. Her mother became a dressmaker and renamed herself, Beatrice Sidney.

Now using the surname Sidney, Sylvia became an actress at the age of 15 as a way of overcoming shyness. She became a student of the Theater Guild's School for Acting. One school production was held at a Broadway theatre and in the audience, there was a critic from the New York Times who had nothing but rave reviews for the young Miss Sidney.

On the strength of her performance in New York, Sylvia appeared in a play at the famed Poli Theater in Washington, D.C. More stage productions followed. In 1926, she was seen by a Hollywood talent scout in the production 'Crime' and made her first film appearance later that year in Broadway Nights (Joseph Boyle, 1927).

During the Depression, she appeared in a string of films, often playing the girlfriend or sister of a gangster. 1931 saw her appear in five films, of which, City Streets (Rouben Mamoulian, 1931), made her a star. The sad-eyed Sylvia made a tremendous impact and her screen career was off a running.

Among her other films, that year were: An American Tragedy (Josef von Sternberg, 1931), and Street Scene (King Vidor, 1931). She co-starred with Fredric March in Merrilly We Go To Hell (Dorothy Arzner, 1932). Her other films included Alfred Hitchcock 's Sabotage (1936), Fritz Lang 's Fury (1936) and You Only Live Once (1937), Dead End (William Wyler, 1937), and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (Henry Hathaway, 1936), an early three-strip Technicolor film.

She appeared with Gary Cooper , Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda , Joel McCrea, Fredric March, George Raft, and Cary Grant . During this period, she developed a reputation for being difficult to work with. At the time of making Sabotage (1936) with Alfred Hitchcock , Sidney was one of the highest-paid actresses in the industry, earning $10,000 per week —earning a total of $80,000 for Sabotage.

Sylvia Sidney
Belgian postcard by P.E. (Photo Edition), no. 414.

Sylvia Sidney and Edward Arnold in Jennie Gerhardt (1933)
British postcard in the "Filmshots" series by Film Weekly. Photo: Paramount. Sylvia Sidney and Edward Arnold in Jennie Gerhardt (Marion Gering, 1933).

Sylvia Sidney in Jennie Gerhardt (1933)
British postcard in the "Filmshots" series by Film Weekly. Photo: Paramount. Sylvia Sidney and Greta Meyer in Jennie Gerhardt (Marion Gering, 1933).

Sylvia Sidney and George Raft in Pick-up (1933)
British postcard in the Film Shots series by Film Weekly. Photo: Paramount. Sylvia Sidney and George Raft in Pick-up (Marion Gering, 1933).

Sylvia Sidney and Gene Raymond in Behold My Wife! (1934)
British postcard in the Film Partners Series, London, no. P 134. Photo: Paramount. Sylvia Sidney and Gene Raymond in Behold My Wife! (Mitchell Leisen, 1934).

Box-office Poison
During the 1940s, the career of Sylvia Sidney diminished somewhat. In The Searching Wind (William Dieterle, 1946), Sidney played a newspaper reporter with convictions who was the alter ego of playwright Lillian Hellman. The film was based on a Broadway play but it just didn't transfer well onto the big screen. The film was widely considered to be too serious and flopped.

The following year, she appeared in another flop, Love From A Stranger (Richard Whorf, 1947). In 1949, exhibitors voted her "box-office poison".

In 1952, she played the role of Fantine in Les Misérables (Lewis Milestone, 1952), and her performance was praised and allowed her opportunities to develop as a character actress. Only three more films followed that decade. There were no films throughout the 1960s.

On TV, she appeared three times on the anthology drama series Playhouse 90 (1956-1960). In 1957, she appeared as Lulu Morgan, mother of singer Helen Morgan in the episode The Helen Morgan Story (George Roy Hill, 1957) featuring Polly Bergen. Four months later, Sidney rejoined her former co-star Bergen on the premiere of the short-lived The Polly Bergen Show (1957-1958).

She also worked in television during the 1960s on such programs as Route 66 (1961-1964), The Defenders (1962), and My Three Sons (1969).

In 1973, Sylvia returned to the big screen in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (Gilbert Cates, 1973), starring Joanne Woodward. She received an Academy Award nomination for her supporting role. As an elderly woman, Sidney continued to play supporting screen roles and was identifiable by her husky voice, the result of cigarette smoking.

She was the formidable Miss Coral in the film version of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (Anthony Page, 1977) and later was cast as Aidan Quinn's grandmother in the television production of An Early Frost (John Erman, 1985) for which she won a Golden Globe Award. She played Aunt Marion in Damien: Omen II (Don Taylor, 1978) opposite William Holden and Lee Grant.

Sylvia Sidney also had key roles as Juno in the mega-hit Beetlejuice (1988) directed by longtime Sidney fan Tim Burton, and in Used People (Beeban Kidron, 1992). Her final role was in Mars Attacks! (1996), another film by Tim Burton, in which she played an elderly woman whose beloved records by Slim Whitman help stop an alien invasion from Mars.

Sylvia Sidney
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 572. Photo: Paramount.

Sylvia Sidney
French postcard by Editions Chantal, Paris, no. 12. Photo: Paramount.

Sylvia Sidney
Dutch postcard, no. 126. Photo: Paramount.

Sylvia Sidney
Dutch postcard, no. 560. Photo: Paramount.

Sylvia Sidney
British postcard.

Sylvia Sidney and George Raft in You and Me (1938)
British postcard by Art Photo, no. 173. Sylvia Sidney and George Raft in You and Me (Fritz Lang, 1938).


A Broadway career spanning five decades
On television, Sylvia Sidney appeared in the pilot episode of WKRP in Cincinnati (1978) as the imperious owner of the radio station, and she appeared in a memorable episode of Thirtysomething (1989) as Melissa's tough grandmother, who wanted to leave her granddaughter the family dress business, though Melissa (Melanie Mayron) wanted a career as a photographer.

She also was featured on Starsky & Hutch (1976), The Love Boat (1981), Magnum, P.I. (1983), and Trapper John, M.D.(1984).

Her Broadway career spanned five decades, from her debut performance as a graduate of the Theatre Guild School in 1926 at age 15, in the three-act fantasy 'Prunella' to the Tennessee Williams play 'Vieux Carré' in 1977.

In 1982, Sidney was awarded the George Eastman Award by George Eastman House for a distinguished contribution to the art of film. In 1998 she appeared as the crotchety travel clerk Clia at the beginning of each episode in the short-lived revival of the classic TV series Fantasy Island.

Sylvia Sidney died in 1999, from esophageal cancer at the Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, a month before her 89th birthday. Her remains were cremated.

Sidney was married three times. She first married publisher Bennett Cerf in 1935, but the couple divorced six months later in 1936. She later married actor and acting teacher Luther Adler in 1938, by whom she had her only child, a son Jacob (1939–1987), who died of Lou Gehrig's disease while his mother was still alive. Adler and Sidney divorced in 1946. In 1947, she married radio producer and announcer Carlton Alsop. They divorced in 1951.

Sylvia Sidney in Madame Butterfly (1932)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7392/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Paramount. Sylvia Sidney in Madame Butterfly (Marion Gering, 1932).

Sylvia Sidney
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8795/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Paramount.

Sylvia Sidney
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 1715/1, 1937-1938. Photo: Paramount.

Sylvia Sidney
Italian postcard by Rizzoli & C., Milano, 1938. Photo: Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Sylvia Sidney
French postcard, no. 686. Photo: Paramount.

Sylvia Sidney
French postcard by Editions E.C., Paris.

Sources: Wikipedia and .
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Published on June 10, 2021 22:00

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