16 January 2018

Wera Frydtberg

German film, television and stage actress Wera Frydtberg (1926–2008) was a star of the German cinema of the 1950s. She appeared in leading roles in Ich denke oft an Piroschka/I Often Think of Piroschka (1955) and Wir Wunderkinder/Aren't We Wonderful? (1958).

Wera Frydtberg
West-German postcard by Netter's Starverlag, Berlin, no. A 1201. Photo: Kopp-Filmverleih. Publicity still for Das Kreuz am Jägersteig/The Hunter's Cross (Hermann Kugelstadt, 1954).

Johanna von Koczian, Hansjörg Felmy, Wera Frydtberg
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 5338. Sent by mail in the Netherlands in 1960. Photo: HAFBO-film. Publicity still for Wir Wunderkinder/Aren't We Wonderful? (Kurt Hoffmann, 1958) with Johanna von Koczian and Hansjörg Felmy.

The Sinner

Wera Frydtberg was born as Wera Friedberg in 1926 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Her father was a physician.

She studied acting with professor Neugebauer in Vienna. She made her theatrical debut in 1949 and became prominent in the Wirtschaftwunder cinema of the 1950s.

She made her film debut in a supporting part in the melodramatic Film Noir Die Sünderin/The Sinner (Willi Forst, 1951). In her role as a prostitute, leading star Hildegard Knef created a sensation with a brief nude scene.

The film drew the criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. Contrary to common believe in later years, at the time of the release the nude scene was not the main issue for the protests but the depiction of prostitution, euthanasia and suicide as a good or even logical way to act. The opposition reached the degree of banning the film and scandalising it which paradoxically made it one of the landmarks in the history of the German cinema.

In the following years, Frydtberg played supporting parts in several comedies and had a guest role in the American-German TV series Flash Gordon (1954) featuring Steve Holland as the space hero.

Frydtberg had her first leading role in the Heimatfilm Das Forsthaus in Tirol/The Forest House in Tyrol (Hermann Kugelstadt, 1955) opposite Helmuth Schneider.

Very popular was the charming and melancholic comedy Ich denke oft an Piroschka/I Often Think of Piroschka (Kurt Hoffmann, 1955), in which she co-starred with Liselotte Pulver as Piroschka and Gunnar Möller.

During a train journey, the writer Andreas nostalgically recalls a holiday trip he had made thirty years before in 1920s Hungary to the Lake Balaton area. While there he had enjoyed his first true romance with the daughter of the local stationmaster. The film is in the Heimatfilm tradition which was at its height when the film was released.

Other notable films with Frydtberg include the comedy Der Pauker/The Crammer (Axel von Ambesser, 1958), starring Heinz Rühmann, and Wir Wunderkinder/Aren't We Wonderful? (Kurt Hoffmann, 1958), with Johanna von Koczian and Hansjörg Felmy. The latter recounts the lives of two schoolmates, Hans Boeckel and Bruno Tiches from the fictional town of Neustadt an der Nitze, against the backdrop of German history in the first half of the 20th century.

Eleanor Mannikka at AllMovie: “A biting and effective semi-experimental film about Nazism in Germany, director Kurt Hoffmann tells the story in a long flashback, starting in 1913 and playing out like a silent movie on a small screen.” The film received numerous awards. Most notably, it won the Golden Globe for Best International Picture in 1960.

Wera Frydtberg in Sie (1954)
German postcard by Rüdel-Verlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. 984. Photo: Filmaufbau / Herzog-Film / Czerwonski. Publicity still for Sie/She (Rolf Thiele, 1954).

Wera Frydtberg
German postcard by Netter's Starverlag, Berlin, no. A 1205. Photo: Herzog Filmverleih. Publicity still for Sie/She (Rolf Thiele, 1954).

The Land of Smiles

During the 1960s, Wera Frydtberg focused more on TV and appeared in operetta adaptations as Der Vogelhändler/The Bird Seller (Kurt Wilhelm, 1960) and Das Land des Lächelns/The Land of Smiles (Kurt Wilhelm, 1961).

During her career, she also appeared extensively on stage in Vienna at the Akademie-Theater, the Kosmos-Theater and till 1962 at the Theater in der Josefstadt. In Germany she played guest parts at the Renaissance-Theater in Berlin, the Komödie Berlin, at the Kleine Komödie in Munich, at the Komödie Düsseldorf, at the Theater Die Kleine Freiheit in Munich and at the Schlosspark-Spielen Wiesbaden.

In the cinema, she appeared in such mediocre fare as the Austrian Schlagerfilm Sing, aber spiel nicht mit mir/Sing but don’t play with me (Kurt Nachmann, 1963) with Adrian Hoven.

More interesting was the drama Das Glück läuft hinterher/Happiness is running afterwards (Peter Beauvais, 1963), which follows the life of several different people in 1960s in Germany for a few days.

She guest-starred in popular Krimi series like Der Kommissar/The Commissioner (1972-1973) and Ein Fall für zwei/A case for two (1982).

Her final feature film was the comedy Mein Onkel Theodor oder Wie man viel Geld im Schlaf verdient/My uncle Theodor (Gustav Ehmck, 1975) with Gert Fröbe and Barbara Rütting. Her last screen appearance was in the Krimi series München 7/Munich 7 (2006).

Wera Frydtberg died 2008 in Munich, Bavaria, Germany at the age of 81. She was married to American immigrant and officer Otto Urbach till his death in 1976. They had one daughter, historian Karina Urbach.

Wera Frydtberg
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 34/327, 1957. Photo: Real-Film. Publicity still for Die tolle Lola/The great Lola (Hans Deppe, 1954).

Wera Frydtberg
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 1061, 1965.

Sources: Eleanor Mannikka (AllMovie), Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-Line - German), Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

15 January 2018

Bernard Giraudeau

French actor Bernard Giraudeau (1947-2010) was with his bright blue eyes one of the most attractive but also talented stars of the French cinema. For his roles, he was twice nominated for the French Oscar, Le César. Giraudeau also worked as film director, scriptwriter, producer and writer.

Bernard Giraudeau
French autograph card.

Bernard Giraudeau
French postcard in the Acteurs Français series by Les Editions Gil, no. 5.

Passion of Love

Bernard René Giraudeau was born in 1947 in La Rochelle, France.

In 1963 the 15-years-old enlisted in the French navy as a trainee engineer, qualifying as the first in his class a year later. He completed two around the world cruises before his service ended. He served on the helicopter carrier Jeanne d'Arc in 1964–1965 and 1965–1966, and subsequently on the frigate Duquesne and the aircraft carrier Clemenceau before leaving the navy to try his luck as an actor.

He studied acting at the CNSAD (Conservatoire National Superieur d'Art Dramatique). Giraudeau first appeared on film in the Franco-Italian crime film Deux hommes dans la ville/Two men in Town (José Giovanni, 1973) starring Jean Gabin and Alain Delon. He played a kidnapper in Revolver (Sergio Sollima, 1973) with Oliver Reed.

Two years later he had a supporting part in another crime drama by José Giovanni, Le Gitan/The Gypsy (José Giovanni, 1975), starring Alain Delon and Annie Girardot.

In 1977, he played the male lead in Bilitis (1977) directed by photographer David Hamilton with a music score by Francis Lai. The erotic and romantic coming-of-age drama starred Patti D'Arbanville as Bilitis. The film was shot in the soft-focus schmaltz style that was common of David Hamilton's at the time very popular photography.

Giraudeau also co-starred with Jodie Foster in the French film Moi, fleur bleue/Stop Calling Me Baby! (Eric le Hung, 1977). He co-starred again with Alain Delon in the futuristic war film Le Toubib/The Medic (Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1979), and appeared in the hit comedy Boum/The Party (Claude Pinoteau, 1980) with Sophie Marceau in her film debut.

Then followed his breakthrough as a handsome dashing officer who falls desperately in love with an ugly but passionate woman (Valeria d’Obici) in the Italian drama Passione d'amore/Passion of Love (Ettore Scola, 1981). The film was entered into the 1981 Cannes Film Festival and served as the inspiration for the 1994 Broadway musical Passion by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

Soon followed leading roles in international films like the French-Swiss drama Hecate (Daniel Schmid, 1982) with Lauren Hutton, the French-Canadian crime film Le Ruffian/The Ruffian (José Giovanni, 1983) also starring Lino Ventura and Claudia Cardinale, and the French drama L'année des méduses/The Year of the Jellyfish (Christopher Frank, 1985) with Valérie Kaprisky.

Another box-office hit in France was the buddy-action film Les Spécialistes/The Specialists (Patrice Leconte, 1985). in which he co-starred with Gérard Lanvin. DB Dumonteil at IMDb: “A deft, energetic buddy movie interspersed with unexpected twists, suspenseful chases and stunts and a sharp humor into the bargain. Everything you could wish for to spend a comfortable evening in front of the telly without reservations. (…) One shouldn't forget the two main actors which contribute in making the film a little winner. Gérard Lanvin and Bernard Giraudeau are on top form.”

Bernard Giraudeau in Rue barbare (1984)
French autograph card. Photo: Luc Roux, Première. Publicity still for Rue barbare/Barbarous Street (Gilles Béhat, 1984).

Gérard Lanvin, Bernard Giraudeau, Les Spécialistes
French postcard by Les Editions Gil in the série acteurs, no. 3. Publicity still for Les Spécialistes/The Specialists (1985, Patrice Leconte) with Gérard Lanvin.

Water Drops on Burning Rocks

In 1987, Bernard Giraudeau made his first film as director the TV film La Face de l'ogre/The Face of the Monster (1988), though he continued to work as an actor.

He co-starred with Isabelle Huppert in the romance Après l'amour/Love After Love (Diane Kurys, 1992). In the drama Le Fils préferé/The Favourite Son (Nicole Garcia, 1994), he played the brother of Gérard Lanvin and Jean-Marc Barr.

Giraudeau appeared in the lauded historical drama Ridicule (Patrice Leconte, 1996), set in the 18th century at the decadent court of Versailles. The film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and received several César awards, but Giraudeau was only nominated for a Cesar as best Supporting Actor.

He played Molière in another historical film, Marquise (Véra Belmont, 1997) with Sophie Marceau and Lambert Wilson. In Italy he appeared in the drama Marianna Ucrìa (Roberto Faenza, 1997).

Back in France he starred in François Ozon’s drama Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes/Water Drops on Burning Rocks (2000), based on a German play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Tropfen auf heisse Steine, written when he was 19 years old. Elbert Ventura at AllMovie: “The movie has an undercurrent of absurdist humor, but its laughs are muffled for the most part, with the exception being an out-of-left-field dance number that injects some needed energy into the dour, claustrophobic story. Beautifully structured and meticulously filmed, Water Drops on Burning Rocks is clearly the work of an intelligent filmmaker.”

Also interesting is Une affaire de goût/A Question of Taste (Bernard Rapp, 2000). The film tells about the growing dependency between a rich CEO (Giraudeau) and a handsome young waiter (Jean-Pierre Lorit) whom the CEO hires at an astronomical sum to serve as a personal food taster. David Anderson at Bunched Undies: “A Matter of Taste is a well-executed film: excellent production, nicely photographed and well-acted. But by the time it’s over, like the principle characters, you may find yourself feeling a bit empty.” The film received 5 César Award nominations, including nominations for Best Film and for Giraudeau as Best Actor.

Bernard Giraudeau
French postcard in the Collection 9.1/2 series by Editions Humour à la Carte, Paris, no. ST-63. Sent by mail in 2000.

The Hook

As a writer, Bernard Giraudeau wrote the text of books of photography and published children's stories (Contes d'Humahuaca, 2002) and several novels. He was also the reader on the French audio books of the Harry Potter series.

Since 1976, he was married to actress and author Anny Duperey, whom he had met while acting in the same play. They acted together on-screen in several productions, including the crime drama Le grand pardon/Grand Pardon (Alexandre Arcady, 1982), Meurtres à domicile/Evil in the house (Marc Lobet, 1982), La face de l'ogre (Bernard Giraudeau, 1988), and Contre l'oubli/Against Oblivion (Bernard Giraudeau a.o., 1991). They divorced in 1993.

From 1996 to his death, he was the companion of Tohra Mahdavi. Giraudeau and Duperey had two children: son Gaël and daughter Sara. Sara Giraudeau achieved success as an actress.

In 2000 Bernard Giraudeau suffered a cancer which led to the removal of his left kidney, with a subsequent metastasis in 2005 affecting his lungs. He said that the cancer led him to re-evaluate his life and understand himself better.

He devoted some of his time to the support of cancer victims through the Institut Curie and the Institut Gustave-Roussy in Paris.

His later films included La petite Lili/Little Lili (Claude Miller, 2003), featuring Ludivine Sagnier, the comedy Ce jour-là/That Day (Raúl Ruiz, 2003), and the thriller Je suis un assassin/The Hook (Thomas Vincent, 2004) with François Cluzet and Karin Viard.

In 2010, Bernard Giraudeau died of his cancer in a Paris hospital. He was 63.

Trailer Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes/Water Drops on Burning Rocks (2000). Source: Accent Film Entertainment (YouTube).

French trailer Une affaire de goût/A Question of Taste (2000). Source: jajuvabie (YouTube).

Sources: David Anderson (Bunched Undies), DB Dumonteil (IMDb), Elbert Ventura (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

14 January 2018

Johnston Forbes-Robertson

Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1853-1937) was a British actor and theatre manager. He was considered the finest Hamlet of the Victorian era, and also played Hamlet a few times on the screen.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson as Hamlet
British postcard by Beagles Photocards, no. 781. Photo: Lizzie Caswall-Smith. Caption: Mr. Forbes Robertson as Hamlet. Sent by mail in 1913.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson
British postcard by Rotary Photo, EC, no. 105 A. Photo: Lizzie Caswall-Smith.

British postcard in the Fine Art Post Cards Series by Shurey's Publications. Photo: Langfier.

Highly successful Romantic style of acting

Johnston Forbes-Robertson was born in London in 1853. He was the eldest of the eleven children of theatre critic and journalist John Forbes-Robertson and his wife Frances.

One of his sisters, Frances, and three of his brothers, Ian, Norman and John, also became actors. He was the brother-in-law of famed actress Maxine Elliott, the uncle of economist Roy Harrod, and great-uncle of actress Meriel Forbes (granddaughter of his brother Norman), who married actor Ralph Richardson.

While intending to become an artist, he trained for three years at the Royal Academy, but reluctantly and for financial needs he began a theatrical career, when dramatist William Gorman Wills offered him a role in his play Mary Queen of Scots.

His many performances led him into travel to the U.S., work with Sir Henry Irving, and moving in the highest aristocratic and cultural circles.

In 1895 he took over the management of the Lyceum Theatre, with Mrs. Patrick Campbell as leading lady. Here he gave memorable performances as Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo, and produced himself Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pelléas and Mélisande, in which his Romantic style of acting was highly successful.

British postcard, dated 17-7-1903. Photo: Lafayette, London, no. 2014.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson as Hamlet
British postcard by Beagles' Postcards, no. 179 G. Photo: Lizzie Caswall-Smith. Publicity still for a stage production of Hamlet.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson as Hamlet
British postcard by Beagles Photocards, no. 179 J. Photo: Lizzie Caswall-Smith. Publicity still for a stage production of Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson
British postcard by F.H.L., no. 1419.

One of the most individual and refined of English actors

Forbes-Robertson was hailed as one of the most individual and refined of English actors, noted for his ascetic features but even more for his fine elocution.

George Bernard Shaw praised him and wrote especially for him the part of Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra, which premiered in March 1899 at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. Later, Shaw considered him the greatest Hamlet he had ever seen.

Forbes-Robertson played opposite Gertrude Elliott as Cleopatra, both were part of Mrs. Patrick Campbell's company. Other notable roles were Othello, and Leontes in The Winter's Tale. 

Forbes-Robertson did not play Hamlet until he was 44 years old, but after his success in this part he continued playing it until 1916, including a surviving silent film, Hamlet (Hay Plumb, 1913).

Highly successful was also his lead in Jerome K. Jerome’s The Passing of the Third Floor Back, which he performed on Broadway in 1908. It was filmed in 1916, and released two years later, The Passing of the Third Floor Back (Herbert Brenon, 1918).

Bob Lipton in his review at IMDb: "The actors are a bit over the top in their performances - except, interestingly, for Forbes-Robertson - but 1918, with the First World War raging, was certainly good moment for a serious, spiritual play."

Forbes-Robertson as Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra
British postcard by J. Beagles & Co., London, no. 179 V. Photo: Lizzie Caswall Smith. Forbes-Robertson as Julius Caesar in G.B. Shaw's play Caesar and Cleopatra (1899).

Forbes-Robertson as Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., no. 105 K. Photo: Lizzie Caswall Smith. Forbes-Robertson as Julius Caesar in G.B. Shaw's play Caesar and Cleopatra (1899).

Forbes-Robertson and Gertrude Elliott in Caesar and Cleopatra
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., no. 105 M. Photo: Lizzie Caswall Smith. Forbes-Robertson as Julius Caesar and Gertrude Elliott as Cleopatra in G.B. Shaw's play Caesar and Cleopatra (1899).

Forbes-Robertson and Gertrude Elliott in Caesar and Cleopatra
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., no. 105 T. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Forbes-Robertson and Gertrude Elliott in G.B. Shaw's play Caesar and Cleopatra (1899).

A Player Under Three Reigns

In the 1880s, Johnston Forbes-Robertson acted in plays with the gifted actress Mary Anderson. He asked her hand in marriage, but she kindly turned him down, though they remained friends.

Later he and actress Beatrice Campbell enjoyed a brief affair during the time she starred with him in a series of Shakespearean plays in the mid-1890s.

In 1900, at age 47, he married American-born actress Gertrude Elliott (1874–1950), sister of Maxine Elliott, with whom he had four daughters. Their second daughter Jean Forbes-Robertson became an accomplished actress. Through her he is the grandfather of actress Joanna Van Gyseghem.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson was knighted in 1913 at the age of 60, at which point he retired from acting. He returned to the stage, however, for a farewell tour of the US in 1914-1915, making his last appearance onstage at the Sanders Theatre in Boston with a performance of Hamlet.

In the last years of his life he produced plays by George Bernard Shaw and Jerome K. Jerome. His literary works include: The Life and Life-Work of Samuel Phelps (actor and theatre manager) as well as his own autobiography Johnston Forbes-Robertson: A Player Under Three Reigns (1925).

In 1937, Johnston Forbes-Robertson died at St. Margaret's Bay, near Dover, Kent, and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, London. He was 84.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson as Shylock
British postcard in the Real Photographic Series by Davidson Brothers, London, no. 2216. Photo: Lizzie Caswall-Smith. Caption: Mr. Forbes Robertson as "Shylock". Sent by mail in 1908.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice
British postcard by Beagles' Postcards, no. 179 U. Photo: Lizzie Caswall-Smith. Publicity still for a stage production of The Merchant of Venice with Johnston Forbes-Robertson as Shylock. Sent by mail in 1913.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson and Getrude Elliott in The Light That Failed (1903)
British postcard in the Rotary Photographic Series, no. 1632 A. Photo: Lizzie Caswall-Smith. Publicity still for the stage production of The Light That Failed (1903). Caption: Mr. Forbes Robertson as Dick Helder (sic), Gertrude Lawrence as Maisie, "Maisie, my Maisie".

The play The Light That Failed by George Fleming was based on the novel of the same name by-English author Rudyard Kipling, first published in 1891. Most of the novel is set in London, but many important events throughout the story occur in Sudan and Port Said. It follows the life of Dick Heldar, an artist and painter who goes blind, and his unrequited love for his childhood playmate, Maisie. The first stage production starred Forbes-Robertson, Elliott, and Sydney Valentine. It was performed in the West End from February to April 1903 and moved on to Broadway in November, making the story more famous. In 1939, it was made into a film by Paramount, starring Ronald Colman as Heldar, and also with Muriel Angelus, Ida Lupino, and Walter Huston.

House of Forbes Robertson
London, Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. House of Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1853-1937).

Sources: Bob Lipton (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.
See Forbes-Robertson play Hamlet: YouTube and YouTube.
Hear Forbes-Robertson reciting Hamlet: Britannica, also YouTube (these are recordings from 1928, when the actor was 75).