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17 October 2017

Andrée Brabant

Andrée Brabant (1901-1989) was a charming French film actress whose career peaked in the silent era of French cinema. She was discovered by Abel Gance and also worked with such major directors as André Antoine, Germaine Dulac and Julien Duvivier.

Andrée Brabant
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1264/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Deulig.

Charming New Dancer


Marie Thérèse Andrée Brabant was born in Reims, France, in 1901. Shortly after her birth, she was placed in the custody of her grandmother before returning at the age of four to her father, a railway employee, and her mother, a housewife. Ten years later, after an infidelity of his father, her parents separated.

She followed her mother to Paris where she quickly found work as shorthand-typist. Shortly afterwards, Andrée met the ballet master of the Mayol concerts and was engaged by Félix Mayol himself to be a dancer in his revues.

In 1916 film director Abel Gance was looking for a young artist for his next film, Le Droit à la vie/The Right to Life (Abel Gance, 1916), when one of his friends advised him to go and see the new dancer at Mayol’s. The filmmaker fell for her charm and he immediately offered her the female lead role opposite Paul Vermoyal and Léon Mathot.

Andrée Brabant left the stage to fully devote herself to cinema. The following year Abel Gance used her again as the protagonist in La zone de la mort/The Zone of Death (Abel Gance, 1917), again with Léon Mathot. She also acted in André Antoine’s Les travailleurs de la mer/Workers of the Sea (1917), adapted from Victor Hugo and starring Romuald Joubé.

For twelve years, the beautiful young actress, still chaperoned by her mother, performed in about twenty productions that would make her a real star. Her best films include La cigarette/Cigarette (Germaine Dulac, 1919), La maison vide/The Empty House (Raymond Bernard 1921), and Le rêve/The Dream (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1921), an adaptation of Emile Zola.

In La cigarette/Cigarette (Germaine Dulac, 1919), Andrée Brabant played the wife of a museum director (Gabriel Signoret) who suspects his wife of infidelity and places a poisoned cigarette in the box on his desk, allowing fate to strike.

In La maison vide/The Empty House (Raymond Bernard 1921), she is a young typist hired by an old entomologist (Henri Debain), who is fascinated with her, while two industrialists (Pierre Alcover, Jacques Roussel) try to conquer her. She instead favours a young clerk, so her employer is left alone in his empty house.

In Le rêve/The Dream (Jacques de Baroncelli, 1921) she is a foundling gathered under a porch of a cathedral. As an adult, she suffers from a bishop (Gabriel Signoret) who opposes his son’s marriage with her. When he finally consents she dies during her wedding at the place where she was found.

Andrée Brabant also appeared in two serials of quality, Travail/Work (1919) by Henri Pouctal and Tao, le fantôme noir/Tao, the black ghost (Gaston Ravel, 1923), starring Joë Hamman.

Andrée Brabant
French postcard by Editions Filma in Les Vedettes du Cinéma series, no. 2. Photo: Agence Générale Cinématographique.

Andrée Brabant
French (?) postcard. Photo: Sartony.

A sumptuous life


Andrée Brabant starred in Les ombres qui passent/The Shadows That Pass (Alexandre Volkoff, 1924) opposite the great Russian actor Ivan Mozzhukhin with whom she had a brief liaison. She plays the wife of Mozzhukhin who is caught in a net of swindlers led by femme fatale Nathalie Lissenko.

Brabant also starred in Le mariage de Mademoiselle Beulemans/The Marriage of Mademoiselle Beulemans (1927), one of the very first films of Julien Duvivier. In this romantic comedy, based on a classic play by Jean François Fonson and Fernand Wicheler, she is a Belgian brewer’s daughter who is betrothed to a local (René Lefevre), but loves a Parisian classy man (Jean Dehelly). Then the daughter finds out her fiancé secretly already has a wife and kid.

At that time, Andrée Brabant led a sumptuous life, bought a mansion in Neuilly-sur-Seine, which was soon called the Hotel Brabant, and accumulated amorous adventures, some of them illustrious, e.g. with King Fouad 1er Of Egypt and the President of the Republic Paul Deschanel. She never married and never had a child, a sacrifice for her career that she would accept without regret for the rest of her life.

In 1929, Brabant played in her first sound film, Maternité/Maternity by Jean Benoît-Lévy, but she made the mistake of believing that this new Art was not made for her.

The star honoured the few film contracts in progress, such as the excellent silent drama Au bonheur des dames (Julien Duvivier, 1929) with Dita Parlo. Then she left the film industry to play comedy at the Grand-Guignol theater to prove to her audience that she did not need cinema to know how to speak.

But, with the arrival of sound film, competition became rough and the salaries less and less. When she tried to return to the cinema, she only found a few small parts, such as in Le feu de paille/Hay Fever (Jean Benoît-Lévy, 1939), starring Lucien Baroux and Orane Demazis.

Andrée separated herself little by little from all of her jewellery, then from all her possessions, including her mansion. Nevertheless, she remained active at the Grand Guignol until the end of the Second World War.

After the Liberation, Andrée Brabant went to live with her mother in Marseille. After the death of the latter and without resources, she became a demonstrator in household appliances for Brandt and travelled for her job all over France and North Africa. At the age of retirement, she settled in Belgentier in the Var region.

In 1964 Jean-Christophe Averty made for his TV documentary series Trente ans de silence one episode with and on Brabant. In 1964, she also played her last film role in L'âge ingrat/The Ungrateful Age (Gilles Grangier, 1964) with Fernandel and Jean Gabin, after which the old actress inexorably sank into oblivion.

Andrée Brabant died in 1989 in Toulon, France, in total anonymity. She was 88. All in all, she had acted in some 35 films.


Scenes from Au bonheur des dames (Julien Duvivier, 1929) with Dita Parlo. Source: Radio Santos (YouTube).

Sources: Pascal Donald (CineArtistes), Unifrance, Wikipedia (French and English) and IMDb.

16 October 2017

Jack Trevor

British gentleman actor Jack Trevor (1890-1976) had a great career in the German and Austrian silent cinema of the 1920s. During World War II the Nazis forced him to appear in anti-British propaganda films.

Jack Trevor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 2099/1, 1927-1928. Photo: National.

Jack Trevor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3961/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Natge, Berlin.

Jack Trevor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4153/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Fayer, Wien.

Jack Trevor
Austrian postcard by Iris-Verlag, no. 5778. Photo: Pan-Film AG.

Jack Trevor
Austrian postcard by Iris-Verlag, no. 5006. Photo: Sascha.

The Typical English Gentleman


Jack Trevor was born as Anthony Cedric Sebastian Steane in London-Lambeth, Great-Britain (according to IMDb in Berlin, Germany) in 1890. He came from a well-to-do, upper-class family and went to study at the New College in Oxford.

During World War I, he served for the Manchester Regiment. He won the Military Cross and was wounded in 1916 which led to his release as a so-called war-disabled person. He married the Austrian Alma, an alleged daughter from the famous liaison between baroness Mary Vetsera and the Austrian Crown Prince Rudolf. His wife committed suicide one year after their wedding.

In the early 1920s Jack Trevor started to work for the silent British cinema in films like Petticoat Loose (George Ridgwell, 1922) with Warwick Ward, and Pages of Life (Adelqui Migliar, 1922) with Evelyn Brent.

After a few years he moved over to the booming German film industry. When Trevor (sometimes credited as Jac Trevor) got a film offer from director Friedrich Zelnik to appear with Hans Albers and Lya Mara in Die Venus von Montmarte/The Venus of Montmartre (1925), he accepted it at once.

That year he also appeared with stars like Lil Dagover, Emil Jannings, Jenny Jugo and Conrad Veidt in Liebe macht blind/Love Makes Us Blind (Lothar Mendes, 1925), and opposite Lily Damita in the hit Fiaker Nr. 13/Cab nr. 13 (Mihaly Kertész aka Michael Curtiz, 1926).

To his other well-known films of the 1920s belong Geheimnisse einer Seele/Secrets of a Soul (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1926), Der goldene Schmetterling/The Golden Butterfly (Michael Curtiz, 1926), Die Frau ohne Namen/The Woman Without a Name (Georg Jacoby, 1927), Der Katzensteg/Betrayal (Gerhard Lamprecht, 1927), and Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney/The Love of Jeanne Ney (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1927).

In 1928 he appeared in an uncredited part in Alfred Hitchcock’s Champagne (1928) starring Betty Balfour. Trevor always played aristocrats and high officers. In fact he impersonated on screen what he was in his private life: the typical English gentleman.

Other silent films in which he appeared were Moderne Piraten/Modern Pirates (Manfred Noa, 1928), Abwege/Crisis (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1928) and Narkose/Narcose (Alfred Abel, Ernst Garden, 1929).

Jack Trevor
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5358. Photo: Pan-Film A.G.

Jack Trevor
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5472. Photo: Hans Natge, Berlin.

Jack Trevor
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5908. Photo: Hanni Schwarz.

Jack Trevor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5073/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Münchner Lichtspielkunst AG (Emelka).

Jack Trevor and Lissi Arna in Der Katzensteg (1927)
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5110. Photo: National / Mondial / Gerhard LamprechtFilm-Produktion. Publicity still for Der Katzensteg/Betrayal (Gerhard Lamprecht, 1927).

Franz Lederer et.al. Cicero Film
German postcard. Photo: Cicero Film / Distribution Deutsche Tonfilme. The 'fine fleur' of late silent German cinema stars, united for a photo for an early sound film company. Standing left to right: Francis/Franz Lederer, Walter Rilla, Theodor Loos, Camilla Horn, Fritz Rasp and Walter Janssen, Sitting left to right: Paul Heidemann, Charlotte Susa, Betty Amann, Olga Tschechowa, Maria Paudler and Jack Trevor. Might be publicity for the early sound comedy Die grosse Sehnsucht/The Great Longing (Stefan Szekely/Steve Sekely, 1930), in which all acted, mostly as themselves - only Loos and Horn played characters. The plot was an excuse for 35 stars to debut in a talking picture.

Anti-British Propaganda Films


The transition to the sound film turned out to be difficult for Jack Trevor. With his insufficient knowledge of the German language he got only a few roles. He appeared in the war drama Two Worlds (Ewald André Dupont, 1930), the British language version of Les deux mondes (Ewald André Dupont, 1930), and in Die fünf verfluchten Gentlemen/The Five Accursed Gentlemen (Julien Duvivier, 1931), again an alternate language version of a French film, Les cinq gentlemen maudits (Julien Duvivier, 1931).

Later Trevor was able to act more often in supporting roles in such films as Henker, Frauen und Soldaten/Hangmen, Women and Soldiers (Johannes Meyer, 1935) with Hans Albers, Engel mit kleinen Fehlern/Angels with Minor Faults (Carl Boese, 1936) with Adele Sandrock, and Der Scheidungsgrund/Grounds for Divorce (Carl Lamac, 1937) with Anny Ondra.

Trevor, who owned a huge fortune, travelled through Europe with his two sons of his second marriage and didn't pick up much of the political changes in Germany. In 1939, when the war broke out he was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo, while his family stayed in Oberammergau.

Finally he was forced to take part in anti-British propaganda films like Carl Peters (Herbert Selpin, 1941), Mein Leben für Irland/My Life For Ireland (Max W. Kimmich, 1941) and Ohm Krüger/Uncle Kruger (Hans Steinhoff, 1941) featuring Emil Jannings.

Thomas Staedeli writes at Cyranos that after the war Trevor came in “a vicious circle and was extradited to England”. There he was sentenced to prison for three years because of his support to the Nazis. The sentence was quashed again three months later because it was proved that this collaboration didn't come off of his own free will.

He could turn again to the pleasant sides of life but he never took part in a film again. Jack Trevor died in 1976 in Deal, England. He was 86.

Jack Trevor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3951/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Natge, Berlin.

Jack Trevor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3164/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Hanni Schwarz, Berlin.

Jack Trevor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5066/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Defina.

Jack Trevor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5074/1, 1930-1931.

Jack Trevor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5419/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Atelier Krabbe, Berlin.

Jack Trevor
Austrian postcard by Iris-Verlag, no. 5779. Photo: Abel Produktion / GP / Allianz Film.

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia and IMDb.

15 October 2017

Michael Craig

British actor Michael Craig (1928) is known for his work in theatre, film and television both in the United Kingdom and Australia. He also worked as a scriptwriter, such as for The Angry Silence (1960). In Italy, Luchino Visconti directed him in Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa.../Sandra (1965).

Michael Craig
Belgian collectors card by Merbotex, Bruxelles. Photo: Arthur Rank.

Groomed for stardom


Michael Craig was born Michael Francis Gregson in Poona, British India, in 1928. He was the son of Donald Gregson, a Scottish captain in the 3rd Indian Cavalry.

He came to Britain with his family when aged three, and went to Canada when he was ten. He left school for the Merchant Navy at 16, but finally returned to England and the lure of the theatre.

By 1947, he debuted on stage in The Merchant of Venice. Craig's film career started as an extra in the Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico (Henry Cornelius, 1949). In 1953, he gained his first speaking part in the British war film Malta Story (Brian Desmond Hurst, 1953).

This eventually led to discovery by the Rank Organisation. Craig was groomed for stardom, and leading roles followed in such films as Yield to the Night (J. Lee Thompson, 1956) opposite Diana Dors, Campbell's Kingdom (Ralph Thomas, 1957) with Dirk Bogarde, Sea of Sand (Guy Green, 1958) starring Richard Attenborough, The Silent Enemy (William Fairchild, 1958), Upstairs and Downstairs (Ralph Thomas, 1959) with Mylène Demongeot, and the comedy Doctor in Love (Ralph Thomas, 1960).

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “As leading man in such films, Craig was required to do little more beyond looking handsome and dependable. One of his few movie roles of substance was in The Angry Silence (1960), which he co-wrote.“

The Angry Silence (Guy Green, 1960) starred Richard Attenborough and Pier Angeli. When his 7-year contract with Rank ended, Craig was optioned by Columbia Pictures. Yet his American work was only remembered in two films, ironically co-productions, either with the UK, Mysterious Island (Cy Endfield, 1961), or Australia, the Disney TV instalment, Ride a Wild Pony (Don Chaffey, 1975).

He often worked in Italy and his faraway best Italian film is Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa.../Sandra (Luchino Visconti, 1965) with Claudia Cardinale and Jean Sorel. Other interesting films include Modesty Blaise (Joseph Losey, 1966) featuring Monica Vitti, Star! (Robert Wise, 1968) with Julie Andrews, Turkey Shoot (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1982), and Appointment with Death (Michael Winner, 1988) with Peter Ustinov and Lauren Bacall.

Michael Craig
British autograph card. Photo: Rank Organisation.

Michael Craig in House of Secrets (1956)
Austrian postcard by Kellner-Fotokarten, Wien, no. 1075 Ö. Photo: Rank Organisation. Publicity still for House of Secrets (Guy Green, 1956).

Australia 


Michael Craig first job in the theatre was as an assistant stage manager at the Castle Theatre, Farnham in 1950. In 1953, Sir Peter Hall gave him his first lead role on stage.

His many later stage credits include A Whistle in the Dark (1961), Wars of the Roses (Season at Stratford 1963-1964), Jule Styne's musical Funny Girl (with Barbra Streisand at the Prince of Wales Theatre 1964), William Shakespeare's play Richard II (1965), The Homecoming (1966–1967) and the lead role in Trying in 2008.

His television credits include appearing in Arthur of the Britons (1973), The Emigrants (1976), Rush (1976), The Professionals (1980), Shoestring (1980), The Timeless Land (1980), Triangle (1981–1983), Tales of the Unexpected (1982), Robin of Sherwood (1986), and Doctor Who (1986).

By the mid-1970s, Craig's TV and film work was heavily concentrated in Australia. He played a depth or roles, both comedic and dramatic, that has included memorable and solid character pieces as he has matured in age. His Australian series include G.P. (1989–1995), Brides of Christ (1991), Grass Roots (2000) and Always Greener (2003).

Craig's scriptwriting credits include the highly acclaimed ABC-TV trilogy The Fourth Wish (1974), which starred John Meillon in his award-winning performance as the father of a dying boy. He also wrote the screenplay for the feature film of The Fourth Wish (1976), which was produced following the success of the television series.

Alongside his brother, Richard Gregson and co-writer Bryan Forbes, Craig was Academy Award nominated for his screenplay of The Angry Silence (1960). Twice married, his first wife was Babette Collier, second is Susan Walker. He is the father of Michael, Stephen and Jessica Gregson.

Michael Craig resides in Australia. His brother is film producer Richard Gregson, and from Richard's marriage to Natalie Wood, he is the uncle of actress Natasha Gregson Wagner. In 2005 Craig released his autobiography The Smallest Giant: An Actor's Tale.

Michael Craig in Campbell's Kingdom (1957)
British postcard in the Celebrity Autograph Series by Celebrity Publishers London, no. 298. Photo: Rank Organisation. Publicity still for Campbell's Kingdom (Ralph Thomas, 1957).

Michael Craig
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. D 836. Photo: Associated British.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), William McPeak (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.