11 December 2017

Alla Larionova

Beautiful Russian stage and film actress Alla Larionova (1931-2000) was one of the most popular stars of the Soviet cinema of the 1950s. She was known for such films as the Fairy-tale Sadko (1952), Anna na shee (1954) and Trizhdy voskresshiy (1960).

Alla Larionova
Russian postcard, no. A 09462, 1965. Photo: G. Ter-Ovanesova.

A Forbidden Beautiful World

Alla Dmitrievna Larionova was born in Moscow, USSR (now Russia) in 1931. Her father was an employee of a food store, and her mother worked as a keeper in a kindergarten. Her parents named her after the film star Alla Tarasova, and thus programmed their little daughter for the future.

After her father went to the front, Alla and her mother evacuated to Menzelinsk, where her mother worked in a hospital. Here, 9-year-old Alla Larionova appeared for the first time on stage. She read poetry to the wounded in the hospital.

When she was barely 15 years old, the young and charming Alla was discovered for the cinema. An unfamiliar woman approached her on the street, and asked if the girl wanted to act in films. Of course, Larionova wanted and appeared in a small part in the biographical drama Michurin (Aleksandr Dovzhenko, 1949), featuring Grigori Belov.

After graduation, Alla went to study as an actress at the Lunacharsky State Institute for Theatre Arts (GITIS) in Moscow. In 1948, she continued her studies at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK), where she met her future husband Nikolai Rybnikov. At the GITIS, she failed miserably at her exams. Before her examiners, she saw the famous director Vasily Mikhailovich Goncharov and got a black-out.

However, during her study years, she got a star-making role, which determined her entire career in the cinema. She played Lyubava in Sadko (Aleksandr Ptushko, 1952) with Sergei Stolyarov. The Fairy-tale film was so successful that the following year the film was invited to Venice Film Festival, where it won the Silver Lion.

This success meant an international breakthrough for the Soviet cinema. In Venice, the beautiful Larionova was followed by crowds of journalists and admirers ran. Well-known producers and directors, including Charles Chaplin, offered her roles that she flatly refused. As the Russian website 24smi writes: “official representatives, officials who accompanied a group of artists abroad, were strictly forbidden to go to contacts with ‘bourgeois’ directors.” Larionova returned home from Italy in tears. She had been allowed to touch a beautiful world, to see it, but was forbidden to live in it.

Back home, she was offered the leading role in Anna na shee/The Anna Cross (Isidor Annensky, 1954), based on a short story by Anton Chekhov. The film turned Larionova into a big star of the Soviet cinema. Hundreds of people, often in bad weather, stood in queues in front of cinemas to see the film. After the actress starred as the beautiful Olivia in Dvenadtsataya noch/Twelfth Night (A. Abramov, Yan Frid, 1955), fans followed her to the studio and her apartment, looked in windows and waited for her exit. Even the minister of culture came to see the actress.

Alla Larionova
Russian postcard, no. AB13758, 1958. Photo: V. Kačna.

Alla Larionova
Russian multiview postcard, no. 1446, 1963. Included are scene photos from Sadko (1952), Vikhri vrazhdebnye/Hostile Whirlwinds (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1953), Anna na shee (1954), and Dvenadtsataya noch/Twelfth Night (A. Abramov, Yan Frid, 1955).

Hindered by the officials

Curiously, Alla Larionova was not offered any more leading roles and her career seemed to be hindered by officials. For example for the film Ilya Muromets/The Sword and the Dragon (Aleksandr Ptushko, 1956), Larionova was not allowed to travel to Yalta, where the shooting of the film took place.

Her few leading roles in the following years included Sudba barabanshchika/The Drummer's Fate (Viktor Eisymont, 1956), the romance Mlechnyy Put/Milky Way (Isaak Shmaruk, 1959) and Trizhdy voskresshiy/Thrice Resurrected (Leonid Gayday, 1960).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Alla Larionova never got leading roles. When the beautiful actress starred in a film it was in ‘ugly’ roles, such as in Dikiy myod/Wild Honey (Vladimir Chebotaryov, 1967), where her face was smeared with mud.

Larionova proved that she could play character roles very well. She played Natalia Dmitrievna Paskudin in the Anton Chekhov adaptation Tri sestry/The Three Sisters (Samson Samsonov, 1964), Donesova in Ko mne, Mukhtar!/Come Here, Mukhtar! (Semyon Tumanov, 1965), Elena Ivanovna in Fokusnik/The Magician (Pyotr Todorovskiy, 1967) and Ekaterina II in the family comedy Yest ideya!/There is an idea! (Vladimir Bychkov, 1977).

But the kind of roles that had made her famous, she was not offered anymore. When she turned 60, Alla Larionova was given the title People's Artist of the RSFSR in 1990, but no significant roles followed anymore. Russian Wikipedia suggests the reason was a scar in her face caused by an accident. Actor George Yumatov, in a state of intoxication, had decided to take Alla Larionova home and caused the accident at which she hit her head and cut her lip. After that, she ceased to appear in films, since the scar was too noticeable.

Larionova lived very quietly and modestly. She travelled around the country with the theatre group named after Eugene Vakhtangov. She was married to Nikolai Rybnikov from 1957 till his death in 1990. Shortly after their marriage was registered, she gave birth to her daughter Alena from actor Ivan Pereverzev. In 1961, their second daughter Arina was born. Alla Larionova died from a heart attack in 2000 in Moscow, Russia. She was buried next to her husband at the Troekurovsky cemetery. In 2004, their daughter Arina, addicted to alcohol, died.

Alla Larionova
Small Russian collectors card.

Alla Larionova
Russian postcard, no. A-06650. Photo: G. Vajlja.

Sources: 24 smi (Russian), Wikipedia (Russian) and IMDb.

10 December 2017

Fesseln (1918)

German actress, writer and producer Hedda Vernon was the star of the Eiko Film production Fesseln/Chains (Hubert Moest, 1918). During the 1910s, she was such a popular film star in Germany that she got her own Hedda-Vernon serial.

Hedda Vernon in Fesseln
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 559/1. Photo: Eiko-Film. Hedda Vernon and Hermann Vallentin in Fesseln (Hubert Moest, 1918).

Hedda Vernon in Fesseln
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 559/2. Photo: Eiko-Film. Hedda Vernon in Fesseln (Hubert Moest, 1918).

A forgotten film

Little is known about this film. Fesseln/Chains (Hubert Moest, 1918) was offered to the German National Board of Censors in August 1918.

Fesseln is one of the seven silent films from 1918 in which German film star Hedda Vernon (1886–1925) played the lead role. Between 1912 and 1925 she starred in more than 80 films. How and where she died is unknown.

Next to Hedda Vernon were in the cast: Emil Albes, Ewald Brückner, Lucie Friedrich, Hermann Vallentin and Erich Wilde.

The film was scripted by Richard Wilde. We don't what the plot was about, but the postcards seem to suggest a storyline. Vernon plays a poor girl who finds a job as a nanny but is maltreated.

Director was Hubert Moest, who was Hedda Vernon's husband from 1913 till 1920. Moest was also her regular film director at Eiko in the years 1914-1918 and afterwards at other companies, including his own company Moest-Film from 1919 on.

Rotophot produced this series of sepia postcards with scenes from the film in their Film Sterne (Film Stars) series. Number 559/5 is still missing.

Hedda Vernon in Fesseln
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 559/3. Photo: Eiko-Film. Hedda Vernon and Hermann Vallentin in Fesseln (Hubert Moest, 1918).

Hedda Vernon in Fesseln
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 559/4. Photo: Eiko-Film. Hedda Vernon in Fesseln (Hubert Moest, 1918).

Hedda Vernon in Fesseln
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 559/6. Photo: Eiko-Film. Hedda Vernon in Fesseln (Hubert Moest, 1918).

Sources: Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

09 December 2017

Ulli Lommel (1944-2017)

German actor and director Ulli Lommel (1944-2017) died of cardiac arrest on 2 December. He was one of the most consistently creative filmmakers to come from the New German Cinema movement. Lommel was best known for his frequent collaborations with Andy Warhol and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The creative partnership with Fassbinder lasted 10 years and produced over 20 films.

Ulli Lommel (1944-2017)
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/303. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood / CCC-Zugsmith Co-produktion. Publicity still for Fanny Hill (Russ Meyer, 1964) with Leticia Román.


Ulrich Manfred Lommel was born in 1944 in Zielenzig, Brandenburg, Germany (now Sulecin, Lubuskie, Poland). Ulli was the son of German comedian and radio personality Ludwig Manfred Lommel, and actress Karla Von Cleef. He was born a few weeks before the arrival of the Red Army, and Lommel's family fled the city, wrapping baby Ulli in a roll of carpet.

Ulli began his career in show business as a child. In 1948, at the age of four, he was put on stage by his father, who was often referred to as the 'Charles Chaplin of Germany' . While living in Bad Nauheim as a teenager, Lommel performed with Elvis Presley. Lommel decided that he wanted to pursue an acting career, but his father did not approve. So 16-years-old Ulli ran away from home.

During his career, he acted in over 28 plays, among them William Shakespeare's Hamlet - in which he played the lead. In 1962, he made his film debut opposite Maria Schell and Paul Hubschmid in Ich bin auch nur eine Frau/I, Too, Am Only a Woman (Alfred Weidenmann, 1962).

He also appeared in Fanny Hill (Russ Meyer, 1964) with Leticia Román and Miriam Hopkins, and Maigret und sein grösster Fall/Enter Inspector Maigret (Alfred Weidenmann, 1966) featuring Heinz Rühmann. In total he played in 22 TV films and 18 films.

In 1968, he joined Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the Anti-Theater, an inspired theater collective that launched the careers of several prominent German actors including Kurt Raab, Hanna Schygulla and Margit Carstensen. As Fassbinder moved from theatre to films in the 1970s, rapidly becoming one of the leading voices of the German New Wave, Lommel became one of his closest collaborators.

He spent 10 years working with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was legendary for his prodigious output, directing 41 films in 13 years. Lommel not only acted in 16 Fassbinder productions but also served as producer, assistant director and production designer, on such films as Fassbinder's directorial debut Liebe ist kälter als der Tod (1969) in which he also starred opposite Hanna Schygulla, Fontane Effi Briest (1974), the surrealist Western Whity (1975), Satansbraten (1976), and Chinesisches Roulette (1976).

Lommel also appeared in films by other directors such as Deine Zärtlichkeiten/Your caresses (Peter Schamoni, Herbert Vesely, 1969) with Doris Kunstmann, Anglia (Werner Schroeter, 1970), Harlis (Robert van Ackeren, 1972), and Schatten der Engel/Shadow of Angels (Daniel Schmid, 1976).

Renate Hütte, Britt Lindberg
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/358. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood. Publicity still for Fanny Hill (1964) with Renate Hütte and Britt Lindberg.

Letícia Román
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/302. Photo: Bernard of Hollywood / CCC-Zugsmith Co-produktion. Publicity still for Fanny Hill (Russ Meyer, 1964) with Leticia Román.


In 1971 Ulli Lommel directed his first film, Haytabo (1971), starring Eddie Constantine. His second feature film as a director, Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe/Tenderness of the Wolves (1973) with Kurt Raab as a gay serial killer, became a cult hit. It was based on the story of murderer Fritz Haarmann, who was also the inspiration for Fritz Lang's M (1931).

It brought Lommel in 1977 to New York, where he began working with Andy Warhol at The Factory. The Warhol / Lommel years spawned several features, including Cocaine Cowboys (1979) and Blank Generation (1980) with Carole Bouquet, both of which were directed by Lommel and feature Warhol in an acting role.

In 1980 Lommel moved to Hollywood and made independently The Boogey Man (1980), starring John Carradine, which became an overnight sensation and grossed over $35 million worldwide.

Many of Lommel's post-Boogeyman films, such as Olivia (1983), BrainWaves (1982) starring Tony Curtis, The Devonsville Terror (1983) starring Donald Pleasence, also starred his wife at the time, Suzanna Love.

Since Rainer Werner Fassbinder's death in 1982, Lommel has also been travelling the world and participating in numerous retrospectives dedicated to his Fassbinder years, among them the Museum of Modern Art in N.Y., Harvard, the Louvre, London and Beijing.

In 2004 Lommel started his own repertory group in Venice, California, where he and his collaborators have made 16 genre films. In 2008 Lommel teamed up with David Carradine, who starred in Lommel's drama Absolute Evil (2009).

In 2013 Lommel went for nine months to Brazil, where he wrote a book and also made two films. The first was the bio-epic documentary Mondo Americana (2015) and the second a film about Campo Bahia, the official camp for the German National Soccer Team. His autobiography, Tenderness of the Wolves, was released in 2015.

Ulli Lommel married and divorced three actresses, Katrin Schaake, Suzanna Love, and Cookie Lommel.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder in Liebe ist kälter als der Tod (1969)
German postcard by Hias Schasko Postkarten, München. Photo: Filmverlag der Autoren. Publicity still for Liebe ist kälter als der Tod/Love Is Colder Than Death (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1969) with Fassbinder himself.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, shooting Händler der vier Jahreszeiten (1971)
German postcard by Verlag Hias Schaschko, München (Munich), no. 209. Photo: Rainer Werner Fassbinder during the shooting of his film Händler der vier Jahreszeiten/The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971), then still called Der Obsthändler/The Grocer.

Trailer Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe (1973). Source: Alles kino (YouTube).

Trailer The Boogey Man (1980). Source: Silky Stalin (YouTube).

Sources: CJ McCracken (IMDb), Les Gens du Cinéma, Wikipedia and IMDb.