25 July 2017

Claude Rich (1929-2017)

On Thursday 20 July 2017, French actor Claude Rich passed away. He played in at least fifty plays and around 80 films, among them the cult classic Les Tontons flingueurs/Crooks in Clover (1963) alongside Lino Ventura, and François Truffaut’s La mariée était en noir/The Bride Wore Black (1968). Over the course of his long career, he worked with some of the best known French film directors such as Jean Renoir, Julien Duvivier, Claude Chabrol, and Alain Resnais.

Claude Rich (1929-2017)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 154/71. Photo: publicity still for Un milliard dans un billard/Diamond Cue (Nicolas Gessner, 1965).

Neither Seen Nor Recognized

Claude Robert Rich was born in Strasbourg, eastern France, in 1929. He was the son of Roger Rich and Marguerite Labat. In 1935, after the death of his father, he moved with his mother and three brothers and sisters to Paris.

Later when he worked as a bank employee in order to bring money home to help his mother, he enrolled in evening classes drama by Charles Dullin at le Centre d'Art Dramatique de la rue Blanche. While working and studying, he decided to make a go of acting and entered a competition for a scholarship to the prestigious Conservatoire National Supérieur d'Art dramatique.

He won the scholarship and started studying acting full-time in 1953. At the Conservatoire, he met and befriended many who would also become well known actors, including Annie Girardot, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Jean Rochefort.

Rich made his debut at the Renaissance Theater, and made his film debut in René Clair's Les Grandes Manœuvres/The Grand Maneuver (1955). He followed it with a part in the comedy Mitsou (Jacqueline Audry, 1956) starring Danièle Delorme, and based on the 1919 novella Mitsou by Colette.

In the comedy hit Ni vu, ni connu/Neither Seen Nor Recognized (Yves Robert, 1958), he appeared with Louis de Funès. Another hit at the box offices was the anthology film La française et l'amour/Love and the Frenchwoman (1960). In one of the segments he co-starred with Marie-José Nat.

Claude Rich (1929-2017)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 2722. Photo: publicity still for Mona, l'étoile sans nom/Nameless Star (Henri Colpi, 1966).

Claude Rich, Marina Vlady and Cristea Avram in Mona, l'étoile sans nom (1966)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 2723, 1966. Photo: publicity still for Mona, l'étoile sans nom/Nameless Star (Henri Colpi, 1966) with Marina Vlady and Cristea Avram.

Cult Classic

For much of the 1960s, Claude Rich took on secondary roles in such films as La chambre ardente/The Burning Court (Julien Duvivier, 1962), in a segment directed by Claude Chabrol in the anthology Les Sept péchés capitaux/The seven deadly Sins (1962) and Le Caporal épinglé/The Elusive Corporal (Jean Renoir, 1962) starring Jean-Pierre Cassel.

He acted alongside Lino Ventura in the cult classic Les Tontons flingueurs/Crooks in Clover (Georges Lautner, 1963). He played both Gen. Leclerc and Lt. Pierre de la Fouchardière in Paris brûle-t-il?/Is Paris Burning? (René Clément, 1966). The following year, he played with Louis de Funès in the comedy of errors Oscar (Edouard Molinaro, 1967).

He landed his first major role in Alain Resnais’s Science-Fiction film, Je t’aime, je t’aime/I Love You, I Love You (1968). He interpreted a man who tried to commit suicide and is selected by a secret organisation in order to experiment a very dangerous and quite hopeless voyage, a journey in his own past. Resnais chose him for the role because of the special timbre of his voice.

It was followed by La mariée était en noir/The Bride Wore Black (François Truffaut, 1968). Rich is one of the five men who is responsible for the death of Jeanne Moreau's fiancé. At a party being held in his high-rise apartment, the Bride pushes him off the balcony and he falls to his death.

Rich was also an impressive theatre performer. He was a five-time finalist for the Molière award, France’s national theatre award. He shined in the play Le Souper (The Supper) by Jean-Claude Brisville, where he played Talleyrand alongside actor Claude Brasseur, as Joseph Fouché. Both Rich and Brasseur would portray these characters once more for the film adaptation Le Souper/The Supper (Édouard Molinaro, 1992). In 1993, he received the Cesar for best actor with this performance.

Rich was nominated four times for best supporting actor, in La Fille d’Artagnan/Revenge of the Musketeers (Bertrand Tavernier, 1994), La Bûche/Season's Beatings (Danièle Thompson, 1999), Aide-toi le ciel t’aidera/With a Little Help from Myself (François Dupeyron, 2008) and Cherchez Hortense/Looking for Hortense (Pascal Bonitzer, 2012). Among his other awards were a Grammy Award in 1974, and a César d’Honneur in 2003.

Claude Rich died after a long illness in his home in Orgeval, France. He was 88. Since 1959, he was married to Catherine Rich born Renaudin and they had three children, Delphine, Natalie and Rémy Rich.

American trailer for La Bûche/Season's Beatings (1999). Source: Video Detective (YouTube).

Trailer Et si on vivait tous ensemble?/All Together (2011). Source: Movie Covfefe - Coverage (YouTube).

Sources: Montreal Gazette, RFI, Les Gens du Cinéma (French), Wikipedia (French and English), and IMDb.

24 July 2017

Maria Cebotari

Celebrated Romanian soprano and actress Maria Cebotari (1910-1949) was one of Europe's greatest opera stars in the 1930s and 1940s. Especially her interpretations of the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Strauss belonged to her specialities. Cebotari also starred in several films related to opera.

Maria Cebotari
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 1531/1, 1937-1938. Photo: Itala-Film. Publicity still for Mutterlied/Solo Per Te/Mother Song (Carmine Gallone, 1937).

Gustav Diessl and Maria Cebotari
With husband Gustav Diessl. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2804/1, 1939-1940. Photo: Wog, Berlin.

Maria Cebotari in Maria Malibran (1943)
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3789/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Vaselli / A.C.I. / Europa Film. Photo: Maria Malibran (Guido Brignone, 1943).

Prima donna

Maria Cebotari was born Maria Cebotaru in Kishinev, Russian Empire (now Chişinău, Moldova) in 1910. She grew up speaking Romanian and Russian.

At the age of four, she began to sing in churches. Later she studied singing at the Chişinău Conservatory. In 1929 the Moscow Art Theatre Company visited her town and she was discovered and joined the company as an actress. In 1930 she married the company's leader, Count Alexander Virubov.

Moving to Berlin with the company, she studied singing with Oskar Daniel for three months and made her debut as an operatic singer as Mimi in Giacomo Puccini's opera La Bohème at Dresden Semperoper (Dresden Semper Opera House) in 1931.

Bruno Walter invited her to the Salzburg Festival, where she sang Euridice in Christoph Willibald Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice. In 1935, she sang the part of Aminta in the world premiere of Richard Strauss' opera Die Schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman) under Karl Böhm at Dresden Semper Opera House.

Strauss advised her to move to Berlin, and in 1936 she joined the Berlin State Opera, where she was a prima donna until 1946. She divorced Count Virubov in 1938, and married the Austrian actor Gustav Diessl, with whom she had two sons.

Beside her successful career at the opera houses, Cebotari appeared in several films which were often related to opera. Her first starring role was in Mädchen in Weiß/Girls in White (Victor Janson, 1936) opposite Iván Petrovich.

Among her other films are Mutterlied/Solo Per Te/Mother Song (Carmine Gallone, 1937) with Beniamino Gigli, Giuseppe Verdi/Verdi's Three Women (Carmine Gallone, 1938) featuring Fosco Giachetti, and Il sogno di Butterfly/The Dream of Madame Butterfly (Carmine Gallone, 1939). With her husband, she made the film Starke Herzen/Strong Hearts in the Storm (Herbert Maisch, 1937).

She also played in the film Odessa in fiamme/Odessa in flames (Carmine Gallone, 1942), based on a script by Nicolae Kiriţescu. The Romanian-Italian co-production tells about the drama of the refugees from Bessarabia (Republic Moldova), in World War II and does homage to the Romanian troops who freed Bessarabia from the Red Army which occupied it in 1940. The film includes contemporary newsreels showing refugee columns running away.

The film won the great prize at the Festival of Venice, in 1942, but after the invasion by Soviet troops in Bucharest in 1944, the film was banned, and many of the actors arrested. Nothing was heard of the film for more than 50 years, but in 2006 it was re-discovered in the Cinecittà archives in Rome, and Odessa in fiamme was shown for the first time in Romania in December 2006.

Maria Cebotari's final film was the Italian drama Maria Malibran/The Genius and the Nightingale (Guido Brignone, 1943) with Rossano Brazzi.

Maria Cebotari
Austrian postcard by K ltd. Photo: Willi Pollak, Wien.

Maria Cebotari in Solo Per Te (1937)
Italian postcard by Grafiche N. Moneto, Milano. Photo: Itala-Film / Generalcine. Publicity still for Mutterlied/Solo Per Te/Mother Song (Carmine Gallone, 1937).

An extremely versatile voice

In 1946, Maria Cebotari sang Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier for Dresden Semper Opera Company's performances at Covent Garden Royal Opera House of London.

From then on, she appeared at many great opera houses including Vienna State Opera and La Scala Opera House of Milan. Cebotari had an extremely versatile voice, and her repertoire covered coloratura, soubrette, lyric and dramatic roles; for example, she sang both Countess Almaviva and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Violetta in La traviata and Salome in the same season.

Cebotari concentrated on four composers – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Strauss, Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. Strauss described her as "the best all-rounder on the European stage, and she is never late and she never cancels".

In 1946, she left Berlin and joined the Vienna State Opera House. She visited Covent Garden again in 1947 with Vienna State Opera Company and sang Salome, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, and Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. In 1947, she was Donna Anna to the Ottavio of Richard Tauber, making his final stage appearance, less than a week before his cancerous left lung was removed.

In 1948, her husband, Gustav Diessl, died of a heart attack. Cebotari suffered from severe pain during the performance of Le nozze di Figaro at La Scala Opera House in early 1949. At first, doctors did not take it seriously. However, on 31 March 1949, she fell down during the performance of Karl Millöcker's operetta Der Bettelstudent in Vienna.

During surgery, doctors found cancer in her liver and pancreas. Short before her dead. Herbert von Karajan engaged Maria Cebotari for the 1949 Salzburg Music Festival in Austria, in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.

On 9 June 1949, Maria Cebotari died from cancer in her villa in Vienna. She was only 40. Her funeral in Vienna was an imposing demonstration of love and honour, with thousands of people attending.

British pianist Sir Clifford Curzon adopted her two little sons. Beniamino Gigli remembered Cebotari as one of the greatest female voices he ever heard, and Herbert von Karajan later said she was the greatest Madame Butterfly he had ever conducted.

In 2005, director Victor Druc made the documentary Aria (2005) about Cebotari’s life. The documentary faced difficulties when it was screened in Moldova during the Communist administration which ended in 2009. The cause for the difficulties was a scene in which the soprano self-identifies as Romanian, contrary to the official policy of the Communist government that calls the ethnic majority Moldovan, rather than Romanian.

Maria Cebotari
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3097/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tita Binz, Berlin.

Maria Cebotari
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3416/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Wog, Berlin.

Sources: Andrea Suhm-Binder (Cantabile-subito), Rudi Polt (Find A Grave), Wikipedia and IMDb.

23 July 2017

Armand Bernard

Armand Bernard (1893-1968) was a French actor, composer and band leader. With his heavy diction and his air of dignity he brought a comical note to many French comedies.

Armand Bernard
French postcard by Cinémagazine Edition, no. 74.

Armand Bernard
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 254. Photo: Production Natan.

Armand Bernard and Jules Moy in Rue de la paix (1927)
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 250. Photo: Production Natan. Publicity still for Rue de la paix (Henri Diamant-Berger, 1927) with Jules Moy.

The Mundane Snob

Armand Bernard was born in Bois-Colombes, France in 1893.

The young Bernard dreamt of a career as an actor in stage tragedies, but his serious voice and his constant dignified appearance chose otherwise for him.

In various comic films he played the mundane snob, the moron, the notary and even better the undertaker. His appearance often stole the show of other comedians as in the Fernandel comedies Les gueux au paradis/Hoboes in Paradise (René Le Henaff, 1946) and On demande un assassin/Assassin Wanted (Ernst Neubach, 1948).

Bernard was just as popular as the writer of film music for films such as Le million/The Million (René Clair, 1931) and Pension Mimosas/Pension Mimosa (Jacques Feyder, 1934) while he arranged the music for Sous les toits de Paris/Under the Roofs of Paris (René Clair, 1930). Bernard was also musical director for such films as Luis Bunuel’s L'âge d'or/The Golden Age (Luis Bunuel, 1930) and À nous la liberté (René Clair, 1931).

From 1914 on, Bernard had been highly active in the silent cinema. He was Planchet, valet of D’Artagnan in the super-production Les trois mousquetaires/The Three Musketeers (Henri Diamant-Berger, 1921) and the sequel Vingts ans après/Five Years later (Henri Diamant-Berger, 1922).

Bernard appeared in several films by Raymond Bernard, such as Le Petit Café/The Little Cafe (Raymond Bernard, 1919) with Max Linder, Le Miracle des loups/The Miracle of the Wolves (Raymond Bernard, 1924) with Charles Dullin, and Le Joueur des échecs/The Chess Player (Raymond Bernard, 1927) with Pierre Blanchar.

He also acted in films by André Hugon such as Le Diamant noir/The Black Diamond (André Hugon, 1922) and Les Deux Pigeons/The two Pigeons (André Hugon, 1922), and he played the part of Jean-Jean in Abel Gance’s classic Napoléon (Abel Gance, 1927).

After Diamant-Berger’s musketeer films, Bernard came back to him in the late 1920s for Éducation de prince/Education of a Prince (Henri Diamant-Berger, 1927) with Pierre Batcheff and Rue de la paix (Henri Diamant-Berger, 1927) with Léon Mathot.

Armand Bernard
French postcard by Cinémagazine Edition, no. 21. Photo: Pathé Consortium Cinéma.

Armand Bernard
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 993. Photo: Landau.

Armand Bernard in La margoton du bataillon (1933)
French postcard by Combier Imp., Macon. Photo: Luna-Film. Publicity still for La margoton du bataillon/The Mascot of the Batallion (Jacques Darmont, 1933).

La Tirelire

Memorable early sound films with Armand Bernard are Fra Diavolo (Mario Bonnard, 1930) and Paris la nuit/Paris at Night (Henri Diamant-Berger, 1930).

Bernard also often played in the French version of Franco-German multilinguals of the 1930s: Tumultes/Tumults (Robert Siodmak, 1931) with Charles Boyer, Dactylo (Wilhelm Thiele, 1931), Le congress s’amuse/The Congress Dances (Erik Charrell, 1931) with Lilian Harvey and Henri Garat, Quick (Robert Siodmak, 1931) with Jules Berry and Lilian Harvey, Caprice de princesse (Henri-Georges Clouzot, Karl Hartl, 1933) starring Marie Bell, and Les dieux s’amusent/The gods have fun (Reinhold Schunzel, Albert Valentin, 1935) starring Henri Garat.

Dactylo (Wilhelm Thiele, 1931), starring Marie Glory, was the French version of Thiele’s Die Privatsekretärin/The Private Secretary (Wilhelm Thiele, 1931), starring Renate Müller. An Italian version, La segretaria privata (Goffredo Alessandrini, 1931), starred Elsa Merlini.

All were successes and Dactylo had an equally popular sequel in France, Dactylo se marie/Dactylo Marries (Joe May, René Pujol, 1934), again starring Glory with Bernard as her sidekick.

Bernard tried his luck with singing in Dactylo, even if his comic forte was more visual than oral, so he sang on a record two songs for the film - La tirelire (Boyer-Abraham) and Je vois la vie en rose (idem), French versions of Ich hab’ ne alte Tante and Ich bin ja heut’ so glücklich.

Armand Bernard
French card. Photo: Massilia/A.C.E.

Armand Bernard
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 812. Photo: GFFA.

Armand Bernard in Michel Strogoff
French postcard by Tobis. Photo: Les productions J.N. Ermolieff. Publicity still for Michel Strogoff (Jacques de Baroncelli, Richard Eichberg, 1936).

Comedies Of Course

Armand Bernard also played in the French, English and Austrian version of Les aventures du roi Pausole/The Merry Monarch (Alexis Granowsky, 1933), which had Emil Jannings in the English and Austrian version.

After new films with Diamant-Berger, Bernard also started to play in films by his younger brother Maurice Diamant-Berger (alias André Gillois) such as L’Enfant du miracle/The Miracle Child (D.B. Maurice, 1932).

From the mid-1930s on, Bernard played in several films by Christian-Jaque, such as Compartiment de dames seules/Compartment for ladies only (Christian-Jaque, 1936), L’école des journalistes/The school for journalists (Christian-Jaque, 1936), the murder mystery Les Disparus de St. Agil/Boys' School (Christian-Jaque, 1937) and the Fernandel comedy Raphaël le Tatoué/Raphaël the tattooed (Christian-Jaque, 1938).

Other directors connected to Bernard in the 1930s were Pierre Caron and René Pujol. During the war Bernard did not act in films, retaking his film career in 1945 with – of course – comedies like Bichon (René Jayet, 1948) and L’impeccable Henri/Impeccable Henri (Charles-Félix Tavano, 1948), in which he had the lead.

Until the late 1950s Bernard had a highly active film career, mostly in comedy, with titles like C’est la faute d’Adam/In Six Easy Lessons (Jacqueline Audry, 1948) with Dany Robin.

His last film role was in La bande à Bobo/Bobo's Band (Tony Saytor, 1963) while he also acted in three French TV series in the early 1960s, such as Loin de Rueil (Claude Barma, 1961), after Raymond Queneau’s novel.

Armand Bernard died in Paris in 1968. All in all he had worked on some 100 films.

Armand Bernard
German postcard by Ross Verlag. Photo: Ufa.

Armand Bernard
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 983. Photo: Paramount.

Armand Bernard sings La Tirelire. Source: Leotaurus 1975 (YouTube).

Sources: Du temps des cerises aux feuilles mortes (French), Wikipedia (English and French), and IMDb.