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25 June 2017

Louise Brooks

Legendary dancer and film actress Louise Brooks (1906-1985) set the trend of the bobbed haircut and personified the 'flapper', the rebellious young woman of the 1920s. Brooks played the lead in three European silent film classics: Die Büchse der Pandora/Pandora's Box (1929), Tagebuch einer Verlorenen/Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), and Prix de Beauté/Miss Europe (1930). The third film was directed by Augusto Genina, one of the most cosmopolitan directors of Italian film history. At Il Cinema Ritrovato, the programme Augusto Genina: an Italian in Europe is dedicated to him. Genina's work in cinema began in the early 1910s, and he worked in both France and Germany - often creating portraits of mischievous women...

Louise Brooks
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4252/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Paramount



Mary Louise Brooks was born in the Midwestern town of Cherryvale, Kansas, in 1906. She was the daughter of Leonard Porter Brooks, a lawyer, who was usually too busy with his practice to discipline his children, and Myra Rude. Rude was a talented pianist who played the latest Debussy and Ravel for her children, inspiring them with a love of books and music.

None of this protected her nine-year old daughter Louise from sexual abuse at the hands of a neighbourhood predator. This event had a major influence on Brooks' life and career.

Brooks began her entertainment career as a dancer, joining the Denishawn modern dance company in Los Angeles (whose members included Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn and Martha Graham) in 1922. St. Denis abruptly fired Brooks from the troupe in 1924.

Brooks became a chorus girl in George White's Scandals, followed by an appearance as a featured dancer in the 1925 edition of the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.

As a result of her work in the Follies, she came to the attention of Paramount Pictures producer Walter Wanger, who signed her to a five-year contract with the studio in 1925. Brooks made her screen debut in an uncredited role in the silent The Street of Forgotten Men (Herbert Brenon, 1925).

Over the next few years, she played the female lead in silent light comedies and flapper films, like It's the Old Army Game (Eddie Sutherland, 1926) opposite W. C. Fields.

Louise Brooks
French postcard by Europe, no. 599. Photo: Néro Film.

Haunting, Provocative Performances



Louise Brooks was noticed in Europe for her pivotal vamp role in the buddy film A Girl in Every Port (Howard Hawks, 1928). That year, she also made the early sound film drama Beggars of Life (William Wellman, 1928). Brooks played an abused country girl on the run who meets two hoboes (Richard Arlen and Wallace Beery).

By this time in her life, she was mixing with the rich and famous, and was a regular guest of William Randolph Hearst and his mistress, Marion Davies, at San Simeon. Her distinctive bob haircut helped start a trend; many women styled their hair in imitation of her and fellow film star Colleen Moore.

Soon after Beggars Of Life, Brooks refused to stay on at Paramount after being denied a promised raise. She left for Europe to make films for G. W. Pabst, the prominent Austrian Expressionist director. In Germany, she starred as Lulu in Die Büchse der Pandora/Pandora's Box (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929). The film is based on two plays by Frank Wedekind (Erdgeist and Die Büchse der Pandora) and Brooks plays the central figure. This film is notable for its frank treatment of modern sexual mores, including one of the first screen portrayals of a lesbian.

Brooks then starred in Pabst’s controversial social drama Tagebuch einer Verlorenen/Diary of a Lost Girl (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929), based on the book by Margarete Böhme. In France she filmed Prix de Beauté/Miss Europe (Augusto Genina, 1930).

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “Her haunting, provocative performances in Pabst's Pandora's Box (1928) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) not only established her as a screen personality of the first rank, but also fostered a Louise Brooks ‘cult’ which continued to flourish. (...) Not as highly regarded as Louise Brooks' German films for G. W. Pabst, Prix de Beauté nonetheless succeeds in terms of visual dynamics and the naturalness of the star's performance.”

Louise Brooks in Die Büchse der Pandora (1929)
Dutch collectors card in the series 'Filmsterren: een portret' by Edito Service, 1995. Photo: Stars-Films. Publicity still for Die Büchse der Pandora/Pandora's Box (G.W. Pabst, 1929).

De Film 1930, Louise Brooks
Cover of De Film, 20 April 1930. De Film was a Belgium film magazine.

Louise Brooks in Prix de beauté (1930)
Dutch collectors card in the series 'Filmsterren: een portret' by Edito Service, 1995. Photo: Stars-Films. Publicity still for Prix de Beauté (Augusto Genina, 1930).

Lulu in Hollywood



When Louise Brooks returned to Hollywood in 1931, she was cast in two mainstream films: God's Gift to Women (Michael Curtiz, 1931) and It Pays to Advertise (Frank Tuttle, 1931). Her performances in these films, however, were largely ignored, and few other job offers were forthcoming. She turned down the female lead opposite James Cagney in Public Enemy (William Wellman, 1931) which marked the end of her film career.

Furthermore she was only cast in bit parts and roles in B pictures and short films. At 32, Brooks retired from the screen after completing one last film, the John Wayne western Overland Stage Raiders (George Sherman, 1938). She then briefly returned to Wichita, where she was raised. After an unsuccessful attempt at operating a dance studio, she returned East and, after brief stints as a radio actor and a gossip columnist, worked as a salesgirl in a Saks Fifth Avenue store in New York City for a few years, then eked out a living as a courtesan with a few select wealthy men as clients.

In the early 1950s French film historians rediscovered her films, proclaiming her as an actress who surpassed even Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo as a film icon, much to her amusement. It rehabilitated her reputation in the US. With the help of James Card, film curator for the George Eastman House, she became a writer of well-researched and well-balanced articles on film history. She published her witty, extremely candid autobiography, Lulu in Hollywood, in 1982.

Louise Brooks in "The Canary Murder Case" - Ross postcard
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3978/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for The Canary Murder Case (Malcolm St. Clair, 1929). Collection: Rescued by Rover@Flickr.

Louise Brooks
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4608/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Paramount. Collection: Anni Raasu (Shme@Flickr).

LOUISE BROOKS- photo postcard
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4954/1, 1929-1930. Collection: Rescued by Rover@Flickr.

Speculation



Louise Brooks was married twice. In 1926, she had married director Eddie Sutherland, but they divorced in 1928 because of her relationship with George Preston Marshall, owner of a chain of laundries and future owner of the Washington Redskins football team.

In 1933, she married Chicago millionaire Deering Davis, but abruptly left him after only five months of marriage. The couple officially divorced in 1938.

Brooks enjoyed fostering speculation about her sexuality, cultivating friendships with lesbian and bisexual women, but eschewing relationships.

In 1985, Louise Brooks was found dead of a heart attack in her home in Rochester. She was 78 years old, and had appeared in only 25 films.


Scene from Die Büchse der Pandora/Pandora's Box (1929). Lulu dances with Countess Augusta Geschwitz (Alice Roberts), one of cinema's earliest representations of lesbian desire. Source: ButchInProgress (YouTube).


Scene from Prix de Beauté/Miss Europe (1930). Source: Mark Satchwell (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Denny Jackson (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

24 June 2017

A hundred years ago: 12 film star postcards of 1917

Bon giorno! We're in Bologna at Il Cinema Ritrovato. Till 2 July, all EFSP posts will highlight festival sections and today we start with the section A hundred years ago: 50 films of 1917. It contains some fifty films, documentaries, fragments and animation films, including such masterful works like Yakov Protazanov’s Ne nado krovi/Blood Need Not Be Spilled, starring Ivan Mozzhukhin, amazing actresses like Maria Orska, Pola Negri and Pauline Starke and popular idols like Gunnar Tolnæs. Some of the 12 postcards in this post were also used for the catalogue of Il Cinema Ritrovato 2017.

Vera Kholodnaya, Ivan Mozzhukhin and other actors of the Russian silent cinema
The Russian film scene, ca. 1917. From left to right: Vitold Polonsky, Vladimir Maksimov, Vera Kholodnaya, Ossip Runitsch (in the back), Petr Cardynin, Ivan Khudoleyev, and Ivan Mozzhukin. Russian postcard. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Malombra (1917)
Italian postcard for the silent film Malombra (Carmine Gallone, 1917), adapted from the novel by Antonio Fogazzaro, and starring Lyda Borelli. Caption: "...Saetta seized [the oars] and left, moving towards some solitary shore."

Pola Negri
Pola Negri, ca. 1919. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 247. Photo: Alex Binder. Negri stars in the Polish film Bestia/The Polish Dancer (Aleksander Hertz, 1917).

Pauline Starke
Pauline Starke. Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 523. Photo: Fanamet Verleih. At Bologna, Starke can be seen in Until They Get Me (Frank Borzage, 1917).

Romuald Joubé
Romuald Joubé. French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 117. Joubé appears in Le coupable/The guilty party (André Antoine, 1917).

Ellen Richter
Ellen Richter. German postcard in the Film-Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 120/5. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin. Richter was the star of Das Bacchanal des Todes/The Bacchanal of Death (Richard Eichberg, 1917).

Stacia Napierkowksa
Stacia Napierkowska. French postcard. Photo X. She stars in La tragica fine di Caligula Imperator/Caligula (Ugo Falena, 1917).

Bruno Decarli
Bruno Decarli. German postcard in the Film-Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 217/3. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin. Decarli plays a man haunted by a misdeed he has committed in Furcht/Fear (Robert Wiene, 1917).

Emmy Lynn
Emmy Lynn. French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 419. Photo: Sartony. Lynn plays one of the leads in Mater Dolorosa/Sorrowful Mother (Abel Gance, 1917).

Gunnar Tolnaes
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 2995. Photo: Nordisk. Publicity still for Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru/The Maharajah's Favourite Wife (Robert Dinesen, 1917), starring Gunnar Tolnaes as an Indian prince. Tolnaes had his most famous performance  in this Danish orientalist melodrama. It was so popular that it had a Danish sequel in 1919, and a German sequel in 1921.

Maria Orska
Maria Orska. German postcard by Verlag Hermann Leiser, Berlin-Wilm., no. 5286. Photo: Alex Binder, 1916. She can be seen at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Die schwarze Loo/The Black Loo (Max Mack, 1917).

Victor Sjöström in Thomas Graals bästa film
Swedish postcard by Ed. Nordisk Konst, Stockholm, no. 876/3. Photo: publicity still for the comedy Thomas Graals bästa film/Thomas Graal's Best Film (Mauritz Stiller, 1917), scripted by Gustav Molander. The story deals with screenwriter Thomas Graal (Victor Sjöström) who falls in love with his secretary Bessie (Karin Molander) and imagines himself rescuing her from poverty. Reality is quite different as Bessie is a modern woman. The film also mocks the bored aristocracy involved in the modernity of filmmaking. Caption: "The author Thomas Graal at sea."

Source: Il Cinema Ritrovato.

23 June 2017

In memory of Ad Werner (1925-2017)

On 17 June 2017, Dutch graphic designer Ad Werner passed away at the age of 92 years. Werner's letter designs and figurative marks are world-famous. He designed the logo for Quick and the Mexican for cigarette brand Caballero is an icon of Dutch design. Werner worked for the Hema stores for years and for Fokker, designed a house style for the municipality of Amsterdam, was the co-founder and designer of the name of the women magazine Opzij (The guys must make place for the women), he made cartoons for the newspaper NRC and for Schiphol airport, designed posters and decors for stage artists, and lectured at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. It is less known that he also designed hundreds of film posters for the Tuschinski group immediately after the war. 

Het huis der dapperen
Het huis der dapperen. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for Home of the Brave (Mark Robson, 1949) about racism during WW II. Pictured is James Edwards as the suffering but proud soldier Moss.

Het meisje en het monster
Het meisje en het monster. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for La belle et la bête/Beauty and the beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946). Pictured are Jean Marais as the Beast and Josette Day as Belle.

Paniek
Paniek. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for Panique/Panic (Julien Duvivier, 1946). Pictured are Viviane Romance as Alice and Michel Simon as Monsieur Hire.

Onverbreekbare banden
Onverbreekbare banden. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for Our Very Own (David Miller, 1950). Pictured are Ann Blyth and Joan Evans.

Capturing the Zeitgeist perfectly


Adrianus Gerardus (Ad) Werner (1925), born in Leiden, was the son of a printer. He was educated at the Koninklijke Academie voor de Beeldende Kunsten (the Royal Academy of Fine Arts) in The Hague in accordance with the principles of the Bauhaus. To the dismay of his former teacher Paul Schuitema, he started his career as a young graphic designer with creating film posters.

In 1947 he had moved  to Amsterdam where he had quickly found a job at Keman & Co, an advertising agency. His main task there was designing film posters for the Strengholt group behind Theater Tuschinski, the most prestigious movie palace in the Netherlands. His posters were a success. And after three years he and two colleagues started their own studio, Centaur.

Later, Ad Werner would work for many years for the HEMA department stores, he designed for popular Dutch magazines like Margriet, Elegance and Nieuwe Revu and drew cartoons for newspapers. Author and designer Jan Middendorp about Werner: ‘Someone who managed to capture the Zeitgeist perfectly and give it a pure expression that was attractive to a large public’.

Ad Werner's designs earned him little prestige from colleagues or critics. Within the world of Dutch graphic design he was called an outsider, someone who was completely uninterested in intellectualism and conceptual thinking.

Yet his influence on the graphic appearance of the Netherlands in the 1970s and 1980s was significant, thanks to his work for such firms as Fokker, Philips and Citroën, his corporate identity for the City of Amsterdam, his famous little Mexican for the cigarette brand Caballero and his logos and type designs which also made him internationally known.


Ad Werner in his studio
Ad Werner in his poster studio, ca. 1946.

De man op de Eiffel-toren
De man op de Eiffel-toren. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for The Man on the Eiffel Tower (Burgess Meredith, 1950).

Jericho
Jericho. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for Jericho (Henri Calef, 1946). Pictured is Pierre Brasseur.

Obsessie
Obsessie. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945). Pictured are Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck.

Moord uit genade
Moord uit genade. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for An Act of Murder (Michael Gordon, 1948). Pictured is Fredric March.

Imaginative and multi-layered designs


Ad Werner designed hundreds of  film posters between 1946 and 1955. In 2007, I discovered these 'affiches' when I was writing a series of columns on the poster collection of the Dutch Filmmuseum (now EYE) for film magazine Skrien. I had selected Werner's Het huis der dapperen, made for a little known film by Mark Robson, Home of the Brave, on racism in the American army during the war.
I liked how the designer had created this powerful image of a black, suffering war hero: only four colours, a low point of view and a dynamic background of yellow stripes.

To my surprise and delight, the curator of the collection told me that the poster designer was still alive and active, and that he was living in Amsterdam. So, I called Mr. Werner and he invited me to visit him at his home. For hours we sat in his garden while he told me about his work and showed me the colourful and imaginative posters he had created as a young man and also his many other designs.

Werner's stories about his experiences in the Dutch film and design world after the Second World War were fascinating.  His painted designs were imaginative and multi-layered. I decided to write a large interview with him for Skrien, as an addition to the poster column.

Later I also invited Ad and his wife for a lecture in a series of colleges on film posters which Ivo Blom and I had organised together with the Dutch Filmmuseum at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. The students loved Ad's poster designs and his inside stories about working for the cinema. One of the students, Aaron J. Peterer, made an short documentary about Ad, which you can view below.

Again some months later, publisher Robert van Rixtel of [Z]OO producties asked me for suggestions for his Roots series about Dutch graphic designers. When I suggested Ad Werner, Robert was triggered while Werner was fairly unknown to him. And when he heard about Werner's letter designs, his many logos, his house style for the city of Amsterdam, he was impressed.

Ad Werner also liked the idea of a publication. So our little but beautiful booklet was presented with Ad's many family members, famous friends and old colleagues attending. Former Minister of Culture Hedy d'Ancona, with whom he had founded feminist magazine Opzij did the speech, Aaron's excellent film was shown and everybody loved the anecdotes Ad told when I interviewed him. There were huge cakes with his old poster designs on it and Ad's many grandchildren fought about who would have the first piece.

Our collaboration is a happy memory to me. Mr. Werner, dear Ad, thank you and rest in piece.

Ad Werner (1925-2017)
Ad Werner in his garden in Amsterdam, 2007.

Manon
Manon. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for Manon (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1949). Pictured is Cécile Aubry as Manon.

Fantasia
Fantasia. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for Fantasia (Walt Disney, 1940).

Bewaar het geheim van les diaboliques
Bewaar het geheim van les diaboliques. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for Les diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955).


Betovering
Betovering. Dutch film poster by Ad Werner for Enchantment (Irving Reis, 1948). Pictured are David Niven as General Sir Roland Dane and Teresa Wright as Lark Ingoldsby.

Ad Werner (1925-2017)
Cover of my publication Ad Werner, published in the Roots series by [Z]OO producties. Photo: Aatjan Renders.


Filmaffiches van Ad Werner by Aaron J. Peterer on Vimeo.

Sources: Roots 15: Ad Werner (Dutch), Design History.nl (Dutch), Dutch Design Weekly and Wikipedia (Dutch).

Édith Piaf

Édith Piaf (1915-1963) is a cultural icon and is universally regarded as France's greatest popular singer. Her ballads, like La Vie en rose (1946) and Non, je ne regrette rien (1960), reflected her life. She appeared sporadically in films.

Edith Piaf
French postcard by Editions O.P., Paris, no. 18. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Edith Piaf
French postcard by S.E.R.P., Paris, no. 62. Photo: Studio Harcourt, Paris.

Edith Piaf
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), no. 171. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Edith Piaf
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 163. Photo: Star.

The Little Sparrow


Despite numerous biographies, much of Édith Piaf's life is shrouded in mystery. She was born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Ménilmontant, one of the poorer districts of Paris, in 1915. She was named Edith after the World War I British nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed for helping French soldiers escape from German captivity. Piaf - a Francilien colloquialism for sparrow - was a nickname she would receive 20 years later.

Her Moroccan-Italian mother, Anita Maillard, worked as a cafe singer under the name Line Marsa. Louis-Alphonse Gassion, Édith's father, was a Norman street acrobat with a past in the theatre. Édith's parents soon abandoned her, and she lived for a short time with her maternal grandmother, who virtually ignored her.

Her father had enlisted with the French Army to fight in World War I. When Louis Alphonse returned in 1918, he decided to send his daughter to live with his mother in Normandy. Later, she joined her father in his acrobatic street performances all over France. Discovering that she had a powerful singing voice which could hold a crowd mesmerised for longer than her father's back flips, Edith decided to follow in her mother's footsteps.

In Paris she went her own way and began singing on the Paris streets while her friend Simone, aka Momone, passed the hat round. In spite of her scruffy street urchin appearance, Edith proved extremely popular with the crowds, her amazingly expressive voice managing to move even the most impassive listener.

She was about 16 when she fell in love with Louis Dupont, a delivery boy and they soon had a child, Marcelle, who died of meningitis at age two.

In 1935 Piaf was discovered by Louis Leplée, owner of the nightclub Le Gerny off the Champs-Élysées. He gave her the nickname that would stay with her for the rest of her life, La Môme Piaf (The Little Sparrow - she was only 1 m 47 tall). Leplée taught her the basics of stage presence and told her to wear a black dress, later to become her trademark apparel.

Leplée ran an intense publicity campaign leading up to her opening night, attracting the presence of many celebrities, including Maurice Chevalier. Her nightclub gigs led to her first two records produced that same year. In 1936, Leplée was murdered and Piaf was questioned and accused as an accessory, but was acquitted. Leplée had been killed by mobsters with previous ties to Piaf.

To rehabilitate her image, she recruited Raymond Asso, with whom she would become romantically involved. He changed her stage name to Édith Piaf, barred undesirable acquaintances from seeing her, and commissioned Marguerite Monnot to write songs that reflected or alluded to Piaf's previous life on the streets. Later that same year Piaf launched a film career, appearing in La garçonne/The Tomboy (Jean Limur, 1937) with Marie Bell.

Edith Piaf
French postcard by Edit. Chantal, Rueil, no. 34A. Photo: Vog.

Edith Piaf
Modern French postcard by Éditions du Désastre, Paris, no. PR 022. Photo: Studio Harcourt, 1946.

Edith Piaf
French postcard. Sent in 1948. Photo: Studio Harcourt, Paris.

Edith Piaf
French postcard by O.P., Paris, no. 65. Photo: Star.

The love of Piaf's life


In 1940, Édith Piaf co-starred with Paul Meurisse in Jean Cocteau's successful one-act play Le Bel Indifférent (The beautiful indifferent). Piaf and Meurisse were then offered leading roles in the film Montmartre-sur-Seine (Georges Lacombe, 1940) in which the couple starred alongside the famous French actor Jean-Louis Barrault.

She began forming friendships with prominent people, including Chevalier and poet Jacques Borgeat. He wrote the lyrics of many of her songs and collaborated with composers on the tunes.

In 1944, she discovered Yves Montand in Paris, made him part of her act, and became his mentor and lover. They would form a famous double act in the film Etoile sans lumière/Star Without Light (Marcel Blistène, 1945). Within a year, Montand became one of the most famous singers in France, and Piaf broke off their relationship when he had become almost as popular as she was.

During this time she was in great demand and very successful in Paris as France's most popular entertainer. After the war, she became known internationally, touring Europe, the United States, and South America. She scored a major hit in 1946 with Les Trois Cloches, which would later become an English-language smash for The Browns when translated into The Three Bells.

Later that year, she recorded the self-composed number La Vie en Rose, another huge hit that international audiences would come to regard as her signature song. She also sang it in the film Neuf garçons, un coeur/Nine Boys, One Heart (Georges Friedland, 1948), in which she appeared with her new proteges Les Compagnons de la Chanson.

The love of Piaf's life was the married boxing champion Marcel Cerdan. He died in a plane crash in October 1949, while flying from Paris to New York City to meet her. His sudden death left Piaf devastated and she fell in a deep depression. It was the beginning of her downfall, and drugs and alcohol began to take their toll on Piaf’s increasingly fragile health.

Yves Montand
Yves Montand. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 176. Photo: Roger Carlet.

Edith Piaf and Marcel Cerdan, 1948
French postcard by Editions Gendre, Paris, no. 27. Photo: Keystone. Caption: Edith Piaf, Marcel Cerdan, March 1948.

Edith Piaf
Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 5247. Photo: Columbia.

Edith Piaf
French promotion card by Disques Columbia.

Alcohol and Morphine


In the early 1950s Édith Piaf would begin a long series of treatments in a private health clinic, in an attempt to wean herself off alcohol and morphine. Yet, while her health continued to decline, Piaf's voice appeared to go from strength to strength.

She also helped launch the career of Charles Aznavour, taking him on tour with her in France and the United States and recording some of his songs.

In 1951 Piaf would fall in love again, throwing herself into a passionate relationship with Eddie Constantine, a young American singer and actor. Later that same year Piaf would demand that her new protege be given a lead role in Marcel Achard's operetta, La p'tite Lili (Little Lili), which Achard was staging at the ABC with Marguerite Monnot. Piaf got her way and helped Constantine launch his career. But after La p'tite Lili’s successful seven month run at the ABC, Piaf and Constantine's relationship also came to an end.

The following year Piaf married singer Jacques Pills and after four years they divorced in 1956. Not long afterward, she suffered an attack of delirium tremens and had to be hospitalised.

In 1954 she appeared in two successful films, in Si Versailles m'était conté/Affairs in Versailles (Sacha Guitry, 1954), a witty history of the Versailles palace, and in French Cancan (Jean Renoir, 1954) about the revival of Paris' most notorious dance.

Piaf achieved lasting fame in Bruno Coquatrix's famous Paris Olympia music hall where she gave several series of concerts from 1955 till 1962.

In late 1958, she met another up-and-coming songwriter, Georges Moustaki, and made him her latest lover and improvement project. Teaming once again with Marguerite Monnot, Moustaki co-wrote Milord, an enormous hit that topped the charts all over Europe in early 1959 and became Piaf's first successful single in the U.K.

She made one last film, Les amants de demain/The Lovers of Tomorrow (Marcel Blistène, 1959) opposite Michel Auclair. In 1962, she wed Théo Sarapo (Theophanis Lamboukas), a Greek hairdresser-turned-singer and actor who was 20 years her junior. The couple sang together in some of her last engagements.

In 1963 Édith Piaf died of liver cancer at Plascassier, on the French Riviera, aged 47. Although she was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle, her funeral procession drew tens of thousands of mourners onto the streets of Paris and the ceremony at the cemetery was attended by more than 100,000 fans.

The film Piaf (Guy Casaril, 1974) depicted her early years, and starred Brigitte Ariel, with early Piaf songs performed by Betty Mars. Piaf's relationship with Cerdan was depicted in the film Édith et Marcel (Claude Lelouch, 1983) with Marcel Cerdan Jr. in the role of his father and Évelyne Bouix portraying Piaf. Piaf...Her Story...Her Songs (George Elder, Bernard Salzmann. 2003) is a documentary starring Raquel Bitton in her performance tribute to Edith Piaf.

La Môme/La Vie en rose (Olivier Dahan, 2007) debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2007. The film features Marion Cotillard in the role that won her the Golden Globe, the BAFTA award and the Academy Award for Best Actress.

At AllMusic, Steve Huey writes about Édith Piaf: “Still revered as an icon decades after her death, ‘the Sparrow’ served as a touchstone for virtually every chansonnier, male or female, who followed her. Her greatest strength wasn't so much her technique, or the purity of her voice, but the raw, passionate power of her singing.”

Edith Piaf
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 270. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Edith Piaf
French postcard by Ébullitions, no. 66.

Edith Piaf
French postcard by L'Encyclopédie de la Chanson Française, 2003. Photo: Universal Collections.


Edith Piaf sings La Vie En Rose in Neuf garçons, un coeur/Nine Boys, One Heart (1948). Source: bigproblem11 (Daily Motion).

Sources: Steve Huey (AllMusic), Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), RFI Musique, Wikipedia, and IMDb.