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28 July 2017

Iván Petrovich

Handsome Iván Petrovich (1894-1962) was the first actor of Yugoslav origin to have a successful international film career. He started his career after the First World War with silent Hungarian films and he appeared opposite Alice Terry in three masterpieces by Rex Ingram. Thanks to his singing talent, he made a successful transition into sound film and starred in many Austrian operettas. Till his death he appeared in nearly 100 European films.

Ivan Petrovich
British postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3390/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Iván Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1454/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Angelo Photos.

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1454/2. Photo: Angelo. Petrovich is mentioned under his original name Svetislav Petrovic, here in Germanized version.

Ivan Petrovich
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 581.

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5031/2, 1930-1931. Photo: Atelier Manassé, Wien.

Alice Terry and Ivan Petrovich in The Garden of Allah (1927)
British postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3538/1. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Publicity still for The Garden of Allah (Rex Ingram, 1927).


Michael Curtiz


Iván Petrovich was born as Svetislav Petrovic (Иван Петровић) in Újvidék, Austria-Hungary, today Novi Sad in the Serbian province of Vojvodina, in 1894. He grew up in the bilingual Vojvodina. His names are also spelled Swetislaw, Iwan or Jwan. His father Mladen was a tailor.

After attending the gymnasium in Novi Sad, Petrovich studied engineering at the polytechnic in Prague and later in Belgrade.

He was a talented singer and violinist and was an accomplished athlete, who participated as a swimmer at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.

In 1916 he had to interrupt his studies when he was called up for the army in Serbia. During World War I he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army.

At the end of the First World War he did not return to his studies, but began a career in show business. The handsome and elegant Petrovich worked on stage as a singer and started to appear in silent films, credited as Petrovics Szvetiszláv.

To his early work belong Hungarian films as A Napraforgós hölgy/The Sunflower Woman (Mihály Kertész, later known as Michael Curtiz, 1918) starring Lucy Doraine, the expressionistic Homo immanis/The Horrible Man (Paul Czinner, 1919), and Lengyelvér/Polish Blood (Béla Balogh, 1920).

He had an obvious talent for languages and spoke next to his mother language Serbian also German, English and French.

For Sascha Film in Vienna, he appeared in Die Dame mit dem schwarzen Handschuh/The Lady with the Black Gloves (Mihály Kertész/Michael Curtiz, 1919) and Der Stern von Damaskus/The Star of Damascus (Mihály Kertész/Michael Curtiz, 1920), both starring Lucy Doraine.

Iván Petrovich
Hungarian postcard by City Kindasa. Photo: Angelo Fotografia.

Iván Petrovich
Vintage postcard by FMSI, no. 30. Photo: Port. Fayer.

Ivan Petrovich
British postcard in the Picturegoer series, London, no. 287.

Iván Petrovich in The Magician (1926)
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, no. 132. Photo: publicity still for The Magician (Rex Ingram, 1926).

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1454/3, 1927-1928. Photo: Angelo Photos.

Ivan Petrovich and Evelyn Holt in Frauenarzt Dr. Schäfer (1928)
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5308. Photo: Hegewald-Film / Lux-Film-Verleih. Publicity still for Frauenarzt Dr. Schäfer/Gynecologist Doctor Schaefer (Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck, 1928).

Ivan Petrovich
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5314. Photo: Pholbus Film.

The most cherished lover of the French cinema


For a while Iván Petrovich lived in Paris where he worked as an opera singer. His singing talent lead to tours through Europe and the US.

From 1923 on he also appeared in French productions like Un coquin/A Rascal (Giuseppe Guarino, 1923) opposite Arlette Marchal, Koenigsmark/The Secret Spring (Léonce Perret, 1923), and Âme d'artiste/Heart of an Actress (Germaine Dulac, 1924) with Nicolas Koline.

Petrovich was noticed by Hollywood director Rex Ingram who at the time lived and worked in Southern France, where he established a studio in Nice. He actred in three films by Ingram: The Magician (Rex Ingram, 1926), The Garden of Allah (Rex Ingram, 1927) and the lost film The Three Passions (Rex Ingram, 1928) . In all three films he co-starred with Ingram's wife, Alice Terry.

Hal Erickson at AllMovie on The Magician: "The film's literally explosive climax could not help but have influenced such future horror classics as The Bride of Frankenstein, though The Magician is itself less horrific than sensual, especially in the scene where Haddo convinces the hypnotized heroine that she is taking a journey into Hell. Dismissed as 'tasteless' by critics in 1926, The Magician remains one of director Rex Ingram's most fascinating films; alas, most currently available prints are dupes, robbing the film of its original visual magnificence. Among Ingram's talented assistants on this film were future directors Harry Lachman and Michael Powell."

According to Wikipedia, Petrovich was styled “the most cherished lover of the French cinema”. Petrovich was even considered as one of the potential successors of Rudolf Valentino, who had died prematurely in 1926. Petrovich starred in The Sheik-like Arabian adventure Geheimnisse des Orients/Secrets of the Orient (Alexandre Volkoff, 1928) with Nicolas Koline and Marcella Albani.

Among his best known silent films are also La femme nue/The Naked Woman (Léonce Perret, 1926) with Louise Lagrange and Nita Naldi, the fantasy film Alraune/Mandrake (Henrik Galeen, 1928) opposite Brigitte Helm and Paul Wegener.

In 1928 he visited his birthplace Novi Sad back to visit his parents and sisters, and the local news paper Politika published the news on the front page. Petrovich was enthusiastically welcomed by tens of thousands citizens. He was also received by King Alexander I of Yugoslavia who presented him with the Order of St. Sava for his contribution to the popularisation of film art.

Ivan Petrovich
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5406. Photo: Hegewald-Film / Lux Film-Vertrieb. This card could be for the Hegewald production Der Orlow (Jakob & Luise Fleck, 1927).

Ivan Petrovich
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5785. Photo: Lux Film Verleih / Hegewald Film.

Ivan Petrovich
French postcard by Film Europe, no. 367. Photo: Hegewald Film. Publicity still for Der Orlow (Jakob & Luise Fleck, 1927).

Ivan Petrovich in Der Orlow (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3120/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Alex Binder. Publicity still for Der Orlow/Prince Orloff (Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck, 1927).

Ivan Petrovich and Vivian Gibson
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5120. Photo: Hegewald Film, Lux Film-Verleih. Ivan Petrovich and Vivian Gibson in Der Orlow/Prince Orloff (Jakob & Luise Fleck, 1927).

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3120/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3390/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Ivan Petrovich and Alice Terry
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3538/1, 1928-1929. Ivan Petrovich and Alice Terry in the MGM production The Garden of Allah (Rex Ingram, 1927).

Tall, handsome and good looking, with a sonorous voice


Thanks to his singing talent, Iván Petrovich made a successful transition into sound film. Tall, handsome and good looking, with a sonorous voice, he even prospered. He expanded his acting range to character roles, like aristocrats, noblemen, officers and priests, in the 'Slavic charm' manner.

However, even though he was multilingual, Petrovich' bad English accent turned out to be an insurmountable obstacle, so he had to scrap his Hollywood plans and he focused on the German cinema. He made some 40 films in Germany till the outbreak of the war. As a good singer, he was frequently cast in filmed operettas.

To his well-known film operettas of the early 1930s belong Viktoria und ihr Husar/Victoria and Her Hussar (Richard Oswald, 1931) opposite his future wife Friedel Schuster, Die Fledermaus/The Bat (Carl Lamac, 1931) with Anny Ondra, and Die Blume von Hawaii/Flower of Hawaii (Richard Oswald, 1933) with Márta Eggerth.

Among his other German films of the 1930s are Das Frauenparadies/Women's Paradise (Arthur Maria Rabenalt, 1936), and Die Nacht der Entscheidung/Night of Fate (Nunzio Malasomma, 1938) with Pola Negri.

After the World War II began, Petrovich continued to act in light entertainment films. He stayed in touch with Serbian issues by visiting his friends, captured Serbian officers, in Nazi camps, which caused him problems with the Nazi Security Service. After being pressured to participate in propaganda film Feinde/Enemies (Viktor Tourjansky, 1940), which tried to justify German occupation of Poland, Petrovich migrated to Hungary.

In Hungary Petrovich appeared in films like Európa nem válaszol/Europe Doesn´t Answer (Géza von Radványi, 1941), Életre ítéltek! (Endre Rodríguez, 1941) with Pál Jávor, and Magdolna (Kálmán Nádasdy, 1942), credited as Petrovics Szvetiszláv.

Vera Malinowskaja, Ivan Petrovich
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5784. Photo: Lux Film. Publicity still for Der Günstling von Schönbrunn/Favorite of Schonbrunn (Erich Waschneck, Max Reichmann, 1929) with Vera Malinovskaya.

Ivan Petrovich in Quartier Latin (1929)
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, no. 711. Photo: Sofar. Publicity still for Quartier Latin (Augusto Genina, 1929).

Iván Petrovich
French postcard by Europe, no. 368. Photo: Hegewald Film. Publicity still for the German film Der Zarewitsch (Jakob & Luise Fleck, 1929), starring Iván Petrovich as the son of czar Peter the Great (Albert Steinrück). The film was an adaption of the operetta by Franz Léhar and the play by Gabriela Zapolska.

Iván Petrovich
French postcard by Europe, no. 369. Photo: Hegewald Film. Publicity still for Der Zarewitsch (Jakob & Luise Fleck, 1929).

Ivan Petrovich and Alice Terry in The Three Passions (1929)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4118/1, 1929-1930. Photo: United Artists. Ivan Petrovich and Alice Terry in The Three Passions (Rex Ingram, 1929). Collection: Didier Hanson.

Lilian Ellis and Iván Petrovich in Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät (1929)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4311/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Hegewald-Film. Publicity still for Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät/Court Scandal (Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck, 1929) with Lillian Ellis.

Lilian Ellis and Iván Petrovich in Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät (1929)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4312/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Hegewald-Film. Publicity still for Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät/Court Scandal (Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck, 1929) with Lillian Ellis.

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4343/4, 1929-1930. Photo: Orplid-Messtro Film. Publicity still for Quartier Latin (Augusto Genina, 1929).

Sissi


After the war ended and Communist government was set in Hungary, Iván Petrovich moved back to Germany. In the next 15 years he mostly played supporting roles, and remained a sought actor in the German-speaking countries.

He played supporting parts in German films like Der Prozeß/The Trial (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1948) with Ewald Balser, Ludwig von Beethoven’s biopic Eroica (Walter Kolm-Veltée, 1949), and Die Försterchristl/The Forester's Daughter (Arthur Maria Rabenalt, 1952) featuring Johanna Matz.

Petrovich also played a supporting part in the American thriller The Devil Makes Three (Andrew Marton, 1952), starring Gene Kelly and Pier Angeli, which was partly filmed in Germany

He appeared as Dr. Max Falk in the box-office hit Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin/Sissi: The Young Empress (Ernst Marischka, 1956) starring Romy Schneider. The second in the film trilogy about Elisabeth of Austria, the film chronicles the married life of the young empress nicknamed Sissi.

Among his last parts were roles in the classic French thriller Ascenseur pour l'échafaud/Elevator to the Gallows (Louis Malle, 1958) starring Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet, and in Anatole Litvak’s The Journey (1959) about a group of Westerners, who tries to flee Hungary after the Soviet Union moves to crush the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

Iván Petrovich died of stomach cancer in 1962 in Munich, West Germany. He is interred in the city’s Nordfriedhof cemetery. Petrovich was married to Lilian Hübner and to actress and singer Friedel Schuster.

Apart from acting, in this period he also worked as a radio announcer on Radio Free Europe, which was headquartered in Munich at the time. His work was strongly disliked by the post-war Communist authorities of Yugoslavia. Wikipedia writes that this is one of the reasons why Petrovich is largely forgotten in Serbia today. In an effort to change that, the Serbian national film library, Jugoslovenska kinoteka, dedicated the year 2017 to him, and shows his films throughout the whole year.

Iván  Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4500/1, 1929-1930. Photo: G [Greenbaum-Film]. Publicity still for Der Günstling von Schönbrunn (Erich Waschneck, Max Reichmann, 1929), in which Petrovich plays the favourite of empress Maria Theresia (Lil Dagover). As the film was shot during the sound film breakthrough, both a silent and a sound film were made.

Ivan Petrovich and Gina Manes
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4596/1, 1929-1930. Photo Messtro-Orplid. Ivan Petrovich and Gina Manès in Quartier Latin (Augusto Genina, 1929).

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6143/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Aafa. Publicity still for Viktoria und ihr Husar/Victoria and Her Hussar (Richard Oswald, 1931).

Ivan Petrovich in Gern hab' ich die Frau'n geküßt (1934)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 8774/1, 1933-1934. Photo: Majestic-Film / NDLS. Publicity still for Gern hab' ich die Frau'n geküßt /Paganini (E.W. Emo, 1934) with Iván Petrovich as the most celebrated violin virtuoso of his time, Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840).

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 9818/1, 1935-1936. Photo: FoF. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3899/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick.

Iván Petrovich
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 192, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick.

Ivan Petrovich
German postcard by Das Programm von Heute, Berlin. Photo: Märkische / Panorama / Schneider. Collection: Miss Mertens.

Romy Schneider, Ivan Petrovich
Dutch postcard by Takken, no. AX 3028. Photo: Filmex N.V. Publicity still for Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin/Sissi: The Young Empress (Ernst Marischka, 1956) starring Romy Schneider.


Trailer The Garden Of Allah (1927). Source: perfectjazz78 (YouTube).


Scene from Viktoria und ihr Husar/Victoria and Her Hussar (1931) with Friedel Schuster singing Rote Orchideen (Red Orchids). It was Schuster's film debut. Source: Alparfan (YouTube).


Ivan Petrovich sings Das Zigarettenlied in Der Orlow (1932). Source: Alparfan (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Wikipedia (English, Serbian and German), and IMDb.

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