17 December 2017

Lilian Constantini

Lilian Constantini (1902-1982) was a French dancer and actress, before marrying industrialist Charles Schneider. During the silent film ear, she often worked with director Jacques Robert.

Lilian Constantini
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 417. Photo: Sartony.

Mata Hari

Lilian Constantini was born Lilian Louise Hélène Chapiro-Volpert in Paris in 1902. She was the granddaughter of French Socialist politician Jules Guesde, and daughter of Boris Chapiro-Volpert, and Louise Bazile-Guesde.

Her mother separated from Chapiro-Volpert in 1917 and remarried in 1924 with the - 18 years younger - Parisian film director and former actor Gustave Jacques Robert Kneubühler, better known as Jacques Robert. Constantini, only 7 years younger than Robert, was witness at the marriage.

From 1921 she acted in a whole range films by Jacques Robert; actually, she acted in all of his films apart from Le comte Kostia/Count Kostia (Jacques Robert, 1925).

Constantini debuted in Robert’s Gaumont production La vivante épingle/The living pin (Jacques Robert, 1922), starring Jean Toulout. In Robert’s next Gaumont film La bouquetière des innocents/The Innocent Flower Girl (Jacques Robert, 1922), Constantini already played a substantial part as Marie Concini, opposite the main actress Claude Merelle, who played the double role of Margot the flower girl and Leonor Galligalt.

The third film of Robert and Constantini was the Honoré de Balzac adaptation Le cousin Pons/Cousin Pons (Jacques Robert, 1924), in which Constantini acted as Héloïse Brisetout opposite Maurice de Féraudy as Pons. In their next film, Naples au baiser du feu/Naples at the kiss of fire (Jacques Robert, Serge Nadejdine, 1925) Constantini had a major part opposite Gaston Modot and Gina Manès.

After Gauthier Debere’s short La leçon bien apprise (1926), Constantini had the lead opposite  in La chèvre aux pieds d’or/The Goat with the Golden Feet (Jacques Robert, 1926), adapted from the novel by Charles-Henry Hirsch and loosely based on the life story of Mata Hari.

Toutcha (Constantini), a Russian girl, loses her anarchist lover to the Russian police – he is murdered. Forced by hunger she bends to police chief baron Friedrich (Pierre Alcover) and becomes a Russian spy while dancing ‘Ballet Russe’-style in Paris as ‘The Goat with the Golden Feet’. One day, by their mutual friend Ursac (Max Maxudian), she meets a French lawyer, Marc Brégyl (Romuald Joubé) and they fall in love. Happy to escape the clutches of the baron, she joins Marc to his country house, but out of boredom she invites her theatre friends, whose wild parties drive the lawyer to madness, so he breaks with her. Time after, he receives a letter from her. The First World War has started, Toutcha is arrested as a spy and she asks him to defend her. With all his powers he does so, but in vain. Toutcha will be executed.

Lilian Constantini (Mon Ciné, 1926)
French magazine cover. Lilian Constantini in La chèvre aux pieds d'or (Jacques Robert, 1926). Cover of Mon Ciné, V, 219, 29 April 1926.

Romuald Joubé
Romuald Joubé. French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 361.

Heir of the biggest French steel and armaments factory

Lilian Constantini's subsequent film with Jacques Robert was again a spy themed story, En plongée/Diving, made in 1926 but released in 1928, with Constantini in the lead and with Daniel Mendaille and again Pierre Alcover as her co-stars. It was Robert’s last film. He would die in 1928, at the age of only 38. The film, based on the story Fragments d’épaves by Bernard Frank was filmed in Brittany. Other sources say it pretended to be Brittany but was shot in Monaco.

In 1928 Constantini acted opposite Georges Vallée in Germaine Dulac’s film Celles qui s'en font. During a period of “discophillia” in France, Dulac made this musical film, intended to be shown with records. Celles qui s’en font was split into two parts, with each part presenting a short story to match one of two tracks. Both stories feature dancer Lillian Constantini playing a female protagonist shunned by society (a theme dear to Dulac) and fallen on hard times.

In 1929, Constantini had the female lead in Chacun porte sa croix/Everyone carries his cross (Jean Choux, 1929) about a man who forbids his wife and child to go to church until misery happens. She again played the lead in a spy story by Choux, Espionnage ou la guerre sans armes/Spying or Unarmed War (Jean Choux, 1929), a romanticised depiction of the life of female spy Louise de Bettignies. Then followed another lead in Sa maman/His mom (Gaston Mouru de Lacotte, 1929).

In 1930 she had the female lead in her first sound film, L'étrange fiancée/The strange fiancée (George Pallu, 1930), with Henry Baudin as a Caligari-like mad scientist. In post-production they had given Lilian such a strange voice, that people started laughing in the cinema and Constantini protested after the first night.

After an interval of several years, Constantini had a regular lead in three adaptations of mystery dramas by Marcel Allain: Lui... ou... elle/Him ... or ... she (Roger Capellani, 1934), Vilaine histoire/An ugly story (Christian-Jaque, 1935) and Crime d’amour/Crime of love (Roger Capellani, 1935), always with Robert Ancelin and Lucien Arnaud in the male leads as the amateur detective and the professional policeman. Constantini’s last film was Jean de Limur’s comedy Le coup de trois/The three (1936), starring René Lefèvre.

In 1943 Lilian Constantini/Volpert married industrialist Charles Schneider (1898-1960), cousin of filmmaker Germaine Dulac and heir of the biggest French steel and armaments factory Schneider-Creusot. After serving in the First World War he was fired from the family business in 1924, because of a conflict with his father Eugène Schneider II. He then worked at the Gaumont Film company, but in 1942 after the death of his father he took over the family business with his brother Jean.

Schneider and Constantini had one son, who died early, but two daughters lived on: Dominique (1942) and Catherine (1944). Dominique became writer and named herself Schneidre. She published e.g. on her mother the book Fortune de mère (2001). Catherine Schneider was in 1975-1977 the third wife of filmmaker Roger Vadim, with whom she has a son, Vania Plémiannikov.

Lilian Constantini/Volpert/Schneider died in 1982 in Saint-Tropez, France. She was 79.

René Lefevre
René Lefèvre. French postcard by Éditions Chantal (EC), Paris, no. 102.

Celles qui s'en font (Germaine Dulac, 1930). Source: Georgette 14 (YouTube).

Sources: Unifrance, Rochelle Sara Miller, Wikipedia (French and English), and IMDb.

16 December 2017

Ursula Andress

Stunning Swiss sex symbol, starlet and jet-setter Ursula Andress (1936) will always be remembered as the first and quintessential Bond girl. In Dr. No (1962) she made film history when she spectacularly rises out of the Caribbean Sea in a white bikini. Though she won a Golden Globe, Ursula's looks generally outweighed her acting talent and she never took her film career very seriously.

Ursula Andress
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/411.

Ursula Andress
Spanish postcard by Raker, no. 1157, 1965.

Ursula Andress
Italian postcard, no. 100/110.

Ursula Andress
Italian postcard, no. 100/111.

Ursula Andress
Spanish postcard, no. 240, 1964.

Impressive Physical Attributes

Ursula Andress was born in 1936, in Ostermundigen in the Swiss canton Bern, as one of seven children in a German Protestant family. Her father Rolf Andress was a German diplomat who disappeared during World War II, and her Swiss mother, Anna Andress, was a florist. The third of six children. She has a brother, Arthur and four sisters, Erica, Kàtey, Charlotte and Ruth. She and her siblings were raised by their grandparents. Her younger sister, Kàtey Andress, later unsuccessfully attempted to start a modelling career.

Although often seeming icily aloof, a restless streak early demonstrated itself in her personality, and Andress had a desire from an early age to explore the world outside Switzerland. At 17, she ran away with an Italian actor, then returned home after her mother intervened.

She studied painting, sculpture and dance in Paris. Andress started her career as an art model in Rome, which led to her first roles in the Italian film industry. (Some sources claim that she was on a holiday to Rome at the time). She played small roles in the Italian farces Un americano a Roma/An American in Rome (Steno, 1954), La catena dell'odio/The Chain of Hate (Renato Baldini, 1955) and Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova/Adventures of Giacomo Casanova (Steno, 1955), which focused on her impressive physical attributes.

Eventually, due in part to the patronage of paramour Marlon Brando, she signed a contract with Columbia Pictures and went to Hollywood heralded as the 'New Marlene Dietrich'. Actually the only things she had in common with Dietrich were her (partly) German heritage and her magnificent legs.

In Hollywood she had a troubled relationship with James Dean. One tabloid reported at the time that Dean was learning German so they could "argue in another language". On the day of his death (30 September 1955), Dean asked her to go with him to San Francisco in his Porsche 550 Spyder, but he had to leave Los Angeles without her.

Andress had met actor and pretty-boy John Derek and had fallen in love with him. They married in 1957, and Ursula dropped out of film-making for several years thereafter.

Ursula Andress
Serbian postcard by Cik Razolednica. Photo: publicity still for Dr. No (1962).

Ursula Andress
German postcard by ISV, Sort. 12/6.

Ursula Andress
German postcard by Rüdel-Verlag. Photo: Warner Bros. Publicity still for 4 For Texas (Robert Aldrich, 1963).

Ursula Andress, Elvis Presley and Elsa Cardenas in Fun in Acapulco (1963)
Spanish postcard by Postal Oscarcolor, no. 251. Photo: RCA. Publicity still for Fun in Acapulco (Richard Thorpe, 1963) with Elvis Presley and Elsa Cardenas.

Ursula Andress and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Les tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine (1965)
Italian postcard. Photo: Dear Film. Publicity still for Les tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine/Up to His Ears (Philippe de Broca, 1965) with Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Ursula Andress and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Les tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine (1965)
Spanish postcard by Postal Oscarcolor, no. 481. Photo: publicity still for Les tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine/Up to His Ears (Philippe de Broca, 1965) with Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Honey Rider

The year 1962 saw Ursula Andress back on the set, co-starring as Honey Ryder with Sean Connery in the first film version of Ian Fleming's James Bond spy novels, Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962).

On a trip to Greece, John Derek had taken photographs of his wife, and one had been published in a magazine. The photograph was seen by Harry Saltzman, co-producer of the first Bond film, which was scheduled to start shooting within a few weeks even though the female lead had not yet been cast. One glance at the picture was enough. Ursula was offered the part.

Her Swiss/German accent was so strong that her voice had to be dubbed, but Ursula Andress' smouldering-yet-aloof screen presence immediately established her as one of the most desired women in the world. Her performance helped to start the James Bond franchise and set the Bond Girl standard beside which all future Bond actresses would be judged.

In 1964 Andress won even a Golden Globe award for New Star of the Year for her role. The success of Dr. No established Ursula Andress as a spectacular ornament to put on-screen alongside the most bankable talent of the 1960s, and she was cast in Hollywood vehicles for such icons as the 'king of rock 'n' roll', Elvis Presley, in Fun in Acapulco (Richard Thorpe, 1963), and Frank Sinatra in 4 for Texas (Robert Aldrich, 1963).

In Europe she starred with Jean-Paul Belmondo in the Jules Verne adventure Les tribulations d'un chinois en Chine/Up to His Ears (Philippe de Broca, 1965) and with Marcello Mastroianni in the SF thriller La decima vittima/The 10th Victim (Elio Petri, 1965), in which she wears a famously ballistic bra.

She also featured as ‘Ayesha - She who must be obeyed’ in Hammer's fantasy film She (Robert Day, 1965) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. In 1965, she also posed nude for Playboy - the photos were taken by husband John Derek. In The Blue Max (John Guillermin, 1966), she was aptly cast as the sultry, sexually insatiable wife of an aristocratic World War I German general, played by James Mason.

Andress also appeared in the Bond satire Casino Royale (John Huston a.o., 1967) as Vesper Lynd, an occasional spy who persuades Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers) to carry out a mission. And she was one of several European starlets to co-star in What's New Pussycat (Clive Donner, Richard Talmadge, 1965) - a film that perhaps sums up mid-196’s pop culture best - written by Woody Allen, starring Allen and Peter Sellers, with music by Burt Bacharach, a title song performed by Tom Jones and much on-screen sexual romping.

Ursula Andress
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/412.

Ursula Andress
German postcard by ISV, no. H 134.

Ursula Andress
Belgian postcard by Edt. Decker, Brussels, no. A 113.

Ursula Andress
Vintage postcard.

Ursula Andress
Spanish postcard by Postales Recuadro Blanco Vikingo, Barcelona, no. 441.

Horror in the Jungle

Ursula Andress's charms seemed not to diminish by age. At 40, she could still easily play a bombshell nurse hired to titillate a doddering millionaire to death in the slight Italian sex comedy L'infermiera/The Sensuous Nurse (Nello Rossati, 1975), and three years later she even appeared naked on a stake being rubbed with blood in the ‘horror in the jungle’ exploitation film La montagna del dio cannibale/Slave of the Cannibal God (Sergio Martino, 1978).

Having been divorced by Derek in 1966 so he could pursue younger lookalike Linda Evans, Andress played the field for years, reportedly involved at various times with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Ryan O'Neal, Warren Beatty and Fabio Testi.

In 1979 she began what would be a long-term romance with Harry Hamlin, her handsome young co-star from Clash of the Titans (Desmond Davis, 1981) in which she was cast, predictably, as Aphrodite. In 1980, Andress and Hamlin had a son, Dimitri Hamlin. After her son's birth, Andress scaled back her career.

Andress now focused mostly on European television and films, while she was raising Dimitri in Rome. Among her later films were Krasnye kolokola/Mexico in Flames (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1982) with Franco Nero, Liberté, égalité, choucroute/Liberty, Equality, Sauerkrauten (Jean Yanne, 1985) as Queen Marie Antoinette, and the art film Cremaster 5 (Matthew Barney, 1997).

On television she appeared in the mini-series Peter the Great (Marvin J. Chomsky, Lawrence Schiller, 1986) and in the series Falcon Crest (1988). Most recently she worked on a film in her home country Switzerland. In the satire Die Vogelpredigt/The Bird Preachers (Clemens Klopfenstein, 2005) she appeared as the Virgin Mary.

Her relationship with Harry Hamlin ended in 1982, and since 1983 she has lived with Lorenzo Rispoli. Ostensibly retired from acting, Andress makes the rounds of charity events and pops up on talk shows around Europe every once in a while. She divides her time between family in Switzerland, friends in Spain and Virginia, and her properties in Rome and L.A.

In 2001 the white bikini from Dr. No sold for £35,000 at an auction, in a 2003 Survey by the British Channel 4 her rise from the sea was voted #1 in ‘the 100 Greatest Sexy Moments, and in 2008 the readers of the British newspaper Daily Mail voted her ‘Best Bond Girl of All Time’. Ursula Andress’ performance as Honey Rider has clearly made her an icon of the 20th Century.

Ursula Andress
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 467.

Ursula Andress
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano in the Artisti di Sempre series, no. 358.

Ursula Andress
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin, no. 43078.

Ursula Andress, Gina Lollobrigida
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin, no. 53189. With Gina Lollobrigida.

Original trailer of Dr. No (1962). Source: ChocolateFrogPrince (YouTube).

Clip from She (1965). Ursula demonstrates why She Must Be Obeyed. Source: DrCForbin (YouTube).

Ursula Andress in L'infermiera (1975). Source: Limesrgreat (YouTube).

Sources: Larry-115 (IMDb), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

15 December 2017

Rotary Photo

The British Rotary Photographic Co. Ltd was active in London between 1897 and 1916. It was a huge publisher of real photographic postcards. Real photographic cards were actual photographs produced from negatives directly onto photographic paper that was postcard sized. Rotary published several elegant postcards of actresses and actors. Its series included the S-series and the Rotary Photographic Series. For this post, we chose 12 delicate portraits of female stars of the British stage and the early British cinema.

Gaby Deslys
Gaby Deslys. British postcard by Rotary Photo, no. 11843 Q. Photo: Talbot, Paris. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Isobel Elsom
Isobel Elsom. British postcard by Rotary Photo, London, no. S.37-1. Photo: Lallie Charles.

Fay Compton
Fay Compton. British postcard by Rotary Photo London, no. S.38-5. Photo: Rita Martin.

Gladys Cooper
Gladys Cooper. British postcard by Rotary Photo, London, no. S.97.3.

Madge Lessing
Madge Lessing. British postcard by Rotary, no. 167 h.

Eva, Decima, Bertha and Jessie Moore
Eva Moore and her sisters Decima, Bertha and Jessie Moore. British postcard in the Rotary Photographic Series, no. 1699 B. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield.

Phyllis Dare, The Belle of Mayfair
Phyllis Dare. British postcard by Rotary Photo E.C., no. 4168 I. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the stage play The Belle of Mayfair (1906).

Mabel Love
Mabel Love. British postcard by Rotary Photo E.C., no. 4337. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield.

Constance Collier in Nero (1906)
Constance Collier. British postcard by Rotary Photo E.C., no. 4039 D. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the stage play Nero (1906) with Constance Collier as Poppaea.

Ada Reeve
Ada Reeve. British postcard by Rotary Photo E.C., no. 4167 A. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield.

Zena Dare
Zena Dare. British postcard by Rotary Photo E.C., no. 4500 D. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. The postcard was sent by mail in 1907.

Lilian Hall-Davis
Lilian Hall-Davis. British postcard by Rotary Postcards E.C.

Sources: Grace's Guide, Postcard Collecting, and Ross Postcards.

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