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21 November 2017

Annie Vernay

Pretty little Annie Vernay (1921-1941) catapulted into stardom at an early age, but the career of the Swiss-French actress was cut short. She died only 19 years old.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 25. Photo: Teddy Piaz.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Viny, no. 40. Photo: Star. With an autograph by Vernay at the flipside, dated 11 May 1940.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Erpé, no. 568. Photo: Star.

Annie Vernay
French postcard, no. 720. Photo: Harcourt.

Pushing Mother


Annie Vernay was born Annie-Martine-Jacqueline Vermeersch in Genève-Plainpalais, Switzerland, in 1921. Her father, Gaston Vermeersch, was a rich industrialist.

As her mother Germaine Vermeersch couldn't realise an artistic career because of her marriage de raison, she pushed her daughter into an artistic career after her husband died and she inherited his fortune. She applied her daughter for Jugement d’Hélène, a beauty contest in Paris, when the girl was 16 years old.

During holidays at Juan les Pins a friend of film director Victor Tourjansky spotted her and recommended her to him. Tourjansky engaged her for the role of Lisl in his film Le mensonge de Nina Petrovna/The Lie of Nina Petrovna (Victor Tourjansky, 1937), which starred Italian star Isa Miranda and Fernand Gravey. The film had been shot earlier in Germany as Die wunderbare Lüge der Nina Petrowna (Hanns Schwarz, 1929) with Brigitte Helm.

Vernay did so well that she was cast as the leading actress in the Italo-French multilingual La principessa Tarakanova/Betrayal (1938), shot at Cinecittà in Rome and directed by Russian director Fyodor Otsep and the Italian Mario Soldati.

Vernay played a princess who claims the Russian throne. Empress Catherine II (Suzy Prim) sends her lover and best soldier Orloff (Pierre-Richard Willm) to capture the impostor, but he falls for her beauty and innocence. The film had lavish sets of Venice and St. Petersburg and was one of the first Italian films shot in deep focus. It was a box office hit in 1938.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1139. Photo: Harcourt.

Annie Vernay
German postcard by Ross. Photo: Nero-Film.

Annie Vernay
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1938, XVI. Photo: Pesce.

Annie Vernay
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano. Photo: Pesce.

Rick's Café


Annie Vernay’s mother, who had become her agent and coach as well, knew she had gold in her hands. Annie herself, more sober, continued her studies in between shootings. The result was that the famous producer Seymour Nebenzahl of Nero Film engaged Vernay for several films.

The first was Max Ophüls’ adaptation of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers: Le roman de Werther/Sorrow of Werther (Max Ophüls, 1938). It featured Pierre-Richard Willm as Werther and Vernay as Charlotte/Lotte, the girl for whom Werther commits suicide. The film confirmed Vernay’s status as a new French film star, competing with young stars like Danielle Darrieux.

When World War II broke out in the summer of 1939, French film production hesitated but still continued, enabling Vernay to play in more films: the World War One drama Les otages/The Mayor's Dilemma (Raymond Bernard, 1939) with Pierre Larquey, Dédé la musique/Dédé of Montmartre (André Berthomieu, 1939) with Albert Préjean, Chantons quand même/Let us sing all the same (Pierre Caro, 1940), and the crime film Le collier de chanvre/Hangman's Noose (Léon Mathot, 1940) with Jacqueline Delubac.

Because of the pending German invasion of France, Annie Vernay intended to return to Switzerland, but at that moment she received an offer from Hollywood to play the role of a foreign woman in a movie called Rick's Café. Annie’s mother convinced her to accept the offer, so they travelled to the US via Argentine, on one of the last freighters to leave France.

Aboard the ship, though, Annie fell ill of typhoid and died in a hospital after her arrival in Buenos Aires, in August 1941. Annie Vernay was only 19 years old. Germaine Vermeersch never got over the loss of her daughter.

Other candidates for the same role in Rick's Café had been Hedy Lamarr and Michèle Morgan but eventually it would give Ingrid Bergman everlasting fame. The film in which Annie Vernay was supposed to play the female lead was later filmed as Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942).

Annie Vernay
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1139 Photo: Harcourt.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by O.P., Paris, no. 122. Photo: Le Studio.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by P.I., Paris. Photo: Teddy Piaz.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Collection Chantal, Paris. Photo: Nero Film.

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Cine Vedette (French), Caroline Hanotte & Philippe Pelletier (CinéArtistes), and IMDb.

20 November 2017

Roldano Lupi

Roldano Lupi (1909-1989) was an acclaimed Italian actor of cinema, television and theatre. Despite being the leading man of many successful films of the 1930s and 1940s, he was never considered a true star by the public.

Roldano Lupi
Italian postcard. Ed. Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze (B.F.F. Edit.), no. 1427. Photo: Vaselli / E.N.I.C.

Jealousy


Roldano Lupi was born in Milan in 1909, as son of Domenico and Maria Tardiani.

He earned a degree as accountant in Milan, and later dedicated himself to acting for sheer delight, becoming part of the cast of some local amateur stage companies.

His transition to professional acting took place relatively late in 1938, when he had the opportunity to enter the celebrated Kiki Palmer company. After this, his career underwent a strong acceleration. He first moved to the company of Guglielmo Giannini, and in 1942 to that of Ruggero Ruggeri and Dina Galli.

In the meantime, Lupi started his career in the cinema. In 1941 he made his film debut in the romance Sissignora/Yes, Madam, directed by Ferdinando Maria Poggioli – whose favourite actor he became. Here he played the role that made him famous, that of the selfish and cynical lover, of Evi Maltagliati in this case, who plays the employer of the protagonist Cristina (Maria Denis).

More success came to Lupi the following year, as the protagonist of the drama Gelosia/Jealousy (Ferdinando Maria Poggioli, 1942). Here he is a marquis who weds his love interest, a farmer girl (Luisa Ferida), to one of his tenants, with the promise the marriage may not be consumed. He shoots the tenant out of jealousy. He confesses his crime to a priest but refuses to denounce himself, hiding in a wedding with a noble lady. Too late, he repents his mistakes.

In 1943-1944, he worked on the film Circo equestre Za-bum/The Za-Bum Circus (Mario Mattoli, 1944). The film was shot clandestinely in Rome during the Italian Social Republic also known as the Republic of Salò (1943-1945), when the country was occupied by the Germans and all cinematic activity was transferred to Venice. Many actors and technicians decided to stay in Rome, some with work permits delivered by the Vatican State, and the not so lucky - like those involved in this film - working clandestinely.

Roldano Lupi
Italian postcard by ASER (A. Scaramaglia Edizioni Roma), no. 353. Photo: Civirani / Lux Film.

Seriousness and professionalism


From that time until the immediate post-war period, Roldano Lupi became one of the leading men of the Italian cinema. He characterised his interpretations with seriousness and professionalism. This earned him strong acclaim by the critics, who, however, sometimes criticised him for sometimes too fixed kinds of expressions.

During the war, Lupi acted in Nessuno orna indietro/Responsibility Comes Back (Alessandro Blasetti, 1943), Il cappello da prete/The priest's hat (Ferdinando Maria Poggioli, 1944) and La porta del cielo/The Gates of Heaven (Vittorio De Sica, 1944). The latter film is the story of a train full of sick and deformed pilgrims on their way to seek miracles at the shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, near the city of Ancona in eastern Italy. La porta del cielo was made during the German occupation of Rome, with support from the Vatican. This allowed Lupi and other actors, under pressure to go north and work in Venice for the film industry of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic, to remain in Rome.

Lupi was equipped with a face with a thick and frowning expression. So, despite being the leading man of many successful films, he was never considered a true star by the public who rather favoured actors like Massimo Girotti, Amedeo Nazzari, Fosco Giachetti, and Andrea Checchi, even if at times they played parts similar to his own.

Precisely the roles he was constrained to - the jealous and crazy lover, the perverted and unwilling nobleman ready for money, the disturbed assassin - became in some respects Lupi’s professional strength. The expression to the limits of the madness that he was able to infuse his characters, and the cloudy air around him signed him deeply, but in other respects these features also limited his career and popularity.

In the postwar period, he was remarkable in the crime film Il testimone/The Testimony (Pietro Germi, 1945) with Marina Berti, L'adultera/The Adulteress (Duilio Coletti, 1946) with Clara Calamai, Il delitto di Giovanni Episcopo/Flesh Will Surrender (Alberto Lattuada 1947), and Altura/Height (Mario Sequi 1949), alongside Mario Girotti and Eleonora Rossi Drago.

In 1950, he appeared in L'edera/Devotion (Augusto Genina 1950) opposite Columba Dominguez, who plays a girl, adopted by a declining aristocratic family. This Italian rural drama was shot in Barbagia, Sardinia. Vitaliano Brancati contributed to the script, based on a novel by Grazia Deledda. The film quite closely follows the novel, which takes place on the province of Nuoro, but offers a less drastic finale. Progressively, in the second half of the 1950s, Lupi was increasingly employed in character roles.

In 1944, he had returned to the theatre. First he worked with the Magnani Ninchi company, then in 1947, with only Carlo Ninchi. He later became the protagonist of the great Medea summer show in 1949. In 1951, with the company of Guido Salvini, he continued his activity on the stage, starting also as radio and voice actor. He dubbed Walter Pidgeon in the cult film Forbidden Planet (Fred Wilcox, 1956), but also Leo Genn, George Montgomery and the famous western film actor Roy Rogers.

Columba Dominguez in L'edera (1950)
Italian postcard by Ed. Mondadori. Photo: Cines / E.N.I.C. / AGAR. Columba Dominguez and Roldano Lupi in L'edera/Devotion (Augusto Genina, 1950).

Peplum


Even in the 1960s, Roldano Lupi continued to work in the cinema in many genres, even as a leading man in a Peplum. He worked with such directors as Riccardo Freda, Domenico Paolella, Primo Zeglio, Umberto Scarpelli and other specialists.

Yet, he also took the pleasure of shooting films with French filmmakers like Claude Autant-Lara, Christian-Jaque, Bernard Borderie and Henri Decoin. He was Captain De Treville in I cavalieri della regina (1954), co-directed by Mauro Bolognini and Joseph Lerner and based on Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers.

In 1952, he also had the opportunity to be a partner of Hollywood star Errol Flynn in Il maestro di Don Giovanni/Crossed Swords (Milton Krims, 1952). Lupi's last film part was in the Peplum film La vendetta dei gladiatori/Revenge of the Gladiators (Luigi Capuano, 1964)

With the emergence of television, Lupi's commitments gradually shifted from the big to the small screen, such as in Mont Oriol (Claudio Fino, 1958), L'isola del tesoro/Treasure Island (Anton Giulio Majano, 1959), Tom Jones (Eros Macchi, 1960), Una tragedia americana/An American Tragedy (Anton Giulio Majano, 1962), La sciarpa/The Scarf (Guglielmo Morandi, 1963), I miserabili/Les Miserables (Sandro Bolchi, 1964), and David Copperfield (Anton Giulio Majano, 1965).

In the same year he took part in Questa sera parla Mark Twain/This evening speaks Mark Twain (Daniele D'Anza, 1965), starring Paolo Stoppa. He was also in other TV dramas including Le mie prigioni/My prisons (Sandro Bolchi, 1968) and Eleonora (Silverio Blasi, 1973). His intense stage and TV career lasted until 1979 when he appeared for the last time in an episode of the TV series Racconti di fantascienza/Science fiction stories by Alessandro Blasetti.

Roldano Lupi was married to the Venetian stage actress Pina Bertoncello. He died in Rome in 1989, and lies buried in the Cimitero Flaminio in Rome.

Columba Dominguez in L'edera (1950)
Italian postcard by Ed. Mondadori. Photo: Cines / E.N.I.C. / AGAR. Columba Dominguez and Roldano Lupi in L'edera/Devotion (Augusto Genina, 1950).

Columba Dominguez in L'edera (1950)
Italian postcard by Ed. Mondadori. Photo: Cines / E.N.I.C. / AGAR. Columba Dominguez in L'edera/Devotion (Augusto Genina, 1950).

Sources: Wikipedia (Italian and English) and IMDb.

19 November 2017

Evi Kent

Beautiful and sexy Evi Kent (1938) was an Austrian actress and singer who appeared in dozens of German-language films and TV shows of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Evi Kent
Dutch postcard by P. Moorlag, Heerlen, Sort 14/6. Photo: E. Schneider.

Wallflower


Evi Kent was born in Brünn, Austria (now Brno, Czech Republic) in 1938.

According to the IMDb, Evi Kent’s first appearances were in 1953 on German television, in the comedy Spiel mit dem Glück/Love Game (Peter A. Horn, 1953) and in the musical show Knallbonbons (Hanns Farenburg, 1953).

From early on she worked both as an actress and a singer. In Spiel mit dem Glück, the Trinidad born singer Mona Baptiste starred and Evi was billed fourth. In Knallbonbons some then well-known artists performed like Belgian singer-actress Angèle Durand and the dance group The Hiller Girls.

Evi’s appearances must have been successful, while in the following years some supporting roles followed in theatrical films like the comedy Mamitschka (Rolf Thiele, 1955) starring Rudolf Platte, Friederike von Barring (Rolf Thiele, 1956) starring Nadja Tiller, Mein Vater, der Schauspieler/My Father, the Actor (Robert Siodmak, 1956) with O.W. Fischer, and Jede Nacht in einem anderen Bett/Each Night in Another bed (Paul Verhoeven, 1957) with Gerhard Riedmann.

Among her hit songs was Papa Tanzt Mambo, a German cover of Perry Como's Papa Loves Mambo, which decades later re-appeared on compilations like 100 Goldene Schlager 1930-1955. In 1956 she also made a great German cover version of Teresa Brewer’s hit A Sweet Old Fashioned Girl: Mauerblümchen (Wallflower) - genuine German Rock and Roll.

That same year she also sang the cheeky and equally enjoyable Warum drehn' sich alle Männer nach mir um? (Why Do All the Men Turn Around for Me?). Both can be heard on YouTube (and thanks to Blackeyedjoe also here below).

Evi Kent
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin, no. I 493. Photo: Filmaufbau / Deutsche London / Lindner. Publicity still for Friederike von Barring (Rolf Thiele, 1956).

Evi Kent
German postcard by F.J. Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. 1773. Photo: Filmaufbau / Deutsche London / Lindner. Publicity still for Friederike von Barring (Rolf Thiele, 1956).

Fluffy and Forgettable


For four years Evi Kent did not appear in films, but in 1961 she played small parts in the Austrian comedy Unsere tollen Tanten/Our Mad Aunts (Rolf Olsen, 1961) with Günter Philipp and Vivi Bach, and the sequel Unsere tollen Nichten/Our Mad Nieces (Rolf Olsen, 1962).

During the early 1960s, she appeared mainly in small roles in Austrian films: in comedies and Schlager films. Some titles are Das haben die Mädchen gern/That’s What the Girls Like (Kurt Nachmann, 1962) with Ann Smyrner, and Tanze mit mir in den Morgen/Dance with Me Into the Morning (Peter Dörre, 1962) with Rex Gildo.

She also played the female lead in the adventure comedy Unter Wasser küßt man nicht/Under Water One Doesn’t Kiss (Erich Heindl, 1962) opposite Gunther Philipp. It would not become her breakthrough role, and in the following years her parts in films became smaller.

Those films included Rote Lippen soll man küssen/Red Lips Should Be Kissed (Franz Antel, 1963) starring Johanna Matz, Allotria in Zell am See/Larking about in Zell am See (Franz Marischka, 1963) and Jetzt dreht die Welt sich nur um dich/The World Turns Around Now (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1964), all fluffy and forgettable.

Evi found bigger roles in comedies on television, like next to Hannelore Auer in Eheinstitut Harmonie/Marriage Institute Harmony (Dieter Pröttel, 1964), in Mitternachtszauber/Midnight Magic (Ralph Lothar, 1964) with Beppo Brem, and in Der doppelte Moritz/Thre Double Moritz (Fred Kraus, 1966) starring popular comedian Willy Millowitsch.

She often performed as a singer on TV, like in the Silvester Show (Dieter Pröttel, 1964) and Es funkeln die Sterne - Eine musikalische Silvesterreise um die Welt/Stars Twinkle - A Musical Christmas Trip Around the World (Paul Martin, Dieter Wendrich, 1966).

The following years her appearances became rarer. On TV she was seen next to Georg Thomalla in an episode of Komische Geschichten mit Georg Thomalla/Funny Stories With Georg Thomalla, and in the musical Auf der grünen Wiese/At the Green Meadow (Edwin Zbonek, 1971).

In the cinema she was last seen in Blau blüht der Enzian/Blue Blossoms the Gentian (Franz Antel, 1973), a comedy set in the winter resort of Kitzbühel in Tyrol, Austria, starring TV host Ilja Richter. On television she was last seen in an episode of the Austrian TV series Alfred auf Reisen/Afred on Voyage (1982, Kurt Junek, Hemut Pfandler) featuring Alfred Böhm.

And from then on all traces of beautiful Evi Kent disappeared…

Evi Kent
German postcard by WS-Druck,Wanne-Eickel. Photo: Delos / Constantin/Gabriele.

Evi Kent
German autograph card. Photo: Sponner.


Evi Kent sings Warum drehn' sich alle Männer nach mir um? (1956). Source: Blackeyedjoe (YouTube).


Evi Kent sings Mauerblümchen (1956). Source: Blackeyedjoe (YouTube).

Sources: BlackeyedJoe (YouTube) and IMDb.