21 July 2017


French singer, actor and librettist Henri Allibert (1889-1951), known as Alibert, was the Marseille singer par excellence. During the 1930s and 1940s, he starred in his own very popular operettas both on stage and on the screen.

Henri Alibert in Titin des Martigues (1938)
French card by Massilia. Photo: Film Malsherbes. Publicity still for Titin des Martigues (René Pujol, 1938).

French postcard, no. 724. Photo: Studio Harcourt, Paris.

The rage of Marseille

Henri Allibert (with a double l) was born in 1889 in Carpentras in the south of France. When he was 15 his parents divorced and his mother and the children settled in Avignon.

He began to sing in the cafes where he worked as a waiter. In 1907, he made his debut as a singer at the Palace and in the cafes-concerts of Avignon, and in 1908 he moved to Paris where he appeared at the Bobino music hall.

As Alibert (with one l) he created a 'tour de chant', imitating the singers Polin and Mayol. He married pianist Elisa Rosalie Espanet in Marseille in 1913. She was the daughter of composer Vincent Scotto.

In 1914, Alibert was recruited for the army and in 1917, he returned with a decoration. After the First World War, he enjoyed the post-war euphoria and his revues became popular. He recorded the song Jazz band partout (Jazz band everywhere).

His career accelerated in 1928, when his father-in-law, Vincent Scotto gave him the song Mon Paris (My Paris), which showed his genuine talent and undeniable charm. In 1929, Marcel Pagnol wrote his play Marius, situated in Marseille and the harbour city was suddenly all the rage.

With two other men from Marseilles, his father-in-law Vincent Scotto and arranger-conductor René Sarvil, Alibert wrote and assembled the Revue Marseillaise to enjoy the fashion. This revue remained seven months prolonged in the theatre and was an unprecedented success. It meant Alibert’s definitive breakthrough, at the age of 40.

Then, Alibert starred in the Marseille-set operetta Elle est à nous (She is ours, 1929) created by Scotto, Sarvil and Alibert. With his clear voice and his light accent, he received the title of 'Marseille singer par excellence'. In the next years followed such operettas as Au pays du soleil (In the land of the sun, 1932), Arènes joyeuses (Happy Arenas) and Trois de la Marine (Three of the Navy, 1935).

In 1950 he had made his film debut in the early sound film Cendrillon de Paris/Cinderella of Paris (Jean Hémard, 1930), featuring Colette Darfeuil. His operetta Au pays de soleil was also made into a film, Au pays du soleil/In the land of the sun (Robert Péguy, 1934) in which he also starred opposite Lisette Lanvin and Pola Illéry. It was again a success.

From then on he made two operettas or films a year. His stage operettas include Un de la Canebière (One of the Canebieres, 1936), Les Gangsters du château d'If (1937), and Le Roi des galéjeurs (The king of the galleys, 1938).

His films were Trois de la marine/Three of the Navy (Charles Barrois, 1934) with Armand Bernard and Betty Stockfeld, Arènes joyeuses/Happy Arenas (Karl Anton, 1935) with Lucien Baroux, Titin des Martigues (René Pujol, 1937) with Paulette Dubost, Un de la Canebière/One from the Canebière (René Pujol, 1937) with Rellys, La Vie des artistes/Artist Life (Bernard Roland, 1938), and Les Gangsters du château d'If/The Gangster of If Castle (René Pujol, 1939).

Henri Alibert
French postcard by Editions O.P., Paris, no. 74. Photo: Teddy Piaz, Paris.

Henri Alibert,  Zou! Un peu dáïoli!
French card by P.C., Paris, no. 38. Henri Alibert sang the song Zou! Un peu dáïoli! (1932) by René Sarvil and Vincent Scotto in the Revue Marseillaise at the Moulin de la Chanson.

Henri Alibert
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 992. Photo: Henri Manuel.

Old School

Henri Allibert’s creational pace was barely slowed down during the Second World War. He created the operettas Ma Belle Marseillaise (1940), Port du Soleil (1941) and Les Gauchos de Marseille (1943), but made only one film, Le Roi des galéjeurs/The king of the galleys (Fernand Rivers, 1940) with Raymond Aimos and Claude May.

In 1946 Alibert starred in two more films, Au pays des cigales/In the land of the cicadas (Maurice Cam, 1946) with Nicolas Amato, and L'Affaire du Grand Hôtel/The Grand Hotel Affair (André Hugon, 1946) with Édouard Delmont.

The post-war period challenged the old school to which he belonged. He decided to devote himself entirely to his talents as a writer, lyricist and composer, and even became director of the Théâtre des Deux Ânes.

On stage he played the role of Marius in Marcel Pagnol's play Caesar. In 1951, his operetta Au pays du soleil was again made into film Au pays du soleil/In the land of the sun (Maurice de Canonge, 1951) with Tino Rossi in the leading role.

In 1949, Alibert was the victim of a serious car accident from which he never really recovered.

Henri Allibert died 1951 in Marseille at the age of 61 years. He was buried in Marseille, in the cemetery of Saint-Pierre. His wife was Antoinette Scotto.

After his death, several film versions of Alibert’s operettas were made including Trois de la Canebière (Maurice de Canonge, 1956) with Marcel Merkes, and Arènes joyeuses (Maurice de Canonge, 1958), starring Fernand Raynoud and Danielle Godet.

French postcard, no. 6.

Henri Alibert
French postcard by Edition Chantal, Paris, no. 6. Photo: Studio Arnal.

Sources: Gerard Frappé (CinéArtistes - French), La Comédie musicale en France (French), Du temps des cerises aux feuilles mortes (French), Le Hall de la Chanson (French), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

20 July 2017

Pascale Roberts

French actress Pascale Roberts (1933) is active in the French cinema and television since 1954. From her femme fatale parts in B-thrillers and comedies in the 1950s, she grew into mother roles. She is best known for her parts in A-films by Costa-Gravas, Yves Boisset and Robert Guédiguian, and for her many appearances on French TV.

Pascale Roberts
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, presented by Les Carbones Korès Carboplane, no. 813. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Pascale Roberts
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 466. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Hard Boiled Crime Film

Pascale Roberts was born in Boulogne-sur-Seine, France in 1933. Her mother was a director at Elisabeth Arden and among her clients were Martine Carol, Edwige Feuillère and Dora Doll.

Through Martine Carol, Pascale became an extra in Madame du Barry (Christian-Jaque, 1954). Pascale decided to go to acting classes in Paris, against the wishes of her mother. She had a small part in the comedy Une vie de garçon/A Boy’s Life (Jean Boyer, 1954) and a bit part as a girl at a poker game in the hard boiled crime film Les femmes s'en balancent/Dames Don’t Care (Bernard Borderie, 1954) starring Eddie Constantine as FBI agent Lemmy Caution.

Pascale Roberts would appear several times opposite Constantine such as in Ces dames préfèrent le mambo/Dishonorable Discharge (Bernard Borderie, 1957) as a femme fatale. She could also be seen in other film noirs such as Cherchez la femme/Look for the woman (Raoul André, 1955) with Pierre Mondy, and Dans la gueule du loup/In the Mouth of the Wolf (Jean-Charles Dudrumet, 1961) based on a crime novel by James Hadley Chase.

In 1957, she married Pierre Mondy but they divorced a few years later. After dozens of mediocre comedies and thrillers, Roberts was really remarkable as the victim in Costa-Gravas’ first film, the fast-moving and entertaining thriller Compartiment tueurs/The Sleeping Car Murder (Costa Gravas, 1965) starring Catherine Allégret and her mother Simone Signoret.

Hal Erickson writes at AllMovie: “During a Marseilles-to-Paris overnight train trip, a girl is found dead in a sleeping car. As Paris detective Yves Montand steps up his investigation, more and more passengers turn up murdered. The unlikely climax is the only sore point of this otherwise well-wrought mystery. Bereft of the politicizing of Costa-Gavras' later works, The Sleeping Car Murders exhibits the director's fondness for American ‘film noir’ thrillers.”

On television, Roberts was that same year a co-star of Geneviève Grad in the comedy series Chambre à louer/Room for rent (Jean-Pierre Desagnat, 1965), and she appeared on TV in another popular comedy series Les saintes chéries/The holy darlings (Jean Becker, 1965) starring Micheline Presle.

Later she featured with Jean-Claude Pascal in a daily soap opera, Le Temps de vivre et le temps d'aimer/Time To Live and Time To Love (Louis Grospierre, 1973).

Pascale Roberts
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 467. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Pascale Roberts
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 666. Photo: Andre Nisak.

Pascale Roberts
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 924. Photo: Studio Vallois.

Urban Dramas

In 1975, Pascale Roberts played her arguably best known film role as the mother of rape and murder victim Isabelle Huppert in Dupont Lajoie/Rape of Innocence (Yves Boisset, 1975). This and her later roles were all supporting parts.

During the 1980s she appeared with Alain Delon in the Film Noir Trois hommes à abattre/Three Men to Destroy (Jacques Deray, 1980) and the policier Pour la peau d'un flic/For a Cop's Hide (Alain Delon, 1981), in which she played a junkie.

She also taught theatre at the École internationale de création audiovisuelle et de réalisation in Paris. Most of her later films are mediocre comedies and action films, but interesting were the delightful award-winning drama Le grand chemin/The Grand Highway (Jean-Loup Hubert, 1987) about the summer vacation of a high strung 9-year-old, the historical adventure La Fille de d'Artagnan/Revenge of the Musketeers (Bertrand Tavernier, 1994) starring Sophie Marceau, and the urban drama À la vie, à la mort!/'Til Death Do Us Part (Robert Guédiguian, 1995) about a family of Spanish immigrants in France featuring Ariane Ascaride.

Gradually Roberts had grown from femme fatale into mother roles. With the husband and wife team of Robert Guédiguian and Ariane Ascaride she worked again at Marius et Jeannette/Marius and Jeanette (Robert Guédiguian, 1997), a comedy-drama set in Marseille about a couple, which puts faith in love to get them through times of extreme poverty.

For her role in this box office hit in France she was nominated for the César for Best Supporting Actress. They continued their cooperation with the urban dramas À la place du coeur/In the space of the heart (Robert Guédiguian, 1998), La ville est tranquille/The Town is Quiet (Robert Guédiguian, 2000), Mon père est ingénieur/My Father is an Engineer (Robert Guédiguian, 2004) and Lady Jane (Robert Guédiguian, 2008).

Since 2008, Roberts appears in the successful TV series Plus belle la vie/More beautiful than life (2004-2011). Her character in the show, Wanda Legendre, also featured in the TV comedy Course contre la montre/Race against the clock (Roger Wielgus, 2011). Her most recent screen appearance was a guest part in the comedy series Working girls (2016).

Pascale Roberts was married to and divorced from Pierre Mondy, Pierre Rey and Michel Le Royer.

Leader Compartiment Tueurs (1966). Source: Michel8665 (YouTube).

Trailer Marius et Jeannette (1997). Source: Films Bonheur / Feel-Good Movies (YouTube).

Sources: James Travers (Films de France), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Notre Cinema (French), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

19 July 2017

Martin Landau (1928-2017)

On 15 July 2017, American character actor Martin Landau (1928-2017) died. In the 1960s, he was popular for his role as the agent and master of disguise Rollin Hand on the TV series Mission: Impossible (1966-1969) and in 1994, he won an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood. He was 89.

Martin Landau (1928-2017)
Spanish postcard by Ediciones Este, no. 181 T, 1967. Photo: publicity still for Mission: impossible (1966-1969).

Mission: Impossible

Martin Landau was born in 1928 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Majer Joel (Morris) Landau and Selma Buchman. At age 17, Martin was hired by the New York Daily News as a staff cartoonist and illustrator. In his five years on the paper, he served as the illustrator for Billy Rose's Pitching Horseshoes column. He also worked for cartoonist Gus Edson on The Gumps comic strip.

Landau's major ambition was to act, and in 1951, he made his stage debut in Detective Story in Peaks Island, Maine. He made his off-Broadway debut that year in First Love. Landau was one of 2000 applicants who auditioned for Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio in 1955 - only he and Steve McQueen were accepted. Landau was a friend of James Dean and McQueen, in a conversation with Landau, mentioned that he knew Dean and had met Landau. When Landau asked where they had met, McQueen informed him he had seen Landau riding into the New York City garage where he worked as a mechanic on the back of Dean's motorcycle.

He acted during the mid-1950s in such television anthologies as Omnibus (1955). He began making a name for himself after replacing star Franchot Tone in the 1956 off-Broadway revival of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, a famous production that helped put off-Broadway on the New York theatrical map. In 1957, he made a well-received Broadway debut in the play Middle of the Night. As part of the touring company with star Edward G. Robinson, he made it to the West Coast. He also guest-starred in such popular TV series as Maverick (1959), Sugarfoot (1958) and Rawhide (1959).

Martin Landau made his film debut in the war drama Pork Chop Hill (Lewis Milestone, 1959) with Gregory Peck. He scored in his second film as the heavy in Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller North by Northwest (1959), in which he was shot on top of Mount Rushmore while sadistically stepping on the fingers of Cary Grant, who was holding on for dear life to the cliff face.

He also appeared in the blockbuster Cleopatra (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1963), the most expensive film ever made up to that time, which nearly scuttled 20th Century-Fox. It engendered one of the great public scandals, the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton love affair that overshadowed the film itself. Landau's memorable portrayal in the key role of Rufio was highly favoured by the audience and instantly catapulted his popularity.

In 1963, Landau played memorable roles on two episodes of the science-fiction anthology series The Outer Limits (1963). He was Gene Roddenberry's first choice to play Mr. Spock on Star Trek (1966), but the role went to Leonard Nimoy, who later replaced Landau on Mission: Impossible (1966), the show that really made Landau famous. He originally was not meant to be a regular on the series, which co-starred his wife Barbara Bain, whom he had married in 1957.

His character, master impersonator Rollin Hand, was supposed to make occasional, though recurring appearances, but when the producers had problems with star Steven Hill, Landau was used to take up the slack. Rollin Hand was one of the specialists used by the Impossible Missions Force. Hand was described as a “man of a million faces”. Landau's characterisation was so well-received and so popular with the audience that he was made a regular. Landau received Emmy nominations as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for each of the three seasons he appeared. In 1968, he won the Golden Globe award as Best Male TV Star.

Eventually, he quit the series in 1969 after a salary dispute when the new star, Peter Graves, was given a contract that paid him more than Landau, whose own contract stated he would have parity with any other actor on the show who made more than he did. The producers refused to budge and he and Bain, who had become the first actress in the history of television to be awarded three consecutive Emmy Awards (1967-1969) while on the show, left the series, ostensibly to pursue film careers. The move actually held back their careers, and Mission: Impossible went on for another four years with other actors.

Mission Impossible
Spanish postcard by Ediciones Este, no. 182, 1967. Martin Landau, Steven Hill, Greg Morris and Barbara Bain were the original stars of the American action series Mission: Impossible (1966–1973), about an elite covert operations unit which carries out highly sensitive missions subject to official denial in the event of failure, death or capture.

Béla Lugosi

Martin Landau appeared in support of Sidney Poitier in They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (Norman Jewison, 1970), the less successful sequel to the Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night (1967), but it did not generate more work of a similar caliber. He starred in the television movie Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol (George McCowan, 1972), playing a prisoner of war returning to the United States from Vietnam. The following year, he shot a pilot for a proposed show, Savage (1973). Though it was directed by emerging wunderkind Steven Spielberg, NBC did not pick up the show.

Needing work, Landau and Bain moved to England to play the leading roles in the syndicated science-fiction series Space: 1999 (1975-1977). In Europe Landau also appeared in the Giallo Una Magnum Special per Tony Saitta/Shadows in an Empty Room (Alberto De Martino, 1976) with Stuart Whitman and John Saxon. Landau's and Bain's careers stalled after Space: 1999 went out of production, and they were reduced to taking parts in the television movie The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (Peter Baldwin, 1981). It was the nadir of both their careers, and Bain's acting days, and their marriage, soon were over.

Landau, one of the most talented character actors in Hollywood, and one not without recognition, had bottomed out career-wise. In 1983, he was stuck in low-budget Sci-Fi and horror films like The Being (Jackie Kong, 1983), a role far beneath his talent. His career renaissance got off to a slow start with a recurring role in the NBC sitcom Buffalo Bill (1983), starring Dabney Coleman. On Broadway, he took over the title role in the revival of Dracula and went on the road with the national touring company. He also appeared in Raul Ruiz's Treasure Island (1985), a surrealistic modern-day riff on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel.

Finally, Martin Landau's career renaissance began to gather momentum when Francis Ford Coppola cast him in a critical supporting role in his Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), for which Landau was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. He won his second Golden Globe for the role. The next year, he received his second consecutive Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his superb turn as the adulterous husband in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). He followed this up by playing famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal in the TNT movie Max and Helen (Philip Saville, 1990).

However, the summit of his post-Mission: Impossible career was about to be scaled. He portrayed as the horror actor Béla Lugosi in Tim Burton's biopic Ed Wood (1994) and won glowing reviews. Landau’s Lugosi is a tragicomic creation: his wife has left him, he is addicted to morphine and most of Hollywood thinks he is dead. For his performance, Landau won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He finally had been recognized with his profession's ultimate award. His performance, which also won him his third Golden Globe, garnered numerous awards in addition to the Oscar and Golden Globe, including top honors from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Landau continued to play a wide variety of roles. In the United Kingdom he appeared opposite Michael Caine in the thriller Shiner (John Irvin, 2000). He turned in a superb performance in a supporting role in The Majestic (Frank Darabont, 2001) opposite Jim Carrey. He received his fourth Emmy nomination in 2004 as Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for Without a Trace (2002). Excellent was also his part as an Auschwitz survivor in Remember (Atom Egoyan, 2015).

Chris Wiegand in his obituary in The Guardian: "Landau’s own face was instantly recognisable, with its haunted eyes, wide mouth and furrowed brow; even when he broke into a smile, he could seem to be frowning." Martin Landau and Barbara Bain had two daughters, Susan Landau Finch and Juliet Landau.

Mini-Documentary on Mission: Impossible (2012). Source: Shatner Method (YouTube).

Trailer Ed Wood (1994). Source: Trailer Chan (YouTube).

Trailer Remember (2015). Source: moviemaniacsDE (YouTube).

Sources: Chris Wiegand (The Guardian), Jon C. Hopwood (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.