29 March 2017

Ada Reeve

British stage and film actress Ada Reeve (1874-1966) was much loved on three continents. She was one of the most popular British singing comediennes of her time, and considered to be a headliner in variety and vaudeville. She was endowed with a softness of voice and delicacy of performance that quite set her apart from virtually all of her more raucous contemporaries in the music halls and popularised many memorable songs.

Ada Reeve
British postcard by the Philco Publishing Co., London, no. 3050 A. Photo: Bassano.

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

The Family Meal Ticket

Ada Reeve was born as Adelaide Mary Isaacs in London, England, in 1874. She was the first of many children of minor actor Charles Reeves and dancer Harriet Saunders.

‘Little Ada Reeves’ made her first stage appearance at just four years old in the pantomime Red Riding Hood at the Pavilion Theatre in London in 1878. A series of pantomime and dramatic roles followed. Her talent, even at so early an age was obvious and Ada soon became the family meal ticket.

As a teenager, it became apparent that musical comedy was Ada's particular talent and she began working as a music hall performer under the name Ada Reeve. She soon became firmly established as one of the principal light comedy artistes and sang many songs which attained great popularity.

Her She Was a Clergyman’s Daughter was a seemingly innocent, but actually risqué music hall song about a clergyman's daughter who was not as naive or charitable as she would have you imagine.

Reeve performed the song in a demure costume of a flounced dress and bonnet, letting the audience in on the racy innuendos of the song through knowing winks and gestures.

Ada Reeve
British postcard in the Smart Novels Series by Dover Street Studios.

Ada Reeve
British postcard. Sent by mail in 1905.

Gaiety Girl

In 1894, Ada Reeve married actor Bert Gilbert and returned to mainstream theatre, first touring as Haidee in Don Juan.

Later that year she became one of George Edwardes famous Gaiety girls and made her West End Debut as Bessie Brent in The Shop Girl. She neglected to tell Edwardes that she was pregnant when offered the part, and had to leave midway through the run of 546 performances as her condition became more delicate.

She returned in All Abroad at the Criterion Theatre (1895), and as the title character in the hit The Girl from Paris (1896) at the Duke of York's Theatre.

She and her husband then toured Australia. However, the marriage with Gilbert had turned sour, with Reeve claiming extreme cruelty and petitioning for divorce while still in Australia. On the return sea journey to England, Reeve was forced to appeal to the captain of the ship for protection from him.

Once in England, the couple separated, and the divorce was finalised in 1900. Ada Reeve settled in London with her two daughters, Bessie Adelaide Hazlewood (1895) and Lillian Mary "Goody" Hazlewood (1897).

Ada Reeve
British postcard by Davidson Bros. in the Glossyphoto Series, no. 1285.

Ada Reeve
British postcard in The Star Series by G.D.&D., London.

Variety and Vaudeville

In 1898, Reeve played the role of Madame Celeste in Milord, Sir Smith, followed by the role of Cleopatra in The Great Caesar in 1899.

Later that year, she created the role of Lady Holyrood in the hit musical comedy Florodora at the Lyric Theatre. In 1900-1901, she again toured Australia, in Florodora.

Reeve joined the cast of the hit musical San Toy in 1901, and later took over the title role from Marie Tempest.

Reeve remarried in 1902 to manager and actor Wilfred Cotton. Under his management, she played Miss Ventnor in The Medal and the Maid (1903) and the title role in Winnie Brooke, Widow (1904). In 1906 and 1909, she toured South Africa with her husband, becoming very popular.

Over the following years, Reeve played in variety shows in England and enjoyed extensive foreign tours, including South Africa and the US in 1911, South Africa in 1913, Australia in 1914, Australia and South Africa in 1918, South Africa in 1920, Australia from 1922 to 1924, and in 1926 and 1929, the last time playing in vaudeville.

Ada Reeve
British postcard in the Valentine Series. Photo: Lallie Charles (née Charlotte Elizabeth Martin). Possibly this was a publicity still for the stage musical San Toy. Reeve joined the cast of this hit musical in 1901, playing Dudley and later taking over the title role from Marie Tempest.

Ada Reeve
British postcard in the Milton Photolette Series, no. 42 by Woolstone Bros., London. Sent by mail in 1908.

Take It For A Fact

Ada Reeve was absent from England from 1929 to 1935. Both of her daughters, Bessie and Goody, had in the meantime settled in Australia, where both married and had children. Goody became a well known radio personality, while Bessie died of an illness in 1954.

Upon Ada's return to England, she appeared in cabarets, revues and variety. Her next dramatic role was in 1940 in the musical Black Velvet.

During the 1940s and 1950s she would appear between stage performances in nine films. The first was the fantasy They Came to a City (Basil Dearden, 1945) starring Googie Withers. In this film she repeated her stage performance as charwoman Mrs. Batley in J.B. Priestley's play They Came To A City.

However, her first film appearance had been some 25 years earlier, in the silent film Comradeship (Maurice Elvey, 1919), a war drama starring Lily Elsie.

Her other film roles included supporting parts in the romantic comedy Dear Mr. Prohack (Thornton Freeland, 1949) with Cecil Parker, the Film Noir Night and the City (Jules Dassin, 1950) starring Richard Widmark, and I Believe in You (Basil Dearden, Michael Relph, 1952) with Celia Johnson.

At the age of 80, she retired from the stage but made two more films, the last of which was at the age of 83, in the comedy A Passionate Stranger (Muriel Box, 1957) with Ralph Richardson. She also appeared on TV in episodes of Lilli Palmer Theatre (1956) and Nicholas Nickleby (1957).

Ada Reeve died in London, in 1966, at the age of 92. She could look back on a career that had spanned almost eighty years from her first childhood performance on stage to her last veteran appearance on film. Her autobiography was published as Take It For A Fact.

Ada Reeve and C. Hayden Coffin in Butterflies (1908)
British postcard by Rotary Photo, no. 7428 D. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the stage play Butterflies with Iris Hoey, Stella St. Audrie, C. Hayden Coffin, John Bardsley, Ada Reeve and Louis Bradfield. Butterflies is a musical play in three acts by William J. Locke, lyrics by T.H. Read and music by J.A. Robertson. Produced at the Apollo Theatre, London in 1908.

Ada Reeve
British postcard, 1954. Caption: Me on my 80th Birthday. With best wishes, Ada Reeve.

Sources: Don Gillan (Stage Beauty), Martina Lipton (It’s Behind You), Wikipedia and IMDb.

28 March 2017

Mathias Wieman

German actor Mathias Wieman (1902-1969) starred in more than 50 films was and made Staatsschauspieler, the highest honour attainable by an actor in Germany. After the war he became a popular supporting actor in films.

Matthias Wieman and Mady Christians in Königin Luise (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 89/3, 1925-1935. Photo: Terra Film. Publicity still for Königin Luise/Queen Louise (Karl Grune, 1927) with Mady Christians.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 219. Photo: Binz / Bavaria Filmkunst.

Leni Riefenstahl

Mathias Wieman was born Carl Heinrich Franz Mathias Wieman in Osnabrück in 1902. He was the only son of Carl Philipp Anton Wieman and his wife Louise.

Raised in Osnabrück, Wiesbaden and Berlin, where he studied four terms of philosophy, history of art and languages, Wieman wanted to become an airplane designer and flier.

He started his acting career at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin under the direction of Max Reinhardt. His debut role was Moritz Stiefel in Frank Wedekind’s Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening).

In the early 1920s, he was a member of the Holtorf-Truppe, a stock theatre group that included future director Veit Harlan. His fellow stage actors included his future wife, Erika Meingast, Marlene Dietrich, and Max Schreck (the vampire in Nosferatu).

Later he began working in silent films, including Mata Hari, die rote Tänzerin/Mata Hari: the Red Dancer (Friedrich Feher, 1927), Feme (Richard Oswald, 1927), Königin Luise/Queen Louise (Karl Grune, 1927) opposite Mady Christians, and Das Land ohne Frauen/Bride Number 68 (Carmine Gallone, 1929) starring Conrad Veidt.

In 1930, along with Leni Riefenstahl, he appeared in the mountain film Stürme über dem Mont Blanc/Avalanche (Arnold Fanck, 1930), and in 1932 he played the male lead in Riefenstahl's Das Blaue Licht/The Blue Light (Béla Balázs, Leni Riefenstahl, 1932).

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 1894/1, 1937-1938. Photo: Ufa / Hämmerer.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3723/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / Bavaria Filmkunst.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3948/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / Bavaria Filmkunst.

Actor of the State and Persona non grata

During the 1930s, at the height of his film career, Mathias Wieman acted in such productions as Mensch ohne Namen/The Man Without a Name (Gustav Ucicky, 1932), Die Herrin von Atlantis/L’ Atlantide/Queen of Atlantis (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1932) with Brigitte Helm, Die Gräfin von Monte Christo/The Countess of Monte Cristo (Karl Hartl, 1932), and Fräulein Hoffmanns Erzählungen/Tales of Miss Hoffmann (Carl Lamac, 1933) with Anny Ondra,

After the rise of the Nazis he acted in Der Schimmelreiter/The Rider of the White Horse (Hans Deppe, Curt Oertel, 1934), Viktoria (Carl Hoffmann, 1935) with Luise Ullrich, Patrioten/Patriots (Karl Ritter, 1937), and Togger (Jürgen von Alten, 1937) with Paul Hartmann.

He had an international success with his appearance in Die ewige Maske/The Eternal Mask (Werner Hochbaum, 1935). The film was in 1937 nominated for an award at the Venice Film Festival, and awarded with the American National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Film.

Also in 1937, Wieman was made Staatsschauspieler, an honorary title bestowed by the German government and the highest honour attainable by an actor in Germany. In 1936 Wieman had produced the Frankenburger Würfelspiel of the Nazi playwright Eberhard Wolfgang Möller in association with the 1936 Summer Olympics and the inauguration of the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne, and also played the Black Knight.

However, according to director Leopold Lindtberg, Wieman was eventually classed as ‘persona non grata’ by Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda who was responsible for film production in Germany. This reduced Wieman’s activity. He took part in a few films like the Propaganda film Ich klage an/I Accuse (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1941) - possibly an act of punishment, Das andere Ich/The other I (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1941), Paracelsus (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1943) starring Werner Krauss, Träumerei/Dreaming (Harald Braun, 1944) opposite Hilde Krahl, and Wie sagen wir es unseren Kindern/How Do We Tell Our Children (Hans Deppe, 1945).

After the failed 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Mathias and his wife Erika helped the family of Count Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg. This assistance, at great risk to themselves, is detailed by Charlotte von der Schulenburg in the book Courageous Hearts: Women and the Anti-Hitler Plot of 1944.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3306/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / Tobis.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3435/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Binz.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3571/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Ufa / Binz.

Alfred Nobel

After World War II, Mathias Wieman was able to work more intensively in the film business again, normally in supporting roles. To his fairly well-known work belongs Herz der Welt/The Alfred Nobel Story (Harald Braun, 1952) in which Wieman portrayed Dr. Alfred Nobel, Solange du da bist/As Long as You're Near Me (Harald Braun, 1953), Der letzte Sommer/The Last Summer (Harald Braun, 1954), and Reifende Jugend/Ripening Youth (Ulrich Erfurth, 1955).

He appeared opposite Romy Schneider and Horst Buchholz in Robinson soll nicht sterben/The Girl and the Legend (Josef von Báky, 1957), and opposite Ingrid Bergman in Rossellini's La Paura/Fear (Roberto Rossellini, 1954).

Two of these films were in competition at the Cannes Film Festival: Herz Der Welt in 1952, and Solange Du Da Bist in 1954.

He also made many records of classic stories where he would narrate the story accompanied by orchestral music. On stage, Wieman appeared in countless productions, including Goethe's Faust, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello, and Im Dickicht der Städte (In The Jungle of Cities) by Bertolt Brecht.

After the war Mathias Wieman and his wife Erika Meingast moved to Switzerland. In 1969 he died of cancer in Zurich, soon followed by his wife. The couple had no children.

Mathias Wieman in Herz der Welt (1952)
East-German postcard by VEB Volkskunstverlag Reichenbach i.V., no. G 704, 1956. Photo: NDF / Schorchtfilm. Publicity still for Herz der Welt/The Alfred Nobel Story (Harald Braun, 1952).

Romy Schneider and Mathias Wieman in Robinson soll nicht sterben (1957)
Dutch postcard by Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 3078. Photo: Filmex NV. Publicity still for Robinson soll nicht sterben/The Girl and the Legend (Josef von Báky, 1957) with Romy Schneider and Mathias Wieman.

Sources: Dieter Svensson (Mathias Wieman Site), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

27 March 2017

Imported from the USA: Olive Moorefield

During the 1950s and 1960s, American singer and actress Olive Moorefield (1932) worked in Austria and West Germany. She starred on stage in musicals and operas, acted in several films, including Monpti (1957) with Romy Schneider and Horst Buchholz, and Onkel Toms Hütte/Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1964), and she appeared in television shows.

Olive Moorefield in Monpti (1957)
German postcard by Ufa. Photo: Vogelmann / NDF / Herzog-film. Publicity still for Monpti (Helmut Käutner, 1957).

Olive Moorefield in Die Beine von Dolores (1957)
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. V 172. Photo: Kurt-Ulrich-Film / Constantin / Wesel. Publicity still for Die Beine von Dolores/The legs of Dolores (Géza von Cziffra, 1957).

Very unusual

Olive Moorefield was born in 1932, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. She had seven siblings. After attending the Pennsylvania College, she took singing and acting lessons. In October 1952 she debuted on Broadway in New York in the play My Darlin 'Aida.

Moorefield went on extensive European tour and settled down in 1953 in Vienna, Austria. There she received a commitment at the Vienna Volksoper. At the time, this was very unusual in Europe for a black artist. She celebrated her first success with the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me Kate. Initially, she played the supporting role of Bianca, but later also the leading role of the Kate. Many other productions would follow in the next two decades and Moorefield became very popular among Viennese audiences.

Soon also parts in films followed. Moorefield first appeared as a singer in such Austrian films as the drama Das Licht der Liebe/The Light of Love (Robert A. Stemmle, 1954) with Paula Wessely, the comedy Liebe, die den Kopf verliert/Love that loses its head (Thomas Engel, 1956) starring Paul Hubschmid and the musical Scherben bringen Glück/Seven Years Hard Luck (Ernst Marischka, 1957) with Adrian Hoven.

She made several records and did not shy away from pop music. In Germany, she also appeared again as a singer in light entertainment as Einmal eine grosse Dame sein/To be a great lady for once (Erik Ode, 1957) and Die Beine von Dolores/The legs of Dolores (Géza von Cziffra, 1957).

Her first bigger part was in the melancholic romantic comedy-drama Monpti/Love from Paris (Helmut Käutner, 1957), starring Romy Schneider and Horst Bucholz, then Germany's biggest stars, as the young lovers. She also had a supporting part in Der schwarze Blitz/The black flash (Hans Grimm, 1958), featuring ski champion Toni Sailer.

Olive Moorefield
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. T 875. Photo: Kurt-Ulrich-Film / Constantin / Wesel. Publicity still for Die Beine von Dolores/The legs of Dolores (Géza von Cziffra, 1957).

Olive Moorefield in Die Beine von Dolores (1957)
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. V 181. Photo: Kurt-Ulrich-Film / Wesel. Publicity still for Die Beine von Dolores/The legs of Dolores (Géza von Cziffra, 1957).

Olive Moorefield
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/Westf., no. 2644. Photo: CCC / Deutsche Film Hansa (DFH) / Arthur Grimm. Publicity still for Einmal eine grosse Dame sein/To be a great lady for once (Erik Ode, 1957).

Olive Moorefield in Einmal eine grosse Dame sein (1957)
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. I 254. Photo: Grimm / CCC / Deutsche Film Hansa. Publicity still for Einmal eine grosse Dame sein/Once a great lady (Erik Ode, 1957).

Before Mandingo and Drum there was Uncle Tom's Cabin

Olive Moorefield had her first leading role in the cinema in the Austrian comedy Skandal um Dodo/Scandal around Dodo (Eduard von Borsody, 1959) opposite Harald Juhnke. After that she returned to guest parts as a singer in Riviera-Story/Riviera Story (Wolfgang Becker, 1961) with Ulla Jacobsson, and Straße der Verheißung/Street of Temptation (Imo Moszkowicz, 1962) starring Mario Adorf.

She had another another leading role in Onkel Toms Hütte/Uncle Tom's Cabin (Géza von Radványi, 1965). The film is based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic novel of the same name. In the pre-Civil War South, a sadistic plantation-owner (Herbert Lom) brutalises his slaves to the point of them having no other choice but to rebel. Always obedient, peaceful and honest old slave Tom (John Kitzmiller) plays a central role in this tragedy. Moorefield played the slave Cassy.

Jugu Abraham at IMDb: "While the film is true to Harriet Beecher Stowe's story, the director's implicit comparison of the past and present America (skyscraper skyline shown during the credits) is interesting. Eartha Kitt's song at the end is unforgettable. The film is distinctly European (the director is Hungarian) in style and the story and songs could merit a re-release." Actually, there was a curious American re-release in 1976,Uncle Tom's Cabin (Al Adamson, 1976), edited from the 1965 film but with new scenes added. It was promoted with the tagline 'Before Mandingo and Drum there was Uncle Tom's Cabin'.

In the following decade, Moorefield did not return to the cinema, but she kept appearing in the German-speaking theatre and on TV. She was Bess in the Vienna production of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, which was also televised. I

n 1969 Olive Moorefield married Dr. Kurt Mach, with whom she has a son, Oliver Mach. She gradually withdrew from the limelight into private life. In later years, her name (now Olive Moorefield-Mach) reappeared on the administrative side at music festivals.

Olive Moorefield sings Bongo Rock in Das alte Försterhaus (1956). Source: fritz51203 (YouTube).

Olive Moorefield sings Etwas leise Musik in Der schwarze Blitz/The black flash (1958) with Oliver Grimm. Source: fritz51203 (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.