23 May 2017


French actor Rellys (1905-1991) had an exceptional long career. First he specialised in the Marseille-set operettas by Marcel Pagnol and others. Later he often appeared as a side-kick in comedies with Fernandel.

French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 199. Photo: Gray-Film.


Rellys was born as Henri Roger Marius Bourelly in Marseille, France, in 1905. As a child, Rellys accompanied his parents on a picnic in les pinèdes and there he learned to sing.

Henri Rellys worked as a pastry chef, and earned the nickname ‘Brioche’ (Bun). As a theatre amateur, he won a singing contest at the Alcazar in Marseilles, disguised as a comic trooper in 1925.

After his military service, he was hired under the name of Rellys, for tours along cabarets in the Provence and in North Africa.

He made his film début in Le Tampon du Capiston/The plug of the capiston (Joe Francis, Jean Toulout, 1930). In the revue En plein soleil (In Full Sun) he imitated Maurice Chevalier and ... Josephine Baker.

In 1933, Henri Alibert engaged him for the company of his play Au pays du soleil (In the land of the sun). The film adaptation, Au pays du soleil (Robert Péguy, 1933), helped to launch his career. Marcel Pagnol gave him the chance to play a small part in his film Merlusse (Marcel Pagnol, 1934).

In the beginning, he specialised in Marseille-set operettas, which were flourishing at the time: Trois de la marine/Three of the Navy (Charles Barrois, 1934), César/Cesar (Marcel Pagnol, 1936) with Raimu, and Un de la canebière/One of the canebière (René Pujol, 1937) based on the operetta by Alibert, René Sarvil and Raymond Vincy, and music by Vincent Scotto.

French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 199. Photo: Gray-Film.

French postcard by S.E.R.P., Paris, no. 245. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Sweet and Warm Ways

In the 1940’s, Rellys was noted for his Provençal accent, his sweet and warm ways and his endearing air. He had a real triumph with Narcisse/Narcissus (Ayres d'Aguiar, 1940), in which he played a vaudeville soldier, who has to fly an aeroplane despite himself.

He also played leading roles in Feu Nicolas/Fire Nicolas (Jacques Houssin, 1943), Roger la Honte/Roger the Shame (André Cayatte, 1945), Les Aventures des Pieds Nickelés/The Adventures of Nickeles feet (Marcel Aboulker, 1947), Tabusse (Jean Gehret, 1948) and Manon des Sources/Manon of the Spring (Marcel Pagnol, 1952).

His exceptional long career continued after the war with films like Amédée/Amedeus (Gilles Grangier, 1950), La vie est un jeu/Life is a game (Raymond Leboursier, 1951), and Arènes joyeuses/Joyful Arenas (Maurice de Canonge, 1958).

In many of his later films he supported comedy star Fernandel, including Honoré de Marseille (Maurice Régamey, 1956), Crésus/Croesus (Jean Giono, 1960), L'Âge ingrate/That Tender Age (Gilles Grangier, 1964) starring Jean Gabin, and Heureux qui comme Ulysse/ Happy He Who Like Ulysses (Henri Colpi, 1970).

His last film was L'Ange gardien/The Guardian Angel (Jacques Fournier, 1978) with former first lady of Canada, Margaret Trudeau. He also worked for television, and appeared in episodes of the crime series Les Cinq Dernières Minutes/The Last Five Minutes (1966-1973) and Madame le juge/Madam judges it (1978) starring Simone Signoret.

He returned to the songs of his early operettas in Marseille, when he released his first album in 1977. His last TV appearance was in L'honneur de Barberine/The Honor of Barberine (1982).

Rellys retired in his birthplace Marseille. There he died in 1991, at the age of 86. He had two daughters, Annie and Michèle.

Scene from Les lettres de mon moulin/Letters from My Windmill (Marcel Pagnol, 1954) with Rellys, Fernand Sardou, and Robert Vattier. Source: Marcel Pagnol (Daily Motion).

Scene from Manon des Sources/Manon of the Spring (Marcel Pagnol, 1954) with Rellys and Jacqueline Pagnol. Source: Marcel Pagnol (Daily Motion).

Sources: Ciné-Ressources (French), Wikipedia (French), and IMDb.

22 May 2017

Imported from the USA: Geraldine Farrar

American soprano opera singer and film actress Geraldine Farrar (1882-1967) was noted for her glamorous beauty, acting ability, and the timbre of her voice. Barely 20, she was already the toast of Berlin. Later at the Met in New York, she had a large following among young women, who were nicknamed ‘Gerry-flappers’. Farrar also starred in more than a dozen silent films from 1915 to 1920. She was married to and co-starred with Dutch matinee idol Lou Tellegen.

Geraldine Farrar
German postcard by G.G. & Co., no. 2419.

Geraldine Farrar
French postcard.

Geraldine Farrar
German postcard by PH, no. 4116/1. Geraldine Farrar as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's opera Faust.


Alice Geraldine Farrar was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, in 1882. She was the daughter of baseball player Sidney Farrar, and his wife, Henrietta Barnes. At 5 she began studying music in Boston and by 14 was giving recitals. Later she studied voice with the American soprano Emma Thursby in New York City, in Paris, and finally with the Italian baritone Francesco Graziani in Berlin.

In 1901, Farrar created a sensation at the Berlin Hofoper with her debut as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's Faust. She remained with the company for three years, during which time she continued her studies with legendary Wagnerian soprano Lilli Lehmann. Farrar appeared in the title roles of Ambroise Thomas' Mignon and Jules Massenet's Manon, as well as Juliette in Charles Gounod's Roméo et Juliette.

Her admirers in Berlin included Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, with whom she is believed to have had a relationship beginning in 1903. This Berlin period was interspersed with three seasons with the Monte Carlo Opera. Highlights were Pietro Mascagni's Amica (1905), and Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto (1906) in which she appeared with Enrico Caruso.

In 1906, she also made her debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera in Romeo et Juliette. The success placed her on a plateau with Caruso as a box-office magnet. The next year, she got raves for her performance as Cio-Cio-San in the Metropolitan premiere of Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly in 1907.

Farrar remained a member of the company until her retirement in 1922, singing 29 roles there in 672 performances. She developed a great popular following, especially among New York's young female opera-goers, who were known as Gerry-flappers. Farrar created the title roles in Puccini's Suor Angelica (1918), Umberto Giordano's Madame Sans-Gêne (1915), as well as the Goosegirl in Engelbert Humperdinck's Königskinder (1910), for which Farrar trained her own flock of geese. According to a New York Tribune review of the first performance, "at the close of the opera Miss Farrar caused 'much amusement' by appearing before the curtain with a live goose under her arm."

Her biographer Elizabeth Nash: “Unlike most of the famous bel canto singers of the past who sacrificed dramatic action to tonal perfection, she was more interested in the emotional than in the purely lyrical aspects of her roles.”

Geraldine Farrar
German postcard by K.V.i.B., Dess, no. 1016.

Geraldine Farrar
German postcard by K.V.i.B. 12. Dess., no. 4017.

Geraldine Farrar
Vintage postcard, no. 58. Photo: Geraldine Farrar as Elsa in Lohengrin. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Cecil B. De Mille

Geraldine Farrar recorded extensively for the Victor Talking Machine Company and was often featured prominently in that firm's advertisements. She was one of the first performers to make a radio broadcast, in a 1907 publicity event singing over Lee De Forest's experimental AM radio transmitter in New York City.

She also starred in more than a dozen silent films from 1915 to 1920, which were filmed between opera seasons. Farrar made her debut with the title role in Cecil B. De Mille's Carmen (1915), based on the novella Carmen by Prosper Mérimée. For her role as the seductive gypsy girl she was extensively praised. For her performance, she came in fourth place in the 1916 Screen Masterpiece contest held by Motion Picture Magazine, ahead of any other actress.

DeMille directed her next in the silent romantic drama Temptation (Cecil B. DeMille, 1915), also with Theodore Roberts, and in the drama Maria Rosa (Cecil B. DeMille, 1916) with Wallace Reid.

Another notable screen role was as Joan of Arc in Joan the Woman (1917). This was Cecil DeMille's first historical drama. The screenplay is based on Friedrich Schiller's 1801 play Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans).

She next played the daughter of an Aztec king in the silent romance The Woman God Forgot (Cecil B. DeMille, 1917). In the film she falls in love with a Spanish captain (Wallace Reid) whose army has come to convert the Aztecs to Christianity. Her last film for Paramount Pictures was the romance The Devil-Stone (Cecil B. DeMille, 1917), again with Wallace Reid. The film had sequences filmed in the Handschiegl Color Process, but only two of six reels are known to survive.

For Goldwyn Pictures she appeared in such films as The Turn of the Wheel (Reginald Barker, 1918) with Herbert Rawlinson and Percy Marmont, the Western The Hell Cat (Reginald Barker, 1918), Shadows (Reginald Barker, 1918) and the melodrama The Stronger Vow (Reginald Barker, 1919), the latter three with Milton Sills. All four films are considered lost.

She co-starred with her husband Lou Tellegen in the dramas The World and Its Woman (Frank Lloyd, 1919), Flame of the Desert (Reginald Barker, 1919), and The Woman and the Puppet (Reginald Barker, 1920). Her final film was the silent drama The Riddle: Woman (Edward José, 1920), in which her co-star was Montagu Love.

Geraldine Farrar
French postcard. Publicity for Vins Désiles. Photo SIP, Boyer. G. Farrar de l'Opéra Impéraile de Berlin. Caption: J'ai plaisir à recommander l'excellent Vin Désiles (I enjoy recommending the excellent Vin Désiles).

Geraldine Farrar
French postcard. Editor unknown. Postcard sent in 1907. Geraldine Farrar in the opera Mignon.

Geraldine Farrar
French postcard.

A messy and very public divorce

Geraldine Farrar had a seven-year love affair with the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini. It was rumoured that she gave him an ultimatum that he must choose either her or his wife and children in Italy. It resulted in Toscanini's abrupt resignation as principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in 1915.

Farrar was close friends with the star tenor Enrico Caruso and there has been speculation that they too had a love affair, but no conclusive evidence of this has surfaced.

In 1916, she married Dutch film actor Lou Tellegen. Their marriage was the source of considerable scandal, and it ended, as a result of her husband's numerous affairs, in a messy and very public divorce in 1923. The circumstances of the divorce were brought again to public recollection by Tellegen's bizarre 1934 suicide in Hollywood. When told of her ex-husband's death, she replied "Why should that interest me?"

Farrar retired from opera in 1922 at the age of 40. Her final performance was as Ruggero Leoncavallo's Zazà. By this stage, her voice was in premature decline due to overwork. Farrar quickly transitioned into concert recitals, and was signed within several weeks of announcing her opera retirement to an appearance at Hershey Park on Memorial Day 1922.

She continued to make recordings and give recitals throughout the 1920s and was briefly the intermission commentator for the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts during the 1934–1935 season. Her rather bizarre autobiography, Such Sweet Compulsion (1938), was written in alternating chapters purporting to be her own words and those of her mother, with Mrs. Farrar rather floridly recounting her daughter's many accomplishments.

In 1967, Geraldine Farrar died in Ridgefield, Connecticut of heart disease aged 85, and was buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York. She had no children.

Recently I read an excellent biographical novel about Farrar and her great love Lou Tellegen by Dutch author Susan Smit, De eerste vrouw (The first woman). Hopefully there will be a translation soon. Anyway highly recommended.

Geraldine Farrar
German postcard by G.G. & Co., no. 2414. Photo: publicity still for Mignon. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Geraldine Farrar
German postcard G.G. & Co., no. 478/4. Photo: Gerlach.

Geraldine Farrar
German postcard G.G. & Co., no. 579/5. Photo: Gerlach.

Sources: Andrea Suhm-Binder (Cantabile subito), Bob Hufford (Find A Grave), Wikipedia and IMDb.

21 May 2017

Paul Morgan

Austrian actor Paul Morgan (1886-1938) was one of the great theatre stars of the Weimar republic. He co-founded the illustrious Berlin cabaret Kadeko and made more than 100 films. In the 1930s Morgan refused to leave his homeland until it was too late. Arrested in March 1938, he died in Buchenwald concentration camp just months later.

Paul Morgan
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 283/3, 1919-1924. Photo: Decla. We could not identify the signature of the photographer. Rischke & Marby maybe?

Paul Morgan
Dutch postcard by JosPe, Arnhem, no. 54. Photo: Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM).


Paul Morgan was born as Georg Paul Morgenstern in 1886 in Vienna to an Austrian Jewish lawyer Gustav Morgenstern and his wife Clementine Morgenstern. He had a brother, Ernst Morgan, who would become an actor too. Like his parents Paul was baptised and raised Catholic.

Since childhood Paul wanted to pursue a life on the stage. Morgan studied theatre at the k.k. Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst, and he made his stage debut at the Theater in der Josefstadt. He performed in small theatres and cabarets.

In 1910 he made his film debut in the short La Miniature/The Miniature (Michel Carré, 1910) with Harry Baur. During the war he managed to avoid the draft due to his flat feet; and got his first big break at the cabaret Simplicissimus (Simpl) in 1914. He also appeared at Rosa Valetti's Kabarett Größenwahn. In 1917 he got an engagement at the Lessingtheater in Berlin.

After the First World War he had a successful film career. To his early silent films belong Die Puppe/The Doll (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919) with Ossi Oswalda, Die Reise um die Erde in 80 Tagen/Around the World in 80 Days (Richard Oswald, 1919) as well as Fritz Lang's successful productions Halbblut/The Half-Caste (1919) and Die Spinnen/The Spiders (1919-1920) with Carl de Vogt and Ressel Orla.

By the early 1920s, Morgan had become a star actor, singer and writer. Along with Kurt Robitschek and Max Hansen, he opened the Kabarett der Komiker (in short Kadeko) in 1924 in Berlin. The cabaret was an innovative combination of variety show and intimate theatre, and became one of the central comedy stages of Europe.

In the 1920s he also acted in very successful films, including Kurfürstendamm (Richard Oswald, 1920) with Conrad Veidt and Asta Nielsen, Vier um die Frau/Four Around a Woman (Fritz Lang, 1921), Die Brüder Schellenberg/The Brothers Schellenberg (Karl Grune, 1926) starring Conrad Veidt, and the Arthur Schnitzler adaptation Fräulein Else/Miss Else (Paul Czinner, 1929) with Elisabeth Bergner.

Hella Moja in Das Spiel von Liebe und Tod
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no 628/3. Photo: Hella Moja-Film. Hella Moja and probably Paul Morgan in Das Spiel von Liebe und Tod/The Game of Love and Death (Urban Gad, 1919).

Paul Morgan
German postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 6387. Photo: Verleih Mondial-Film.

Kabarett der Komiker

In the late 1920s, Kadeko moved to a large new theatre in the centre of Berlin and expanded it’s scope, including guest appearances by famed international stars. The popularity of Paul Morgan increased.

He played in numerous films like Nur Du/Only You (Hermann Feiner, Willi Wolff, 1930), the popular operetta Zwei Herzen im Dreiviertel-Takt/Two Hearts in Waltz Time (Géza von Bolváry, 1930) with Willi Forst, and the comedy Ich und die Kaiserin/Me and the Empress (Friedrich Holländer, 1933) starring Lilian Harvey.

Morgan also made a name as an libretto author for musicals like Axel vor des Himmels Tor (Axel before Heaven's Door), with which Zarah Leander launched her career.

In 1930, the cabaret was blacklisted by several newspapers and the SA physically invaded the theatre during an anti-Hitler satire. Morgan decided to leave Germany and went to Hollywood for nine months to make German language versions of Hollywood films for MGM including Casanova wider Willen/Casanova Against His Will (Edward Brophy, 1931) with Buster Keaton.

He tried out the cabaret scene in Switzerland and appeared shortly at Erika Mann's Pfeffermühle, but ultimately he ended up back in Austria. Although he found it difficult to support himself in the increasingly reactionary Vienna, and he played only a small part in the film Katharina, die Letzte/Catherine the Last (Hermann Kosterlitz/Henry Koster, 1936) starring Franciska Gaal.

He did not want to leave, hoping, like so many, to ride out what was thought to be a temporary right-wing government. Just a few days after the Anschluss of Austria in 1938, Paul Morgan was arrested, and deported to concentration camp Dachau. The Gestapo specified as the motive that Paul Morgan was in possession of a letter of politician Gustav Stresemann (the letter was old; his Jewish roots were the real reason).

Soon thereafter he was transported to Buchenwald, where he died on 10 December 1938 because of pneumonia he got during an inhuman punishment drill in one of the coldest winters in Europe ever. Paul Morgan was 52. He was married to Josefine Lederer.

Recorded sketch and song of Paul Morgan and Max Hansen. Source: Plattensammler1988 (YouTube).

Sources: World ORT, Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Österreichisches Kabarettarchiv (German), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.