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19 February 2017

Imported from the USA: Baby Peggy

Diana Serra Cary (1918), best known as Baby Peggy, was one of the three major American child stars of the Hollywood silent movie era along with Jackie Coogan and Baby Marie. However, by the age of 8, her career was finished. She is now the last living star of the silent film era.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 550/2, 1919-1924. Photo: Unifilman.

Baby Peggy
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 161.

Baby Peggy
French postcard in Les Vedettes de Cinema series by A.N., Paris, no. 47. Photo: Universal Film.

The Million Dollar Baby


Diana Serra Cary was born in 1918, in San Diego, California, as Peggy-Jean Montgomery, She was the second daughter of Marian (née Baxter) and Jack Montgomery. Her family soon moved to Los Angeles so that her father, Jack, an aspiring cowboy, could find stunt work in Western pictures. He supported himself as Tom Mix's double, but never achieved the rugged stardom he yearned for himself.

Baby Peggy was 'discovered' at the age of 19 months, when she visited Century Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood with her mother and a film-extra friend. Peggy had an unusually expressive face, matched with a distinctive bob haircut with short bangs.

Impressed by Peggy's well-behaved demeanour and willingness to follow directions from her father, director Fred Fishback (a.k.a. Fred Hibbard) hired her to appear in a series of short films with Century's canine star, the terrier Brownie the Wonder Dog.

The first film, Playmates (Fred Hibbard, 1921), was a success, and Peggy was signed to a long-term contract with Century Studios. Between 1921 and 1923 she made over 150 short comedies for Century. She appeared in film adaptations of novels and fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel (Alfred J. Goulding, 1923) and Jack and the Beanstalk (Alfred J. Goulding, 1924), contemporary comedies, and a few full-length films.

Many of Baby Peggy's popular comedies were parodies of films that grown-up stars had made, and she imitated such legends as Rudolph Valentino, Pola Negri, Mary Pickford and Mae Murray. Film historian David Robinson, cited in the Hollywood Reporter: "She wasn't the first child star, (that would be the infant in Louis Lumiere's Repas de bébé/Baby's Dinner (1895)), but she was a naturally gifted comic, a very effective mimic, with a very distinctive personality and a great sense of grown-up mannerisms and affectations."

In 1922, the 4-year-old Baby Peggy received 1.2 million fan letters and by 1924 she had been dubbed 'The Million Dollar Baby' for her $1.5 million a year salary. She was an obsession for millions of Americans who bought Baby Peggy dolls, jewelry, sheet music, even brands of milk.

In 1923, Peggy began working for Universal Studios, appearing in full-length dramatic films. Among her works from this era were The Darling of New York (King Baggot, 1923), and the first screen adaptation of Captain January (Edward F. Cline, 1924). In line with her status as a star, Peggy's Universal films were produced and marketed as Universal Jewels, the studio's most prestigious and most expensive classification. During this time she also played in Helen's Babies (William A. Seiter, 1924) which featured a young Clara Bow.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin no. 967/2 Photo: Filmhaus Bruckmann.

Baby Peggy
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 235.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin no. 967/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Filmhaus Bruckmann.

A Poor Extra


Baby Peggy's film career abruptly ended in 1925 when her father had a falling out with producer Sol Lesser over her salary and cancelled her contract. She found herself essentially blacklisted and was able to land only one more part in silent films, a minor role in the April Fool (Nat Ross, 1926). She was forced to turn to the vaudeville circuit for survival.

Despite her childhood fame and wealth, she found herself poor and working as an extra by the 1930s. Her parents had handled all of the finances; and money was spent on expensive cars, homes, and clothing. Nothing was set aside for the welfare or education of Peggy or her sister. Through reckless spending and corrupt business partners of her father, her entire fortune was gone before she hit puberty.

A Hollywood comeback in the early 1930s as Peggy Montgomery was short-lived. She loathed screen work and retired after appearing as an extra in the Ginger Rodgers comedy Having Wonderful Time (Alfred Santell, 1938). Peggy married bar tender Gordon Ayres whom she met on the set of Ah, Wilderness! (Clarence Brown, 1935). A few years later, she adopted the name Diana Ayres in an effort to distance herself from the Baby Peggy image. The couple divorced in 1948. In 1954, she married graphic artist Robert 'Bob' Cary and they had one son, Mark (1961).

Having an interest in both writing and history since her youth, Peggy found a second career as an author and silent film historian in her later years under the name Diana Serra Cary. She wrote an autobiography of her life as a child star, What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy: The Autobiography of Hollywood's Pioneer Child Star, and a biography of her contemporary and rival, Jackie Coogan: The World's Boy King: A Biography of Hollywood's Legendary Child Star.

Only a handful of Baby Peggy shorts, including Playmates (Fred Hibbard, 1921), Miles of Smiles (Alfred J. Goulding, 1923) and Sweetie (Alfred J. Goulding, 1923) have been discovered and preserved in film archives around the world. Century Studios burned down in 1926. Only the full-length films The Family Secret (William A. Seiter, 1924),  Captain January (Edward F. Cline, 1924), Helen's Babies (William A. Seiter, 1924) with Edward Everett Horton, and April Fool (Nat Ross, 1926) have survived. In 2016, it was announced that her lost film Our Pet (Herman C. Raymaker, 1924) was found in Japan by silent film collector Ichiro Kataoka.

Diana Serra Cary herself is one of the few surviving actors of the silent film era. In 2015, she returned to the screen in the short Western Broncho Billy and the Bandit's Secret (David Kiehn, 2015), a tribute to Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson, the first cowboy star, who made Westerns for the Essanay Film Company. Cary played 'the Movie Star'.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin no. 560/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Ivans Studio, Los Angeles / Unfilman.

Baby Peggy
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin no. 550/3, 1919-1924. Photo: Unfilman.

Sources: Chris Gardner (The Hollywood Reporter), Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

18 February 2017

Alec Guinness

English actor Sir Alec Guinness (1914–2000) was one of the most versatile and subtle actors of his time, in the cinema and on television no less than on the stage. He was master of disguise in several of the classic Ealing Comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters. He later won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai, and he is probably even better known for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers (1955)
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. D 2367. Photos: J. Arthur Rank-Film. Publicity stills for The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955).

Alec Guinness
Mexican collector's card, no. 338. Photo: London Films.

Alec Guinness in Star Wars (1977)
British autograph card. Photo; publicity still for Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977).

Violent, shell-shocked veteran


Alec Guinness was born as Alec Guinness de Cuffe in London in 1914. His mother's maiden name was Agnes Cuff. On Guinness's birth certificate, the space for the mother's name shows Agnes de Cuffe. The space for the infant's name (where first names only are given) says Alec Guinness. The column for name and surname of the father is blank.

It has been frequently speculated that the actor's father was a member of the Irish Guinness family. However, it was an elder Scottish banker, Andrew Geddes, who paid for Guinness's private school education. From 1875, under English law, when the birth of an illegitimate child was registered, the father's name could only be entered on the certificate if he were present and gave his consent.

At five Alec became Alec Stiven, as a consequence of his mother's three-year marriage to Scottish army captain David Stiven, a violent, shell-shocked veteran of the Irish War of Independence. To persuade Alec's mother to submit to his demands, the captain was given to holding a loaded revolver to the boy's head, or hanging him upside down from a bridge.

It was a relief when, at six, Alec was sent away to a prep school, the fees being at least partly paid by Andrew Geddes. At school he directed performances of The Pirates of Penzance and Silas Marner. Later while working as a junior copywriter in an advertising agency, he studied at the Fay Compton Studio of Dramatic Art.

In 1934, he made his stage debut and in 1936, at the age of 22, he played the role of Osric in John Gielgud's successful production of Hamlet. With the Old Vic he starred in plays by William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and Anton Chekhov, and worked with actors and actresses who would become his friends and frequent co-stars in the future, including John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Anthony Quayle, and Jack Hawkins.

In 1938, he starred in a famous modern dress production of Hamlet which won him acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. He also appeared as Romeo in a production of Romeo and Juliet (1939), as Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night and as Exeter in Henry V in 1937, both opposite Laurence Olivier, and as Ferdinand in The Tempest, opposite Gielgud as Prospero. In 1939, he adapted Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations for the stage, playing the part of Herbert Pocket. The play was a success.

In World War II, Guinness served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve first serving as a seaman in 1941 and being commissioned the following year. He commanded a landing craft taking part in the invasion of Sicily and Elba and later ferried supplies to the Yugoslav partisans.

In 1946, he returned to the Old Vic and stayed until 1948, playing Abel Drugger in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, the Fool in King Lear opposite Laurence Olivier in the title role, DeGuiche in Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Ralph Richardson in the title role, and finally starring in an Old Vic production as Shakespeare's Richard II.

After leaving the Old Vic, he played Eric Birling in J. B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls at the New Theatre in October 1946. He played the Uninvited Guest in the Broadway production of T. S. Eliot's The Cocktail Party (1950, revived at the Edinburgh Festival in 1968). His third attempt at the title role of Hamlet, this time under his own direction at the New Theatre (1951), proved a major theatrical disaster.

Alec Guinness
British autograph card.

Alec Guinness
British postcard in the Film Star Autograph Portrait Series by L.D. LTD., London, no. 53.

Alec Guinness
Italian postcard by Alterocca, Terni, no. 49454.

One of the great acting knights of the century


At British Pictures, David Absalom writes: “Alec Guinness was one of the great acting knights of the century. His reputation is sometimes overshadowed by that of the great triumvirate of Olivier, Gielgud and Richardson and it is true that his theatre work is slightly less distinguished than that of the big three, but when it comes to film acting, he far outstrips them.”

 Beyond an extra part in Evensong (Victor Saville, 1934) with Evelyn Laye, Guinness’ film career began after World War II with the small but memorable role of Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946) starring John Mills.

Guinness and director David Lean would continue to work on acclaimed films together. Guinness appeared as a repulsive Fagin in Oliver Twist (David Lean, 1948), what was widely criticised for being a Jewish stereotype. Lean later gave him a starring role as the insanely uncompromising Colonel Nicholson opposite William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957). For this performance Guinness won an Academy Award.

Despite a difficult and often hostile relationship, Lean, referring to Guinness as ‘my good luck charm’, continued to cast Guinness in character roles in his later films: Arab leader Prince Feisal in Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962), the title character's half-brother, Bolshevik leader Yevgraf, in Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965), and Indian mystic Godbole in A Passage to India (David Lean, 1984). He was also offered a role in Ryan's Daughter (David Lean, 1970), but declined.

Initially Guinness was associated mainly with the Ealing comedies that made him one of the great character stars of British films. His virtuosity as a master of disguise reached a peak in Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949), when he played all eight members of the D'Ascoyne family whom Dennis Price bumped off on his way to the Dukedom of Chalfont.

Other memorable roles in Ealing classics include the mild and underpaid bank clerk who plots the perfect robbery in The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951), an inventor who, to the consternation of management and the unions, invents a fabric that never gets dirty and never wears out in The Man in the White Suit (Alexander Mackendrick, 1951), and the unctuous, snaggle-toothed leader of a gang of incompetent burglars in the last great Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955).

Director Ronald Neame cast Guinness in his first romantic lead role, opposite Petula Clark in The Card (Ronald Neame, 1952). His conversion to Roman Catholicism followed the shooting of Father Brown (Robert Hamer, 1954) in which he played G.K. Chesterton's cheery parish priest. The film was shot in Burgundy. Between takes Guinness, wandering about the local village in his clerical fig, found himself taken by the hand and subjected to the prattle of a local boy, who imagined he was a genuine priest. The confidence which the Church inspired in the child made a profound impression. Guinness became a Roman Catholic in 1956.

Other notable film roles of this period included the part of the Crown Prince in The Swan (Charles Vidor, 1956) starring Grace Kelly, in her second to last film role, and The Horse's Mouth (Ronald Neame, 1958) in which Guinness played the part of drunken painter Gulley Jimson as well as contributing the screenplay, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

He was a vacuum cleaner salesman enlisted into the secret service by Noel Coward in Our Man in Havana (Carol Reed, 1959), Marcus Aurelius in The Fall of the Roman Empire (Anthony Mann, 1964) starring Sophia Loren, Jacob Marley's Ghost in Scrooge (Ronald Neame, 1970) opposite Albert Finney, and Charles I of England in Cromwell (Ken Hughes, 1970) featuring Richard Harris.

He considered the title role in Hitler: The Last Ten Days (Ennio De Concini, 1973) as his best film performance, though critics disagreed. The Telegraph commented in its obituary: “Guinness, having discovered through his usual assiduous research that Hitler was a boring man, unfortunately succeeded brilliantly in bringing this interpretation to the screen.” Guinness won a Tony Award for his Broadway performance as poet Dylan Thomas in Dylan. He next played the title role in Macbeth opposite Simone Signoret at the Royal Court Theatre in 1966, a conspicuous failure.

Alec Guinness
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano (Milan), no. 1291. Photo: Rank. Publicity still for To Paris with Love (Robert Hamer, 1955).

Alec Guinness
Italian postcard by Bromofoto, Milano (Milan), no. 1500. Photo: Dear Film. Publicity still for The Horse's Mouth (Ronald Neame, 1958).

Alec Guinness in The Horse's Mouth (1958)
Italian postcard by B.F.F. Edit., no. 3686. Photo: Dear Film. Publicity still for The Horse's Mouth (Ronald Neame, 1958).

Enigmatic Master Spy


From the 1970s, Alec Guinness made regular television appearances. He was perfect as the enigmatic master spy George Smiley in the two television series adapted from John Le Carré's novels, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (John Irvin, 1979) and Smiley's People (Simon Langton, 1982). Le Carré was so impressed by Guinness's performance as Smiley that he based his characterisation of Smiley in subsequent novels on Guinness. In the cinema Guinness excelled as Jamessir Bensonmum, the blind butler, in the Neil Simon film Murder By Death (Robert Moore, 1976).

Guinness is now probably best known as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980), and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (Richard Marquand, 1983). The part brought him worldwide recognition by a new generation.

Guinness agreed to take the part on the condition that he would not have to do any publicity to promote the film. He was also one of the few cast members who believed that the film would be a box office hit; he negotiated a deal for 2.5 % of the gross, which made him very wealthy in his later life. His role would also result in Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Despite these rewards, Guinness soon became unhappy with being identified with the part, and expressed dismay at the fan-following that the Star Wars trilogy attracted.

Guinness received an Academy Honorary Award for lifetime achievement in 1980. In 1988, he got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Little Dorrit (Christine Edzard, 1988) starring Dereki Jacobi and Joan Greenwood. For his theatre work, he received an Evening Standard Award for his performance as T.E. Lawrence in Ross and a Tony Award for his Broadway turn as Dylan Thomas in Dylan. Guinness was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1955, and was knighted in 1959.

Guinness married the artist, playwright, and actress Merula Sylvia Salaman in 1938. In 1940, they had a son, Matthew Guinness, who later became an actor. In his biography, Alec Guinness: The Unknown, Garry O'Connor says that Guinness was arrested and fined 10 guineas for a homosexual act in a public lavatory in Liverpool in 1946. Guinness avoided publicity by giving his name to police and court as 'Herbert Pocket', the name of the character he played in Great Expectations. The incident did not become public knowledge until April 2001, eight months after his death.

Piers Paul Read, Guinness's official biographer, doubts that this incident actually occurred. He believes that Guinness was confused with John Gielgud, who was infamously arrested for such an act around the same period. According to Piers Paul Read, Guinness' friends and family knew of his bisexuality.

Guinness wrote three volumes of a bestselling autobiography, beginning with Blessings in Disguise (1985), followed by My Name Escapes Me (1996), and A Positively Final Appearance (1999). He continued to act almost until his death, submerging himself in an amazing array of characters. His final stage performance was at the Comedy Theatre in 1989 in the play A Walk in the Woods. Between 1934 and 1989, he had played 77 parts in the theatre.

His final film role was a one-scene cameo in the horror thriller Mute Witness (Anthony Waller, 1994) and his last TV role was in the TV-film Eskimo Day (Piers Haggard, 1996).

Alec Guinness died in 2000, from liver cancer, at Midhurst in West Sussex at the age of 86. In his obituary in The Guardian, Tom Sutcliffe calls him ‘a by nature an unostentatious and reserved man’: “Though he undertook a great variety of roles, all were informed, at heart, with the wisdom of the sad clown. It was that spiritual severity, together with those clear, wide-open eyes - capable of melting in close-up on screen into the most reassuringly serene of smiles - which lent his performances force and authenticity.“


Trailer Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). Source: Film365 (YouTube).


Trailer The Ladykillers (1955). Source: webothlovesoup (YouTube).


Trailer The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Source: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (YouTube).


Trailer Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Source: Cherry Movies (YouTube).


Video trailer Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Source: Video Detective (YouTube).

Sources: Brian McFarlane (Encyclopedia of British Cinema), Tom Sutcliffe (The Guardian), David Absalom (British Pictures), Ed Stephan (IMDb), The Telegraph, BritMovie, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

17 February 2017

Arletty

Blessed with a combination of charisma, good looks and impressive acting ability, Arletty (1898-1992) portrayed several femme fatales, vamps, prostitutes in French films and stage plays of the 1930s and 1940s. Her characters were down-to-earth, earthy, slightly comical female types, usually complex characters with a tough outer shell which concealed an inner vulnerability. She was unforgettable as the ethereal and mysterious Garance in the classic Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945). When the Second World War ended, Arletty's career was marked with controversy. During the occupation of France she had fallen in love with a German officer, and after the liberation she was jailed as a collaborator. Her career would continue after a suspension but never reached the same level as before and during the war.

Arletty
French postcard by EPC, no. 235. Photo: Raymond Voinquel.

Arletty
French postcard by S.E.R.P., Paris, no. 88. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Arletty
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 67. Offered by S.A. Victoria, Brussels, no. 639. Photo: Ch. van Damme / Les Mirages.

Arletty
French postcard by SERP, Paris, no. 89. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Arletty
French postcard by Editions et Publications Cinematographiques (EPC), no. 44. Photo: Raymond Voinquel.

A Seductive Siren


Arletty was born Léonie Marie Julie Bathiat in Courbevoie near Paris in 1898, to a working-class family. Her father was a streetcar driver, and her mother a linen maid.

In 1914 on the third day of First World War, she lost her lover, a boy whose eyes were so blue that everybody called him Ciel (Sky). She then swore she would never marry nor have children, so she could never become a war widow or the mother of a dead soldier. She would hold word despite affairs with Sacha Guitry and Aga Khan.

Arletty worked for a time in a factory and as a secretary before becoming a model for painters and photographers. In 1918 she started her stage career as a chorus girl in the music hall. In 1920 she joined the Théâtre des Capucines and appeared there in innumerable revues. At other Parisian theatres she also appeared in such operettas as Oui (Yes, 1928) and comedies such as Les Joies du Capitole (The Enjoyments of the Capitol, 1936) and Fric-Frac (Burglars, 1936).

Arletty was already a stage performer for ten years before she made her film début in La douceur d'aimer/The sweetness of loving (René Hervil, 1930). The arrival of sound cinema coincided with Arletty’s move into films. The following years she appeared in such comedies as Enlevez-moi (Léonce Perret, 1932) with Roger Tréville, Mademoiselle Josette, ma femme/Miss Josette, My Wife (André Berthomieu, 1933) starring Annabella, and Amants et voleurs/Lovers and Thieves (Raymond Bernard, 1935) opposite Michel Simon.

These early film appearances established her as the strong yet marginalised female character with which she would be most identified in later years. In 1935, Arletty was directed by Jacques Feyder in the film Pension Mimosas. She dazzled film audiences in Marcel Carné and Jacques Prevert's classics of French poetic realism, Hôtel du Nord/Hotel of the North (Marcel Carné, 1938) starring Annabella, Le Jour se lève/Daybreak (Marcel Carné, 1939) with Jean Gabin, and Les Visiteurs du soir/The Devil's Envoys (Marcel Carné, 1942) with Alain Cuny.

She played a marvelous leading lady full of cheeky humor and charm again opposite Michel Simon in the film comedies Fric-frac/Burglars (Claude Autant-Lara, Maurice Lehmann, 1939) and Circonstances atténuantes/Extenuating Circumstances (Jean Boyer, 1939). Arletty rarely received top billing although she outshone the lead actors in most of her films.

The anonymous biographer at Films de France writes: “In her films, Arletty was rarely the heroine, the kind of character to win the audience’s sympathy. Rather, she was usually the seductive siren, who would win a man’s heart and then abandon him. Arletty was arguably the first and the best, of the film femme fatales, a perfect subject for the poetic realists of the late 1930s.”

Arletty
French postcard by Greff Editeur, Paris, no. 32. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Arletty
French postcard by Edit. Chantal, Rueil, no. 90A. Photo: C.C.F.C.

Arletty
French postcard by Editions E.C., Paris, no. 90. Photo: Pathé.

Arletty
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 67.

Arletty
French postcard by Editions O.P., Paris, no. 100. Photo: Teddy Piaz.

Arletty
French postcard by Edit. Chantal, Rueil, no. 90. Photo: Roger Richebé. Publicity still for Madame Sans-Gêne (Roger Richebé, 1941).

Horizontal Collaboration


Arletty’s fourth and best role for Marcel Carné, the central part of Garance in Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945) would become her most famous film role. Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “Even in 1945, Marcel Carné's Children of Paradise was regarded as an old-fashioned film. Set in the Parisian theatrical world of the 1840s, Jacques Prévert's screenplay concerns four men in love with the mysterious Garance (Arletty). Each loves Garance in his own fashion, but only the intentions of sensitive mime-actor Deburau (Jean-Louis Barrault) are entirely honorable; as a result, it is he who suffers most, hurdling one obstacle after another in pursuit of an evidently unattainable goal.

In the stylised fashion of 19th-century French drama, many grand passions are spent during the film's totally absorbing 195 minutes. Amazingly, the film was produced over a two-year period in virtual secrecy, without the knowledge of the Nazis then occupying France, who would surely have arrested several of the cast and production staff members (including Prévert) for their activities in the Resistance. Children of Paradise has gone on to become one of the great romantic classics of international cinema.”

Marlene Pilaete comments in a mail to EFSP: "the filming of Les enfants du Paradis was no secret for anyone. It was a big production, loaded with stars, with thousands of extras. The movie was announced and advertised in the press at the time and the filming took place in full sight of everyone. (...) Although he has never been a collaborationist and he was certainly not a Nazi sympathizer, Prévert has worked openly in France during the war (Les visiteurs du soir, Une femme dans la nuit, Lumière d’été, Adieu Léonard, etc.). If Nazis had really wanted to arrest him, they could have done it easily."

After the Liberation, Arletty’s career suffered a severe drawback owing to a liaison with a German Officer during the Occupation. For liberated France, she became the symbol of treason or what was called ‘horizontal collaboration’, and for that she had to pay. The price proved to be very high. She was arrested and sent to Drancy concentration camp then to Fresnes prison (near Paris) where she spent 120 days. In December 1944, she was put under house arrest for another two years and condemned to three years work suspension.

She was not invited to the premiere of Les Enfants du Paradis in March 1945. She allegedly later commented on the experience, "My heart is French but my ass is international." After the suspension she appeared in Carné’s La fleur de l'âge/The Flower of Youth (Marcel Carné, 1947) starring the young Anouk Aimée. In pre-war France, children were jailed under horrific conditions. The film tells of the massive escape that took place on the island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, and of the child hunt that ensued. The shooting of the film started several times, and was halted for censorship reasons - the project was banned by the Ministry of Justice - and harsh shooting conditions, and finally abandoned. All material of La fleur de l'âge was inexplicably lost in the 1950s.

Arletty next appeared in such film as Portrait d'un assassin/Portrait of a Murderer (Bernard-Roland, 1949) with Maria Montez and Erich von Stroheim, Huis clos/No Exit (Jacqueline Audry, 1954) based on the play by Jean-Paul Sartre, and L'air de Paris (Marcel Carné, 1954) opposite Jean Gabin.

However the cinema did not offer her the grand roles of the pre-war years any more. She returned to the theatre and enjoyed a moderately successful period as a stage actor in later life, notably as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. Among her final screen appearances were a fleeting cameo as an elderly French woman in the international war epic The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, 1962) and a small part in the comedy-drama Le voyage à Biarritz/The Trip to Biarritz (Gilles Grangier, 1963) starring Fernandel.

In 1963, an accident left her nearly blind, and forced her to retire. She eventually returned to the stage, notably in the leading role in Jean Cocteau’s Les Monstres sacrés (The Holy Monsters, 1966), and to film as a madam in Jean-Claude Brialy’s Les Volets fermés/The Closed Shutters (Jean-Claude Brialy, 1972). In 1971 she published an autobiography, La Défense.

Arletty died in 1992. The funeral cortege made a stop in front of the Hotel du Nord in Paris where her famous film of 1938 is located. Christopher Gresecque at IMDb: “She always illuminated the screen with an unusual mixture of Parisian working-class sense of humor and her romantic beauty.”


Scene from Hôtel Du Nord (1938). Source: Disney Romain (YouTube).


75th Anniversary Trailer for Le Jour se lève/Daybreak (1939). Source: Studiocanal UK (YouTube).


Original trailer for Les Enfants du Paradis (1945). Source: neondreams 25 (YouTube).


U.S. Re-Release Trailer for Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise (1945). Source: Janus Films (YouTube).


French trailer for the TV film Arletty, une passion coupable/Arletty, a guilty passion (Arnaud Sélignac, 2015) with Laetitia Casta as Arletty. Source: Flach Film Production (YouTube).

Sources: Marlene Pilaete, Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Christophe Greseque (IMDb), Films de France, Encyclopaedia Brittanica, AlloCiné (French), Wikipedia and IMDb.