The Rediscovered Postcards, Part 2

In my earlier post from two weeks ago, we got to know several European actresses through old postcards that belonged to my husband’s mother.   Picking out a few more from the stack, let’s start by looking at the suave and handsome Willy Fritsch.  My late mother-in-law must have really enjoyed Mr. Fritsch – she had two postcards of him, one autographed.  Understandable…he’s quite delightful.

The German Matinee Idol Willy Fritsch

Born in Germany in 1901,  Willy Fritsch once studied to be a mechanic, but fortune brought him to work with famed director Max Reinhardt in Berlin theater.  He made an easy transition into silent films, but found his biggest success once sound came on the scene.  Adept at both drama and comedy, Fritch frequently co-starred with the beautiful Lilian Harvey (profiled in the previous post) and they were an unbeatable and charismatic romance, music and comedy team.   Fritsch stayed in Germany through the Nazi regime, managing to avoid trouble no doubt thanks to his tremendous box office popularity.  Once the war ended, Fritsch’s career continued on without a glitch, and he continued to make films until he retired from the screen in 1964.  Willy Fritsch appeared in over 120 films, and his son Thomas Fritsch has also enjoyed a long acting career.  Willy Fritsch died in 1973 in Hamburg, Germany.

Autographed photo of Willy Fritsch

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iu-v1FJN98]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mo9p3FWu_qM]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1oOXS8PKrg]

 

The lovely and talented Martha Eggerth

It’s very possible that fans of American musicals might know of Martha Eggerth — she appeared in two MGM Judy Garland movies mid-career, but her first successes were in her native Hungary.  Blessed with a voice perfect for operettas, Martha used her singing talents onstage and soon found herself appearing in films in Europe.  She was a beautiful and talented presence in all her movies, and even met her husband, famed Polish tenor Jan Kiepura, when they starred together in a musical romance.  Despite the couple’s tremendous popularity and success in the theater and in movies, the tense political situation in Europe as World War II loomed forced them to flee the Nazis and settle in the U.S., where both pursued show business careers.  Eggerth signed with MGM for roles in For Me and My Gal and Presenting Lily Mars (and evidently had her musical numbers severely truncated or eliminated to favor Garland) while her husband continued his operatic career on the East Coast. 

Martha quit Hollywood to join her husband in New York, and finally here the couple was able to combine their talents on Broadway in a long-running and extremely successful version of Franz Lehar’s operetta The Merry Widow.  Martha and Jan continued to perform together until his death in 1966, and Martha has enjoyed a steady popularity on her own.  She’s gone back to make several movies in Europe, as well as her singing career, which continues to this day.  Ms. Eggerth lives in New York and will celebrate her 97th birthday this coming Friday, April 17th.  We wish her all the best!  (Even if you don’t speak German, you will love watching her delightful interview in the third clip!)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97_pgUc45BY]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCF7GVIa9Aw&feature=related]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjsjuOz1YuA]

The Sophisticated Hans Albers

Finally, another appealing gentleman, Hans Albers, born in 1891 in Hamburg, Germany.   In his later years Albers became somewhat of a grand old man of German cinema, but only after years and years as one of Germany’s most successful matinee idols.  His movie career started in 1915, prospered through a hundred silent films, and Albers smoothly glided into sound without a hitch.  He played the Strong Man opposite Marlene Dietrich in 1930′s The Blue Angel and never looked back, quickly become a huge sensation in a variety of genres.  In addition to his acting, Albers became famous for his singing talents which were often featured in his films.  Albers stayed in Germany throughout the Nazi regime years, even while in a steady relationship with Jewish actress Hansi Burg, although they did separate — she left Germany — for several years but were reunited after the war.  Albers’ career hit a rough spot after the war, his association with the Nazis unpopular with immediate post-war audiences, and so his movie roles temporarily dried up.  But the German people were eventually willing to accept Albers as he aged into something of a legend, and he became popular again, working steadily until his death in 1960.   (The last clip here is of his most famous movie song, Auf der Reeperbahn.  It makes Bourbon Street look like Sesame Street!)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI4crFY3Qk8]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rR-SL3OCMU]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07hn4uXJ-tQ]

And finally, let’s have a lovely snapshot of Fraulein Marianne Nicolas, who collected these postcards.  This is a photo taken onboard the Rhakotis on her way from Germany to Chile in late December 1937 – February 1938.

Fraulein Marianne Nicolas, 1938

I have a few more cards that I’ll get to soon.  I’ve loved getting to know these talented stars of early European cinema — makes you realize that America didn’t have a lock on great movie stars!

0 Response The Rediscovered Postcards, Part 2
Posted By Zack : April 10, 2009 11:14 pm

Many thanks for rare cards!

Posted By Zack : April 10, 2009 11:14 pm

Many thanks for rare cards!

Posted By Vincent : April 11, 2009 12:46 am

Fascinating stuff — thanks!

Posted By Vincent : April 11, 2009 12:46 am

Fascinating stuff — thanks!

Posted By moirafinnie : April 11, 2009 8:14 am

This was a revelatory and thought-provoking subject once again, Medusa.

I was so glad to see the charming Hans Albers among your mother-in-law’s postcards. He helped to breathe life into the technically sophisticated and witty Münchhausen (1943), a film that was produced under the most tragic of circumstances–though perhaps it was proof of some lingering humanity in Nazi Germany as that nation approached their own Götterdämmerung.

Is there any hope that you have found anything among the postcards related to two performers whose careers have fascinated me: Zarah Leander and Sybille Schmitz? Aside from youtube clips, a profile on the History Channel about Leander called “Hitler’s Women” and a German documentary about the doomed Schmitz, (as well as the 1943 Nazi-produced Titanic with a haunting appearance by the actress) there is little that I’ve been able to find about them in English.

Great topic and an interesting glimpse into a fascinating period. Thanks.

Posted By moirafinnie : April 11, 2009 8:14 am

This was a revelatory and thought-provoking subject once again, Medusa.

I was so glad to see the charming Hans Albers among your mother-in-law’s postcards. He helped to breathe life into the technically sophisticated and witty Münchhausen (1943), a film that was produced under the most tragic of circumstances–though perhaps it was proof of some lingering humanity in Nazi Germany as that nation approached their own Götterdämmerung.

Is there any hope that you have found anything among the postcards related to two performers whose careers have fascinated me: Zarah Leander and Sybille Schmitz? Aside from youtube clips, a profile on the History Channel about Leander called “Hitler’s Women” and a German documentary about the doomed Schmitz, (as well as the 1943 Nazi-produced Titanic with a haunting appearance by the actress) there is little that I’ve been able to find about them in English.

Great topic and an interesting glimpse into a fascinating period. Thanks.

Posted By suzidoll : April 11, 2009 2:38 pm

I loved looking at this second batch of star cards. It reveals that other national cinemas had star systems, too, and the actors and actresses were just as adored as their Hollywood counterparts. Thanks for the look at the stars of another time and place.

Like Moira, I would also be interested in knowing if there is a card of Zarah Leander. She is featured in an episode of the German TV series HEIMAT. One of the characters visits the big city during the 1930s and goes to the movies to see Zarah Leander.

If you have not seen the original HEIMAT, I would highly recommend it. Given that your mother-in-law grew up during the time frame that part of the series is set in, I think you and your husband would appreciate it.

Posted By suzidoll : April 11, 2009 2:38 pm

I loved looking at this second batch of star cards. It reveals that other national cinemas had star systems, too, and the actors and actresses were just as adored as their Hollywood counterparts. Thanks for the look at the stars of another time and place.

Like Moira, I would also be interested in knowing if there is a card of Zarah Leander. She is featured in an episode of the German TV series HEIMAT. One of the characters visits the big city during the 1930s and goes to the movies to see Zarah Leander.

If you have not seen the original HEIMAT, I would highly recommend it. Given that your mother-in-law grew up during the time frame that part of the series is set in, I think you and your husband would appreciate it.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : April 11, 2009 5:19 pm

Fraulein Marianne Nicolas is to “die” for! (“Die” means “the” in German.) I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s about all the German I know.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : April 11, 2009 5:19 pm

Fraulein Marianne Nicolas is to “die” for! (“Die” means “the” in German.) I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s about all the German I know.

Posted By sittichfan : April 27, 2009 6:34 am

Thanks for posting the stuff on Willy Fritsch! It’s always nice to see that this handsome actor is still remembered even in the US although only a few silent films with him starring have been released there. In 1926, after the tremendous success of “A Waltz Dream” being screened in New York for weeks, he was even offered a United Artists contract but didn’t dare to move over as he did not speak the English language well enough.
By the way, the picture showing him on the steps has been shot in front of his house at Bitterstr. 8 in Berlin-Grunewald which still exists.

Posted By sittichfan : April 27, 2009 6:34 am

Thanks for posting the stuff on Willy Fritsch! It’s always nice to see that this handsome actor is still remembered even in the US although only a few silent films with him starring have been released there. In 1926, after the tremendous success of “A Waltz Dream” being screened in New York for weeks, he was even offered a United Artists contract but didn’t dare to move over as he did not speak the English language well enough.
By the way, the picture showing him on the steps has been shot in front of his house at Bitterstr. 8 in Berlin-Grunewald which still exists.

Posted By TCM’s Classic Movie Blog : July 15, 2009 10:42 pm

[...] also popped up in the earlier Garland movie, For Me and My Gal (1942) and, as Medusa pointed out in an earlier blog, this singer was very popular in the ’20s and ’30s in European musical films .  in [...]

Posted By TCM’s Classic Movie Blog : July 15, 2009 10:42 pm

[...] also popped up in the earlier Garland movie, For Me and My Gal (1942) and, as Medusa pointed out in an earlier blog, this singer was very popular in the ’20s and ’30s in European musical films .  in [...]

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