23 January 2018

Christel Bodenstein

German film and television actress Christel Bodenstein (1938) appeared in many East German (GDR) productions and is best known for her leading role as the beautiful but haughty princess in the fairy-tale film Das singende, klingende Bäumchen/The Singing Ringing Tree (1957).

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 1582, 1961.

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 2250, 1965. Photo: DEWAG / Herbst / Mücke.

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 2252, 1965. Photo: DEWAG / Herbst / Mücke.

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 1893, 1963. Photo: DEFA / Blümel.

The Singing Ringing Tree


Christel Bodenstein was born Christa Bodenstein in 1938 in Munich, Germany. In 1949, she moved to Leipzig in the GDR with her mother. She attended the ballet school of the Leipzig Opera and the State Ballet School, Berlin. In 1955, she graduated there and became a ballet dancer at the Landestheater Halle.

The then 17-year-old met DEFA director Kurt Maetzig at the Ostseestrand. He suggested her to do screen test for the part of Annegret in his DEFA film Schlösser und Katen/Castles and Cottages (1957), but she did not get the role. Instead actress Karla Runkehl was chosen to play Annegret.

Despite this failure, Bodenstein studied until 1959 at the Academy of Film and Television in Potsdam. She made her film debut as student Hannelore Ulrich in the satire Das Hauptmann von Köln/The Captain from Cologne (Slatan Dudow, 1956) starring Rolf Ludwig, followed by the fairy-tale film Das tapfere Schneiderlein/The Brave Little Tailor (Helmut Spieß, 1956) with Kurt Schmidtchen. The film was the first of 19 adaptations of Grimm fairy tales, which the East German studio DEFA realised until 1990.

Bodenstein’s breakthrough was another fairy-tale film by the DEFA, Das singende, klingende Bäumchen/The Singing Ringing Tree (Francesco Stefani, 1957). The story, written by Anne Geelhaar, was based on a variation of Hurleburlebutz by the Grimm Brothers. Bodenstein played a beautiful but selfish and haughty princess who rejects the proposal of a wealthy prince (Eckart Dux).

After its release in East Germany, the film sold almost 6 million tickets in the country of about 17 million. Das singende, klingende Bäumchen was then purchased by the BBC and cut into three parts to create a mini-series which was shown many times during the 1960s and 1970s.

Other popular successes were the DEFA musical Maibowle/The Punch Bowl (Günter Reisch, 1959) and its sequel Silvesterpunsch/New Year's Eve Punch (Günter Reisch, 1960), in which she costarred with Erich Franz, Friedel Nowack and Erika Dunkelmann. In these films, she could show off her dancing talent.

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB DEFA-Studio für Spielfilme, Potsdam-Babelsberg, no. 72, 1956. Photo: DEFA / Wenzel.

Christel Bodenstein in Das singende, klingende Bäumchen (1957)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 4213/447, 1957. Photo: DEFA / Wunsch. Publicity still for Das singende, klingende Bäumchen/The Singing Ringing Tree (Francesco Stefani, 1957).

Christel Bodenstein in Das singende, klingende Bäumchen (1957)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 4219/463, 1958. Photo: DEFA / Wunsch. Publicity still for Das singende, klingende Bäumchen/The Singing Ringing Tree (Francesco Stefani, 1957).

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 659, 1958. Photo: Jochen Diestelmann.

One of the great romantic couples of the GDR


In 1960, Christel Bodenstein was voted the most popular actress of the GDR by the youth magazine Neues Leben. Through her popularity, she became a member of the DEFA ensemble from 1959 to 1973 and she worked with renowned film directors such as Frank Vogel, Herbert Ballmann and Martin Hellberg.

Bodenstein married director Konrad Wolf in 1960 and they had a son Mirko in 1961. In the 1960s, she appeared in some musicals and revue films such as Revue um Mitternacht/Midnight Review (Gottfried Kolditz, 1962) alongside Manfred Krug. Bodenstein and Krug reunited in Beschreibung eines Sommers/Description of a summer (Ralf Kirsten, 1963). The film made them one of the great romantic couples of the GDR.

This was followed by the fairy-tale film Der kleine Prinz/The Little Prince (Konrad Wolf, 1966) based on the story by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Bodenstein played the prince and Eberhard Esche the pilot.

In the 1970s, good and interesting film roles for the DEFA and the television of the GDR failed to materialise. She decided to return to the stage. From 1973 to 1976 she performed as a chanson singer, and was a temporary guest actress at the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin and the Hans Otto Theater in Potsdam.

In 1976, she started to work for the small theatre Das Ei at the Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin. After the Wende, the German reunification of 1990, she worked as an assistant director and in 1994 she became a director at Berlin’s Friedrichstadtpalast. Since then, her productions included a Claire Waldorff revue and the revue Sommernachtsträume/Summer nights dreams (1995).

Bodenstein and Wolf divorced in 1978. Her second marriage is to the actor and playwright Hasso von Lenski. In 2016, Christel Bodenstein returned to the screen in a new TV version of Das singende, klingende Bäumchen/The Singing Ringing Tree (Wolfgang Eißler, 2016), now with Jytte-Merle Böhrnsen as the princess and with Bodenstein in a supporting part as a herbalist.

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 1658, 1962.

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 1817, 1963. Photo: Karin Blasig.

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 2333, 1966. Photo: Karin Blasig.

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 3312, 1968. Photo: Karin Blasig.

Christel Bodenstein
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, no. 55/69, 1969. Photo: Klaus D. Schwarz.

Sources: Ines Walk (Film-Zeit.de – German), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (English and German), and IMDb.

22 January 2018

Elsa De Giorgi

Italian stage and screen actress Elsa De Giorgi (1914-1997) worked also as a director and set designer and was a successful novelist. She had a prolific career in the Italian cinema under Mussolini, and after the war she worked on stage with Luchino Visconti and Giorgi Strehler and in films by Pier Paolo Pasolini. But she is now best remembered for her extramarital affair with author Italo Calvino.

Elsa De Giorgi
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1938. Photo: Tirrenia Film.

Elsa De Giorgi
Italian postcard by Fotoluxardo, Roma. Publicity card for Melloni textiles, Bologna.

Ancient provincial aristocracy


Elsa De Giorgi was born Elsa Giorgi Alberti in 1914 in Pesaro. Her family was of ancient provincial aristocracy, the Giorgi Alberti’s, nobles of Bevagna and Camerino, patricians of Spoleto.

At the age of almost 18, she participated in a photographic competition. She was discovered by film director Mario Camerini, who offered her the role of the protagonist in T'amerò sempre/I will always love you (1933). In this film, a girl (De Giorgi) gives birth to a daughter but the father, a playboy (Mino Doro), has dumped her. Years after, they meet again, but there is also the girl’s colleague, an accountant (Nino Besozzi).

After this film debut, titles followed like the comedy L'impiegata di papà/Dad's clerk (Alessandro Blasetti, 1934) with Memo Benassi, the drama Porto/Port (Amleto Palermi, 1934) with Irma Grammatica and Camillo Pilotto, and Teresa Confalonieri/Loyalty of Love (Guido Brignone, 1934) with Marta Abba.

In the Luigi Pirandello adaptation Ma non è una cosa seria/But It's Nothing Serious (Mario Camerini, 1937) and La mazurca di papà/Daddy's mazurca (Oreste Biancoli 1938), she co-starred with Vittorio De Sica, and in La signora Paradiso (Enrico Guazzoni 1937), she had the lead role opposite Mino Doro and Memo Benassi.

Towards and during the war, De Giorgi often played in period pieces. This started with the lead role as Desirée Clary, Napoleon’s beloved in La sposa dei re/The Bride of the Kings (Duilio Coletti 1938) with Augusto Marcacci as Napoleon Bonaparte.

Other historical films with her are Il fornaretto di Venezia/The Fornaretto of Venice (Duilio Coletti, 1939) starring Roberto Villa as the unjustly accused, Capitan Fracassa/Captain Fracasse (Duilio Coletti, 1940) with Giorgio Costantini and Osvaldo Valenti, Fra' Diavolo/The Adventures of Fra Diavolo (Luigi Zampa, 1942) with Enzo Fiermonte, and La locandiera/The Innkeeper (Luigi Chiarini, 1944) starring Luisa Ferida.

In several of the wartime films De Giorgi was not allowed to have her own voice, and it was mainly Lydia Simoneschi who dubbed her.

Elsa De Giorgi
Italian postcard by Stab. Angeli, Terni, Ditta Terzoli, Roma, no. 333 Photo: Gneme.

Notorious Love Letters


Elsa De Giorgi had a prolific career in the Italian cinema under Mussolini, but her anti-fascism (notable is her description in her book I coetanei of her quarrel with Fascist minister Alessandro Pavolini) did not make her love acting in the regime’s films. Instead, she preferred working for the theatre.

In the post-war era, she would mostly perform on stage with directors such as Giorgio Strehler and Luchino Visconti. In 1949 Visconti called her to be Helen of Troy in his staging of William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida at the Boboli gardens in Florence, during the Maggio Musicale. In 1957 she played Madame Roland in Giacobini by Federico Zardi, staged at the Teatro Piccolo in Milan by Giorgio Strehler.

She was married to resistance fighter and war hero, Count Sandrino Contini Bonacossi, who was the wealthy son of a renowned art merchant. In the second half of the 1950s and during her marriage with the Florentine aristocrat, she had a relationship with the writer Italo Calvino, described in her book Ho visto partire il tuo treno (I've Seen Your Train Leaving, 1992).

In 1955 she published I coetanei, a public diary with many references to the partisan struggle (with a tribute to her husband Sandrino) and to the Roman cinema of the period around the war. It won her the Premio Viareggio but it also lead to her relationship with Calvino, who was text editor for her book.

In the early sixties, she collaborated as theatre critic to the Roman paper Il Pensiero Nazionale.

She had a small part in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s short film La ricotta (1963). In 1975, she interpreted Ms. Maggi, one of the narrators of Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma/Salò, or the 120 days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975).

Her final screen credit was in the Alberto Sordi comedy Assolto per aver commesso il fatto/Acquitted for Having Committed the Deed(Alberto Sordi, 1993) in which she appeared briefly as a countess. Elsa De Giorgi died in Rome in 1997. She was 83.

In 2004, fragments were published of the some 400 (love) letters, which Italo Calvino wrote to her in the years of their affair (1955-1958) and which were kept by the University of Pavia. De Giorgi had sold the love letters to the archive in 1994, with the condition that they would not be opened for the following 25 years.

Still, a journalist could not wait and published excerpts in the Corriere della Sera, proving thus that the restrained, ironic writer had been a wildly passionate lover. Calvino’s widow, Chichita Calvino, was not amused and tried to prevent further publications. It also sparked a fierce debate between left and right on culture & politics and ownership of the media.

Furthermore, it became clear that Sandrino Contini Bonacossi, Elsa’s husband, who had suddenly disappeared in 1955 and was suspected of financial malversations, had instead left because he could not stand the triangular affair anymore. Afterwards he would divorce De Giorgi and disinherit her. Possibly this was the reason why De Giorgi eventually sold the letters in 1994.

In 1975, Sandrino Contini Bonacossi hung himself in New York. This seems to have no connection with De Giorgi’s affair with Calvino. In her book L'eredità Contini-Bonacossi, De Giorgi reconstructed the mysterious affair of clandestine export of art works, which had her husband as the main victim.

After his affair with Elsa De Giorgi, Italo Calvino wrote several novels with aristocrats in the title, such as The Cloven Viscount, The Baron in the Trees, and The Nonexistent Knight. De Giorgi claimed that the titles refer to her unfortunate husband and to her affair of Calvino, but this has been contested. While Elsa’s career dwindled, Calvino’s fame grew.

Italo Calvino died in 1985, twelve years before Elsa De Giorgi. After her death in 1997, the university of Pavia also acquired the 6000 volumes library of De Giorgi and her husband.

Elsa De Giorgi
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, 1939.

Elsa De Giorgi
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, 1940. Photo: Venturini.

Sources: John Hooper (The Guardian), Biblioteca universitaria di Pavia (Italian), Frankfurter Algemeine (German), Wikipedia (Italian and English), and IMDb.

21 January 2018

Gina Lollobrigida

Italian actress and photojournalist Gina Lollobrigida (1927) was one of Europe’s most prominent film stars of the 1950s. ‘La Lollo’ was the first European sex symbol of the post war years and she paved the way into Hollywood for her younger colleagues Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale and Monica Bellucci.

Gina Lollobrigida
I.F.P.A. postcard, no. 15.

Gina Lollobrigida
German postcard by Terra-Color, no. F 130. Photo: Morris, Rome.

Gina Lollobrigida
German postcard by Ufa, no. CK 67. Photo: Raymond Vainquel. Publicity still for Trapeze (Carol Reed, 1956).

Gina Lollobrigida
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 10. Photo: publicity still for Notre-Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Jean Delannoy, 1956).

Gina Lollobrigida
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto in the Artisti di Sempre series, no. 294.

The most beautiful toddler of Italy


Luigina Lollobrigida was born in the picturesque Italian mountain village Subiaco in 1927, as one of four daughters of a furniture manufacturer. At the age of 3, Luigina was already selected as the most beautiful toddler of Italy and in her youth she started to model.

She became an art student and made her film debut in an uncredited bit role in the adventure film Aquila nera/The Black Eagle Returns (Riccardo Freda, 1946) starring Rossano Brazzi.

In 1947, she entered the Miss Italia pageant and came in third. The contest was won by Lucia Bosé and second was Gianna Maria Canale. Both also became film actresses, though not nearly as successful as Lollobrigida.

Gina Lollobrigida was discovered by director Mario Costa who gave her a small part as a girlfriend of Adina (Nelly Corradi) in the opera adaptation L’elisir d’amore/Elixir of Love (Mario Costa, 1946).

Lollobrigida started to model as Diana Loris for the Fotoromanzi, the popular Italian photo novels.

She got her first bigger film part in another opera film, Pagliacci/Love of a Clown - Pagliacci (Mario Costa, 1948), co-starring with one of the greatest Italian baritones, Tito Gobbi. The film, based on Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci recounts the tragedy of Canio (Afro Poli), the lead clown (or pagliaccio in Italian) in a Commedia dell'arte troupe, his wife Nedda (Lollobrigida), and her lover,
Silvio (Gobbi).

When Nedda spurns the advances of Tonio (also Gobbi), another player in the troupe, he tells Canio about Nedda's betrayal. In a jealous rage, Canio murders both Nedda and Silvio. Lollobrigida's singing in this film was dubbed.

Gina Lollobrigida
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 29 F. Offered by Les Carbones Korès Carboplane. Photo: Sam Lévin. Publicity still for Fanfan la Tulipe/Fan-Fan the Tulip (Christian Jacque, 1952).

Gina Lollobrigida
French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 325. Photo: Sam Lévin. Publicity still for Les belles de nuit/Beauties of the Night (René Clair, 1952).

Gina Lollobrigida in Pane, amore e fantasia (1953)
Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no. 1748. Photo: publicity still for Pane, amore e fantasia/Bread, Love and Dreams (Luigi Comencini, 1953).

Gina Lollobrigida in Pane, amore e fantasia (1953)
Yugoslavian postcard by NPO, no. G5. Photo: pubicity still for Pane, amore e fantasia/Bread, Love and Dreams (Luigi Comencini, 1953).

Gina Lollobrigida in La provinciale (1953)
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. 187. Photo: Ponti / De Laurentiis. Publicity still for La provinciale/The Wayward Wife (Mario Soldati, 1953).

Miss Italia


Gina Lollobtrigida's first major success as a leading lady was in Miss Italia/My Beautiful Daughter (Duilio Coletti, 1950), a backstage drama set at a beauty contest.

It was followed by the delightful comedy Vita da cani/A Dog's Life (Mario Monicelli, Steno, 1950) with Aldo Fabrizi, and the award winning crime drama La città si difende/Four Ways Out (Pietro Germi, 1951), based on a script by Federico Fellini.

In France she co-starred with Gérard Philipe in the hugely entertaining melange of swash-buckling adventure, comedy and romance Fanfan la Tulipe/Fan-Fan the Tulip (Christian Jacque, 1952) and in Les Belles de Nuit/Beauties of the Night (René Clair, 1952).

James Travers at Films de France: "As French matinee idol Gérard Philipe is propelled through history and cardboard Freudian dreamscapes, into the arms of such beauties as Martine Carol and Gina Lollobrigida, (director René) Clair appears to have all but lost his tenuous grip on reality (the scene with the dinosaur confirms it) - but who cares? This is a film which, like Clair’s earlier comic masterpieces, is intended to distract and entertain, and it does that marvellously and unashamedly."

Gina Lollobrigida had her definitive breakthrough with the huge global hit Pane, amore e fantasia/Bread, Love and Dreams (Luigi Comencini, 1953), in which she starred with Vittorio De Sica.

This romantic comedy was nominated in the U.S. for an Oscar, and Lollobrigida herself received in Great Britain a nomination at BAFTA. The success led to three sequels, including Pane, amore e gelosia/Bread, Love and Jealousy (Luigi Comencini, 1954).

Her first American film was Beat the Devil (John Huston, 1953). She was at her best as Humphrey Bogart's wife in this odd but endearing noiresque comedy.

Next she earned her nickname ‘The World's Most Beautiful Woman’ for her signature film La donna più bella del mondo (Robert Z. Leonard, 1956), in which she played the legendary actress Lina Cavalieri.

For her role in this film she received the first David di Donatello for Best Actress. Her earthy looks and short 'tossed salad' hairdo were quite influential, and in fact there's a type of curly lettuce named 'Lollo' in honour of her cute hairdo. (In France 'Lollo's' were a nickname for breasts).

Gina Lollobrigida
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 29 F. Offered by Les Carbones Korès Carboplane. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Happy birthday, Gina Lollobrigida!
French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), Paris, no. 360. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Gina Lollobrigida
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg, no. 354. Photo: Herbert Fried / Ufa. Publicity still for Notre Dame de Paris (1956).

Gina Lollobrigida in Notre-Dame de Paris (1956)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 2/72. Photo: publicity still for Notre-Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Jean Delannoy, 1956).

Gina Lollobrigida in Notre-Dame de Paris (1956)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 56/72. Photo: publicity still for Notre-Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Jean Delannoy, 1956).

Esmeralda


Gina Lollobrigida made another Hollywood appearance in the circus melodrama Trapeze (Carol Reed, 1956) between Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis.

Next she starred as Esmeralda in Notre Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Jean Delannoy, 1956) opposite Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo.

In 1959 she lured Yul Brynner in the Biblical epic Solomon and Sheba (King Vidor, 1959).

One of her most popular Hollywood films was Come September (Robert Mulligan, 1961), in which she played the never-contented mistress of Rock Hudson. For this lightweight comedy she won the Golden Globe as 'World Film Favorite'.

She co-starred again with Hudson in Strange Bedfellows (Melvin Frank, 1965) and in 1968 she starred in the enjoyable screwball comedy Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (Melvin Frank, 1968), for which she was again nominated for a Golden Globe and won a David di Donatello award, the Italian Oscar.

On TV, Gina Lollobrigida was seen in the mini series Le Avventure di Pinocchio/The Adventures of Pinocchio (Luigi Comencini, 1972).

She retired from acting in the mid-1970s, but has occasionally returned for the camera, including in a regular role in the American soap opera Falcon Crest (1984).

She has used her celebrity to sell cosmetics, published two books of her photography, Italia (My Italy, 1973) and Wonder of Innocence (1994), and created sculptures.

In the mid-1970s she wrote, directed and produced Ritratto di Fidel/Portrait of Fidel, a very personal 50-minute documentary about Fidel Castro that included a rare interview with the Cuban dictator, fuelling persistent rumours that a romance was sparked.

In 1986, she was the head of jury at the Berlin International Film Festival, and in 1999 she ran for a seat in the European Union Parliament, stressing humanitarian issues, but she lost the election.

Now virtually retired, Gina Lollobrigida has not made a film appearance since XXL (Ariel Zeitoun, 1997) with Gérard Depardieu.

Gina Lollobrigida was married once, to Slovenian physician Milko Skofic, in 1949. Skofic gave up his practise to become her manager. They had one child, Milko Skofic, Jr., born in 1957, and the couple divorced in 1971. In 1993 her grandson Dimitri was born.

Lollobrigida has lived since 1949 at her home ranch and gardens in Sicily. The property contains her personal museum. In addition, she regularly stays at her house on Via Appia Antica in Rome and at a villa in Monte Carlo. Since 2009 Lollobrigida has not allowed visitors to her home. In 2013, Lollobrigida sold her jewelry collection through Sotheby's. She donated nearly $5 million to benefit stem cell therapy.

Next to her Golden Globe, Lollobrigida has won 6 David di Donatello, 2 Nastro d'Argento, and 6 Bambi Awards. In 1985 she was nominated as an Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang for her achievements in sculpture and in photography. In 1992 she was awarded the Légion d'Honneur by president François Mitterrand.

Gina Lollobrigida
German postcard by Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft, Berlin-Tempelhof (Ufa), no. CK-157. Retail price: 30 Pfg. Photo: Camerapress.

Gina Lollobrigida
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/135. Photo: Universal / Ufa.

Gina Lollobrigida, Rock Hudson
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/129. Photo: Terb Agency / Ufa. Publicity still for Come September (Robert Mulligan, 1961) with Rock Hudson.

Gina Lollobrigida and Andrea Balestri in Le avventure di Pinocchio (1972)
Italian postcard by Edizioni Panini, Modena (EPM). Photo: Sampaolofilm / Cinepat. Publicity still for Le avventure di Pinocchio/The Adventures of Pinocchio (Luigi Comencini, 1972) with Andrea Balestri. Caption: The Fairy and the boy Pinocchio.

Gina Lollobrigida
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/56. Photo: Farabola.

Sources: James Travers (Film de France), NNDB, Andrea LeVasseur (AllMovie), kd haisch (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.