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13 December 2017

Suzanna Leigh (1945-2017)

On 11 December 2017, blonde British actress Suzanna Leigh (1945-2017) passed away. She was known for her film and television roles in the 1960s and 1970s, including Hammer horror films and a Hawaii musical with Elvis Presley.

Suzanna Leigh (1945-2017)
Spanish postcard by Postal Oscar Color S.A., Hospitalet (Barcelona), no. 592.

Costumed as Madame Du Barry


Suzanna Leigh was born Sandra Eileen Anne Smith in 1945 in Belgrave (some sources say Berkshire), England. Her father was an auto engine manufacturer and professional gambler. Her mother’s a millionaire property developer. Her father died when she was six.

Leigh grew up in Berkshire (some sources say Belgravia, London), and later went to convent schools outside London. She began working in films while still a child, appearing as an extra in British productions. These included the romantic comedy The Silken Affair (Roy Kellino, 1956) starring David Niven and Geneviève Page, and the fantasy-musical Tom Thumb (George Pal, 1958). 7

She changed her name to Suzanna Leigh after entering film, after actress Vivien Leigh. A few years later, she was the star of the 13-episode French TV series, Trois étoiles en Touraine (Maurice Régamey, 1966), which every week featured Leigh, her racing car and a different male lead.

Planning to attend London's Opera Ball, costumed as Madame Du Barry, Leigh had a sedan chair made, along with costumes for five footmen who carried it (and her) through the streets of the city. American producer Hal B. Wallis saw newspaper photos of Leigh's elaborate stunt and imported the 20-year-old blonde to Hollywood.

Leigh's American film roles included a stewardess in the American bedroom farce Boeing Boeing (John Rich, 1965) starring Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis, and the love interest of Elvis Presley in Paradise, Hawaiian Style (Michael D. Moore, 1966). In 1966 her US career hit a snag when the Hollywood and English acting guilds got into a tangle, and she returned to England.

Elvis Presley, Suzanna Leigh
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin. Photo: publicity still for Paradise, Hawaiian Style (Michael D. Moore, 1966) with Elvis Presley and Suzanna Leigh. Collection: Veronique3.

Richard Johnson (1927-2015)
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin. Photo: publicity still for Deadlier than the male (Ralph Thomas, 1967) with Richard Johnson and Suzanna Leigh.

The Kate Winslet of her Day


Back in England, Suzanna Leigh became the frail heroine in a couple of Hammer films such as The Lost Continent (Michael Carreras, 1968) with Eric Porter and Hildegard Knef, and Lust for a Vampire (Jimmy Sangster, 1971).

She also starred in the cult horror films The Deadly Bees (Freddie Francis, 1966) and The Fiend (Robert Hartford-Davis, 1972) with Ann Todd. In 1974 she starred as Amber in the musical comedy Son of Dracula (Freddie Francis, 1974) starring Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr.

Hester Lacey called Leigh in The Independent "the Kate Winslet of her day: a beautiful, feted young British actress who made it big in Hollywood. She lived a champagne lifestyle, mixed with the beautiful people and drove a Rolls Royce. She was presented to the Queen at a Royal Command Performance."

She met Tim Hue-Williams, to be the father of her daughter, Natalia, at Ascot in 1972. This led to a 10-year relationship which ended when Hue-Williams deserted her for a rich heiress, his best friend's fiancee, when Leigh was four months pregnant.

Her heydays were over and after a long and painful divorce, she retired to a small rented flat in a London suburb, with her daughter Natalia and her sheltie dog Sukie. She worked as an interior designer, gave etiquette lessons and sold the Encyclopedia Britannica at Heathrow Airport.

In 2000, she published the autobiography, Paradise, Suzanna Style. In 2015, she was a featured player in the American film, Grace of the Father (De Miller, 2015).

In September 2016, Suzanna Leigh was diagnosed with ‘stage-four’ liver cancer and she died on 11 December 2017.


Trailer Boeing Boeing (1965). Source: Classic Airliners & Vintage Pop Culture (YouTube).


Trailer Lust for a Vampire (1971). Source: kaijindaigo (YouTube).

Sources: Hester Lacey (The Independent), Tom Weaver (IMDb), Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen, Wikipedia and IMDb.

12 December 2017

Hermann Brix

Hermann Brix (1912-1982) was an Austrian actor and theatre and radio play author. Between 1939 and 1944 he starred in many Terra films. He should not be confused with the American actor Herman Brix (a.k.a. Bruce Bennett).

Hermann Brix
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2995/1, 1939-1940. Photo: Baumann / Terra.

Hermann Brix
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3230/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick / Terra Film.

Unknown Mother


Hermann Brix was born in Innsbruck, Austria (then Austria-Hungary) in 1912. He studied German and medicine first, took acting lessons after that, and in 1936 he debuted on stage in Prague. Later he got an engagement at the Münchner Kammerspiele in Munich.

Brix became well-known as a film actor in German cinema during the war years, mostly at Terra-Filmkunst. He probably started his film career in the Terra-production Opernball/Opera Ball (Géza von Bolváry, 1939) with Paul Hörbiger.

This first film appearance was soon followed by Maria Ilona (Géza von Bolváry, 1939) in which he played Emperor Franz Joseph opposite Paula Wessely. After the premiere of tis film in Vienna, he signed a contract with Terra Film in Berlin.

For Terra, Brix appeared in such films as Die guten Sieben/The Lucky Seven (Wolfgang Liebeneier, 1940) starring Johannes Riemann, and Alarm auf Station III/Alarm on station III (Philipp Lothar Mayring, 1939) starring Gustav Fröhlich.

Slowly, his parts became bigger as in Falschmünzer/Forger (Hermann Pfeiffer, 1940), Der Herr im Haus/The Landlord (Heinz Helbig, 1940) starring Hans Moser, Sein Sohn/His Son (Peter Paul Breuer, 1941), and Dreimal Hochzeit/Three times wedding (Géza von Bolváry, 1941) with Marte Harell and Willy Fritsch.

Brix had his first lead in Die Kelnerin Anna/The Waitress Anna (Peter Paul Breuer, 1941) as a young music student in Salzburg, who doesn’t know that the local waitress (Franziska Kinz) who takes so much care of him is his mother.

Hermann Brix
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no A 3331/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick / Terra.

Hermann Brix
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3591/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / Terra.

Titanic


Hermann Brix played a band leader in the disaster drama Titanic (Herbert Selpin, 1943), and a police commissioner in the spy story Die goldene Spinne/The Golden Spider (Erich Engels, 1943).

He appeared as Eva Maria Meineke’s lover in the comedy Moselfahrt mit Monika/A Trip on the Mosel with Monika (Roger von Norman, 1944). The film was completed in 1944, but submitted to Filmprüfstelle in October 1944, and it was eventually released in 1952.

His last wartime performance was in the romantic comedy Der Meisterdetektiv/The master detective (Hubert Marischka, 1944) with Georg Alexander.

After the war Brix worked only twice as a film actor. In 1947 he appeared in the French-Austrian comedy Les amours de Blanche Neige/The Loves of Snowwhite (Edi Wieser, 1947). Three years later he played the lead in the comedy Die Erbschaft aus Amerika/Luck from Ohio (Heinz Paul, 1950).

Rudi Polt at IMDb suggests that Brix  was more interested in stage theatre and radio. He returned to his birth town Innsbrück where he wrote stage and radio plays.

From 1966 on he taught drama at the Universität Innsbruck and was manager of the Studiobühne. Among his pupils were Dietmar Schönherr, Axel Corti, and Volkmar Parschalk. He also directed several plays at the Tiroler Landestheater.

Hermann Brix died in Innsbruck in 1982. He was 70.

Hermann Brix
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2693/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick/Terra. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Hermann Brix
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3331/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick/Terra. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Hermann Brix
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 2564/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann/Terra. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Sources: Rudi Polt (IMDb), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

11 December 2017

Alla Larionova

Beautiful Russian stage and film actress Alla Larionova (1931-2000) was one of the most popular stars of the Soviet cinema of the 1950s. She was known for such films as the Fairy-tale Sadko (1952), Anna na shee (1954) and Trizhdy voskresshiy (1960).

Alla Larionova
Russian postcard, no. A 09462, 1965. Photo: G. Ter-Ovanesova.

A Forbidden Beautiful World


Alla Dmitrievna Larionova was born in Moscow, USSR (now Russia) in 1931. Her father was an employee of a food store, and her mother worked as a keeper in a kindergarten. Her parents named her after the film star Alla Tarasova, and thus programmed their little daughter for the future.

After her father went to the front, Alla and her mother evacuated to Menzelinsk, where her mother worked in a hospital. Here, 9-year-old Alla Larionova appeared for the first time on stage. She read poetry to the wounded in the hospital.

When she was barely 15 years old, the young and charming Alla was discovered for the cinema. An unfamiliar woman approached her on the street, and asked if the girl wanted to act in films. Of course, Larionova wanted and appeared in a small part in the biographical drama Michurin (Aleksandr Dovzhenko, 1949), featuring Grigori Belov.

After graduation, Alla went to study as an actress at the Lunacharsky State Institute for Theatre Arts (GITIS) in Moscow. In 1948, she continued her studies at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK), where she met her future husband Nikolai Rybnikov. At the GITIS, she failed miserably at her exams. Before her examiners, she saw the famous director Vasily Mikhailovich Goncharov and got a black-out.

However, during her study years, she got a star-making role, which determined her entire career in the cinema. She played Lyubava in Sadko (Aleksandr Ptushko, 1952) with Sergei Stolyarov. The Fairy-tale film was so successful that the following year the film was invited to Venice Film Festival, where it won the Silver Lion.

This success meant an international breakthrough for the Soviet cinema. In Venice, the beautiful Larionova was followed by crowds of journalists and admirers ran. Well-known producers and directors, including Charles Chaplin, offered her roles that she flatly refused. As the Russian website 24smi writes: “official representatives, officials who accompanied a group of artists abroad, were strictly forbidden to go to contacts with ‘bourgeois’ directors.” Larionova returned home from Italy in tears. She had been allowed to touch a beautiful world, to see it, but was forbidden to live in it.

Back home, she was offered the leading role in Anna na shee/The Anna Cross (Isidor Annensky, 1954), based on a short story by Anton Chekhov. The film turned Larionova into a big star of the Soviet cinema. Hundreds of people, often in bad weather, stood in queues in front of cinemas to see the film. After the actress starred as the beautiful Olivia in Dvenadtsataya noch/Twelfth Night (A. Abramov, Yan Frid, 1955), fans followed her to the studio and her apartment, looked in windows and waited for her exit. Even the minister of culture came to see the actress.

Alla Larionova
Russian postcard, no. AB13758, 1958. Photo: V. Kačna.

Alla Larionova
Russian multiview postcard, no. 1446, 1963. Included are scene photos from Sadko (1952), Vikhri vrazhdebnye/Hostile Whirlwinds (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1953), Anna na shee (1954), and Dvenadtsataya noch/Twelfth Night (A. Abramov, Yan Frid, 1955).

Hindered by the officials


Curiously, Alla Larionova was not offered any more leading roles and her career seemed to be hindered by officials. For example for the film Ilya Muromets/The Sword and the Dragon (Aleksandr Ptushko, 1956), Larionova was not allowed to travel to Yalta, where the shooting of the film took place.

Her few leading roles in the following years included Sudba barabanshchika/The Drummer's Fate (Viktor Eisymont, 1956), the romance Mlechnyy Put/Milky Way (Isaak Shmaruk, 1959) and Trizhdy voskresshiy/Thrice Resurrected (Leonid Gayday, 1960).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Alla Larionova never got leading roles. When the beautiful actress starred in a film it was in ‘ugly’ roles, such as in Dikiy myod/Wild Honey (Vladimir Chebotaryov, 1967), where her face was smeared with mud.

Larionova proved that she could play character roles very well. She played Natalia Dmitrievna Paskudin in the Anton Chekhov adaptation Tri sestry/The Three Sisters (Samson Samsonov, 1964), Donesova in Ko mne, Mukhtar!/Come Here, Mukhtar! (Semyon Tumanov, 1965), Elena Ivanovna in Fokusnik/The Magician (Pyotr Todorovskiy, 1967) and Ekaterina II in the family comedy Yest ideya!/There is an idea! (Vladimir Bychkov, 1977).

But the kind of roles that had made her famous, she was not offered anymore. When she turned 60, Alla Larionova was given the title People's Artist of the RSFSR in 1990, but no significant roles followed anymore. Russian Wikipedia suggests the reason was a scar in her face caused by an accident. Actor George Yumatov, in a state of intoxication, had decided to take Alla Larionova home and caused the accident at which she hit her head and cut her lip. After that, she ceased to appear in films, since the scar was too noticeable.

Larionova lived very quietly and modestly. She travelled around the country with the theatre group named after Eugene Vakhtangov. She was married to Nikolai Rybnikov from 1957 till his death in 1990. Shortly after their marriage was registered, she gave birth to her daughter Alena from actor Ivan Pereverzev. In 1961, their second daughter Arina was born. Alla Larionova died from a heart attack in 2000 in Moscow, Russia. She was buried next to her husband at the Troekurovsky cemetery. In 2004, their daughter Arina, addicted to alcohol, died.

Alla Larionova
Small Russian collectors card.

Alla Larionova
Russian postcard, no. A-06650. Photo: G. Vajlja.

Sources: 24 smi (Russian), Wikipedia (Russian) and IMDb.