22 November 2017

Katja Riemann

German actress and singer Katja Riemann (1963) was a major star of the German cinema of the 1990s, who appeared in such international successful films as Der bewegte Mann (1994) and Comedian Harmonists (1997). Riemann also often worked with the directors Katja von Garnier and Margaretha von Trotta.

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Mathias Bothor.

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Katja Photo: Mirjam Knickriem.

The biggest grossing homegrown film

Katja Hannchen Leni Riemann was born in 1963 in Weyhe-Kirchweyhe, Germany. She is the daughter of two teachers and she has a sister, Susanne, and a brother, Jochen.

Riemann grew up in Weyhe, near Bremen. After high school she went to study at the School of Theatre and Music in Hanover from 1984 to 1986 and the Otto Falckenberg Drama School in Munich from 1986 to 1987. She attended the Westphalian Landestheater in Castrop-Rauxel and came to the ensemble of the Münchner Kammerspiele before the end of her training.

She made her screen debut in the TV mini-series Sommer in Lesmona/Summer in Lesmona (Peter Beauvais, 1985-1986). For her role she won two awards. After this success, several TV roles followed, including the title role in the series Regina auf den Stufen (Bernd Fischerauer, 1992) with Mark Kuhn and Serge Avedikian.

She had her breakthrough in the cinema with Abgeschminkt!/Making Up! (Katja von Garnier, 1993) opposite Max Tidof. The film is a satire about women of the 1990s in search of the men of their dreams.

The following year, she appeared as the girlfriend of Til Schweiger in the hilarious romantic comedy Der bewegte Mann/ Maybe, maybe not (Sönke Wortmann, 1994), also with Joachim Król. The comedy was based on the gay comics by Ralf König. At the time of its release, this was the biggest grossing homegrown film at the German box office. Other comedies followed like Nur über meine Leiche/Over My Dead Body (Rainer Matsutani, 1995).

Riemann reunited with director Katja von Garnier for the road movie Bandits (Katja von Garnier, 1997) with Jutta Hoffmann. The story is about members of a female rock band who escape from prison. Riemann even learned to play the drums for her role. Both the film and soundtrack album were commercially successful in Germany, and Riemann won the Deutscher Filmpreis (German Film Award) for her role.

With director Rainer Kaufmann, she made the films Stadtgespräch/Talk of the Town (Rainer Kaufmann, 1995) with Martina Gedeck and Kai Wiesinger, and the comedy Die Apothekerin/The Pharmacist (Rainer Haufmann, 1997) with Jürgen Vogel and August Zirner. An international success was Comedian Harmonists (Joseph Vilsmaier, 1997) about the legendary close harmony sextet, played by a.o. Ben Becker, Kai Wiesinger and Max Tidof.

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Stefan May.

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Stefan May, München.

I Am the Other Woman

Beside her acting career, Katja Riemann started singing and released her first album Nachtblende in 2000. In 2003, the English-language jazz album Favourites followed with the Katja Riemann octet.

In the cinema she appeared in the pan-European production Novel (Fabio Carpi, 2001) starring Hector Alterio. She starred with Maria Schrader in the film Rosenstraße (Margarethe von Trotta, 2003) about the Rosenstrasse protest where women waited for seven days and nights outside of a Nazi jail for their Jewish husbands. The protests took place in Berlin during the winter of 1943. In Italy, the film won a David at the David di Donatello Awards.

With Von Trotta, she also worked on the psychodrama Ich bin die Andere/I Am the Other Woman (Margarethe von Trotta, 2006) with Armin Mueller-Stahl and Karin Dor. She played with Moritz Bleibtreu in the drama Agnes und seine Brüder/Agnes & His Brothers (Oskar Roehler, 2004).

With Von Garnier, she made an international production Blood and Chocolate (Katja von Garnier, 2007) with Hugh Dancy and Olivier Martinez, but it was a flop. More interesting was the Swiss-German rural drama Der Verdingbub/The Foster Boy (Markus Imboden, 2011). “she gives a stunning performance as a cold-hearted farmer, who holds an orphan boy like a slave on her yard.”

A huge box office success was the comedy Fack ju Göhte/Suck Me Shakespeer (Bora Dagtekin, 2013) starring Elyas M'Barek. Riemann played a strict school principal and received for her performance a Best Supporting Actress Nomination at the 2014 German Film Award.

In the drama Die abhandene Welt/The Misplaced World (Margaretha von Trotta, 2015) she co-starred with Barbara Sukowa and Mathias Habich. She also had a small part in the Hitler-in the-21st-century comedy Er ist wieder da/Look Who's Back (David Wnendt, 2015).

At the moment of writing, several films with her are in production, including Fack ju Göhte 3/Suck Me Shakespeer 3 (Bora Dagtekin, 2017), the comedy Forget About Nick (Margaretha von Trotta, 2017) and Subs (Oskar Roehler, 2018).

Katja Riemann is the mother of actress Paula Riemann (also Paula Romy), whose father is Peter Sattmann. Riemann met Sattmann, on the set of Von Gewalt keine Rede (1991), and they had a relationship from 1990 to 1998. Since 2007, she has been the longtime companion of sculptor Raphael Alexander Beil.

Riemann won the Bavarian Film Award three times. Twice as Best Actress in 1993 and 1995, and once for the Best Film Score in 1997. She wrote two successful children`s books, Der Name der Sonne (The name of the sun) and Der Chor der Engel (The choir of the angels), together with her sister Susanne (2002).

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Jim Rakete / Photo Selection.

German trailer Abgeschminkt!/Making Up! (1993). Source: alleskino (YouTube).

International trailer for Der bewegte Mann/ Maybe, maybe not (1994). Source: Video Detective (YouTube).

Sources:, Wikipedia (English and German), and IMDb.

21 November 2017

Annie Vernay

Pretty little Annie Vernay (1921-1941) catapulted into stardom at an early age, but the career of the Swiss-French actress was cut short. She died only 19 years old.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 25. Photo: Teddy Piaz.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Viny, no. 40. Photo: Star. With an autograph by Vernay at the flipside, dated 11 May 1940.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Erpé, no. 568. Photo: Star.

Annie Vernay
French postcard, no. 720. Photo: Harcourt.

Pushing Mother

Annie Vernay was born Annie-Martine-Jacqueline Vermeersch in Genève-Plainpalais, Switzerland, in 1921. Her father, Gaston Vermeersch, was a rich industrialist.

As her mother Germaine Vermeersch couldn't realise an artistic career because of her marriage de raison, she pushed her daughter into an artistic career after her husband died and she inherited his fortune. She applied her daughter for Jugement d’Hélène, a beauty contest in Paris, when the girl was 16 years old.

During holidays at Juan les Pins a friend of film director Victor Tourjansky spotted her and recommended her to him. Tourjansky engaged her for the role of Lisl in his film Le mensonge de Nina Petrovna/The Lie of Nina Petrovna (Victor Tourjansky, 1937), which starred Italian star Isa Miranda and Fernand Gravey. The film had been shot earlier in Germany as Die wunderbare Lüge der Nina Petrowna (Hanns Schwarz, 1929) with Brigitte Helm.

Vernay did so well that she was cast as the leading actress in the Italo-French multilingual La principessa Tarakanova/Betrayal (1938), shot at Cinecittà in Rome and directed by Russian director Fyodor Otsep and the Italian Mario Soldati.

Vernay played a princess who claims the Russian throne. Empress Catherine II (Suzy Prim) sends her lover and best soldier Orloff (Pierre-Richard Willm) to capture the impostor, but he falls for her beauty and innocence. The film had lavish sets of Venice and St. Petersburg and was one of the first Italian films shot in deep focus. It was a box office hit in 1938.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1139. Photo: Harcourt.

Annie Vernay
German postcard by Ross. Photo: Nero-Film.

Annie Vernay
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1938, XVI. Photo: Pesce.

Annie Vernay
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano. Photo: Pesce.

Rick's Café

Annie Vernay’s mother, who had become her agent and coach as well, knew she had gold in her hands. Annie herself, more sober, continued her studies in between shootings. The result was that the famous producer Seymour Nebenzahl of Nero Film engaged Vernay for several films.

The first was Max Ophüls’ adaptation of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers: Le roman de Werther/Sorrow of Werther (Max Ophüls, 1938). It featured Pierre-Richard Willm as Werther and Vernay as Charlotte/Lotte, the girl for whom Werther commits suicide. The film confirmed Vernay’s status as a new French film star, competing with young stars like Danielle Darrieux.

When World War II broke out in the summer of 1939, French film production hesitated but still continued, enabling Vernay to play in more films: the World War One drama Les otages/The Mayor's Dilemma (Raymond Bernard, 1939) with Pierre Larquey, Dédé la musique/Dédé of Montmartre (André Berthomieu, 1939) with Albert Préjean, Chantons quand même/Let us sing all the same (Pierre Caro, 1940), and the crime film Le collier de chanvre/Hangman's Noose (Léon Mathot, 1940) with Jacqueline Delubac.

Because of the pending German invasion of France, Annie Vernay intended to return to Switzerland, but at that moment she received an offer from Hollywood to play the role of a foreign woman in a movie called Rick's Café. Annie’s mother convinced her to accept the offer, so they travelled to the US via Argentine, on one of the last freighters to leave France.

Aboard the ship, though, Annie fell ill of typhoid and died in a hospital after her arrival in Buenos Aires, in August 1941. Annie Vernay was only 19 years old. Germaine Vermeersch never got over the loss of her daughter.

Other candidates for the same role in Rick's Café had been Hedy Lamarr and Michèle Morgan but eventually it would give Ingrid Bergman everlasting fame. The film in which Annie Vernay was supposed to play the female lead was later filmed as Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942).

Annie Vernay
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1139 Photo: Harcourt.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by O.P., Paris, no. 122. Photo: Le Studio.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by P.I., Paris. Photo: Teddy Piaz.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Collection Chantal, Paris. Photo: Nero Film.

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Cine Vedette (French), Caroline Hanotte & Philippe Pelletier (CinéArtistes), and IMDb.

20 November 2017

Roldano Lupi

Roldano Lupi (1909-1989) was an acclaimed Italian actor of cinema, television and theatre. Despite being the leading man of many successful films of the 1930s and 1940s, he was never considered a true star by the public.

Roldano Lupi
Italian postcard. Ed. Ballerini & Fratini, Firenze (B.F.F. Edit.), no. 1427. Photo: Vaselli / E.N.I.C.


Roldano Lupi was born in Milan in 1909, as son of Domenico and Maria Tardiani.

He earned a degree as accountant in Milan, and later dedicated himself to acting for sheer delight, becoming part of the cast of some local amateur stage companies.

His transition to professional acting took place relatively late in 1938, when he had the opportunity to enter the celebrated Kiki Palmer company. After this, his career underwent a strong acceleration. He first moved to the company of Guglielmo Giannini, and in 1942 to that of Ruggero Ruggeri and Dina Galli.

In the meantime, Lupi started his career in the cinema. In 1941 he made his film debut in the romance Sissignora/Yes, Madam, directed by Ferdinando Maria Poggioli – whose favourite actor he became. Here he played the role that made him famous, that of the selfish and cynical lover, of Evi Maltagliati in this case, who plays the employer of the protagonist Cristina (Maria Denis).

More success came to Lupi the following year, as the protagonist of the drama Gelosia/Jealousy (Ferdinando Maria Poggioli, 1942). Here he is a marquis who weds his love interest, a farmer girl (Luisa Ferida), to one of his tenants, with the promise the marriage may not be consumed. He shoots the tenant out of jealousy. He confesses his crime to a priest but refuses to denounce himself, hiding in a wedding with a noble lady. Too late, he repents his mistakes.

In 1943-1944, he worked on the film Circo equestre Za-bum/The Za-Bum Circus (Mario Mattoli, 1944). The film was shot clandestinely in Rome during the Italian Social Republic also known as the Republic of Salò (1943-1945), when the country was occupied by the Germans and all cinematic activity was transferred to Venice. Many actors and technicians decided to stay in Rome, some with work permits delivered by the Vatican State, and the not so lucky - like those involved in this film - working clandestinely.

Roldano Lupi
Italian postcard by ASER (A. Scaramaglia Edizioni Roma), no. 353. Photo: Civirani / Lux Film.

Seriousness and professionalism

From that time until the immediate post-war period, Roldano Lupi became one of the leading men of the Italian cinema. He characterised his interpretations with seriousness and professionalism. This earned him strong acclaim by the critics, who, however, sometimes criticised him for sometimes too fixed kinds of expressions.

During the war, Lupi acted in Nessuno orna indietro/Responsibility Comes Back (Alessandro Blasetti, 1943), Il cappello da prete/The priest's hat (Ferdinando Maria Poggioli, 1944) and La porta del cielo/The Gates of Heaven (Vittorio De Sica, 1944). The latter film is the story of a train full of sick and deformed pilgrims on their way to seek miracles at the shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, near the city of Ancona in eastern Italy. La porta del cielo was made during the German occupation of Rome, with support from the Vatican. This allowed Lupi and other actors, under pressure to go north and work in Venice for the film industry of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic, to remain in Rome.

Lupi was equipped with a face with a thick and frowning expression. So, despite being the leading man of many successful films, he was never considered a true star by the public who rather favoured actors like Massimo Girotti, Amedeo Nazzari, Fosco Giachetti, and Andrea Checchi, even if at times they played parts similar to his own.

Precisely the roles he was constrained to - the jealous and crazy lover, the perverted and unwilling nobleman ready for money, the disturbed assassin - became in some respects Lupi’s professional strength. The expression to the limits of the madness that he was able to infuse his characters, and the cloudy air around him signed him deeply, but in other respects these features also limited his career and popularity.

In the postwar period, he was remarkable in the crime film Il testimone/The Testimony (Pietro Germi, 1945) with Marina Berti, L'adultera/The Adulteress (Duilio Coletti, 1946) with Clara Calamai, Il delitto di Giovanni Episcopo/Flesh Will Surrender (Alberto Lattuada 1947), and Altura/Height (Mario Sequi 1949), alongside Mario Girotti and Eleonora Rossi Drago.

In 1950, he appeared in L'edera/Devotion (Augusto Genina 1950) opposite Columba Dominguez, who plays a girl, adopted by a declining aristocratic family. This Italian rural drama was shot in Barbagia, Sardinia. Vitaliano Brancati contributed to the script, based on a novel by Grazia Deledda. The film quite closely follows the novel, which takes place on the province of Nuoro, but offers a less drastic finale. Progressively, in the second half of the 1950s, Lupi was increasingly employed in character roles.

In 1944, he had returned to the theatre. First he worked with the Magnani Ninchi company, then in 1947, with only Carlo Ninchi. He later became the protagonist of the great Medea summer show in 1949. In 1951, with the company of Guido Salvini, he continued his activity on the stage, starting also as radio and voice actor. He dubbed Walter Pidgeon in the cult film Forbidden Planet (Fred Wilcox, 1956), but also Leo Genn, George Montgomery and the famous western film actor Roy Rogers.

Columba Dominguez in L'edera (1950)
Italian postcard by Ed. Mondadori. Photo: Cines / E.N.I.C. / AGAR. Columba Dominguez and Roldano Lupi in L'edera/Devotion (Augusto Genina, 1950).


Even in the 1960s, Roldano Lupi continued to work in the cinema in many genres, even as a leading man in a Peplum. He worked with such directors as Riccardo Freda, Domenico Paolella, Primo Zeglio, Umberto Scarpelli and other specialists.

Yet, he also took the pleasure of shooting films with French filmmakers like Claude Autant-Lara, Christian-Jaque, Bernard Borderie and Henri Decoin. He was Captain De Treville in I cavalieri della regina (1954), co-directed by Mauro Bolognini and Joseph Lerner and based on Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers.

In 1952, he also had the opportunity to be a partner of Hollywood star Errol Flynn in Il maestro di Don Giovanni/Crossed Swords (Milton Krims, 1952). Lupi's last film part was in the Peplum film La vendetta dei gladiatori/Revenge of the Gladiators (Luigi Capuano, 1964)

With the emergence of television, Lupi's commitments gradually shifted from the big to the small screen, such as in Mont Oriol (Claudio Fino, 1958), L'isola del tesoro/Treasure Island (Anton Giulio Majano, 1959), Tom Jones (Eros Macchi, 1960), Una tragedia americana/An American Tragedy (Anton Giulio Majano, 1962), La sciarpa/The Scarf (Guglielmo Morandi, 1963), I miserabili/Les Miserables (Sandro Bolchi, 1964), and David Copperfield (Anton Giulio Majano, 1965).

In the same year he took part in Questa sera parla Mark Twain/This evening speaks Mark Twain (Daniele D'Anza, 1965), starring Paolo Stoppa. He was also in other TV dramas including Le mie prigioni/My prisons (Sandro Bolchi, 1968) and Eleonora (Silverio Blasi, 1973). His intense stage and TV career lasted until 1979 when he appeared for the last time in an episode of the TV series Racconti di fantascienza/Science fiction stories by Alessandro Blasetti.

Roldano Lupi was married to the Venetian stage actress Pina Bertoncello. He died in Rome in 1989, and lies buried in the Cimitero Flaminio in Rome.

Columba Dominguez in L'edera (1950)
Italian postcard by Ed. Mondadori. Photo: Cines / E.N.I.C. / AGAR. Columba Dominguez and Roldano Lupi in L'edera/Devotion (Augusto Genina, 1950).

Columba Dominguez in L'edera (1950)
Italian postcard by Ed. Mondadori. Photo: Cines / E.N.I.C. / AGAR. Columba Dominguez in L'edera/Devotion (Augusto Genina, 1950).

Sources: Wikipedia (Italian and English) and IMDb.