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Jacques Perrin

Jacques Perrin
Jacques Perrin

 

IMDB Entry:

He started out as romantic hero full of beauty and talent in Girl with a Suitcase (1961) beside Claudia Cardinale. Director Valerio Zurlini engaged the talented young actor for his Family Portrait (1962) as Marcello Mastroianni‘s brother. Jacques Perrin’s longtime work with Director ‘Constantin Costa-Gavras’ started with Compartiment tueurs (1965) and Un uomo a metà (1966) in which he had played the sensible heroes. For Costa-Gavras’ Z (1969) he played a main part and was the producer. Jacques Perrin has played often in famous romantic movies by Jacques Demy beside Catherine Deneuveand in social-critic-movies like Home Sweet Home (1973) beside Claude Jade, for which he was co-producer too with his Reggane Productions. One of his memorable later roles is the adult Salvatore as movie-director in Cinema Paradiso (1988). In Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) he plays the older Thomas.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Porri

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Giuletta Masina

Giuletta Masina
Giuletta Masina

 

“Independent” obituary by David Shipman from 1994:

Giulia Anna Masina, actress: born Giorgio di Piano, Italy 22 February 1920; married 1943 Federico Fellini (died 1993); died Rome 23 March 1994.

THE ADJECTIVE which has been over-used to describe Giulietta Masina is ‘Chaplinesque’, as she laughed through the tears which cascaded down her clown’s face. There had been no female star before quite like her, and she had the world at her feet when she appeared in La Strada (1955), prepared for her and directed by her husband, Federico Fellini.

There was a decided difference of opinion about the movie: it was either a calculated assault on our tear-ducts or it was a poetic essay on the lot of strolling players in rural Italy. There were moments when you caught your breath, when Fellini captured the beauty and tranquillity of small Italian towns at night, and there were moments when he reached too far back to the traditions of commedia dell’arte.

He sculpted another monument to the comic-tragic abilities of his wife in Le Notti di Cabiria (1957). These abilities were genuine. As the critic Paul Dehn wrote, after noting that she ‘deserves a single name as surely as Garbo or Chaplin’, ‘She is a miniature version of the hope which still persists in a bloody world: and the world itself would be lost if it did not love her.’

There seldom was a more optimistic hooker than the one played by Masina in Cabiria (as the film was best-known abroad), though the adjective in this case might be obtuse, for the viewer knows – if she doesn’t – that the nice, respectable man (Francois Perier) to whom she has loaned her nest-egg will abscond with it. The enormous success of both films typecast her. She played the role again in Eduardo de Filippo’s Fortunella (1958) and for Julien Duvivier in La Grande Vie (1959).

Masina lacked the demonic power of her contemporary (and co-star, in Nella Citta l’Inferno, 1958) Anna Magnani. On both sides of her brief reign of acclaim she was fated to play the role of the heroine’s friend or confidante – in for instance Alberto Lattuada’s brilliant study of conditions in post-war Italy, Senza Pieta (1948), helping her fellow whore Carla Del Poggio, and Roberto Rossellini’s Europa ’51 (1952), comforting her fellow socialite Ingrid Bergman. There was no chance here for the pyrotechnic displays of her later star vehicles, but she showed herself an artist of resource, integrity and dignity. Between La Strada and Cabiria Fellini gave her another chance to underplay, in one of his best and least pretentious films, Il Bidone (1955), an engaging comic melodrama about the retribution dealt out to con-men, including Broderick Crawford and Richard Basehart. Masina’s role, as Basehart’s wife, was not of long duration, but you could agree with the hyperbole evoked by the critic of Time and Tide – ‘She is one of those performers you can’t bear to tear your eyes from’ – though he was in this case reviewing Cabiria.

Cabiria brought Masina a Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, but the failure of a handful of co-productions with France and Germany spoiled her chances of an international career. She was one of the victims of the mass-murderer Landru (1963) in Claude Chabrol’s comedy-thriller, but with much less footage than some of the others, who included Michele Morgan and Danielle Darrieux. She was on screen for about the same time in her only English-language film, the disastrous The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969), but as one of Katharine Hepburn’s coven she was one of the few names of the starry cast (Danny Kaye, Charles Boyer, Richard Chamberlain) to emerge with credit.

When Fellini really attracted world attention with La Dolce Vita in 1960 Masina was busy enough being his wife and chatelaine – roles she played for him on screen in Giulietta degli Spiriti (1965), a follow-up to his autobiographical 8 1/2 , even more fantastical and self-indulgent. Her few later films only contain one role of consequence, when she starred opposite Fellini’s frequent alter ego Marcello Mastroianni in Ginger e Fred (1985), yet another of his obsessive studies of the hollow dreams and aspirations of those besotted with show business.

That was where they came in. His first film with her and his first as director was Luci del Varieta (1950), a tale of a tatty touring company which played to mixed results in the country’s shabbier halls. It was one suffused with melancholy, made with a wit and compassion many feel were missing from his later films. And Masina was touching and discreet. It was a far cry from the junketings of Giulietta degli Spiriti (1965).

The “Independent” obituary can also be accessed online here.

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Paul Henreid

Paul Henreid
Paul Henreid

“New York Times” obituary from 1992:

Paul Henreid, the suave leading man who won screen immortality as the noble, Nazi-battling Resistance leader Victor Lazlo in the 1942 film classic “Casablanca,” died on Sunday at Santa Monica Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 84 years old and lived in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

He died of pneumonia after a stroke, said Henry Alter, Mr. Henreid’s former secretary. The family did not want to announce the death until Mr. Henreid was buried yesterday in Santa Monica, Mr. Alter said yesterday.

The actor died only days before the first major theatrical re-release of “Casablanca” in more than 35 years, scheduled for April 10 as part of the film’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. Despite that movie’s classic status, however, Mr. Henreid may be best remembered for a scene in “Now Voyager” (1942) in which he lit two cigarettes at once as he comforted Bette Davis. Mr. Henreid later said that the director, Irving Rapper, didn’t like that bit of business and went along with it only reluctantly.

Mr. Henreid once estimated that he had acted in or directed more than 300 films and television dramas. In his heyday as a leading man, the 6-foot-3 actor seemed to represent the prototype of the Continental lover to American film audiences: aristocratic, elegant and gallant. A Charmed Childhood

Mr. Henreid was born on Jan. 10, 1908, in Trieste, then a part of Austria. His full name was Paul George Julius von Hernreid. He was the son of Baron Carl Alphons, a prominent Viennese banker, and Maria-Luise von Hernreid.

In his 1984 autobiography, “Ladies Man,” written with Julius Fast, he described what he called a charmed childhood among the aristocrats of pre-World War I Vienna. But by 1927, when Mr. Henreid graduated from the exclusive Maria Theresianische Academie, little of the family fortune remained.

He wanted to be an actor but, bowing to his family’s wishes, worked with a publishing house in Vienna for four years while studying acting at night. During an acting-school performance, he was discovered by Otto Preminger, then Max Reinhardt’s managing director, and became a leading player in Reinhardt’s theater. Like the fictional Victor Lazlo, Mr. Henreid was a staunch anti-Nazi during his years in Europe. A Series of German Roles

In 1937 he won wider recognition by playing Prince Albert in “Victoria Regina” on the London stage. Despite his personal sentiments, he was fated for a time to play a series of German roles. In one of his first films, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1939), he played a young German teacher; he was a Nazi officer in “Madman of Europe” (1940) and a Gestapo agent in Carol Reed’s “Night Train” (1940).

Mr. Henreid’s first big American success was in another such role, that of the bombastic German consul in the Guild Theater production of “Flight to the West.” The play opened in New York on Dec. 30, 1940, and helped get him his first Hollywood contract, with RKO Radio Pictures in 1941. Later that year, Mr. Henreid became a United States citizen, but he resisted the studio’s attempt to change his name to Herndon or Henrie.

He broke free of the Germanic stereotype in his first Hollywood film, “Joan of Paris” (1942), in which he played a heroic Free French R.A.F. pilot, and went on to glory as the underground leader in “Casablanca.” He then played an Irish patriot in “Devotion” (1943) and a Polish count in “In Our Time” (1944). A Survivor of the Blacklist

In his autobiography, Mr. Henreid said his Hollywood film career was all but destroyed by the anti-Communist blacklist. Mr. Henreid was one of a group of Hollywood stars who went to Washington to protest the excesses of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.In the 1950’s, Mr. Henreid found a second career as a director and producer. He directed more than 80 episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” for television; Hitchcock hired him in 1955 despite the blacklist.

Mr. Henreid also acted in numerous television films and toured nationally in the play “Don Juan in Hell” in 1972 and 1973.He is survived by his wife, Lisl, and two daughters, Mimi Duncan and Monica Henreid.

The above “New York Times” obituary can also be accessed online here.

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Jacques Charrier

Jacques Charrier
Jacques Charrier

 

Jacques Charrier (born 6 November 1936 in Metz) is a French actor. He was married to Brigitte Bardot from 1959 to 1962.

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Carlo Justini

Carlo Justini
Carlo Justini

 

Carlo Giustini was born on May 4, 1923 in Viterbo, Lazio, Italy. He is an actor, known forEl Cid (1961), The Savage Innocents (1960) and Barabbas (1961).

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Max Von Sydow

Max Von Sydow
Max Von Sydow

 

TCM Ovewrview:

After his training at Stockholm’s Royal Dramatic Theatre School, actor Max von Sydow became recognized as his native Sweden’s foremost film star, thanks to his long-running collaboration with acclaimed director Ingmar Bergman. Both von Sydow and Bergman triumphantly emerged onto the international film scene with “The Seventh Seal” (1957), an existential meditation on death that was long after considered to be one of the greatest foreign films ever made. The actor and director continued their collaboration for the next several years, churning out complicated and often surreal films like “The Magician” (1958) and “The Virgin Spring” (1960) that earned international accolades and awards. When von Sydow crossed the Atlantic to appear in Hollywood films, however, he was initially consigned to playing stern, unsympathetic characters. He finally had a breakthrough playing the titular role in “The Exorcist” (1973), playing the immortal Father Merrin in a film that forever cemented von Sydow into cinema history. Ever since then, he was able to branch out and explore a variety of compelling roles, which culminated in an Academy Award nomination for his performance in “Pelle the Conqueror” (1988), which only confirmed the notion of von Sydow being Sweden’s modern-day Laurence Olivier.

Born on April 10, 1929 in Lund, Sweden, von Sydow was raised by his father, Carl, a professor of Scandinavian and Irish folklore at the Royal University, and his mother, Greta, a school teacher. With no theatre in the area, von Sydow absorbed novels in his youth. But when he was 14, a modern theatre was built in nearby Malmo. The young lad was immediately taken by its magic, leading to him and his friends forming their own company where they performed all the classics. Though his parents wanted him to study law, von Sydow went ahead with acting when he attended the Royal Dramatic Theatre – or as it was known in Sweden, Dramaten – where he studied the craft from 1948-1951. After graduating, he began honing his skills in repertory theatre all around Sweden in a variety of roles. Along the way, he made the acquaintance of someone who would later propel him to stardom, director Ingmar Bergman, who was the chief director of the municipal theater in Malmo. Bergman directed von Sydow in numerous productions, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Faust.”

While von Sydow had already been in several features, including “Fröken Julie” (1950) and “Ingen Mans Kvinna” (1953), he attracted international attention in Bergman’s existential drama “The Seventh Seal” (1957), playing a 14th century knight who challenges Death (Bengt Ekerot) to a game of chess in exchange for his life, which leads to an examination of whether or not God exists. The cornerstone of Bergman’s repertory group of performers, von Sydow went on to make numerous films with the director. He had a small role in “Wild Strawberries” (1957), which he followed by playing the title character in “The Magician” (1958). Von Sydow was the mysterious Mr. Volger, a traveling magician whose supernatural performance attract the unwanted attentions of a town’s local authorities, leading to a surreal encounter that confronts the enigma of life and death itself. He continued working exclusively with Bergman, appearing in “Brink of Life” (1958) and starring in “The Virgin Spring” (1960), a drama in which he played a distraught father who avenges the murder of his daughter (Birgitta Pettersson) at the hands of three goatherds.

Following two more films with Bergman – “Through a Glass Darkly” (1961) and “Winter Light” (1963) – von Sydow made his debut in the United States playing Jesus in George Stevens’ “The Greatest Story Ever Told” (1965). Though it fared poorly at the box office, the film opened the door for von Sydow to perform in more American films. Seizing upon his long, somber face and imposing physicality, Hollywood initially typecast him in stern and unsympathetic roles, casting him as a knuckle-cracking Nazi in “The Quiller Memorandum” (1966), a stiff-necked minister in “Hawaii” (1966) and a Russian strongman in “The Kremlin Letter” (1970) – none of which set the box office aflame. Returning to working in his native Sweden, he forged another lasting association when he teamed up with director Jan Troell in “Here Is Your Life” (1966) and made his American television debut as Otto Frank in an adaptation of “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1967). He next rejoined his collaboration with Bergman for another memorable series of films, including “Hour of the Wolf” (1968), the director’s only gothic horror film in which von Sydow played a painter who is haunted by demons while spending a summer in seclusion with his pregnant wife (Liv Ullmann).

The trio of von Sydow, Ullmann and Bergman reunited for “Shame” (1968), a compelling drama about two musicians who escape to an island from their unnamed country which is embroiled in civil war, only to run into trouble when a plane of soldiers crashes on the island, leading to betrayal and misery. After “Made in Sweden” (1969), von Sydow joined forces with Ullmann and Bergman once again for “The Passion of Anna” (1970), playing a reclusive ex-convict who has a stormy affair with a woman grieving over the deaths of her husband and son. In “The Touch” (1971), he was a seemingly happy husband whose wife (Bibi Andersson) has a clandestine affair with a mysterious intruder (Elliott Gould), while next starring again opposite Ullmann in Jan Troell’s “The Emigrants” (1971), a historical drama that depicted a Swedish family emigrating to Minnesota in the 19th century in search of more fertile soil. The film’s sequel, “The New Land” (1972), picked up where its predecessor left off and focused on the family losing all they had gained in the New World.

Von Sydow finally earned his due in America when he used his imposing presence to his advantage in William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” (1973), playing the immortal Father Merrin, who is brought in by another priest (Jason Miller) to exorcise the Devil from a little girl (Linda Blair). Von Sydow delivered an iconic performance that transcended generations and lived on in cinematic history, thanks to his famous line “The power of Christ compels you” as he tried to drive the devil out of the child. With his newfound recognition, von Sydow began landing Hollywood roles with greater frequency, while remaining wedded to the films of his native land. He played Alsatian hit-man Joubert in Sydney Pollack’s “Three Days of the Condor” (1975), appeared in the preposterous sequel “Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977), even though his character was killed in the first installment, and playfully chewed the scenery as Ming the Merciless in “Flash Gordon” (1980), even though the film itself was long remembered for being campy to a fault. In “Victory” (1981), he was the commander of a German prisoner of war camp who puts together a team of Allied soldiers (Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Pelé) to play an exhibition game against the Nazis without realizing the prisoners are planning their escape.

Finding more work within the American studio system, von Sydow had numerous co-starring roles, including as King Osrik in “Conan the Barbarian” (1982) and as the arch-villain Blofeld in Sean Connery’s return to the James Bond franchise, “Never Say Never Again” (1983). That same year, he played an evil owner of Elsinore Brewery who plots to take over the world by controlling beer drinkers with a secret additive, only to run into problems courtesy of hosers Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas). After giving some heft to the otherwise flimsy psychological thriller “Dreamscape” (1984), von Sydow made a few appearances on the small screen, playing the Philistine governor in “Samson and Delilah” (ABC, 1984) and King John of Portugal in the two-part miniseries “Christopher Columbus” (CBS, 1985). Following a turn as the Apostle Peter in the Italian-made “Quo Vadis” (1985), he delivered a stellar supporting turn as Barbara Hershey’s artist-lover in Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986).

In a personal and creative triumph, von Sydow delivered one of his finest onscreen roles, playing a humble old Swedish widower struggling for survival alongside his son as immigrants to Denmark in Bille August’s “Pelle the Conqueror” (1988), the Oscar-winning Best Foreign Film that earned him the first Academy Award nomination of his long career. Stepping behind the camera for the first time, von Sydow made an unspectacular directing debut with “Katinka” (1988), adapted from Herman Bang’s novel Along the Road”. In a return to his beginnings on the stage, he delivered a performance as Prospero in a London production of “The Tempest” (1988). Back on the small screen, he appeared in several made-for-television movies, including “Red King, White Knight” (HBO, 1989) and “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes” (NBC, 1990), in which he played Father Siemes, who helps survivors after the 1945 nuclear bombing. In the turkey, “A Kiss Before Dying” (1991), he played a wealthy businessman whose daughter becomes the victim of murder at the hands of an ingratiating schemer (Matt Dillon).

Following a trip to the sci-fi realms of Wim Wenders’ cyberpunk noir “Until the End of the World” (1991), von Sydow renewed his association with Bergman, playing the heroine’s father in August’s “The Best Intentions” (1992), which he preceded by playing a priest who urges a farmer who kills his estate owner’s ox to feed his family for the winter in “The Ox” (1992), directed by Bergman’s long-time cinematographer Sven Nykvist. He next played a devilish antiques store owner in a big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s “Needful Things” (1993), after which he played Judge Fargo in the blockbuster Sylvester Stallone vehicle “Judge Dredd” (1995). On the small screen once again, he appeared in the based-on real-life serial killer drama “Citizen X” (HBO, 1995), followed by a turn as an aging priest and mentor to a woman (Pernilla August) who admits infidelity to her husband (Samuel Fröler) in “Private Confessions” (1996), written by Ingmar Bergman and directed by actress Liv Ullmann. He next played Norwegian hero and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Knut Hamsun who sided with the Nazis in “Hamsun” (1996).

After a supporting role in the Rutger Hauer thriller “Hostile Waters” (HBO, 1997), he was a wise guide who leads a distraught man (Robin Williams) across the River Styx after his death in the Technicolor fantasy “What Dreams May Come” (1998). He followed this role by playing the defense attorney for a Japanese-American man (Rick Yune) on trial for the murder of his close friend (Eric Thal) in “Snow Falling on Cedars,” which he followed by a portrayal of the biblical King David in the two-part miniseries “Solomon” (PAX TV, 2000). Maintaining a steady presence on the screen, von Sydow was a wizened old druid in the aptly named historical epic “Druids” (2001), a casino owner who loses everything in “Intacto” (2002) and the corrupt director of the futuristic pre-crime unit in Steven Spielberg’s compelling actioner, “Minority Report” (2002). Going back in time a couple thousand years, he co-starred as a pagan king in the German-made sword-and-sorcery epic “Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King” (2004).

Following the low-key “Autumn Hearts: A New Beginning” (2007), von Sydow was a French ambassador who becomes the victim of a car bombing in the action comedy sequel “Rush Hour 3” (2007). Von Sydow next played the father of a 16th century Puritan (James Purefoy) who travels the world vanquishing evil in “Solomon Kane” (2009), while joining the cast of “The Tudors” (Showtime, 2007-2010) for the third season, playing the fierce and moral Cardinal von Waldburg, who becomes a potent critic and adversary to King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). After supporting roles as a physician at an institution for the criminally insane in Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” (2010) and Sir Walter Loxley in Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” (2010), von Sydow starred opposite Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (2011). He played a man who accompanies a 10-year-old boy (Thomas Horn) on a quest to find a lock box in New York City after the boy’s father died on 9/11. Von Sydow’s wordless performance earned widespread critical praise, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The above TCM Overview can also be accessed online here.

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Claude Dauphin

Claude Dauphin & Ronald Lewis
Claude Dauphin & Ronald Lewis

 

IMDB Entry:

In 1930, Claude, who was a stage-struck set designer at the Oden Theater, a repertory house in Paris, learned an ailing actor’s part in two hours and took it over without a rehearsal. Tristan Bernard, the famous French playwright and producer took notice of this feat. He engaged Dauphin for the leading role of his next play “La fortune” was was also made into a film the next year. Dauphin’s next break came when Charles Boyer left for American movies. As Boyer left for America, Dauphin succeeded in the Henri Bernstein organization, outstanding stage producers of Paris. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Dauphin starred in several plays as well as sixty five French made pictures. Dauphin received his elementary education at Ecole Fenelon and high school at Lycee Condorcet. he also graduated from Lycee Louis de Grand in literature and philosophy, all of these school located in Paris. Between 1940 and 1945, he was a solider in the French and allied armies. he was a lieutenant in the French tank service and shuttered later in life at his memories of that kind of grisly warfare. After the fall of France, he organized his own stock company and toured non-occupied cities and small towns. he was also serving in the French underground movement. Threatened with exposure, he escaped by buying a small fishing boat in the south of France and sailing to Gibraltar. After reaching London in 1942, he first served with the British Secret Service and then joined the Free French forces of DeGaulle. Claude quickly learned English, of which he was devoid of, and became a liaison officer between the French LeClerc division and the press corps of the American Army of General Patton. Because of this association, he was one of the first to enter Paris on Liberation Day. Dauphin’s American film debut was in the movie “Deported” produced largely in Italy. He later appeared in many stage productions on Broadway including “No Exit” and “Happy Time”. He later had a screen test with Warner Bros. and then returned to France. Having almost forgotten about the test, he was summoned to Hollywood for “April in Paris” starring Doris Day and Ray Bolger.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Bill Hafker thehuntzie@yahoo.com

The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

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Rosanna Rory

Rosanna Rory
Rosanna Rory

 

Rossana Rory was born on September 7, 1927 in Rome, Lazio, Italy as Rossana Coppa. She is an actress, known for Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), L’Eclisse (1962) and Come September (1961).

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Odile Versois

Odile Versois
Odile Versois

IMDB entry:

Docile, delicately beautiful, light-haired Parisian actress Odile Versois was born Katiana de Poliakoff-Baidaroff on June 14, 1930, the second of four Poliakoff sisters, all of whom became renown actresses in their own right. From an artistic family (her father was opera singer Vladimir de Poliakoff), Versois began her career as a child ballerina with the Paris Opera Corps de Ballet. She subsequently turned to film acting at age 18 and proved a natural with a major debut in The Last Vacation (1948) [The Last Vacation]. Of the numerous films in which she undertook leading lady parts, she moved audiences most with her portrayals of fragile, often tragic heroines in romantic drama. Her more notable pictures include Paolo e Francesca (1950), Beautiful Love (1951) [Beautiful Love], the title role in Domenica (1952), Grand gala (1952) and director/actor Robert Hossein‘s Night Is Not for Sleep (1958) [Nude in a White Car], which also co-starred sister Marina Vlady — known for her sultry roles. Versois also provided lovely distraction in British films in the 1950s in_A Day to Remember (1953)_, David Knight in Chance Meeting (1954) [aka Chance Meeting], Alec Guinness in To Paris with Love (1955),Anthony Steel in Checkpoint (1956) and Room 43 (1958) starring Diana Dors and Herbert Lom.

She matured in taut crime dramas and lively costumers in the 1960s, notablyRendezvous (1961) and Swords of Blood (1962) the latter starring a swashbuckling Jean-Paul Belmondo. She also worked on the French, Belgian, Swiss and North African stages and on television, lending some touching performances toward the end, particularly in the films Églantine (1972) and Le Crabe-Tambour (1977). Dogged by ill health, she was seen less frequently into the 1970s and passed away of cancer a week after her 50th birthday, a gentle, beautiful soul gone before her time.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.ne

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Maria Casares

maria casares.
maria casares.

 

 

 

John Calder’s obitury on Ms Casares in “The Independent”:

Maria Casares was the most outstanding French tragic actress of her generation. She was born in Spain but, because of enforced exile at the end of the Spanish Civil War, her career was entirely on the French stage and screen.

Unlike her seniors Edwige Feuillere and Madeleine Renaud, she brought an atavistic and foreboding sense of tragic destiny to her performances that made her unsuitable for comedy and the lighter theatre. She carried on the tradition of Sarah Bernhardt in performing the great roles of Greek tragedy and of the French classical theatre, Phedre being one of her most outstanding performances, but she also played a multiplicity of parts in plays by Ibsen and early moderns and by contemporary playwrights including Brecht, Genet, Anouilh, Sartre, Camus, Claudel and Edward Bond among others. She introduced J.M. Synge to the French public with a legendary production of Deirdre of the Sorrows in 1942 under the German occupation and shortly afterwards made her screen debut as Dubureau’s wife Nathalie in Marcel Carne’s great film Les Enfants du Paradis (1943). She was 21 at the time.

Although she made many films and her electrifying presence, with its dark beauty, innate smouldering passion and controlled violence – and most unforgettably of all her expressive eyes – made her an instant star, ideally suited to the cinema, she was happier and more at home in the theatre. No one could portray evil, especially evil destiny, better than she – Medea and Lady Macbeth were only two of the parts that gave her such opportunities – but she is well remembered, and still can be seen, in Jean Cocteau’s classic films, Orphee (1949) and Le Testament d’Orphee (1959), where she played Death.

The timeless quality of her mythological roles was unique. She was an actress of great intelligence and her autobiography, Residente privilegiee (referring to the words on her French identity card), published in 1980, testifies to her intellectual breadth, political commitment and literary skill. Like Proust she was able to bring her past, especially her early Spanish experiences, into the present, through an association of objects, places, people and allusions, so that her book is a series of fragments linked by memory.

Her knowledge and sense of history helped her to understand the events and motivations that lay behind so many of the roles she played, and she became a real avatar of her characters on stage and screen. During the Spanish Civil War she had been, at the age of 14, a voluntary nurse in Madrid hospitals, working to exhaustion tending the wounded, aware of real tragedy hourly before her eyes, and of the particularly Spanish stoic courage and mordant humour displayed by the suffering and dying Republican defendants of the city. Her father, Santiago Casares Quiroga, was a member of the Republican government, and in 1936 he and the whole family just managed to flee to France before the border was closed.

The next six years were difficult for the family, staying in cheap hotels with little money, but Maria Casares learned French and on her 20th birthday, in the Theatre des Mathurins, she opened in Deirdre of the Sorrows, her first part, to immediate fame; and thereafter never looked back.

Her incredible eyes, that could express anger, scorn, hatred or the menace of eternity, but also love and incandescent passion, her noble bearing, which made her so suitable for the great female dramatic parts, and her deep expressive voice attracted all the major playwrights of the day, and she was in constant demand both for modern plays and by the great state-funded drama companies, the Comedie-Francaise and Jean Vilar’s Theatre National Populaire (TNP), to play the classics. She was with the former company from 1952 to 1954, and opened the first seasons of the Avignon Festival with Vilar, which introduced her to many Shakespeare parts.

She subsequently joined the TNP where she starred with Gerard Philipe in Le Cid and in many other plays, touring America and Europe as well as playing in Paris. She appeared many times with the Renaud-Barrault company in their seasons at the Odeon and during Jean-Louis Barrault’s later odyssies in improvised theatrical spaces, after de Gaulle removed the subsidy in 1968.

Maria Casares was a private person who liked to return to her house in the country to prepare her parts, think and read. She married another actor, “Dade” Schlesser, in 1978, with whom she had played together on the stage for many years, especially at the TNP, where he was only junior to Vilar; he was an Alsatian of gypsy origin. His sardonic sense of humour – during the war he was imprisoned for five days for saying to a German officer with a straight face that he had never heard of Adolf Hitler – and philosophical bent, exactly matched her own, and he became the companion of her later years. She was on the stage until only a few months before her death.

John Calder

Maria Casares, actress: born La Coruna, Spain 21 November 1922; married 1978 Dade Schlesser; died Paris 22 November 1996.