Saturday, April 17, 2010

Anny Ondra

Born Anna Sophie Ondrakova in Tarnów, Galicia, Austria-Hungary, now Poland, on May 15, 1903, Anny was the daughter of an Austro-Hungarian officer, and spent her childhood in Prague. Early on she knew she wanted to be an actress. As a child and teenager she played on the major stages of Czechoslovakia, and was discovered at the age of 16 by the film world.

From 1920 through 1928, mostly under the direction of Carl Lamac (to whom she was married for a time), she made 40 films in Czechoslovakia and Germany, virtually all of them in leading roles. I have not been able to discern if any of those films exist, and would love any information from those in the German film community, but her two films made in Britain are available. What is so interesting about the two British films is that they were both directed by Alfred Hitchcock; The Manxman (1929), was Hitchcock's last silent film, and Blackmail (1929) was his first talking picture. Anny has the female lead in both. Blackmail was shot as a silent for theaters that weren't yet equipped for sound and voices were dubbed in to take advantage of the new talking picture craze (it will never last) for the theaters with sound capability. Anny's thick accent prevented her from doing the voice dubbing, which was handled by Joan Barry. While the talkies prevented her from moving on to American cinema, if that was ever a desire, Anny became a European superstar and one of the most beloved German film stars. All together she made more than 88 films.

She retired from film in 1957 and lived near Hamburg with her husband, boxing champion Max Schmeling, whom she married in 1933, and starred opposite him in 1935's Knockout. Anny was given the Honorary German Film Award in 1970. She was portrayed by Britt Ekland in the television movie Ring of Passion (1978), where the character was named "Amy Ondra Schmeling." She was also portrayed by Peta Wilson in another television movie, Joe and Max (2002), the true story of the Louis - Schmeling championship fight. Anny died in on Febuary 28 1987, and was buried in the Saint Andreas Friedhof cemetery in Hollenstedt, Germany. Her husband died in 2005 and is buried next to her.

Double click on the images for a larger view.

This is the only card I have showing her given last name.

Frame captures from The Manxman.
Before Hitch turned to crime...

Frame captures from Blackmail. This was Cyril Ritchard's 3rd dramatic role. Anny had already appeared in 40 films. These frames show his moves, and her response.

From Blackmail: note Anny on the right and Hitch on the left.

Here is Anny's sound test for Blackmail. Hitch is a bit frisky at the end.

Anny Ondra - What do you think - Allure?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Asides - Hollywood via Cincinnati and Anna Sten Addendum

In 1933 the Nielin Publishing Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, began publishing a serialized story named "Ransom, The Story of a Lost Child, Intimate Chapters of a Film Star's Life". Each 32 page, 6 x 8 inch issue advanced a story that runs the gamut of romance, sex, & drugs in the life of a film starlet and her kidnapped child. I have no idea how many were ultimately published, but I do know there were over 74 issues, filling more than 2000 pages!

When I found these I was immediately attracted because of its 30's film setting, pulp nature, general obscurity, and "racy" artwork. I was interested to see that the illustrations were signed. I tracked down information on Cincinnati artist Walter E. Groniger (1891-1941) and it became clear that this was a job to pay the bills while he traveled with his wife around the country in a specially designed trailer looking for landscapes to paint. He is known for his watercolors. Below are pages scanned from issues three, four, and five. Also shown is one of Groniger's paintings.

Double click on the images for a larger view.

Front cover of issue 5.
I don't know if Groniger did the cover, which was always
the same except for the issue number.

Typical back cover

Groniger painting from the late 1930's.


The previous post took a look at Anna Sten, but I was unable to show any images from her work in Russia. A few days ago I got a copy of The Girl with the Hatbox and did some screen captures to show you Anna pre-Hollywood and pre-Goldwyn.

I also posted a British hand tinted postcard, but forgot to include an interesting bit of information found on the back of the card. As was mentioned, Anna's lack of commercial success in leading roles caused Goldwyn to cancel her contract. However, it seems she was scheduled to star in Barbary Coast, a vehicle that eventually went to Miriam Hopkins. Note the text on the card back.