19 February 2018

Fita Benkhoff

German actress Fita Benkhoff (1901-1967) appeared in more than 100 films between 1933 and 1967. The vivacious, blonde actress specialised in supporting parts, often as the best friend, aunt or mother of the leading actress. Together with Grethe Weiser, she was seen as the main female comic sidekick of the German film, the equivalent of a German Eve Arden.

Fita Benkhoff
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3306/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Tita Binz.

Fita Benkhoff
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3453/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Tita Binz.

An effervescent, perpetually wisecracking scene stealer


Frieda Elfriede ‘Fita’ Benkhoff was born in 1901 in Dortmund, Germany. She was the seventh of eight children by Christian Alex Gustav Benkhoff and his wife Maria Bernardine Marcus. Her parents managed the Walhalla, one of the biggest entertainment halls in Dortmund.

Fita worked as a dentist assistant and a telephone operator, but secretly she attended acting classes by Emil Bender. In 1924, she became a volunteer at the Stadtheater Dortmund and made her stage debut in Don Carlos. Several roles followed before she moved to theatres in Lübeck, Düsseldorf, Breslau and Wien.

She started her film career in 1933 with a part in Der streitbare Herr Kickel/The belligerent Mr. Kickel (Georg Jacoby, 1933) with Jacob Tiedtke. In 1934, she appeared in the popular film comedy Charleys Tante/Charley's Aunt (Robert A. Stemmle, 1934) starring Fritz Rasp and Paul Kemp. Other supporting parts she played in such comedies as Heinz im Mond/Heinz in the Moon (Robert A. Stemmle, 1934) starring Heinz Rühmann, and Krach um Jolanthe/Trouble with Jolanthe (Carl Froelich, 1934) featuring Marianne Hoppe.

A bigger role followed in the German musical Amphitryon (1935). Written and directed by Reinhold Schünzel, it is based on plays by Molière, Plautus, and Heinrich von Kleist, which in turn are based on Greek mythology. She established such a popular rapport with Paul Kemp in this comedy, that she was cast opposite him in further popular outings, including Boccaccio (Herbert Maisch, 1936), and, for once co-starring, in Der schüchterne Casanova/The Bashful Casanova (Karel Lamac, 1936).

In the comedy Lauter Lügen/All Lies (1938), she co-starred with Albert Matterstock, and Hertha Feiler. It was the directorial debut of Heinz Rühmann. At IMDb, I.S. Mowis writes: “Even though she rarely commanded a leading role, she was an effervescent, perpetually wisecracking scene stealer, who invariably had the last word, whether as friend of the heroine, gossipy aunt or nosy parker.” She played another of her few leading roles in the historical comedy Schneider Wibbel/Wibbel the Tailor (Viktor de Kowa, 1939) opposite Erich Ponto.

Fita Benkhoff
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3566/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann.

Fita Benkhoff
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3759/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Star-Foto-Atelier.

Fita Benkhoff
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3882/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Star-Foto-Atelier.

Completely retired from public life


Fita Benkhoff had another leading role next to Karl Schönböck in the comedy Ich hab’ von dir geträumt/I’ve dreamed of you (Wolfgang Staudte, 1944). Besides her film work, she played roles at the Volksbühne Berlin and at the Deutschen Theater. Here she portrayed Klara in Friedrich Hebbel’s Maria Magdalena which became her greatest stage success.

After the Second World War, she moved to Hamburg, where she performed at the Schauspielhaus. She also found new film roles. In 1949 she played Mother Wolff in the DEFA-production Der Biberpelz/The Beaver Coat (Erich Engel, 1949), an adaptation of Gerhart Hauptmann's play The Beaver Coat.

She soon returned to the comic genre and played a leading role in Drei Mädels vom Rhein/Three Girls from the Rhine (Georg Jacoby, 1955). Her other films include Pension Schöller (Georg Jacoby, 1952), Wenn abends die Heide träumt/When the Heath Dreams at Night (Paul Martin, 1952), Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins/On the Reeperbahn at Half Past Midnight (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1954) with Hans Albers, Raub der Sabinerinnen/The Abduction of the Sabine Women (Kurt Hoffmann, 1954) and Wenn der Vater mit dem Sohne/As the father with the son (Hans Quest, 1955) starring Heinz Rühmann.

Besides her film work, she continued to appear in the theatre, such as in Berlin at the Hebbel-Theater. After the death of her husband, the merchant Wilhelm Strom in 1957 she completely retired from public life. She lived in her house in München and started to paint. In 1967, she played a last role on stage in the black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace.

Fita Benkhoff died in Munich, West-Germany in 1967 at the age of 65.

Fita Benkhoff
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 148, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Star-Foto-Atelier.

Fita Benkhoff
Big German card by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. W 51, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Star-Foto-Atelier.

Fita Benkhoff in Von Liebe reden wir später (1953)
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, no. A 731. Photo: A. Grimm / Apollo / Deutsche London Film. Publicity still for Von Liebe reden wir später/We'll talk about love later (Karl Anton, 1953).

Sources: I.S. Mowis (IMDb), Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

18 February 2018

David Tomlinson

British actor David Tomlinson (1917-2000) was both a leading man, a character actor and a comedian. He is best remembered for his roles in the Walt Disney successes Mary Poppins (1964) as authority figure George Banks, The Love Bug (1968) as hapless antagonist Peter Thorndyke, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) as fraudulent magician Professor Emelius Browne.

David Tomlinson
British autograph card.

David Tomlinson
Dutch autograph card. Photo": Eagle Lion.

Murder-suicide


David Cecil MacAlister Tomlinson was born in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire in 1917, to Florence Elizabeth Tomlinson (née Sinclair-Thomsona) and Clarence Samuel Tomlinson. His well-respected London solicitor father had an uncertain temper, who once burned his baby son's hand with a domestic iron and who, for years, ran a second, secret household in London from Mondays to Fridays, returning to his wife and children in Folkstone at weekends.

David attended Tonbridge School and left to join the Grenadier Guards for 16 months. His father then secured him a job as a clerk at Shell Mex House.

His stage career grew from amateur stage productions to his film debut in Quiet Wedding (Anthony Asquith, 1941), as Margaret Lockwood's brother John, hopelessly in love with Peggy Ashcroft.

It was followed by roles in the comedy My Wife's Family (Walter C. Mycroft, 1941), and the British anti-Nazi thriller "Pimpernel" Smith (1941), produced and directed by its star Leslie Howard, which updates his role in the 1934 The Scarlet Pimpernel from Revolutionary France to pre-Second World War Europe. It was the third most popular film at the British box office in 1941.

Tomlinson’s career was interrupted when he entered Second World War service as a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF. During the war, he served as a flight instructor in Canada and made three films. His flying days continued after the war and later, in 1957, he crashed a Tiger Moth plane near his back garden after he lost consciousness while flying.

Tomlinson was first married to Mary Lindsay Hiddingh, daughter of L. Seton Lindsay, the vice president of the New York Life Insurance Company. She had been widowed in 1941 when her husband, Major A.G. Hiddingh, was killed in action, leaving her to care for their two young sons. Tomlinson married Mary in September 1943. On 2 December 1943, Hiddingh killed herself and her two sons in a murder-suicide by jumping from a hotel in New York City. She was 34 and her sons Michael 8 and John 6. She had been suffering from depression by the loss of her first husband. She was hoping to join David in England, but while in New York City soon learned she couldn't bring the kids which led to her murder-suicide.

Tomlinson's second wife was actress Audrey Freeman, whom he married in 1953, and the couple remained together for 47 years until his death. They had four sons: David Jr. (born 1954), William (1959), Henry (1963) and James (1956 ?).

David Tomlinson
Small German Collectors card by Greiling in the Filmstars der Welt Series, 2. Band, Serie E, no. 107. Photo: Rank.

David Tomlinson
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. W 682. Photo: J. Arthur Rank Organisation.

Disney Legend


After the war, David Tomlinson played supporting parts in British films like the war drama The Way to the Stars (Anthony Asquith, 1945), starring Michael Redgrave and John Mills, School for Secrets (Peter Ustinov, 1946) starring Ralph Richardson, and the drama Fame is the Spur (Roy Boulting, 1947) with Michael Redgrave and Rosamund John.

A hit was the comedy Miranda (Ken Annakin, 1948) about a beautiful and playful mermaid played by Glynis Johns. Another success was the war film The Wooden Horse (Jack Lee, 1950) in which he co-starred with Leo Genn and Anthony Steel.

Other popular films in which he co-starred were the comedy Three Men in a Boat (Ken Annakin, 1956) with Laurence Harvey, and Shirley Eaton, the comedy Up the Creek (Val Guest, 1958) with Peter Sellers and Wilfrid Hyde-White, and the adventure-comedy Tom Jones (Tony Richardson, 1963) starring Albert Finney.

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “Tomlinson liked nothing better than to undercut his dignified demeanor in flustered comedy roles, invariably sputtering such expletives as 'My word!', 'I say!', and 'What the deuce!'"

Tomlinson did this exceptionally well in his role as George Banks, head of the Banks family, in Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964), alongside the umbrella-borne Julie Andrews and the chimney-sweeping Dick Van Dyke. The Disney film was released to universal acclaim, receiving a total of thirteen Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture – an unsurpassed record for any other film released by Walt Disney Studios – and won five.

Mary Poppins brought Tomlinson continued work with Disney, asking him to appear in The Love Bug (Robert Stevenson, 1968) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Robert Stevenson, 1971), with Angela Lansbury.

Throughout the rest of Tomlinson's film career, he never steered far from comedies. On stage he had long-running successes in many plays including The Little Hut with Robert Morley and Roger Moore as his understudy. His final acting appearance was in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (Piers Haggard, Peter Sellers, Richard Quine, 1980), which was also the final film of Peter Sellers, who died shortly prior to its release.

Tomlinson retired from acting at age 63 to spend more time with his family. During the last few years of his life, he became notorious around his home village of Mursley for flying very low in his Tiger Moth. In 2000, David Tomlinson died peacefully in his sleep at King Edward VII's Hospital, Westminster, after suffering from a sudden stroke. He was 83 years old. He was interred at his estate grounds in Mursley, Buckinghamshire. In 2002, two years after his death, Tomlinson was posthumously inducted as a Disney Legend.


Trailer Mary Poppins (1964). Source: Film Trailers Channel (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Dennis Barker (The Guardian), Luke Cumiskey (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

17 February 2018

Eidelsan

Today a post on the German film star postcards, produced during the late 1920s as promotion for 'Die trustfreie Eidelsan'. Margarine label Eidelsan was produced by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt of the Gebr. Fauser G.m.b.H. in Holstein. Hermann Fauser was a son of an agricultural administrator in the sugar beet and the wine growing industry and an independent broker for the oilseed industry. In 1926 he became the active partner of the four years previously founded margarine plant Eidelstedt in Hamburg. Only a few years later, he joined the company's management and was involved in the production of innovative new products for the firm that still exists and is now known as Vitaquell. The postcards in this post are all of the first film star series for Eidelsan, which consists of 80 cards. Was there a second series?

Heinrich George
Heinrich George. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser G.m.b.H., Holstein, Serie 1, no. Bild 4. Photo: Marcus.

Lotte Lorring
Lotte Lorring. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser GmbH, Holstein. Serie 1, no. Bild 12. Photo: Marcus.

Albert Bassermann
Albert Bassermann. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser G.m.b.H., Holstein, Serie 1, no. Bild 13. Photo: Transocean.

Alfred Abel
Alfred Abel. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser G.m.b.H., Holstein, Serie 1, no. Bild 16. Photo: Marcus.

Oskar Sima
Oskar Sima. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser G.m.b.H., Holstein, Serie 1, no. Bild 34. Photo: Marcus.

Dorothea Wieck
Dorothea Wieck. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser GmbH, Holstein. Serie 1, no. Bild 35. Photo: Marcus.

Siegfried Arno
Siegfried Arno. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser G.m.b.H., Holstein, Serie 1, no. Bild 53. Photo: Marcus.

Ralph A. Roberts
Ralph Arthur Roberts. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser GmbH, Holstein. Serie 1, no. Bild 58. Photo: Marcus.

Mady Christians
Mady Christians. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser GmbH, Holstein. Serie 1, no. Bild 64. Photo: Marcus.

Hilde Wörner
Hilde Wörner. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser G.m.b.H., Holstein, Serie 1, no. Bild 67. Photo: Transocean.

Fritz Kortner
Fritz Kortner. German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser G.m.b.H., Holstein, Serie 1, no. Bild 68. Photo: Transocean.

Source: Vitaquell (German).

NB. 'La Collectionneuse', Marlène Pilaete, mailed (18 February 2018): "There was indeed a second Eidelsan series of 60 postcards, numbered from 81 to 140. They were blue-toned instead of being sepia-toned. I have several of them. Here is a link to the Eidelsan Ruth Hall postcard nr 130 in one my Encinémathèque galleries."