Sunday, May 15, 2016

Born Today May 15: Anny Ondra


Born Anny Sophie Ondrákóva in Tarnów, Galicia--then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now part of Poland; her father was Czech by ancestry and was an officer in the Austro-Hungarian military.  She grew up in Prague.  She got into stage acting as a teenager, and my the age of 16 she had made her first film Palimpsest, which is sadly a lost film.  There is a great deal of confusion over this lost drama.  For starters, many sources say that she was 17 instead 16 when she secretly agreed to star in this Czechoslovakian film.  Additionally, there is confusion as to who directed it, some sources cite her boyfriend at the time Karel (sometimes credited as Carl) Lamac, he is sometimes credited as an actor in the film; other sources cite Joe Jencík, but this is unlikely because it was Lamac that was the director by profession and Jencík was the actor.  In fact, this is the ONLY director credit for Jencík, which is suspicious. To make things more confusing, Lamac's name when applied to the film is often listed as Karell Lamatch.  Whatever the truth, when Anny's father found about her appearance in the film, he gave her a beating.  As she was billed under her real name, her family was intensely embarrassed by it.  As a military man, her father was outraged that his daughter would stoop to the profession of acting, which in that part of the world after World War I, acting was seen are barely above begging--almost on par with prostitution.  This in no way discouraged her!  Though her father had secured other plans for her after her graduation from convent school (he had managed to save her a position in the government), she instead left home and moved in with Lamac.  She promptly appeared in another film the following year, Dáma a malou nozkou, again under her birth name.  In fact, throughout most of the 1920's, the bulk of her silent career, she went by this name.  Her career at this point was off and running in what was then Czechoslovakia, (she, for example, made 4 films in 1920 alone).  The first film that can be confirmed that she is credited with her last name shortened came in the Czech language film, Chorus Girls in 1928.  Her first English language film also came in 1928 with Eileen of the Trees in the UK; it was also her first sound film, with the whole film in early mono.  She pretty much stayed in the UK from this point on for the rest of silent career.  In 1929 she was in her first Alfred Hitchcock film, The Manxman--it was his last silent film.  That same year, she starred in Hitchcock's first sound film Blackmail. The last silent film that she made was with her director beau, turned lifelong friend, in 1930 in Germany:  The Virgin of Paris.  She would go to marry a famous German boxer and lived the rest of her life in Germany (after WWII West Germany).  During the war, however, the German Fascists tried to exploit the couple to their ends, with the overtures always rebuffed by the couple.  In fact, they helped hide two Jewish children, saving their lives--a capital offense under the Nazi regime.  Unfortunately because of these public overtures to the couple during the war, after the war they were wrongly accused by the post war government of Nazi collaboration and fined to the point of poverty.  They managed to start their own business on family land, she had effectively retired from during the war, so she was committed to the family business from then on.  After the war, she made one more film in 1951 in One Must Be Handsome, then she retired for good.  She died on 28 February 1987 at the age of 84 from a stroke.  She is buried in the Saint Andreas Friedhof Cemetery in Hollenstedt, Germany.  

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