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December 21, 2006

Romy Schneider: Two Early Films


Madchen in Uniform
Geza Von Radvanyi - 1958
Galileo Medien AG Region 2 DVD

For reasons I can't even articulate to myself, I miss Romy Schneider. What I do know is that as overwhelmed as I was by the exhibits at the Berlin Film Musem, nothing touched me like the small section devoted to Schneider's career. I was mesmerized by excerpts from the "Sissi" series, when the teenaged Schneider became a major star in Germany. I knew I couldn't leave the Film Museum without buying the Romy Schneider box set which includes five of her films, two from the late Fifties, when Schneider was transitioning to more adult role, and two from the Seventies, as well as her final film. What is significantly missing from this set are any of the films made during the peak of her stardom in the early Sixties, when her vivacity and knowing intelligence were showcased by Orson Welles, Otto Preminger and Clive Donner. I know that what I miss most about Romy Schneider is her smile.

I have not seen the 1931 version of Madchen in Uniform. While the original film looks back at the German culture that preceded World War I, the second version clearly was made with the girls' school representing Germany fueled by misquided ideals. The lesbian signifiers may be obvious, Lilli Palmer's teacher wears relatively short hair and a tie, while student Schneider, portraying Romeo, is ever eager to kiss a variety of Juliets. More emphasized is the concept of the German molded by discipline and order, and the role of the German woman to be wife and mother of soldiers. Director Geza von Radvanyi directed what could be best described as "a well-made movie". Color is used for dramatic purposes - Palmer's purple hat is striking against the gray and black uniforms of the students and teachers. The film certainly alerted Europe, if not the world, that Romy Schneider, at age 20, was ready for more challenging films.


Ein Engel auf Erden
Geza Von Radvanyi - 1959
Galileo Medien AG Region 2 DVD

The screen credit for directing Ein Engel auf Erden goes to someone named Argyle Nissot. No one has explanation for this one-time psuedonym, even though Geza von Radvanyi is credited for presenting the film. Almost as strange is seeing the normally dark-haired Romy Schneider as a blonde. Schneider plays the part of an angel who is disguised as the stewardess who has been pining for race car driver Henri Vidal. Vidal, in turn, has been dumped at the altar by devilish Michele Mercier. In a case of life following art, Mercier actually married a race car driver. The silly story line and the use of color, especially the eye-popping reds, suggest the kind of trifles MGM produced in the Fifties that were directed by Charles Walters. Some of the visual and verbal gags would have been too risque for MGM at that time. One bit involves a manniquin of Schneider, stripped down to bra and panties. Because this is the German dubbed version of a French-German co-production, one isn't able to enjoy the voice of the young Jean-Paul Belmondo as Vidal's best friend. The word "frothy" comes to mind as an appropriate adjective. While the film may have lacked the artistic challenges that Schneider sought, it did enable her to transition from German stardom to a wider European base.

As if to anticipate some of Schneider's personal life, both films have characters who almost commit suicide in the name of thwarted love. Men are not reliable, while women are competitors, with only an older woman mentor to be trusted. If these two early films starring Romy Schneider are any indication, they hint at an actress who seemed to know that her best chance for artistic and personal survival were to follow her own path.

Posted by peter at December 21, 2006 05:10 AM


i have never seen, "ein engel auf erden." but i have seen: "madchen in uniform," through clips on youtube. romy is an extremely beautiful talent. she is one of my favorites. thanks for writing a bit about her.

my first movie of hers was welle's, "the trial." but i didn't realize it was her because i watched it for jeanne moreau. what i remember most about romy was how radiant her smile was and how innocently sensual she was.

but the movie that made me want to delve into her career was, "l'important c'est d'aimer.


take care.
be well.



Posted by: culture diva at April 10, 2007 09:03 PM