- Baur, Harry
- (1880-1943)Actor. Born Henri-Marie Baur in Paris, Harry Baur was the son of a watchmaker. Sent to Catholic school, Baur rebelled and ran away to Marseille, having been refused entry to the Paris Conservatoire d'art dramatique. In Marseille he studied acting and made his debut onstage shortly thereafter. He went on to become probably one of the greatest character actors of French cinema.Baur got his start in silent film at Pathé in 1909 under the direction of Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset in La Légende du bon chevalier. He went on in silent film to play in Michel Carre's films Arsène Lupin (1909), La Miniature (1910), and Le Noce à Canuche (1910). He also starred in Albert Capellani's film d'art adaptation of Émile Zola's L'Assomoir (1909), and he starred as Shylock in Henri Desfontaines's Shylock (1910), based on Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. This role made Baur quite famous, and in 1911, Sacha Guitry invited him to join stars like Sarah Bernhardt and Mistinguett in Guitry's theater troupe. Baur accepted the invitation but did not let his film career languish, making such films as Maurice Tourneur's Monsieur Lecoq (1914), André Hugon's Le Chignon d'or (1916), Henry Roussel's L'Âme du bronze (1918), and Léon Abram's La Voyante (1923). In several of these films, Baur appeared with his theatrical counterparts such as Sarah Bernhardt and Mistinguett.In the early days of sound cinema, Baur seems not to have acted in film. That changed in 1930 when he met Julien Duvivier. Duvivier cast Baur in the title role of David Golder (1930), a film about the transformation of an avaricious banker. One of the classic French films of all time, David Golder made Baur an instant star. The film allowed him to reveal his dramatic range as well as his unique ability to fully realize the characters he played. From 1930 until his death, Baur was one of the most recognized stars of French cinema, playing a diverse range of characters and giving a stunning range of performances.Between 1930 and 1934, Baur made a number of films including Les Cinq gentlemen maudits (1931) and La Tête d'un homme (1931), both with Duvivier, and Les Trois Mousquetaires (1932) with Henri Diamant-Berger. Probably his best performance of this period, however, was in Duvivier's remake of Poil de carotte (1932).In 1934, Baur played Jean Valjean in Raymond Bernard's Les Misérables, the adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel. The same year he also gave strong performances in Alexis Granowsky's Les Nuits moscovites (1934) and Victor Tourjansky's Les Yeux noirs (1934), both melodramas set in Russia. These films were followed by two classic Duvivier films, Golgotha (1935), a film about the life of Jesus Christ, and Golem (1935), the story of seventeenth-century Jews who fight back against persecution. Baur also played in Pierre Chenal's Crime et chatîment (1935), adapted from the Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel, in Jacques de Baroncelli's Nitchevo (1936), and in Abel Gance's Le Grand amour de Beethoven (1936). He also played Rasputin in Marcel L'Herbier's La Tragédie impériale (1937), and gave a masterful performance as Czar Paul I in Tourneur's Le Patriote (1937).As the Nazi Occupation began, Baur became increasingly afraid of being denounced as a Jew. There is some evidence he attempted collaboration with the Nazi occupiers. This seems to have worked for a time. Under the Occupation, he made Volpone (1941) with Tourneur, and L'Assassinat du Père Noël (1941) with Christian-Jacque. The film is a satire about the disappearance of Santa Claus, sometimes seen as a political critique of the Occupation. Baur would manage only one more film in France, Les Pechés de Jeunesse (1941), again with Tourneur. In 1942, he left for Berlin to film Symphonie eines Lebens (1942). While in Berlin, his second wife, the actress Rike Radifé, who was Jewish, was arrested (his first wife, the actress Rose Grane, had died in 1930). Shortly thereafter, Baur was also arrested and tortured. He was released in April 1943, but was in very poor health. He died shortly after his release, whether from the aftereffects of his detainment or from other mysterious happenings is unclear. His wife also died in 1943. Baur died at the height of a brilliant career. It is not certain that his career would have lasted beyond the war if he had lived, but that is perhaps beside the point.Baur was very closely associated with the cinema of the 1930s and 1940s, and was, along with Jean Gabin and Pierre Brasseur, one of the most recognizable faces of Le Réalisme poétique, or poetic realism. His very somber appearance and his powerful dramatic force as an actor, in combination with his use of gesture and expression (as cultivated in silent film), made him a natural fit with the somber, almost noir yet highly emotionally charged style of directors like Duvivier. His death is a stain on one of the darkest periods of French history.
Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. Dayna Oscherwitz & Mary Ellen Higgins. 2007.
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BAUR, HARRY — (1883–1943), French actor. Born of poor Alsatian parents, Baur was compelled at the age of 12 to work on the Marseilles docks but managed to study at the Marseilles Conservatory of Music. He appeared briefly on the Paris stage but after the… … Encyclopedia of Judaism
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