Friday, August 1, 2014

Truus van Aalten

Truus van Aalten, a Dutch actress who appeared in many German films in the 1920s and 1930s, was born on this day in 1910. A popular actress, Truus sported bobbed hair which was reportedly modeled after the cut worn by the American actress Colleen Moore. (Which was slightly different from that worn by Louise Brooks. See the previous LBS blog for some postcard images.)

And like Colleen Moore, comedy was what Truus did best. She was the bright spark in what were considered uninspired films. The German film-making community adored her, and referred to her affectionately as "die kleine Hollandische Käse" ("The Little Dutch Cheese").

Truus' popularity went beyond Germany and The Netherlands, spreading throughout Europe. Some of her German films were even shown in the United States. On October 14, 1933, the New York Times reviewed Truus' film Der Bettelstudent, then showing at the 79th St. Theatre in New York City. The movie, the newspaper said, had "a certain amount of charm", but didn't measure up to other operetta films of its type. However, the reviewer noted Truus was "excellent in her leading comedy role."

With the rise of the Nazi party, roles in German films for the Dutch-born actress began to dry up. In 1940, she returned to The Netherlands. According to her Wikipedia page, "Now she found herself being offered film work - to appear in Dutch films controlled and censored by the occupying power. She refused, realising that they only wanted to use her for propaganda - but as she turned the repeated requests down, she knew she was destroying any hope of rekindling her movie career."

After WWII, Truus hoped to find acting work in the Netherlands, in England, and even in Hollywood, but in the depressed atmosphere of the post-war world, few were interested in a forgotten actress with a foreign accent. Truus never acted again. As her reputation faded, she was seldom mentioned in the various film histories published in 1960s and 1970s. Truus died at age 88 in 1999. For more on the actress, see her Dutch Wikipedia page.

Truus' career, which ran from 1926 to 1939, paralleled that of Brooks, which ran from 1925 to 1938. Like Brooks, Truus portrait was taken at the Atelier Binder, a leading celebrity portrait photographer (who also shot Garbo, Lya di Putti, and others). Truus appeared on postcards issued by the Ross, as had Brooks, and the Dutch-born actress even appeared in a Lux soap advertisement, as had Brooks.

Few of Truus van Aalten's films have been released for home viewing. According to Wikipedia, "One possible reason is that the Russian Army seized the Ufa studios in April 1945 and appropriated the contents - including copies of a huge number of German films that have never been seen since." That's unfortunate, as Truss is pretty, charming, expressive, and appears to have real screen presence.

For more on Truus van Aalten, be sure and check out Roger Mitchell's excellent website (at devoted to the actress. It is the source for all of the images used in this blog.

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