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Adelqui Migliar/ Millar

Belgian postcard. NV Cacao en Chocolade Kivon, Vilvoorde.

 

Adelqui Migliar aka Adelqui Millar (1891-1956) was Chilean actor who was the male star of Dutch silent cinema in the 1910s and early 1920s. Later on he acted and directed in Britain and Argentine.

 

Adelqui Migliar Icardi was born 5 August 1891 in Concepción, Chile. His father was Chilean, his mother Italian. He had a happy youth on the farm of his parents and enjoyed playing the cowboy. When he was 14 his father sent him to Italy to do high-school. At his return to Chile, Migliar had a diploma in commercial science, but didn’t know what to do with it, so he joined a touring theatre group and for one year he travelled all around Latin America until he reached California. There he started his film career as extra, which earned more money than his stage acting. According to Caroline Hanotte he worked as double and stuntman, performing the stunts considered too dangerous for the stars. It seems he even participated to some films as – uncredited - assistant-director. Vittorio Martinelli writes Migliar worked at Vitagraph, where his parts slowly became bigger. At the end of 1913 he returned to Italy and found work in Turin as actor with the companies Pasquali and Gloria, though unknown is which film titles. When Italy joined the Allies in the First World War in 1915, Migliar left Italy and went to the neutral Netherlands, where Theo Frenkel senior offered him to play the protagonist in his film Genie tegen Geweld (Genius against Violence, 1916), produced by Frenkel’s own company Amsterdam Film. In those years the Dutch were in dire need of male young actors, as many young Dutchmen were serving in the army. Migliar played Pim Brice, a courageous detective who pursues a gang of jewel thieves, when the daughter of an innocent suspect asks him to catch the real thieves. The film strangely starts with a large nonfiction part on a jewelry factory. After the theft we notice Migliar using all means of transport and performing dangerous stunts such as escaping lions and jumping on a riding train, until he is able to catch the thieves. Apparently his experience as stuntman in the States paid off. Unfortunately the remaining print of the film is incomplete, but it is visible on the site Film in Nederland.

 

Migliar became a big success, and the Latin Lover of Dutch silent cinema. First he played a violin player who despairs after his wife (Meina Irwen) leaves him, in Johan Gildemeyer’s Danstragedie (Dance Tragedy, 1916). In 1917 he signed a contract with the Hollandia film company of producer and director Maurits Binger and for five years he appeared in 23 films by Hollandia. In his first film for Hollandia Madame Pinkette & Co. (1917) he already acted opposite the diva of Dutch silent film: Annie Bos, but he had to wait until his second film at Hollandia, Kroon der Schande (Crown of Shame, 1917), until they played together as protagonists. Henceforth they were a film couple, lovers split by cruel destinies and reunited in the end in films like Oorlog en Vrede (War and Peace, 1918), Een Carmen van het Noorden (A Carmen of the North, 1919) and Rechten der Jeugd (The Rights of Youth, 1918, released 1921). At Hollandia, Migliar not only played heroes or lovers. He was the grandfather of the protagonist in Zooals ik ben (As I Am, 1920), while he played the sinister Henk Duif in Schakels (Chains, 1919), the film adaptation of Herman Heijermans’ noted stage play. Another villain he was in Wat eeuwig blijft (What Ever Remains, 1920) and Bloedgeld (Blood Money 1920), while he was a revolutionary in De Heldendaad van Peter Wells (The Little Hour of Peter Wells, 1920). Often Migliar played double roles, as father and son in War and Peace, and two brothers in Zonnetje (Joy, 1919). Thanks to the ingenious double exposure photography by cinematographer Feiko Boersma, he played the ghost of a murdered man in Onder spiritistischen dwang (The Other Person, 1921).

 

Once the First World War was finished Binger struck a deal with the British distributor and producer A.G. Granger and the founded the Granger-Binger or Anglo-Hollandia company. Binger co-directed the films with the British director B.E. Doxat-Pratt, such as Joy (1919) with Annie Bos, Hidden Lives (1920) with again Bos [renamed Anna Bosilova], Fate’s Plaything (1920) with Constance Worth, As God Made Her (1920) with Mary Odette, John Herriott’s Wife (1920) again with Odette, The Little Hour of Peter Wells (1920) with O.B. Clarence, Blood Money (1921) with Dorothy Fane, The Other Person (1921) with Zoe Palmer, and In the Night (1921) with Fane. Many Dutch actors such as Annie Bos lost prominence and were replaced by British actors, but Migliar kept his position. His name was only changed in Millar, a name he kept until the end of his career. Probably Millar’s best films in those years were Een lach en een traan (Laughter and Tears, 1921) and Circus Jim (1921), films Millar both co-scripted, while he was co-director of Circus Jim as well (NB IMDB erroneously equals this film with Laughter and Tears). Laughter and Tears deals about a poor Venetian painter. He dumps his girl Pierrette (played by American actress Evelyn Brent) for a fancy lady when he has his artistic breakthrough. Pierrette doesn’t give up and follows him to Paris, they fight and he thinks he killed her. Cast and crew moved to Venice and Paris for location shooting. The investments paid back, when the film became an international success. It also meant a ticket for Millar’s international career.

 

Late 1921 Millar moved to Britain, where he founded his own company and where he scripted, produced, directed and interpreted Pages of Life (1922), with again the beautiful Evelyn Brent co-starring. This was followed by I Pagliacci (G.B. Samuelson, S.W. Smith 1925), where he was Canio opposite Lilian Hall-Davis as Nedda, and London (Herbert Wilcox 1926), with Dorothy Gish. In The Arab (1924), shot partly in France and Algeria by the American film director Rex Ingram who was active in Nice then, Millar played the father of another Latin Lover: Ramon Novarro. For his part of Prince Seti opposite Maria Corda’s Moon of Israel in Die Sklavenkönigin (1924) by Mihaly Kertesz aka Michael Curtiz, Millar moved to Austria. Returned to Britain he directed himself and Mona Maris in The Apache (1925), after which had the male lead in Le navire aveugle (Giuseppe Guarino 1927) with Colette Darfeuil, and directed the French Albatros production Souris d’hôtel (1928) with Elmire Vautier and Ica von Lenkeffy.

 

Late 1927 Millar founded a new company in London, Whitehall, for which he was president. He ambitiously planned to produce six low budget films. The first one Millar directed and interpreted in Spain: Life (1928), in the second, The Inseparables (1929), he left the lead to Patrick Aherne and stuck to directing only, with John Stafford. When the films were ready to be released, however, Whitehall got in trouble, and in 1929 Millar was discharged and his contract annulled. The affair was widely described by noted British film historian Rachel Low, who according to Dutch film historian Geoffrey Donaldson though who was quite prejudiced in her judgement of Millar’s acting, as in her time just one print of a film with Millar was available. Millar’s career was saved when sound came on and Paramount decided to open a sound film studio near Paris at Joinville-le-Pont. He was hired to six Spanish versions of American films for the Spanish and Latin American market, while he also shot the French version of George Cukor’s The Virtuous Sin, entitled Le rebelle (1931), with Suzy Vernon. Millar’s last film at Joinville was Luces de Buenos Aires (1931), based on an original script and only shot in Spanish. Protagonist was the popular Argentine singer Carlos Gardel. The film had a vast success everywhere in South America and was projected in New York as well.

 

In the 1930s Millar continued his surely tiresome wandering life. In 1934 he shot in Italy Luci sommerse with Fosco Giachetti, Nelly Corradi and Laura Nucci, while the project of a second Italian film failed. In Spain Millar directed Madrid se divorcia, also in 1934. Four years after, he co-directed with the Portuguese filmmaker Georges Pallu Ceux de demain, shot in Paris and starring Jeanne Boitel and Constant Rémy. The outbreak of the Spanish civil war spoiled another project in Spain, so Millar accepted a proposal of the Argentine producer Alfredo de Murua to come over to Buenos Aires. While the Argentine film industry could well have benefitted from Millar’s experience, the opposite happened. While Millar could continue to work in Buenos Aires until 1954, nothing really grand came out of it and much remained on a provincial level. His first film Ambición (1939) was based on the script of his earlier Dutch silent film Laughter and tears, in a small part the Chilean actor Rafael Frontaura is visible. The same year Millar made La carga de los valientes (released 1940), in which he directed a debuting, 19 year old actress: a certain Eva Duarte. She would become famous as: Evita Peron. In the 1940s and 1950s Millar still directed seven films such as Tormenta en el alma (1946), his only Chilean film, which elsewhere was released as El precio de una vida (1947). The film was after Victorien Sardou’s Fedora, with Mecha Ortiz as princess Fedora and with Emilio Gaete as the nihilist who loves her. El domador (1954), starring Elisa Christian Galvé and Oscar Fuentes, was Millar’s last film direction. Adelqui Migliar/Millar died on 6 August 1956 in Santiago de Chile, at the age of 65.

 

Sources: IMDB, Dutch and English Wikipedia, Film in Nederland, Caroline Hanotte on www.cineartistes.com/fiche-Adelqui+Migliar.html, Geoffrey Donaldson in Immagine. Nuova Serie N. 16, 1990-1991.

  

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Taken on September 1, 2012