Lien Deyers

Lien Deyers
Born Nicolina Dijjers Spanier
(1909-11-05)5 November 1909
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died after March 1982
United States
Nationality Dutch
Occupation Actor
Years active 1928-1937

Lien Deyers, stage name of Nicolina Dijjers Spanier, (5 November 1909 in Amsterdam – after March 1982), was a screen actress from the Netherlands, who worked in the German film-industry. She was the first Dutch actress to rise to some international fame.

Early life

Lien Deyers was born in Amsterdam as Nicolina Spanier, daughter of Nathan Spanier, piano teacher (1857-1916), and Johanna Liefjes, seamstress (1888-1918). She had a half-brother, Andries Liefjes (1906-1960), a child from a previous relationship of Liefjes. After Spanier’s death mrs. Liefjes married the hotel-owner Egbert Dijjers (1874-1948) and the family moved to The Hague. In 1931 Lien officially changed her name to Dijjers Spanier but would occasionally also use the name Dijjers Liefjes. At several times she stated her year of birth being 1910 or 1911. In interviews she’d never mention Spanier or Liefjes.

At the early age of five her potential was noted by Amsterdam theatre owner and film producer David Sluizer, but she did not enter the film business. She lived her childhood years in Amsterdam and later The Hague until her stepfather, owner of a big hotel in The Hague, married the Austrian actress Lotte Erol. Lien then traveled between The Hague, Vienna (where the family mostly lived) and Lausanne, where she went to a private school and became fluent in French. In August 1926 the Austrian weekly Mein Film staged a competition for new young screen talent and Lien submitted her photograph. Together with twenty other contestants she was chosen for a screen-test by director Hans Otto, which she won. Subsequently, during an autograph session in the Mein Film offices in 1927, she was introduced to the well-known Austrian director Fritz Lang, who happened to be in need of a young blonde for a role in his new movie Spione, written by his wife, the playwright Thea von Harbou. Lang had her travel to Berlin for a screentest and she was indeed given a secondary but racy role in Spione. She was billed as Lien Deyers because Dijjers was frequently misspelled or mispronounced in German speaking countries.

Lang had her sign a six-year contract and assigned her to the huge UFA studios in Berlin. The contract soon turned out to be mere slavery, and Deyers sought a court decision to end it. In November 1928 the court ruled in her favour, a verdict welcomed by hundreds of Berlin-based actors with similar contracts. In turn Lang appealed and was granted a 10,000 Reichs-mark pay-off, to be fulfilled in monthly payments. Deyers and Lang had already grown to dislike each other during the shooting of Spione.

Huge star in Germany

She was featured in nine silent movies and twenty-five talkies over the following eight years, mostly comedies, some of them French productions. In 1934 she married the American born German producer and director Alfred Zeisler (1892-1985), who had worked in Germany since 1924. She had met him a year before when he directed the movie Sein Scheidungsgrund, in which she played the main character.

Deyers got into conflict with the new politics of Nazi Germany: she had to take on German citizenship to remain assured of roles. Besides, she was typecast for typical Aryan characters like the exemplary girlish blonde in Die verliebte Firma (1932) and Gold (1934). Most importantly, she feared the Nazis would discover she was half-Jewish (her father Spanier was Jewish). Because Zeisler was Jewish too they fled Germany in 1935. Zeisler settled in Britain and in 1936 he directed Cary Grant in The Amazing Adventure. Deyers traveled between London and The Hague and in 1937 she signed for a major role in the Dutch-Italian movie De Drie Wensen/I Tre Desideri. For unknown reasons she did not play the part and finally joined her husband in London in 1938. There was no need for her acting skills there. By that time their marriage was faltering and a divorce was inevitable. In 1939 the couple moved to California where they soon went their different ways.

Down-and-out in America

Deyers, who by the time had a reputation of being 'mentally extremely unstable', couldn’t find work in Hollywood. There were many exiled German actors all vying for the few roles that required a foreign accent. She developed an alcohol addiction and relied financially on old contacts like the German actor and director William Dieterle and in particular the Austrian-American film producer Paul Kohner and his European Film Fund that he had founded to aid down-on-their-luck German actors in exile. Over a brief period of time she married three more times: with kingpin actors' agent Frank Orsatti, one of the Orsatti Brothers (who evidently couldn't get her involved in movies either), from 1940 until 1942, with furrier Victor Rubin (from 1944 until 1948) and with Lawrence Adlon, grandson of the Berlin hotel-magnate, in January 1951.

The Dutch actor/comedian Wim Sonneveld met with her in 1957 during the shooting of Silk Stockings with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, in which he played a supporting role. He was reportedly shocked by her faded beauty. After 1957 there are two more signs of life: incarceration (loitering, disorderly conduct) in 1964 in Las Vegas, and a greeting card congratulating German actor and former co-star Heinz Rühmann on his eightieth birthday in 1982. The postcard was signed L. Dyers-Wallburg, suggesting she had gotten married for a fifth time.




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