Henry de La Falaise

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Henry de La Falaise
Born James Henry Le Bailly de La Falaise
February 11, 1898
Died April 10, 1972
Spouse(s) Gloria Swanson (1925–1931)
Constance Bennett (1931–1940)
Emma "Emmita" Rodriguez Restrepo de Roeder

Henry de La Falaise, Marquis de La Coudraye, born James Henry Le Bailly de La Falaise (Saint-Cyr-l'École, France, February 11, 1898 – April 10, 1972), was a French nobleman, translator, film director, film producer, sometimes actor and war hero who was best known for his high-profile marriages to two leading Hollywood actresses.

His actual surname was Le Bailly, though he and other members of his family used Le Bailly de La Falaise, referring to an ancestral estate; it is typically abbreviated to de La Falaise. As the marquis told The New York Times (October 7, 1925), "My patronymic name is Le Bailly, but ... I use the name de la Falaise because it is one of the great-grandfather branches of the Le Bailly family. De La Falaise is the only existing branch of that family today. So this should be my entire name: James Henry Le Bailly de La Falaise, Marquis de La Coudraye".

The title held by the head of the family, Marquis de La Coudraye, dating from 1707, was granted, by an 1876 act of succession, to the younger son of Pacôme-François Le Bailly, Seigneur de La Falaise, and his wife, Pauline-Louise-Victoire de Loynes, daughter of the Marquis de La Coudraye.

Early life[edit]

La Falaise was the eldest son and second child of Louis Gabriel Venant Le Bailly de La Falaise, Ecuyer (1866–1910), a three time Olympics gold-medallist in fencing and former Army officer.[1] His mother was the former Henriette Frédérique Hennessy (1873–1965), scion of the Cognac family.[1][2] La Falaise inherited the title of Marquis de La Coudraye from his paternal grandfather, Gabriel-César-Henri Le Bailly de La Falaise, who, like his father, died in 1910 (the father died on April 4, the grandfather on August 6). His widowed mother married in 1912, as her second husband, Count Antoine Hocquart de Turtot (1872—1954), a cavalry officer and major French horse-racing figure.

He had four full siblings:

  • Louise Le Bailly de La Falaise (1894—1910)[3]
  • Henri James Le Bailly de La Falaise, Ecuyer (1898–1972), film director and producer, war hero and translator.
  • Alain Le Bailly de La Falaise, Ecuyer (1905—1977).[4] He was the first husband of fashion model Maxime de la Falaise and the father of fashion muse/designer Loulou de la Falaise.
  • Richard Le Bailly de La Falaise, Ecuyer (1910—died at Buchenwald in 1945)[5][6]

He also had a half-sibling:

  • Henriette-Hyacinthe-Olympe-Geneviève Hocquart de Turtot (born circa 1913)

Military Service[edit]

The Marquis de La Coudraye was awarded the Croix de Guerre for heroism during World War I, during which time he was attached to the 70th Division of the American Expeditionary Forces.[7] He received Croix de Guerre for bravery during World War II, while he was attached to the British 12th Royal Lancers. In 1943, La Falaise published "Through Hell to Dunkirk" (Military Service Publishing Company), a memoir of his war experiences.[8]

Notably handsome and universally known as "Hank," the marquis was admiringly described by the actress Lillian Gish as "a real war hero. In his bathing-suit he presents a graphic picture of what modern warfare does to a man – he is so cut-and-shot and covered with scars."


La Falaise directed at least five motion pictures, among them two dramas about primitive life and customs: Kliou the Killer (1934, released 1936, also known as Kliou the Killer Tiger) and Legong: Dance of the Virgins (1933, released 1935, also known as Djanger: Love Rite of Bali).[9][10] The latter production was described many years later as a "seductive blend of serious documentary, lyrical effusion and unbridled prurience".[11] He may also have written a film script for Gloria Swanson, his first wife, called Paris Luck, a 1927 work that bore the name of Robert Bailly. He also served as the U.S. representative for Pathé, the French film studio.[12]

La Falaise also produced and directed three films for RKO, which were filmed in French and English versions: Echec Au Roi (The Royal Bed) (an adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood's play The Queen's Husband); Le fils d'autre (The Woman Between), and Nuit d'Espagne (Transgression).[13]


La Falaise was married three times, to:

  • Gloria Swanson, American movie actress. They married in Paris, France, on January 28, 1925, after meeting on the set of the Swanson film Madame Sans-Gêne, on which La Falaise was working as a translator.[14][15] They were officially divorced in November 1931, at which time Swanson was several months pregnant by Michael Farmer, an Irish sportsman, who would become her fourth husband.[16] (Thinking her divorce from La Falaise was already finalized, the actress had married Farmer in August, which was technically bigamy, and was forced to remarry him, legally, in November.) Swanson conceived a child with La Falaise but had an abortion because, as The New York Times noted, in 2004, "if she had given birth seven months after her marriage, her career would have been ruined".[17] During their marriage La Falaise was employed as the California representative of Peugeot American Corp., the U.S. branch of the European automobile manufacturer.[18]
  • Constance Bennett, American movie actress, whom he married in November 1931, days after his divorce from Swanson was finalized.[19] With her, he founded Bennett Productions, a film company for which he directed Legong: Dance of the Virgin (the first color movie filmed in Bali and the last of Hollywood's silent films) and Kliou the Killer (filmed in present-day Vietnam and the last movie made in two-tone Technicolor).[20][21] Bennett and La Falaise divorced in 1940.[22]
  • Emma "Emmita" Rodriguez Restrepo de Roeder, a Colombian socialite, whose father had been a diplomat.


Since La Falaise had no children, the title of Marquis de La Coudraye was inherited by his younger brother, Alain de La Falaise (died 1977). It then passed to his nephew, Alexis de La Falaise (died 2004). It is now held by his grand-nephew (grandson of Alain), Daniel de La Falaise, a professional chef and food writer.


  1. ^ Parents' names written as cited in their marriage banns, dated February 12, 1893, accessed on ancestry.com on November 5, 2011
  2. ^ Parents' marriage on February 28, 1893 cited in Revue de Saintonge & d'Aunis, Volume 13 (Société des archives historiques de la Saintonge et de l'Aunis, Saintes, 1893), page 161
  3. ^ Charles Kidd, Debrett Goes to Hollywood (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986), page 25
  4. ^ Charles Kidd, Debrett Goes to Hollywood (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986), page 25
  5. ^ Charles Kidd, Debrett Goes to Hollywood (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986), page 25
  6. ^ André Sellier, Steven Wright, and Susan Taponier, A History of the Dora Camp (I.R. Dee, 2003), page 219
  7. ^ American Legion Monthly (1926), Volume I, page 58
  8. ^ Brian Kellow, The Bennetts" An Acting Family (University of Kentucky Press, 2004), page 230
  9. ^ "World Theatre Present 'Legong'", The New York Times, October 2, 1935
  10. ^ The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (Trübner & Co., 1936), Volume 66, pages xvi and 442
  11. ^ Dave Kehr, Critic's Notebook: The Disc's Coming of Age, from Noir to Hitchcock to Jerry Lewis and Seinfeld", The New York Times, December 31, 2004
  12. ^ "Marquis de La Falaise and Carpentier on Ile de France", The New York Times, July 30, 1930
  13. ^ "The Royal Bed" mentioned in Harriet Hyman Alonso, Robert E. Sherwood: The Playwright in Peace and War" (University of Massachusetts Press, 2007), page 109
  14. ^ "Gloria Swanson Marries a Marquis", The New York Times, January 29, 1925
  15. ^ Patrice Petro, Icons of Modernity (Rutgers University Press, 2010), page 116
  16. ^ Date of La Falaise divorce given in article about her divorce from Farmer, "Divorce Suit Filed By Gloria Swanson", The New York Times, May 15, 1934
  17. ^ Caryn James, "Critic's Notebook: Hollywood Confidential", The New York Times, February 20, 2004
  18. ^ Automotive Industries (1927), Volume 56, page 596
  19. ^ "Constance Bennett Marries Marquis", The New York Times, November 23, 1931
  20. ^ Last silent film cited in William M. Drew, The Last Silent Picture Show (Scarecrow Press, 2010), page 32, as well as Scott Kirsner, Inventing the Movies" (2008), page 26
  21. ^ Last two-tone Technicolor cited in The Moving Image (Association of Moving Image Archivists, 2005)
  22. ^ "Actress Divorces Marquis de La Falaise de La Coudraye", The New York Times, November 15, 1940

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