|Born||Nicolina Dijjers Spanier
5 November 1909
|Died||after March 1982
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.
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 The Company's in Love (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 Quest of Ernest Bliss. Deyers traveled between London and The Hague and in 1937 she signed for a major role in the Dutch-Italian movie The Three Wishes. 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.
- 1928: Spione, English title Spies (silent; thriller directed by Fritz Lang, with Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Lien Deyers supporting as Kitty)
- 1928: Haus Nummer 17, English title Number 17 (silent; crime/drama by Géza von Bolváry, featuring Deyers as main character Elsie Ackroyd)
- 1928: Die Heilige und ihr Narr, English title The Saint and Her Fool (silent; romantic drama by and with William Dieterle, with Deyers featuring as main character Rosemarie von Brauneck)
- 1928-1929: Rund um die Liebe (compilation with Deyers in clippings)
- 1929: Das Donkosakenlied (silent; operetta with Deyers as Natascha)
- 1929: Ich lebe für dich, English title Triumph of Love (silent; romantic drama by and with William Dieterle, main character Deyers as Nicoline)
- 1929: Frühlingsrauschen, English title Rustle of Spring (silent; romantic drama by and with William Dieterle, main character Deyers as Viola)
- 1929: Le Capitaine Fracasse (silent; historical drama by Alberto Cavalcanti, main character Deyers as Isabelle)
- 1930: Gehetzte Mädchen (silent; director Erich Schönfelder)
- 1930: Der Nächste, bitte (silent; comedy by Erich Schönfelder, Deyers supporting as Minchen Bangigkeit)
- 1930: Rosenmontag (drama by Hans Steinhoff, main character Deyers as Traute Reimann)
- 1930: Der Hampelmann (comedy by E. W. Emo, main character Deyers as Lissy)
- 1930: Das alte Lied (romantic drama by Erich Waschneck, main character Deyers as Annerl Haslinger)
- 1931: Die Männer um Lucie, English title The Men Around Lucy (drama by Alexander Korda, Deyers supporting as Daisy)
- 1931: Der Mann, der seinen Mörder sucht, English title The Man in Search of His Murderer (black comedy by Robert Siodmak, main character Deyers as Kitty alongside Heinz Rühmann)
- 1931: Sein Scheidungsgrund (comedy by Alfred Zeisler, featuring Deyers als Liane Roland)
- 1931: Der Herzog von Reichstadt, English title The Duke of Reichstadt (historical drama, main character Deyers as Maria Louise)
- 1932: Durchlaucht amüsiert sich (comedy, main character Deyers as Maria)
- 1932: Hasenklein kann nichts dafür (comedy by Max Neufeld, main character Deyers as Das Mädchen Hasenklein)
- 1932: Melodie der Liebe, English title Melody of Love (musical with Deyers supporting alongside Richard Tauber)
- 1932: Die verliebte Firma, English title The Company's in Love (comedy by Max Ophüls, main character Deyers as Gretl Krummbichler)
- 1933: Ist mein Mann nicht fabelhaft? (comedy, main character Deyers as Lu)
- 1933: Lachende Erben, English title The Merry Heirs (comedy by Max Ophüls, main character Deyers as Gina alongside Heinz Rühmann)
- 1933: Die vom Niederrhein (comedy, main character Deyers as Hanne Stahl)
- 1933: Die Fahrt ins Grüne (drama, main character Deyers as Lotte Krause alongside Hermann Thimig)
- 1934: Der Doppelbräutigam, English title The Double Fiance (comedy, main character Deyers as Eva)
- 1934: Ich sing' mich in dein Herz hinein (musical with Deyers supporting as Doris)
- 1934: Gold (science-fiction with Hans Albers, Deyers supporting as Margit Moller)
- 1934: Karneval und Liebe (comedy, main character Deyers as Loretta alongside Hermann Thimig)
- 1934: Der Vetter aus Dingsda, English title The Cousin from Nowhere (operetta/comedy, main character Deyers as Julia)
- 1935: Ein ganzer Kerl (comedy, main character Deyers as Grete Bolle)
- 1935: Ich liebe alle Frauen (musical comedy with Deyers as Susi alongside Jan Kiepura and Adele Sandrock)
- 1935: Punks kommt aus Amerika (drama featuring Deyers as Marlis alongside Sybille Schmitz)
- 1935: Die selige Exzellenz, English title His Late Excellency (comedy with Deyers supporting as Else)
- Kay Weniger: 'Es wird im Leben dir mehr genommen als gegeben …'. Lexikon der aus Deutschland und Österreich emigrierten Filmschaffenden 1933 bis 1945. Eine Gesamtübersicht. S. 138 f., Acabus-Verlag, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-86282-049-8
- Gemünden, Gerd. A Foreign Affair: Billy Wilder's American Films. Berghahn Books, 2008.
Media related to Lien Deyers at Wikimedia Commons