Lou Tellegen

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Lou Tellegen
Tellegen in 1916
Isidor Louis Bernard Edmon van Dommelen

(1883-11-26)November 26, 1883
Sint-Oedenrode, Netherlands
DiedOctober 29, 1934(1934-10-29) (aged 50)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Actor, director, screenwriter
Years active1903 – 1934
Jeanne de Brouckère
(m. 1903; div. 1905)
(m. 1916; div. 1923)
(m. 1923; div. 1928)
Eve Casanova
(m. 1930; div. 1932)

Lou Tellegen (born Isidor Louis Bernard Edmon van Dommelen;[1] November 26, 1881 or 1883 – October 29, 1934) was a Dutch-born stage and film actor, film director and screenwriter.[2]

Early life[edit]

Lou Tellegen was born as Isidor Louis Bernard Edmon van Dommelen in Sint-Oedenrode, the illegitimate child of a separated, but not divorced, lieutenant of the West-Indian Army Isidore Louis Bernard Edmon Tellegen (1836–1902) and his partner Anna Maria van Dommelen (1844–1917), widow of Eduard Hendrik Jan Storm van 's Gravezande.

He made his stage debut in Amsterdam in 1903, and over the next few years built a reputation to the point where he was invited to perform in Paris, eventually co-starring in several roles with Sarah Bernhardt, with whom he was involved romantically. In 1910, he made his motion picture debut alongside Bernhardt in La dame aux camélias, a silent film made in France based on the play by Alexandre Dumas, fils.


Tellegen caricatured in Vanity Fair, 1913

In 1910, Tellegen and Bernhardt travelled to the United States, where The New York Times first published, and then retracted, the announcement of their impending marriage. (She was 37 years his senior.) Back in France, in 1912 they made their second film together, Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth (Queen Elizabeth), and the following year, Adrienne Lecouvreur. The latter is considered a lost film.

In the summer of 1913, Tellegen went to London where he produced and starred in a play based on Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Invited back to the United States, Tellegen worked in theatre and made his first American film in 1915, titled The Explorer, followed by The Unknown, both with Dorothy Davenport as his co-star. Considered one of the best-looking actors on screen, he followed up with three straight films starring alongside Geraldine Farrar.

Tellegen with second wife, opera soprano and actress Geraldine Farrar, c. 1916

Tellegen's marriage to Farrar ended in divorce in 1923. Tellegen married a total of four times, first to a sculptor in 1903 (this union produced a daughter), and second to Farrar in 1916. His third marriage was to actress Nina Romano (real name: Isabel Craven Dilworth), with whom he had a son.[3] His fourth marriage was to silent film star Eve Casanova (real name Julia Horne).[1] He became an American citizen in 1918.[4]

Lou Tellegen autographed drawing by Manuel Rosenberg for the Cincinnati Post, 1922

Later career and death[edit]

On December 25, 1929, Tellegen sustained burns to his face when he fell asleep while smoking. At the time, he was preparing for an out-of-town tryout for a play. To repair the damage, Tellegen underwent extensive plastic surgery. In 1931, he wrote his autobiography Women Have Been Kind.

By 1931, Tellegen’s popularity had declined and he had trouble securing acting work. He was also deeply in debt and filed for bankruptcy. Around this time, Tellegen was diagnosed with cancer though this information was kept from him. Tellegen soon grew despondent.

On October 29, 1934, while a guest of Edna Cudahy, the widow of meat packing heir Jack Cudahy, at the Cudahy Mansion at 1844 North Vine Street in Hollywood (now the site of the Vine-Franklin underpass of the Hollywood Freeway), Tellegen locked himself in the bathroom, then shaved and powdered his face. While standing in front of a full-length mirror, he stabbed himself in the heart seven times with a pair of sewing scissors. Some accounts claim Tellegen was surrounded by newspaper clippings of his career at the time of his suicide.[5][6]

When asked to comment on Tellegen's death, former wife Geraldine Farrar replied "Why should that interest me?" Tellegen was cremated and his remains were scattered at sea.[6]


Year Title Role Notes
1911 La Dame aux camélias Armand Duval
1912 Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex Alternative titles: Queen Elizabeth
La Reine Élisabeth
1913 Adrienne Lecouvreur Alternative title: An Actress's Romance, lost film
1915 The Explorer Alec McKenzie Credited as Lou-Tellegen, lost film
1915 The Unknown Richard Farquhar
1916 The Victory of Conscience Louis, Count De Tavannes
1916 The Victoria Cross Major Ralph Seton
1917 The Black Wolf The Black Wolf
1917 The Long Trail Andre Dubois
1917 What Money Can't Buy
1918 The Thing We Love
Director, lost film
1919 The World and Its Woman Prince Michael Orbeliana Alternative title: The Golden Song
1919 Flame of the Desert Sheik Essad
1920 The Woman and the Puppet Don Mateo
1920 Blind Youth
Writer, undetermined/presumably lost
1924 Let Not Man Put Asunder Dick Lechmere Lost film
1924 Between Friends David Drene Lost film
1924 Single Wives Martin Prayle
1924 The Breath of Scandal Charles Hale
1924 Those Who Judge John Dawson
1924 Greater Than Marriage John Masters
1925 The Redeeming Sin Lupin Lost film
1925 Fair Play Bruce Elliot Alternative title: The Danger Zone
1925 The Verdict Victor Ronsard
1925 Parisian Nights Jean
1925 After Business Hours John King
1925 The Sporting Chance Darrell Thorton
1925 Parisian Love Pierre Marcel
1925 With This Ring Rufus Van Buren
1925 East Lynne Sir Francis Levison
1925 Borrowed Finery Harlan
1926 The Outsider Anton Ragatzy
1926 Siberia Egor Kaplan Lost film
1926 The Silver Treasure Sotillo, the Bandit Lost film
1926 3 Bad Men Sheriff Layne Hunter
1926 Womanpower The Broker
1927 Stage Madness Pierre Doumier
1927 The Princess From Hoboken Prince Anton Balakrieff Lost film
1927 The Little Firebrand Harley Norcross
1927 Married Alive James Duxbury Lost film
1928 No Other Woman
Director, lost film
1930 To oneiron tou glyptou Writer, director
Alternative title: Pygmalion kai Galateia
1931 Enemies of the Law Eddie Swan
1934 Caravane Uncredited; French-language version of Fox production Caravan
1935 Together We Live Bischofsky


  1. ^ a b "Lou Tellegen, Idol of Stage and Silent Screen, Stabs Himself Seven Times." Spartanburg (SC) Herald, October 30, 1934, pp. 1-2.
  2. ^ Ellenberger, Allan (March 7, 2011). "The suicide of Lou Tellegen". allanellenberger.com. Archived from the original on April 17, 2014.
  3. ^ George H. Beale, "Lou Tellegen, the Gable of Silent Films, Stabs Self to Death to Escape Poverty." Pittsburgh Press, October 30, 1934, p. 1.
  4. ^ "Lou-Tellegen Now a Citizen". The New York Times. 1918-03-13. p. 9.
  5. ^ Mankiewicz, Joseph L. (2008). Joseph L. Mankiewicz: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-934110-24-9.
  6. ^ a b "Metropolitan Announcer". Time. 1934-11-12. Archived from the original on October 23, 2012. Retrieved 2008-03-30.


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