Ludwig Bemelmans

Ludwig Bemelmans

[bee-muhl-muhnz, bem-uhl-]
Ludwig Bemelmans (April 27, 1898-October 1, 1962) was an American author and children's book writer and illustrator. He is most famous today for the series of Madeline books.

Life

Bemelmans was born to Belgian painter Lambert Bemelmans and German Frances Fischer in Meran (Merano), Austria (today in Italy). His father owned a hotel. He grew up in Gmunden on the Traunsee in Upper Austria. His first language was French and his second German.

In 1904, his father left the family, leaving for Ludwig's governess. His mother, Frances, took Ludwig and his brother to her native city of Regensburg. Bemelmans had difficulty in school and hated the German discipline. He was apprenticed to his uncle Hans Bemelmans at a hotel in Austria, but after a fight with a hotel manager was sent to the United States where his father had moved and worked as a jewelry designer.

He spent the next several years working at hotels and restaurants, and in 1917 joined the U.S. Army but was not ordered to Europe because of his German heritage. He did become an officer, however, and rose to second lieutenant. In 1918, he was naturalized as an American citizen.

In the twenties, he tried to become an artist and painter while working at hotels, but had substantial difficulties. His cartoon series "The Thrilling Adventures of the Count Bric a Brac" was dropped from the New York World after six months.

In the early 1930s he met May Massee the children's book editor at Viking Press who became a sort of partner, and he began to publish a number of children's books beginning with Hansi in 1934.

The first Madeline book was published in 1939 and was actually rejected by Viking and published by Simon and Schuster.

In 1953, he felt in love with a small bistro in Paris "La Colombe" in the "Ile de la Cité", bought it, and painted murals. He remained the owner of the place during two years until he sold it to Michel Valette who made it into a famous cabaret.

However, Bemelmans also wrote a number of adult books, including travel and humorous works, and movie scripts for films like Yolanda and the Thief. Spending time in Hollywood, he also became a close friend of Lady Elsie de Wolfe Mendl.

Bemelmans' "Central Park," a mural on the walls of the Carlyle Hotel's Bemelmans Bar in New York City, is his only remaining artwork on display to the public. He also painted the children's dining room in Aristotle Onassis yacht Christina, for the young daughter of the magnate, Christina Onassis.

Madeline books

Each story begins: "In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines... the smallest one was Madeline."

The girls are cared for by a nun, Miss Clavel. Other characters include Pepito, son of the Spanish Ambassador, who lives next door; Lord Covington (called Cucuface by the girls), owner of the house; and Genevieve, a dog who rescues Madeline from drowning in the second book.

Bemelmans published six Madeline stories in his lifetime, and a seventh was discovered and published posthumously:

  1. Madeline, 1939: Madeline gets her appendix out.
  2. Madeline's Rescue, 1953: Madeline gets rescued by a dog (later on named Genevieve). Winner of the Caldecott Medal for 1954.
  3. Madeline and the Bad Hat, 1956: The "bad hat" Pepito, is the Spanish ambassador's son.
  4. Madeline and the Gypsies, 1959: Madeline and Pepito have an adventure at a gypsy circus.
  5. Madeline in London, 1961: Pepito moves to London, and Madeline and the girls go to visit him.
  6. Madeline's Christmas, 1985: Everyone in the house has a cold, except Madeline. (First published in McCall's in 1956).
  7. Madeline in America and Other Holiday Tales, 1999: Madeline inherits a fortune from her rich American great-grandfather. The book also reveals Madeline's surname, which is Fogg, as in Madeline Fogg.

Adaptations

Other Books

  • 1934: Hansi
  • 1936: The Golden Basket
  • 1937: My War with the United States
  • 1938: Quito Express (travel book)
  • 1939: Small Beer (based on his experience in Hollywood)
  • 1940: Fifi
  • 1941: At Your Service
  • 1942: Rosebud
  • 1942: I Love You, I Love You, I Love You
  • 1943: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
  • 1945: The Blue Danube
  • 1947: A Tale of Two Glimps
  • 1952: How to Travel Incognito
  • 1953: The Borrowed Christmas
  • 1953: Parsley
  • The One I Loved the Most (his friendship with Lady Mendl)
  • Father, Dear Father
  • Hotel Splendide
  • 1960: Welcome Home!
  • 1960: How to Travel To Europe All to Yourself
  • 1962: Marina
  • 1962: On Board of Noah's Ark
  • 1963: The Street Where the Heart Lies
  • 1966: The Elephant Cutlet
  • Tell them it was wonderful (compilation of various autobiographical stories, published posthumously)

External links

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