Ludwig Bemelmans

Ludwig Bemelmans

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.


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:

#"Madeline", 1939: Madeline gets her appendix out.
#"Madeline's Rescue", 1953: Madeline gets rescued by a dog (later on named Genevieve). Winner of the Caldecott Medal for 1954.
#"Madeline and the Bad Hat", 1956: The "bad hat" Pepito, is the Spanish ambassador's son.
#"Madeline and the Gypsies", 1959: Madeline and Pepito have an adventure at a gypsy circus.
#"Madeline in London", 1961: Pepito moves to London, and Madeline and the girls go to visit him.
#"Madeline's Christmas", 1985: Everyone in the house has a cold, except Madeline. (First published in McCall's in 1956).
#"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.


*The first book, "Madeline", was made into an award-winning 1952 short animated cartoon directed by Robert Cannon for UPA, also titled "Madeline".

*Between 1990 and 1995 an animated "Madeline" series was made for television, with narration in appropriately rhyming style read by Christopher Plummer.

* A live action Madeline film based on several of the books appeared in 1998, directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer and starring Hatty Jones as Madeline, Frances McDormand as Miss Clavel, and Nigel Hawthorne as Lord Covington (aka "Cucuface").

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

* [ "The Man Who Dreamed Up Madeline"] from "Smithsonian Magazine"
*imdb name|id=0069840|name=Ludwig Bemelmans
* [ 1989 interview with Madeleine Bemelmans, wife of Ludwig Bemelmans] by Don Swaim

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ludwig Bemelmans — (* 17. April 1898 in Meran; † 1. Oktober 1962 in New York City) war ein amerikanischer Schriftsteller und Illustrator europäischer Herkunft. Leben Ludwig Bemelmans war Sohn des belgischen Malers Lambert Bemelmans und der Brauertochter Franziska… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Ludwig Bemelmans — (27 avril 1898 1er octobre 1962) est un peintre et auteur américain. Biographie Auteur de la série de livres illustrés Madeline à Paris, il a illustré pendant des années la page de couverture du mensuel The New Yorker. En 1952 …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Bemelmans —   [ beɪməlmænz], Ludwig, amerikanischer Schriftsteller und Illustrator österreichisch deutscher Herkunft, * Meran 27. 4. 1898, ✝ New York 1. 10. 1962; wanderte 1914 in die USA aus, 1918 eingebürgert. Bemelmans verarbeitete vorwiegend eigene… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Bemelmans,Ludwig — Be·mel·mans (bēʹməl mənz, bĕmʹəl ), Ludwig. 1898 1962. Austrian born American illustrator and writer of children s books, such as Madeleine (1939), and adult fiction, including Hotel Splendide (1940), which was based on his experiences in the… …   Universalium

  • Bemelmans — /bee meuhl meuhnz, bem euhl /, n. Ludwig /lud wig, lood /, 1898 1962, U.S. humorous satirist and painter; born in Austria: author and illustrator of children s books. * * * …   Universalium

  • Bemelmans — /bee meuhl meuhnz, bem euhl /, n. Ludwig /lud wig, lood /, 1898 1962, U.S. humorous satirist and painter; born in Austria: author and illustrator of children s books …   Useful english dictionary

  • Madeline — For other uses, see Madeleine (disambiguation). The cover to the original 1939 Madeline children s book. Madeline is a children s book series written by Ludwig Bemelmans[1], an Austrian[ …   Wikipedia

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