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Ludwig Bemelmans: Wikis


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Ludwig Bemelmans (April 27, 1898 – October 1, 1962) was a German-American author, an internationally known gourmet and also a writer and illustrator of children's books. 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, Austria (now Merano, 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 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 he apparently shot and seriously wounded a waiter and was forced to choose between being institutionalized or emigration to America.

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 Bemelmans 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 fell 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 for 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 Elsie de Wolfe, Lady 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 (now the Christina O), for the young daughter of the magnate, Christina Onassis.

Bemelmans is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 43, Grave 2618).

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.


  • 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.

Other Books

  • 1934: Hansi
  • 1936: The Golden Basket
  • 1937: My War with the United States
  • 1937: The Castle Number Nine
  • 1938: Life Class An autobiographical sketch.
  • 1938: Quito Express (travel book)
  • 1939: Madeline
  • 1939: Small Beer (based on his experience in Hollywood)
  • 1940: Fifi
  • 1941: At Your Service
  • 1941: Hotel Splendide
  • 1941: The Donkey Inside
  • 1942: Rosebud
  • 1942: I Love You, I Love You, I Love You
  • 1943: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
  • 1945: The Blue Danube
  • 1946: Hotel Bemelmans
  • 1947: A Tale of Two Glimps
  • 1947: Dirty Eddie
  • 1948: The Best of Times: An Account of Europe Revisited
  • 1949: The Eye of God
  • 1950: Sunshine: A Story about the City of New York
  • 1952: How to Travel Incognito
  • 1952: The Happy Place
  • 1953: Father, Dear Father
  • 1953: Madeline's Rescue
  • 1953: The Borrowed Christmas
  • 1954: The High World
  • 1955: Parsley
  • 1955: To the One I Love the Best Bemelmans narrates his friendship with Elsie de Wolfe, Lady Mendl.
  • 1956: Madeline and the Bad Hat
  • 1957: The Woman of My Life
  • 1958: My Life in Art
  • 1959: Madeline and the Gypsies
  • 1960: Welcome Home!
  • 1960: Are You Hungry, Are You Cold
  • 1960: How to Travel To Europe All to Yourself
  • 1961: Italian Holiday
  • 1961: Madeline in London
  • 1962: Marina
  • 1962: On Board Noah's Ark
  • 1963: The Street Where the Heart Lies
  • 1954: La Bonne Table. Excepts and essays involving food and drink, edited by Donald and Eleanor Friede
  • 1966: The Elephant Cutlet
  • 1985: Tell Them It Was Wonderful: Selected Writings (compilation of various autobiographical stories, published posthumously)

External links

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