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Povel Ramel (1922-2007)

 

Prolific Swedish composer, singer, actor and writer. Povel Ramel became famous with his parodic revues combining fantasy with clever lyrics. He wrote over 1 000 songs - Ramel's wide oeuvre also include radio shows, television productions, films, and non-fiction.

Men när allt blir omtumlande -
jag drömmer fumlande
att jag är bortom rum och tid,
slumrande som lilla humlan där
i fönstrets frid."

(from 'Sommartrivialiter')

Povel Karl Henrik Ramel was born in Stockholm into an aristocratic family. His father, Karl Ramel, was a lawyer. Märtha Tesch, Ramel's mother, had three children from her previous marriage to Eric Stiernstedt. Ramel's parents died in 1937 after a car accident - first his mother and then his father who never fully recovered from his injuries. Ramel was in the car, too, but survived with minor injuries.

Orphaned in his teens, Ramel lived with his paternal aunt, Elsie Virgin. At school, he was not very successful. He studied art and the piano, and started early his career as an entertainer and schlager composer. His first revue Ramel planned at the age of 17 and had his breakthrough as a composer with Vårt eget blue Hawaii, sang by Alice Babs. In the 1940s he gained fame among others with 'Johansson's boogie woogie waltz' (1944), a fusion of rural Swedish waltz and jazz, which he had composed  while doing his military service. It became Ramel's first great hit.

When Erik Walles, who had called jazz "a disgusting crossbreeding of depraved Jew mentality and primitive Negro delight," published a pamphlet entitled Jazzen anfaller (1946), Ramel replied with a song: "Jazz will celebrate a terrible victory: before you know it, you're a Negro!" While workig for the Swedish Broadcasting Company (1947-48), he attracted attention with the radio programs Föreningen För Flugighetens Främjande and Jakten på Johan Blöth (1948), with lots of crazy humor. In 1949 Ramel married the dancer and actress Susanna Östberg; they had two children. It was her second marriage, her first being to the artist Sven Arne Gillgren in 1941.

Ramel began to work in the 1950s with musical comedy, which gave him opportunities to enlarge his talents of imitation and parody. He developed with Brita Borg, Martin Ljung and Pekka Langer a special type of revue, Knäppupp. With the director Stig Olin he cooperated in the films Hoppsan! (1955) and I dur och skur (1953), in which he played a double role as a director of a revue theater and his dumb brother. In Ratata (1956), one of Ramel's most famous films which was directed by Hasse Ekman, he played the leading role as Staffan Stolle. By appearance Ramel was not of the heroic type: he was stout, had a gap between the teeth, his glasses were thick and heavy, and he wore funny hats.

The first Knäppupp revue was produced in 1952. The cast included Gunwer Bergkvist, The Black Diamonds, Brita Borg, Gösta Cederlund, Karl-Olof Finnberg, Barbro Hörberg, Allan Johansson, Martin Ljung, Sangrid Nerf, Birgitta Olzon, Hasse Pettersson, Povel Ramel, Oscar Rundqvist, Mille Schmidt, Maj-Britt Thörn, Gösta Törner. After completing a successful vaudeville tour, Ramel produced in Stockholm at the Idéon theatre practically every year a new vaudeville show, until the theatre was pulled down in 1969. Between the years 1952 and 1962 five million people saw the performance. During the period of 16 years Ramel co-wrote 14 major shows, among them Akta huvet (1952), Djuprevyn 2 meter (1953-1954), Denna sida upp (1954-55), Spectacle (1955-56), Tillstymmelser (1956-57), Kråkslottet (1957), Funny Boy (1958-59), Alla 4 (1960-61), I hatt och strumpa (1961-62), Dax igen (1962-63), Ryck mej i snöret (1964), Ta av dej skorna (1965), På avigan (1966), De sista enthusiasterna (1968). 

Ramel could finish a song in a couple of hours, but usually it took five or six days. In the late 1950s and in the 1960s his revues approached the musical form and became less parodic. Ramel made travesties and satirized the style and works of Norlander, Bellman, Sjöberg and Taube. Plans to cooperate with Ingmar Bergman in the film production of Gräsänklingsblues never realized. Ramel avoided political humor, but he played with racial stereotypes like Peters Sellers, who was married to the actress Britt Ekland, one of the stars of Ramel's early Knäppupp revues. When Peter Sellers visited  Stockholm in 1965, he saw Ramel's Ta av dej skorna show at the Idéon theatre. He laughed with a loud voice but later than everybody else because his wife had to translate the jokes into English.     

Later Ramel utilized the intime forms of theatre with Wenche Myhre and made productions for television, as the TV shows Semlons gröna dalar (1977) and Affären Ramel (1986). Several of Ramel's numbers from Knäpp-Upp period became classic and were recorded. På avigan from 1966 contains many of his best songs. His show toured Finland, too, where M.A. Numminen had made his own version of the popular 'Far, jag kan inte få upp min kokosnöt,' originally an English music hall song ('I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts'). Though his Finland Swedish audience didn't always understand his humor, his performances were loved and heartily applauded.

Ramel also published prosa, including Från Asar till Wasar (1945), Min galna hage (1957) and a play, Lingonben (1978). His autobiographies were entitled Följ mej bortåt vägen  (1992) and Som om inget hade hänt (1999). The third volume was unfinished at Ramel's death. Ramel's autobiographical music and sketch show, AproPovel: Ramelska radioreminiscenser, was broadcast on TV in 2002.

In 1982 Ramel established Karamelodiktstipendiet, an entertainment prize for young, promising talents. Winners from 1983 have been Totte Wallin, Björn Skifs, Anne-Lie Rydé, Mikael Ramel, Claes Eriksson, Ainbusk Singers, Robert Broberg, Ulla Skoog, Magnus Uggla, Thomas von Brömssen, Marie Bergman, "I manegen med Glenn Killing," Peter Dalle, Louise Hoffsten, Willie Crafoord, Hannes Holm and Måns Herngren. In Kolla klotet, produced in 1995, he played with Tomas von Brömssen and Maria Lundqvist. Ramel received several awards and he was made honorary doctor of the University of Stockholm in 1998. Povel Ramed died at home on June 5, 2007, in Lidingö.

For further reading: Radiodramat. Svensk hörspelsdiktning - bakgrund, utveckling och formvärld by Gunnar Hallingberg (1967); Perspektiv på teater (1971); Perspektiv på Röda Rummet (1971); Från scen och cabaret by Uno Ericson (1979); Artister by Jan Guillou (1979); Myggans Nöjeslexikon (1989-); Om Povel, ed. by Jan Bruer (1993); Med gårdagens dörr på glänt: Povel Ramel och melodins epok by Johanna Broman Åkesson (2009); Yrke: Povel Ramel: - inte en biografi by Staffan Schöier, Stefan Wermelin (2011)

Selected bibliography:

  • Från Asar till Wasar, 1945
  • Sturske Laban, gammaldags, Gullet...1950
  • Povel Ramels visor, 1951
  • Min galna hage, 1957
  • Knäppupplevelser, 1976
  • Lingonben, 1978
  • Tänk dej en strut karameller, 1981
  • Min ordkynniga penna, 1987
  • Vanliga palsternackan för gottegrisar 1987, 1986 (with Hans Alfredson)
  • Förflerade Lingonben, 1992
  • Följ mej bakåt vägen: Povel Ramels livstycken: del 1, 1992
  • Som om inget hade hänt: Povel Ramels livstycken: del 2, 1999
  • Djur i Dur, 2001

Films:

  • Tre söner gick till flyget, 1945 (actor; dir. by Rolf Husberg)
  • Ung och kär, 1950 (actor & orchestrator; dir. by Åke Ohberg, starring Adolf Jahr, Mimi Nelson, Ulla Sallert, Karl-Arne Holmsten)
  • Puck heter jag, 1951 (actor; dir. by Schamyl Bauman, starring Sickan Carlsson, Karl-Arne Holmsten, Naima Wifstrand)
  • Oss fakirer emellan, 1951 (short film)
  • I dur och skur, 1953 (composer & actor; dir. by Stig Olin, starring P.R., Alice Babs, Sven Lindberg, Yvonne Lombard)
  • I rök och dans, 1954 (composer & actor & writer; dir. by Bengt Blomgren, Yngve Gamlin, starring Martin Ljung, Annalisa Ericson, Stig Järrel)
  • Hoppsan!, 1955 (composer & actor; dir. by Stig Olin, starring P.R., Harriet Andersson, Sven Lindberg)
  • Ratataa, 1956 (composer and actor, dir. by Hasse Ekman, starring P.R., Martin Ljung, Yvonne Lombard, Hasse Ekman, Gunwer Bergkvist)
  • Kortknäpp, 1957 (short film)
  • Far till sol och vår, 1957 (producer)
  • Den store amatören, 1958 (producer & composer; dir. by Hasse Ekman, starring Martin Ljung, Marianne Bengtsson, Hasse Ekman)
  • Sköna Susanna och gubbarna, 1959 (producer)
  • Men Hur?, 1962
  • Långtradarchaufförens berättelse, 1975 (TV series - actor; dir. by Beppe Wolgers)
  • Farbror Frippes skafferi, 1976 (TV series - actor)
  • Semlons gröna dalar, 1977 (TV series - writer & actor & composer; dir. by Lasse Hallström)
  • Falsk som vatten, 1985 (actor; dir. by Hans Alfredson, starring Malin Ek, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Marie Göranzon Stellan Skarsgård
  • Hemma hoz, 1985 (TV series - actor; dir. by Birgitta Götestam)
  • Tingel tangel, 1990 (TV film - writer; dir. by Hans Alfredson, Mikael Ekman, starring Margaretha Krook)
  • Bert - den siste oskulden, 1995 (actor; dir. by Tomas Alfredson, starring Martin Andersson, Cajsa-Lisa Ejemyr, Ing-Marie Carlsson, Yvonne Lombard
  • Tarzan, 1999
  • Leende gulbruna ögon, 2007 (TV series - actor; dir. by Emiliano Goessens, Anna Hylander)


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