L'altra Weimar / The Other Weimar
Programme Notes

Prog. 1

DER MÄDCHENHIRT (Künstlerfilm GmbH, Berlin, DE 1919)
Regia/dir: Karl Grune; scen: Karl Grune, Beate Schach, dal romanzo di/from the novel by Egon Erwin Kisch; f./ph: Felix Xaver; scg./des: August Rinaldi, Karl Grune; cast: Magnus Stifter (commissario di polizia/Crime Commissioner Duschnitz), Fritz Richard (Chrapot), Lotte Stein (sua molie/his wife), Henri Peters-Arnolds (Jaroslav, “Jarda l’elegante”/“Jaunty Jarda”), Lo Bergner (Betka Dvorak), Roma Bahn (Luise Heil), Rose Liechtenstein [Lichtenstein] (Illonka Sereniy), Paul Rehkopf (Albert Wessely, “Adalbert il lascivo”/ “Randy Adalbert”), Franz Kneisel (Anton Novotny, “Toni il nero”/“Black Tony”), Alfred Kühne; riprese/filmed: 1919, in Praha (Prague); data v.c./censor date: 10.1919; première: 9.1919 (presentazione alla stampa/press screening), Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: ?? m.; 35mm, 1553 m., 75’ (18 fps), col. (imbibizione e viraggio originali riprodotti su pellicola a colori/printed on colour stock, reproducing original tinting and toning); fonte copia/print source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin.
Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

During his life, the director Karl Grune gave various explanations about the birth of his passion for cinema. One was the time spent among foreign soldiers in World War I, when he’d learned to fathom their talk from faces and gestures; hence his urge to develop in cinema a purely pictorial language. Another was the impact he felt as a young man of the theatre by the film camera’s access to reality. “Where the theatre served to supply an illusion,” he recalled in 1936 in the English magazine Picturegoer, “the kine-camera could capture in constantly moving light and shade actual representation of facts.”
The primacy of “actual representation of facts” stayed with him throughout his career. In
Der Mädchenhirt, his first film as director, his camera absorbed the atmosphere of Prague’s streets and byways (Grune himself, though born in Vienna, was a Czechoslovak citizen). The tone of the film was realistic, the mood serious: attributes never lost as his work grew subtler, more artfully designed, more psychologically penetrating. This is not yet the Grune who directed Die Strasse, the pivotal “street film” of the 1920s, where naturalism and Expressionism criss-crossed; but in this tale of the Prague underworld he is clearly on his way.
The plot is taken from the only extended piece of fiction by the Czech writer and journalist Egon Erwin Kisch, published in 1914 – a year after Kisch enjoyed his biggest scoop uncovering the scandalous affair of Colonel Redl, the blackmailed Austro-Hungarian officer. The story of a crime commissioner and his long-lost illegitimate son – the
Mädchenhirt (shepherd of girls, or pimp) of the title – contains its obvious contrivances. But a journalist’s nose for how life is lived is clear enough in the background details of sleazy bars and shady dealings. Jaroslav the pimp is portrayed by a fresh new face of the time, Dutch actor Henri Peters-Arnolds. The commissioner’s face may be much more familiar: he is Magnus Stifter, busy in films since 1914, and the director of two 1916 Asta Nielsen vehicles, Dora Brandes and Das Liebes-ABC.
Note, too, the name of Grune’s co-scenarist, Beata Schach – the wife of his friend, neighbour, and future producer, Max Schach, whose industry fortunes in Germany and England, both good and bad, Grune came to share. Long before Schach’s death in 1957, Beate had become Grune’s companion. When Schach died, they married; when Grune died, she took her own life. It was a triangle worth its own
Kammerspiel film – taut, intimate, laced with happiness and despair. – Geoff Brown

Karl Grune
(Vienna, 1890–1962, Bournemouth, England) Though largely forgotten today, Grune was a notable figure in 1920s German film culture, acclaimed for films that made sparing use of intertitles and dialogue, communicating narrative and atmosphere through the power of camerawork, lighting and visual effects. He trained as an actor, and spent three years at provincial theatres before being engaged at Vienna’s Volksbühne, where he was also directed. After the war he moved to Berlin’s Deutsches Theater and Residenz-Theater as actor and director. In 1919, on the recommendation of Max Schach (film and theatre critic for the Berliner Tageblatt), Grune became a scenarist at Friedrich Zelnik’s production company Berliner Film-Manufaktur, graduating to direction with Der Mädchenhirt (1919). Three years later he and Schach founded Stern-Film GmbH together. Working closely with cameraman Karl Hasselmann, his collaborator on eleven pictures, Grune created his most famous film, Die Strasse (1923) – a rumination on the nocturnal temptations and dangers of any modern city, which inaugurated the “street film” genre. His adventurous streak continued with Arabella (1924), an experimental melodrama told from a horse’s viewpoint, and a doppelgänger film, Die Brüder Schellenberg (1926). With Königin Luise (1927) he turned to historical epics; Waterloo (1928), equally lavish, was heavily inspired by Abel Gance’s Napoléon, even making use of triple-screen set-ups for some scenes.
Grune continued his professional association with Schach. After Schach became general manager of Munich’s Emelka studios, Grune became its head of production. Emigrating to Britain after the Nazis came to power, he joined other
émigrésworking for Schach’s new companies, Capitol Film Corporation and Trafalgar Film Productions. Grune directed three opulent costume dramas: Abdul the Damned (1935), a thinly-veiled parable about Hitler’s dictatorship, transposed to 19th-century Turkey, starring Fritz Kortner; Pagliacci (1936), an adaptation of the Leoncavallo opera with Richard Tauber, partially in colour; and The Marriage of Corbal (1936), a French Revolution swashbuckler featuring Ernst Deutsch. Grune became Capitol’s artistic director and assumed British nationality. However, the films proved costly flops at the British box-office, and the collapse of Schach’s enterprises triggered wider financial turmoil in the British industry. Grune’s career never recovered. He returned briefly as a producer for the Scottish realist drama The Silver Darlings (1947), but a cherished biblical project, From Beginning to Beginning, stayed in limbo. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)

This screening is presented as a special CineFest Event and a preview of the 2007 CineFest International Festival of German Film Heritage (17-25 November in Hamburg, and subsequently in Berlin, Zurich, Prague, and Vienna). Der Mädchenhirt, shot by a German crew in Prague, is one of the earliest examples of the close and multi-faceted relations between the Czech, Austrian, and German film industries throughout the 20th century – a complex shared history that is the topic of this year’s CineFest. The festival is organized by CineGraph (Hamburg) and the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv (Berlin) with international partners.



Prog. 2

EIN GLAS WASSER (Das Spiel der Königin) (Decla-Bioscop AG, Berlin, per/for Universum-Film AG (Ufa), Berlin, DE 1923)
Regia/dir: Ludwig Berger; prod: Erich Pommer; scen: Ludwig Berger, Adolf Lantz, dalla pièce/from the play Le Verre d’eau di/by Eugène Scribe; f./ph: Günther Krampf, Erich Waschneck; scg./des: Hermann Warm, Rudolf Bamberger; cost: Karl Töpfer, Otto Schulz; cast: Mady Christians (Regina Anna/Queen Anne), Lucie Höflich (Duchessa di Marlborough/Duchess of Marlborough), Hans Brausewetter (John William Masham), Rudolf Rittner (Lord Bolingbroke), Helga Thomas (Abigail), Hugo Döblin (gioielliere/jeweller Tomwood), Hans Wassmann (Lord Richard Scott), Bruno Decarli (Marquis von Torcy), Max Gülstorff (Thompson), Franz Jackson (Hassan), Josef Römer, Gertrud Wolle; riprese/filmed: 1922; data v.c./censor date: 19.1.1923; première: 1.2.1923, Ufa-Palast am Zoo, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2558 m.; 35mm, 2537 m., 110’ (20 fps); fonte copia/print source:Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.
Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

In 1923, unveiling his film adaptation of an 80-year-old Eugène Scribe farce, Le Verre d’eau (The Glass of Water), when inflation and political tempers raged in Germany, Ludwig Berger preached the gospel of escapism: “In times of misery and oppression even more than in times of security and wealth, we long for serenity and light play.” The Romantics’ supposed flight from reality, he declared, had served as “food and strength during decades of external poverty” and “a bridge to a better future”. So, he hoped, would Ein Glas Wasser – a visually exquisite comedy of political and amorous scheming, set in the early 18th century during the reign of England’s Queen Anne and the Spanish War of Succession. The plot’s pivot is the handsome youth Masham, who catches the eye of both Queen Anne and the strong-willed Duchess of Marlborough, the power behind the throne, though Masham’s own heart focuses on the lowly Abigail. Enter another political schemer, Lord Bolingbroke, who sees a way of using Masham to scupper the Duchess’s power.
To a hard, humourless observer like Siegfried Kracauer, such an escapist flight into prettier times was clearly a footpath to Hitler. Perhaps at some level it was. But most
cinéastes today will be happy to rejoice in the imagination, fantasy, light touch, and musicality Berger brings to the flow of story, character, and imagery in his third feature film. Though Berger achieved his first successes in the theatre, he uses cinema to liberate and expand his stage text, never to nail it to the floor. Berger’s achievements were recognized immediately. C. Hooper Trask, Berlin correspondent for Variety at the time, labelled Ein Glas Wasser “one of the best atmosphere pictures ever done anywhere”; to the German critic Herbert Ihering, the film brought lyrical movement into German cinema for the first time. A chief constituent in this magic atmosphere is the gracious Mady Christians (Queen Anne), featured in other regal roles for Berger later in the decade (Ein Walzertaum; Die Jugend der Königin Luise). Günther Krampf and Erich Waschneck’s photography, and the sets of Hermann Warm and Rudolf Bamberger (Berger’s brother), make their own contribution, soothing the eyes with opulence flavoured with the South German baroque. Above all, there is Berger, guiding, balancing, and blending, showing how to make an innately musical film through the music of images alone.
Geoff Brown

Ludwig Berger
(Ludwig Gottfried Heinrich Bamberger; Mainz, 1892-1969, Schlangenbad) first made his name directing in the theatre, notably with Shakespeare productions in Berlin, featuring sets and costumes designed by his brother Rudolf Bamberger. Following his 1920 film debut, Der Richter von Zalamea, he made three lavish, all-star pictures for producer Erich Pommer at Decla-Bioscop, crowned by Ein Glas Wasser and a succulent version of the Cinderella story, Der verlorene Schuh (1923). Ein Walzertraum (1925), an ironic, self-reflective version of Oscar Straus’s operetta, was another notable success. Enticed to Hollywood, Berger laboured on five Paramount films, silent and sound: but exporting the musicality and fairy-tale qualities of his German films proved difficult. Returning to Europe, he scored a modest stylistic triumph with Ufa’s tri-lingual modern-day musical comedy Ich bei Tag und Du bei Nacht (1932). His émigré years, based in the Netherlands, were difficult. A highly-strung perfectionist, he suffered much interference from producer Alexander Korda on the British-made The Thief of Bagdad (1940) – an ignominious experience for Berger (he ended up sharing directorial credit with Michael Powell and Tim Whelan). During the Nazis’ occupation of the Netherlands he managed to survive using forged papers. Returning to West Germany in 1947, his most significant work was for television. He became a pioneer of West German television drama, and in 1957-58 produced an outstanding series of Shakespeare comedies; his career had come full circle. Berger’s retrospective feelings about his cinema experiences may be judged from the title he gave the relevant chapter in his 1953 memoirs: “The Flea Circus”. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/NewYork: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 3

RIVALEN (Apex Film Company Limited, Berlin, DE 1923)
Regia/dir: Harry Piel; prod: Harry Piel, Louis Zimmermann, Heinrich Nebenzahl; scen: Alfred Zeisler, Victor Abel, [Harry Piel]; f./ph: Georg Muschner; scg./des: Hermann Warm, Albert Korell; acrobazie/stunts: Hermann Stetza; cast: Harry Piel (Harry Peel), Adolf Klein (Professor Ravello), Inge Helgard (Evelyn), Charly Berger, Karl Platen, Heinz Stieda, Albert Paulig, Maria Wefers, Erich Sandt; riprese/filmed: 10.1922-1.1923; data v.c./censor date: 23.2.1923; première: 23.2.1923, Berlin (Schauberg); lg. or./orig. l.: 2476 m.; 35mm, 2437 m., 105’ (20 fps); fonte copia/print source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin.
Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

Films pregnant with symbols, shadows, and myths were not for Harry Piel. From the titles downwards, they spilled their contents with the blunt finesse of a cheap crime novel or a circus poster. The Flying Car. The Black Envelope. Zigano, Brigand of Devil’s Mountain. Behind these tags lay boisterous thrills and spills in films packaged for quick consumption and popularity. Even Siegfried Kracauer succumbed to their gusto in the 1920s, valuing the films’ absence of pretension in a national cinema over-fond of the pompously artistic. “Bright and cheerful trash,” he called them.
From the beginning, as actor, producer, and director, Piel used popular cultures beyond Germany as his inspiration and goal. His name was steadily Anglicized: Heinrich Piel became Harry Piel, and, in some situations and foreign prints, Harry Peel. He fed off Sherlock Holmes and American serials. The stunts and athletic abandon of his films lured contemporary commentators to call him “the German Douglas Fairbanks”, though the parallels were never exact. Piel never leaned towards decorative art, as Fairbanks did in
The Thief of Bagdad. Nor did Fairbanks ever tangle with science-fiction, a mad scientist, and a robot, as Piel does in the delightful film we’re presenting here.
Rivalen and its sequel Der letzte Kampf (released one month later), Piel made a determined effort to heighten his cinematic polish. Look at Hermann Warm’s modish and fanciful designs in the spectacular ballroom scene; at the camerawork’s slickness, and the panache of Piel’s stunts (engineered with the help of his colleague Hermann Stetza). Yet Piel hadn’t abandoned hokum. For plot material he drew on one of his early successes, Die grosse Wette (1916), a futuristic adventure set in America in the year 2000. Where and when Rivalen takes place is not so immediately obvious. But it’s a time and country happily stocked with familiar figures. There’s the power-crazed scientist Professor Ravello and his marauding robot. There’s Evelyn the lovely damsel in distress (unfortunate target of Ravello’s desires). Plus sturdy Harry, the courageous hero, who undergoes various fates worse than death, topped by underwater suffocation in a glass cage.
One of the stunts features a car, tumbling from a bridge into water (the location used was Kalksee, east of Berlin). There the car stayed, drowned and forgotten, until 1963, the year of Piel’s death, when divers looking for something else uncovered it by chance. It was a surprising physical memento of what was by then an invisible career. For negatives of the bulk of his films had been destroyed by the bombs of World War II; now, not even Harry Piel’s ingenuity can bring them back. – Geoff Brown

Harry Piel
(Heinrich Piel; Düsseldorf-Benrath, 1892-1963, Munich) acquired the early nickname of the “Dynamite Director” from the explosions frequently staged in his spectacular adventure films and detective serials. Other regular ingredients included stunts, wild animals, exotic vistas, and turbulent plots – plus Piel himself in the starring role. Over 40 years and 100 films, through the Wilhelmine, Weimar, Nazi, and post-war periods, he was almost a popular genre in himself.
On leaving school, Piel served as a ship cadet, took a business course, and trained as a stunt pilot. The skills gathered proved invaluable in building his film career. He began in 1912 with
Schwarzes Blut, which he produced, directed, and wrote. Die grosse Wette (1916) marked his debut in the science-fiction genre; the daring wild-animal stunts first appeared the same year in Unter heisser Zone.
After directing 8 detective films in the Joe Deebs series for Joe May, he created his own Harry Piel adventures; he performed most of his own stunts and became an internationally recognized star. Some films featured him in double roles, as in
Sein grösster Bluff (1927), where he was teamed with a young Marlene Dietrich.
In 1930 Piel moved effortlessly into sound films with the mistaken-identity comedy
Er oder Ich. The animal and circus films continued into the Nazi years with films like Der Dschungel ruft and Menschen, Tiere, Sensationen. Ein Unsichtbarer geht durch die Stadt (1933) was one of the period’s rare science-fiction and fantasy films. In 1943, his patriotic story about an animal-catcher, Panik,was banned because censors believed its realistic air-raid scenes could undermine public morale.
After World War II Piel was imprisoned for 6 months as a Nazi “fellow traveller” and banned from working for 5 years. In 1950 he founded a new company, Ariel-Film, but the clock was ticking. His brand of popular cinema no longer appealed to audiences; nor could Piel himself, always a bit plump and now visibly ageing, convince them as a daredevil. His comeback film,
Der Tiger Akbar (1951), used a tragic romance between an animal trainer and a younger colleague to reflect on the march of time. His last major release was Gesprengte Gitter – Die Elefanten sind los (1953), an edited version of the unreleased Panik. During the 1950s, Piel released a few shorts, before retiring at the end of the decade. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 4

BUDDENBROOKS (Dea-Film GmbH Albert Pommer, Berlin, per/for Universum-Film AG (Ufa), Berlin, DE 1923)
Regia/dir: Gerhard Lamprecht; prod: Albert Pommer; scen: Alfred Fekete, Luise Heilborn-Körbitz, Gerhard Lamprecht, dal romanzo di/from the novel by Thomas Mann; f./ph: Erich Waschneck, Herbert Stephan; scg./des: Otto Moldenhauer; cast: Peter Esser (Thomas Buddenbrook), Mady Christians (Gerda Arnoldsen), Alfred Abel (Christian Buddenbrook), Hildegard Imhoff (Tony Buddenbrook), Mathilde Sussin (Elisabeth Buddenbrook), Franz Egénieff (armatore/shipowner Arnoldsen), Rudolf del Zopp (Console/Consul Kröger), Auguste Prasch-Grevenberg (Babette), Ralph Arthur Roberts (Bendix Grünlich), Charlotte Böcklin (Aline Puvogel), Karl Platen (procuratore/clerk Marcus), Kurt Vespermann (Renée Throta), Elsa Wagner (Sesemi Weichbrodt), Rudolf Lettinger (postiglione / coachman Grobleben), Emil Heyse (Kesselmeyer), Friedrich Taeger (Borgomastro/Burgomaster Oeverdieck), Philipp Manning, Hermann Vallentin (Smith), Robert Leffler (Capitano/Captain Kloot); riprese/filmed: 1923; data v.c./censor date: 16.8.1923; première: 31.8.1923, Tauentzien-Palast, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2383 m.; 35mm, 2301 m., 85’ (24 fps), col. (imbibizione originale riprodotta su pellicola a colori/printed on colour stock, reproducing original tinting); fonte copia/print source: Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin. Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

Two stout volumes in its first printing, published at the end of 1900. A total of 1105 pages. The dimensions of Thomas Mann’s first novel, Buddenbrooks, let alone the book and the author’s reputation, would give pause to a filmmaker even today. Twenty-five years old at the time of shooting what was cinema’s first adaptation of a Thomas Mann book, the director Gerhard Lamprecht and producer Albert Pommer (Erich Pommer’s elder brother) deliberately trod carefully. From Mann’s detailed chronicle of a wealthy Lübeck mercantile family suffering economic, spiritual, and physical decline over four generations, the script plucked out the story of Thomas Buddenbrook, the third-generation son. Settings were updated from the 19th century. Mann was consulted over the script, and consented to all changes, even in places where Lamprecht secretly hoped for some improving intervention. And after production, the actuality of Buddenbrooks didn’t scar Mann’s interest in cinema’s artistic possibilities: writing in 1928, he actively urged filmmakers to tackle other novels, especially Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain). (No-one did until 1967, in a West German TV film.)
Why was Thomas Mann so pliant over the planning and script of
Buddenbrooks? Maybe he detected Lamprecht’s eye for realistic detail – a quality of all his best films. To give precision and ballast to his portrait of Lübeck bourgeois society – the world he himself was born into – Mann undertook extensive research into the town’s economics, commodity prices, and the like. Lamprecht secured his own kind of precision by shooting exteriors and selected interiors in Lübeck’s Hanseatic splendour. As the camera follows the travails of Thomas Buddenbrook, his neglected wife, his wayward brother Christian, and the Lübeck Senate’s grain shipment from Argentina, we get early evidence of Lamprecht’s knack for capturing the texture of everyday life, the ebb and flow of character and environment. That is what links Mann’s Lübeck bourgeoisie to the scampering Berlin children of Emil und die Detektive (1931), Lamprecht’s best-known film.
Another pleasure of
Buddenbrooks is the cast. Peter Esser, the incarnation of Thomas, enjoyed no sustained film career, but with other players we’re comfortably among familiar faces and distinctive talents. There’s Alfred Abel (the icy master of Metropolis) as the troublesome Christian; popular, versatile Ralph Arthur Roberts as Grünlich, a devious brother-in-law; and Mady Christians, perpetually comely, suffering beautifully as Thomas’s neglected wife. You couldn’t find them in Mann’s 1105 pages. – Geoff Brown

Gerhard Lamprecht
(Berlin, 1897–1974, West Berlin) excelled at realist dramas recreating everyday settings and characters. A part-time cinema projectionist from the age of 12, by 17 he had sold his first script, to Eiko-Film. Contracted to join Messter-Film as a scenarist in 1917, he was called up to fight and continued working from his military hospital sickbed, writing among others Der Weltspiegel (1918), filmed by Lupu Pick. Lamprecht subsequently became head of scriptwriting at Pick’s Rex-Film; he also supervised the company’s starring vehicles for Bernd Aldor.
Lamprecht’s directorial debut was
Es bleibt in der Familie (1920), made for Paul Heidemann’s production company. He struck box-office gold with quickly-made “confessions” films starring Ruth Weyer (Die Beichte einer Mutter, and Die Beichte der Krankenschwester, both 1921). A talent for realist drama became more evident with his Thomas Mann adaptation, Buddenbrooks (1923). Die Verrufen (1925), a collaboration with the illustrator and writer Heinrich Zille, started the trend in German cinema for exposés of urban working-class misery. Building on his success, for his own company Gerhard Lamprecht-Filmproduktion he made Menschen untereinander, about life in a tenement, and Die Unehelichen, based on reports by the Society for the Prevention of Child Cruelty and Exploitation. When similar product flooded the market, Lamprecht switched to melodrama (Der Katzensteg) and Prussian military pictures (the two-part Der alte Fritz, 1927). His greatest international success was the Ufa sound film Emil und die Detektive (1931), from a script by Billie Wilder based on Erich Kästner’s popular children’s novel.
During the Nazi years Lamprecht became a pedestrian if workmanlike director of genre films, with occasional literary adaptations like
Madame Bovary (1937) and Der Spieler (1938). His best films from this period were two melodramas with working-class protagonists: Frau im Strom (1939) and Du gehörst zu mir (1943). After World War II, Lamprecht made the DEFA “rubble film” Irgendwo in Berlin (1946), which drew heavily on Emil und die Detektive, and continued making further entertainment pictures until the mid-1950s.
A collector of film prints and memorabilia since the early 1910s, his 10-volume catalogue of German silent films, published between 1967 and 1970 by the Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin, an institution he helped to establish, remains a standard reference work. (Adapted from the forthcoming
Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 5

DAS ALTE GESETZ (Baruch) (Comedia-Film GmbH, Berlin, DE 1923)
Regia/dir: Ewald André Dupont; scen: Paul Reno, dalle memorie di/from the memoirs by Heinrich Laube; f./ph: Theodor Sparkuhl; scg./des: Alfred Junge, Curt Kahle; cost: Ali Hubert; cast: Ernst Deutsch (Baruch), Henny Porten (Erzherzogin/Archduchess Elisabeth Theresia), Ruth Weyher (dama di corte/Lady in waiting), Hermann Vallentin (Heinrich Laube), Avrom Morewsky (Rabbi Mayer), Grete Berger (sua moglie/his wife), Robert Garrison (Ruben Pick), Fritz Richard (Nathan), Margarete Schlegel (Esther), Jakob Tiedtke (direttore della compagnia teatrale/Director of the theatre company), Olga Limburg (seine Frau/his wife), Alice Hechy (la figlia/their daughter), Julius M. Brandt (il vecchio attore/old comedian), Robert Scholz, Alfred Krafft-Lortzing, Dominik Löscher, Philipp Manning, Wolfgang Zilzer, Kálmán Zátony; riprese/filmed: 1923; data v.c./censor date: 18.10.1923; première: 29.10.1923, Marmorhaus, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 3028 m.; 35mm, 2920 m., 107’ (24 fps); fonte copia/print source:Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin.
Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

To underlings working at British International Pictures in the late 1920s, the years of his pomp, E.A. Dupont became notorious for his lordly caprice, fussing endlessly over the minutiae of lighting, or leaving the technical staff twiddling for hours while the great director waited for inspiration to strike. But before the world success of Varieté in 1925, Dupont’s output and manner had been noticeably humbler. In 1918 he’d begun directing numerous detective thrillers, from his own facile scripts, without attracting critical notice. The situation changed significantly with his association with the leading actress (and producer) Henny Porten. Die Geier-Wally, first of several film adaptations of a popular Heimat novel, appeared in 1921. But it was Das alte Gesetz, featuring Porten and Ernst Deutsch, that firmly put Dupont on the map.
Varieté, the film deals with the entertainment world, but we’re far removed from trapeze artists, jugglers, and other vaudeville spectacle. Paul Reno’s script took inspiration from the autobiographical writings of Heinrich Laube, who climaxed a varied theatrical career as director of the Burgtheater, Vienna, in the 1870s. As portrayed in the film by Hermann Vallentin he follows the usual show business cliché: rough on the outside, a heart of gold within. Subtler dichotomies resonate elsewhere, stirred by the figure of Baruch (Ernst Deutsch), the rabbi’s son whose pursuit of the actor’s life prompts parental ire. (In a few years’ time Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer would face similar problems.) Dupont, his cameraman Theodor Sparkuhl, and his set designers Alfred Junge and Curt Kahle exert much ingenuity charting the film’s clashing worlds. The east European shtetl – Baruch’s family home and the root of the “old law” of the film’s title – is pitted against Viennese theatre and the attractions of Henny Porten’s Archduchess. Baruch himself, as an orthodox Jew, is a man divided, always on the fringe of glittering Viennese society.
In this breakthrough film Dupont’s technical command hasn’t yet reached the fluidity of movement, the psychological penetration, and the propulsive force so strikingly achieved in
Varieté. But we can see the Dupont style beginning to grip in the careful image compositions, the concern for the emotional significance of texture, light, and shadow. Roles in Walter Hasenclever’s play Der Sohn and Karlheinz Martin’s film of Georg Kaiser’s Von Morgen bis Mitternacht had earned Ernst Deutsch a reputation as an “expressionist” actor. But Dupont and Sparkuhl’s camera lead him down a different route, towards psychological realism and the projection of thought, rather than heightened emotional states.
After not noticing Dupont’s detective films, German critics now gave the director of
Das alte Gesetz several celebratory paragraphs, praising especially his mastery of atmosphere and detail. “A very tasteful picture book,” declared Film-Kurier. Instead of consolidating his new standing Dupont took a new position in 1924 as manager and director of the Apollotheater, Mannheim, gaining the experience to direct the world-shaking Varieté. Cinema and life for him would never be the same again. – Geoff Brown

Ewald André Dupont
(Zeitz, Saxony-Anhalt, 1891-1956, Los Angeles) started out in 1911 as a journalist, working for Berlin newspapers; from 1915 he regularly wrote the “Variety and Cinema” column in the daily B.Z. am Mittag. In 1916 he began supplying film scripts, mostly for detective series; he also wrote three sequels to Richard Oswald’s sexual enlightenment film, Es werde Licht! Hired by the production company Stern-Film, in 1918 he began directing his scripts for their detective series starring Max Landa (he made twelve entries in two years). Work with Gloria-Film took him more upmarket, but he only gained widespread attention with his Henny Porten vehicles Die Geier-Wally (1921) and Das alte Gesetz (1923).
In 1925, Dupont scored an international success with
Varieté, made for producer Erich Pommer at Ufa. Universal Pictures invited him to Hollywood, but his single assignment, Love Me and the World Is Mine, proved unsuccessful. Returning to Europe, he joined the recently-built Elstree studio of British International Pictures (BIP). In 1928 his sophisticated melodramas Moulin Rouge and Piccadilly provided star vehicles for Olga Tschechowa and Anna May Wong, and helped German set designer Alfred Junge launch his British career. With Atlantic (1929), his epic about the Titanic disaster, shot in English and German, Dupont played a key role in the studio’s shift to sound; the German version, billed as “the first 100% all-talking German picture”, did colossal business on the Continent. Dupont’s portentous pacing in dialogue scenes attracted criticism, as did his work on two subsequent BIP multi-linguals, Two Worlds and Cape Forlorn, but for a time he remained a trophy acquisition for a studio anxious for international prestige.
Back in Germany, he shot the circus melodrama
Salto Mortale (1931) and, as a tie-in to the Los Angeles Olympics, the sports picture Der Läufer von Marathon (1932-33). Once again Hollywood beckoned; but, perceived as “difficult”, he was only given lacklustre projects. Sacked following disagreements shooting Hell’s Kitchen (1939), he didn’t direct again until 1951 (the modest drama The Scarf). Only B-movies like The Neanderthal Man followed. His last mainstream credit was as a writer on William Dieterle’s Wagner biography Magic Fire (1955) – a poignant assignment for a talent who once had the magic fire himself. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 6

LUMPEN UND SEIDE (De Klaplooper / Una coppa di champagne) (Richard Oswald-Film AG, Berlin, DE 1925)
Regia/dir: Richard Oswald; scen: Adolf Lantz, Heinz Goldberg, da un’idea di/from an idea by Richard Oswald; f./ph: Mutz Greenbaum, Emil Schünemann; scg./des: Kurt Richter; cast: Reinhold Schünzel (Max), Mary Parker (Irene), Johannes Riemann (Erik), Einar Hanson (Werner), Maly Delschaft (Ulrike), Mary Kid (Hilde, una ragazza del popolo/a girl of the people), Ferdinand Bonn (il padre di Hilde/Hilde’s father); riprese/filmed: 1924; data v.c./censor date: 2.12.1924; première: 9.1.1925, Richard-Oswald-Lichtspiele, Alhambra Kurfürstendamm, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2456 m.; 35mm, 1748 m., 69’ (22 fps); fonte copia/print source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin.
Didascalie in olandese / Dutch intertitles.

Lumpen und Seide means “rags and silk”, and similar oppositions run through this sprightly Sittenfilm (an entertainment with slight sexual and moral overtones) by Richard Oswald – a modern fairytale all the way from its opening explanatory title to its final burst of happiness. Rags and silk; the poor and the rich. Within the film’s Berlin setting there are also two distinct locations: Wedding, in the north-west, predominantly working-class (and after World War I militantly Communist); and Grunewald, in the south-west, since the turn of the 20th century the leafy home of mansions for the leisured upper-class. The two worlds collide when Erik (Johannes Riemann), the bored husband in a Grunewald mansion, decides to add spice to his life by inviting a Wedding factory girl, Hilde (Mary Kid), to take up residence. Erik’s wife Irene (played by Mary Parker, real name Magdalena Prohaska) at first acquiesces. But equanimity doesn’t survive Hilde’s up-market make-over, or the arrival of Hilde’s jealous fiancé Max (a richly ornamented comic performance here from Reinhold Schünzel).
Best remembered now for
Es werde Licht! and other melodramatic “educational” films of the latter 1910s, Oswald was never a director with his head in the sand. But despite the blunt opposites in its title, and its sharp eye for human behaviour, Lumpen und Seide features no shrill exploitation of the social divide. Rags and silk rub against each other lightly in a film devised solely for the pleasure of the mass-market audience. And as such, it’s quite clear where Oswald’s sympathies rest: with the honest poor, not the game-playing rich.
Film-Kurier reviewer in January 1925 summed it up as an hour’s pleasant pastime, as strenuous an entertainment as flicking through the pictures in a good magazine. But remember: trivial pictures can convey a good deal, especially after 82 years. – Geoff Brown

Richard Oswald
(Richard W. Ornstein; Vienna, 1880–1963, Düsseldorf) studied acting from 1896, and subsequently toured as an actor and director. After anti-Semitic attacks in Vienna, he moved to Düsseldorf in 1911, where he acted in two films. Moving to Berlin, he started writing screenplays for Deutsche Vitascope in 1914, and made his directorial debut the same year with the war drama Das eiserne Kreuz, which came into conflict with the censors. In the following years, he mixed detective films with ambitious projects like the atmospheric Hoffmanns Erzählungen (1916) and Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray (1917), adapted from Oscar Wilde. Es werde Licht! (1916), concerning a painter who contracts syphilis, initiated a series of Aufklärungsfilme, blending sex education with melodramatic storylines. The most ambitious and politically radical was Anders als die Andern (1919), which used the story of a blackmailed gay violinist to urge the repeal of Germany’s draconian homosexual laws. A brief period of lax censorship after the war encouraged such films to flourish, until the enforcement of new regulations ended the Aufklärungfilme boom.
In the early 1920s Oswald filmed ambitious historical epics (
Lady Hamilton, 1921; Lucrezia Borgia, 1922). But the collapse of his production company in 1926 enforced a concentration on cheaper popular fare – useful programming fodder for the cinema he ran in Berlin. He returned to history for the lavishly-appointed Cagliostro (1929), filmed in France. Smoothly adapting to talkies, Oswald initially specialized in operettas and musical comedies, but also released historical subjects, among them Dreyfus (1930), “1914”. Die letzten Tage vor dem Weltbrand (1931), and Der Hauptmann von Köpenick (1931), based on Carl Zuckmayer’s popular play about a small-time criminal who impersonates a Prussian officer.
Following the Nazis’ rise to power, Oswald worked in Austria, France, the Netherlands, and Britain, before moving permanently to the United States in 1938. His few Hollywood assignments included a 1941 remake of
Der Hauptmann von Köpenick, starring Albert Bassermann, which had a delayed release (surfacing as I Was a Criminal and Passport to Heaven), and the comedy The Lovable Cheat (1949, after Balzac), with Charlie Ruggles, Curt Bois, and Buster Keaton.
Oswald’s son Gerd Oswald (1918-1989) became a successful director and producer in Hollywood. (Adapted from the forthcoming
Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 7

WEGE ZU KRAFT UND SCHÖNHEIT (Forza e bellezza / The Way to Strength and Beauty) (Universum-Film AG (Ufa) – Kulturabteilung, Berlin, DE 1924-25)
Regia/dir., scen: Wilhelm Prager; f./ph: Friedrich Weinmann, Eugen Hrich, Friedrich Paulmann, Max Brinck, Kurt Neubett, Jakob Schatzow, Erich Stocker; scg./des: Hans Sohnle, Otto Erdmann; cast: La Jana, Maria Caramonte [= Eva Liebenberg], Hertha von Walther, Kitty Cauer, Hubert Houben, Rudolf Kobs, Luber, Artur Holz, Herrmann Westerhaus, Henry Carr, Helen Wills; Charles William Paddock, Loren Murchison, Arthur Porrit (velocisti/sprinters); Leni Riefenstahl, membri della/members of the Bode-Schule, Laban-Schule, Schule Hellerau für Rhythmus, Musik und Körperbildung, Gymnastik-Schule Bess Mensendiek, Gymnastik-Schule Loheland (culturisti/body culture performers); Lydia Impekoven, Tamara Karsavina, Peter Wladimiroff, Jenny Hasselqvist, Bac Ishii, Konami Ishii, Mary Wigman, Carolina de la Riva (danzatrici/dancers); data v.c./censor date: 16.2.1925; première: 16.3.1925, Ufa-Palast am Zoo, Berlin; nuova versione/new version (1926):data v.c./censor date: 4.6.1926, première: 11.6.1926, Ufa-Palast am Zoo, Berlin; 35mm, 2536 m., 100’ (22 fps);fonte copia / print source: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.
Didascalie in inglese / English intertitles.

Germany’s stabilization crisis around 1924 for a while curtailed production of feature films, and the studios increased their output of documentary and educational films (Lehrfilme), which could be more cheaply produced. They were styled Kulturfilme, and became major moneymakers for the Ufa conglomerate. Making a virtue of necessity, an Ufa publicity brochure of the time grandly declared: “The world is beautiful: its mirror is the Kulturfilm.” Ufa’s Kulturabteilung had been established in July 1918, and by the mid-1920s this department was preparing feature-length documentaries on general topics, such as wine through the ages, etc. The biggest commercial success was Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit, re-released in 1926 with almost 60% new material. Further changes, to fit national preferences and needs, were made when the film was released abroad. Reviewing the American version (The Way to Strength and Beauty) in 1927, the New York Times told its readers the film had made a serious contribution to “the craze for nudity and sunlight baths abroad”. Siegfried Kracauer wrote in From Caligari to Hitler (1947):
“The first Kulturfilm to impress itself upon audiences abroad was Ufa’s Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit (Ways to Health and Beauty) – a feature-length documentary, released in 1925 and reissued, one year later, in a somewhat altered version. Made with the financial support of the German government, this film circulated in the schools because of what was considered its educational value. In an Ufa publicity pamphlet devoted to its merits, a professional eulogist states that Ways to Health and Beauty promotes the concept of the ‘regeneration of the human race’. As a matter of fact, the film simply promoted calisthenics and sport. This was done in an omnivorous manner: not content with recording actual achievements in the fields of athletics, hygienic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, dancing, and so forth, Ufa resurrected the Roman thermae and an antique Greek gymnasium crowded with adolescents posing as the contemporaries of Pericles. The masquerade was easy inasmuch as many of the athletes performed stark naked. Of course, this sight offended the prudish, but Ufa held that perfect bodily beauty was bound to evoke joys of a purely aesthetic order, and found its idealism rewarded by good box-office takes. Aesthetically speaking, the reconstructions of antiquity were tasteless, the sport pictures excellent, and the bodily beauties so massed together that they affected one neither sensually nor aesthetically.” – David Robinson

Wilhelm Prager (Augsburg, 1876-1955, Prien am Chiemsee) started his career as a stage actor, served in World War I, and began his film career in 1919, initially as an actor and assistant director. In der Sommerfrisch’n (1920), a tourist film, launched a directing career that lasted until 1945: he made 150 films for the Ufa-Kulturabteilung, specializing in fairytale adaptations and interest films about folklore, the countryside, and sport. His three fairytale films of 1921, Der kleine Muck, Tischlein deck dich..., and Der fremde Prinz, inspired by Wilhelm Hauff and the Brothers Grimm, were the first German films in this genre, which Ufa was able to market successfully internationally. But documentaries took over after Prager’s biggest success, the feature-length Kulturfilm Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit, made with producer Nicholas Kaufmann.
Prager had a preference for films about horse breeding; for
Paradies der Pferde (1936), a film about the East Prussian stud farm Trakehnen, he received a gold medal at the 1937 Exposition Internationale “Arts et Techniques” in Paris. In 1939 the Gestapo declared Prager a “half-Jew”, but he remained a member of the Reichsfilmkammer, making Kulturfilme like Heuzug im Allgäu. After World War II he briefly continued production with his own company, Willi-Prager-Films. Financial problems intervened, and he abandoned filmmaking. (Adapted from CineGraph)


Prog. 8

DER FARMER AUS TEXAS (The Cowboy Count) (Universum-Film AG (Ufa), Berlin, DE 1925)
Regia/dir., prod: Joe May; scen: Joe May, Rolf E. Vanloo, dalla pièce/from the play Kolportage di/by Georg Kaiser; f./ph: Carl Drews, Antonio Frenguelli; scg./des: Paul Leni; cast: Mady Christians (Mabel Bratt), Edward Burns (Erik), Willy Fritsch (Akke), Lilian Hall-Davis (Alice), Christian Bummerstedt (Conte/Count von Stjernenhoe), Clara [Clare] Greet (Mrs. Appelboom), Hans Junkermann (Barone/Baron Barrenkrona), Pauline Garon (Miss Abby Grant), Frida Richard (zia/aunt Jutta), Ellen Plessow, Emmy Wyda; riprese/filmed: 1925; data v.c./censor date: 25.7.1925; première: 22.10.1925, Tauentzien-Palast, U.T. Turmstraße, Ufa-Palast Königstadt, U.T. Alexanderplatz, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2540 m.; 35mm, 2447 m., 106’ (20 fps); fonte copia/print source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin.
Didascalie in inglese / English intertitles.

To find a German film of the mid-1920s called Der Farmer aus Texas should be no surprise. America, one way or another, occupied many minds. The mighty conglomerate Ufa risked inflating production costs by purposefully increasing spectacle levels to attract the American box-office. At the same time, European collaborations were forged to strengthen Europe’s internal market and break the march of America’s imports. Outside the cinemas, in theatres and hotels American jazz and dance music intoxicated the crowds; while to leftist writers like Brecht, America served as both awful warning and fatal attraction. Schizophrenia.
Joe May’s Ufa production, adapted from one of Berlin’s most popular stage comedies of 1924, Georg Kaiser’s
Kolportage (Pulp Fiction), exactly reflects these confusions. The title, the subject, the studio artifice, the picturesque exteriors, the roster of American and English players, all point to hopes for an international hit. (It didn’t happen.) At the same time, there’s no reverent worship of America here: the New World is ribbed just as strongly as the Old World of Europe. The Georg Kaiser of Kolportage had moved on from his Expressionist dramas of World War I; in Kolportage he was cynically assembling theatre clichés and parodying popular taste. Key plot elements couldn’t be fustier: aside from the clash between Old World and New World, old money and new, you get the aristocratic family split, a nasty spot of dynasty trouble, and a variation on the old cradle switch (the child of Count Stjernenhoe gets swapped with the offspring of a poor widow, Frau Appelboom).
What pleased German theatre audiences so much found less success in the cinemas: indeed, in 1926 the heavy production costs of
Der Farmer aus Texas helped pitch Ufa closer towards bankruptcy. Perhaps cinema audiences didn’t spot the tongue in the cheek in this pulp fiction. Perhaps they failed to appreciate the imported players moving around Paul Leni’s interesting castle sets or the striking Swedish coastline exteriors. Players like the broad-shouldered American Edward Burns (as the Count’s true son, the title character); or, from Britain, Lilian Hall-Davis (love’s young dream, Alice) and Clare Greet (the poor widow Appelboom). Audiences obviously enjoyed Willy Fritsch as the amiable and energetic “false” offspring Akke: the role grew to define his developing star persona. And no-one surely could mind Mady Christians, cast as Mabel, the rich American farmer’s daughter whose marriage to Christian Bummerstedt’s Stjernenhoe starts the ball rolling.
Joe May’s personal difficulties could not have helped the production: in the month filming began, August 1925, his actress daughter Eva May took her own life with a gun. But there should be no clouds for us now. Ambitious, jaunty, and very much of its time,
Der Farmer aus Texas is exactly the kind of fascinating commercial film unfairly obscured by Kracauer and Eisner’s “warning shadows”. – Geoff Brown

Joe May (Julius Otto Mandl; Vienna, 1880–1954, Hollywood). A wealthy industrialist’s son, May squandered the family fortune living high in Berlin. In 1902 he married the singer Hermine Pfleger; when she adopted the stage name Mia May, Mandl became Joe May. He made his feature film debut guiding Mia through her first screen role in Continental-Kunstfilm’s tragic romance
In der Tiefe des Schachtes (1912). After inaugurating Continental’s Stuart Webbs detective series in 1913, he founded May-Film in 1915 and launched a competing series featuring detective “Joe Deebs”. Simultaneously he gave chances to up-and-coming talent like Fritz Lang and E.A. Dupont, and fostered Mia’s career as a melodramatic tragedienne in ventures like Die Herrin der Welt (1919), an eight-part exotic adventure.
Affiliated to Ufa during these years, in 1921 May shifted allegiance to the American-backed EFA. With the two-part
Das Indische Grabmal (1921) and the high-society crime drama Tragödie der Liebe (1923) he became the company’s foremost maker of prestige productions after Lubitsch. A rocky period followed: Germany’s rampant inflation forced company restructuring; Mia retired following the suicide of the couple’s actress-daughter Eva May; and Der Farmer aus Texas, an attempt at an international hit, proved a financial disaster. Good fortune returned under the auspices of Erich Pommer’s Ufa production unit, with his late silent dramas Heimkehr (1928) and Asphalt (1929). May’s sound film début, the comedy Ihre Majestät die Liebe, proved his success in the sphere of comedy.
After the premiere of the Jan Kiepura musical
Ein Lied für Dich (1933), May emigrated via Paris and London to Hollywood, where Pommer, now at Fox, commissioned him to make Music in the Air (1934). The first Hollywood production whose cast and crew was chiefly composed of émigrés from Nazi Germany, the film flopped badly, as did his stylish courtroom drama Confession (1937), made at Warner Bros. Thereafter May turned out “B” pictures at Universal, and gained a reputation for being difficult to handle – he was fired as director of the anti-Nazi film The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler (1943). His final picture was the wartime comedy Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Any More (1944). Five years later, with backing from friends, Joe and Mia May opened a Viennese restaurant in Los Angeles; it closed down after a few weeks. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 9

DER HERR DES TODES (Maxim Film, Ebner & Co., Berlin, DE 1926)
Regia/dir: Hans Steinhoff; scen: Hans Szekely, dal romanzo di/based on the novel by Karl Rosner; f./ph: Hans Theyer, Willibald Gaebel; scg./des: Robert Neppach; mus. (1926 Berlin premiere): Pasquale Perris; cast: Alfred Solm (Peter von Hersdorff), Hertha von Walther (Maja), Simone Vaudry (Heid von Düren), Eduard von Winterstein (colonello/Colonel von Hersdorff), Heinrich Peer (consigliere segreto/Privy Councillor von Düren), Erna Hauck (Daisy Brown), Jenny Marba (Sig.ra /Mrs. von Hersdorff), Hedwig Pauly-Winterstein (Consigliere segreto della moglie di von Düren/Privy Councillor von Düren’s wife), Ferdinand von Alten (Barone/Baron von Bassenheim),Szöke Szakall (impresario Bordoni), Georg John, Hugo Döblin, Maria Forescu, Teddy Bill, Paul Rehkopf, Mammey-Bassa, John Essaw; data v.c./censor date: 22.11.1926; première: 26.11.1926, Tauentzien-Palast, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2318 m.; 35mm, 2388 m., 95’ (22 fps); fonte copia/print source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin.
Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

Der Herr des Todes (The Master of Death) belongs to a series of productions made to order by one of Ufa’s subsidiaries in an attempt to fulfil the company’s contractual obligations under its ill-conceived “Parufamet-Agreement” with Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer of December 1925 (forcing the Germans to produce a minimum of 40 German films in order to be able to import at least 20 pictures from each of the two Hollywood majors) and another, separate deal with Carl Laemmle (under which Ufa agreed to present 50 Universal productions in their cinemas in return for a loan of $ 275.000). Steinhoff (who appears to have taken on the project at short notice) was no newcomer to Maxim Film, Ebner & Co., having previously worked on two scripts for the company, Die Fledermaus (Max Mack, 1922) and Der Mann im Sattel (Manfred Noa, 1925).
Based on a novel by Karl Rosner and – according to one reviewer – sticking close to Max Obald’s 1913-14 Deutsche Bioscop production of the same title, the film tells the story of an aristocratic lieutenant who is forced to resign his commission and give up his career in the cavalry after having defended himself against deliberate provocations by a superior officer who is competing with him for the love of the daughter of a respected privy councillor. Concerned about their honour, his family bans him to New York, where he falls on hard times until a former circus performer helps him to become a world-renowned trapeze and aerial artiste. Before he is reunited with the girl he loves, he has to survive an act of sabotage by a jealous lover.
Though set in the mid-1920s, the story’s characters, atmosphere, and mores link the film closely to the pre-World War I era, and demonstrate their continued attractiveness to certain sections of German society during the years of the Weimar Republic. The presence of unknown performers in the leading roles, the appearance in New York’s Central Park of pine trees characteristic of the forests around Berlin, and the picture’s Munich premiere (five months after its opening in Berlin) supporting Dimitri Buchowetzki’s
The Midnight Sun (1926; German release title, Die Tänzerin des Zaren) on a double-bill at the city’s Ufa-Filmpalast, are some of the indicators of the film’s status as a low-budget “quota quickie” production. It also contains a fine example of the practice of product-placement: The passenger liner Columbus (used regularly by Ufa’s managers for their business trips to the States) is featured extensively enough for her owners, Norddeutsche Lloyd, to have given free passages to the small film crew required for the shots on board and in New York.
Berlin critics were strongly divided in their reactions, with a number of them resorting to sarcastic remarks about this “antiquated” film’s “relevance” at a time when Germans were trying to rid themselves of their imperial past, while others – especially those of the trade press trying to predict its box-office appeal – regarded it as solid cinema fare without any literary ambitions, aiming above all at exciting entertainment. For Steinhoff it was a routine assignment he carried out with the professionalism characteristic of his work. – Horst Claus

Hans Steinhoff (Johannes Reiter; Marienberg, Saxony,1882-1945, near the village of Glienig, near Berlin) Thanks to the Steinhoff Project of the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv of Berlin, Giornate habitués have some familiarity with the silent films of this long-eclipsed director. While the careers of many artists featured in this series on “The Other Weimar” were crippled by Nazi persecution, Steinhoff’s efficiently crafted Weimar films have been unfairly overshadowed by his later notoriety as the director of some of Nazi cinema’s most infamous propaganda productions.
Steinhoff grew up in Leipzig. He joined a local theatre company at 15. Varied experiences followed: he played opposite the author Frank Wedekind in the first production of
Lulu (Steinhoff was Alwa, Wedekind Dr. Schön); he sang, and directed, operetta. With the decline of traditional variety theatres after World War I, Steinhoff founded his own film company in 1921. For the Gloria company in Berlin he made the historical epic Der Falsche Dimitry (The False Dimitri, 1922), and built a reputation as an efficient and versatile director for the mass market. His ability to work within modest budgets made him especially popular with smaller companies.
In 1933, contracted to a B-movie production unit at Ufa, Steinhoff made
Hitlerjunge Quex, which established his reputation as a Nazi propagandist. Though Steinhoff was an ardent admirer of Hitler, he never joined the Party; people who knew him described him as “totally apolitical”, an opportunist rather than a political activist. His standing as one of the leading (and best) Third Reich directors rests mainly on biopics like Ohm Krüger (1941) and Rembrandt (1942). But Steinhoff was also responsible for Die Geier Wally (1940), one of the most influential examples of the Heimatfilm genre, and the ambiguous Tanz auf dem Vulkan (1938), in which Gustaf Gründgens seems to incite resistance to dictatorship.
Steinhoff died in the last days of the war, when a plane taking him back to Prague – where he was filming a Hans Albers vehicle – was shot down southeast of Berlin by Russian anti-aircraft fire. (Adapted from the forthcoming
Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 10

DER HIMMEL AUF ERDEN (Reinhold Schünzel-Film GmbH, Berlin, DE 1927)
Regia/dir: Alfred Schirokauer; prod., supv: Reinhold Schünzel; scen: Reinhold Schünzel, Alfred Schirokauer, dalla pièce/from the play Der Doppelmenschdi/by Wilhelm Jacobi & Arthur Lippschütz; f./ph: Edgar S. Ziesemer; scg./des: O.F. Werndorff; cast: Reinhold Schünzel (Traugott Bellmann), Charlotte Ander (Juliette), Adele Sandrock (presidentessa della lega per la moralità/morality league president), Emmy Wyda, Erich Kaiser-Titz (Dr. Dresdner), Otto Wallburg (Louis Martiny), Paul Morgan (Herr Kippel), Szöke Szakall (manager), Ellen Plessow (Frau Kippel), Johanna Ewald, Frigga Braut, Ida Perry (Frau Martiny), Maria Kamradek; riprese/filmed: 1926-27; data v.c./censor date: 27.1.1927; première: 25.7.1927, Gloria-Palast, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2410 m.; 35mm, 2450 m., 97’ (22 fps); fonte copia/print source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin.
Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

Scan the indexes in those domineering books Siegfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler and Lotte Eisner’s L’Écran démoniaque (The Haunted Screen) and you will not find the name of Reinhold Schünzel, or even the transvestite comedy Viktor und Viktoria, his best-known film. In Kracauer’s case at least, the omission of such an enjoyable and significant actor-director seems particularly short-sighted. Kracauer the social critic, the chronicler of human types and mass technologies, could surely have seen in Schünzel’s screen creations a distillation of the nervous hedonism of Weimar Berlin, viewed in a crazy mirror.
As a film actor he came to the fore after World War I with devious, satanic figures in Richard Oswald’s
Anders als die Andern and other topical melodramas – playing them with such force that one critic in 1926 called him “sin incarnate”. Increasingly in the 1920s, he flipped over the coin from drama to comedy, though in the hilarious Der Himmel auf Erden, Halloh – Caesar!, and Hercules Maier the deceptions and disguises (moral and sexual) and the dangerous elegance of his gestures continued unabated. You see his relatives haunting the paintings of Otto Dix, George Grosz, and Max Beckmann: those square-faced Prussians, hooked on pleasure and capitalism, drinking the dregs of the night.
Der Himmel auf Erden, Schünzel was not the film’s official director; but as artistic supervisor, producer, co-writer, and star, there is never any doubt who is in control, or who fixes our gaze. Despite the delights of Charlotte Ander, Szöke Szakall, dancing girls, a black jazz band, a trained monkey, and Oscar Werndorff’s nightclub sets, our eyes always seek out Schünzel. The source material, the theatrical farce Der Doppelmensch, gave him a perfect Weimar character: Bellmann, the upstanding, censorious, alcohol-hating city councillor whose moral standing is sabotaged when his deceased brother bequeaths to him 500,000 marks and an infamous nightclub, “Der Himmel auf Erden” (“Heaven on Earth”).
To fulfil the terms of his brother’s will – where would farces be without wills? – Bellmann must be physically present at the club every night. Hence his paroxysms of embarrassment and disdain. Hence his desperate appearance in drag, dancing festooned with jewellery, quite the belle of the ball. (Schünzel, of undecided sexuality himself, probably enjoyed that.) From the raised finger to the arched eyebrow, his command of comic body language seems endless. And the director Alfred Schirokauer, following Schünzel’s own dry directorial style, knows the value of watching and waiting; visually, nothing is pushed or shoved. It’s Weimar captured in a miniature bottle; and oh, so drinkable. – Geoff Brown

Reinhold Schünzel
(Hamburg, 1888–1954, Munich) first made his name in films as an actor, but is better remembered now as the director of some of the biggest hits of the 1920s and 30s, second only to Lubitsch’s films in wit and sophistication. He began in films in 1916, and joined Conrad Veidt and the exotic dancer Anita Berber in director Richard Oswald’s team of actors: in the homosexual emancipation melodrama Anders als die Andern (1919) he played a slithering blackmailer. For Lubitsch, he portrayed a louche and shady aristocrat in Madame Dubarry (1921).
A director from 1918, he concentrated on comedies, but also showed a talent for historical spectacle in
Katharina die Grosse (1920). Initially working independently, Schünzel was contracted to Ufa in 1926, producing and starring in popular slapstick comedies, including Halloh – Caesar! (1926), Der Himmel auf Erden (1927), and Hercules Maier (1927). He made a smooth transition to sound films, exploiting music, dialogue, and sound to great comic effect. He also maintained his sense for irony and erotically risqué subjects, as in his masterpiece Viktor und Viktoria (1933), a musical comedy about a young woman who pretends to be a female impersonator. At the same time, Schünzel continued to act for other directors: in Pabst’s Die 3-Groschen-Oper (1931) he was the corrupt police chief Tiger Brown.
After the Nazis came to power, Schünzel, classified as a “half-Jew”, was given special permission by the propaganda ministry to continue working for Ufa. Seemingly unaffected by the regime change, he continued to deploy urbane irony, most strikingly in
Amphitryon (1935), a comedy about the domestic life of the Greek gods, which was interpreted as poking fun at the new German state. Land der Liebe (1937), his final German film, was a satirical operetta, released in an extensively cut version.
Subsequently Schünzel left for Hollywood, where he found himself distrusted by established German
émigrés who had been forced to flee earlier. Contracted to M-G-M, his attempt to duplicate his European successes failed, and he returned to acting after New Wine (1941), a non-vintage biography of Franz Schubert. Often he played Nazis, as in Lang’s Hangmen Also Die! (1943). He was also one of Claude Rains’ sinister houseguests in Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946). Schünzel returned to Germany in 1951, acting on stage, and occasionally in films, until his death. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)

Alfred Schirokauer
(Breslau, 1880–1934, Vienna) was a lawyer who in the 1910s and 20s published bestselling novels about historical characters such as Ferdinand Lassalle, Lord Byron, Mirabeau, Napoleon, and Lucrezia Borgia, which were often adapted for the screen. In 1913 he started writing film scripts for Joe May. He worked in the Munich studios, primarily as a scriptwriter, mainly with directors Franz Osten, Osten’s brother Ottmar Ostermayr, and Franz Seitz (Sr.). From the early 1920s he dabbled in direction as well. In the 1920s Schirokauer moved to Berlin, where he collaborated on a series of films with the multi-talented Reinhold Schünzel, and wrote scripts for directors Georg Jacoby, Max Mack, Erich Waschneck, and others. When the Nazis took over in Germany he emigrated to the Netherlands and then to Vienna. (Adapted from CineGraph)


Prog. 11

DIE HOSE(A Royal Scandal) (Phoebus-Film AG, Berlin, DE 1927)
Regia/dir: Hans Behrendt; scen: Franz Schulz, dalla pièce di/from the play by Carl Sternheim; f./ph: Carl Drews; scg./des: Heinrich Richter, Franz Schroedter; cast: Werner Krauss (Theobald Maske), Jenny Jugo (Luise), Rudolf Forster (Scarron), Veit Harlan (Mandelstam), Christian Bummerstedt (principe/Prince), Olga Limburg (dirimpettaia/the woman across the street), Martin Held; riprese/filmed: 1927; data v.c./censor date: 20.7.1927; première: 20.8.1927, Capitol, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2425 m.; 35mm, 2170 m., 86’ (22 fps); fonte copia/print source: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.
Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

“Ein Champagner-Film, ‘extra-dry’,” proclaimed the critic Willy Haas in Film-Kurier. And it was a champagne that German audiences loved to drink: Hans Behrendt’s comedy based on Carl Sternheim’s farce of 1911 proved a notable public and critical success. The title refers to the falling undergarments worn by Jenny Jugo’s demure little wife: an obvious attraction for part of the audience. But general delight was probably sealed more by Werner Krauss as Jugo’s petit-bourgeois husband – the focal point for the social and political satire embedded in Sternheim’s play.
Theobald Maske is the bureaucratic underling incarnate in a small German principality. Image by image, his empty day is measured out. The morning wash. Off to the office. Nothing to do, except watch the clock and fuss proudly over his moustache. Twelve o’clock strikes. The unveiling and eating of the packed lunch. Then back to idleness. Precisely delineated by Krauss (a far cry from his incarnation as Robert Wiene’s Dr. Caligari), here was a character type that contemporary audiences could both laugh at and laugh with, perhaps with a sigh of nostalgia for the old pre-war order. Herbert Ihering in the
Berliner Börsen-Courier compared Krauss’s depiction to a George Grosz caricature of the ruling class, and considered Krauss an actor who held all the possibilities of German films in his hand. The critic couldn’t have foreseen Krauss’s participation in Jud Süss (whose director Veit Harlan appears here as the Jewish barber Mandelstam) and other Nazi propaganda films to come.
Behrendt’s control of gesture and pacing is crucial to the success of
Die Hose. But the champagne wouldn’t taste so fresh without the work of Franz Schulz, the future writer of Ufa soundfilm-operettas. Schulz snips out motifs and characterizations from Sternheim’s farce to create something blithely cinematic. “One of the best films of the period,” Siegfried Kracauer declared in From Caligari to Hitler (1947) – and that’s from a man not easily pleased. – Geoff Brown
Hans Behrendt
(Berlin, 1889-1942?, Auschwitz?) began his career as a stage actor, and entered films as the gravedigger in Maria Magdalene (1919), directed by his friend Reinhold Schünzel. In partnership with Bobby E. Lüthge, he wrote scripts for Schünzel, Urban Gad, and Arsen von Cserépy’s four-part Fridericus Rex (1920-1923) – the first of numerous German films featuring Otto Gebühr as the Prussian king, and popular both in right-wing and anti-republican circles. He also scripted entertainment films by Richard Eichberg, Friedrich Zelnik, and others, and adapted theatre classics like Shakespeare’s Ein Sommernachstraum (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Schiller’s Wallenstein. He began directing in 1920 (Die Boxerhanne), but became a dominant force only after Prinz Louis Ferdinand and Die Hose in 1926-27. He earned a reputation as an “actor’s director”, and a specialist in Prussian topics. Behrendt’s first sound films were weakened remakes of successful silents, like Kohlhiesels Töchter (1930) with Henny Porten, the star of Lubitsch’s original of 1920. He also remade the film version of Büchner’s play Danton with Fritz Kortner.
Following his popular
heimatfilm, Grün ist die Heide, Behrendt completed two more films before the Nazis forced his emigration to Spain. One Spanish film resulted – a version of the popular zarzuela Doña Francisquita (1934). Bad fortune multiplied after he retreated to Vienna in 1936 just before the Spanish Civil War. He was sacked from the film Fräulein Lilli after conflicts with the Hungarian star Franciska Gaal. In Brussels when the German army invaded Austria in 1938, he stayed put, only to be arrested by the Belgian police in 1940 when the city was bombed by the Germans. Attempts to procure an American visa for him came too late: after two years interned in camps in Vichy France, Behrendt’s name was placed on the Paris-Auschwitz transport list for 14 August 1942. His arrival is not recorded. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/NewYork: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 12

LOOPING THE LOOP(Die Todesschleife / Il cerchio della morte) (Universum-Film AG (Ufa), Berlin, DE 1928)
Regia/dir: Arthur Robison; prod: Gregor Rabinowitsch; scen: Arthur Robison, Robert Liebmann; f./ph: Carl Hoffmann; scg./des: Robert Herlth, Walter Röhrig; cast: Werner Krauss (Botto), Jenny Jugo (Blanche Valeite), Warwick Ward (André Melton), Gina Manès (Hanna), Siegfried Arno (Sigi), Max Gülstorff, Lydia Potechina (parenti di Blanche/Blanche’s relatives), Harry Grunwald, Julius von Szöreghy [Julius Szöreghi] (agente/agent);riprese/filmed: 1927/1928; data v.c./censor date: 24.05.1928; première: 15.9.1928, U.T. Universum, Berlin; 35mm, 2880 m., 125’ (20 fps); fonte copia/print source:Filmmuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, München.
Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

A good thesis could be written on the clown motif in 1920s theatre and cinema. Why did so many Pagliaccis suddenly spring up to face torture by unrequited love in circus dramas across the world, from America to Scandinavia, Germany, and Russia; from Lon Chaney in He Who Gets Slapped to the Nordisk production Klovnen? Arthur Robison’s 1928 Looping the Loop, one of a bustling German contingent from the period, won’t solve the basic riddle, though it certainly lays out numerous ingredients that kept circus dramas in fashion.
Here is escapist spectacle, and danger and excitement, all funnelled into the “looping the loop” circus stunt – a stunt also known as the “death leap”, for reasons that will become obvious. Here’s the tinkle of that old love triangle, whose three points are Jenny Jugo as the lovely girl, Werner Krauss as the frustrated clown, and Warwick Ward as the handsome acrobat rival. Note, too, the lure of pathos for actors, evident in Werner Krauss’s Botto – a character who’s so convinced that clowns can’t succeed as lovers that he disguises himself to Jenny Jugo as an electrical engineer who only works at night. And she believes him. When Robison and his team assembled this production for Ufa, the psychological penetration and shadow play of their 1923 landmark,
Schatten, were clearly not on the agenda; their chief goal was to make a rousing commercial hit.
It proved not quite that; this was no international success like Dupont’s
Varieté (an obvious influence on the script). Paul Rotha, writing in 1930 in The Film Till Now, presumed some of its weaknesses might have been due to the loss of the original negative in a fire and the creation of a substitute version from an assemblage of left-over takes. Weaknesses acknowledged, we can still draw sustenance from Carl Hoffmann’s distinguished photography, a script that’s never afraid of the absurd, and an acting range that encompasses both the melancholy in Krauss’s eyes and the extravagance of Warwick Ward – able to wink at the heroine even when suffering from a broken neck. – Geoff Brown
Arthur Robison
(Chicago, 1888-1935, Berlin), a consummate professional across a range of genres, was born in the United States, into a family of German-Americans, but moved to Germany at the age of seven. At first he studied medicine and worked as a doctor; he switched to films in 1914 after stage acting experience in Germany and America. He made his directorial debut with Nächte des Grauens (1916), starring Werner Krauss and Emil Jannings. Zwischen Abend und Morgen (1921) marked his first collaboration with cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner, who also contributed much to the fearful, claustrophobic atmosphere of Schatten (1923), Robison’s most famous production. The film, starring Fritz Kortner as a jealous husband whose violent fantasies find expression in a shadow play performance, remains a classic of Weimar cinema’s “haunted screen”. Petro der Korsar (1925) and Manon Lescaut (1926), lavish costume dramas made for Erich Pommer at Ufa, confirmed Robison’s reputation. Following Looping the Loop, partially shot in London, he made The Informer for British International Pictures, an atmospheric adaptation of Liam O’Flaherty’s novel, elevated by Werner Brandes’ chiaroscuro camerawork and Lya de Putti’s naturalistic performance as the fiancée of an IRA informer. In the early 1930s in Hollywood, Robison directed several foreign-language versions of M-G-M productions before returning to Germany, and Ufa, in 1933. His final film was a remake of Der Student von Prag (1935), with Adolf Wohlbrück [Anton Walbrook] in the title role. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 13

DIE CARMEN VON ST. PAULI(Gestrandet) (Universum-Film AG (Ufa), Berlin, DE 1928)
Regia/dir: Erich Waschneck; prod: Alfred Zeisler; scen: Bobby E. Lüthge, Erich Waschneck; f./ph: Friedl Behn-Grund; scg./des: Alfred Junge; cast: Jenny Jugo (Jenny Hummel), Willy Fritsch (Klaus Brandt), Fritz Rasp (“il dottore”/“The Doctor”), Wolfgang Zilzer (“Pince-nez”/“The Nipper”), Tonio Gennaro (“Heinrich il cortese”/“Gentle Heinrich), Otto Kronburger (“Karl, il pilota”/Karl the Pilot), Walter Seiler (“Alfred il lascivo”/“Randy Alfred), Charly Berger (“Il capitano”/“The Captain), Fritz Alberti (armatore/shipowner Rasmussen), Max Maximilian (Hein, il suo vecchio servitore / Rasmussen’s old servant), Betty Astor (Marie, la fidanzata di Klaus/Klaus’ fiancée), Friedrich Benfer (Jimmy Swing, il ciclista/racing cyclist), Alfred Zeisler; riprese/filmed: 1928; data v.c./censor date: 26.5.1928; première: 10.10.1928, Ufa-Palast am Zoo, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2333 m.; 35mm, 2376 m., 114’ (18 fps); fonte copia/print source: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique/Koninklijk Filmarchief, Bruxelles.
Didascalie in tedesco / German intertitles.

Die Carmen von St. Pauli, a story of the Hamburg waterfront, was among the many silent films made in the late 1920s that were lost in the sweeping transition to sound. Filmed at Berlin’s Neubabelsberg studios and on location in Hamburg’s harbour and the notorious red-light district of St. Pauli, contemporary reviewers praised the film’s sense of realism. The atmosphere of life in the harbour district, with its ships at anchor, waterfront bars, and shadowy streets brimming with temptations, was deftly captured by chief cameraman Friedel Behn-Grund and art director Alfred Junge.
In this film atmosphere dominates the simple plot: ship-master Klaus Brandt (Willy Fritsch) falls under the spell of the attractive Jenny, the “Carmen” of a gang of bandits and smugglers who are eyeing his ship, the
Alexandria. One fateful night he leaves the Alexandria unguarded to follow Jenny to the bar where she works, and the jealous bandits pillage his ship. Brandt loses his post and determines to leave on a ship for Australia, but his good resolutions dissolve at the thought of Jenny, and he stays on. (The film’s alternate title was Gestrandet – “Stranded”.) He is drawn into the bar’s low intrigues, and framed with a murder charge. Jenny, transformed by her love, finds the real murderer, and the couple hope to start a new, decent life together.
The film’s impressive cast includes some of Ufa’s popular stars of the period, such as dimpled matinee idol Willy Fritsch (soon to co-star with Lilian Harvey in a string of early musicals), attractive comedienne Jenny Jugo as the waterfront temptress, and Fritz Rasp (character actor of films by Pabst and Lang, and the villain pursued by the boys of
Emil und die Detektive) as one of the bandit gang. This moody drama gave Fritsch a chance to graduate from endless juvenile roles – but the real star of the film was undoubtedly its atmospheric and poetic waterfront locations. (Catherine A. Surowiec, The LUMIERE Project: The European Film Archives at the Crossroads, Lisbon: Projecto LUMIERE, 1996)

Erich Waschneck
(Grimma, Saxony, 1887–1970, West Berlin) studied painting in Leipzig, and worked as a poster designer. Through his brother Kurt Waschneck, a producer at Projections-AG “Union” (PAGU), he got a job as a camera assistant in 1920; the next year he photographed Wilhelm Prager’s fairytale Der Kleine Muck. His directing career dates from 1924 and the kulturfilm Der Kampf um die Scholle, though he made his mark more in adventure films like Mein Freund, der Chauffeur, with Hans Albers, and several featuring Olga Tschechowa. The emigrant drama Die geheime Macht (1927), with Michael Bohnen and Suzy Vernon, proved very successful in New York (where it was retitled Sajenko, the Soviet). Following Die Carmen von St. Pauli, with its skilful exploitation of Hamburg harbour, in 1929 Waschneck resumed his association with Tschechowa (Die Liebe der Brüder Rott; the costume drama Diane) and made two fashionable excursions into urban glamour, Die Drei um Edith and Skandal in Baden-Baden.
Sound brought no problems. In 1932 he became an independent producer with Fanal-Film GmbH and for a time veered away from studio confections.
8 Mädels im Boot and Abel mit der Mundharmonika gained their aesthetic strength chiefly from location work and were aimed at younger audiences. 8 Mädels im Boot (1932) established Karin Hardt as the icon of the sportive, blonde, modern woman; she married Waschneck the following year.
With Hitler in power, Waschneck made melodramas and women’s stories in line with National Socialist film politics. Films like
Anna Favetti, featuring Brigitte Horney, helped nurture the myth of the father-focused woman, willing to make sacrifices. But with the anti-Semitic Die Rothschilds (1940), Waschneck moved beyond “apolitical” entertainment into direct propaganda for the Nazi politics of destruction and annihilation. Affäre Roedern (1944), a transfiguration of Prussian history, also served up propaganda in historical dress.
Waschneck did not direct again until
Drei Tage Angst, another youth story, in 1952. Other planned subjects remained unfilmed. He retired from the cinema after supervising Acht Mädels im Boot (1959), a German-Dutch remake of his earlier success, directed by Alfred Bittins. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 14

RUTSCHBAHN (Luna Park / The Whirl of Life) (Eichberg-Film GmbH, Berlin, per/for British International Pictures, London, DE 1928)
Regia/dir., prod: Richard Eichberg; scen: Adolf Lantz, Helen Gosewish, Ladislaus Vajda, dal romanzo/from the novel Das Bekenntnis di/by Clara Ratzka; f./ph: Heinrich Gärtner; scg./des: Robert Herlth; cast: Fee Malten (Heli), Heinrich George (Jig Hartford), Fred Louis Lerch (Boris Berischeff), Harry Hardt (Sten), Erna Morena (Blida), Arnold Hasenclever (Olaf), Szöke Szakall (Sam), Jutta Jol (Sonja), Grete Reinwald (Nadja Berischeff); riprese/filmed: 1928; data v.c./censor date: 5.12.1928; première: 20.12.1928, Alhambra, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2703 m.; 35mm, 2468 m., 89’ (24 fps); fonte copia/print source: Nederlands Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
Didascalie in olandese / Dutch intertitles.

“Discussion of this story is useless,” wrote Mordaunt Hall in The New York Times (25 March 1929), “for it has a multiplicity of faults.” Eighty years on, the structural deficiencies of Rutschbahn are still evident, but eclipsed by the visual inventiveness and lively characterization. The setting-up of the plot is certainly excessively elaborate:
Heli kills her nasty stepfather with an accidentally (but most accurately) hurled axe. Fortunately Nadja, a young White Russian
émigré whom the family has adopted, dies at that moment, conveniently enabling Heli to assume her identity for her flight to London. There she chances to meet Boris, the dead girl’s brother. The two fall in love. This serves to establish an odd triangle. Heli and Boris, unable to declare their love because they are posing as brother and sister, earn a meagre living as street buskers, along with the enthusiastic Sam (Szöke Szakall). Meanwhile, the famous clown Jig (Heinrich George) falls in love with Heli, and puts Boris and Heli into his stage act. The denouement gives George the opportunity for a virtuoso broken-hearted clown act that makes Jannings’ Professor Rath in Der Blaue Engel seem to err in restraint.
George is a fine enough actor almost to get away with the excess. A very important figure in theatre and film in the Nazi period, George was arrested after the Red Army took Berlin, and died in the Soviet concentration camp at Sachsenhausen in 1946. But others of the cast proved long-lived: the charming Fee Malten (here a 17-year-old playing a 16-year-old), whose post-1933 career was in Hollywood, survived until 2005. The Hungarian Szöke Szakall (as S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall) became a familiar character actor in Hollywood films of the 1940s: this though must be the only occasion on which the corpulent comedian appeared in a Scots kilt.
Eichberg’s visual style – supported by his long-time cameraman Heinrich Gärtner – is always original; and the locations, both in London’s theatreland and in Berlin’s Wintergarten, are richly evocative. A special fascination of the film is its close parallels to the story of
St. Martin’s Lane (the life of buskers; the show-business triangle complication): Erich Pommer, co-producer and co-writer of the 1938 British film, had no formal connection with Rutschbahn, but it seems more than likely that influential memories of it had stayed with him from his German days.
David Robinson

Richard Eichberg (Berlin, 1888-1953, Munich). Long overlooked by film history, Eichberg was one of most prominent directors of popular German cinema from the 1910s to the 1930s, specializing in crime films, comedies, and exotic melodramas. He was also a star-maker, developing talents as diverse as Lilian Harvey, Anna May Wong, and Marta Eggerth. After beginning on the stage, he entered film in 1912 as an actor, debuting as director and producer with Strohfeuer (1915). Das Tagebuch Collins inaugurated a series of crime dramas starring Ellen Richter. During World War I, he also directed Die im Schatten leben, a documentary about children born out of wedlock, and the topical melodrama Im Zeichen der Schuld, promoting the rehabilitation of ex-convicts. In 1918 he married Lee Parry, showcasing her dancing and acrobatic skills in several star vehicles. Backing from the Munich-based company Emelka gave him bigger budgets, though apart from the historical epic Monna Vanna he continued to concentrate on popular genres.
After separating from Parry, Eichberg promoted the British-born Lilian Harvey, quickly establishing her as a major comedy star in
Die tolle Lola and other films. The cross-dressing farce Der Fürst von Pappenheim (The Masked Mannequin) featured Curt Bois and yet another Eichberg discovery, Mona Maris. Losing Harvey to Ufa in 1928, Eichberg signed a co-production deal with British International Pictures, concentrating on emotionally wrenching melodramas showcasing the Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong (Song / Show Life, and Großstadtschmetterling / Pavement Butterfly). Continuing in talkies with BIP, he boosted Hans Albers’ career with the British-made detective thriller Der Greifer (Night Birds), a sizeable hit in Germany; he also launched the singer Marta Eggerth on her film career in Der Draufgänger (The Dare-Devil). Further multi-lingual adventures in Europe followed, climaxing in Ufa’s sound remake of Joe May’s two-part adventure serial, Das Indische Grabmal and Der Tiger von Eschnapur (1938). Its success emboldened Eichberg to emigrate to the United States. No known film work resulted, and he returned to West Germany in 1949. His two final films repeated the old formula – exotic spectacle, light entertainment – but without success. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Prog. 15

DER KAMPF DER TERTIA (Terra-Film AG, Berlin, DE 1929)
Regia/dir: Max Mack; scen: Axel Eggebrecht, Max Mack, dal romanzo di/from the novel by Wilhelm Speyer; f./ph: Emil Schünemann; scg./des: Hans Jacoby; cast: Karl Hoffmann (il Grande Elettore/The Great Elector), Fritz Draeger (Reppert), August Wilhelm Keese (Otto Kirchholtes), Gustl Stark-Gstettenbaur (Borst), Ilse Stobrawa (Daniela), Hermann Neut Paulsen (insegnante/teacher), Aribert Mog (insegnante/teacher), Rudolf Klein-Rohden (borgomastro di Boestrum/Burgomaster of Boestrum), Max Schreck (Biersack), Fritz Greiner (agente/constable Holzapfel), Fritz Richard (scrivano comunale/town council clerk Falk), allievi della scuola di Boestrum/pupils from Boestrum school; riprese/filmed: 1928; data v.c./censor date: 21.12.1928; première: 18.1.1929, Mozartsaal, Berlin; lg. or./orig. l.: 2978 m.;35mm, 2572 m., 101’ (22 fps), col. (imbibizione originale riprodotta su pellicola a colori/printed on colour stock, reproducing original tinting); fonte copia/print source: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.
Didascalie in tedesco e francese / German & French intertitles.

Wilhelm Speyer’s Der Kampf der Tertia (The Battle of the Tertia, 1928) was a best-selling contribution to the flourishing 1920s literature of school stories: it was soon followed by Erich Kästner’s Emil und die Detektive, itself destined to be frequently filmed. On an offshore island, the teenage pupils of a Tertia – the fourth-fifth year of a German secondary school – pride themselves on their independence and rebellion against the bourgeois conventions of Boestrum, the neighbouring town on the mainland. They learn that the mean Boestrum furrier Biersack (Max Schreck, in a worthy follow-up to his Nosferatu role) has persuaded the local council to round up and destroy all the town’s cats, naturally handing over the resulting pelts to him. The pupils of the Tertia declare war, and their campaign – which includes kidnapping and terrorizing Biersack – is in the end successful.
With a cast largely made up of pupils from the school of Boestrum, Mack reveals exceptional sensitivity in portraying the feelings and vitality of early teenagers. The film effectively gives the lie to the persistent myth that Weimar cinema was set- and studio-bound. Emil Schünemann’s ravishing photography captures the contrasting atmospheres of the seascapes, the children’s limitless playground of the beach, the little island, and the stuffy bourgeois town of Boestrum. The film is leisurely in development, allowing Mack space to develop his attractive and idiosyncratic young characters. Modern audiences might be a little more disconcerted by retroactive associations of such a gang of zealous youngsters terrorizing a town and daubing (pro-feline) slogans on the house walls. The dominant social role of the only girl, Daniela, is a remarkable proto-feminist gesture: the charming actress who plays her,
17-year-old IlseStobrawa, was to have a modest film career that lasted until 1943. – David Robinson

Max Mack
(Moritz Myrthenzweig; Halberstadt, Saxony-Anhalt, 1884-1973, London), the son of a synagogue cantor, left home in classic Jazz Singer tradition to become a touring actor. He had some success in the theatre, specializing in oriental roles. In 1906 he adopted the stage name of Max Mack, and in 1910 moved to Berlin. Very soon he was acting in films, and discovering his talent for comedy (and scriptwriting). In 1911 he began to direct, working for the Continental-Filmkunst, Eiko, and Vitascope companies, turning out as many as two films per month. In 1913, the operetta-style films Wo ist Coletti, Die Tango-Königin, and Die blaue Maus brought him success, but it was the prestigious production Der Andere – a variation on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring the famous stage actor Albert Bassermann – that elevated Mack’s work to the status of autorenfilm. During this period Mack also wrote two books on filmcraft.
In 1917 he established his own company, Max Mack-Film GmbH. His subsequent production companies were Solar-Film GmbH and Terra-Film. Through the 1920s Mack directed an average of three films a year. His output was eclectic, but always with a leaning towards operetta and variety style. In the mid-1920s he worked fruitfully with Ossi Oswalda and Willy Fritsch; and his tastes seemed well suited to the new era of sound. Forced as a Jew to emigrate, he arrived via Prague and Paris in London, where he was to direct one ill-fated production, Be Careful, Mr. Smith (1935, but not released until 1940, as Singing Through). He established a short-lived English company, Ocean Films, whose unrealized projects included a remake of Griffith’s Orphans of the Storm. Subsequently, he wrote his memoirs, translated French boulevard comedies for use by English amateur groups, and married a wealthy widow, settling in Hampstead, London – a safe haven at last. (Adapted from the forthcoming Concise CineGraph, edited by Hans-Michael Bock, Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books, 2008)


Supplemento alla retrospettiva / Supplementary to the main Weimar programme
Weimar CineSalon

In a series of informal early evening “CineSalon” gatherings, Giornate guests will be able to go further into the films and personalities of “The Other Weimar”. There will be documentary screenings and conversations with the curators and collaborators of the Other Weimar retrospective, including Hans-Michael Bock, David Robinson, Geoff Brown, and filmmaker and DVD producer Robert Fischer. On Monday, the documentary profile Ernst Lubitsch in Berlin will be shown. (For the credits and note for this film, please see the “Video Shows” section of this catalogue.)Other directors and actors will be sampled on Tuesday and Thursday. On Friday, breaking through the sound barrier, Robert Fischer will offer an illustrated talk about the various language versions of Fritz Lang’s M, in association with the MLVs Multiple Language Versions Project promoted by the Gradisca International Film Studies Spring School, the University of Udine, and CineGraph, Hamburg. The CineSalon welcomes you every weekday (except Wednesday), from 6pm.

Gli organizzatori del CineSalon ringraziano / The CineSalon organizers wish to thank: Absolut Medien (Berlin), The Criterion Collection/Janus Films (New York), Fiction Factory (München), Kinowelt/Arthaus (Leipzig), Transit Film (München), Deutsche Kinemathek (Berlin).