18 October 2018

Le chemineau (1905)

Among Pathé Frères's filmmakers, Albert Capellani was one of the main pioneers, who developed and systematised several techniques of representation which set the standard in the narrative cinema. One of his first films was Le chemineau/The Tramp (Albert Capellani, 1905), based on the first part of Victor Hugo's novel Les misérables. In the short silent film Jean Valjean, who was granted lodging by the parish priest of a village, steals several silver candlesticks and escapes the arrest thanks to the false testimony of the priest. Unclear is who the actors are, but sets were made by Hugues Laurent. The beautiful series of hand-coloured postcards were published by Croissant in Paris.

Le chemineau
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3664. Photo: Film Pathé. Still for Le chemineau/The Tramp (Albert Capellani, 1905). It's winter, snow falls on the desolate countryside. An exhausted tramp asks in vain for an alimony from passers-by.

Le chemineau
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3664. Photo: Film Pathé. Still for Le chemineau/The Tramp (Albert Capellani, 1905). The tramp presents himself at the presbyterium and is hosted by the pastor, who lets him dine at his table and sleep in his bed, while he himself sleeps in his chair.

Les Miserables in five minutes


Director Albert Capellani was a neglected but important film pioneer. Recent retrospectives of his restored films, e.g. at Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna in 2012, and special DVD editions attest to Capellani's contribution in the use of deep staging shots, various changes in framing and even rudimentary editing techniques.

Capellani, born in 1874 in Paris, directed films between 1905 and 1922. One of his brothers was the actor-sculptor Paul Capellani. Albert studied acting under Charles le Bargy at the Conservatoire de Paris. Starting his career as an actor, he worked with the director André Antoine at the Théâtre Libre and the Odéon. He then began directing plays for the Odéon, working alongside renowned actor and director Firmin Gémier. In 1903, he became the head of the Alhambra music hall in Paris. He continued to work as an actor and director until he received a job offer from the Pathé Frères studio in 1905.

For Pathé Frères, Albert Capellani tended to specialise in several genres: costume dramas with historical and biblical themes, fables, fantastic adventures and melodramas often based on famous novels. Le Chemineau/The Tramp (1905), one of his first films, was such a melodrama. In 5 minutes, it stages an episode from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo in which Jean Valjean, who is granted lodging by mr. Myriel, the parish priest of a village, steals several silver candlesticks and escapes the arrest thanks to the false testimony of the priest. In the US Le Chemineau premiered in 1906 and was inappropriately titled The Strong Arm of the Law.

Richard Abel in his article Capellani avant Griffith, 1906-1908 in The Ciné Goes to Town : French Cinema, 1896-1914: "The film mainly uses the usual representation system of the beginnings of the cinema: its six exhibition boards, the majority of which consist of long shots, were filmed in studio with decorations painted on panels for indoor and outdoor scenes. The first two paintings, for example, depict a winter landscape with a small village (church included) visible in the distance, in the background, while in the foreground, the tired silhouette of Jean Valjean staggers in the falling snow."

However, Abel sees at least three occurrences of unusual framing or editing choices: "What is particularly surprising, in the very first painting, is to see Valjean arrive thanks to an unexpected big plan that not only serves to catch the spectator but also to describe briefly the character, emphasizing his disillusioned gaze, his sad mouth and ragged appearance. After being rejected by a series of peasants on his way and facing a woman opening the door where he just knocked, Valjean appears in front of the presbytery door and is invited by a maid to enter a small room where the priest is seated at the table. This scene follows its movement through a sequence of exterior and interior shots, from one side of the door (on the right of the screen) to the other (on the left of the screen)."

"When the servant surprises him with a plate of food in her hand, a horizontal panning to the right reveals an adjoining room where the priest and the maid lead him to spend the night. This sequence continues, while he discovers, in the background, a cupboard filled with silverware, stuffs the candlesticks in a bag and, in a reverse plane of horizontal panning to the left, goes on tiptoe in front of the priest asleep in the first room and go out the door. Only one of the two final plans has been preserved: the picture of the interior of a shop where Valjean pledges candlesticks, the maid, unsure of nothing, enters and is shocked to see them; the gendarmes stop him. The final painting apparently brings the viewer back into the priest's room, but probably without the need for a similar panoramic view, when the latter declares to the gendarmes, against all odds, in a recreated intertitle: 'Let this man go, I gave him the candlesticks'."

Richard Abel concludes: "During this period of transformation (c. 1906-1908), Capellani and his fellow directors at Pathé Frères, but also Alice Guy and especially Louis Feuillade at Gaumont, successfully tested many narrative and representative strategies that would characterize the narrative discourse of French cinema during the most most of the 1910s. The American filmmakers, first at Vitagraph, then at Biograph, where D.W. Griffith began shooting films in the summer of 1908, would develop them even more and lay the groundwork for what would be called later 'Hollywood classic cinema'. Although there is little direct evidence, French films, particularly those of Capellani, most likely have had a strong impact on American cinema as they were widely distributed and screened in the United States. Pathé films not only served to close the variety shows in hundreds of theaters, they also formed the main entertainment of the Nickelodeon, a new kind of theaters, which quickly counted by the thousands from early 1907 onwards."

Albert Capellani made a feature-length version of Les Miserables in 1912. He worked in the US from 1914 to 19 22, under contract to Metro, wheren he frequently directed Alla Nazimova and Clara Kimball Young. Then he stopped with film making and returned to Paris. There he died in 1931, neglected and only 57 years old. The film director Roger Capellani was his son.

Le chemineau
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3664. Photo: Film Pathé. Still for Le chemineau/The Tramp (Albert Capellani, 1905). At night, the tramp sees golden objects that serve for mass in a cupboard in the bedroom. He sticks them in his bag and secretly sneaks away, trying not to awake the pastor.

Le chemineau
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3664. Photo: Film Pathé. Still for Le chemineau/The Tramp (Albert Capellani, 1905). Arrested at a jeweller, to whom he tries to sell his loot, the gendarmes bring him back to the pastor.

Le chemineau
French postcard by Croissant, Paris, no. 3664. Photo: Film Pathé. Still for Le chemineau/The Tramp (Albert Capellani, 1905). Despite all, the pastor wants to exonerate the miserable man's soul and tells a lie to the gendarmes: I gave the objects myself to him. The thief repents.


Le chemineau (Albert Capellani, 1905). Source: History VA (YouTube). The last part of the film is missing.

Sources: Richard Abel ('Capellani avant Griffith, 1906-1908', 1895, 68, 2012, p. 15), Fondation Jerome Seydoux (French), Wikipedia (French and English) and IMDb.

17 October 2018

Christiane Hörbiger

Christiane Hörbiger (1938) is an Austrian television and film actress, born into a well-known actors family. Since 1955, she made a name for herself on stage and television and in several films.

Christiane Hörbiger-Wessely in Kronprinz Rudolfs letzte Liebe (1956)
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel. Photo: Sascha-Lux / Constantin / Lilo. Publicity still for Kronprinz Rudolfs letzte Liebe/Mayerling (Rudolf Jugert, 1956).

Christiane Hörbiger in Kronprinz Rudolfs letzte Liebe (1956)
German postcard by Rüdel-Verlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. 1617. Photo: Sascha-Lux / Constantin / Lilo. Publicity still for Kronprinz Rudolfs letzte Liebe/Mayerling (Rudolf Jugert, 1956).

No doubt whose offspring she was


Christiane Hörbiger was born in 1938 in Vienna, Austria. She is one of the three actress daughters of the famous Austrian actors Attila Hörbiger and Paula Wessely. Her uncle is the equally known Paul Hörbiger. Her sisters are Elisabeth Orth and Maresa Hörbiger, and she is also the aunt of German-Austrian actor Christian Tramitz.

Christiane made her film debut in the female lead of Der Major und die Stiere/The Major and the Steers (Eduard von Borsody, 1955) with Fritz Tillmann and her father Attila Hörbiger.

She started to study acting at the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar, but broke off her studies when she received another offer for a film role. She played with her mother Paula Wessely in Die Wirtin zur Goldenen Krone/The landlady of the Golden Crown (Theo Lingen, 1955).

In the historical drama Kronprinz Rudolfs letzte Liebe/Mayerling (Rudolf Jugert, 1956), she then played Baroness Marie Vetsera opposite Rudolf Prack as Crown Prince Rudolf. She was credited as Christiane Hörbiger-Wessely. The director insisted that Christiane Hörbiger used both her parents' names (Wessely and Hörbiger) to leave the audience no doubt whose offspring she was.

For Jugert, she also appeared in the Heimat drama Der Meineidbauer/The Perjurer (Rudolf Jugert, 1956) with Carl Wery and Heidemarie Hatheyer. Another Heimat drama was Der Edelweißkönig (Gustav Ucicky, 1957) with Rudolf Lenz. She played a supporting part in the comedy Immer die Radfahrer/Always the cyclists (Hans Deppe, 1958) with Heinz Erhardt.

Her stage debut in 1959 as Recha in Lessings Nathan der Weise at the Burgtheater, was not a success. From 1960 till 1961, she played at the Städtischen Bühnen Heidelberg, and from 1961 till 1966 she was back in Vienna at the Burgtheater. Later she played several important stage roles at the Schauspielhaus Zürich.

Christiane Hörbiger in Immer die Radfahrer (1958)
German postcard by Ufa/Film-Foto, no. FK 4242. Photo: Dittner / Mundus / Ulrich Film / DFH. Publicity still for Immer die Radfahrer/Always the cyclists (Hans Deppe, 1958).

Christiane Hörbiger
German postcard by Rüdel-Verlag, Hamburg. Photo: Winfried Rabanus, München.

I am the White Clown


From 1960 on, Christiane Hörbiger played in various German and Austrian TV films and series. Incidentally, she appeared in such feature films as the fantasy Der Bauer als Millionär/The Farmer as Millionaire (Alfred Stöger, Rudolf Steinboeck, 1961) with Käthe Gold, the fairy-tale Der Verschwender/The Wasteful (Kurt Meisel, 1964) with Walther Reyer, and Versuchung im Sommerwind/Temptation in the Summer Wind (Rolf Thiele, 1972) as the assistant of Helmut Käutner.

She played the lead in the popular TV series Das Erbe der Guldenburgs/The Legacy of the Guldenburgs (Jürgen Goslar, Gero Erhardt, 1987-1990) about an aristocratic German family (The Guldenburgs) and the various relationships and problems the family goes through. The success of the series caused a second start of her career.

In the 1990s, she returned to the cinema in films such as the comedy Schtonk (Helmut Dietl, 1992), the slightly fictionalised story of an art forger (Uwe Ochsenknecht), a journalist desperate for a big story (Götz George), and the biggest press scandal in German history: the Hitler Diaries.

From 1998 until 2002, she played the eponymous role in the Austrian TV series Julia - eine ungewöhnliche Frau/Julia - An Extraordinary Woman. In 1995, she was a member of the jury at the 45th Berlin International Film Festival.

Hörbiger keeps working for television. Her most recent feature film is the crime comedy Mean Parents Suck (William Shepherd, 2010) in which she played a Kindergarten teacher who kills mean parents. Her only foray so far into voice acting has been the role of Mrs. Caloway (the dairy cow) in the German-language version of Disney's Home on the Range (Will Finn, John Sanford, 2004).

Christiane Hörbiger was married twice: from 1962 till 1967 to director Wolfgang Glück and later to Swiss journalist Rolf R. Bigler. From this marriage comes the son Sascha Bigler (1968), who she raised alone after the death of her husband. Sascha Bigler lives in Los Angeles today and works as a director. Her later partner was Gerhard Tötschinger. From 1984 until his death in 2016, the couple lived alternately in Vienna, Baden near Vienna and Zurich.

In 2008 Christiane Hörbiger published her autobiography Ich bin der Weiße Clown (I am the White Clown). She won many awards. In 2001, she received Germany's most important medal, the Bundesverdienstkreuz. In 2004, she was awarded as Kammerschauspielerin in Austria.

Christiane Hörbiger
German autograph card by Rüdel-Verlag, Hamburg. Photo: Werner Grecht, Wien.

Sources: Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

16 October 2018

Hannjo Hasse

East German actor Hannjo Hasse (1921-1983) was the most sinister bad guy of the DEFA films. In the Eastern, the communist version of the Western, he often played greedy pioneers who seek to dispossess Native Americans.

Hannjo Hasse in Spur des Falken (1968)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 3165, 1968. Photo: DEFA / Pathenheimer. Publicity still for Spur des Falken/Trail of the Falcon (Gottfried Kolditz, 1968).

Hannjo Hasse
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 1517, 1961. Photo: Kurt Wunsch.

Margit Bara and  Hannjo Hasse in Polnocná omsa
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 1834, 1963. Retail price: 0,20 DM. Photo: publicity still for Polnocná omsa/Midnight Mass (Jiri Krejcik, 1962) with Margit Bara.

Sinister characters


Hannjo Hasse was born in Bonn, Germany, 1921.

Hannjo began his adult life working in an office. In 1938, he began to study acting at Lilly Ackermann’s Ausbildungsanstalt für deutschen Bühnennachwuchs (Institute for Stage Artists' Education) in Berlin.

In 1941, he was drafted for military service during World War II. After the end of the war and his release from captivity, Hasse returned to Weimar, where he spent another six months to complete his drama training.

He made his debut on stage in the Nordhausen Theater, where he was also employed as a dramaturge. In 1951, Hasse made his first screen appearance, playing a minor role in Der Untertan/The Kaiser's Lackey (Wolfgang Staudte, 1951), based on Heinrich Mann's 1918 satirical novel by the same name. It was a huge success.

He also played a supporting part in Ernst Thälmann (Kurt Maetzig, 1954), a film in two parts about the life of the leader of the Communist Party of Germany during much of the Weimar Republic.

Hasse worked in theatres in Eisleben, Burg bei Magdeburg and Schwerin, before settling at the Hans Otto Theater in Leipzig, where he was a member of the regular cast between 1954 and 1962. Afterwards, he moved to Berlin's Volksbühne, and then to the Deutsches Theater. Hasse played a wide range of supporting characters, from Malvolio to the Fledermaus.

From the late 1950s, Hasse focused mainly on cinema and television work. Although his earlier stage roles were mostly comical in nature, in the cinema he depicted sinister characters almost solely.

He played the lead in the war film Der Fall Gleiwitz/The Gleiwitz Case (Gerhard Klein, 1961). The film themes the SS stage-managed Gleiwitz incident at the evening of 31 August 1939. This served national-socialist propaganda as a pretext to start second World War by raiding Poland the next day. The plot was reconstructed exactly according to the statements of SS-Man Alfred Naujocks before British authorities at the Nuremberg trials.

Hasse’s other films included the Czech drama Vyšší princip/Higher Principle (Jiří Krejčík, 1960), the espionage thriller Reserviert für den Tod/Reserved for the Death (Heinz Thiel, 1963) with Hans-Peter Minetti, and the propaganda film An französischen Kaminen/At A French Fireside (Kurt Maetzig, 1963) with Arno Wyzniewski. The latter was one of eight major DEFA pictures made between 1959 and 1964 that centered on the theme of the Cold War, with an underlying message that East Germany had to defend itself from the West.

Hannjo Hasse in Die Söhne der großen Bärin (1966)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 2.547, 1966. Photo: DEFA / Pathenheimer. Publicity still for Die Söhne der großen Bärin/The Sons of Great Bear (Josef Mach, 1966).

Hannjo Hasse and Brigitte Krause in Die Söhne der großen Bärin (1966)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 2.546, 1966. Photo: DEFA / Pathenheimer. Publicity still for Die Söhne der großen Bärin/The Sons of Great Bear (Josef Mach, 1966).

Hannjo Hasse in Spur des Falken (1968)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 3181, 1968. Photo: DEFA / Pathenheimer. Publicity still for Spur des Falken/Trail of the Falcon (Gottfried Kolditz, 1968).

A revisionist Western


In 1966, Hannjo Hasse appeared in Die Söhne der großen Bärin/The Sons of Great Bear (Josef Mach, 1966), starring the Yugoslav actor Gojko Mitić in the leading role of Tokei-ihto. The picture is a revisionist Western, pioneering the genre of the Ostern (Eastern), and emphases on the positive portrayal of Native Americans, while presenting the Whites as antagonists. It is one of the most successful films produced by the DEFA studio.

Renate Seydel, who interviewed Hasse in 1966, commented that he was the most perennial villain in the actors' ensemble of DEFA and Deutscher Fernsehfunk. The favourable reception of The Sons of Great Bear surpassed by far what DEFA directors had anticipated. This paved the way for a dozen Easterns featuring Indians as the heroes, often portrayed by Mitić and this series became the studio's best known and most successful film series.

Hasse appeared in five Easterns, including Spur des Falken/Trail of the Falcon (Gottfried Kolditz, 1968) and Tödlicher Irrtum/Fatal Error (Konrad Petzold, 1970) with Armin Müller-Stahl. Hasse is also remembered for depicting SD Colonel von Dietrich in the Yugoslav partisan film Valter brani Sarajevo/Walter Defends Sarajevo (Hajrudin Krvavac, 1971).

In addition to those entertainment films, he also portrayed historical antagonists in several bleaker pictures dealing with the recent past, like Adolf Eichmann in the film Lebende Ware/Living Cargo (Wolfgang Luderer, 1966) - based on the blood for goods affair, and as Reynhard Heydrich in the Czech-Russian war thriller Sokolovo (Otakar Vávra, 1975). Hasse told Seydel that he considered those roles as having educational value, in order to "demonstrate the full horror of Fascism" to younger viewers.

In 1971, Hasse was awarded the Art Prize of the German Democratic Republic. He also dubbed many films and was the German voice for Philippe Noiret, Pierre Brasseur and Yves Montand.

His later films include the Polish historical film Kopernik/Copernicus (Ewa Petelska, Czesław Petelski, 1973), the fairytale film Wer reißt denn gleich vorm Teufel aus/The Devil's Three Golden Hairs (Egon Schlegel, 1977) and the comedy Einfach Blumen aufs Dach/Simply flowers at the roof (Roland Oehme, 1979).

His final bigger role was in the TV comedy Es war so nett in unserem Quartett/It was so fine in our quartet (Robert Trösch 1983).

Hannjo Hasse died in Falkensee in the GDR in 1983 and is buried in the Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf. He was 61.

Hannjo Hasse
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 2790, 1967.

Hannjo Hasse
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 4869, 1969. Photo: Uhlenhut.

Armin Mueller-Stahl and Hannjo Hasse in Tödlicher Irrtum (1970)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 58/70. Photo: DEFA / Blümel Publicity still for Tödlicher Irrtum/Fatal Error (Konrad Petzold, 1970) with Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Armin Mueller-Stahl and Hannjo Hasse in Tödlicher Irrtum (1970)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. 85/70d. Photo: DEFA / Blümel. Publicity still for Tödlicher Irrtum/Fatal Error (Konrad Petzold, 1970) with Armin Mueller-Stahl.

Sources: Tom B. (Westerns… all’ Italiana), Wikipedia, and IMDb.