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16 May 2012

Madge Lessing

During the Belle Epoque, Madge Lessing (1866 - 1932) celebrated many successes in European theaters and also on Broadway. In the 1910’s, the British actress and singer also made some silent films in Germany.

Madge Lessing
British Postcard by Raphael Tuck & Sons in the series Framed Gem, no. 5773, ca. 1912.

Madge Lessing
British postcard by H. Vertigen & Co., London, Series no. 6204. In the center: Madge Lessing. From left under with the clock: Gabrielle Ray, Phyllis Dare, Adrienne Augarde and again Phyllis Dare.


A Sensation in Berlin
Madge Lessing’s film career began in 1913 and was concentrated exclusively in Germany. In 1910 the musical comedy star was a sensation in Berlin when she appeared as a a modern dandy in a stage production at the Metropol Theater. Her film debut was the comedy Wo ist Coletti?/Where is Coletti? (1913, Max Mack), a Vitascope production starring Hans Junkermann. The plot is set in motion when Detective Coletti (Junkermann) goes into hiding, posting a 25,000-dollar reward for anyone who can ascertain his whereabouts within 48 hours. Among those eagerly searching for the missing gumshoe is Coletti's sweetheart, played by Lessing. Hal Erickson writes at AllMovie: "In one scene, the incognito detective attends a moving picture show, permitting the director the opportunity to stage a film-within-a-film (a sequence that impressed the reviewer for Variety). A trick ending caps this inconsequential rib-tickler."

Madge Lessing
British postcard by Raphael Tuck & Sons Real Photograph Post Card, no. T 708. Photo: Dover Street Studios.

Madge Lessing
British postcard by Rotary, no. 167 h.

Madge Lessing
British postcard by The Philco Publishing Co., London, Series no. 3365 D. Sent by mail in 1907. Photo: Dover Street Studios.

The Outstanding Max Mack
Madge Lessing’s film debut was soon followed by Die blaue Maus/The Blue Mouse (1913, Max Mack) with Heinrich Peer. In the next years she appeared in a few more films including Die Welt ohne Männer/The World Without Men (1914, Max Mack), Die blaue Maus, 2. Teil/The Blue Mouse, Part 2 (1915; banned in Germany till 1919, Max Mack) and Fritzis toller Einfall/Fritzi's Great Idea (1916, Max Mack) again with Hans Junkermann and with Senta Söneland. All her films were made by the outstanding Max Mack, who directed 127 films between 1911 and 1935. After Lessing returned to England she only worked on stage. She died in 1931 at the age of 69. Madge Lessing was married with the stage manager George B. McLellan, the brother of writer C.M.S. McLellan.


Madge Lessing
German advertising postcard by Richard Habisch & Co., Berlin, for Gargoyle Bohner Wasch, sent by mail in 1911. Photo: Ernst Schneider, Berlin.

Madge Lessing
British postcard by Rotary, no. 167 M. Photo: Johnston & Hoffmann.

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Hal Erickson (AllMovie) and IMDb.

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