Dagny Servaes (1894 - 1961) was a German-Austrian theater and film actress. She made her first dilm appearance in 1916 and reached her peak in Ernst Lubitsch' Das Weib des Pharao/The Pharao's Wife (1921).
German postcard by Verl. Herm. Leiser, Berlin-Wilm., no 2427. Photo: Lisi Jessen.
Dagny Servaes was born as Dagny Goldarbeiter in Berlin in 1894. She was the daughter of author Franz Servaes. Dagny took acting lessons at the Wiener Akademie für Musik und Darstellende Kunst (Viennese academy for music and performing arts). In 1912 she managed to have an engagement at the Hoftheater in Meiningen, and from 1913 on Servaes played at the reputed Berliner Bühnen as well as at the Deutschen Theater, Lessingtheater and Staatstheater. From 1916 on, Dagny Servaes played in silent cinema as well, where she soon became a leading actress. Her début was in the war propaganda film Das Tagebuch des Dr. Hart (1916) by Paul Leni. That same year she appeared opposite Emil Jannings in Stein unter Steinen/Stone under stones (1916, Felix Basch). In the late 1910's she did several films with director Emmerich Hanus, including Aranka und Arauka/Aranka and Arauka (1918, Emmerich Hanus), Das Geheimnis des Irren/The secret of wandering (1919, Emmerich Hanus) and Die Nacht der Prüfung/The night of the test (1920, Emmerich Hanus) with Theodor Loos.
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 812. Photo: Verleih Philipp & Co.
Dagny Servaes reached her peak in 1921 with the female lead as a beautiful slave girl in Ernst Lubitsch‘ historical epic Das Weib des Pharao/The Pharaoh’s Wife (1921, Ernst Lubitsch). The film also starred Emil Jannings as the Pharaoh who falls in love with the slave girl, and Harry Liedtke as Ramphis, her real love interest. Thomas Staedeli writes at his website Cyranos: "In 1922 she appeared in Das Weib des Pharao, one of the biggest productions of the year and they predicted her a great career like Pola Negri. But oddly enough her film career got stuck at the beginning, she never played again such an important part as in Das Weib des Pharao." Another memorable lead was the Russian spy Sonia in Oberst Redl/Colonel Redl (1924, Hans Otto Löwenstein). Sixty years later, Redl’s life was again filmed by Istvan Szabo. Even though she was celebrated as a star, Servaes’ parts became a bit smaller in the following years, as in Die lachende Grille/The Laughing Cricket (1926, Friedrich Zelnik) starring Lya Mara, and Die Weber/The Weaver (1927, Friedrich Zelnik) starring Paul Wegener. In 1926 she temporarily left the screen and returned to the stage. She joined Max Reinhardt‘s ensemble for a theater tour across the United States in 1926 - 1928. In New York she performed in Jedermann/Everyman, Ein Sommernachtstraum/Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dantons Tod/Danton’s Death and Carlo Goldoni‘s Diener zweier Herren/Servant of Two Masters.
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 1755. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.
In 1936 Dagny Servaes established herself in Vienna and played secondary parts in sound films. From 1938 to 1948 she played at the Theater in der Josefstadt and from 1950 on mostly at the Volkstheater. From 1952 on she was part of the ensemble of the Burgtheater. Until 1959 Servaes played in dozens of German and Austrian films. Among her German films were the UFA comedy Die Töchter ihrer Excellenz/The daughters of Her Excellency (1934, Reinhold Schünzel) with Käthe von Nagy, Nanon (1938, Herbert Maisch) with Johannes Heesters, Friedrich Schiller (1940, Herbert Maisch), and the tearjerker Die goldene Stadt/The Golden City (1942, Veit Harlan) starring Kristina Söderbaum. Her Austrian films included Unsterbliche Walzer/Immortal Waltz (1939, E.W. Emo) as the wife of Johan Strauss Sr. (Paul Hörbiger), Eroica (1949, Walter Kolm-Veltée) - a biopic on Ludwig von Beethoven (Ewald Balser) - and the Heimat-film Die Regimentstochter/Daughter of the Regiment (1953, George C. Klaren). Her last featureb film was the romantic drama Der Schandfleck/The disgrace (1956, Herbert B. Fredersdorf) with Gerlinde Locker. Dagny Servaes died in Vienna in 1961, her tomb is at the Grinzinger Friedhof.
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 1754. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.
Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.