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20 December 2012

Hans Brausewetter

Handsome and dashing Hans Brausewetter (1899 – 1945) was a supporting actor of the silent German cinema. From 1922 on, he appeared in 135 films. In one of the last days of the war, Brausewetter was killed by the blast of a bomb in Berlin.

Hans Brausewetter
German postcard by Verlag Herm. Leiser, Berlin-Wilm., no. 3232. Photo: Toni Engelschaft.

Hans Brausewetter
German postcard by Ross Verlag., no. 3367/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

A Textbook Example Of German Expressionism
Hans Brausewetter was born in Málaga, Spain in 1899. He was the son of a doctor, and brother of actress Renate Brausewetter. The family went to Germany in 1914. Hans went to school at the Realgymnasium in Stralsund, but had to leave school early to serve as a cadet at the western front. Dismissed in 1918 from the Army, he studied for a short time philology before he took acting lessons. Actor Theodor Loos introduced him for this by Hubert Heinrich. He earned his money as an extra in theaters. In 1920 he made his stage debut at the Deutschen Volkstheater in Vienna. Later he played for long periods at the Deutschen Theater in Berlin. His film debut was a small role in the silent Der Marquis von Bolibar/The Marquis de Bolibar (1921, Friedrich Porges). He had his first major film role in the costume drama Ein Glas Wasser/One Glass of Water (1923, Ludwig Berger) opposite Mady Christians. That year he also appeared in the silent Shakespeare adaptation Der Kaufmann von Venedig/The Merchant of Venice (1923, Peter Paul Felner) featuring Werner Krauss, and Der Schatz/The Treasure (1923, Georg Wilhelm Pabst), starring Albert Steinrück. It was Pabst's debut film as a director. Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “On the surface a straightforward tale of the search for a buried treasure, the film is a textbook example of German expressionism, with the passions of the protagonists conveyed as much through symbolism as action. Werner Krauss steals the first scene as a retarded assistant bellmaker who skulks through the proceedings as if weighed down by a multitude of horrible secrets. In fact, only the character played by Hans Brausewetter, that of a ‘journeyman artisan,’ is in any way likeable. Evidently Pabst got all of his expressionistic tendencies out of his system with The Treasure, opting for gritty realism in his subsequent efforts.” Brausewetter had another supporting part in Tragödie im Hause Habsburg/Tragedy in the House of Habsburg (1924, Alexander Korda). Star of this costume drama was Maria Corda. The film recounts the events of the 1889 Mayerling Incident in which the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire committed suicide. Studio filming was done in Berlin with location shooting in Vienna. The film cost more than € 60,000 ($80,000) to make, but only earned back around half of this at the box office. More successful was Ein Walzertraum/A Waltz-Dream (1925, Ludwig Berger) starring Willy Fritsch. Brausewetter also appeared as a young painter in the drama Svengali (1927, Gennaro Righelli). This is an adaptation of the novel Trilby by the British writer George Du Maurier about an artist's model (Anita Dorris) who falls under the spell of a mysticist (Paul Wegener) who turns her into a leading opera singer. In 1928 he was the only German actor in the cast of Léon Poirier’s monumental anti-war film Verdun, Visions D'Histoire/Verdun with Suzanne Bianchetti. In these films Brausewetter often played the sympathetic boy next door, who had no luck with women.

Hans Brausewetter
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1424/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Atelier Hanns Schwarz, Berlin.

Hans Brausewetter
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3033/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Hänse Hermann, Berlin.

Hans Brausewetter
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4410/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Suse Byk, Berlin.

Unusually Enjoyable
Hans Brausewetter easily made the transition to sound cinema with a leading role in the musical Ein Burschenlied aus Heidelberg/A Student Song from Heidelberg (1930, Karl Hartl). Critic Mordaunt Hall reviewed the film at The New York Times: “There has come to the Ufa-Cosmopolitan an unusally enjoyable German-language picture, with enticing music and a very pretty actress among its assets. It is known as ‘Ein Burschenlied Aus Heidelberg.’ Its slender but none the less captivating romance is one of the German university, many of the scenes possessing the distinct advantage of having been photographed in Heidelberg. Betty Bird, who, notwithstanding her English name, is a Teutonic player, gives a most ingratiating performance as Elinor Miller, Willi Forst is excellent as Robert Dahlberg, the student who wins Elinor's love, and Hans Brausewetter does splendidly as Dahlberg's rival, Werner Bornemann.” During the early 1930’s, Brausewetter appeared in such popular films as Das Flötenkonzert von Sans-souci/The Flute Concert of Sans-Souci (1930, Gustav Ucicky) featuring Otto Gebühr as Friedrich II, and another historical film, Die elf Schillschen Offiziere/The Eleven Schill Officers (1932, Rudolf Meinert). The latter was a remake of a 1926 silent film of the same name which had also been directed by Meinert. The film depicts the failed 1809 uprising of Prussian soldiers led by Ferdinand von Schill (Carl de Vogt) against the occupying French. It focuses in particular on eleven of Schill's officers who were executed by the French at Wesel. The film was a Prussian film, part of a wider trend of German historical films made during the Weimar Era and set in the Napoleonic Era. In the courtroom drama Voruntersuchung/Inquest (1931, Robert Siodmak), he could break for once with the stereotype of the sympathetic guy-next-door by playing a murder suspect. But because of his boyish appearance and chubby face, he kept playing the friendly youth till the end of his career. A successful example was the young farmer in the comedy Onkel Bräsig/Uncle Bräsig (1936, Erich Waschneck) featuring Otto Wernicke. He had a late highlight in his career when he co-starred with Heinz Rühmann and Josef Sieber in Paradies der Junggesellen/Bachelor's Paradise (1939, Kurt Hoffmann). In this very funny comedy they sang the hit song Das kann doch einen Seemann nicht erschüttern (That can’t shake a sailor). A year later the trio sang the song again in the propaganda film Wunschkonzert/Request Concert (1940, Eduard von Borsody). However, Brausewetter was anti-Hitler and openly outed his disapproval of the Nazi regime. As a result he was transferred to a concentration camp, which he could leave after a short time thanks to an intervention by actress Käthe Haack with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. In 1941 he was among the few courageous colleagues who attended the funeral of film star Joachim Gottschalk and his Jewish wife and son. The family had committed suicide to avoid transportation to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. During the war years Brausewetter appeared in several films including the lavishly produced fantasy comedy Münchhausen (1943, Josef von Báky) with Hans Albers as the Baron. This wonderful spectacle was the third feature film made in Germany using the new Agfacolor negative-positive material. Goebbels wished to compete with Hollywood and their Technicolor pictures such as The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming) and Münchhausen also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Ufa film studio. After an artillery bombardment on Berlin, Hans Brausewetter was deadly injured through a hand grenade. It happened on one of the last days of the war in 1945. Brausewetter was the uncle of actor Rudolf Wagner and marine researcher Hans Hass.

Hans Brausewetter
German postcard by Ross Verlag., no. 7703/1, 1932-1933.

Hans Brausewetter
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3532/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Star-Foto-Atelier / Tobis.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Hans-Michael Bock (Filmportal.de) (German), Thomas Staederli (Cyranos), Mordaunt Hall (The New York Times), Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

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