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23 April 2013

Bruno Decarli

German actor Bruno Decarli (1877 - 1950) had a short, but intensive career in the silent cinema.

Bruno Decarli
German postcard, no. 862. Photo: Anny Eberth, Berlin.

Bruno Decarli
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 1584. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Bruno Decarli
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 3024. Photo: Mac Walten, Berlin.

Odyssey in the Bavarian Alps
Bruno Decarli was born in Dresden, Germany in 1877. He was the son of the chamber singer Eduard Decarli (actually Eduard Schmidt). Bruno made his theater debut in 1895 in Meiningen. A year later, he went to Zurich, then he came over Gera, Dresden and Berlin to the Leipzig City Theatre in 1908. He would continue to work there till the beginning of World War I. In 1915 Max Reinhardt engaged him for the Deutsche Theater in Berlin. The following year, Decarli began his film work. Among his first silent films were the drama Die Nixenkönigin/The mermaid queen (1916, Louis Neher) with Rita Sacchetto, Der Mann im Spiegel /The Man in the Mirror (1916, Conrad Wiene, Robert Wiene), and Das Leben ein Traum/The life a dream (1916, Robert Wiene) with Emil Jannings. He worked for director Robert Wiene at the Messter Studio in such films as Furcht/Fear (1917, Robert Wiene) with Conrad Veidt. He played mostly leading roles in dramas, thrillers and melodramas. Several times he had the stars Mia May and Henny Porten as his partner. With May he appeared in films by her husband like Die Silhouette des Teufels/The silhouette of the devil (1917, Joe May). With Porten, he co-starred in the Honoré de Balzac adaptation Das Maskenfest des Lebens/The masquerade of life (1918, Rudolf Biebrach) and Die Heimkehr des Odysseus/The Homecoming of Odysseus (1918, Rudolf Biebrach). This delightful comedy takes as its inspiration the famous Penelope episode from Homer's Odyssey and transplants it to the present-day Bavarian Alps. Although the situations are played as comedy, the echo of real-life circumstances with men missing in action or held in prisoner-of-war camps during World War I resonated with audiences. Josepha (Porten), who must fend for herself in the absence of her husband (Decarli), yet who always remains faithful to him, can be seen as a kind of model for contemporary women, encouraging them to follow her example.

Bruno Decarli
German postcard by Verlag Hermann Leiser, Berlin. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Bruno Decarli
German postcard by Verlag Hermann Leiser, Berlin, no. 8977. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Nazi Propaganda
At the end of World War I, Bruno Decarli had his own film series. He often worked for director Richard Eichberg as in Jettatore (1919) with Lee Parry and Violetta Napierska. One of his best known productions was the adventure serial Die Herrin der Welt/Mistress of the World (1919, Joseph Klein, Joe May) starring Mia May. Another popular film in which he appeared was the two-part Fridericus Rex (1922, Arzén von Cserépy) featuring Otto Gebühr. That year he also appeared in the Dutch production De bruut/The brute (1922, Theo Frenkel) with Willem van der Veer and Adolphe Engers. In the Alexandre Dumas père adaptation Der Mann mit der eisernen Maske/The Man with the Iron Mask (1923, Max Glass), he co-starred with Albert Bassermann. Interesting is also the comedy Ein Glas Wasser/One Glass of Water (1923, Ludwig Berger) with Mady Christians. In these years, Decarli was also active as a director and producer. One of his productions was Brigantenrache/Brigands revenge (1922, Reinhard Bruck) starring Asta Nielsen. In 1923 Decarli returned to the stage. He played almost exclusively at the Saxon State theaters in Dresden, until all German theatres closed in the summer of 1944. He did little film work. In 1940 he had a small part in the Zarah Leander vehicle Das Herz der Königin/The Heart of a Queen (1940, He had his last film role in a Nazi propaganda and anti-British production. After 1945, he remained unemployed. Bruno Decarli died in 1950 in Tiverton, Great-Britain, at the home of his eldest daughter. He was 73.

Bruno Decarli
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K.1582. Photo: A. Binder, Berlin.

Bruno Decarli
German postcard in the Film-Sterne series by Rotophot., no. 217/1. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Sources: Stephanie D’heil (Stefi-Line), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Wikipedia (German), and IMDb.

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