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04 May 2013

Maly Delschaft

Forgotten diva Maly Delschaft (1898–1995) began her career in the theatre and then became a star in the German silent cinema. During the Nazi era, she appeared mainly in supporting roles. After the Second World War, she worked in East Germany for the state-controlled DEFA studio.

Maly Delschaft
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1920/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Atelier Balázs, Berlin.

Maly Delschaft
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1898/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Manassé, Vienna.

Maly Delschaft
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 2051/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Manassé, Wien (Vienna).

The Typical Berlin Girl
Maly Delschaft was born as Martha Amalia Delschaft in Hamburg, the German Empire in 1898. She was the daughter of the plasterer Hermann Friedrich Julius Delschaft and his wife Ida Caroline Christine born Hillermann. In 1907, the 8-years old played a boy's role at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg in a stage adaptation of Anna Karenina. After acting lessons by Carl Wagner and Franz Kreidemann during the First World War, she debuted in 1917 at the Stadttheater Bremen (City Theatre Bremen). In the same year, she played her first leading role in Friedrich Schiller’s drama Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love). After a stint in Breslau (Wroclaw) in 1919, she moved to Berlin in the early 1920’s. There she played at various theaters including the Berliner Theater and in silent films. She made her feature film debut in Der Liebling Der Frauen/The favorite of the women (1921, Carl Wilhelm) with Harald Paulsen. Her first important film role was as the niece of hotel doorman Emil Jannings in the masterpiece Der letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (1924, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau). Also important for her breakthrough was another silent classic, Variété/Variety (1925, Ewald André Dupont), in which she played Jannings’ wife. After that she was one of the stars of the German silent cinema. In many films she played the typical Berlin girl, but her only really memorable role was as a raped teacher in the Tendenz film about the abortion paragraph § 218, Kreuzzug des Weibes/The Wife's Crusade (1926, Martin Berger) with Conrad Veidt. There was no follow-up. Originally, the role of Lola-Lola in Der blaue Engel/The Blue Angel (1930, Josef von Sternberg) was planned for her, but in the end the part went to Marlene Dietrich.

Maly Delschaft
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1389/1, 1927-1928. Photo: National.

Maly Delschaft
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3653/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Manassé, Wien.

Maly Delschaft
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3027/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Helvetia Film, Berlin.

Maly Delschaft
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4384/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Jacobi, Berlin.

16 DEFA films
After the arrival of sound, Maly Delschaft’s played some leading parts in films but soon her film roles got smaller and smaller. She focused on a stage career and in 1933-1934 she worked at the Kabarett der Komiker. From 1934 till 1936 she performed at the Komischen Oper, the Volksbühne and at the Theater am Nollendorfplatz. During the war years, she had success in the lead role of the farce Der rote Unterrock (1941, The red petticoat). She also went on tour to perform it for the troops in occupied France. After 1945, Delschaft played in 16 DEFA films. In the prestige project Familie Benthin/The Benthin Family (1950, Slátan Dudow, Kurt Maetzig, Richard Groschopp), she played a mother who lived in West-Germany while her family fared better in East-Germany. In both Die Sonnenbrucks/The Sonnenbrucks (1951, Georg C. Klaren) and Das Beil von Wandsbek/The Axe of Wandsbek (1952, Falk Harnack), she portrayed a stubborn Nazi. From 1954 until the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 she worked for the Volksbühne in East-Berlin. After that, she lived in West-Berlin but hardly received any role offers. Her last film was Zwei unter Millionen/Two among millions (1961, Victor Vicas, Wieland Liebske) starring Hardy Krüger. After that she only appeared in small TV parts and a role at the Hansa Theater in Berlin. In 1970 she was awarded the Filmband in Gold (Lifetime Achievement Award for Film). Maly Delschaft died in 1995 in Berlin. Germany. She left her personal archive to the Filmmuseum Düsseldorf.

Maly Delschaft
Belgian postcard by NV Cacao en Chocolade Kivou, Vilvoorde.

Maly Delschaft
German postcard by VEB-Progress Filmvertrieb, Berlin, no. A 308 b4/731. Photo: Franz Radocay. Card from Delschaft's DEFA years.


Beautiful clip made by Hankoegal for the song You Forgot To Answer by Nico from her album The End. Video footage is from Kreuzzug des Weibes/The Wife's Crusade (1926). Source: Hankoegal (YouTube).

Sources: Stephanie D’heil (Steffi-Line), Volker Wachter (DEFA Sternstunden) (German), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), CineGraph (German), Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

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