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09 October 2013

Ernst Hofmann

German actor Ernst Hofmann (1890-1944) was one of the most attractive actors of the German silent cinema in the 1910s. He was the producer and star of Der Knabe in Blau/Emerald of Death (1918), the first film by legendary director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Verleih Hermann Leiser, Berlin, no. 422. Photo: Lili Baruch, Berlin.

First Major Success


Ernst Hofmann was born as Ernst Carl Heinrich Hofmann von Schönholtz in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Polen) in 1890. In 1910-1911 he studied art history, and Germanistik und Neue Sprachen (Germanistics and new languages) at the Universität Berlin (University of Berlin). At the same time, he took acting classes at the drama school of the Deutschen Theater (German theater).

Hofmann made his stage debut in 1911 and performed at the Kleinen Theater (Little Theater), the Kammerspielen (Chamber Theatre) and at the Kleinen Schauspielhaus (Little Theater). As Moritz Stiefel in the play Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening), he celebrated his first major success.

At the Deutsches Theater he shared the stage with Conrad Veidt and the later director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 332/4, 1916-1921. Photo: Becker & Maass phot.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 273/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Becker & Maass.

Dreamy Young Boy


Ernst Hofmann's film debut was as the dreamy young boy in Die Insel der Seligen/Island of the Blessed (Max Reinhardt, 1913).

Then he appeared opposite the greatest German film stars of this period, Henny Porten, in the film Komtesse Ursel/Countess Ursel (Curt A. Stark, 1913), and Asta Nielsen in Das Feuer/The Fire (Urban Gad, 1914).

From 1914 on he served for two years in the First World War as a reserve officer with the Field Artillery.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 332/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Becker & Maass.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 332/5, 1919-1924. Photo: Becker & Maass.

A Women's Idol


In 1916 Ernst Hoffman returned before the cameras and enjoyed several years of considerable popularity as a women's idol. New partners were such stars as Pola Negri in Rosen, die der Sturm entblättert/Roses Stripped by the Storm (Kurt Matull, 1917) and Die toten Augen/The Dead Eyes (Otto Jäger, 1917).

In 1919 he produced Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's first film Der Knabe in Blau/Emerald of Death (1919) and he also played the lead. F.W. Murnau once stated that he didn't know if this lost film was released or not.

Box-office hits were Satanas (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1919) with Fritz Kortner, and the serial Herrin der Welt/Queen of the World (Joe May, 1920) starring Mia May. Recently a brief fragment of Satanas has been found again.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 439/3, 1919-1924. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1379/1, 1927-1928. Photo: A. Binder, Berlin. Ross produced several card with these small 'framed' oval photos and autographed messages from the actor, usually related to art, or some witticism.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard in the Film Sterne Series by Rotophot, no. 560/2. Photo: Eiko Film. Publicity still for Wo ein Wille, ist ein Weg (Hubert Moest, 1918) with Hedda Vernon and right, back, Ernst Hofmann.

Playing With Fire


Ernst Hofmann became a very busy actor in the 1920s and he took part in many well-known productions.

To his best-known films of this decade belong the sci-fi morality tale Algol (Hans Werckmeister, 1920) with Emil Jannings, Marie Antoinette - Das Leben einer Königin/Marie Antoinette - The Life of a Queen (Rudolf Meinert, 1922) starring diva Diana Karenne, Lydia Sanin (Friedrich Zelnik, 1922) starring Lya Mara, Die keusche Susanne/The Innocent Susanne (Richard Eichberg, 1926) with Lilian Harvey, and Moral (Willi Wolff, 1928).

When the sound film arrived he finished his film career. He only appeared again in the films Gefahren der Liebe/A Woman Branded (Eugen Thiele, 1931) and Spiel mit dem Feuer/Playing with Fire (Ralph Arthur Roberts, 1934) starring Paul Hörbiger.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1138/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 484/4, 1919-1924. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 582/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Light Novels and Crime Stories

Also on the stage, Ernst Hofmann was seen only rarely.

Under his real name Ernst Hofmann von Schönholtz, he published several light novels and crime stories. He also provided articles for newspapers such as Der Tag (The Day).

Ernst Hofmann died in 1944 in Potsdam, during the battle for Berlin. (According to IMDb and Wikipedia he died in 1945). His wife, Hedda was also an actress.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1756/3, 1927-1928. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3359/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Suse Byk, Berlin.

Ernst Hofmann
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3359/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Suse Byk, Berlin.

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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