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11 November 2013

Robert Dinesen

Danish actor and director Robert Dinesen (1874-1972) made his film debut in Afgrunden/The Abyss (1910) as Asta Nielsen's fiancé. One year later, he directed the successful circus drama De fire djaevle/The Four Devils (1911), in which he also played the lead. It launched a trend of sensational circus drama's, and Dinesen became one of the greatest stars of the Scandinavian cinema. As a director, he had another huge hit with the orientalist melodrama Maharadjahens yndlingshustru/The Maharaja's Favourite Wife (1917) .

Robert Dinesen
Danish postcard, no. P.H. 1924. Sent by mail in 1908. Photo: Paul Hekscher. Publicity still for the play Nödebbo Prestigaard.

Sensational Circus Drama


Robert Dinesen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1874.

After being trained as a singer with William Herold and as an actor with Nicolai Neiiendam, he made his stage debut in 1894. He toured in the Nordic countries and played on several of the capital city stages, including Dagmarteatret (Dagmar Theatre).

He started his film career with the spectacular and ground-breaking Afgrunden/The Abyss (1910), as Magda's (Asta Nielsen) fiancé.

Already one year later, he co-directed his first film, the circus drama De fire djaevle/The Four Devils (Alexander Christian, Robert Dinesen, Alfred Lind, Carl Rosenbaum, 1911), in which he also played the lead as the wayward circus performer Fritz. The film, based on a story by Herman Bang, was an international success. The Four Devils launched a trend of sensational circus dramas. In 1928, Bang's story would be filmed again in Hollywood by legendary director F.W. Murnau.

Kinografen, the production company of De fire djaevle/The Four Devils built a large studio to expand, but to no avail.
Dinesen moved over to Nordisk, the biggest Danish film studio then.

From 1912 on, Robert Dinesen alternated playing in various Nordisk films by directors such as August Blom and Eduard Schnedler-Sorensen with making his own films, also at Nordisk. In 1913 he assisted Blom in directing his prestigious film drama Atlantis (August Blom, 1913).

All in all he acted in and directed some 70 films at Nordisk, working with such actors as Valdemar Psilander, Betty Nansen and Gunnar Tolnaes.

His biggest success was the orientalist melodrama Maharadjahens yndlingshustru/The Maharaja's Favourite Wife (Robert Dinesen, 1917) with Gunnar Tolnaes as an Indian prince and Lilly Jacobson as his love interest, the Danish Elly von Langen. The film was so popular that it had a Danish companion piece in 1919, again with Tolnaes and Jacobson, and a German sequel in 1921.

Robert Dinesen also produced such films as the sensationalistic series Gar el Hama (1911-1914) and Jefthas Dotter/Jephta's Daughter (1919), a Swedish production by Palladium.

Gunnar Tolnaes
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 2995. Photo: Nordisk. Publicity still for Maharadjahens yndlingshustru/The Maharaja's Favourite Wife (Robert Dinesen, 1917) with Gunnar Tolnaes.

Lilly Jacobson and Gunnar Tolnaes in Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K.2992. Photo: Nordisk. Publicity still for Maharadjahens yndlingshustru/The Maharaja's Favourite Wife (Robert Dinesen, 1917) with Gunnar Tolnaes and Lilly Jacobson.

Gunnar Tolnaes, Lilly Jacobson
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin. Photo: Nordisk. Publicity still for Maharadjahens yndlingshustru/The Maharaja's Favourite Wife (Robert Dinesen, 1917) with Gunnar Tolnaes and Lilly Jacobson.

Lya de Putti


Robert Dinesen married German actress Margaretha Schön (his third wife), and he moved to Berlin.

Producer Joe May invited him to co-direct with him Die Frauen von Gnadestein/The Women of Gnadestein (1920). In the 1920s, while working for May-Film, Ufa and Phoebus, Dinesen directed some 25 films.

In several of his films starred Lya de Putti. These productions included Ilona (1921), Thamar, das Kind der Berge/Thamar, the Child of the Mountains (1924), Malva (1924), Claire (1924), and Im Namen des Kaisers/In the Name of the Kaiser (1925). Most of them were made shortly before her international breakthrough with Varieté/Variety (E.A. Dupont, 1925).

In 1922 Dinesen made one more film for the Swedish company Palladium, Odets reskap.

His last film was Der Weg durch die Nacht/The Way Through the Night (1929) starring Käthe von Nagy, and his wife Margarethe Schön.

Dinesen refused to work for Joseph Goebbels, neither as an actor nor director, and retired, dedicating his time to painting. His wife Margarethe continued acting after 1933, and did some 24 films until 1945.

Robert Dinesen remained in Berlin (later West-Berlin), but he returned to Copenhagen shortly before his death in 1972 at the age of 97. He had been married with the actresses Marie Dinesen, Johanne Dinesen and Margarethe Schön.

Robert Dinesen
Danish postcard by Alex. Vincent's Kunstforlag. Eneret, no. 709. The title Inez fra Coimbra lacks in databases such as IMDb and the one of the Danish Film Institute. There was a musical play with this title, composed by Danish composer Adolph Julius Eggers. It was based on Portuguese folk music. The piece was edited as sheet music in 1908.

Robert Dinesen
Austrian postcard by Projectograph Aktiengesellschaft, Wien (Vienna). Photo: Nordisk Films Co., Kopenhagen.

Sources: Hans J. Wollstein (AllMovie), Det Danske Filminstitut (Danish) and IMDb.

1 comment:

maryt/theteach said...

I don't know if I missed it but is Robert Dinesen any relation to Isak Dinesen, the author of "Out of Africa?" :)