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06 April 2014

Rudolf Klein-Rogge

Rudolf Klein-Rogge (1888-1955) is best remembered for his sinister roles in Fritz Lang's silent masterpieces. He played the devilish hypnotist Mabuse in Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1925) and the mad scientist Rotwang in Metropolis (1927), but he played more parts in classics of the German cinema.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge
German postcard by Ross Verlag no. 3528/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Ufa.

Metropolis
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 71-4. Photo: Ufa / Parufamet. Publicity still for Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927). Collection: Amsterdam EYE Filmmuseum.

Intense Stare


Friedrich Rudolf Klein-Rogge was born in Cologne, Germany, in 1888.

He took acting lessons while studying art history and made his acting debut in 1909. While playing in the city of Aachen, he met actress/screenwriter Thea von Harbou and married her.

In 1913 he made his debut as a film actor in Der Film von der Konigin Luise/The film of Queen Luise (Franz Porten, 1913), but he returned to stage acting. It took more than five years before film acting really became his profession.

In 1915 he moved to Nurnberg (Nuremberg), where he became a star of the Nuremberg Stadttheater.

Even if he had quite a good salary with 12,000 Deutsch Mark a year, his wife earned much more with her novels. She could even earn more in Berlin, so they moved to the capital.

In Berlin, Klein-Rogge continued his stage career at the Lessing Theater, but that proved to be tougher as told and his stage career came to a halt.

After several minor films and a bit part in the expressionist classic Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari/The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920), Klein-Rogge played his first part with Fritz Lang in his film Das wandernde Bild/The Wandering Image (1920) starring Mia May.

The script was written by Thea Von Harbou, who had an affair with Lang. She eventually divorced Klein-Rogge and became Lang's wife. Von Harbau and Klein-Rogge remained friends.

Klein-Rogge would perform great roles in many films directed by Lang and written by Von Harbou, such as the Derwish/Girolamo in Der müde Tod/Destiny (1921), the devilish title character in Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler/Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922), king Etzel in Die Nibelungen (1924), the mad scientist Rotwang in Metropolis (1927), and Haghi in Spione/Spies (1928).

Reportedly, Paul Richter (Siegfried) did not dare to show his bare back in Die Nibelungen when Siegfried takes his bath in the blood of the dragon, so Klein-Rogge doubled him in this scene.

His intense stare became well-known because of his part as the criminal hypnotist Mabuse. The success of the film delivered him similar roles, such as the tyrant in Der steinerne Reiter/The Stone Rider (Fritz Wendhause, 1923), the pirate in Pietro der Korsar/Peter the Pirate (Arthur Robinson, 1925), and the Czar in Casanova (Alexandre Volkoff, 1927) starring Ivan Mozzhukhin.

Klein-Rogge's last film with Lang was the sequel Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse/The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1932).

Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag no. 780. Photo: Riess, Berlin.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1127/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Type casted


Next to Casanova, Rudolf Klein-Rogge played in a number of international co-productions in the late 1920s including the British-German co-production The Queen was in the Parlour (Graham Cutts, 1927).

He also appeared in the French films La faute de Monique/Monique's Fault (Maurice Gleize, 1928), Tu m'appartiens!/You Belong to Me (Maurice Gleize, 1929) with Francesca Bertini, La maison des hommes vivants/The House of the Living Men (Marcel Dumont, Gaston Roudès, 1929), the first French full sound film Le requin/The Shark (Henri Chomette, 1929), and the part-talkie Tarakanova (Raymond Bernard, 1930) starring Édith Jéhanne.

In 1930 he also played in the Danish/Norwegian film Eskimo (George Schneevogt, 1930) and two years later in the German version of the film too, just like he also played in the French version Le testament du Dr. Mabuse/The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, René Sti, 1933) of Lang's final film in Weimar Germany.

During the 1930s, Klein-Rogge continued to play in the German sound cinema. He was often type casted just like in the old days of the silent cinema.

Only rarely he played comic roles. His last part was in Hochzeit auf dem Bärenhof/Wedding at the Bärenhof  Carl Froehlich, 1942) starring Heinrich George.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge died in Wetzelsdorf, Austria, in 1955. He had been married three times: first to Thea von Harbou (1914-1921); then to Margarethe Neff (until 1932); and finally to Swedish actress Mary Johnson (in 1932) who remained with him till his death. With Johnson he had one child.


Scene from Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922). Source: Le Cercle Vicieux (YouTube).


Beginning sequence of Spione/Spies (1928). Source: Manferot (YouTube).

Sources: Thomas Schaedeli (Cyranos), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

Intense stare is right! I've never seen Dr. Mabuse but I should.