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02 June 2015

Dorothea Wieck

Swiss actress Dorothea Wieck (1908-1986) became a major star and a lesbian idol with her role as the adored teacher Fräulein von Bernburg in the German classic Mädchen in Uniform/Girls in Uniform (1931). She made more than fifty films, but she was also a prominent stage actress of the Deutsche Theater, the Schillertheater and other main theatres in Berlin.

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 6846/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 7447, 1932-1933. Photo: Gerty Simon, Berlin.

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 7503/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Robertson, Berlin.

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 7771/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Klagemann / Terra.

Dorothea Wieck
Dutch postcard, no. 558. Sent by mail in 1934. Photo: Paramount.

Silent Films


Dorothea Olavia Wieck was born in Davos, Switzerland, in 1908. She was the daughter of wholesale merchant Hans Leopold Wieck and Friederike Wernicke. After spending most of her childhood in Sweden, Dorothea was schooled in Dresden. At the age of 12, she started to study dance and at 15, she attended acting courses by Maria Moissi, the first wife of Alexander Moissi, in Berlin.

She studied with Max Reinhardt and made her stage debut in Vienna at the Theater in der Josephstadt. Later she appeared in Munich at the Münchner Kammerspiele in plays by Carl Zuckmayer and Ferenc Molnár.

After being spotted by director Franz Seitz, she began her film career with a part in the comedy Heimliche Sünder/Secret Sinners (Franz Seitz, 1926), followed by a bigger role in Die kleine Inge und ihre drei Väter/Little Inge and Her Three Fathers (Franz Osten, 1926).

Soon followed more leading roles in silent films like Ich hab mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren/I Lost My Heart at Heidelberg (Arthur Bergen, 1926), Sturmflut/Storm Tide (Willy Reiber, 1927), and Der Fremdenlegionär/Foreign Legionaire (James Bauer, 1928) with Therese Giehse.

Her breakthrough followed after the introduction of sound film. She had an international success with the pioneering feminist film Mädchen in Uniform/Girls in Uniform (Leontine Sagan, Carl Froelich, 1931). Hertha Thiele co-starred as a sensitive girl, who is sent to an all-girls boarding school where she develops a romantic attachment to one of her teachers, Fräulein von Bernburg (Wieck).

First when the lesbian themed film was released in the United States it was banned. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw the importance of the film though and the ban was lifted. Later in Germany the Nazi regime even tried to burn all the copies of the film, but they couldn't.

Bruce Eder at AllMovie: "it was attacked in its time, though not for the lesbian-oriented, homo-erotic aspects of its story and visuals, but for being a critique of the educational establishment. It thus became an underground classic, taken to heart by iconoclasts of all stripes and, most especially, by lesbian audiences. Even by the standards of the twenty-first century, the honesty of the movie is startling when one considers its origins. The technical side of the filmmaking may be a little frayed, but the acting and direction have endured in their appeal across many decades, and the movie continues to attract attention as something more than an artifact."

Dorothea Wieck
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 995. Photo: Emelka.

Werner Fuetterer, Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 61/3, 1926. Photo: Münchner Lichtspielkunst AG (Emelka). Publicity still for Ich hab mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren/I Lost My Heart in Heidelberg (Arthur Bergen, 1926) with Werner Fuetterer.

Dorothea Wieck and Hertha Thiele in Mädchen in Uniform (1931)
Dutch Postcard by M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam, Z., no. 104 e. Photo: Fim Film, Amsterdam. Publicity still for Mädchen in Uniform/Girls in Uniform (Leontine Sagan, Carl Froelich, 1931).

Dorothea Wieck and Hertha Thiele in Mädchen in Uniform (1931)
British card in the series Film Shots by Film Weekly. Photo: Deutsche. Publicity still for Mädchen in Uniform/Girls in Uniform (Leontine Sagan, Carl Froelich, 1931) with Hertha Thiele.

Theodoor Loos, Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 164/2. Photo: Phoebus Tonfilm prod. Publicity still for Trenck (Ernst Neubach, Heinz Paul, 1932) with Theodoor Loos. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 7265/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Phoebus Tonfilm Prod. Publicity still for Trenck - Der Roman einer großen Liebe/Trenck - The novel of a great love (Ernst Neubach, Heinz Paul, 1932).

Hollywood


In the years after Mädchen in Uniform, Dorothea Wieck starred in well-known productions like the operetta Gräfin Mariza/Countess Mariza (Richard Oswald, 1932), and Anna und Elisabeth (Frank Wisbar, 1933) again with Hertha Thiele.

In 1932, Wieck married baron Ernst von der Decken, a journalist and author. They were not often together and divorced in 1935.

The international success of Mädchen in Uniform led her to Hollywood where she starred in two films, Cradle Song (Mitchell Leisen, 1933) and Miss Fane's Baby Is Stolen (Alexander Hall, 1934), based on the Lindbergh kidnapping case. Both films flopped at the box office and this, combined with accusations of espionage for the Nazis, forced her return to Germany.

In the following years Wieck played in such popular films as Der Student von Prag/The Student of Prague (Arthur Robison, 1935) starring Adolf Wohlbrück (Anton Walbrook), and Die gelbe Flagge/The Yellow Flagg (Gerhard Lamprecht, 1937) with Hans Albers.

During wartime Dorothea Wieck turned her attention to the theatre, and also worked as a stage director. As a celebrated actress, she was repeatedly dinner partner of Chancellor Hitler. She occasionally appeared in front of the camera in the propaganda film Kopf hoch, Johannes!/Head up, Johannes! (Viktor de Kowa, 1941), Andreas Schlüter (Herbert Maisch, 1942) featuring Heinrich George, and Der Grüne Salon/The Green Room (Boleslaw Barlog, 1944). In Italy, she made Inviati speciali/Special Guests (Romolo Marcellini, 1943).

Dorothea Wieck
Dutch postcard, printed by Smeets & Schippers, Amsterdam. Photo: Paramount.

Dorothea Wieck
Dutch postcard by M. Bonnist & Zonen, Amsterdam-Z., no. B 299. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Cradle Song (Mitchell Leisen, 1933).

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag. Photo: Paramount.

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 8448/2, 1933-1934. Photo: Paramount.

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser GmbH, Holstein. Serie 1, Bild 35. Photo: Marcus.

Supporting Roles


After the war, Dorothea Wieck was reported to be death. After the bombing of Dresden in February 1945, the actress had been buried for 4 days, but she survived though seriously injured. The German magazine Der Spiegel reported on 01/11/47: "Dorothea Wieck, the Berlin stage and film actress is not dead, as was reported incorrectly after the bombing of Dresden in 1944 (sic)." The following tear, she would return to the theatre and make a stage tour.

In the 1950s followed interesting supporting roles in films like Herz der Welt/The Alfred Nobel Story (Harald Braun, 1952) with Dieter Borsche, Man on a Tightrope (Elia Kazan, 1953) starring Frederic March, Das Fräulein von Scuderi/The Miss from Scuderi (Eugen York, 1955) featuring the legendary Henny Porten, the Heimatfilm Das Forsthaus in Tirol/The forester`s house in Tirol(Hermann Kugelstadt, 1955), A Time to Love and a Time to Die (Douglas Sirk, 1958), and Menschen im Hotel/Grand Hotel (Gottfried Reinhardt, 1959) with Michèle Morgan.

After that she retired from the film business more or less. To her last films belong Die Schachnovelle/Brainwashed (Gerd Oswald, 1960) with Curd Jürgens and Das Mädchen und der Staatsanwalt/The girl and the prosecutor (Jürgen Goslar, 1962).

Between 1961 and 1967, Wieck taught acting at her own academy in Berlin. On TV she played in two episodes of the Krimi series Der Kommissar in 1969 and 1973. In 1973 she was awarded for her work with the Filmband in Gold.

Dorothea Wieck passed away in 1986 in Berlin, at the age of 78. She is not forgotten and has still many fans, because of her role in Mädchen in Uniform. At IMDb, reviewer Jan Onderwater notes: "The direction of Sagan/Froelich and the cinematography are outstanding, but it could never have become the classic it is if both Hertha Thiele and Dorothea Wieck had not been in the lead. Photogenic Thiele plays Manuela as a sensitive, but still proud girl; Wieck gives the Von Bernburg character all the subtleties and uncertainties it needs."

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 9342/1, 1935-1936. Photo: Europa / Cine-Allianz. Publicity still for Der Student von Prag/The Student of Prague (Arthur Robison, 1935).

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 9182/1, 1935-1936. Photo: Europa / Froelich-Film. Publicity still for Liselotte von der Pfalz (Carl Froelich, 1935).

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Ross-Verlag, no. A 2732, 1939-1940. Photo: Greinert.

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, Berlin, no. A 3628/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Baumann / Terra.

Dorothea Wieck
German postcard by 'Das Programm von heute', Zeitschrift für Film und Theater G.m.b.H., Berlin. Photo: Tobis-Weisse.

Sources: Bruce Eder (AllMovie), Stephanie D'heil (Steffi-line - German), I.S. Mowis (IMDb), Der Spiegel (German)Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Sandra Brennan (AllMovie), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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