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11 April 2017

Hella Moja

During the First World War and the following years Hella Moja (1890-1951) was one of the most popular stars of the German silent cinema. There even was a Hella Moja series and in 1918 the actress founded her own film company.

Hella Moja
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 78/3. Photo: Decla / Karl Schenker, Berlin.

Hella Moja
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 78/6. Photo: Decla / Karl Schenker, Berlin.

Hella Moja
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, Berlin, no. 165/3. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin / Moja Film.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 1376. Photo: Alex Binder.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1053/3, 1927-1928. Photo: Atelier Schneider, Berlin.

Short Silent Melodramas


According to IMDb, Hella Moja was born Helene Schwerdtfeger in Königsberg in Germany (now Kaliningrad, Russia), in 1890. However, the sources differ about her origins. Wikipedia and Thomas Staedeli at Cyranos write that she was born either as Helene Morawski or as Helene Schwerdtfeger, in  Ciemin-Zab., Russia. Filmportal.de gives as her full birth name Helene Gertrud Schwerdtfeger.

Hella appeared early in her career in the Teatr Artystyczny in Warsaw. Then she went to Berlin and worked as a translator Polish and Russian, and as a writer for the Deutsche Presse-Korrespondenz in Hannover, the Ullstein-Verlag and the Scherl-Verlag.

She followed acting classes with Emmanuel Reicher and Frieda Richard and debuted on the Berlin stage in 1913 at the Lessingtheater. She was spotted for the cinema by film star Alwin Neuss, who at the time worked as a director for the Decla-Film studio.

Hella Moja appeared in his silent film Der Weg der Tränen/The Way of the Tears (Alwin Neuss, 1916) based on a script by Ruth Goetz.

She also worked for pioneer studios like Messter, Union and Terra-Film, and excelled in short silent melodramas like Die weiße Rose/The White Rose (Franz Hofer, 1915) opposite Erna Morena, Der Schwur der Renate Rabenau/The Vow of Renate Rabenau (Otto Rippert, 1916), Der Fremde/The Stranger (Otto Rippert, 1917) with Werner Krauss and Das verwunschene Schloss/The Enchanted Castle (Otto Rippert, 1918) again with Krauss, often playing a countess or a damsel.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 78/2. Photo Karl Schenker, Berlin / Decla Film.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 134/1. Photo: Decla / Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 134/3. Photo: Decla / Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 134/4. Photo: Decla / Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 165/5. Photo: Decla / Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Hella Moja
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 210/1. Photo: Nicola Perscheid, Berlin / Hella Moja Film.

Theatrical Acting Style


In 1918 Hella Moja founded her own film company, the Hella Moja Filmgesellschaft, which would produce 16 films. Her first production was Wundersam ist das Märchen der Liebe/Wondrous is the Fairy Tale of Love (Leo Connard, 1918) with Ernst Hofmann, for which the critics especially praised her acting.

Another successful production was Die Augen von Jade/The Eyes of Jade (Iwa Raffay, 1918). In Figaros Hochzeit/The Marriage of Figaro (Max Mack, 1920) based on the play by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, she was again impressive as Cherubino - Figaros page opposite Alexander Moissi as Figaro.

Other films in which she appeared were Abgrund der Seele/The Abyss of Souls (Urban Gad, 1920), Gräfin Walewska/Countess Walewska (Otto Rippert, 1920) and Der Mann um Mitternacht/The Man at Midnight (Holger Madsen, 1924) with Olaf Fjord.

From the mid-1920s on, her theatrical acting style in films like U 9 Weddigen/U Boat 9 (Heinz Paul, 1927) with Gerd Briese was deemed old fashioned. Moja quit acting and focused on script writing.

During the Nazi period she got additional problems while she could not prove to be Aryan. In 1934 she changed her name in Helka Moroff, and co-wrote the script for Die Vier Musketiere/The Four Musketeers (Heinz Paul, 1934) starring Hans Brausewetter and Käthe Haack.

In 1938 she was expelled from the Reichsschrifttumskammer (RSK) with the excuse that she did odd jobs next to scriptwriting. From 1942 till 1951 the former silent film star worked as a prompter at the Stadttheater Kiel under the name Hella Sewa.

In 1951 Hella Moja committed suicide. She had been married to Erich Morawsky and film director Heinz Paul.

Hella Moja
German postcard in the Film Sterne Series by Rotophot, no. 501/2. Photo: Decla. Publicity still for Das Mädel von nebenan/The Girl-next-door (Otto Rippert, 1917).

Hella Moja in Die das Glück suchen (1917)
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 501/3. Photo: Decla. Hella Moja and Theodor Loos (far left) in the German silent film Die das Glück suchen/Those Searching for Happiness (1917). Odd is that this title does not appear in the databases Filmportal.de and IMDb. By looking at the serial numbers of the Film Sterne series the film must be from 1917.

Hella Moja in Die Tochter des Gräfin Stachowska (1917)
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 511/1. Photo: Decla. Publicity still for Die Tochter der Gräfin Stachowska/The Daughter of Countess Stachowska (Otto Rippert, 1917).

Hella Moja in Wundersam ist das Märchen der Liebe (1918)
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film-Sterne series, no. 544/2. Photo: Hella Moja-Film GmbH Publicity still for Wundersam ist das Märchen der Liebe/Wonderful is the Fairy-Tale of Love (Leo Connard, 1918) with Hella Moja and Ernst Hofmann.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 1651. Photo: Berliner Illustrations Gesellschaft.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 1926. Photo: Eberth / Decla-Film.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 298/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Zander & Labisch / Hella Moja Film.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Ross Verlag / W.J. Mörlins, Berlin, no. 320/1, 1919-1924. Photo: Karl Schenker, Berlin.

Hella Moja
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 459/2, 1919-1924. Photo: Karl Schenker.

Sources: Gabriele Hansch/Gerlinde Waz (Filmportal.de) (German); Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Deutsches Filminstitut (German), Wikipedia (German), BFI Film & TV Database, and IMDb.

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