05 February 2018

Lilian Ellis

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Danish actress Lilian Ellis (1907-1951) had a short but glittering career in the German cinema. She was also a ballet dancer, a stage actress and a radio and television performer.

Lilian Ellis
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4408/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Lilian Ellis
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4766/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Lilian Ellis
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4873/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Loritz, St. Moritz.

Casanova


Lilian Ellis was born as Ellis Stampe Bendix in Denmark in 1907.

She started ballet training with Asta Mollerup and Jenny Møller, after which she danced as ballet dancer with groundbreaking Russian choreographer and dancer Michel Fokine in Paris. At the age of 16 she joined the company of Ellen Tels after which she raised her own dance company. She started to perform abroad in ballet and revue and joined Max Reinhardt’s Deutsche Theater in Berlin for a while.

In 1927 Lilian Ellis debuted in film with a small role in the French silent classic Casanova (Alexander Volkov, 1927), and the following year she already had a big part in Heut'spielt der Strauss/Strauss, the Waltz King (Conrad Wiene, 1928), scripted by Robert Wiene and starring Alfred Abel as Johan Strauss senior. The film portrays the relationship between the father and son Austrian composers Johann Strauss I and Johann Strauss II.

During the years 1928-1931, Ellis was a leading lady of the German cinema, playing many big parts in late silent and early sound films, including Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät/Lieutenant of His Majesty (Jakob & Luise Fleck, 1929) with Iván Petrovich, Im Prater blüh'n wieder die Bäume/In the Prater the Trees are in Bloom Again (E.W.Emo, 1929), Liebeskleeblatt/Love's Clover Leaf (Max Nosseck, 1930), and the German-Austrain-Czech production Wiener Herzen.Viennese Hearts (Fred Sauer, 1930) with Werner Fuetterer.

Quite easily, Ellis made the passage to sound film with Georg Jacoby’s film Tausend Worte Deutsch/1000 Words German (1930), the first sound film of Pat & Patachon (Fy och Bi).

Then followed the films Der Bergführer von Zakopane/The mountain guide of Zakopane (Domenico Gambino, Adolf Trotz, 1931), Die lustige Weiber von Wien/The Merry Wives of Vienna (Géza von Bolváry, 1931) with Willi Forst, Die Frau von der man spricht/The Woman They Talk About (Victor Janson, 1931) with Mady Christians, Der Raub der Mona Lisa/The Theft of the Mona Lisa (Géza von Bolváry, 1931) with again Forst, Kyritz-Pyritz/ (Carl Heinz Wolff, 1931), and finally Schön ist die Manöverzeit/Manoeuver Time Is Fine (Erich Schönfelder, Margarete Schön, 1931) with Ida Wüst.

After that Ellis returned to Denmark.

Lilian Ellis and Iván Petrovich in Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät (1929)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4311/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Hegewald-Film. Publicity still for Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät/Court Scandal (Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck, 1929) with Iván Petrovich.

Lilian Ellis and Iván Petrovich in Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät (1929)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4312/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Hegewald-Film. Publicity still for Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät/Court Scandal (Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck, 1929) with Iván Petrovich.

Lilian Ellis and Werner Fuetterer
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5025/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Hegewald-Film. Lilian Ellis and Werner Fuetterer played together in Wiener Herzen (Fred Sauer, 1930), a late silent film and a German-Austrian-Czech co-production.

Hollywood-contract


From 1933 on Lilian Ellis toured from Paris to Warsaw. In 1934 Ellis was offered a Hollywood–contract but she remained in Europe, and acted with Det Ny Teater and from 1935 on at the National Scala.

The next year she acted in London and Paris revues. She collaborated with the revue Tomands-fronten (1941) at the Apolloteatret with Hans W. Petersen.

When the Second World War broke out, she returned to the set for the Danish operetta-like show film Alle går rundt og forelsker sig/All goes around and everyone falls in love (Emanuel Gregers, 1941). Ellis played an operetta girl who bets with the other girls she can bring three men on their knees, but one is not so easily conquered.

The film was such a success in Sweden that Ellis was offered a contract there. She played  in the Swedish romantic comedy En melodi om våren/A Springtime Melody (Weyler Hildebrand, 1943), in which she played a nightclub singer. It was her last leading role.

That same year, Ellis married editor Mogens Lind in Stockholm. En melodi om våren flopped, so Ellis stopped making films in Sweden. After that she only had a major part in the Danish film Elly Petersen (Jon Iversen, Alice O'Fredericks, 1944) and a small part in De kloge og vi gale/The Wise Man and the Fool (Alice O'Fredericks, Lau Lauritzen jun., 1945), plus some stage performances.

Ellis gave her voice to the radio of Sweden, Norway and the British Forces Network, thanks to her eloquence and diction. In 1948 she did her first radio and television performance in New York and Washington. Together with Mogens Lind she translated a series of British and American plays, such as Fallen Angel and the operetta Annie. She also contributed to the popular Danish radio show Han, Hun og Musikken.

In 1951, Lilian Ellis was hospitalised at the Bispebjerg Hospital and operated for a serious kidney disease. A blood congestion became fatal, and Lilian Ellis died at the age of 43 in 1951. In 1952 Mogens Lind edited the book Til Elise.

Lilian Ellis
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4991/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Manassé, Wien.

Lilian Ellis
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5281/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.

Lilian Ellis
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6086/2, 1931-1932. Photo: Atelier Balàzs, Berlin.

Lilian Ellis
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6767/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Zander & Labisch, Berlin.

Sources: Danske Film (Danish), Danish Film Institute (Danish), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos - German), Wikipedia (Danish and English) and IMDb.

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