23 June 2018

Hedda Vernon

Today starts the 32nd edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato, and we're in Bologna, Italy to enjoy the festival. One of the classics programmes is One Hundred years Ago: 1918. One the main European stars of that year was German actress, writer and producer Hedda Vernon (1886-1925). During the 1910s, she appeared in more than 60 films and she was such a popular star that she got her own Hedda-Vernon-serial.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 232/1. Photo: Becker & Maass / Eiko-Film.

Hedda Vernon (retouched)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 2001/12, 1919-1924. Photo: Becker & Maass / Eiko Film.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 360/2, 1919-1924. Photo: Becker & Maass Phot.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 103. Photo: Eiko-Film.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 104. Photo: Eiko-Film.

Child Parts


Hedda Vernon (sometimes credited as Hedda Vernon-Moest) was born in 1886.

In 1912 she made her first film appearances in silent shorts for the Deutsche Bioscop GmbH in Berlin. That year she appeared in Die Papierspur/The Paper Trail (Emil Albes, 1912), Die Rote Jule/Red Jule (Emil Albes, 1912) and Der Kampf um das Erbe/The Conflict about the Heritage (Max Obal, 1912).

The following years, she played in Vitascope productions directed by Harry Piel, like Menschen und Masken 1 & 2/People and Masks 1 and 2 (Harry Piel, 1913), Die Millionenmine/The Millions Mine (Harry Piel, 1914) and Die braune Bestie/The Brown Beast (Harry Piel, 1914).

But she worked most often with her husband, actor-director Hubert Moest. They made a series of Eiko-productions, including Zofenstreichen/Abigail Paintings (Hubert Moest, 1915), Maria Niemand und Ihre Zwölf Väter/Maria Nobody and Her Twelve Fathers (Hubert Moest, 1915) with Theodor Loos, and Das Bild der Ahnfrau/The Picture of the Ancestress (Hubert Moest, 1916) with Rudolf Forster and Harry Liedtke.

These were followed by Noemi die blonde Judin/Noemi the Blonde Jew (Hubert Moest, 1917), Der Peitschenhieb/The Whiplash (Hubert Moest, 1918), and Taumel/Rapture (Hubert Moest, 1919) with Alfred Abel and Paul Hartmann.

In Zofia (Hubert Moest, 1915), Hedda Vernon impersonated a fifteen year old girl although she was almost 29 at the time. Such ‘child parts’ were normal for actresses in the 1910s and 1920s.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 68/5. Photo: Eiko-Film.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne Series, no. 136/5. Photo: Becker & Maass, Berlin.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film-Sterne Series, no. 138/6. Photo Becker & Maass, Berlin / Eiko Film.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 1340. Photo: Alex Binder.

Hedda Vernon
German postcard by Photochemie, no. K. 1346. Photo: Alex Binder.

Harry Piel Series


Hedda Vernon became so popular that she got her own serial which was financed by her production company Vernon-Produktion. She produced herself in Selbstgerichtet oder Die gelbe Fratze/Self Defence or The Yellow Grimace (Hubert Moest, 1914) and Hedda Vernon’s Bühnensketch/Hedda Vernon's Stage Sketch (Hubert Moest, 1916).

She also worked with director Richard Oswald on Der Eiserne Kreuz/The Iron Cross (1914) with Hanni Weisse, Der Tod des andern/Other's Death (1919) with Alwin Neuss, and Manolescus Memoiren/The Memories of Manolescu (1920) starring Conrad Veidt.

During the 1920s, the interest in Hedda Vernon flagged. New stars became more in demand. To her few films in the 1920s belong Der Verächter des Todes/The Death Defier (Harry Piel, 1920), the Harry Piel series Der Reiter ohne Kopf/The Horseman Without a Head (Harry Piel, 1921) and Die Sonne von St. Moritz/The Sun of St. Moritz (Friedrich Weissenberg, Hubert Moest, 1923).

Her last film was Zwischen zwei Frauen/Between Two Women (Hubert Moest, 1925) opposite Reinhold Schünzel.

Hedda Vernon died that same year, at an unknown location, and of unknown causes. She was married with producer-director Hubert Moest from 1913 till 1920.

Hedda Vernon in Die Narbe am Knie
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film-Sterne series, no. 517/3. Photo: Eiko-Film. Hedda Vernon in Die Narbe am Knie (Hubert Moest, 1917).

Hedda Vernon in Noemi, die blonde Jüdin.
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film-Sterne series, no. 517/10. Photo: Eiko Film. Publicity still of Hedda Vernon in Noemi, die blonde Jüdin (Hubert Moest, 1917).

Hedda Vernon in Mouschy
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film-Sterne series, no. 518/1. Photo: Eiko Film. Hedda Vernon in Mouschy (Hubert Moest, 1918).

Hedda Vernon in Das Todesgeheimnis (1918)
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film-Sterne series, no. 532/3. Photo: Eiko Film. Hedda Vernon and Erich Kaiser-Titz in Das Todesgeheimnis (Hubert Moest, 1918). Vernon co-scripted this film, with Ruth Goetz - who wrote several scripts for the Hedda Vernon films of the late 1910s.

Hedda Vernon in Der Übel größtes aber ist die Schuld
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film-Sterne series, no. 532/6. Photo: Eiko Film. Hedda Vernon in Der Übel größtes aber ist die Schuld (Hubert Moest, 1918).

Hedda Vernon in Fesseln
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film-Sterne series, no. 559/5. Photo: Eiko Film. Hedda Vernon in Fesseln/Chains (Hubert Moest, 1918).

Hedda Vernon in Wo ein Wille, ist ein Weg (1918)
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne Series, no. 560/2. Photo: Eiko Film. Publicity still for Wo ein Wille, ist ein Weg (Hubert Moest, 1918) with in the back right Ernst Hofmann.

Hedda Vernon in Puppchen (1918)
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film-Sterne series, no. 561/2. Photo: Eiko Film. Hedda Vernon in Puppchen/Dolly (Hubert Moest, 1918).

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

22 June 2018

Helene Thimig

Austrian actress Helene Thimig (1889-1974) was an important stage performer during the Weimar republic. She came from a renown acting family: she was the daughter of Hugo Thimig and the sister of Hermann Thimig and Hans Thimig. She fled the Nazis with her later husband, theatre producer/director Max Reinhardt, sought refuge in Hollywood, and appeared in 18 Hollywood films. After the war, she returned to Vienna where she had a prolific stage career but only sporadically appeared in films.

Helene Thimig
German postcard by Verlag Herm. Leiser, Berlin-Wilm., no. 6895. Photo: Rembrandt Atelier.

Love Affair with Max Reinhardt


Helene Ottilie Thimig was born in Wien (Vienna) in 1889. She was the daughter of the later Burgtheater director Hugo Thimig and his wife Franziska née. Hummel. Her two brothers Hermann Thimig and Hans Thimig also became actors.

After elementary school and the Lyceum Luithlen she took acting lessons with Hedwig Bleibtreu. In 1907 she had her first appearance in the Stadttheater of Baden as Marthe in Edouard Pailleron's The Mouse.

In 1908 she played Melissa in Franz Grillparzer's Sappho at the Goethe Festival in Dusseldorf, then she acted at the Hoftheater (Court Theatre) in Meiningen, and from 1911 to 1917 at the Königlichen Schauspielhaus (Royal Playhouse) in Berlin.

In 1917 she received an engagement at the Deutschen Theater (German Theatre) in Berlin, where she debuted as Elsalil in Gerhart Hauptmann's Winterballade (Winter Ballad).

From the beginning, a close cooperation and love affair developed between her and Max Reinhardt, director of the Deutschen Theater. He was married to actress Else Heims and had two sons with her. Thimig was married to the director Paul Kalbeck from 1916 to 1918.

She made her film debut in the drama Mensch ohne Namen/Man Without a Name (Gustav Ucicky, 1932) starring Werner Krauss. When Reinhardt was ostracised after the Nazis came to power in 1933, Thimig's successful stage career in Berlin also came to an end. She followed Reinhardt to Vienna and performed at the Theater in der Josefstadt, which Reinhardt directed. Further performances followed in Prague and at the Salzburg Festival.

Thimig followed Reinhardt to various productions in several European countries and after his divorce, they were married in Nevada in May 1935 during a guest appearance in the United States. At the end of October 1937 she finally joined Reinhardt in his American exile. Since she learned the English language slowly, she received for a long time only very small roles in American theatre and film productions.

Between 1942 and 1947 she appeared in 18 Hollywood films, in which she represented mostly German women. These included The Gay Sisters (Irving Rapper, 1942) starring Barbara Stanwyck, the pseudo-documentary The Hitler Gang (John Farrow, 1944), The Seventh Cross (Fred Zinnemann, 1944), starring Spencer Tracy, and the Film Noir Cloak and Dagger (Fritz Lang, 1946), starring Gary Cooper.

In 1943, Max Reinhardt died.

Helene Thimig
German postcard by Margarinewerk Eidelstedt Gebr. Fauser G.m.b.H., Holstein, Serie 1, no. Bild 52. Photo: Marcus.

Helene Thimig
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6970/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Mensch ohne Namen/The Man Without a Name (Gustav Ucicky, 1932).

A Return to Europe


After the end of the Second World War, Helene Thimig returned to Europe. She appeared in a few films, including the Austrian film Der Engel mit der Posaune/The Angel with the Trumpet (Karl Hartl, 1948). In Austria she became a member of the Burgtheater, where in 1950 she was awarded the honorary title of a Kammerschauspielerin (chamber actress).

In 1948 she entered into a third marriage with the Austrian actor Anton Edthofer. Between 1947 and 1951 she staged Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Jedermann (Everyman) at the Salzburg Festival and directed the Viennese Max Reinhardt Seminar from 1948 to 1954. In addition, she took on a teaching position as a professor at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts.

In the cinema, however, she received only a few tasks, including a role in the American production Decision Before Dawn (Anatole Litvak, 1951), starring Richard Basehart and Oskar Werner, and the German drama Waldwinter/Winter in the Woods (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1956), starring Claus Holm.

After leaving the Burgtheater ensemble in 1954, she again took on a firm commitment at the Theater in der Josefstadt. From 1963 to 1968 she again staged Jedermann at the Salzburg Festival. At the end of March 1974 she was on stage for the last time in Josefstadt.

In November 1974, Helene Thimig-Reinhardt died in her native Vienna of heart failure at the age of 85. She was cremated in the crematorium Feuerhalle Simmering and buried in an honorary dedicated urn.

In 2015, the urn with her ashes was moved to a grave dedicated to the honour of the Neustift cemetery. In 2016, the Helene-Thimig-Weg was named after her in Vienna Liesing. Thimig received prizes and awards, including the Josef-Kainz-Medaille in 1962 and the Ring of Honour of the City of Vienna in 1969.

Helene Thimig in Peer Gynt (1914)
German postcard by Verlag Herm. Leiser, Berlin-Wilm., no. 8334. Photo: Becker & Maass. Caption: Helen Thimig as Solveig in Peer Gynt. Thimig appeared in the play by Henrik Ibsen in 1914.

Helene Thimig in Faust (1920)
German postcard by Verlag Herm. Leiser, Berlin-Wilm., no. 8747. Photo: Becker & Maass. Publicity still for Max Reinhardt's stage production of Goethe's Faust (1920) with Helene Thimig as Gretchen.

Sources: Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

21 June 2018

Das alte Gesetz (1923)

Although Henny Porten had only a supporting part in Das alte Gesetz/The Ancient Law (1923) and Ernst Deutsch had the leading role, she was the main subject on the series of postcards which Ross Verlag made for the film. Photographer Hans Natge made the beautiful stills for the this silent film production by Comedia Film, directed by Ewald André Dupont.

Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 663/1. Photo: Hans Natge, Berlin / Comedia Film. Publicity still of Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz (E.A. Dupont, 1923).

Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 663/2. Photo: Hans Natge, Berlin / Comedia Film. Publicity still of Henny Porten and Ernst Deutsch in Das alte Gesetz (E.A. Dupont, 1923).

Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 663/3. Photo: Hans Natge, Berlin / Comedia Film. Publicity still of Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz (E.A. Dupont, 1923).

He recognises God's mercy in the performance of his son 


In Das alte Gesetz/The Ancient Law (E.A. Dupont, 1923), Ernst Deutsch plays the mid-19th century rabbi's son Baruch Mayer, who decides to break with the family tradition. Against his orthodox father's will, he leaves his shtetl in Galicia to become an actor.

Baruch joins a small wandering burlesque company. The Austrian archduchess Elisabeth Theresia (Henny Porten) discovers him there and becomes enarmoured with him. Secretly in love with him, she provides him an engagement at the Burgtheater, the most important theatre in Vienna.

Baruch receives a contract at the Burgtheater and soon manages to become a celebrated star. More and more he becomes an assimilated jew, but his relation with the grand-duchess isn't approved by the Austrian court, so they have to end it.

His father Rabbi Mayer (Avrom Morewski) is appalled by this life and rejects his son, but when he witnesses a performance of his son as Don Carlos, he is so impressed by his talent, he recognises God's mercy in this and pardons his son.

Baruch returns to his eastern European shtetl where he grew up and where his sweetheart from his youth (Margarete Schlegel) has waited for him all the time...

With its complex portrayal of orthodoxy and emancipation, Ewald André Dupont's period film marks a highpoint of Jewish filmmaking in Germany, according to film historians.

Das alte Gesetz was scripted by Paul Reno. The story precedes the similar plot of the more famous American sound film The Jazz Singer (Alan Crossland, 1927) with Al Jolson, which was made just a few years after,

Cinematography of Das alte Gesetz was done by Thomas Spahrkuhl and the sets were designed by Alfred Junge, and executed by Curt Kahle, while the costumes were designed by Ali Hubert.

The film premiered in Berlin on 29 October 1923. The German press praised the film: "Dupont manages to visualise these two so different worlds, the ghetto milieu, which is separated from the outer world by a sheer insurmountable wall, and this world itself; the Vienna of the 1860's, led by the rhythms of Strauss' valzer and epitomized by the Burgtheater as artistic summit." (Film-Kurier, no. 244, 30 October 1923)

Various prints of the films existed, which were quite different from each other and not always respected the original. The Deutsche Kinemathek recently did a full restoration and the restored, 135 minutes long version of the film was shown with live accompaniment on 16 February 2018 at the Friedrichstadt - Palast at the Berlinale 2018. Three days later it was showed on Arte TV.

Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 663/4. Photo: Hans Natge, Berlin / Comedia Film. Publicity still of Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz (E.A. Dupont, 1923).

Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 663/5. Photo: Hans Natge, Berlin / Comedia Film. Publicity still of Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz (E.A. Dupont, 1923).

Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 663/6. Photo: Hans Natge, Berlin / Comedia Film. Publicity still of Henny Porten in Das alte Gesetz (E.A. Dupont, 1923).

Sources: epd-film.de, Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (English and German) and IMDb.