13 October 2011

Anita Dorris

Beautiful German leading lady Anita Dorris (1903 - 1993) started as a stage actress in 1921, after which some 15 silent films followed. Dorris was beloved in the late 1920's and smoothly made the passage to sound. In 1930, however, she married Austrian film director E. W. Emo and withdrew from the cinema. Her daughter, Maria Emo, would also become a well known stage and film actress.

Anita Dorris
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5403. Photo: Atelier Manassé, Wien.

Film actress by accident
Anita Dorris was born Anita Dorothea Schmidt in 1903 in Lübeck, Germany. She was the daughter of Ernst Schmidt, the owner of a printing company. In 1921, because of her acquaintance with Anton Kohl, Anita got her first engagement as a stage actress at the Stadttheater Eger. She moved on to theaters in the cities of Pilsen and Franzensbad, and from 1923 till 1925 she worked in Prague. Her film career started by accident. She acted for a friendly cameraman who wanted to apply for a job with director Friedrich Zelnik aka Frederic Zelnik) with a sample of his skill. However, Zelnik didn't pay attention to the work of the cameraman but was enthusiastic about the acting by Schmidt. He engaged her for his film Die Mühle von Sanssouci/The Mill of Sanssouci (1926, Siegfried Philippi, Friedrich Zelnik), and Anita Schmidt changed her name into Anita Dorris. In her film debut she appeared with the stars Otto Gebühr and Olga Tschechova, and soon some 15 more silent films followed. She worked on three films with Dutch director Jaap Speyer: Liebeshandel/Love Affair (1927), Bigamie/Bigamy (1927) and Die Sache mit Schorrsiegel/The Schorsiegel Case (1928). According to Thomas Staedeli at Cyranos, her most impressive performance was Trilby in the drama Svengali (1927, Gennaro Righelli) opposite Paul Wegener in the title role. She also played Friederike of Prussia in both Königin Luise I/Queen Louise and Königin Luise II (1927, Karl Grune), based on screenplays by Ludwig Berger.

Anita Dorris
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4194/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Ernst Sandau, Berlin.

Anita Dorris
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5030/1, 1930-1931. Photo Atelier Manassé, Vienna.

The first German sound film
Anita Dorris was beloved in the late silent film era and with her stage-trained voice, she smoothly made the passage to sound film. In 1929, she appeared in the first German sound film, the short Mein Traum wär ein Mädel/My Dream Was a Girl (1929, E.W. Emo) with Rudolf Platte. She also costarred in the prestigious German-Swedish coproduction Mach die Welt ein Paradies/Make the World a Paradise for me (1930, Paul Merzbach), opposite Swedish actor Gösta Ekman, the star from F.W. Murnau's Faust. That same year 1930, however, her promising film career came abrupt to an end. She married film director E.W. Emo and she retired from the cinema at his request. Her final film was Student sein, wenn die Veilchen blühen/Student Life in Marry Springtime (1931, Heinz Paul) with Fred Louis Lerch. Her daughter, Maria Emo (1936), would become a well known stage and film actress in the 1950's. Ever since 1939, Anita Dorris lived in Vienna, where she died in 1993.

Anita Dorris
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 6031. Photo: Bear Film. Distr./Danubio-Film.

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

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