03 July 2014

Rosa Porten

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2014 has some interesting side programmes. One of these is focusing on Rosa Porten (1884-1972), the elder and lesser known sister of German silent film star Henny Porten. Both sisters started in 1906 as an actress for the pioneering Messter company and Rosa became one of the first women in Germany to write and direct films.

Rosa Porten
German postcard by Photochemie, no. K. 2257. Photo: Mac Walten, Berlin.

Rosa Porten
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 97/1. Photo: Karl Schenker, Berlin / Treumann- Larsson Film, Berlin.


Rosa Porten was born in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1884 (some sources say 1883 or 1889). She was the eldest daughter of opera baritone and later film director Franz Porten and his wife Vincenzia Porten-Wybiral. Her sister Henny Porten later became a legendary star of the German silent cinema.

As a child Rosa got singing and acting lessons from her father and appeared together with her sister at school performances. Just like for her sister, Rosa Porten' s first film performance was in the 'tonbild' (early sound film) Meissner Porzellan (1906) directed by their father for Messters Projektion GmbH.

The following years she appeared in more of these early sound pictures like Die kleine Baronesse/The Little Daughter of the Baron (1908) and Im Fasching/In the carnival (1908).

However, Rosa would be more active as a screenwriter than as an actress. She started this job with the Messter production Das Liebesglück der Blinden/The joy of love of the blind (Heinrich Bolten-Baeckers, Curt A. Stark, 1911), in which her sister Henny made her debut as leading lady opposite Friedrich Zelnik.

In the 1910's Rosa Porten was extremely active as a screenwriter for Messter and wrote such 20 minutes films as Das große Schweigen/The Great Silence (Rudolf Biebrach, 1915) starring her sister Henny.

For the Treumann-Larsen company she and her husband Franz Eckstein wrote many scripts under the pseudonym of Dr. R. Portegg and they also directed these films. In some films of these films she even played the female lead too, such as in Die Wäscher-Resl (1916), the comedy Die Erzkokette (1917) with Reinhold Schünzel, the fast paced comedy Die Landpommeranze/The Unwieldy Country Woman (1917), Die Augen der Schwester/The Eyes of the Sister (1918), and Themis (1918).

In other examples of these Treumann-Larsen productions like Das Opfer der Yella Rogesius/The Sacrifice of Yella Rogesius (1917) and Wanda's Trick (1918),  Wanda Treumann played the lead.

Probably the last film, which the couple Eckstein-Porten directed together, was Der nicht vom Weibe geborene (Franz Eckstein, Rosa Porten, 1918), starring Conrad Veidt as Satan.

Rosa Porten also wrote such novels as Filmprinzeß (Film Princess), Androgyne and Die neue Generation (The New Generation).

Rosa Porten
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 1592. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Rosa Porten
German postcard in the Film-Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 149/2. Photo: Becker & Maass.


In the 1920s, Rosa Porten and Franz Eckstein went to work for the National-Film AG in Berlin, but with Porten only as screenwriter and with Eckstein only as director.

Examples of their films are Lotte Lore (1921) and Hedda Gabler (1924), starring Asta Nielsen.

In the mid-1920s, Eckstein and Porten stopped at National Film, but they did three more films: Das Mädchen aus der Fremde/The Foreign Girl (1926/27), Fahrendes Volk/Wandering performers (1927), and Die Heiratsfalle/The marriage case (1928).

She stopped working as an actress. From 1931 to 1945 Rosa Porten lived happily in Pommern with Eckstein.

Her husband died two months before the Russians and Poles invaded Pommern, forcing her to flee and ending up in Munich, where she wrote for newspapers, radio and cinema.

She had a small part in the Italo-German coproduction Land der Sehnsucht/Land of Longing (Erich Engel, Camillo Mastrocinque, 1950), which was never finished.

Rosa Porten died in Munich in 1972.

Rosa Porten
German postcard by Photochemie, no. K. 2259. Photo: Mac Walten, Berlin.

Rosa Porten
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 1589. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Source: Gabriele Hansch, Gerlinde Waz (Filmportal.de) (German), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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