07 May 2015

Senta Söneland

Dark-haired Senta Söneland (1882-1933) was a German comic actress whose peaks in her film career were in the later 1910s and the early 1930s.

Senta Söneland
German postcard no. K 144. Photo: A. Binder, Berlin, 1916.

Senta Söneland
German postcard by NPG, no. 1419. Photo: Zander & Labisch, Berlin.

Contract Clause

Senta Söneland was born as Else Bertha Sophie Adele Werder in Diedenhofen, Germany (now Thionville, France) in 1882. She was the daughter of a Prussian regimental commander. Senta started her career as a school teacher, but she also took acting lessons at the Schiller Theater.

In 1911 (some sources say 1910), she went to work at the Hoftheater Meiningen, and she specialized in comedy. In 1912 she returned to Berlin and performed at the Komödienhaus, at the Theater am Kurfürstendamm and at the Metropol-Theater.

She had a clause in her contract not to work for film, because of its bad reputation. Despite the clause, she went over to the cinema during the First World War, when the German theatre world imploded.

Between 1915 and 1919 Söneland was a popular screen comedienne with films like Der Onkel aus Amerika/The Uncle from America (Hans Hyan, 1915), Benjamin, der Schüchterne/Bashful Benjamin (William Karfiol, 1915) with Reinhold Schünzel, and Der Gattestellvertreter/The Representative of the Husband (Adolf Gartner, 1918) with Bruno Kastner.

She even had her own film series, with such titles as 'Senta as...'. In all these films she played the female lead. In addition she played supporting roles in such comedies as Pension Lampel (Max Mack, 1915) starring Hanni Weisse.

Söneland became politically active for the right of women to vote. In 1919, she held a fiery speech at the Berlin Zoo Station in front of hundreds of people on the occasion of the election for the National Assembly.

Senta Söneland and Jean Paul in Habakuk (1918)
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 2363. Photo: Elga Film. Publicity still for Habakuk (Franz Schmelter, 1918) with Jean Paul.

Comical Sidekicks

In the 1920s Senta Söneland did just two films and focused on the stage. Between 1923 and 1925 Söneland was a member of the Berlin Apollo Theater.

When sound cinema set in, Söneland returned to the screen and did many films in the early 1930s. She had major parts in Der Weg nach Rio/The Road to Rio (Manfred Noa, 1930), Reserve hat Ruh/Reserve has Rest (Max Obal, 1931), and Die Bräutigamswitwe/The bridegroom's widow (Richard Eichberg, 1931).

But she more often played minor parts now, as the comical sidekicks in Susanne macht Ordnung/Susanne does order (Eugen Thiele, 1930) starring Truus van Aalten, Der unbekannte Gast/The Unknown Guest (E.W. Emo) starring Szöke Szakall, and Hasenklein kann nichts dafür/Hasenklein Can Do Nothing For It (Max Neufeld, 1933) with Jakob Tiedtke and Lien Deyers.

Söneland also played herself in the filmed musical medleys Wiener Wald/Viennese forest (Günther Schwenn, 1931), Der Durchschnittsmann/The Average man (Gert Bendel, a.o., 1931), and Das Publikum singt mit/The Public Sings Along (1931); often with The Comedian Harmonists.

Since 1912, she was married with the former officer and later director of the Horch, Karl Ernst Krocker. He suddenly died in late 1933 as the result of an operation. After the death of her husband, she retired from the stage.

In 1934 Senta Söneland committed suicide. She could not cope mentally with the sudden loss of her husband, but she also feared the Nazi regime because of her Jewish ancestry. Söneland was 51.

Jo Steiner (Senta Söneland. 1912)
Advertisment by Jo Steiner, 1912. Collection: Performing Arts / Artes Escénicas'.

Senta Söneland
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6502/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Atelier Marion, Berlin.

Sources: Stephanie D'heil (Steffi-line - German), Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Die Frau im Film 1919, Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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