02 June 2016

Sybil Smolowa

Austrian-Czech actress and dancer Sybil Smolova (1900-?) was a star of the German and Swedish silent cinema of the 1910s and 1920s. She started as a dancer in Riga and Warsaw and the moved to Berlin. Her final film was the lesbian themed Anna und Elisabeth/Anna and Elisabeth (1933).

Sybil Smolova
German postcard by NPG. no. 432. Photo: Alex Binder. Collection: Didier Hanson.

In Shame

Sybil Smolowa (or Sybill Smolowa, Sibyl Smolova and Sybil Smolova) was born in 1900 in Prague, then part of Austria-Hungary (Thomas Staedeli mentions Sweden as her birth country), but not much more is known about her private life. Her career began in the cities of Riga and Warsaw where she worked as a dancer.

In Warsaw, Smolowa appeared for the first time for the film camera at the Sphinx Film studio. Actor-director Friedrich Zelnik spotted her there and brought the young girl to Berlin to appear opposite him in the film Seelen, die sich nachts begegnen/Souls who meet at night (Eugen Illés, 1915), produced by the Danish studio Atlantik. Smolowa played a rich girl that gets 'in shame' (pregnant). Happily she meets a student (Zelnik) who takes care of her and learns her to love.

The following year, she appeared opposite Eduard von Winterstein in the drama Werner Krafft (Carl Froelich, 1916). Among her films were the Swedish drama I mörkrets bojor/In the Fetters of Darkness (Georg af Klercker, 1917), Im Schatten des Glücks/In the shadow of happiness (Robert Leffler, 1919) with Hans Adalbert Schlettow, and the two-partner Kinder der Finsternis/Children of Darkness (Ewald André Dupont, 1922) with Grit Hegesa and Hans Mierendorff.

Her final film was the lesbian themed drama Anna und Elisabeth/Anna and Elisabeth (Frank Wisbar, 1933) with Dorothea Wieck and Hertha Thiele. It would remain her only sound film. Sybil Smolowa retired from the film industry and disappeared from the public view.

Sybil Smolowa
German postcard by NPG, no. 935. Photo: Elli Lisser, Berlin. Collection: Didier Hanson.

Sybil Smolova
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. 2296. Photo: Zander & Labisch, Berlin. Collection: Didier Hanson.

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

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