22 May 2024

Helga Thomas

Helga Thomas (1891-1988) was a Swedish film actress, who had a career in German silent film in the 1920s.

Helga Thomas
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5361. Photo: Excelsior-Film.

A slightly darker version of the Cinderella story

Helga Amalia Thomas was born in the Skog parish in Västernorrland County, Sweden, in 1891.

Thomas began her artistic career in Stockholm at the Intima Theatre. From 1916 to 1921 she was engaged at the Nya Theatre in Gothenburg. She was also a member of a travelling troupe for a time. Her film career was limited to the silent film years. Between 1923 and 1930 she appeared on screen in various German productions.

In 1923 Thomas debuted as the innocent young Abigail in Ludwig Berger's romantic comedy Ein Glas Wasser/One Glass of Water, which had an all-star cast including Mady Christians, Hans Brausewetter, Rudolf Rittner, Lucie Höflich, Bruno Decarli and others. After a supporting part in the Henrik Ibsen adaptation Nora (Berthold Viertel, 1923), with Olga Tschechowa in the title role, Thomas had the female lead opposite Wilhelm Dieterle in Der zweite Schuß/The Second Shot (Maurice Krol, 1923).

Helga Thomas was then reunited with Berger, who gave her the lead in Der verlorene Schuh/The Lost Shoe (Ludwig Berger, 1923), a slightly darker version of the Cinderella story, also with Paul Hartmann as the male lead and Frida Richard as the fairy godmother. At the time, the journal Lichtbild-Bühne wrote it was "a cinematic feat in which advanced technical skill can be admired in equal measure with esprit, charm and the most cultured aesthetics".

Afterwards, in her book 'The Haunted Screen', Lotte Eisner wrote on the film that German film directors had become more and more sensitive to the question of costume, "infusing life into surfaces". Eisner: "The costume film is free of naturalism that marked certain films in other genres. In Manon Lescaut and Der verlorene Schuh (Cinderella), Robison and Ludwig Berger portray the etiolated glow of velvets and the streaming crackle of silks."

Helga Thomas in Der Wilderer (1926)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1270/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa. Helga Thomas in Der Wilderer/The Poacher (Johannes Meyer, 1926).

Two women with children born out of wedlock

Helga Thomas continued with female leads opposite Gerd Briese in Rosenmontag (Rudolf Meinert, 1924), and opposite Carl de Vogt and Rudolf Rittner in Der Wilderer/The Poacher (Johannes Meyer, 1926).

She acted again opposite Rittner in Der Mann im Feuer/The Man in the Fire/When Duty Calls (Erich Waschneck, 1926), about an elderly fireman fired by a younger colleague (Henry Stuart) who is also in love with his daughter (Thomas). A rival suitor to the daughter (Kurt Vespermann) concocts more and more conflict between the old fireman and the daughter's lover, but when the rival creates a fire at the Scala theatre, it is the father who saves both his daughter and her lover from the flames. The fraud is unmasked and the father is rehired as a fireman.

While still playing female leads in Deutsche Frauen - Deutsche Treue/German Women - German Faithfulness (Wolfgang Neff, 1927) and Die glühende Gasse (Paul Sugar, 1927), she had to be satisfied with second-rank roles in other films that year opposite such actresses as Erna Morena and Maria Mindzenty. In 1928 she starred in Ledige Mütter/Unwed Mothers (Fred Sauer, 1928), about two women with children born out of wedlock (Margarethe Schlegel and Thomas), causing scandal.

Thomas then acted in Mario Bonnard's society drama Die Sünderin/The Sinner (1928), with Elisabeth Pinajeff. She was the co-star of the Italian action hero Carlo Aldini in the Czech production Dva pekelné dny/Zwei höllische Tage (William Karfiol, 1928). She also played a supporting part in the Franco-German coproduction Quartier Latin/Latin Quarter (Augusto Genina, 1928) with Iván Petrovich, Carmen Boni, and Gina Manès. The following year, she acted in Morgenröte/Dawn or Red Morning (Wolfgang Neff, Burton George, 1929) starring Paul Henckels, Werner Fuetterer and Carl de Vogt.

Thomas had a last lead opposite André Mattoni in the comedy Hütet euch vor leichten Frauen/Beware of Loose WomenFilmportal.de. IMDb and German Wikipedia indicate she also acted in Richthofen (Peter Joseph, 1929) - not to be confused with Richthofen, der rote Ritter der Luft (Peter Heuser, Dezsõ Kertész, 1927) in which Thomas also acted - and Das heilige Schweigen (Hanns Beck-Gaden, 1930). The rise of sound cinema ended Thomas' career and she withdrew into private life. Helga Thomas was married twice and died in Stockholm in 1988, two days before her 97th birthday.

Helga Thomas
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1182/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Ufa.

Helga Thomas
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3912/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Atelier Kiesel, Berlin.

Sources: Lotte Eisner (The Haunted Screen), Filmportal, Wikipedia (German and English) and IMDb.

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