A Dutch Director on a European Scale

An Attempt to Smash a Bank
R: Theo Frenkel Sen. P: Hepworth. UK 1909
Print: EYE collection

Frenkel made his acting debut in 1897 under the name Theo Bouwmeester, a reference to his famous mother and uncle. In 1904 he caused a furore in the play ‘In de Jonge Jan’, written by Herman Heijermans, which was a so-called transformation play in which Frenkel performed different roles. He also performed this piece abroad, in London, Paris, Brussels, and Madrid. During this tour, he came into contact with Charles Pathé, who hired him for a film role in his spare time.
Frenkel had acquired a taste of success, and after the tour, he had the opportunity to start working for the British producer Cecil Hepworth. Beginning in 1908, he worked as a director and actor for Hepworth in his studio in Walton-on-Thames. Over the course of eighteen months, Frenkel directed more than 50 short one-act films.
In the summer of 1910, Frenkel moved from Hepworth to Urban. Frenkel worked for Urban in its Hove studios (near Brighton), and also at the studios that Urban owned in Nice, in the south of France. In two years, he made more than 120 films for Urban. Two short one-act films from Frenkel’s British period are An Attempt to Smash a Bank and A Woman´s Treachery.”

A Woman’s Treachery
R: Theo Frenkel Sen. P: Hepworth. UK 1910
Print: EYE collection

“Theo Frenkel made more than 220 films between 1908 and 1925, but only a few have survived, making it impossible properly to assess his artistic importance. He was a director on a European scale, producing a vast body of work spanning Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Frenkel preferred to call himself Theo Bouwmeester after his mother, who came from a well-known theatrical family in the Netherlands. Before entering the film industry, he worked as a stage actor in many countries. He directed his first film in Cecil Hepworth’s filmstudio in Walton-on-Thames (England) in 1908. He soon had his own troupe of actors and made more than fifty pictures in a variety of genres, mostly writing the scripts himself. In 1910 he became head of Charles Urban’s studio’s in Hove near Brighton (UK) and in Nice (France), where he directed more than 120 films in two years, many of them in colour, using one of the earliest colour systems, Kinemacolor. (…)
In his own country he was one of the most experienced directors at the time, and he waisted no time creating several sensational dramas such as Het wrak van de Noordzee (The Wreck of the North Sea, 1915), Genie tegen geweld (Genius Against Violence, 1916) and Pro domo (1918). After the war, Frenkel returned to Berlin to direct German-Dutch co-productions such as Alexandra (1922) and Frauenmoral (1923), but his international career was over.”
Karel Dibbets, Amsterdam

>>> Het wrak van de Noordzee and Genie tegen geweld on this site: Theo Frenkel