Asta Nielsen: Die Filmprimadonna

Die Filmprimadonna (Fragment)
R: Urban Gad. B: Urban Gad, Hanns Kräly.  K: Karl Freund, Axel Graatkjaer, Guido Seeber. D: Asta Nielsen, Paul Otto, Fritz Weidemann, Fred Immler. P: Projections-AG Union (PAGU). D 1913
Print: George Eastman House / Nederlands Filmmuseum
Engl. titles

Special presentation: Live soundtrack by Simon Toldam (Piano, Keys, Clarinet) and Mark Solborg (Guitars, Microbrute and devicesto) performed live at Cinemateket, Copenhagen.

Asta Nielsen portrays a film star who, from script writing to print duplication, oversees every step to assure the quality of the feature film. An exhausting task that is hard to live up to! The prima donna, while fatally in love with a philandering impostor, and at the same time desired by a young writer, falls ill. Her final performance will also become her own finale. (…) In real life Die Filmprimadonna marks Asta Nielsen’s departure from Babelsberg and her start in the newly erected Tempelhof studios.”
Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin

“Ein Drehbuchautor verliebt sich in seine Hauptdarstellerin. Diese ist jedoch in einen anderen Mann verliebt, der sie rücksichtslos ausnutzt. Der Autor verfasst ein Drehbuch über ihrer beiden Leben. Schließlich stirbt die Darstellerin, die ein schweres Herzleiden hat, als sie die letzte Szene spielt, in seinen Armen.”

“In diesem nur mehr als Fragment erhaltenen Film spielt Asta Nielsen die fiktive Filmprimadonna Ruth Breton. Zu sehen sind u.a. die Dreharbeiten von zwei anderen Filmen mit Asta Nielsen: Die Kinder des Generals (1912) und Das Mädchen ohne Vaterland (1912). Dabei werden Produktionsabläufe sichtbar (vom Manuskript bis zum Schnitt). Diese Darstellung der Filmproduktion kann bereits für sich genommen als Beleg dafür gelten, welche zentrale Rolle der Schauspielerin Nielsen in allen Bereichen der Filmproduktion zukam. Sie ist gleichzeitig ein frühes Zeugnis filmischer Selbstreflexion und ‘Selbstinszenierung’ einer neuen Branche.”
Winfried Pauleit, in: Karola Gramman u.a. (Hg.): Unmögliche Liebe. Asta Nielsen, ihr Kino, Wien 2010

“Even among the many films of the teens that comment on the medium of film and/or the film industry, Die Filmprimadonna is notable for its ‘behind the scenes’ look at the filmmaking process, and the way the film explains these elements to the audience. In the film, which survives only in part, Nielsen plays film star Ruth Breton: we see her approving (or rather rejecting) scripts, shooting scenes outdoors and on set, posing for publicity stills. Most tantalizingly, we see shots of the film laboratory itself: Ruth in the darkroom, examining the latest material. (…) She’s not bossy, she’s the boss, tugging other studio staff into her orbit to receive her critique. Although Asta Nielsen is not explicitly playing herself, there is a clear correspondence between Asta’s star image and the assertive, talented Ruth Breton. Although the word ‘prima-donna’ generally carries a slightly negative connotation, Ruth is no spoiled star but rather a passionate and engaged artist; if she refuses a script, it is because ‘it does not begin to approach the standard [she] must insist upon as befitting [her] talents and reputation’. This, of course, primes the audience to think of Asta Nielsen in the same terms, not merely an actress but a creative talent possessing great knowledge of the filmmaking process and for whom quality is paramount. Especially in light of what we know of Asta Nielsen’s business acumen and agency, these aspects of Die Filmprimadonna collapse the boundaries between the fictional character of Ruth Breton and the star persona of Asta Nielsen.”
Silents, Please!

Georg af Klercker – 02

Unfortunately, the films on this page are temporarily not available.

589-Fürs Vaterland

För fäderneslandet
R: Georg af Klercker, Ragnar Ring. B: Georg af Klercker, Ragnar Ring. K: Henrik Jaenzon. D: Lilly Jacobson, Georg af Klercker. P: Pathé Frères/Stockholm. Sw 1914
Print: Filmarkivet Svenska Filminstitutet
Span. subtitles

Print temporarily not available

“Count Ivan von Kaunowitz is a foreign officer who is spying for his government. At a ball he meets the charming Ebba von Tell, whose father is a government minister and whose family residence is, coincidentally, situated near the fortifications which the Count has been sent to reconnoitre. The Count is invited to join a hunt with the von Tells. Feigning an emotional interest in Ebba, the Count escorts Ebba away from the hunt. As they ride off, one of Ebba’s friends, a Lapp, accidentally startles Ebba’s horse, whereupon the Count beats the man with his riding-crop. Intent on revenge, the Lapp tails the couple to the vicinity of the fortifications, where Ebba unwittingly helps the Count gain information about the defences. The Count takes out his wallet to give Ebba a ring, but forgets to pick the wallet up when they leave. The Lapp finds the wallet and, growing suspicious of the Count, Ebba reluctantly distances herself from him.
The Count disguises himself as a knife-grinder, and befriends one of Ebba’s friends, Gunhild, a fisherman’s daughter. Attracted to Ivan, Gunhild guides the Count around the terrain close to the fortification. He receives a coded message that the time is right for him to blow up the railway bridge near the fort, and leaves a letter for Gunhild before setting off to blow up the bridge. Before the device can be detonated, he is discovered by the Lapp. They fight, and the Count falls from the bridge. Gunhild finds the Count’s letter, which she shows to Ebba and her family. As they read the letter, the Lapp brings news of the Count’s fall. Ebba and her family rush to the scene and find his body at the river’s edge. As they try to console Ebba, news of the Count’s death reaches his regiment.

With location footage shot in the vicinity of Sollefteå in central Sweden, and interiors shot in Copenhagen, ‘L’Espion d’Œsterland’ (released as För fäderneslandet in Sweden) is a rare example of Klercker’s work as an actor. Playing the part of Count Ivan von Kaunowitz, Klercker gives a well- modulated performance, which was praised by contemporary reviewers. Except for two later extant Hasselbladfilm productions in which Klercker acted, and the incomplete Dödsritten under cirkuskupolen (produced by Svenska Biografteatern in 1912), ‘L’Espion d’Œsterland’ is the only sustained example we have of Klercker as actor. The film is also notable for the occasional use of reverse-field cutting (in the scene where Ivan gives Ebba a ring), the elegant design of some of its interior scenes (particularly those involving Ebba), and stunning nocturnal scenes shot in the fisherman’s cottage. The variety of camera set-ups and shot scales employed for the narrative climax of the film are also unusual in a Swedish-directed production of the mid-1910s.”
John Fullerton
Cineteca del Friuli

595-I Kronans Kläder

I kronans kläder
R: Georg af Klercker. B: Oscar Hemberg, Erik Karlholm. K: Sven Pettersson. D: Gustaf Bengtsson, Zara Backman, Dagmar Ebbesen, Gösta Bjorkman, Wiktor “Kulörten” Andersson, Erik ‘Bullen’ Berglund, Manne Göthson. P: Hasselbladfilm. Sw 1915

Print temporarily not available

About Georg af Klercker:
“He was born in Kristianstad, in the south of Sweden, in 1877 in a wealthy and aristocratic family. He enrolled in the military and became a lieutenant. and was consequently referred to as ‘lieutenant af Klercker’ for the rest of his life, including by film critics. But he had artistic ambitions rather than military. More specifically, he had theatre ambitions, and began acting across Sweden and Finland. In 1911 af Klercker was employed by Dramaten (the Royal Dramatic Theatre) in Stockholm. It was from there that Magnusson lured him to his new studio on Lidingö, and made him head of production. The first film af Klercker directed was as part of Magnusson and Svenska Bio’s partnership with the Swedish arm of French company Pathé. Två bröder it was called and it was immediately banned by the Swedish film censorship board. His next film was The Last Performance/Dödsritten under cirkuskupolen (1912), which was released around the world and quite successfully so. (…) He made several films in 1913 but then he became a part-time victim of the falling out between Svenska Bio and Pathé, as af Klercker was directing För fäderneslandet. It was finished in late 1913 but did not open until spring 1914, at which point af Klercker had left Svenska Bio for Pathé. He worked for them for a year and then he went to Hasselblad, where he was to get sole responsibility for the direction of their films. (…)
His films are a varied bunch, although thrillers and melodramas are the most common ones, and most of them have a very rich and evocative mise en scène and an imaginative use of deep focus. There is often an elaborate dynamic interplay between one level of action in the foreground and another level of action towards the back. (This was not unique for af Klercker but had become a recurring stylistic device at least since the early 1910s.) Working at Hasselblad gave him access to the most sophisticated cameras of the day, and he and his different cinematographers took advantage of the possibilities. But he was also good at directing actors, and with an eye for psychological realism.”
Fredrik Gustafsson
Fredrik on Film

>>> Georg af Klercker – 01

Georg af Klercker – 01

Dödsritten under cirkuskupolen (First part)
R: Georg af Klercker. B: Charles Magnussen. K: Henrik Jaenzon. D: Carl Barcklind, Selma Wiklund af Klercker, Georg af Klercker, John Ekman. P: Svenska Biografteatern AB. Sw 1912
Swedish titles

“When Swedish silent cinema is discussed it is usually about Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller, and films such as Terje Vigen (Sjöström 1917), Thomas Graal’s Best Film (Stiller 1917), The Outlaw and His Wife (Sjöström 1918), The Treasure of Arne (Stiller 1919), Erotikon (Stiller 1920), The Phantom Carriage (Sjöström 1921) and The Saga of Gösta Berling (Stiller 1924). But there was a third man, frequently forgotten, and that was Georg af Klercker. One of the reasons he is not mentioned is that he had his best years 1915-1918, and then retired (sort of), and consequently he is not seen as part of the “golden age”. And whereas Stiller and Sjöström were both in Stockholm at Charles Magnusson‘s vertically integrated company Svenska Bio, af Klercker made most of his films in Göteborg, at Hasselblad Fotografiska AB. But these are unfair reasons to keep him out of sight. If we instead keep to the wider span, 1913-1924, perhaps beginning with Sjöström’s marvellous Ingeborg Holm (1913), af Klercker’s oeuvre will be a natural part of that golden age. It is also a fact that initially Magnusson in 1912 hired all three of them, Stiller, Sjöström and af Klercker. They worked side by side for a few years before af Klercker left. Maybe if he had stayed on things would have been different.”
Fredrik Gustafsson
Fredrik on Film

Ringvall på äventyr
R: Georg af Klercker. B: Georg af Klercker. K: Sven Pettersson. D: Axel Ringvall, Gustaf Ringvall, Tyra Leijman-Uppström. P: Pathé Frères. Sw 1913
No titles

View this film here

“Af Klercker’s trademark is his exquisitely sharp black-and-white images fixed by a blend of natural and artificial light. He also made use of a special lens system which captured clear images of objects at distances from a few feet to a mile away. The Swedish director’s career (1915-18) was overshadowed by such directors as Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller, who attracted international fame during the 1920’s “Golden Era” of Swedish silentfilm. His films were forgotten until the negatives were rediscovered years later in the vaults of Svensk Filmindustri.”
The Museum of Modern Art

>>> Pathé in Sweden

New Adventures of J. Rufus Wallingford

The Bang Sun Engine
(New Adventures of J. Rufus Wallingford, No. 7)
R: James Gordon, Leopold Wharton, Theodore Wharton. B: George Randolph Chester (magazine cartoons), Charles W. Goddard (scenario), George B. Seitz (adaptation). K: Levi Bacon, Ray June. D: Burr McIntosh, Max Figman, Lolita Robertson, Frances White, Edward O’Connor. P: Wharton. USA 1915

“Before serials were shot in Hollywood, some were filmed in New York, New Jersey and Texas. The prolific Wharton brothers were involved with the filming of The Perils of Pauline and The Exploits of Elaine and shortly afterward, in 1915, began filming serials of their own including The Romance of Elaine, Beatrice Fairfax, The Mysteries of MyraPatria and The Eagle’s Eye. $1,000,000 Reward, an early serial with Charles ‘Ming the Merciless’ Middleton in the cast, and The Crooked Dagger were also filmed in Ithaca and/or at their studio.”
Ithaca-Made Movies

“After completion of the Pearl White serials, the Whartons began production on July 14th 1915 on a comedy based on George Randolph Chester’s mythical character James Wallingford. The stories ran in the Hearst owned Cosmopolitan Magazine several years earlier. The local papers announced that it would be 14-40 chapters in length possibly based on The Whartons recent success in the Elaine series. The first episode of the series had to establish the characters Jim Wallingford, Blackie Daws and Fanny Warden several other characters would be encountered as the episodes continued. (…) The first five episodes also have something else special about them. The appearance of a young Oliver Hardy in these episodes marks his debut in serial films. (…) Episode # 5 The Lilac Splash has been located. It has an appearance by Oliver Hardy who plays a would be burglar who gets caught in the act. He then has to play cards with his captors to secure his release. This rare footage filmed in Ithaca along with one reel from episode # 7 The Bang Sun Engine and a complete episode # 13 The Missing Heir are all that remain from the 14 chapters filmed in Ithaca. (…)  The Pathé company had been using the Wharton Inc. for its productions for more than a year. Hearst had arranged with Charles Pathé the extensive use of his media outlets to advertise Pathé film productions and in turn Pathé would accommodate Hearsts’ desires on some productions. In 1916, Hearst would do it all by himself, by forming The International Film Service. He also would continue to use the Whartons as producers and directors knowing of their recent successes.”
Ithaca-Made Movies

464-rufus wallingford

Max Figman and Burr McIntosh

From Boireau to Cretinetti

Le due innamorate di Cretinetti
D: André Deed. P: Itala Film, Torino. It 1911
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema / EYE Filmmuseum
Dutch titles

André Deed was born André de Chapais, the son of a customs inspector. He seemed, early on, to follow the appointed bourgeois path that had been set out for him, studying at lycée, then at various postsecondary institutions, finally becoming a clerk in a bank. Deed, however, was restless, and gave up the quiet life, at first for the sea, then for the theater, or more particularly the café-concerts. He performed as both a singer and an acrobat before being hired on at the Folies-Bergères, and then the Châtelet. He appeared in several early Georges Méliès films, including Dislocation mystérieuse (1901), Les Aventures de Robinson Crusoe (1902), Le Royaume des fées (1903), and Le Barbier de Seville (1904). Around 1905, Deed was hired on at Pathé by Charles Pathé, who was scouring the caféconcerts at the time looking for potential talent for his films. (…) Deeds most important contribution to cinema at Pathé came in his development of theBoireaucharacter. Appearing for the first time in the film La Course à la perruque, Boireau was a fool or idiot character at the center of burlesque silentfilm comedies and was one of the first regular and reappearing characters in cinema. The character and the comedies in which he appeared were also some of the first film comedies and are seen as central to the development of the genre in film. (…) In 1909, Deed left Pathé for Italy, hired away by Itala Film due to the success of Boireau (in Italy calledBeoncelli“). His departure was a blow to Pathé, since Boireau was, at the time, a bigger draw even than Max Linder. In Italy, Deed created the character ofCretinetti” (calledGribouillein French), and made some seventy films with that character for Itala Film.”
Guide to Cinema-Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopdedias

>>> André Deed as Cretinetti

Red Cross Stories

Hope — A Red Cross Seal Story
R: Charles Brabin. B: James Oppenheim. D: George Lessey, Gertrude McCoy, William West. P: Edison Company. USA 1912

“When the film was made in 1912, tuberculosis was still the leading cause of death in the United States, as it had been throughout most of the nineteenth century. Known familiarly as consumption, for the wasting weight loss that followed initial bouts of coughing, the frightening disease was finally traced in 1882 to the tubercle bacillus. Although the death rate from TB had been declining even before then, urbanization and workplace changes at the start of the twentieth century conspired to make the disease more of a social problem. Once TB was identified as a bacterial contagion, sweatshops and urban tenements crowded with new immigrants were recognized as breeding grounds, and polluting smoke from factories was understood as increasing susceptibility. The popular thought was that tuberculosis was a ‘city disease’ — and that the more affluent living in small towns needn’t worry overmuch about it. (…)
Edison’s films with the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis had become ‘an annual holiday feature’. Hope was the third of six one-reelers, released each November or December from 1910 through 1915 and tied to Christmas Seal campaigns. Arguably the most successful public health fund-raising promotion of all time, Christmas Seals had been introduced modestly in the United States in 1907, with 30,000 of the adhesive stamps, emblazoned with the double-barred-cross emblem of the tuberculosis fight, selling for a penny each, and intended for holiday envelopes.”
Scott Simmon
National Film Preservation Foundation

Slava Nam, Smert’ Vragam
(Glory to Us, Death to the Enemy)
R: Jevgenij Bauer. D: Ivan Mozzhukhin, Dora Tschitorina. P: Khanzhonkov. RUS 1914
Engl. subtitles

Jevgenij Bauer
“He was especially recognized for designing sets for theatrical productions, a talent that eventually brought him into the cinema when he designed the sets for Drankov and Taldykin’s commemorative historical film, Trekhsotletie Tsarstvovaniya Doma Romanovykh (The Tercentenary of the Rule of the Romanov Dynasty), released in 1913. Encouraged by Drankov and Taldykin, Bauer, then 48 years of age, graduated to directing for their company. After making four films for them, he went over to Pathé‘s Star Film Factory for whom he made an additional four films. Then in late 1913, he moved to the Khanzhonkov company where he remained for the rest of his career. As an artist, he quickly came to the fore, with his films proving very successful with Russian audiences and critics. He worked in a variety of genres including comedies, patriotic subjects, social dramas, and tragedies of psychological obsession. (…)
Bauer’s series of patriotic war pictures were made in response to the conflict with Germany and included Slava Nam, Smert’ Vagram (Glory to Us, Death to the Enemy), produced in 1914 with the great star of the early Russian cinema, Ivan Mozzhukhin, in the lead. Perhaps the most outstanding of these topical films is Revoliutsioner (The Revolutionary), made in 1917 just after the February Revolution overthrew the Tsarist regime. It deals with a revolutionary who is sent into Siberian exile in 1907 and is liberated a decade later with the fall of the Romanov dynasty.”
William M. Drew

>>> on this site: Jevgenij Bauer-1, Jevgenij Bauer-2Jevgenij Bauer-3