The Cinema of Germany refers to the film industry based in Germany and can be traced back to the late 19th century. German cinema has made major technical and artistic contributions to film during the period from 1918-1933.
Germany witnessed major changes to its identity during the 20th and 21st century. Those changes determined the periodisation of national cinema into a succession of distinct eras and movements.
- Carola Toelle
Carola Toelle (1893-1958) was a German actress, in particular in German silent cinema of the late 1910s and early 1920s.
- Maly Delschaft
Forgotten diva Maly Delschaft (1898-1995) began her career in the theatre and then became a star in the German silent cinema. During the Nazi era, she appeared mainly in supporting roles. After the Second World War, she worked in East Germany for the state-controlled DEFA studio.
- Lotte Lorring
German actress and singer Lotte Lorring (1893-1939) started as an operetta singer in provincial theatres. Between 1920 and 1935, she played both in support and leading roles in German silent and sound films. Incidentally she appeared in international productions.
- Olga Tschechowa
Dignified German-Russian actress Olga Tschechowa (1897-1980) was one of the most popular stars of the silent film era. She remained a mysterious person throughout her life, and was reportedly a Russian agent in Nazi Germany.
- Brigitte Helm
Brigitte Helm (1906-1997) was not even 18 when she was discovered by Fritz Lang for the lead in his film Metropolis. Helm played the double role of the noble and chaste Maria and her evil and sensual twin, a robot created to urge the workers in revolting and destroying their own city. Helm was subsequently often cast as the evil but oh so seductive ice queen, as in the two versions of Alraune; Marcel L’Herbier’s late silent film L’Argent; and the multilinguals The Mistress of Atlantis by G.W. Pabst, and Gold, by Karl Hartl.
Helm proved, though, to be able to perform also more restrained and emotionally expressive characters such as in Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney, her first film directed by Pabst, and Abwege, a late silent film by the same Pabst. In the latter she resents her neglecting and older husband but hesitates to fall for her cousin, enamoured with her and of her own age.
In real life, Helm was a timid, modest and not very ambitious personality. After a short but prolific career of some 32 films, she resented the German film business, controlled by the nazi’s. In 1935 she married, moved to Switzerland and withdrew radically from her film career, refusing any interviews. Till this day, however, she still has fans everywhere. In particular the bad Maria won’t be forgotten. For her the Mae West line is very apt: “When I am good, I am very good; but when I am bad, I am better.”
- Dorothea Wieck
Swiss actress Dorothea Wieck (1908-1986) became a major star and a lesbian idol with her role as the adored teacher Fräulein von Bernburg in the German classic Mädchen in Uniform (Leontine Sagan, 1931). She made more than fifty films, but she was also a prominent stage actress of the Deutsche Theater, the Schillertheater and other main theatres in Berlin.
- Xenia Desni
Ukrainian actress Xenia Desni (1894-1954) was a star of the German silent cinema.
- Hilda Rosch
German actress Hilda Rosch only appeared in eight films between 1928 and 1931.
Hilda Rosch must have been quite a popular film star as several postcards were produced with the beautiful actress. Why she appeared in just eight films is quite a mystery. Her first film was Die Zirkusprinzessin/ The Circus Princess (1928, Victor Janson) with Harry Liedtke and Cilly Feindt. In the same year she appeared in Der Unüberwindliche/The Invincible (1928, Max Obal), and Tempo! Tempo! (1929, Max Obal) with Italian strong man Luciano Albertini. In Das Spiel mit der Liebe/The Game of Love (1928, Victor Janson) she starred again opposite Harry Liedtke.
Then Hilda Rosch appeared in the short Max Hansen: Jetzt geht’s der Dolly gut (1929, Max Reichmann) opposite Max Hansen. In Die Warschauer Zitadelle/The Citadel of Warsaw (1930, Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck) she appeared with the legendary La Jana. Her last two films were Ihr Junge/Her Boy (1931, Friedrich Feher) with Feher’s wife Magda Sonja and son Hans Feher in the leading parts, and Der Bebende Berg (1931, Hanns Beck-Gaden, Luitpold Nusser) in which she starred with director Hanns Beck-Gaden. Then her film career ended abruptly. Because of the sound film? Because of the rise of the Nazis? Sadly, more information about Hilda Rosch was not to be found on the internet.
- Ursula Grabley
1930’s ‘Girl of Today’ Ursula Grabley (1908-1977) was a German actress appeared in more than 60 films and TV productions. In 1939 her film career was interrupted by a dispute with Joseph Goebbels.
- Blandine Ebinger
Blandine Ebinger (1899-1993) was a German cabaret singer and actress. Author Erich Kästner described her as “This lisping, scrawny person with the big, severe eyes is a master of the tragic-grotesque.” Her cinema career continued for seventy (70!) years. Her more than 90 film roles were once bigger, once smaller, but all her characters distinguished through her impressive acting.
- Valerie Boothby
German actress Valerie Boothby (1906-1982) was a popular star of the Weimar cinema in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Valerie Boothby entered the film business in 1925 during the heydays of the German silent cinema. Her film debut was Der krasse Fuchs (1925, Conrad Wiene). In the next years she made many other silent films and her popularity increased. Among her films were Die Frau mit dem Weltrekord (1927, Erich Waschneck), Das letzte Souper (1928, Mario Bonnard), Angst – Die schwache Stunde einer Frau (1928, Hans Steinhoff) in which she co-starred with Gustav Fröhlich, Der Monte Christo von Prag (1929, Hans Otto), Frauen am Abgrund (1929, Georg Jacoby) and Mädchen am Kreuz (1929, Jacob & Luise Fleck). During the early sound period Valerie – or Valery – Boothby made her last films, including In einer kleinen Konditorei (1930, Robert Wohlmuth), Er oder ich (1930, Harry Piel) and Der Herr Finanzdirektor (1931, Fritz Friedmann-Frederich).
- Henny Porten
Frieda Ulricke “Henny” Porten (1890-1960) was a German actress and film producer of the silent era, and Germany’s first major film star. She appeared in more than 170 films between 1906 and 1955.
She was one of the few German actress of the era to enter film without having stage experience. Many of her earlier films were directed by her husband Curt A. Stark, who died during World War I in Transylvania on the Eastern Front in 1916. Her father, Franz Porten, was also an actor and film director.
In 1921, she remarried, to Wilhelm von Kaufmann. When the Nazis took power and she refused to divorce her Jewish husband, she found that her career, while doing twelve films a year, dissolved immediately. When she resolved on emigration, she was denied an exit visa to prevent a negative impression. She made ten films during the Nazi era. Her placid and reassuring persona helped calm audiences confronted with Allied bombardment. In 1944, after an aerial mine destroyed her home, she and her husband were out on the streets, as it was forbidden to shelter a full Jew.
- Maria Solveg
German film and screenwriter Maria Solveg or Maria Matray (1907–1993) was a star of the late Weimar cinema. When Hitler came to power, the Jewish actress went in exile and had a new career in the US as a choreographer and writer.
- Käthe von Nagy
Hungarian actress Käthe von Nagy (1904-1973) started as the ‘Backfish’ of German films of the late 1920s. In the early 1930s she became a fashionable and charming star of the German and French cinema.
- Mary Kid
Mary Kid (1901-1988) was a popular actress of the Austrian and German silent cinema. She also played in two early sound films in Italy.
- Ria Jende
German-Belgian actress Ria Jende (1898-?) was a star and producer of the silent German cinema. She appeared in 40 films, before she married and retired.
- Maria Paudler
German actress Maria Paudler (1903-1990) was a popular star of the late silent German cinema. She also played the leading role in the first German TV-film.
- Marianne Winkelstern
German actress Marianne Winkelstern (1910-1966) became well known as a ballerina in Germany and England. In Germany she appeared in some silent films and early sound films.
- Lilian Weiss
Pretty film actress Lilian Weiss appeared in a dozen silent German films of the 1920’s. The introduction of the sound film probably ended her film career.
On cute film actress Lilian Weiss there’s no more information to be found on the internet than the films in which she appeared. The most complete list is offered by the German Filmportal.de, which offers 11 silent films. But also this well informed site does not give any personal information about the actress. Lilian’s career was short, it spans only five years.
- Lotte Neumann
Lotte Neumann (1896-1977) was one of the most successful actresses in the early days of the German silent cinema. She also worked as a screenwriter and a producer.
- Anny Ondra
Anny Ondra (1903 – 1987) was a Polish-Czech-Austrian-German-French singer, film and stage actress. During the 1920s and 1930s she was a popular actress in Czech, Austrian and German comedies, and she was Alfred Hitchcock’s first ‘Blonde’.
- Lil Dagover
German, but Dutch born film actress Lil Dagover (1887-1980) was a exotic, dark beauty, who featured prominently during the golden age of the German silent cinema. She had her breakthrough as the prey of Dr. Caligari’s monster in the classic expressionist film Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920) but gradually her fine and evanescent beauty changed and she turned into a ´Salondame´, a lady of the screen. Her career would span nearly six decades.
- Hertha Thiele
For a brief period during the Weimar Republic, Hertha Thiele (1908-1984) appeared in several controversial stage plays and films. She is best known for playing a 14 year old schoolgirl in love with her female teacher in the ground-breaking Mädchen in Uniform/Girls in Uniform (1931). She received thousands of fan letters – mostly from women. Decades later, Thiele became a well known film and television actress in East Germany.
- Mady Christians
Austrian-born stage actress Mady Christians (1892-1951) was also a star of the German silent cinema and appeared in Austrian, French, British and Hollywood films too.
Mady Christians was the daughter of opera singer Bertha Klein and actor Rudolph Christians. When her father took over a German-speaking theater in New York in 1912, the whole family went to the USA, where Mady made her film debut in Audrey (1916, Robert G. Vignola).
Because of World War I she returned with her mother to Berlin, where she studied with Max Reinhardt. She worked as a stage actress, but soon she was monopolized by the new cinema world. She played leads in silent films like Nachtschatten (1918, Frederic Zelnik/Friedrich Zelnik), Die Nacht des Grauens (1919, Fred Sauer) and Die Gesunkenen (1919, Fred Sauer). Her breakthrough was her part in the serial Der Mann ohne Namen (1921, Georg Jacoby) with Harry Liedtke. In the following years she appeared in such classics as Das Weib des Pharao (1922, Ernst Lubitsch), Ein Glas Wasser (1923, Ludwig Berger), Die Finanzen des Großherzogs (1924, F.W. Murnau), Michael (1924, Carl Theodor Dreyer), Ein Walzertraum (1925, Ludwig Berger) and in the two-part costume drama Königin Luise (1927-1928, Karl Grune).
- Gerda Maurus
Austrian actress Gerda Maurus (1903-1968) was a star of the silent screen. With her protruded cheek bones and her forceful look she bewitched many men, including her director Fritz Lang and Nazi Minister Josef Goebbels.
- Fern Andra
‘Modern’ American actress Fern Andra (1893-1974) became one of the most popular film stars of the German cinema in the 1910s and early 1920s. In her films she mastered tightroping, riding horse without a saddle, driving cars and motorcycles, bobsleighing, and even boxing.
- Evelyn Holt
Evelyn Holt (1908-2001) was a highly popular German film actress in the late silent and the early sound era.
- Erna Morena
Erna Morena (1885-1962), born Ernestine Maria Fuchs, had an enormous career in German silent cinema in the 1910s and 1920s, and until the mid-1930s she was regularly performing in German sound films.
After several jobs such as a nurse, Morena started at Max Reinhardt’s theater school in 1910/1911 and swiftly got an engagement at the Deutsches Theater. Morena started in film in 1913, playing in several dramas by Eugen Illés for the Duskes company. She move to the Messter company, where she was given her own Erna Morena series, rivalling those of Asta Nielsen and Henny Porten. Around 1917 she moved to PAGU, where she starred in Paul Leni’s Prima Vera, based on Dumas’ Camille/La dame aux camélias. Critics were bewildered by her subtle performance. From 1915 to 1921 she was married to editor and stage author Wilhelm Herzog, who also invented her stage name Erna Morena. Morena founded her own company but because of the economic crisis after the November revolution, she had to stop it after a few months.
- Iris Arlan
Beautiful actress Iris Arlan (? – ?) worked for Max Reinhardt’s theatre company and appeared in several German and Austrian silent films. Around 1936, after roles in a handful of sound films, she disappeared into oblivion.
- Lucy Doraine
In spite of her French name, Lucy Doraine (1898–1989) was a major Hungarian actress in the Austrian and German cinema in the 1920’s. When she moved to Hollywood, the revolution of the sound film finished her career.
- Aud Egede Nissen
Norwegian film actress Aud Egede Nissen (1893-1974) was a star of the German silent cinema. In the 1910s, she produced dozens of her own films. In the 1930s she returned to Norway, where she appeared in some films but mainly acted on stage.
- Lotte Neumann
Lotte Neumann (1896-1977) was one of the most successful actresses in the early days of the German silent cinema. She also worked as a screenwriter and a producer.
- Hanni Weisse
German actress Hanni Weisse (1892-1967) belonged to the great film divas of the early German silent film. She was able to maintain her stardom till the 1920s. First she worked at the Berliner Luisentheater, but soon the cinema came into her life. Film director Max Mack engaged her for production company Vitascope. She made her film debut in his short Der Zigeunerin (1912, Max Mack). One of her first successes was Der Andere (1913, Max Mack), which according to the critics belonged to the first artistic movies.
In the following years she appeared in many great productions like Das Eiserne Kreuz (1914, Richard Oswald), Das dunkle Schloß (1915, Willy Zeyn), and Alkohol (1920, E.A. Dupont, Alfred Lind). Among them were also the very popular movies about detective Sherlock Holmes such as Der Hund von Baskerville (1914, Rudolf Meinert).
- Elisabeth Pinajeff
Elisabeth Pinajeff (1900-1995) was a Russian-Lithuanian actress who starred in German and French cinema in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1950s she was also involved in the notorious scandal of the Ballets roses.
- Agnes Esterhazy
Hungarian film actress Agnes Esterhazy (1891-1956) worked mainly in the silent cinema of Austria and Germany. The countess appeared in more than 30 films between 1920 and 1943.
- Lya Mara
Lya Mara (1897 – 1960?) was one of the biggest stars of the German silent cinema. Her stardom was even the subject of a novel, which was published in 100 episodes between 1927 and 1928. Her career virtually ended after the arrival of sound film.
- Claire Rommer
Elegant German actress Claire Rommer (1904-1996) appeared in about 50 German film productions during the 1920s and the early 1930s. Her successful career suddenly ended with the seizure of power by the Nazis.
- Toni van Eyck
German actress Toni van Eyck (1910-1988) became a star playing a rape victim in the Aufklärungsfilm Gefahren der Liebe/Hazards of Love (1931). Despite this film success she stayed primarily a stage actress.
Toni (also Tony) van Eyck was born Gertrud Johanna Antonie Eick in 1910 in Koblenz, Germany. She took acting lessons at the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar in Wien (Vienna) and at the Otto-Falkenberg-Schule in München (Munich). At the age of 15 she already played at various Berlin stages, and convinced the critics with her performances. She was discovered for the film in 1928 and appeared in the silent short Ins Blaue hinein/Into the Blue (1929, Eugen Schüfftan) with Theo Lingen. After a few more silent films, she became known with her leading role in the early Aufklärungsfilm (education film) Gefahren der Liebe/ A Woman Branded (1931, Eugen Thiele) opposite Hans Stüwe. She played a rape victim, who finally becomes a murderess.
In the following years she appeared in such films as Kitty schwindelt sich ins Glück/Kitty is giddy to happiness (1932, Herbert Juttke), Strich durch die Rechnung / Spoiling the Game (1932, Alfred Zeisler) costarring with Heinz Rühmann, Was wissen denn Männer/What Do Men know (1933, Gerhard Lamprecht), and Herthas Erwachen/Hertha’s Awakening (1933, Gerhard Lamprecht) opposite Hans Brausewetter.
Despite these successful roles in the early 1930s, Toni van Eyck would stay a theatre actress primarily. From 1938 to 1942 she was part of the ensemble of the famous Burgtheater in Vienna. After the war she acted at the Salzburger Landestheater (Salzburg State Theater). In 1950 she made her last film. She played a small part in the crime drama Ruf aus dem Äther/ Appeal from the Ether (1951, Georg C. Klaren, Georg Wilhelm Pabst) starring Oskar Werner. Later she worked as a playwright for stage and radio. In 1955 she published her novel, Ein Mann namens Miller (A Man Named Miller). Toni van Eyck also continued to appear on stage in guest appearances for a long time. She died in 1988.
- Ruth Weyher
Ruth Weyher (1901-1983) was a beautiful and passionate actress of the German silent cinema. She appeared in 48 films between 1920 and 1930. Among her best known films are the expressionist classic Schatten/Warning Shadows (1923) and G.W. Pabst’s Freudian Geheimnisse einer Seele/Secrets of a Soul (1926).
- Lien Deijers
Dutch actress Lien Deijers (1910-1965) – also known as Lien Deyers and Lien Dyers – was discovered by famous director Fritz Lang who gave her a part in Spione (1928). She acted in a stream of late silent and early sound films. After 1935 her star faded rapidly and her life ended in tragedy.