Greta Garbo

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Scott Lord Silent Film: Gosta Ekman in Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926)

The immanent departure of director F.W. MUrnau for America had already been announced by the periodical Motion Picture News during late 1925 while Murnau was readying the film "Faust". It was to star Gosta Ekman, "a young Swedish actor who has the title role. He has been a star on the legitimate stage and is now making his first appearance in pictures."

Janet Bergstrom, University of California , writes that with the film "Faust", among others, Murnau had "unchained the camera" with moving shots that seemed unique...sweeping the audience's emotions with them". Of these moving shots, Bergstrom brings to our attention tracking shots that were photographed above their subject by having rails mounted on the ceiling of the studio.

The use of a mobile camera by Murnau is clearly referred to by Robert Herlth, a designer of sets on the film "Faust", who wrote on the lighting of the film in a chapter entitled "With Murnau on the Set" included in the volume Murnau, published by Lotte H. Eisner. The set designer quotes Murnau as having said, " 'Now how are we going to get the effect of the design? This is too light. Everything must be made much more shadowy.' And so all four of us set about to trying to cut the light...We used them (screens) to define space and create shadows on the wall and in the air. For Murnau, the lighting became part of the actual directing of the film.'" silent film Silent Horror Film

Monday, March 27, 2023

Scott Lord Silent Film: Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)

The film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's account of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde directed by F.W. Murnau during 1920 is presumed lost, with no known existing copies of the film. "The Head of Janus" (Der Janus Kopf, Love's Mockery) had starred Conrad Veidt amd Bela Lugosi and is credited with having been one of the first films to include the use of the moving-camera shot. F.W. Murnau made 21 feature films, 8 of which are presumed lost, with no surviving copies. Included among them is the 1920 horror film "The Hunchback and the Dancer" (Der Bucklige und die Tanzerin) photographed by Karl Freund.

Lotte H. Eisner, in his biography titled Murnau, looks at a scene change to the shooting script of "Nosferatu" written by Henrik Galeen made by the director, F.W. Murnau, but adds that few additons and revisions to the original script were made by Murnau. "Sometimes the film is different than the scenario though Murnau had not indicated any change in the script...But there is a suprising sequence in which nearly twelve pages (thirteen sequences) have been rewritten by Murnau."

Lotte H. Eisner analyzes the film "Nosferatu" in his companion volume to his biography of Murnau, The Haunted Screen. "Nature participates in the action. Sensitive editing makes the bounding waves foretell the approach of the vampire." Eisner later adds, "Murnau was one of the few German film-directors to have the innate love of the landscape more typical of the Swedes (Arthur von Gerlach, creator of Die Chronik von Grieshums, was another) and hes was always reluctant to resort to artifice." Murnau had visited Sweden where the cameras being used were made of metal rather than wood, which aquainted him with techniques that were in fact more modern. Author Lotte H Eisner, in his volume Murnau writes of F.W. Murnau viewing the films of Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller "when he made 'Nosferatu', the idea of using negative for the phantom forest came from Sjostrom's 'Phantom Carriage', which had been made in 1920. Above all, he had a love-hatred for Mauritz Stiller, whose 'Herre Arne's Treasure' he couldn't stop admiring."

Not only can we look at Murnau's film to compare and contrast its use of landscape and location to that of Swedish Silent Films, but the Wisconsin Film Society during 1960 pointed out that its narrative was situated in a different century. "Murnau probably felt that by transferring the action to the year 1838 he would have an atmosphere more condusive to the supernatural. Because of the distance in time, an audience is perhaps more willing to employ its 'suspension of disbelief'." The Film Society mentions F.W. Murnau having filmed the Vampire's carriage in fast-motion for effect, an effect which it felt had been lost on the audiences of 1960. It conceded that shooting on location brought the film "far from the studio atmosphere", but hesitated, "Although frequently careless in technical details (camerwork, exposure, lighting, composition, and actor direction) it had variety and pace."

Lotte H. Eisner, in her volume Murnau, writes, "As always, Murnau found visual means of suggesting unreality". Professor David Thorburn, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, expresses aprreciation and gratitude for the author's writings pointing out that "her arguments in The Haunted Screen are still widely accepted." In regard to the expression of unreality, David Thorburn sees Expressionism as having been typified by "distortion and surreal exaggation" as well as having been "interested in finding equivalents for he inner life, dramatizing not the external world, but the world within us." If not the first horror film, Thorburn delegates "Nosferatu" to being an "origin film" and as "the film in which we can see Murnau freeing the one had ever used the camera outdoors more effectively up to this time than Murnau". Lotte H Eisner, in The Haunted Screen writes, "The landscape and views of the little town and the castle in Nosferatu were filmed on location...Murnau, however, making Nosferatu with a minimum of resourses saw all that nature had to offer in the way of fine images...Nature participates in the action."

Close-up magazine during 1929 reviewed the film, unaware that the Wisconsin Film Society would later favor the 1931 Tod Browning version, "The film opens with beautifully composed shots typical of Murnau (one spotlight on the hair, now turn the face slightly, and another spotlight)....It is unquestionably a faithful transcription of the book.

During 1926, when Murnau was readying to come to American, the periodical Moving Picture World interviewed his assistant, Hermann Bing, "Murnau's intention is to try to make pictures which will please the American theatre patrons- commercial successes because of their artistry....Murnau's object will be not to describe but to depict the relentless march of realities not for the objective, but from a subjective viewpoint." This almost seems like a nod to Carl Th. Dreyer's later film "Vampyr", other than that Dreyer's film had been made during the advent of sound film while Murnau was in America, shortly before Murnau's death. Fox Film publicity happenned to announce F.W. Murnau's coming to America by withholding the title of his debut American fim, giving the name of the dramatist that wrote its photoplay as Dr. Karl Mayer. "Theater Audiences Everywhere Are Waiting For This Creation".

Silent Film

Silent Horror Film

< Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926)

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Swedish Silent Film, The Golden Age in Decline

Swedish Silent Film scholar Bo Florin makes note of the province held by Nils Bouveng at the newly structured Svenska Filmindustri after the merger had taken place of the smaller companies into one and that Bouveng had published an article entitled Swedish Film Advertising: How the Industry Plans to Conquer the World in the 1919 periodical Filmjournalen. Nils Bouveng of Swedish Biograph was very much responsible for the distribution of Swedish silent film in the United States. The publication Exhibitor's Herald during 1921 noted that although Bouveng was deemed to have thought the film market overcrowded, he would still export film "of merit" to the United States. It wrote,"Swedish Biograph has control of all product of Scandinavian studios and will offer only the cream of these pictures to American theaters...While Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness is regarded as its finest offering, company executives believe that Judge Not, Sir Arne's Treasure, Youth Meets Youth, Dawn of Love and Secret of the Monastery will compare favorably with any American made production." Actors that were anticipated to greet audiences in the United States included Mary Johnson, Gosta Ekman Renee Bjorling, Tora Teje, Edith Erastoff Lars Hanson, Karin Molander and Victor Sjostrom.
Scandinavian films were often peered at by American and British film magazines and for thos looking for film rveiews, extatextural discourse on European films can often be located within them. Picture Play Magazine during 1921 looked at the theater screens of Sweden. "Lars Hanson, a star of the Swedish constellation may be added to the European counterparts of American stars. Lesley Mason denominates him 'the Charles Ray of Sweden' and considers him the best male bet of Europe so far as American popularity is concerned. The most popular of the Swedish feminine stars, according to Mr. Mason, are Tora Teje, Karin Molander and Mary Johnson. During the following year, 1922, the periodical Picturegoer magazine in fact recognized actress Mary Johnson as being the leading actress from Sweden in an article about actors known internationally and transnational cinema but opined that as a foreign celebrity she entertained a more subdued fame, as though to denote a lack of commodification of the female in extratextural discourse, ie. exploitation. "Although she rejoices in the title of 'Sweden's Sweetheart", loveable, little Mary Johnson has never recieved a 'fan' letter from Sweden. The reason is extremely simple. There are no 'fans' there. The star, as a star and personality, simply doesn't count. The Swedish picturegoer is very critical as to story, technique and acting and highly appreciative too; but as to writing to the movie stars- perish the thought." Author Walter Bloem, in his volume The Soul of the Moving Picture from 1924, in a discussion on The Scene, singled out two Swedish Silent Film actresses by briefly mentioning Karin Molander and Tora Teje as having "the psychic power which spells variety in the creation of character" as contrasted with a plentiful supply of American actresses that presented "a soporific drama of a single sorrow or grief or pain, of a conventional melancholy, sadness or lament." Author Benjamin B. Hampton to the contrary, in his volume A History of the Movies, published during 1931, seems to transverse the period following the Golden Age of Silent Film as though from 1925-1930 were stagnant, typifying Swedish Silent Film as tendentious. "The Scandinavians, despite fine actors and directors, lean so frequently toward gloomy, sophisticated stories, that they have been negligible factors in production as far as production is concerned." Hampton overlooks that this is exaclty what helps to account for the film made in Sweden after 1925 having been attempts at commercial success through light hearted comedies.

During 1921, the periodical Motion Picture Magazine reported there would be an increase of importations from Stockholm and while it featured still photographs from the films Dawn of Love, The Secret of the Monsastery and A Fortuned Hunter, it marked that the storylines we're to be adaptations from the literature of Ibsen, Bjornsen and Selma Lagerlof and that the principal players had come from the Swedish theater, which aptly describes the way in which actress Greta Garbo would be introduced to Swedish film audiences two years later.

Swedish director Ivan Hedqvist during 1919 directed the Svenska Biografteatern film "The Downy Girl"(Dunungen) from a play by Selma Lagerlof, the film having starred Renee Bjorling, Jenny Tschernichin-Larssen and Mia Grunder in her first appearance on the silent screen. Among the films produced by Filmindustri Skandia during 1920 photographed by Raol Reynolds and directed by Rune Carlsten was the film "The Bomb" ("Sunshine and Shadow", "Bomben"), starring Karin Molander and Gosta Ekman. Actress Karin Molander had starred in the lost film "Surrogatet" during 1919, the being no surviving copies of the film. A short film lasting only slightly over a half hour, it was directed by Einar Braun for Filmindustri Scandia, Stockholm. Rune Carlsten in 1920 wrote and directed the film "A Modern Robinson" ("Robinson i skargarden") with actress Mary Johnson. The cinematographer to the film was Raoul Reynolds. Actress Mary Johnson married Norwegian actor Einor Rod after having appeared with him in the film. Director Rune Carlsten that year also directed Mary Johnson with Tora Teje and Hilda Castegren in "Family Traditions" ("Familjens traditioner") which he coscripted as well, his co-author having had been being Sam Ask. The film was produced by Svensk Filmindustri and photographed again by Raoul Reynolds.
Solve Cederstrand directed his first film, "A Fateful Incognito" (Ett odesdigert kognito), starring Tage Alquist and Signe Selid in 1920. The film was written by Axel Essen and photographed by Kurt Jager, who went on to direct the film "Elaman maantiella" (1927) in Finland. Children were allowed to public exhibition of the 1920 film "The Shoemaker Prince",directed by Hjalmer Davidsen and scripted by Jens Locher for Palladium film. The film starred Maja Cassel as Princess Charlotte and Oda Larsen. In her paper The Excavation of New Swedish Childen's Film History, scholar Taichi Niibori, Stockholm University, asks if Pauline Brunius, wife of Swedish Silent Film director John Brunius was the "Founding Mother" of the Swedish Barnfilm with the film "Dragonfly" (1920) in a chapter on the Ambiguity of Generic Identity in exhibition strategies, that its "textural aspect symolises the contemporaneuous concept of children's films". It is a short film of 21 minutes running time. Brunius often made short films with child actors in the leading parts.
Scripted by Hjalmer Bergman as an adaptation of his 1917 work "Friarna pa Rockesnas", the 1921 film "Fru Mariannes fare" was directed by Gunnar Klintberg, the cinematographer to the film having had been Robert Olsson. The film starred Astri Torsell, Ingrid Sunblad, Aslag Lie-Erde and Gota Klintberg. Gunnar Klintberg continued by directing Astr Torsell in two more Swedish Silent Films, "The Love Circle" [Elisabet) with actresses Julia Hakanson and Gota Klintberg and in "Lord Saviles Brott", adapted from the work of Oscar Wilde. Gunner Klintberg's wife, actress Gota Klintberg had appeared with Signe Kolthoff during 1919 in the film "Jefthas dottar", directed by Robert Dinesen.

Formerly a journalist, Gustaf Edgren in 1922 had founded his own film company, Varmlandsfilm, making his screenwriting and directorial debut with the film "Miss at Pori" (The Young Lady of Bjorneborg/Froken pa Bjorneborg) starring actresses Rosa Tillman, Elsa Wallin and Edith Ernholm in her first film. The photographer was Adrian Bjurman. Adrian Bjorman was again the photographer for Gustav Edgren during 1923 for the film "People of Narke (Narkingara), which Edgren wrote and directed. Starring in the film were Anna Carlsten, Gerda Bjorne, and Maja Jerlstrom in her first appearance on screen. The film was also produced by Edgren's company Varmlandfilm, which would continue to produce only the flms of Gustaf Edgren.

Aparrently actress Karin Swanstrom was required to give co-directing screen credit to her screenwriter Oscar Rydqvist to the first film she was to direct, "Boman at the Fair" (Boman at the Exbhition, Boman pa Uttstallingen", 1923). Photographed by Gustav A Gustafson, the film starred Ingeborg Strandin and was the only film in which Karin Gardtman was to appear.

Although it joins the narrative of film history in a chapter concerned with the decline of Swedish Silent Film and its Golden Age, author Forsyth Hardy describes the work of Inga Tiblad and Einar Hanson in the 1923 Gustaf Molander film "Malapirater" as "pleasant acting". The film is a comedy. Ragnar Widestedt in 1923 directed Agda Helin and Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson in the film "Housemaids" (Hemslavirmor) written by Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius.

Frederick Andersson in 1923 directed the film "En rackarunge" with actresses Elsa Wallin and Mia Grunder. Gustaf V, King of Sweden, is listed as being in the film. It was photographed by Swedish cinematographer Sven Bardach.

Per Lindberg directed his first film during 1923, "Norrtullsligan", written by Hjalmer Bergman and starring Tora Teje, Stina Berg, Linnea Hillberg and Nils Asther. Peter Cowie, in his volume Scandinavian Cinema, commended the film by writing it "nelongs among the most courageous and enjoyable films of the European decade. Films prior to 1923 had presented individual female characters of flesh amd blood, but the Nortell Gang established a precedent....The screenplay by Hjalmer Bergman transcends the familiar image of women as decorative objects." Hjalmer Bergman was in fact the borther-in-law of director Per Lindberg.

Swedish Silent Film director Sigurd Wallen during 1923 directed the lost silent film "Friaren fran Landsvagen", which co-scripted with Sam Ask had starred Edvin Adolphson, Jenny Hasselquist, and Mia Grunden.

John Lindlof in 1924 directed the film "Man of Adventure" (Odets Man) with Inga Tiblad and Uno Henning, photographed by Gustav a Gustafson and written by J. Evicius. Knut Lambert who appears as an actor in the film and subsequently several later films, directed the lost film "Equal Among Equal" (Lika mot lika) in 1906, it having been the first film in which actress Tollie Zellman was to appear. Lambert appears with Tollie Zellman in the film as an actor with his wife Helfrid Lambert. There are no surviving copies of the film.

Sigurd Wallen during 1924 directed Inga Tiblad with Einar Froberg in " Greune pa Svanta" photographed by Henrik Jaenzon. Mostly known for being a theater director it was the first of only a handful of films Froberg had appeared in and the only film script that he had written. Froberg had directed an earlier film, "Lunda-indianer" starring Ture Sjogre and Malte Akerman, during 1920, his only time behind the camera, and had directed his own play, "Individerna Forbund' in Stockholm during 1919. Gustaf Molander appeared on stage in Stockholm in Froberg's play "Erna" under the direction of Gustaf Linden at The Drama (Dramaten) during 1922.

Ivar Kage in 1924 directed Gosta Hillberg and Edvin Adolphson in the film "When the Lighthouse Flashes" (Dar fyren blinken) for Svensk Ornfilm. The script was written by Esther Julin who had earlier adapted the novels of Selma Lagerlof to the screen for Victor Sjostrom. A fairly obscure or nonprolific photographer, Hellwig Rimmen during 1924 photographed the only film that he was to direct, "Hogsta Vinsten", it having starred actress Hilma Bolvig. The running time to the film was a half hour. Rimmen had began filming in Sweden under the direction of Einar Fronerg during the only film he was to direct, the 1920 film "Lunda-Indianer".

During 1925, Pauline Brunius was appearing on stage with Gosta Ekman in the play "Dalin och Drottningen", written by her brother in law, August Brunius. August Brunius has recently been described by one biographer as having been "the first professional Swedish critic", his having had begun writing essay on the theater in 1917.

Swedish Silent Film director William Larsson during 1925 directed the films "Broderna Ostermans huskors" with Jenny Tscherichin-Larsson and Frida Sporring and "For hemmet och flickan" with Jenny Tchernichin Larsson and Elsa Widborg in what was to be the first film in which she was to appear. The former was photographed by Arthur Thorell, the former by Henrik Jaenzon.

Swedish Silent Film director Sigurd Wallen during 1925 directed the film "Hennes lilla Majestat" starring actresses Margita Alfven, Stina Berg, Gucken Cederborg, and Olga Andersson in the first feature film in which she was to appear. With a photplay scripted by Henning Ohlson, the film was photographed by Axel Lindblom.

Olaf Molander, to bring the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film to an anticlimax rather than a crescendo, directed only three silent films, the first in 1925, the next the following year and one the year following that. About the 1925 film, "Lady of the Camelias"(Damen med kameliorna) Forsyth Hardy writes,"The film derived some distinction from the delicately composed interiors and the touching performance of Tora Teje gave in response to Molander's skilled direction." Peter Cowie writes, "Although the film betrays the theatrical loyalties of its director, the camera observing most scenes from a single, rigid, set up, Molander knows how to rein in the histrionics of his players (Nils Arehn, for example creates an excellant Georges Duvall) and he copes well with the outdoor scenes." Photographed by Gustaf A. Gustafson, the films stars Ivan Hedqvist, Hilda Bjorgstrom and Lisskulla Jobs in the first film in which she was to appear.

Sigurd Wallen during 1926 directed the film "Ebberods Bank", the assistant director to the film Rolf Husberg. The film starred acresses Stina Berg, Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson and Carina May in her first of three screen appearances. Petschler-Film during 1926 produced the film "Brollopet i Brana" directed by Eric A. Petschler and written by Esther Julin and Lars Tessing. The film, photographed by Gustav A. Gustafson, teamed Edvin Adolphson, Mona Martensen and Emmy Albin.

"Mordbrannerskan" (1926), directed by John Lindlof, photographed by Gustaf A. Gustafson and starring Vera Schmiterlow and Brita Appelgren was the first film in which Birgit Tengroth was to appear.
Gustaf Edgren in 1927 directed "The Ghost Baron" (Spokbaronen) starring Karin Swanstrom and photographed by Adrian Bjuman, which was followed by "Black Rudolph" (Svarte Rudolph) in 1928, starring Inga Tiblad amd Fridolf Rhudin, both films having been written by Solve Cederstrand. The assistant director to the film "Black Rudolph" had been Gunnar Skogland. It was the first film in which actress Katie Rolfson was to appear.

Vilhelm Bryde directed his only film during 1927, "A Husband By Proxy" (En Perfekt Gentleman) a comedy scripted by Hjalmar Bergman starring Gosta Ekman, La Jana and Karin Swanstrom. The film was produced by Minerva Film. Bryde had acted in a more than a dozen Swedish Silent Films beggining with "Erotikon", directed by Mauritz Stiller.

Sam Ask wrote and directed the 1928 Swedish Silent Film "Erik XIV", it having starred Sophus von Rosen, Eva Monk af Rosenchold, Lisa Ryden and Gosta Werner. Nothwithstanding, despite the film "Erik XIV", author Peter Cowie sees 1928 as the beginning of a "barren period" ensuing after Charles Magnusson was "eased out of" Svenska Filmindustri by Ivar Kruger with Olaf Andersson as head of the firm. Charles Magnusson had folded, and left his position at Svenska Filmindustri during 1928, but the present author feels that perhaps author Peter Cowie is either mistaken or exaggerating when he claims that it had precipitated a "veritable exodus of talent"- the directors Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller admittedly were in the United States, but contrary to Cowie's volume Scandinavian Cinema, actor and actress Greta Garbo and Lars Hanson had u doubtedly left Sweden prior to the departure of Charles Magnusson, as had Einar Hanson, leaving only the screenwriters Hjalmer Bergman and concievably Tancred Ibsen. And yet the spirit of Cowie's passage views him as essential as a founder and catalyst, which he was.

Peter Cowie, in his volume Scandinavian Cinema chronicles the end of the silent era in Sweden as being a time of less output, "Swedish film production declined through the 1920's, reaching a nadir in 1929, when a mere six features were released."

Danish Silent Film

Victor Sjostrom
Victor Sjostrom

Scott Lord Swedish Silent Film: Sangen om den eldroda blomman (Mauritz S...

"The Song of the Scarlet Flower" (Sangen och elroda blomman, 1919) was to star Lars Hanson, Greta Almroth, Lilebel Ibsen and Edith Erastoff. The film was directed by Mauritz Stiller with a photoplay written by Gustaf Molander. "Man's Way With Women" (Sangen och elroda Blommen, 1934) was to star Edvin Adolphson, Inga Tiblad, Aino Taube, Birgit Tengroth and Gull Maj-Nori . The film was directed by Per Axel Banner with the legendary photographer Julius Jaenzon with a script by the legendary photoplay dramatist Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius. "The Song of the Scarlet Flower" was with Gunnel Lindblom and Anita Bjork was directed by Gustaf Molander

The tinting of the first film provides contrast netween its individual scenes, moods and uses of nature as a background, its narrative creating a structure of seperate chapters.

Scholar Jaakko Seppalia attributes the rapid shooting of director Mauritz Stiller in "Song of the Scarlett Flower" as a direct influence on the film "The Logroller's Bride" (Koskenlaskijan marsian") directed by Finnish director Ekki Karu, particularly the use of several cameras and longshots during a rapid shooting sequence, both directors realizing that "heroic moments of action could be depicted in detail on film". Peter Cowie, in his volume Scandinavian Cinema, points out the "lyrical imagery of documentary realism" of the film while delineating the gap between the work of Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjostrom as further narrowing into less of a contrast.

Mauritz Stiller

Scandinavian Silent Film