|"The stylistic changes brought about by Sjostrom's moving to Hollywood may not have been as definite as film history would have it according to the paradigm. Still the story of Sjostrom was transformed by his transition to Seastrom"- Bo Florin|
When reading t he play "The Image Makers" by P. O. Enquist, who passed away in 2020, Ingmar Bergman reiterated an often quoted sentiment about the actor-director Victor Sjostrom with " 'The Phantom Cariiage' is one of my most important cinematographic experiences." I needed a question that could be answered quickly when recently corresponding with, introducing myself to, rather, author Bo Florin, Stockholm University, my having asked him which was his favorite film directed by Victor Sjostrom and his favorite directed by Ingmar Bergman. He was kind enough to reply by offering to send me a copy of the book on Stiller and Garbo that he wrote with author Patrick Vonderau in that although it could be downloaded it was nicer "in the real", so in the future I might have something more than a preliminary question, one having to do with film history or film technique, at which both Stiller and Sjostrom were highly proficient. Florin wrote, "Concerning favourites: I guess my favorite Sjostrom is same as was Bergman's ('the film that he saw at least once a year': The Phantom Carriage." Although I here mention having recieved letters from Jon Wengstrom and Ase Kleveland, my correspondence has been sparse and has contained little film theory, that having been delegated to massive open online courses, some of which were on film and some of which, those on literature and history, where I have had the oppurtunity to meet my instructors in person here in the United States - so of course I was thrilled to hear from Professor Florin. In his letter, Bo Florin mentioned Patrick Vonderau, his coauthor to the volume "A Tale from Constantinople". Later in the week I recieved a letter from Professor Vonderau in which he wrote, "Thanks for your interest."
The book did come to our apartment through the mail, and I have sent Bo Florin a note of thanks, which he has recieved and acknowledged with the closing, "All the best". Included in the volume is the entire unfilmed shooting script of the film written by Mauritz Stiller and Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius which was adapted from the novel Whirlpools of Life, written by Vladimir Semitjov. While writing "A Tale from Constantinople" Florin drew upon correspondence between Stiller and Semitjov that is now housed by the archive of The Swedish Film Institute. The photoplay is spectacular and not only includes both expository and dialouge intertitles as well as the shot structure of the film but blocking instructions. Working from a shootingscript itself neglected to the extent it was thought to be "lost", Florin adresses the "singularity" of lost artefacts, what a historical piece of evidence might tell us as being unique, particularly how Enhistoria fran Konstantinopal might outline the developoment of Mauritz Stiller as an artist, his "career narrative". Bo Florin has been adept, if not brilliant, doing this with the works of Victor Sjostrom. Similarly, the careeer of F.W. Murnau has been recently seen as a "narrative". Interestingly, Florin goes so far as to speculate whether the completion of the film would have kept actress Greta Garbo in Europe.
Victor Sjostrom, in a letter to journalist Charles L. Turner quoted in the periodical Films in Review during 1960 on the occaision of the director's death accounted for his remaining taciturn about his career, the letter having had been being written twelve years earlier. "I dislike very much speaking about myself or work. And I really habe nothing to say about work finished so long ago, and left so long behind me. As a matter of fact, I had entirely forgotten most of it and was only now reminded of it by your notes. Some of the pictures....were perhaps ahead of their time. Their success was probably because the public's taste was different from that of today." Perhaps the correspondence, dated from before Victor Sjostrom the actor had appeared on screen under the direction of Ingmar Bergman, had been prompted by a flourish revival of the films Sjostrom had made at Svenska Biograteatern with Mauritz Stiller to prefigure the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film. Turner quotes Victor Sjostrom as having said,"Unfortunately, I have a very poor memory concerning my film career. Perhaps it is because when I finish a film, I have it behind me, so it just doesn't interest me anymore. Instead, I have begun to think- or it would be more correct to say - worry about my next picture."
The daughter of Sweden’s greatest director of Silent Film, Victor Seastrom, passed away during the beginning of 2019. Guge Lagerwall, actress and wife of Swedish actor Sture Lagerwall, had celebrated her one hundredth birthday during January of 2018 before having died two weeks before turning one hundred and one years old. Lagerwall was the daughter of the director and Swedish Silent Film actress Edith Erastoff and, according to Victor Sjostrom one of the reasons why he returned from the United States to Sweden. The daughter of Victor Sjostrom, Guge Lagerwall wrote the screenplays to two Swedish Films, “Smeder pa luffen” (Erik Hampe Faustian, 1949) and ”Lattjo med Boccaccio” (Gosta Bernhard, 1949)- she appeared in seven films that were made in Sweden, including “Franskild” directed by Gustaf Molander in 1951, Molander having ditected the father, Victor Sjostrom, a year later, during 1952, in the film "Love" (Karleck). It may be noted that since the passing of Guge Lagerwall, two actors that starred with Victor Sjostrom in the masterpiece “Wild Strawberries” (1957) directed by Ingmar Bergman and photographed by Gunnar Fischer, are now recently deceased. Actress Bibi Andersson passed away early during 2019, actor Max Von Sydow early during 2020.
Author Tommy Gustafsson is more than correct when he reluctantantly admits a canonization of Swedish Silent Film hinging on the names Victor Sjostrom, Mauritz Stiller and Selma Lagerloff. Mauritz Stiller had given Greta Garbo a lead role while in Sweden in adaptation of one of Lagerwall’s novels, an adaptation that did not go unnoticed by Lagerwall, while Victor Sjostrom had given Greta Garbo the leading role in a film version of the life of actress Sarah Bernhardt after she has arrived in America with Stiller. Although Gustafsson omits placing directors George af Klerker, Gustaf Molander and John Bruinius in a chronological relation to the forming of Svenska Filmindustri, he marks their absence in cannon that has been widely familiarized, including the discourse of what he notes Bordwell and Thompson see as a “dependence” upon landscape in Swedish film that distinguished Stiller and Sjostrom as filmmakers concerned with artistically articulating man’s place in the universe through personifying the emotion inherent in Scandinavian exterior shots and through heightening the interest in human action when confronting the elements.
Shari Kiziran of Senses of Cinema recently succinctly summarized the virtue of the work of Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller as being "cinematic adaptations of Swedish literature shot on location in Scandinavia's dramatic lanscape.", but the present author would caution that it may be added that Sjostrom's use of landscape imparted a deeping of character, the Swedish Film program guide to Wild Strawberries having noted that "Using Selma Lagerlof's material, Sjostrom introduced real people into film." Jaako Seppala quotes Leif Furhammar to illustrate that Swedish Silent Film had found a literary cannon that looked to Swedish Literature for adaptations where as Finnish Silent film looked to fiction before more reluctantly adapting belltristic litterature. "The convention of including some of the original dialogue in the film adaptations' for the audience to recognize and enjoy was presumably adapted from Swedish films of the Golden era. As Eirick Frisvold Hanssen and Sofia Rossholm argue ' the use of direct quotations implies a notion of "double authorship" underlining the [the literary author's] authorial prescence' which is what Finnish sough to achive. In both countries artistic quality was synonymous with literary quality." Film was being distinguished as transnational cinema created by the personal style of the autuer.
Scholar Casper Tybjerg, University of Copenhagen, in his article "The Woman's Point of View, Thora van Deken" seeks to expand the cannon of the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film by including one film directed by John Brunius, "A Mother's Fight" as belonging to cannon by being atypical by virtue of its point of view shots and flashbacks, despite its lack of Scandinavian landscape, a film that "consistently aligns us with the title character and her point of view". Co-written by Brunius and Sam Ask, the film was photographed by Hugo Edlund and starred Pauline Brunius. It is included by the Swedish Film Institute as being a noteworthy example of films that comprised the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film.
In his book Masculinity in the Golden Age of Swedish Cinema, Tommy Gustafsson looks toward the viewpoints of Leif Furhammar to see competing foreign markets as a reason for the Swedish Art Film, markets that would not only compete for the attention of rivetted audiences, but for the directors of Sweden and Europe themselves.
In an attempt to delineate Victor Sjostrom as a Swedish auteur, as a pioneering father of Swedish Cinema that propagated a nationalistic style, Bo Florin also asks us to keep in mind the influence of American Film on the global market, perhaps an influence that was competing with popular Danish films. Florin notes that an economic crisis that was weighing heavily upon Charles Magnusson caused the formation of a subsidiary company, AB Filminspelning, that included directors Victor Sjostrom ,Mauritz Stiller and John Brunius, a company that was unsuccessful in preventing the departure of Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller to America and a Hollywood which comprised 90% of all silent film being manufactured, easily and readily drawing the two monolithic directors away from Sweden after they had established the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film where stylistically, often the character is analyzed against the backdrop of his enviornment to deepen the film thematically.
It is far from arbitrary to begin the historiography of the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film with the adaptation of Henrik Ibsen by Victor Sjostrom - Eirik Frivold Hamssen, in his volume Silent Ibsen, Transnational Film Adaptation, in the 1920's and 1930's. "In his detailed reading of the film, Bo Florin demonstrates how the alledgedlly 'national' cinematic style of the Golden Age draws on, adapts, and imitates a variety of media and that the sources used are fundamentally transnational by nature." A filmography included in the volume compiled by Maria Lund, Oslo University, lists Axel Esbensen as the designer and Nils Ellfors as the studio manager to "A Man There Was", directed by Victor Seastrom.
Paul Rotha, in his volume "The Film Till Now, a survey of world cinema", had earlier made the pronouncement that the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film had "died a natural death by reason of its national characteristics of poetic feeling and lyricism." He summarized the films as having been "realized with exceptional visual beauty, being characterized by their lyrical quality of theme and by their slowness of develpoment. For enviornment, full use was made of the natural landscape value of Sweden, whilst their directors were marked by their poetic feeling."
In their article Film Studies In Sweden, The Past, The Present and The Future, authors Goran Bolan and Michael Forsmann add an interesting perspective when crediting producer Charles Magnusson as a proponent of Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjostrom. They note that despite his success,that “in spite of taking up established and well-reputed plays and literary classics, the public reception was negative”, especially with the cultural elite, which coalesced into the first publications on Swedish Film, particularly those of author Frans Hallgren. Bolan and Forsmann add that admittedly Ingmar Bergman was the first Swedish director to be analyzed in light of autuer theory and that the historiography of film criticism may have left Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller out as being considered autuers.
Interestingly, student Jesper Larsson, in a recent undergraduate paper for Lund University circulated on academia.org titled Tora Teje Teje, Reception and Swedishness wrote, “The Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film started with ’A Man There Was’ (Terge Vogel, Victor Sjostrom, 1917) reached its climax with ‘The Phantom Carriage’ (Korkarlen, Victor Sjostrom, 1921), and ended with ‘The Saga of Gosta Berling’ (Mauritz Stiller, 1924), whereas all these films served as a distillation of a distinctive national style. These films, often set in historical times or in rural Sweden, did not allow actresses to be glamorous in a contemporary sense and thus did not reproduce the idea of a consumerist culture.” To these, Jespersen might have added the historical dramas of Director John Brunius. Jespersen’s claim that Swedish Silent Film expressed a nationalism in its nostalgic, or rural,subject matter and a resultant camera technique to fit the exigencies of exterior location style is apparent in advertising and motion pictures both sought to reflect a visual culture with an intense interest in modernity receptive to the avaunt guarde, as is reflected not onlyin the paper Films That Sell: Motion Pictures and Advertising by Patrick Vondreau of Stockholm University but in the emergence of the relationship between advertising and Imagist poetry and Dadaist poetry. America had gone to France and created The Flapper, leaving us the view that not only were the film directors of the Swedish Golden Age tottering on seeming archaic, but that director D.W. Griffith might also have a Morality not suited to the quickening pace of the New Modern Woman, almost indicative in Lillian Gish having left to find Lars Hanson and Victor Sjostrom as though both cinemas were to compete with a short-lived German Expressionism and French Poeticism. A similar corollary between the Wasteland of Modernity and the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film is fascinatingly introduced by film historian Mark Sandberg, to quote an abstract of his paper The Outlaw and Noman’s Land: The International Circulation of Visual Repertoires, analyses the film “The Outlaw and His Wife”, directed byVictor Sjostrom by drawing attention to “the film,s insistent verticality and location shooting” by contrasting the landscapes of Neutrality to the trenchwarfare that was ravaging and devastating Europe during the four years that preceded the film’s premiere, the battlefields that perhaps may have been spied by the flanneurs while en route to the cinema forming a visual context by which audience reception took place for European viewer of the Swedish export. To keep the topic within a peer-reviewed frame, author Bo Florin dileneates the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film as 1917-1923. While reviewing Bo Florin’s volume Transition and Transformation, Victor Sjostrom in Hollywood 1923-1930 film critic Erik Hedling uses the same chronological yardstick, 1917-1923, to measure the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film, and adds,”These were characterized by elaborate landscapes depiction, heavy influences from high art, subtle acting, expressive lighting and a focus on specific devices, such as the dissolve and systematic cuts across the 180-degree line.” With the grace of a footnote to the writing of Bengt Forslund, Bo Florin extends Helding’s summarization by also characterizing Victor Sjostromas an Auteur within Swedish Silent Film, characterizing his style as displaying a “lyrical intimacy” effected by “downplayed acting, thorough work on the lighting of scenes, and mise ens scene and montage privileging a circular space with a clear center towards which movements converge.”
It is noteworthy that the Swedish Literature that Sjostrom and Stiller were interested in was fin-de-sicle or an extension of the turn of the century; although Victor Sjostrom's film adaptation of Ibsen's poem is a pivotal masterpiece revered for its being pivotal in the historiography of silent film, two years later, Par Lagerkvist published the essay Modern Theater, it purporting, and possibly rightly so within the literary circles it was seen, that the theater of Ibsen lacked what was needed for modern audiences. 1919 saw the publication of Par Lagerkvist's play "The Secret of Heaven" (Himlens hemlighet). Agnes von Krusensjerna that year published the volume "Helenas forsta karleck". Although a transnational cminema was emerging, it exported an older literature than that in bookstores at the time. Novelist Elin Wagner had published the novel "Asa-Hanna" during 1917. Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam, albeit many of his narratives having had been been historical dramas, challenged August Strindberg during 1910, in between having published "Dikter" in 1895 and "Nya Dikter" in 1915.
Bo Florin includes the film “Terje Vigen” in the cannon of the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film in part for its portrayal of the interiority of the character having been explored metaphorically, perhaps more metaphorically, ie. through metonymic representation, than in Sjostrom’s earlier films which included “Ingeborg Holm”. In the article “Confronting The Wind, a reading of a Hollywood Film by Victor Sjostrom”, Florin notes Peter Cowie as having pointed out that the film “consequently reflects the conflicts both within and between the characters in the narrative”, his adding that Fullerton “points to the dialectics in the relationship between human and landscape, which establishes analogies between them”, Fullerton having compared elements of “Terje Vigen” with those of “The Outlaw and his Wife”. It has been pointed out that "realism, psychological depth" (Joel Frykolm, DFI) were characteristics of the directing of Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller.
One British author while attempting to characterize the "series of superfilms" that followed each other in succession as being noted for the "simplicity of their composition and the true realism of their presentation of character" not only credited the adaptation of the work of Selma Lagerlof, but pointed out that Rasunda, with its two large studios, was modern when compared to European studios, as was its equipment, which further showcased the two prominent directors. Added to this is the thought that American Silent film came under a European influence and that the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film was just that in light of it being carried over into Hollywood, which was very congenially expressed in the volume The Film Answers Back: A Historical Appreciation of the Cinema, written In 1939 by E.W. Robson, who briefly, but succinctly traces the importing of film technique by Victor Sjostrom. He writes, “In Hollywood, Victor Sjostrom continued the Scandinavian tradition of reflecting upon the elements, the wind and and sky as symbolizations of the shifting nature of social life.” Bo Florin has noted that author Graham Petrie has compared the adaptation of “The Scarlet Letter” directed by Victor Sjostrom not only thematically in regard to literary tropes to the earlier adaptations of the writings of Selma Lagerlof in its examination of Puritan culture but in that his filming also permits an interplay between man and the context of nature in which man finds himself. Perhaps this is by drawing parralels between the Swedish landscape and the pioneer aspect of the spiritual remoteness from Europe that drove the Puritan onward during the first Thanksgivings in a new colony while establishing New England, if not New Amsterdam as well in what was more than rural in being a frontier ecumenically, the poet Anne Bradstreet in fact mourning the loss of a child when first arriving in the harsh New England of Hester Prynne. Graham Petrie’s volume Hollywood Destines, European directors in America 1922-1931 includes the Chapter Victor Sjostrom, ‘The Greatest Director in the World’ as well as the chapter Mauritz Stiller and others, ‘They are a Sad Looking people these Swedes’.
To parralel this Scholar Sandra Walker outlines the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film as being between 1912-1924, a little early perhaps, when nearly seeing F.W. Murnau as a contemporary to Victor Sjostrom in a "cross-cultural context", Murnau having been indebted to the international success of Swedish Silent Films produced in the Golden Age. In a thesis entitled "A Formal and Stylistic Analysis of the early films of F.W. Murnau within the Context of Swedish and German Cinema" presented to the University of Zurich, Sandra Walker attributes this internation succes to the stylistic elements and formal structures of the films produced by specific autuers, which she compares in the directors Victor Sjostrom, Mauritz Stiller and F.W. Murnau, primarily their having "a significant use of filmed exteriors and rural landscapes" particularly in the films of Murnau between 1919-1923 before he began a period of films made in the studio- the early films of Murnau were "formally, stylisticlly and thematically similar to Swedish films produced slightly earlier at Svenska Bio and Hasselblad film and concurrently at Skandia film." She attributes the significance of outdoor landscapes to Charles Magnusson's rejection of cinema being "filmed theater" and the diffrence of having authentic locations where reality could be recorded, perhaps reproduced or imitated, by photographic images. Added to this was the size of the studio at Lidingo. Similarly, the first two Finnish directors, Erkki Karu and Teuvo Puro, are particularly noted for the use of nature as a background and landscape to complement the thematic- "Sylvi" (1913) has been particulalry likened to the film "Ingeborg Holm" directed by Victor Sjsotrom.
Magnus Rosborn, archivist for the Swedish Film Institute includes “Dunagen” (1919), adapted from the writing of Selma Lagerlof to the screen by Swedish Silent Film Director Ivan Hedquvist, as well as "Ingmar's Inheritance"(Ingmarservet,1925) and "To the East" (Til Osterland, 1926), adaptations of the writings of Selma Lagerlof scripted by Ragnar Hylten Cavaliius and directed by Gustaf Molander, the former having starred Lars Hanson, Mona Martensen and Marta Hallden, the latter having starred Edvin Adolphson, to the cannon of films expressing man’s relation to the Swedish environment in the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film.
The films of Swedish Silent Film directors George af Klerker, Carl Barklind and John W. Brunius were included as being from the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film by the Modern Museum of Art during 1977 for the festival entitled "Sjostrom, Stiller and His Contemporaries". Apologizing for "The Story of Gosta Berling" being the one unavailable print in the museum's selection, the press releases for the museum quote critic George Sandoul as having had the opinion that "Stiller's work was as delicate as Sjostrom's was massive." It is entirely a matter of folklore as to whether Greta Garbo msy have attended the screenings. One more recent silent film festival honoring Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller organized and curated by Jon Wengstrom, Swedish Film Institute archivist, at a European film museum not only included a screening of the “In the Chains of Darkness” (I markets bojor, 1917) directed by George af Klercker, among the twenty five Swedish Silent Films it projected, included to the programme “The Nortull Gang” (Norrtullsligan, 1923”, acknowledging its Director, Per Lindgren as an admittedly “lemsser known director”. The program to the festival noted that George af Klercker used prominent exterior shots during outdoor scenes shot on location by that these were mostly for visual effect and could not be construed as being used to develop metaphors depicting the interaction between man and nature, as often is the case with the films of Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller. Although film critcs have seen the films made in Sweden while Sjostrom and Stiller were in America as mere comedies that were "slow moving", Jon Wengstrom has cautioned against departing from the study of Swedish films that were made after 1925 by typifying the films as not being part of Sweden's Golden Age of Silent Film but by continuing with Gustaf Molander and in particular his 1926 film "Sealed Lips", the films not only being "interesting" but having "cultural value". Upon its release in 1926, Swedish film critic Begnt Idestam-Almquist had been enthusiastic, if not ecstatic about the Gustaf Molander film "Sparkling Youth" (Hon den Enda), starring Vera Voronina, Margit Manstad and Brigita Appelgren, but onky with the anticlimatic reservation that Sweden had lacked any prominent films that year (Joel Frykholm). Swedish Film archivist Magnus Rosborn recently introduced the film "A Sister of Six" (Flickorna Gyrkovics, Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius, 1926), featuring actress Karin Swanstrom, at the 2022 San Francisco Silent Film Festival. I have mentioned elswhere that the Golden Age of Silent Film was an especially silent era and that the advent of sound film had brought a return of the playwright with the dialougue of the stage to the Swedish screen, manifest in Victor Sjostrom's move from behind the camera to in front of it.
Recently, John Wengstrom of the Swedish Film Institute was kind enough to reply to my letter to the Film Institute. It had been forwarded from Kristin Engtedt of the Swedish Film Institute to Mathias Rosengren and then finally to John Wengstrom. In the letter, while thanking the recipient for reading it, I mentioned that it had been over ten years since I received a letter from Ase Kleveland of the Swedish Film Institute in reply to my writing about the one hundredth birthday of actress Greta Garbo. When writing Wengstrom I had asked if The Saga of Gosta Berling, directed by Mauritz Stiller in 1924, was in tthe public domain. I had asked it almost rhetorically based on the view of the Library of Congress that every film of its age has been placed in the public domain, specifically all those filmed before 1926. Wengstrom begged to differ, noting that in Sweden, although Mauritz Stiller died in 1928, it had not been seventy years since the death of Ragnar Hylten-Cavillius, The co-writer of the script, who died in 1970. He added that The Swedish Film Institute, owner of the film, had restored the film that year and that it “regained its original aspect ratio, colors, design of inter titles and is now substantially longer than previous restorations.”
During the Spring of 2018, John Wengstrom, archivist for the Swedish Film Institute, was honored by the San Franscisco Silent Film Festival for a recent restoration of “The Saga of Gösta Berling” (Mauritz Stiller, 1924), starring Greta Garbo and Lars Hanson, the new version lasting 200 minutes on screen. It is to be presented with 10 other restored silent films, among them being a previously unseen 1929 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles. My former online classmate, Emma Vestrheim, who participated with me in a class on Scandinavian film offered by the University of Copenhagen, writes that the restored version adds sixteen minutes to Greta Garbo’s debut film. Author Forsyth Hardy notes that Saga of Gosta Berling was last film Mauritz Stiller directed in Sweden before his departing to the United States in 1925.
While evaluating, or comprising, a filmography of silent film of the Swedish directors of Svenska Bio and Svenska Filmindustri; Mauritz Stiller, Victor Sjostrom, John Brunius and George Af Klercker and with them the camerman Julius Jaenzon, It was refreshing to find that author Astrid Soderberg Widing tries to agree with film critic Leif Furhammar that Georg af Klerker, who began as a filmmaker at Svenska Biografteatern, can be placed with Sjostrom and Stiller as being an autuer of the pioneering art form, in that, although he seldom wrote scenarios, he added a "personal signature" to filmmaking contemporary to the other two directors- during the centennial of the two reeler in the United States and of Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller having become contemporaries at Svenska Bio.
When first writing on the internet, before the deaths of Vilgot Sjoman, Sven Nykvist and Ingmar Bergman, I included this in my webpage, "Of the utmost importance is an appreciation of film, film as a visual literature. film as the narrative image, and while any appreciation of film would be incomplete without the films of Ingmar Bergman, every appreciation of film can begin with the films of the silent period, with the watching of the films themselves, their once belonging to a valiant new form of literature. Silent film directors in both Sweden and the United States quickly developed film technique, including the making of films of greater length during the advent of the feature film, to where viewer interest was increased by the varying shot lengths within a scene structure, films that more than still meet the criterion of having storylines, often adventurous, often melodramatic, that bring that interest to the character when taken scene by scene by the audience." The study of silent film is an essential study not only in that the screenplay evolved or emerged from the photoplay, but in that it is imperative to the appreciation of film technique. In my earlier webpage written before the death of Ingmar Bergman I quoted Terry Ramsaye on filent film,"Griffith began to work at a syntax for screen narration...While Griffith may not have originated the closeup and like elements of technique, he did establish for them their function." Director Ingmar Bergman had been among those who had spoken on the death of the Swedish actor- American director Victor Sjostrom
Ingmar Bergman’s daughter Lena has noted that even late in life Bergman watched film extensively, his own cinema named “The Cinematograh”, which he built in a barn on Faro with three projectors, one film that he included having been Mauritz Stiller’s silent comedy “Love and Journalism”. The Museum of Modern Art during a 1977 retrospective quoted Peter Cowie, “Stiller the dramatist began to overtake Stiller the wit who made ‘Love And Journalism. His work began to resemble Sjostrom’s.” It explained that Bergman’s father was known to screen early Swedish films in his church after communion. The Museum quoted Peter Cowie, “No filmmaker before Sjostrom integrate digital landscape so fundamentally into his work or concieved of nature as a mystical as well as a physical force in terms of film language.” It added, “The tumult that threatens his heroes’ psyche corresponds, says Cowie, to the majestic power of nature and while Sjostrom’s themes are elemental, there is a tragic and noble severity in them.”
While Ingmar Bergman was not unknown for his efforts toward film preservation- Widding credits him with having preserved the film Nattiga Toner directed by Georg af Klercker- Gosta Werner painstaking restored Swedish Silent Films "frame by frame", taking thousands of frames from envelopes and reassembling them before copying them into a modern print, his enlarging prints made on bromide paper and then in order to reconstruct their shot structure, comparing them to stills from several films to insure the director's sense of compostition, his also recommending the searching for of all material on the film, including a synopsis of the plot and other descriptions of what the film contained. Essential to the viewing Swedish Silent Film is the evaluation of the thematic technique of conveying a relationship between man and his environment, the character to the landscape, but before even introducing this the present author would share that there is an interesting quote form Gosta Werner the archivist from his having examined the restoring the films The Sea Vultures (Sjostrom), The Death Kiss (Sjostrom), The Master Theif (Stiller) and Madam de Thebes (Stiller), "In pre-1920 films, close ups were very rare, as were landscapes devoid of actors. Actually, shots without actors were very rare. Almost every shot included an actor involved in some obvious situation. The film told its story with pictures, but they were pictures of actors." It is with that appreciation of the art that the present author would look toward the photoplays that, with the development of both their dialogue and expository intertitles, became cinematic novels during the silent era. Werner further analyzes the early films and their mise-en-scene, making them seem as though they were in fact part of the body of work produced in the United States, "Many sequences begin with an actor entering the room and with the main actor (not always the same one) leaving the set." It is also of interest that the last film of the twenty seven that he restored was one of the most difficult in that it was a Danish detective film that lacked intertitles. Particularly because I found the cutting on the action of the actor leaving the frame of interest, if I can connect the quote to one from my own previous webpages on silent film, before reading Werner I had written, "The aesthetics of pictorial composition could utilize placing the figure in either the foreground or background of the shot, depth of plane, depth of frame, narrative and pictorial continuity being then developed together. Compositions would be related to each other in the editing of successive images and adjacent shots, the structure; Griffith had already begun to cut mid-scene, his cutting to another scene before the action of the previous scene was completely finished, and he had already begun to cut between two seperate spatial locations within the scene." It is now difficult to overlook the importance of Gosta Werner's having directed the short film Stiller-fragment in 1969. Produced by Stiftelsen Svenska Filminstitutet it showcased surviving footage from several silent films made by Mauritz Stiller in Sweden, including Mannekangen (1913) with Lili Ziedner, Gransfolken (Brother Against Brother,1913) with Stina Berg and Edith Erastoff, Nar Karleken dodar(1913) with Mauritz Stiller behind the lens and George af Klerker and Victor Sjostrom both in front of the camera, Hans brollopsnatt (1914) starring Swedish silent film actresses Gull Nathorp and Jenny-Tschernichin-Larson and Pa livets odesvager. In an interview with the San Franscisco Silent Film festival, Jon Wengstrom stressed the importance of the film "Brother Against Brother" having had been being restored and now being viewed to the understanding of the development of Mauritz Stiller as a director, it being seminal to his "evolution" as a director. Not only has Jon Wengstrom visited the United States to screen the film "Brother against Brother" directed by Mauritz Stiller, but it was interesting to read a first hand internet account from Swedish writer Mikaela Kindblom of a screening of the film he gave at the Filmhuset in Stockholm. Jon Wengstrom marked the 100th birthday of Gosta Werner by crediting him with identifying an existing fragment from Stiller’s film “Ballettprimadonna” (1915). The fillm “Ballettprimadonna”, directed by Mauritz Stiller, was restored and premiered at the Filmhuset during 2016. At the end of 2017, the Swedish Film Institutetet announced that it would be restoring the film “The Price of Betrayl” (“Judaspengar”), directed by Victor Sjostrom during 1915. In the announcement the Swedish Film Institute notes that with this film, only 16 of the 42 silent films directed by Victor Sjostrom will have been restored.
m It may be noted that since the work of Gosta Werner, author Ingrid Stigsdotter has brought interest in a feminist historiography of film and a feminist archive with her article “Women Film Exhibition Pioneers in Sweden, Agency, invisiblity and first wave feminism” in which she credits Rune Waldekranz as having acknowledged the contributions of director Anna Hoffman-Undgren during 1911-1912. Astrid Soderbergh Widding, however, points to an unpublished liscentiate thesis on the cinema of attractions written by Rune Waldekranz entitled Living Pictures, film and cinema in Sweden 1896-1906, in which Waldekranz includes "an analysis between film and its audiences as well as society in general."
Supplemental to the cataloging of women involved in the production of Swedish Film is the contention of scholar Laura Horak that director Mauritz Stiller had broache the subject directly in his “feminist comedies” depicting “women of ambition” and presenting an “emancipated woman image”, Horak citing in particular the films “The Modern Suffradette” (1913), “Love and Journalism” (1916) and “Thomas Graal’s Best Child”. The writing of Laura Horak is also featured in the volume Not So Silent, Women In Cinema Before Sound, edited by Sofia Bull and Astrid Soderbergh Widding.
There is one important recent quote from that Swedish Film Institute and the Internet, "Films considered to be lost still resurface in private collections or in foreign archives."
During 1970, American author Gary Carey had in fact been quoted as having said, "It is quite possible that one or more of the films in this book may sometime turn up.", the occaison having been the rediscovery of the film "The Devil's Circus" (Benjamin Christensen, 1926). Carey is responsible for having begun the search for lost silent films in the United States with the volume Lost Films, which is culled from a still collection belonging to the Museum of Modern Art Film Stills Archive, his adding plot synopsis and historical data to the photographs. He notes that with the advent of sound film, silent films were more susceptible to falling into desuetude, as was perhaps the intention when color films changed the aspect ratio used when first competeing with television. It may be fitting that, although a film version of the novel the Atonement of Gosta Berling had been planned by Skandinavisk Film Central, a company that had merged the Danish Silent Film companies Dania Biofilm and Kinogram into Palladium, between 1919 and 1921, the first part of The Saga of Gosta Berling, during March of 1924 premiered in Stockholm at The Roda Kvarn, it's second part having premiered a week later- not only is the art-deco, art-nouveau theater famous as having continued into the twenty first century, but when constructed in 1915 by Charles Magnusson, included in the first films screened in the art-house theater were those directed for Svenska Biografteatern by Mauritz Stiller, particularly, the 35 minute film Lekkamraterna, written by Stiller and photographed by Henrik Jaenzon, which starred Lili Bech, Stina Berg and Emmy Elffors, and the 65 minute film Madame Thebes, written by Mauritz Stiller and photographed by Julius Jaenzon, which starred Ragnar Wettergren, Martha Hallden and Karin Molander. It is often written that Swedish Silent Film before Molander had paid devout attention to Scandinavian landscape and its effect upon the characters in the drama, there also being an underlying sense that the conception of space, traveling through mspace according the the seasonal, played a transparent part during the recoding of the now ancient, therefore runic, Prose and Poetic Eddas.
True to form the daughter of Ingmar Bergman, Journalist Linn Ullmann, included the historical place of Swedish Filmmaking in her second novel, Stella Descending. "The once thriving ostrich farm in Sundbyberg was sold, taken over by two rival companies, Svensk Bio and Skandia, who joined forces to build Rasunda Filmstad, home of the legendary film studios. Here the filmmakers Victor Sjostromand Mauritz Stiller worked alongside such stars as Tora Teje, Lars Hanson, Anders de Wahl, Karin Molonder and Hilda Bjorgstrom. Greta Garbo turned in an impressive performance in Gosta Berling's Saga in 1924, 'giving us hope for the future' to quote the ecstatic critic in Svenska Dagbladet. I can well imagine how Elias must have cursed the day his parents put their money in ostriches rather than the movies....And so it passed that Elias was part of the audience that evening in February 1934 to see When We Dead Awaken."
Journalist Rilla Page Palmberg, in The Private Life of Greta Garbo published in 1931, gives a non-fiction account, "Greta called on Mr. Stiller on night after school. He was not in, but she was told to wait, as he was expected soon. Waiting in his office, she was so frightened that she felt like stealing out before he arrived. Suddenly the door opened and a tall man with a big dog came slowly into the room. He looked Greta up and down. It seemed to her as though he were looking through her. Bluntly he asked her to remove her coat and hat. Then he told her to put them back on again. After asking her a few questions he let heher know he was ready to leave." Three days later, Greta Garbo tested for Mauritz Stiller at Rasunda to make what some feel to be the last film of the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film.
|Peter Cowie writes of a voice that was described to Vilgot Sjoman as being "so nice and gentle" it having "a quiet huskiness that makes it interesting". "'Yes, this is Stiller's room, I know for sure.' |
After Greta Garbo took off her glasses to show Ingmar Bergman what she looked like, her watching his face to measure the emotion of the director, she excitedly began discussing her acting in The Saga of Gosta Berling. When they returned to the room, one that had also been used by Molander, Bergman
poeticlly studied her face." It had been
Gustaf Molander, during 1923 while director of the Royal Dramatic Academy, who had been asked by Mauritz Stiller to decide upon two students to appear in his next film. Mona Martenson was already in Molander's office when Greta Garbo was called in and asked to report to Svenska Filmindustri's studios the following morning. Garbo went to Rasunda to meet Stiller for a screen test to be filmed by Julius Jaenzon, whom she happenned to meet on the train, it almost to presage the unexpected encountering she had years later with Swedish director Ragnar Ring while crossing the Atlantic. While waiting for Stiller to arrive, cinematographer Julius Jaenzon told Greta Garbo, "You are the lovliest girl I've ever seen walk into the place." In America, while being interviewed by journalist Rilla Page Palmborg in the old publicity department of M.G.M., Greta Garbo reminisced about filming with Mauritz Stiller at a time when she only saw him when he was not on his own set. "We don't rush so in Sweden. It took months to make 'Gosta Berling's Saga'. We had to wait for winter to make the winter scenes. Then, we had to wait for summer to get the summer scenes." While visiting Stockholm during 1938, Garbo asked to view the film The Saga of Gosta Berling, her having said to William Sorensen it was "the movie I loved most of all." Not incidentally, Barry Paris has since chronicled that it was Kerstin Bernadette that had brought Garbo to meet then renowned Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman, his having requested it in order for her to return to the screen in his film The Silence. One of the smaller theaters, one with 133 seats, at Borgavagen 1, is named after Mauritz Stiller, another one with 14 seats named after Julius Jaenzon, cameraman for Svenska Bio. Biografen Victor, with its 364 seats is a permanent tribute to Victor Sjostrom and the 363 ghosts that at anytime may accompany him to, perhaps in search of a new Strindbergian theater known as filmed theater, step into the past. The theater was used for the first screening of "The Gardner", the directorial debut of Victor Sjostrom from 1912, which was banned by the Swedish censor and subsequently thought to be lost untill a surviving copy was found in the library of Congress sixty eight years later. My earlier webpages, which often noted film festivals in Scandinavian, namely Sweden, had mentioned that, "In previous years Cinemateket has screened the films of Mauritz Stiller, it having published with Svenska Filminstituet the volume Morderna motiv-Mauritz Stiller I retrospektiv, under Bo Florin, to accompany the screenings. Bo Florin and the Cinematecket have also published Regi:Victor Sjostrom= Directed by Victor Seastrom with the Svenska Filminstituet." It also noted that at that time that the silent films of Sweden were also being screened on Faro, where resided the Magic Lantern and the dancing skeletons that appear when lights are lowered, possibly representative of the magician-personnas we only for a brief time borrow, identify with, while spectators; Ingmar Bergman had added a screening room to Faro that sat fifteen with a daily showing at 3:00.
As a measure of the myth-image created by Greta Garbo, the life of Greta Louisa Gustafsson and her meeting Swedish Silent Film director Mauritz Stiller has admittedly become a Swedish novel, published by Magdalena Hedlund and Nordstedt in Stockholm. Five years after filming the documentary "Garbo- Berattekien Bakom Breven" for Sveringes Television, Filmmaker Lena Einhorn had read thirty three letters written by Greta Garbo over the course of her career to actress Mimi Pollock. From there, accordingly, Einhorn begins the epilogue to her novel with the words, "I thought I "knew" Greta Garbo". Greta Garbo had kept private idea and emotions that would posthumously become the subject of the novel "Blekingegatan 32" written in 2013, well after the one hundredth birthday of the actress. Prior to that the film "Nina's Journey" ("Nina's Resa"), directed by Lena Einhorn had been screened at the Filmhuset in Stockholm.
During her Photoplay interview, Greta Garbo continued on the film "The Saga of Gosta Berling", remarking that,' Lars Hanson played my leading man...but there were no love scenes, not even a kiss.' About Lars Hanson, after having seen The Saga of Gosta Berling, Lillian Gish wrote, 'When I saw it I thought that he would be the ideal Dimmesdale.' There is a similar earlier account written before her autobiography where she is quoted as having said that she had been told to go into the projection room to watch The Saga of Gosta Berling specificly to decide whether Lars Hanson would be aquirred by the studio to play against her in an adaptation of Hawthorne's novel, "The moment Lars Hanson appeared on the screen, I knew he was the man we wanted."
Mauritz Stiller had in fact directed actor Lars Hanson in his first appearance on screen in the film "The Dagger" (Dolken, 1914), in which he costarred with Lilli Bech. Photographed by Julius Jaenzon with a running time of three quarters of an hour, the film is presently considered lost, with no surviving copies. It was a year during which Mauritz Stiller had also directed actress Karin Molander in her first appearance on screen in the film "Det Roda Tornet", in which she costarred with Carlo Wieth. Photographed by Julius Jaenzon also with running time of three quarters of an hour, the film, coscripted by Mauritz Stiller and Charles Magnusson, is also presumed lost, with no surviving copies. All three of the first films in which Karin Molander was to appear are presumed to be lost, thier including two directed by Victor Sjostrom and photographed by Henrik Jaenzon during 1914, "Half-breed" (Halvblod), scripted by Peter Lykke-Seest in which Molander starred with Greta Pfeil and "Hearts that Meet" (Hjartan som motar), in which Molander starred with Greta Almroth.
"The Fishing Villiage" (Chains, Fiskebyn) was filmed in Sweden during 1920 by Mauritz Stiller and photographer Henrik Jaenzon, it having been written by Bertil Malmberg and having starred Lars Hanson with Karen Molander, Hidur Carlburg, who that year had appeared in "The Witch Woman" (Prastankan), shot in Sweden by Danish Silent Film director Carl Th. Dreyer. The film is presumed to be lost, with no surviving copies which can be screened.
Mauritz Stiller in 1921 had directed Lars Hanson in the film The Emigrants (De landsflyktiga) with Karin Swanstrom, Jenny Hasselquist and Edvin Adolphson. The script was co-written by Stiller with Ragnar Hylten Cavallius, it having had been being an adaptation of the modern novel Zoja, written by Runar Schildt. There also seems to have been an unused screenplay written by Ture Newman. Photographed by Henrik Jaenzon, it was the first film in which Tyra Ryman was to appear. Exhibitor's Trade Review during 1922 listed the film under the title In Self Defence, it also appearing as Guarded Lips. It wrote, "It has a closing of real power. And by power, we mean the final thousand feet...It is a generally sombre role that falls to Miss Hasselquist, but it is played with fine feeling and excellant judgement." In the United States, Motion Picture News Booking Guide during 1922 provided a brief synopsis of the Swedish Biograph film In Self Defence, directed by Mauritz Stiller, "Melodrama centering about a group of Russioan refugees. The Prince and Princess were able to escape at the time of the uprising through aid of young revolutionist under obligation to them. Living in a foreign country, their means dwindles and the Prince becomes heavily indebted to a banker who covets the Princess. She repulsed him but still a situation develops where the Prine dies, the banker is shot and she is accused. Through the assistance of the young revolutionist who has left Russia, she is cleared of the charge and the story closes with a promise of happiness for them."
Interestingly, actor Lars Hanson had been briefly mentioned in the United States in Pantomine magazine during March of 1922, in Out of the Make Up Box, On to the Screen, written by Helen Hancock. "Lars Hanson, who is one of the most versatile actors on the screen, and one of the most versatile artistic breakers of the hearts of the Swedish flapper, is an adept in the art of make-up." An appreciation of the film made by Hanson in Sweden was displayed by photos of Hanson not only as himself, but in greasepaint as men much older than himself, it including stills from Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, Andre the Red and The Lodge Man. Helen Hancock had only months earlier in Pantomine praised Swedish Silent Film star Lars Hanson in the article How About those Viking Ancestors, A little Talk about Swedish Matinee Idols. The photo caption read, "He looks mild- but dare him to do something" It reads, "A star of the legitimate stage, where for a number of years he has has been one of the principal attractions at the Intima Theatre, Stockholm, this virile specimen of manhood is best known for his psychological characterizations." The author then praised Hanson for his doing his own stunts, acting on screen without a stuntman. To highlight this, the magazine The Film Daily later reviewed the performance of Lars Hanson opposite Lillian Gish, "Hanson may lack looks, but is a splendid dramatic actor." During 1929, Photoplay Magazine reviewed the release of The Legend of Gosta Berling, "the only European film appearance of Greta Garbo before she was sold down the river to Hollywood..It need only be said that Hollywood has made The Glamorous One...You won't die in vain even if you miss this one." Greta Garbo was interviewed in Sweden during the filming of Gosta Berling's Saga by for the magazine Filmjournalen (Filmjournal) by Inga Gaate, who had interviewed Mauritz Stiller in 1924, Garbo in the article having praised Stiller for his direction and having referred to him as Moje. Greta Garbo appears on the cover of Filmjournalen 8, bareshouldered, in 1925. Stiller, incidently, had invited Sten Selander, a poet rather than actor, to Rasunda before his having decided upon Lars Hanson for the film. Jenny Hasselquist also appears in the film- Hasselquist was much like modern Swedish actress Marie Liljedahl in that she was a ballerina, her having been introduced to readers in the United States in 1922 through Picture-Play Magazine with a photograph it entitled The Resting Sylph.
Sven Broman has quoted Greta Garbo as having said, 'We sat in a lovely drawing room and Selma Lagerlöf thanked me for my work in Gosta Berling's Saga and she praised Mauritz Stiller...She also had very warm and lovely eyes.' While filming Gosta Berling’s Saga Stiller had said, 'Garbo is so shy, you realize, she's afraid to show what she feels. She's got no technique you know.', to which the screenwriter to the film, Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius, replied, 'But every aspect of her is beautiful.'
To those either fascinated by her, or, bluntly, merely erotically stimulated by her body, one possible reason for this was alighted upon by biographer Raymond Durgnat, "The obverse of Garbo's divinity was her shyness. There were few close ups of her during Gosta Berling's Saga because of her nervous blink." He added that it continued into her filming with G.W. Pabst, who speeded up the camera to adjust for it. "Years after his death Garbo still spoke of him in the present tense: 'Maurice thinks...'" Appearing seperate to the hard cover biography titled Garbo written by John Bainbridge was his work published in magazine form, which was titled, "Garbo's Haunted Path to Stardom. A hypnotic director made over her very soul." In it he gives an account of Mauritz Stiller's first session with Greta Garbo at Rasunda, where he asked her to act in front of the camera, Stiller having been quoted as having said, "Have you no feelings. Do you know nothing of sadness and misery? Act, miss, act." Stiller instructed that there be close ups of Garbo shot and this is thought by Bainbridge to be the reason Stiller remarked upon Garbo's shyness. An eerie not arose in 1962 as the author of a volume entitled The Stars claimed John Bainbridge to be "Garbo's best biographer". The author of the now out of print volume used a quote acquired by Bainbridge from "a woman who workded at Svenska Filmindustri, particularly, "Stiller was always teaching and preaching, Greta solemnly listening and learning. I never saw anyone more earnest and eager to learn. With the hypnotic power he seemed to have over her he could make her do extraordinary things. But we had little idea that he was making over her soul." The author portrays Greta Garbo in retirement, adding "Perhaps the last sentence is hyperbolic but the essence of the reminiscence is true." More eerie still is the foregone conclusion that Greta Garbo had sealed herself into a crypt of retirement, the article published as though her comeback was out of the question, despite the amount of truth in that there may have been- a photo of Greta Garbo, middle adged, perhaps thin with her facial skin drawn a little tighter than in most photos, with dark sunglasses, the author adding, "There is reason to believe that Garbo knows her career was mismanaged, and that from time to time the knowledge still disturbs her."
During its filming Greta Garbo and Mona Martenson had stayed in the same hotel together. The beauty of Mona Martenson is miraculous, a deep beauty that can only be seen as wonderous. In The Story of Greta Garbo, a rare interview with Ruth Biery published in Photoplay during 1928, Garbo relates of Martenson's being in Hollywood and of her planning to later return to Sweden. Karin Swanstrom, who had already directed her first film, also appears in The Saga of Gosta Berling. Gloria Swanson, when asked what she enjoyed in literature by Picture Play magazine during February of 1926 replied, "Just now I am greatly interested in Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerlof. I first read it in the hospital in France during my illness and brought it home with me.”
By the time Stiller had begun co-writing the script to Gosta Berling's Saga, he and Selma Lagerlöf had begun to disagree in regard to how her novels were to be adapted. Lagerlöf had asked that Stiller be removed from the shooting of the film before the script had been completed, her having as well tried to acquire the rights to the film to vouchsafe its integrity as an adaptation. During the filming Stiller went further; he then included a scene that had not appeared in either the novel or the film's script. After Victor Sjostrom had directed several stories based on the writing of Selma Lagerlof, while in the United States he had been interviewed by the publication Scenario Bulletin Digest and had seemed to broach the subject of film adaptation that had brought a rift between Mauritz Stiller and Selma Lagerlof, "'Some great works of literature should not be attempted in motion pictures yet,' says Victor Seastrom, famous European director now with Goldwyn. He says further that one should not try to film a masterpiece unless the picture can be made as fine as the book." Iris Barry briefly reviewed the film by Maurtiz Stiller in 1926, "In Sweden, the creative impulse has not some much died down as been bled away" and from that context sees a film that, "shows a gloomy and unusual subject, full of sincere passion and conflict and with the fine somber, photographic quality peculiar to the Scandinavian cinema." Forsyth Hardy, author of Scandinavian Film, relates that Mauritz Stiller’s adaptation of the Lagerlof novel was thought to be plagued by “obscure and arbitrary ellipses, of melancholy effects and of the absence of a convincing psychological arquement”, an evaluation which Hardy skirts by pointing out the exigencies of the novel and its structure when being translated into a screenplay and by praising Stiller as a sensitive director expressing “deep feeling”
In their section on Foreign Films during June 1924, Motion Picture Classic magazine allowed a view of the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film while it was taking place. "It is noteworthy that while the Swedish film out put is small in comparision with other producing centers, almost all of the Swedish films are of a very high quality." Of "The Saga of Gosta Berling" it added, "The quaint costumes of the day have been excellantly reproduced and the charming backgrounds have been faithfully reconstructed."
There is an account of Mauritz Stiller having introduced Greta Garbo to author Selma Lagerlof and an account of Lagerlof having complimented Garbo on her beauty and her "sorrowful eyes." In particular, Sven Broman has quoted Greta Garbo as having said, "We sat in a lovely drawing room and Selma Lagerlof thanked me for my work in Gosta Berling's Saga and she praised Mauritz Stiller...She also had very warm and lovely eyes." Although far from being a playwright or sceenwriter, Selma Lagerlof flourished as a novelist during the silent film era, despite many of her novels having had having remained unfilmed, including the earlier Invisible Links (1894), The Queens of Kungahalla (1899) and The Miracles of the Antichrist (1897). After her contemporary, Swedish poet Gustaf Froding, had died in 1911, a year during which Lagerlof had published Liljecrona's Home (Liljecrona's Hem), Lagerlof went on to publish Korkalen (Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness, one of the most important novels included in the screen adaptations of the silent era as it appeared on the screen in 1920 directed by Swedish director Victor Sjostrom, in 1911, and Trolls and Men (Troll och manniskor. During 1918 she included the novel The Outcast (Bannlyst) and published a second volume to Trolls and Men in 1921. It was during the filming of Lagerloff's The Phantom Carriage that an ostrich farm that had fallen into desuetude in Rasunda was converted into the Svenska Filmindustri studio, and with that named Filmstaden. Lagerlof wrote the autobiographical novel Marbacka in two parts, her concluding the volume in 1930 and publishing The Diary of Selma Lagerlof in 1932. It is only fitting that Peter Cowie mentions the authors F.E. Sillanpa (Finland), Halldor Laxness (Iceland) and Sigrid Undset (Norway) as being contemporary to Lagerlof by complementing her work with literature that depicted nature as pantheistic while being a context, perhaps anthromorphicly, within which human action was to transpire. /br>
It had been Mauritz Stiller that had visited Selma Lagerlof in Dalecari to discuss the filming of the novel "Jerusalem". Sjostrom had in fact hoped to film "Liljecrona's Home" rather than "Jerusalem". Victor Sjostrom had met Selma Lagerlof when she had invited him to Flaun during January of 1917. It is only with beaming delight that modern readers encounter the writing of Leif Furhammer, which chronicles that as early as 1910, Selma Lagerlof had become a shareholder with, among others, Queen Dowager Sofia in the albeit short lived film company Victoria, which had filmed her newly bought estate in Marbacka for publicity purposes. it has been seen that Victoria evenly merged with Hasselblad. Vladimir Petric, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, reverberates the consensus of modern film critics in his outline Visual/Analytical History of the Silent Cinema (1895-1930) with the proposition that Golden age of Swedish Silent Film is refracted in the works of Selma Lagerlof through ‘the evocation of atmosphere in Scandinavia through the use of outdoor photography and contextual use of national folklore and legend”, folklore and legend being implicit it nature and landscape prior to its use as metaphor. Interestingly enough Petrie not only for shadows the later term transnational cinema with the one word use of “national”, but it is fascinating that Petric tersely and succinctly adds that analysis of the film should “contrast the realism of Sjostrom with the romantic exoticism of Stiller’s approach to legend”, implying not only the the two directors were not interchangeable while blindly following each other, but that they simultaneously autuer filmmakers.
In her article "Souvenirs from the Selma Lagerlof silent film adaptations: how beautiful book editions and prestige cinema collaborated in Swedish visual culture around 1920", Anne Bachmann, Stockholm University, explains what I might refer to as extratextural discourse when looking at the cinema programme booklet, her "placing them within the double context of Swedish publishing and cinema culture", ie visual cutlure. Bachmann points out that Florin and Fullerton both mention "Film-Illustrated Editions" of the works of Selma Lagerlof, ie. "joint cross-media endeavors". A film illustated edtion of "The Girl From Marshcroft" appeared in 1918, and a film illustrated edition of "Herr Arnes Penninger" in 1919.
After The Saga of Gosta Berling was shot, Greta Garbo briefly returned to Sweden to the Royal Dramatic Theater before being brought to Berlin for its premiere- Stiller was also with Greta Garbo for the premiere of “The Joyless Street”. In his biography Hollywood Rajah, The Life and Times of Louis B. Mayer, film critic Bosley Crowther gives an interesting account of how Mauritz Stiller and Greta Garbo were brought to Hollywood. “In Berlin he was shown some pictures...Among them one was made by Mauritz Stiller, a Swedish director whom Victor Seastrom had urged him to meet. It was full of snow and reindeer. Mayer said he would like to see what Stiller could do with people: he wasn’t interested in hiring reindeer this trip. Stiller has some call the next day and say he would like to show Mayer his latest film ‘Saga of Gosta Berling’ from a novel by Selma Lagerlof. They met at a screening room. There Mayer discovered Stiller was a tall, lantern-jawed man who could speak English. Early along a little actress , Mona Martenson, came on and Mayer made some comment about her. Stiller merely grunted a reply.”
Rilla Page Palmborg, in her biography of Greta Garbo, The Private Life of Greta Garbo, also includes Mauritz Stiller as being the decisive factor in Greta Garbo being noticed in the United States, describing Mayer as “making a trip throughout Europe on lookout for new talent. The night he saw Gosta Berling’s Saga’ he saw photography and new directorial tricks that had never been done before. He wanted to see the genius who directed the fine picture. He wanted to take him back to Hollywood and introduce him to the American screen.” Swedish journalist Rilla Page Palmborg reappeared in print during 1937 in the periodical Hollywood but only under the byline "As Told to Rilla Page Palmborg by Eugene Nifford. In the article "In Garbo's Love Life", the Swedish actor Nifford claims not only to have introduced Greta Garbo and Einar Hanson, but to have been with them in Berlin, implying that he had gone with them to Constantinople to film with Mauritz Stiller. His account is that Einar Hanson had told him that Mayer had wanted a contract with Hanson and that Hanson included the condition that he would only sign if Garbo were to be part of it.
Garbo was to make a second film for G.W. Pabst, but declined. Before travelling to Turkey to film "Odalisque from Smolna", Greta Garbo returned to Stockholm, appearing on the Swedish stage in the play "The Invisible Man", written by Par Lagerkvist.
Journalist Rilla Page Palmberg, author of The Private Life of Greta Garbo, chronicles the abandoned endeavor of Mauritz Stiller, Greta Garbo and Einar Hanson. "Greta will never forget the excitement of getting located in that strange city of Constatinople. She could hardly wait to explore the narrow, crooked streets and the open shops that bordered them. There was a delay in getting started with the script. Mr. Stiller was not satisfied with the script. Much of it had to be rewritten. Greta was left to amuze herself." The biographer notes that co-star Einar Hanson was growing a beard required for the film and may travelled little with Garbo. The Story of Greta Garbo, published in Photoplay Magazine during 1928 in three installments is an interview between Garbo and journalist Ruth Biery, "Garbo in her own words" and apparently is the only one of its kind. It provides an account of Constantinople similar to the one given by Rilla Page Palmborg, one from Garbo herself, "I liked to be alone in Constantinople. I went to the bazaars. I had a guide with me. They are so big, you could never find your way out of them. I was so restless. It was a big dissappointment not to have the money for our picture. I walked around the old city myself mostly." There are accounts of there having been location footage and camera tests shot with Greta Garbo and Einar Hanson that since have been lost. There would be a letter from Greta Garbo sent to Vera Schmiterlow from Constantinople.Stiller had recieved several offers to direct in the United States for M.G.M. during the autumn of 1924 with a prospective contract having been drawn up for his consideration before his travelling to Constantinople in November. By January, Stiller had returned to Berlin to hopelessly find a new backer for the film -in essence instead of filming Garbo in Turkey, he brought her to the United States. During 1933, Photoplay Magazine tried to peer into the shadowy existence of off-screen Greta Garbo with an article purporting that Mauritz Stiller and Greta Garbo could have been married entitled "Did Garbo Marry Stiller?" Journalist Axel Ingwassen wrote, "That they might have been married in Constantinople is possible. Marriage in Sweden requires formal announcement in church and newspapapers. A secret trip to the altar would have been difficult." The article settled for conceding that they were unquestionaly friends. Mary Johnson starred for silent film director Mauritz Stiller and cameraman Julius Jaenzon in the film Gunnar Hedes Saga in which she starred with Pauline Brunius, Stina Berg, and Einar Hansson. The screenplay was co-written by Stiller and Alma Soderhjelm and it is what appears to be her only screenplay. The screenplay has been intrumental in saving the film; the present copy of "The Blizzard" directed by Mauritz Stiller is incomplete, with only half of the film's footage having survived. As another example of film restoration, intertitles from the original script have been used to piece together a more complete copy of the film. Archivist Jon Wengstrom attributes the lack oof a complete copy of the film to any of its having fallen into obscurity. The film was an adaptation of the novel Herrgarssagen. Forsyth Hardy on Gunnar Hedes Saga writes, "Again there is a distinctive combination of a powerfully dramatic story and a magnificent setting in the northern landscape." On the direction of Mauritz Siller, Hardy writes that the film had "a visual harmony, absent from some of the earilier films where the transition frominterior to exterior was too abrupt."When reviewed in the United States during 1924 while screened as The Blizzard although the film was reported as an adaptation of "The Story of a Country House", the review featured two stills and the subtitle "Swedish Production is Entertaining."; it ran, "This is highly dramatic and interesting, with several excellant scenes of reindeer swimming across a wide stream and following their leader blindly. The stampede is most realistic and well filmed. The rest of the film is quite ordinary and drags near the end." A second review from the United States seemed all too similar, "unusual entertainment through a strong dramatic story. A bit gruesome but splendidly acted...Drama bordering on tragedy...It is unusual in theme and from a dramatic standpoint, a thoroughly strong and forceful theme." The reindeer stampede was hailed for its "genuine thrills" which were "splendidly pictorial" but from that point onward in the plotline, the story was said to "drag slightly." and its interest said to begin to disappear. Motion Picture News Booking Guide in the United States provided a brief synopsis of The Blizzard, directed by Mauritz Stiller during 1924, "Theme: Drama of a broken romance which nearly culminates in tragedy when a youth drives a herd of reindeer across the white wastes. The frightened animals stampede. The romance is renewed." While the direction of Mauritz Stiller was seen as "unusually good; displays great sense of dramatic values","Mary Johnson is pleasing though rather lacking in expression." The periodical Motion Picture News, busy reviewing other films in the Fox program, defferred their review of the film by claiming that it had already by reviewed by the periodical The National Board of Review, who were "extravagent in their praises of this drama, describing at legnth the remarkable spectacle showing thousands of reindeer in terrifying stampede in the northern snow wastes."
Einar Hanson appeared as Gunnar Hede on the cover of Filmnyheter during 1923; it is an issue in which there is an article that reads "Mary Johnson, var Svenska Filmingenue framfor kameran". One source, perhaps resource, of beautiful material on the film is the Svenska Filminstituet Biblioteket
On reviewing Mauritz Stiller's “Sir Arne's Treasure/Snows of Destiny” in 1922, Exceptional Photoplays wrote, "Mary Johnson, if she has a chance to become known on the American screen, will show us what it is to be lovely without being vapid, with the magic of a child and the magic of a woman- tenderness and sweetness that is not chiefly a product of simpering smiles and fluffy curls." Forsyth Hardy looks at the entire film, " Herr Arne's Penger was essentially visual in expression. Mauritz Stiller and Gustav Molander, who collaborated in writing the scenario, appeared to have absorbed the values of the Lagerlof story and translated them imaginatively into film form. The film had dramatic balance. It also had a visual harmony absent from some of the earlier films where the transition from interior to exterior was too abrupt." Kwaitkoski, in his volume Swedish Film Classics, writes, "Stiller and his scriptwriter Molander simplified the meandering plot of the story, making the narration more consistent and building up tension in a logical way justified by the development of events." Mrs. Frances Taylor Patterson, instructor in photoplay composition, Columbia University, in 1921 wrote the New York Times, "Since it is based upon a story by Selma Lagerlof, it cannot be seen to be a photplay in the purest sense of the word- it was not composed in the language of the screen as was "The Golem", "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and "Passion". It is an adaptation rather than an original photoplay. Nevertheless, I see a production which approaches a more nearly to consummate art. Pictorial beauty, historionic beauty and dramatic beauty are constantly sustained through all the scenes." Interestingly, Leif Furhammarr sees the intertiles of Mauritz Stiller's film to be diligently faithful to the novel by Selma Lagerlof, if not extrapolated directly. The photographers of the film were Julius Jaenzon and Gustaf Boge. Author Peter Cowie sees the film as "the greatest work in Stiller's career".
Forsyth Hardy, in a 1955 issue of the periodical Cine Technician, mentions, but only in passing, Gustaf Molander directing a color remake of Mauritz Stiller's film "Sir Arne's Treasure". The film starred acresses Ulla Jacobsson and Bibi Andersson.
While Greta Garbo was finishing the The Temptress, Stiller, having written the script before the script department had reworked its plot, had begun shooting Hotel Imperial (1927, eight reels) for Paramount; she went to the preview of the film. Greta Garbo had said, 'Stiller was getting his bearings and coming into his own. I could see that he was getting his chance.' The conversation between the two actresses related in retrospect by Pola Negri may almost seem eerie, her account beginning with a telephone call from Mauritz Stiller, "May I be permitted to bring along a friend? She does not know many people here yet. Greta Garbo." After dinner Negri gave Garbo advice in creating for herself a unique personna, something individual, her going so far as to say, "Never be aloof or private" with Garbo adding the rejoinder without noting that they were both actresses that had worked abroad that they were in fact both remaining private while in Hollywood and Negri telling Garbo that she would soon have to film without Stiller. Negri writes, "She held her head high. A look of intense interest was spreading over that perfectly chiseled face, making it the one thing that one would not have thought possible: even more beautiful."
In a letter to Lars Saxon, Greta Garbo wrote, "Stiller's going to start working with Pola Negri. I'm still very lonely, not that I mind, except occaisionally." Motion Picture Classic gives a jarring account of Stiller's new assignment, "It's just one director after another with Pola Negri...And the blame has rested equally on the mediocre stories given her and on the directors. The latter have failed to understand her...So Pola, according to my spies on the Coast, will give Mauritz Stiller a chance to understand her moods and make the best of them. The tempermental swedish director has been given a verbal barrage of bouquets by the other foreigners who handle the megaphone. Practically all of them proclaim him the master of them all." It went on with a severity to explain that the director and star were forever joined by their being tempermental, and that that in fact was the reason Stiller was dismissed from The Temptress, it claiming "maybe it needs temperment to combant temperment." Paramount, having had been being reluctant to allow Stiller to direct, at the insistence of the producer relented and granted his artistic license and freedom to create with the other branches of the studio. "He wrote the scenario for the film in nine days." Biographer John Bainbridge quotes Lars Hanson as having said, "I saw Stiller when he was ready to shoot Hotel Imperial', Lars Hanson has recalled, "He was bursting with energy. He showed me the script of some of the scenes he was preparing to do- mass scenes of people in a square. According to the script, that was to take three weeks of shooting. Stiller did it in three days." The biographer continues later by writing that after Hotel Imperial Stiller told Lars Hanson he then intended, for financial reasons and for commercial success to make only one more film in the United States. Greta Garbo had intimated words very much to the same effect, "'I'm not staying here much longer,' she told the Hansons when they talked about leaving Hollywood, 'Moje and I will go home soon.'"
Of Stiller's camerawork in the film, Kenneth MacGowan wrote, 'Hung from an overhead trolley, his camera moved through the lobby and the four rooms on each side of it.' In a brief review of the film R.E. Sherwood complimented Stiller on his use of camera postion and shot structure, but while praising Stiller as a director and the film's "visual qualities", which included "trick lighting" among its camera effects, which according to the author harken back to earlier "photo-acrobatics" from silent film director F.W. Murnau, Sherwood sees a lack of depth or meaning in the film's screenplay or its message as an organic whole in its having moment.
Whether or not the United States can be viewed as imperial, as it is as seen by Dianne Negra, she writes about Pola Negri's character in Stiller's film, her almost connecting thematically the difference between Negri's role in the film and earlier vamp roles with the film's ending and its reuniting of Negri and her lover in a plotline similar to that of Victor Sjostrom's The Divine Woman (En Gudomlig Kvinna). 'The film closes with its most emphatic equation of romance and war as a close up of a kiss between Anna and Almay fades to the images of marching troops.' Mauritz Stiller, when invited to a private screening of Hotel Imperial for Max Reinhardt had said, 'Thank you. But if not for Pola, I could not have made it.'
Photoplay Magazine reviewed the film favorably, "Here is a new Pola Negri in a film story at once absorbing and splendidly directed...Actually, "Hotel Imperial" is another variation of the heroine at the mercy of the invading army and beloved by the dashing spy. This has been adroitly retold here, untill it assumes qualities of interest and supspense...Miss Negri at last has a role that is ideal..."Hotel Imperial" places Stiller at the foremost of our imported directors." Motion Picture Magazine reviewed the film with, "It accomplishes almost to perfection those photographic effects which directors have been striving for; and so simply and directly that one is unconscious of the freakishness of the camerawork in one's absorption in the dramatic unfolding of the plot, with rapid succession...It is a smooth, eloquent tale told in an entirely new language- a thrilling language of pictures...Though one is ever conscious that it is essentially a war story, and the menace of wartime is (constantly) present, there are no actual battle pictures. It is almost altogether a story of the reactions of individuals to war." Motion Picture News during 1927 looked at the view, "The story could be stronger, yet its weakness is never manifested so expertly has the director handled it. The plot disntegrates toward the finish principally because it is so difficult to keep it so compact all the way. The story centers around The Hotel Imperial...Pola Negri plays the servant with splendid feeling and imagination." Under its section on Theme, the magazine summarized, "Drama of intrigue and decepetion revolving around hotel maid outwitting commander of army and finding happiness with her bethrothed." In The Negri Legend, A new view of Pola Negri written by one who really knows her, Helen Carlise of Motion Picture Magazine wrote, "In Hotel Imperial we see a world figure who having sufferred much, having learned much, can with her great gift of artistry portray the soul of a Woman." When reviewed by Film Daily it was deemed that, "Although the vehicle does not offer her anything particularly fine, Pola Negri makes a fairly unimportant role outstanding...There is ready made exploitation in the star's name and the mention of her latest production." Paul Rotha writes, "Not only was it the comeback of Miss Negri, but it was a triumph of a star in a role that asked no sympathy." Paul Rotha extensively quotes Mr. L'Estrange Fawcett, but because The Film till Now is out of print, the present author will requote it here, "Some may remember the use of the travelling camera in Hotel Imperial...the stage accomodating the hotel was one of the largest in existence, and eight rooms were built complete in every detail...Suspended above the set were rails along which the camera mounted on a little carriage moved at the director's will. Scenes (shots) could be taken of each room above from every point of view...to experiment with angle photography, representing impressions of scenes taken from the point of view of a character watching the others...the story could be filmed in proper sequence. In Hotel Imperial, an attempt was made to build up cumulative dramatic effect following the characters swiftly from one room to another by means of several cameras and rolling shots." For those who may have seen the subjective camera of Carl Dreyer in Vampyr, the quote is intriguing.
Stiller also directed Pola Negri, and Clive Brook, in Barbed Wire (Ned med vapen 1927, seven reels). Motion Picture Magazine wrote, "Again in Barbed Wire, Pola Negri proves herself one of our great screen artists. It would seem that Pola is to match the European pictures in which we first knew her, after her appearing in countless poor American productions." Barbed Wire was adapted from the novel The Woman of Knockaloe by Sir Hall Caine. Author and curator Jan-Christopher Horak writing about scriptwriter Lajos Biro in Film History chronologically follows Barbed Wire with a script directed by Victor Fleming, "His next film was to be The Man Who God Forgot (released as The Way of All Flesh, 1927), again to be directed by Mauritz Stiller, which went into preproduction as Emil Jannings' first American film. Pommer and Stiller both disagreed with studio executives about the script." This, according to the authorj, lead to Pommer's resignation and to Stiller's dismissal from the studio. When Stiller directed the actress Pola Negri again, with Einar Hanson in The Woman on Trial (En kvinnas bekannelse 1927, six reels), Photoplay reviewed the film as "An unusually fine story and one that offers Pola Negri a chance for penetrating character study. Not for children." Motion Picture News reviewed the film as being "well-suited" for Pola Negri, "Having done pretty well by Pola Negri with Hotel Imperial, Mauritz Stiller takes her in tow and guides her through a likely melodrama- one in which she makes a strong bid for sympathy...The director uses the cutback method in building the plot. but he gets away from the obvious plan by refraining from flashing to the woman...the characters are sharply contrasted and as the cutbacks develop it is easy to guess...it is logically told and builds progressively. Miss Pola Negri gives a sincere performance and succeeds in establishing a sympathetic bond with her audience. The late Einar Hanson delivers some elegant pathos as the sick lovKer." During 1927, Film Daily foreshadowed, quietly and not ominously enough, that, "Immediately following The Woman of Trail, Pola Negri is planning a vacation trip to Europe." It had earlier that year reported that "Cortez Opposite Negri, Ricardo Cortez will play opposite Pola Negri in Confession." A month later it reported, "Pola Negri began work yesterday on A Woman on Trial with Mauritz Stiller directing and Ricardo Cortez and Lido Mannetti in the lead roles" That year Paramount advertised Negri as "The Empress of Emotions". Negri was in Paris during the early Spring while Stiller was viewing the rushes and working on the cutting. It was reported that upon her return from Europe that she would make one more picture for Paramount before filming and already decided film slated to be filmed with Rowland V. Lee- it was elaborated that, "Although she is now a princess by virtue of her recent marraige, Pola Negri will not retire from the screen." She had by then wedded Prince Devani.
The previous year Pola Negri had starred in the films The Crown of Lies (Buchowetski, five reels) and Good and Naughty (Malcom St. Clair, six reels). In her autobiography, Memoirs of a Star, Pola Negri describes her first meeting with Greta Garbo.'To tell the truth, I was also very curious about the girl...She smiled wistfully, as we shook hands...Through dinner she was resolutely silent...', her then giving an account of their conversation and of her having given Garbo advice. There is also an account of her attending a dinner party that Pola Negri had "given in her honor" "She had her hair waived and arranged in a novel style resembling a half-open parasol. Her gown for the occasion was equally sensational, being a silk green creation that had been to the cleaner's and shrunk so that the hem was at her knees." All four films that Stiller had begun directing at Paramount had been a collaboration between him and cameraman Bert Glennon. It was through Stiller that Greta Garbo became acquainted with Emil Jannings, who in turn had brought Garbo together with director Jacques Feyder, with whom Garbo often met with socially. Motion Picture News during 1927 published a photograph of "a little Sunday afternoon group of celebrities" in front of the home of Emil Jannings, the group consisting of Mauritz Stiller, F.W. Murnau, and Jannings. That year the trade magazine reported that Emil Jannings' second starring film for Paramount, tentatively titled Hitting for Heaven, "was started last Monday under the direction of Mauritz Stiller."
The Street of Sin (Syndens gata 1928, seven reels) starring Fay Wray and Olga Barclanova was begun by Stiller and finished by the director Joseph von Sternberg. It would be Stiller's last attempt to film in the United States before returning to Sweden in late 1927 and presently there are no copies of the film. Motion Picture Magazine during 1927 reported that, "Maurice Stiller, who was slated to direct Jannings in his first picture, will not be given that pleasure. Stiller is to handle megaphone work on Pola Negri's next production." Kenneth MacGowan writing about the film notes, 'The film was more distinguished for its players-Jannings and Olga Barclanova- than for its script by Joseph Sternberg. Paul Rotha wrote, "Taking shots through hanging iron chains did not establish the atmosphere of place, although it may have created pretty pictorial compositions. Sternberg seems lodged in this gully of pictorial values. He has no control over his dramatic feelings (Street of Sin and very little idea of the filmic psychology of any scene that he shoots. He has, however some feeling for the use of women. His contrast of Betty Copson and Olga Baclanova in the latter film was good." (It might be asked if this criticism is lacking in regard to the symbolic scenework of Ingmar Bergman, and that if his "pretty pictorial compositions" have been given just enough dramatic ambiguity to become symbolic in their being arbitary, a personal obscurity accepted as having layers of meaning.) Sternberg's work on Stiller's film has been credited as having secured his position as the writer and director of the silent films The Last Command (1928) with Evelyn Brent and The Case of Lena Smith (1929) with Esther Ralston.Mauritz Stiller had visited Paris in early-mid 1928 to arrange a filming of an American film shot on location.
The death of Mauritz Stiller is more frequently encountered when discovering the reaction of Greta Garbo, whom had heard of his passing while on the set with Nils Asther. Sjostrom, who had been with Stiller the night before and had telegrammed Garbo, described his last time seeing the then ill Stiller after his release from the hospital, "Then Stiller got desperate. he grabbed my arm in despair and would not let me go. 'No,no', he cried. 'I haven't told him what I must tell him!' The nurse separated us and pushed me toward the door. I tried to quiet and comfort him, saying that he could tell me tommorow. But he go more and more desperate. His face was wet with tears. And he said, 'I want to tell you a story for a film. It will be a great film. It is about real human beings, and you are the only one who can do it.' I was so moved I didn't know what to say. 'Yes, yes, Moje,' was all I could stammer. 'I will be with you the first thing in the morning and then you can tell me.' I left him crying in the arms of the nurse. There was no morning." Close Up magazine marked the director's passing, "The death of Mauritz Stiller has been a genuine loss to the whole cinema world. The great Swedish director, poineer of the artistic film, did more for the screen than people will realize. While others were despairing the lowly medium, when it was given over exclusively to vulgarity akin to that of the penny novelellete, Stiller was froming his conception of a great art, developing its potenialities, seein7g far into the future. He was a great artist, working with profound care and intensity. His intensity may have been impart responsible for his early demise." Journalist Harriet Parsons goes beyond having written that Stiller hated John Gilbert as she added a tragic chord to her account of the silent era, much like biographer John Bainbridge, she quotes Greta Garbo by listing an unknown source. Parsons describes an anonymous woman during 1931 in Modern Screen Magazine, "She holds herself irrevocably and inexcusably accountable. One day a woman friend was visiting her at home. Garbo insisted on playing over and over a collection of melancholy, Swedish records. 'Why do you play that sad music?' asked the friend. 'It must depress you frightfully.' 'Yes,' said Garbo. 'it reminds me of the one I hurt- one I murdered. But that is good. It is right that I should remember.' No one else in the world would dreamed saying that Greta Garbo killed Mauritz Stiller. No one could possibly hold her responsible that a man died because she did not love him."
"As Bengt-Idestam Almquist, the distinguished Swedish critic remarked: 'As a director, Stiller was a Svengali, a torturing devil beyond compare, but he was loved by his sacrificial victims because he produced results' ". (Peter Cowie)
The Exhibitor's Herald during 1928 announced Mauritz Stiller having died in Stockholm on the eighth of November, "He had been a patient there for a month, suffering from pleurisy". As late as 1933, after the Greta Garbo image had been established, Axel Ingwerson published an article in Photoplay titled, "Did Garbo Marry Stiller?" With the subtitle "Is there any basis I fact for this strange rumor?" While describing Mauritz Stiller, Ingwerson included, "The original story was that Garbo had married Stiller in Constantinople under a mutual pledge of secrecy. That Garbo, furthermore, would have kept the marriage a secret forever if she hadn't found it necessary to put forward her claim to Stiller's estate." Biographer Fredrick Sands quotes Victor Sjostrom as having said, "For a certain time at least Stiller was in love with her and she with him. They told me so themselves." I have had Victor Sjostrom quoted as having said, "At one time, Moje was without any doubt in love with Garbo and she with him." and that she had reiterated that if ever she were to love anyone, it would be Mauritz Stiller, the director who had taken her to see her first movie in the United States, "The Lady Who Lied" (1925, eight reels), starring Lewis Stone and Nita Naldi.
Among the events of 1924 had been a visit by silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to Stockholm, Sweden. The two had that year appeared on the September cover of Motion Picture Magazine in the United States. There are accounts that while in Sweden, Pickford and Fairbanks sailed on the small vessel The Loris with Greta Garbo and Mauritz Stiller, their departing from Lilla Skuggan, and before arriving in Saltsjobaden, their passing where Charles Magnusson lived at Skarpo. As he was wont to do, biographer John Bainbridge quoted an unknown source in order to indirectly quote Garbo, possibly lifted from a fan magazine, or perhaps actually from a personal interview, "Content with her little circle of friends, Garbo resolutely refused to anything to do with the conventional social life of the film colony. When Mary Picford invited her to a dinner in honor of Lord Montbatten...Miss Garbo declined with thanks. Miss Pickford then wrote Miss garbo a long letter...This pleading missive brought no results. 'It would be the same old thing,' Garbo said to one of ther friends. 'Strangers staring at me and talking about me. I would be expected to dance and I despair dancing. I can't do it.'" Marion Davies laso gave a similar dinner for Lord Montbatten where Garbo also declined her invitation.
Victor Sjostrom as Seastrom
In the United States, Exceptional Photoplays, in an article titled The Swedish Photoplays distinguished the film of Svenska Bio for their "quality of composition" and "imaginative presentation" by introducing Mortal Clay, "Costume plays are often unconvincing on the screen because they fail to reproduce period atmosphere, but Mortal Clay (banal in nothing but its name) has succeded in creating for us the spirit of the Twelfth century...The plot is dramaticlly sound and absorbingly interesting. But the real claim to greatness which the picture posesses lies in the splendid composition of its scenes and incomparable lovliness of its lighting effects. There is a certain architectural magnificence in the picture". The magazine noted that Victor Seastrom was both actor and director and commended a "fineness of shading" in his performance. In the United States, during 1923 it was reported that the Sjostrom film Mortal Clay was screened by Little Theaters Inc, "an organization recently formed to boost the artistic standards of motion pictures." (Film Daily). That year the films Sjostrom had made in Sweden were becoming more widely reviewed in the United States- in an article that compared the no longer new art form of film to painting, Majorie Mayne, in The New Masters published in Pictures and PictureGoer, wrote, "And the director went to picture galleries for his data; Victor Seastrom reincarnated Renaisance art in his Love's Crucible, scene after scene of which remains an unforgettable memory, and in Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness, pictures of a different, thoroughly compelling type abounded." During January of 1922, Victor Sjostrom was already known in the United States as Victor Seastrom. Apparently he was then the object of the desire of the female spectator, which is reflected in the extratextual discourse of Helen Hancock, in Pantomine Magazine, who wrote, "We have kept Victor Seastrom untill the last. Because perhaps Mr. Seastrom might not like to be called a matinee idol- leaving that phrase to younger and perhaps handsomer men. But he is one, just the same...Of the heavy, rugged type, portraying men of strong emotions and virile personalities." She claims he was one of the foremost directors and a pioneer, and then compliments him on being an actor of the legitimate stage. Director Victor Sjostrom had left Sweden for Hollywood in 1922 upon the completion of the film The Hellship. The title of the book on Victor Sjostrom written by Bo Florin is fitting; the idea that Victor Sjostrom's coming to Hollywood to film would entail some type of transition and transformation was prefigured in Scenario Bulletin Digest, the Open Forum between the Writer and Studio, published by the Universal Scenario Corporation in 1923 when Sjostrom had first signed his contract with Goldwyn and the need to keep his artistic integrity was formulated by Sjostrom himself before he had toured the studio. The article illustrates the theme of Florin's book on Sjostrom by outlining the expectations of Sjostrom and Goldwyn, "The arrangement gives him a free hand in the artistic making of photodramas. The assurance that Mr. Seastrom will be unhampered in the development of his art is one of the most significant features of his connection with Goldwyn." The magazine quoted Sjostrom at a time when he had just only arrived in Hollywood and it would have been suprising that the quote had not come to the attention of Bengt Forslund, a biographer who had chronicled Sjostrom's transitions while becoming a revered, hallowed director of Swedish Silent Film and later through letters Sjostrom had sent while in Hollywood. "'No definite plans have been made as of yet,' he said, but I am to make pictures in the best way I am able, to satisfy myself as nearly as possible. That is all there is to it.'" He is again quoted,"The most striking attribute of American made motion pictures,' he continued, 'is their humanness. It is my hope that I will be able to develop this remarkable quality of humanness on the screen. It is this quality, i think that has made the popularity os so many American pictures abroad.'" It then profiled the director with, "Mr. Seastrom, who is also one of the most noted actors on the screen, has not decided, he said, whether or not he will appear in his productions in this country...Although Mr. Seastrom's fame has been more closely associated in this country with the grimmest sort of screen dramas. beautifully photographed, (some of his double exposure effects, notably in The Stroke of Midnight, never have been equalled) he has had striking success in his country with comedies." The Film Daily during January of 1923 announced that Victor Sjostrom had signed with Metro: Victor Sjostrom had become Victor Seastrom, "Seastrom under the contract signed is understood to have the right to act in as well as direct his productions." Three months later it announced that Paul Bern was engaged to write continuity for The Master of Man. While noting that Name the Man had not been Sjostrom's Photoplay, Bo Florin records that while in Hollywood, where the techniques of Griffith and Ince had differed as to the details included in a shooting script, Sjostrom created from behind the camera, Paul Bern having had drawn the storyline into its treatment. "When compRing the script to the film, it becomes clear that these details consist of stylistic devices which Sjostrom in Sweden had been used to including at the script stage, but which are now added afterwards. Thus, Name the Man contains a dissolve combined with a cut across the line which shows exactly the same space from the reverse angle. While the dissolve remains quite conventional in its function, bridging a spatial transition, it's combination with the violation of the 180 rule creates an interesting effect." Oddly, as the studio was using Seastrom's name before filming had completed to advertise that "Golddwyn is doing big things.", the publication added to the extratextural discourse with "Americanizing Sweden by Films, Victor Seastrom, in a recent address stated that Sweden is fast becoming Americanized by American motion pictures." Early in June of 1923, it tersely reported, "Victor Seastrom has started shooting on Master of Man and later that month, if only to allow itself to be more concise, reported, "Edith Erastoff, a popular Swedish dramatic star, and wife of Victor Seastrom is en route to the Pacific Coast to join her husband who is Master of Man for Goldwyn." Exhibitor's Trade Review in March, 1923 reported similarly, "Another recent addition was the signing of Victor Seastrom, director and actor with Swedish Biograph to come to this country and direct productions for it. hat his first picture will be is not known." In April of that year it printed that he had selected The Master of Men, "The story selected is of such unusual dramatic quality that it will be worth all of the energy and directorial genius that Mr. Seastrom brings to bear upon his productions...The leading members of the cast are now being selected and the sets are being built." The film stars Mae Busch, Bo Florin noting that Victor Sjostrom had not wanted Mae Busch for the lead, but that she had appeared in an earlier film, The Christian, an adaptation of the novel by Sir Hall Caine by Maurice Tourner- according to the studio, Sjostrom had to relent. Film Daily had avoided speculation for months before announcing, "Nagel replaces Schildkraut. Conrad Nagel will play the leading masculine role in Master of Man, which Victor Seastrom is now making for Goldwyn. Joseph Schildkraut was originally cast for the role." It soon added that "Hobart Bosworth will have an important role" before reporting in September that Sjostrom had finished while Alan Crosland was nearing the completion of his film Three Weeks. Motion Picture Magazine had a similar, but conflicting report during 1923, "Gost Ekman, matinee hero of Stockholm is coming over for the first American picture to be made by Victor Seastrom, the famous Swedish director...He plays in stock during the winter months- in pictures every summer. Seastrom's wife, Edith Erastoff, who usually plays opposite Ekman is coming to Hollywood to be with her husband. He has not stated whether she will go in the movies."
A photo caption in Picture Play magazine during 1924 reintroduced actress Patsy Ruth Miller to magazine readers and movie audiences, "Every new film shows new development in Patsy Ruth Miller, which augers well for her mature years. The Goldwyn Picture "Name the Man" has been her greatest chance to date."
During 1924 Carl Sandberg reviewed the film Name the Man (eight reels), his remarking upon Sjostrom's use of lighting, which, whether or not it may have had been a use of realism or naturalism, seemed underplayed to Sandberg and based on the enviornment rather than made more elaborate or as being artificial. "He was an actor, rated as Sweden's best, and his voice leads actors into slow, certain moods." Iris Barry is timely writing in 1924, imparting to the readers of Lets Go to The Movies, "Victor Seastrom, who had made Swedish pictures before Germany had begun its work (and too good to be popular) went last and they had they idiocy to put him to turning one of Hall Caine's intensely stupid stories into moving pictures. He did the best he could and played about a bit with the Yankee studio devices." And yet rather than providing a synopsis to the film, Motion Picture Magazine in 1923 relegated the novelization of the film to Peter Andrews. "She half rose as he returned and his bathrobe which she had flung around her slipped down, perhaps farther than it needed to." It was accompanied by a table explaining the cast of the film directed by Victor Seastrom and a capition which read, "told in short story form by permission from the Goldwyn Production of the scenario by Paul Bern." In his volume The Film Till Now, author Paul Rotha resonates a tone that can be likened to other critics his contemporary, "I cannot recall any example of a European director, who, on coming to Hollywood, made film better, or even as good as he did in his own surroundings." After mentioning Murnau, Leni and Lubitsch, the opines, "Sjostrom's Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness is preferable to Name the Man." Motion Picture News Booking Guide during 1924 provided a brief synopsis of Name the Man, directed by Victor Seastrom, "Drama showing how human passions changed the lives of four persons from low and high positions in the social strata."
During 1923, Victor Sjostrom wrote from the United States that he thought he might be given a script by Elinor Glyn to adapt into a photoplay, "I told them that I knew a film like that would succeed on her name, but that I didn't believe it was the kind of stuff I should do." He also writes that the novel Born av tiden (A Simple Life, written by Knut Hamsun, at that time could have been a possibility.
A more personal summary of the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film and its nearly abrupt crescendo was provided by film director Cecil B. Hepworth in his autobiography Came the Dawn, "The Swedish Biograph films were making continuous appeal; subjects with high ideals and no truckling to the lower tastes of the audiences. And Victor Sjostrom was a fine director. It was a great pity that he was lured away to America."
Peter Cowie, while estimating the international recognition of Swedish Film director Ingmar Bergman and global transnationalism views the influence of Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller, "Admittedly, bot Sjostrom and Stiller had the courage to take up residence in Hollywood but neither man was truly at ease in America"
Mauritz Stiller had in fact directed Karin Molander in the first film in which she was to appear, "The Red Tower" (Det Roda Tornet) photographed by Julius Jaenzon and written by Stiller and Charles Magnusson in 1914. The film has not been preserved and is presumed to be lost. Karin Molander had in 1920 starred in two films by Mauritz Stiller, one of them making her one of the most famous actresses of the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film,When We Are Married (Erotikon), in which she appeared with Lars Hanson, Tora Teje, and Glucken Cederberg.
She also that year appeared in the film Bomben, directed by Rune Carlsten. And yet Karin Molander would only later be mentioned to audiences in the United States, Photoplay Magazine noting in 1926 that she was no longer in Sweden and no longer married to Gustaf Molander, "With Lars Hanson came his wife, Karin Nolander, leading woman in the Royal State Theater of Stockholm and billed as 'Sweden's most beautiful woman' She hasn't appeared on the screen yet, but it shouldn't be long now with so many good Scandinavian directors over here." Karin Molander had been married to the Swedish director between 1910-1919, her and Lars Hanson having been paired together under the direction of Victor Sjostrom during 1917. Pictured together, a 1927 photocaption from Photoplay Magazine read, "When Mr. and Mrs. Lars Hanson worked for Swedish companies, Mrs. Hanson was popular on the European screen as Karin Nolander. But now that her husband has made a hit in this country, she has retired and decided to let his gather all the glory for the family." After their return to Sweden the Molander's were invited to a dinner party with Garbo acquaintance Knut Martin by visiting journalist Jack Cambell, who quoted Karin Molander in the article "I am the Unhappiest Girl in the World- says Greta Garbo", published by The New Movie Magazine. After Hanson related that he had lately seen very little of Greta Garbo Karin Molander described the actress, "She was always a timid girl. terribly shy. Even in the old days in Hollywood, she used to go right home from the studio and go to bed. she'd never see anybody...You must admire her for the way she has fought herself upward, all alone, since Stiller." Picture Play magazine printed the article Two Gentlemen from Sweden, which was to comparatively interview both Einar Hansen and Lars Hanson. It read, "To crush flappers hopes, I regret that I must report he is happily married to Karen Nolander, formerly an actress in Sweden.She is charming and a lovely lady, whose sparkle and quaint naïveté have intrigued Hollywood."
Victor Sjostrom wrote an article entitled The Screen Story of the Future, published by The Story World and Photodramatist in July, 1923, in which he advised, "The screenwriter must first of all have something to say, and secondly, the vitality and the sincerity that will enable him to say it in a deeply human way. But technique is vastly essential." As an act of spectatorship, Iris Barry looked at film directors in the United States, "Seastrom, the Swedish director, is a man whom America has ruined. In Sweden, one cannot help feeling the cinema has steered its own sweet course irrespective of a desire to please the people at all costs...There has been much poetry and a great deal of fancy in Swedish films." The Film Daily advised, "Keep your eye on Seastrom. He is liable to do some things that will make him one of the most important directors in this country." Readers in Sweden can affectionately know that it added, "Incidentally, if they can prevail upon him to act in one of of his productions he will also prove suprising." Photoplay magazine featured a magnificient photo of Victor Sjostrom during 1923 in which he is holding a megaphone while standing next to his camera and camera crew in a foot of water while on location, shooting a scene from the middle of a stream; it is the same photo that appeared in Screenland Magazine, which, during October of 1923, in addition to that featured cameraman Charles Van in a photograph, his having been on the set of The Master of Man. The title of the article, written by Constance Palmer Littlefield, was New Hope for the American Photoplay. It described the film Mortal Clay directed in Sweden by Victor Sjostrom as a film that was more artistic than commercial and anticipates the director's next film as there being on the screen "food for comparision", the soon to also be an adaption of the writing of Sir Hall Caine with The Master of Man, directed in the United States by Victor Seastrom. Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine had been secretary to Dante Gabriel Rosetti during the last year of the painter's life, his novels having been adapted to the screen by George Fitzmaurice, who filmed Barbara LaMarr in The Eternal City (1923) and by Hugh Ford, who filmed Katherine McDonald and Katherine Griffith in The Woman Thou Gavest Me (1919.) "But in Victor Seastrom lies hope. Since his coming to us from Sweden, he has been instrumental in organizing the Little Theatre movement of the screen."
Screenland Magazine notes that Joseph Schildkraut was originally been slated for the lead role in the film untill his scenes were reshot with Conrad Nagel. Where the article is continued, to the back pages of the magazine issue, there begins an interview with Victor Sjostrom where he is asked about the size of Svenska Filmindustri, to which there is the account of his having replied, "'Well-," and this strong man actually faltered, choosing his words, so carefully, 'It is quite large." When describing the size of the studios themselves. Victor Sjostrom, the actor, almost deferentially reveals himself, Victor Seastrom, the film director while answering that not all of the studios at Rasunda were as large as Goldwyn's huge Stage Six, "'Maybe as large as this,' he waved his hand inclusively at the courtroom, which is not large as sets go".Cinematographer Charles Van Enger not only photographed the 1924 film Name the Man (Infor hogre ratt), directed by Victor Sjöstrom, but also that year photographed the films Lovers' Lane (Phil Rosen, seven reels) with actress Gertrude Olmstead, Three Women (Lubitsch, eight reels) with May McAvoy, Forbidden Paradise (Lubitsch, eight reels) with Pola Negri and Daughters of Pleasure (six reels) and Daring Youth (six reels), both directed by William Beaudine. The Film Daily reviewed the film's script. "It has the usual strength of a Hall Caine story is there, and in spots where censors weild wicked shears, there may be some difficulty...It is a gripping drama, of the type of Anna Christie. As with most films, the magazine added its "Box Office Angle" and advice for the film's "Exploitation", it suggesting to rely upon the name recognition of Hall Caine in that it was the first film Victor Sjostrom had made in the United States, but promised the film would make a financially turn a profit and included one of Conrad Nagel's very best performances, "Of strong appeal to women. Love story will hold them to the very end. Unusual treatment of ratherP old theme." Filmnyheter in 1923 ran the heading "Victor Sjostroms nya film bestamd. Infor Hogre ratt av Hall Caine." It began with, "Ett telegram fran Victor Sjostrom meddlar att for vilken film han forst skall gripa sig an med hos Goldwyn." and ended with, "Som nan ser, en stark och dramatisk handling ihed det etiska innehall Victor Sjostrom alltid sokt for sinafilmer." Photoplay returned to Seastrom in 1925, "When Victor Seastrom presented his version of Hall Caine's Name the Man, we were disappointed. he failed to rise much above the level of a fourth rate novel." They reversed their position with He Who Gets Slapped, rating it superb and claiming it would lift Sjostrom to "the top rank of directors". While in the United States, Victor Sjostrom, under the name Victor Seastrom, was to direct the first feature released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer, He Who Gets Slapped (Hans som for orfilarne, 1924 seven reels), starring Jack Gilbert, Norma Shearer and Lon Chaney. In Silent Prototypes, the first chapter of his volume Hollywood Horror, author Mark A. Viera points out that M.G.M. was in fact a new company and urgently needed a commercial and finacial succes, which Sjostrom brought them.
"The Master of Men" was noted by Film Daily as having been in production during July of 1923. During August, Film Daily reported, "Victor Seastrom is now making scenes with the crowd storming the castle in "The Master of Men". It ran "Seastrom Finsihes Picture" that September, finally providing the tile of the film rather than the title of the novel Sjostrom was adapting. A photocaption during 1924 in Screenland was to read, "Victor Seastrom directing a scene of The Judge and The Woman. Seastrom has his camera mounted upon an automobile chassis while he shoots Patsy Ruth Miller and Conrad Miller out for a stroll." Pictures and Picturegoer Magazine reported in early 1924, "Goldwyn will not allow the title of Victor Seastrom's new film to be made public. It is a film version of a popular novel." Months later it added, "Victor Seastrom is working for Goldwyn now...His next film will be called The Tree in the Garden and his leading lady is Norma Shearer." It then crescendoed, "After all his big talk, Victor Seastrom is now making He Who Gets Slapped." Bo Florin admittedly agrees with Bengt Forslund that there is a parallel between the storylines of Name the Man and the earlier film The Sons of Ingmar, the two novelists thereby compared after their having had been being adapted to the screen.
"The Tree in the Garden" was unfilmed but was in fact a scenario completed by writer Hjalmer Bergman. It was adapted by Bergman from a work by Edwin C. Booth and given to Victor Sjostrom, who asked for scritp revisions, which Hjalmer Bergman completed. Victor Sjostrom then wrote to Bergman that Goldwyn had been purchased by Metro and Mayer and the film had been dropped. Hjalmer Bergman and his wife had only been to the Goldwyn offices once when a script that Bergman had given to Sjostrom adapted from Ibsen's 1892 play "The Master Builder" (Bygmester Solness), although accepted to be filmed by Sjostrom, had been declined by Goldwyn based on the marketability of the Norwegian playwright. Bergman had already bought a 1923 Buick and was Sunday driving through the San Fernando Valley when it became appaerent he might return to Sweden. Bergman and his wife returned to Europe by 1924, reportedly disheartened. Goldwyn also had initially planned to film an adaptation of the Sir Hall Caine novel "The Bondsman: a New Saga" before the merger, the project collapsing finacially and the synopsis written by Hjalmer Bergman left in neglect. During 1925 actress Vilma Banky was filming for George Fitzmaurice rather than Victor Sjostrom who featured her in his first sound film, A Lady To Love, that being before her Hungarian accent purportedly had contributed to an unacceptance on the part of movie going audiences. The Great Goldwyn, an early biography on producer Sam Goldwyn written by Alva Johnston, gives an account of her having been brought to the United States States, "He discovered Miss Banky when he saw her picture in a photograph shop in Budapest. This was a feit, because when the photograph was sent to Hollywood, the Goldwyn executives could see no possibilites in her. She arrived in Hollywood herself a few days after her photograph. Miss Banky was bewildered on her arrival in Hollywood. 'I thought I was being tricked,' she told an interpreter, 'I didn't believe the man was Goldwyn untill he gave me two thousand dollars.'"
During 1924 Film Daily ran the sub-headline, "Three from Seastrom, Swedish Director Signs with Metro-Goldwyn, His Next 'Kings in Exile'. It printed, "Victor Seastrom, the Swedish director borught over by Goldwyn before the merger has signed a new contract to direct three more pictures. It is understood his original arrangement was for two which were Name the Man and He Who gets Slapped. His next will be Kings in Exile, in which Alice terry will appear as the Queen. Work starts in six weeks." It again during October wrote, "Victor Seastrom signs new contract with Metro-Goldwyn to direct three more." It reported during December of 1924 that the title had been changed to Confessions of a Queen, it being one of three films from Metro-Goldwyn reported to have title changes, Henley and Vignola being the other two directors affected. During 1925, Victor Sjostrom, brought Lewis Stone and Alice Terry to the screen in the film Confessions of a Queen (Kungar i landsflykt). Photoplay wrote, According to all reports Alice Terry has knocked them dizzy with The Great Divide...It will be interesting to observe this brilliant woman under the director of Victor Seastrom." With Sjostrom was a cinematographer that became widely used on the back lots of the silent films of the decade to turn flicker into fantasy, Percy Hilburn, his having worked with several directors, notably Reginald Barker, George Melford, Fred Niblo and Monta Bell. Filming was completed in four weeks. Picturegoer Magazine reviewed the film, "Confessions of a Queen is a Ruritanian theme, with a long suffering Queen- Alice Terry, and a dissolute King- Lewis Stone; and here the acting of the principals lifts Seastrom's production shoulder-high above the ordinary." Sjostrom's film was written by Agnes Christine Johnson, adapted from The Painted Laugh a novel by Alphonse Daudet; to avoid controversy, Exhibitor's Trade Review reported the novel's title as The King's Exile, "Of course, much of Daudet's original novel is eliminated, chiefly, perhaps, because of the screen's limitations. But the plot is interesting, has a humoruous angle and despite its unpopular ending, will please the average audience...And both Alice Terry and Lewis Stone ably depict the royal character roles, which Victor Seastrom rounds out with considerable skill." Picturegoer magazine saw Sjostrom's contribution to film as being exemplary as a literate director, "You may have noticed that Seastrom has changed the titles- this however is not an example of vandalism; he changed the stories too, and, if I may say so, with all deference to the authors, has changed them for the better...Yes they have box office appeal, but they are still and sober, artistic and sombre." To the present author, it seems that this is in part due to Sjostrom having been an actor during the time of August Strindberg and in part a nod to his having worked with Selma Lagerlof, harkening back to when the reverse was true for Mauritz Stiller and his break with Lagerlof over how faithfully her writings should have beeen adapted; there is a thematic universality in the dramas created by Sjostrom despite their being grounded in the Scandinavian landscape; there is a humanity expressed. Bo Florin writes that, "The film in several respects is less elaborate than the director's other Hollywood films. This may partly have been due to the film being produced in such haste, but probably partly also to the previously mentioned fact that he as a director, to a large extent seems to have chosen to subordinate his wishes to the demands of the script, which was, in this case, a straitforward, realist story." Florin reminds us that Victor Sjostrom had photographed four adaptations of the novels of Selma Lagerlof and that "it is not possible to seperate Sjostrom's Swedish films before Hollywood from his international."
Gosta Ekman had earlier been seen as leading man in the United States, as a "romantic type" In Pantomine magazine it was surveyed that, "he plays the impudent, but loveable adventurer to life and his slender blonde figure lends itself most admirably to graceful interpretations of this kind." Photoplay magazine saw Ekman in a similar way, describing him in 1923 as "the Swedish sheik" (the Swedish Valentino) and predicted his soon aquiring fame in the United States, as it did that year with Sigrid Holmqvist. Holmqvist had often been depicted as "The Swedish Mary Pickford". Photoplay reported, "Arriving with him from Stockholm was Edith Erastoff, the wife of Victor Seastrom, the Swedish director who is now working for Goldwyn. Miss Erastoff played opposite Mr. Ekman at the Stockholm Theater....'A beautiful boy,' says director Seastrom, 'Too beautiful- but he is a great actor and never hesitates to conceal his good looks for a character part which demands make-up.'" The magazine that year speculated that "in all probability" Ekman woulod appear on screen in a version of "Three Weeks", concievably opposite actress Theda
Victor Sjostrom directs Lillian Gish as Victor Seastrom
It was in 1926 that Lillian Gish, while filming La Boheme (King Vidor, nine reels) with John Gilbert, had met Victor Sjöstrom.
Picture Play magazine during 1926 featured a photograph of Lillian Gish in costume wearing the Scarlet Letter while being visited on the set by Dorothy Gish, who was about to sail for England.
There is an account of Victor Sjostrom's shooting the exterior scenes to the film The Scarlet Letter in which during the film he climbed down from a platform after Swedish silent film director Mauritz Stiller had announced that he was there, Stiller then saying, "This is Garbo."
Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller had met in Stockholm the day before the shooting of the 1912 film The Gardner/The Broken Spring Rose was to begin at the studio in Lindingo. Peter Cowie notes the "numerous location scenes" used in in the film. Bengt Forslund relates the directorial debut of Victor Sjostrom to the forthcoming films of the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film by claiming that the director used nature to align the action of the scene with something that would render it more dramatic, especially in lyrical love scenes, "There is an intentionally stereoscopic effect in the sets that is typical of all Sjostrom's films and that shows the amount of intuition Sjostrom had for all the medium".
Bengt Forslund later chronices that "Sjostrom didn't know Stiller before they became associated at Svenska Bio, but he was aware of his reputation." The reptutation acquired by Mauritz Stiller that Victor Sjostromwould have been aware of has been chronicled by Jan Olsson of Stockholm University who views Stiller as being a local celebrity, or cult figure at the moment of his directorial debut, from the first day of shooting as a result of “cultural intertwining” between the Stockholm theatrical society and bohemian journalists. Olsson relates there having been several newspaper interviews of Stiller during 1912, one reviewer using the pen name William and another, who soon after interviewed Lillian Beck, using the penname Pius, but while doing so, the author points to inconsistencies between the memories of Stiller and Sjostrom when weighed against Charles Magnusson and Gosta Werner. Jan Olsson challenges Victor Sjostrom’s memory as to whether or not his first film as an actor under the direction of Maurice Stiller, “The Vampire” (1913) in which he starred with Lilly Bech, had literally been shortened by censorship. In any event, if the Golden age of Swedish Silent Film had in fact began three years earlier in Kristianstad Sweden with the films of Director Carl Endahl, then it is ostensibly that Stockholm was a center of Swedish Theater that effected the move that seems to eclipse the first Swedish Silent Films, films which still might support the recent idea that audiences felt connected to the natural landscape depicted in Scandinavian films and that provided a feeling of national identity to filmgoers. One thing that is clear is that Mauritz Stiller had laid out his reputation while being a theater director. Stiller during 1911 had acquired the Intima Theater, for which August Strindberg had written five plays, this coming at at time when the plays of August Strindberg were appearing on screen in Sweden in filmed versions. Stiller renamed the theater "The Lilla Theatern" and directed the plays in which he appeared, including "Spouses, Love and Friendship" by Peter Egge, Nachen's Daughter by Joseph Dacha and Bakom Kuopio by Gustav von Numers.
Victor Sjostrom, on the other hand, was quoted in a memorial article written for the periodical Films in Review during 1960 by Charles L Turner as having been shunned after acquiring professional noteriety, "I soon discovered I was considered a traitor or defector for leaving the stage. One of my friends stopped speaking to me when he learned I was working in film."
It had been early in 1912 that Magnusson had met with screenwriter Erik Ljungberger who gave Magnusson Victor Sjostrom's name and who telephoned him for Magnusson. Victor Sjostrom had been rehearsing "A Midsummer's Night's Dream" in Malmo, Sweden when Ljungberger had presented him with a lucrative offer from Magnusson. " 'The thing that brought me to film-making', declared Sjostrom, 'was a youthful desire for adventure and curiousity to try this new mediumof which I then did not havethe slightest knowledge.' " (Peter Cowie). Bo Florin, in Victor Sjostrom and the Golden Age, quotes Victor Sjostrom, "Both Stiller and I had the great fortune to stumble upon directing careers at a time that was so suitable for us. Suitable to break away from the muck, to question the assumptions behind what I was so often to hear in Hollywood later on-'give the public what it wants'. We also had the good fortune to work for a studio whose president, Charles Magnusson was an intelligent man. So intelligent, in fact, that he eventually discovered the best way to deal with us was to leave us alone."
John Bainbridge quotes Victor Sjostrom as having said, "We were great, very great friends. But in spite of our sincere friendship, I am not sure that I knew him profoundly, got deep under his skin. I don't think anybody did. So many different kinds of men were gathered within him." Between 1912-1914 Mauritz Stiller had directed, and Julius Jaenzon had photographed, the early on screen appearances in which Victor Sjostrom had starred with actress Lilli Bech, including "Because Her Love" (For Sin Karlekskull) and "The Child" (Barnet). Mauritz Stiller directed both Victor Sjostrom and George af Klercker in rhe film "When Love Kills" (Nar Karlcken Dodar), which he co-scripted with Sigurd Calamnius.
Mauritz Stiller, Victor Sjostrom and George af Klercker appeared on screen together during 1912 with actresses Selma Wiklund af Klercker, Astrid Endgelbrecht and Anna Norrie in the first film in which she was to appear, the film "I livets var" (Springtime of Life/In the Spring of Life), directed by Paul Garbagni, adapted from the novel The First Mistress by August Blanche. Marina Dahlqvist chronicles, "In the spring of 1912, Charles Magnusson, the head od Swedish Biograph, Siegmund Popert and Victor Sjostrom went to Paris to visit the Pathe studio, perhaps to discuss the distribution of Swedish film in the international market." In addition to securing co-productin and Sweden's entrance into an international market, it brought director Paul Garbagni to the Lindingo studio. Horack, in her article The Global Distribution of SWedish Silent FIlm describes the film "Springtime of Life" as "an erotic melodrama" with a "circuitous plot, a chain of outrageous coincidences and intertwining unhappy love stories", that as elemnts of genre made the film an export to audiences aware of Danish cinema.
Photoplay reviewed the 1926 film version of The Scarlet Letter, "Hawthorne's classic and somber study of the New England conscience has just been somberly translated to the screen. Lillian Gish wears the red letter of sin with her stock virginal sweetness failing to grasp the force of Hester Prynne's will power and intelligence...The camerawork has been perfectly handled but the puritans have been seen with a slightly Swedish eye by director Victor Seastrom. They are dour rather than high minded fanatics....Take your handkerchiefs and the older children". Decades before Lillian Gish published her autobiography The Movies, Mr. Griffinth and Me, she had layered some its preliminary by laying out its chronicle during conversations to biographer Albert Bigelow Paine, author of Life and Lillian Gish. Paine quotes her discussing her having been on the set with Victor Sjostrom, "He got the spirit of the story exactly, and was hinself a fine actor, the finest that ever directed me. I never worked with anyone I liked better than Seastrom. He was Scandinavian- thorough and prompt. If Mr. Seastrom said we would start at eight, or half past, the camera was ready at that time, and so were we." Gish connects this to an illness in her family while filming The Scarlett Letter, "At the studio, Seastrom said that by working day and night we could do the remaining two weeks on the picture in the three days I had left...We didn't waste a moment and during those three days there was very little sleep for anyone." Sidney Sutherland, author of the several installments of Lillian Gish, The Incomparable Being: The Story of Great Tragedienne that appeared in Liberty Magazine during 1927 quoted the silent film actress, "We finished The Scarlet Letter on schedule. eight weeks having been allotted to it by Mr. Thalberg, but we found we would require about two weeks for certain retakes and changes. Just as we began this added work, I received word from London my mother was dying...That would give me just to finish up the fourteen days necessary for the retakes. I told Mr Thalberg and Victor Seastrom, my director, and we worked forty eight hours, without more than two hours sleep. Interiors were made all night and outdoor scenes every moment of sunlight." The Film Daily magazine reviewed the work of actress Lillian Gish, "Another very credible performance. At times Miss Gish reaches real heights." It reviewed the film favorably, "Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Victor Seastrom are to be congratulated for their courage in telling this dramatic without any extraneous and unnecessary flourishes", but also advice as to its "Exploitation". "No ballyhoo for this. It isn't that type of a picture. The import of the letter A which Lillian Gish carries like a cross might be used to arouse interest." It was a set where "Lillian Gish is gelatinizing the famous Scarlet Letter" as seen by Photoplay of that year. Motion Picture Classic published stills of Lillian Gish taken by Milton Brown. It reviewed the film with "Miss Gish's Hester should be an interesting addition to her gallery of suffering heroines." Reviewing the film during 1926, The Film Daily compiled "Newspaper Opinions" of 1926, "Frances Marion wrote a scenario to suit Miss Gish's limitations and in doing so almost completely lost the author's idea of story and characterization"
Before beginning his chapter An Aesthetics of Light, Bo Florin lays an emphasis to the "cinematic language" used by Victor Sjostrom in the film, particularly superimposures and the metaphoric function of their metrynomy, and the use of off-screen space. a language which "emphasizes the presence of the spectator"(Florin). The chapter title ultimately leads to an analysis of the film's mise-en-scene by author Orjan Roth-Lindberg, and then continues to a look at stylistic devices, summarized in Florin having written, "Thus continuity may be traced on a general thematic level as well as stylistically, in the handling of light and landscape, and down to the smallest details, such as the use of one specific device, the dissolve, which perhaps, more than any other, has characterized Sjostrom as a director." November 1926, Motion Picture announced "Seastrom Returns". Victor Sjostrom had sailed to to United States on the Gripsholm from Sweden, where he and his family had been vacationing.
Silent Film and Extratextural Discourse: Lost Film, Found Magazines
Recently audiences in Stockholm have attended a screening of the newly restored film "Komtessan Charlotte" directed by Poul Welander in 1912, it having been one of the more than half dozen films produced by Frans Lundberg between 1911-13 for Stora Biografteatern in Malmo, Sweden. Lundberg, like Victor Sjostrom, had come heavily under the scrutiny of Swedish censorship during that brief period. The film stars Phillipa Fredericksen and Agnes Nyrop-Christensen with the director Welander appearing in the film. Existing only in fragments, like many silent film at the beginning of the Twenty First Century, it was thought to be lost and it has truly been a century since the film was seen as it was originally presented. The film "Karlekens Offer" (The Flirt), directed that same year by Paul Welander for Frans Lundberg is in fact lost with no known existing fragments. It starred Ingeborg Rasmussen and Ida Nielsen. Also from 1912 and directed by Paul Welamder, the film "Ormen" (The Boa Constrictor/The Serpent), starring Ida Nielsen, is a lost film, with no known existing fragments.
Mauritz Stiller, after having met cameraman Julius Jaenzon, had begun directing for Svenska Bio in 1912, one film that he directed that year for Svenska Biografteatern having been The Black Masks (Den Svarta Maskerna), a circus movie in regard to its subject. It has been noted that the films is exceptionally edited, its numerous, various scenes, " a constantly changing combination of interiors and exteriors, closeups and panoramic shots." (Forsyth Hardy) It has also been reported that the film starring Victor Sjostrom and Lili Bech is lost. It has been described as a melodrama dealing with espionage with an exciting action sequence as its climax.
Written and directed by Mauritz Stiller, "The Modern Suffragette" (Den Moderna Suffragetten/Lilly som Suffragett) is also a film presumed to be lost, with no surviving existant copies. The films starred Lili Ziedner, Stina Berg, Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson and Doris Nelson in her first on screen appearance. As seen by author Laura Horack, Journal of Scandinavian Cinema, the film was a purportedly "blatant parody" of actress Asta Neilsen in the film "Die Suffragette" (The Suffragette, 1913, Urban Gad). Author Peter Cowie, in his volume Swedish Cinema writes that the film had "astonished the fledgling i dustry with its assured use of parallel action and trick perspectives". There are no surviving copies of the film "Vampyren" (The Vampire, The Nightclub Dancer), written and directed by Mauritz Stiller in which Victor Sjostrom starred as actor in front of the camera with Lilli Bech, Agda Helin and Anna Norrie. The cinematographer to the film was Julius Jaenzon. Julius Jaenzon was also cinematographer to the 1913 film "Den Okanda" (The Girl from Abroad, The Unknown Woman), written and directed by Mauritz Stiller. The film is presumed lost with no surviving copies. It had starred actresses Greta Wiesenthal, Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson, and Stina Berg. Rangnar Ring provided director Mauritz Stiller with the screenplay to his film "Nar Larmklockan Ljuder", as one of the six made by Phoenix/Svenska Biografteatern. Photographed by Julius Jaenzon the film stars Lilly Jacobsen. There are no copies of the film directed by Mauritz Stiller, it too presumed to be lost.
The films that Victor Sjostrom directed during 1913 were scheduled to be shot within one or two weeks. Marina Dahlqvist in Global versus Local, the case of Pathe chronicles Victor Sjostrom as having been a well-known actor" in that he was a prototype of the new Swedish Silent Film star, irregardness of his being a director that had arrived from the Swedish theater. "The Swedishness of these productions was also emphasized when it came to actors, scripts and settings." Her sense of "scenery" predates the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film in a tacit competetion with the silent films of Denmark for a transnational theater."Some advertisements empahasized the fact that the story was set in Stockholm and its surroundings. The film's Swedishness was thus a main factor in the marketing of the film." It goes without saying that this was a transnational cinema that would soon be plunged into a war that Great Britain would never have dreamed of and an ensuing neutrality. Horak, in her atricle Global Distribution of Swedish Silent FIlm echoes this sentiment by chronically that it resurfaced after World War I with Svenska Bio's "effort to build 'Swedish Film' into an internationally recognized brand" by 1919. It argued that a merger between Svenska Bio and Scandia would make Swedish films competetive in and international market, global audiences connecting it to a global economy.
The comedy "Smiles and Tears" (Lojen och Tatar) , a film written by Charles Magnusson and directed by Victor Sjostrom during 1913, is presumed lost with no existing surviving copies. It was the first film in which actress Mia Hagman was to appear and the only film in which actress Tutta Spangberg was to appear. Victor Sjostrom appeared on screen with actress Ragna Westergreen and Greta Almroth during 1913 in the film "The Voice of Blood" (Blodets rost), which he directed and co-scripted with Peter Lykke-Seest. Photographed by Henrik Jaenzon the film is presumed to be lost with no surviving copies presently existing. Victor Sjostrom wrote and directed the film "The Marriage Bureau" (Aktenskapsbyren) starring actress Helfrid Lambert during 1913, of which there are presently no surving copies that can be located. Of Svenska Bio in 1913, Bengt Forslund writes, "Sjostrom was not always permitted to choose his material." Forslund points out that scripts were submitted to Victor Sjostrom much in the same way they would be to directors in the United States.
Begnt Forslund exuberantly remarks upon the discovery of a hitherto unknown copy of Predators of the Sea (Sea Vultures, Havsgama, 1914), starring Richard Lund, Greta Almoth and John Ekman, and not so exhuberantly on the unlikelihood of a copy of Victor Sjostrom"s film The Divine Woman ever being found in the future.
Authors Goran Bolin and Michael Forsman in their article Film Studies in Sweden view Frans Lundberg as "neglected" although prominent, leaving him only as part of a footnote for being an "active" contemporary to Charles Magnusson. Horack, in her article The Global Distribution of Swedish Silent Film goes so far as to claim that Frans Lundberg had competed internationally with Charles Magnusson as early as 1910 by exporting the film "To Save a Son" (Massosens Offer) directed by Alfred Lind and starring Agnes Nyrup-Christensen. Frans Lundberg between 1908-1912 was the producer for Stora Biografteatern in Malmo, Sweden, author Jan Olsson noting that actress Ida Nielsen was the leading lady in "nearly all of his 1912 movies", his last film for the company being "Dockan eller Glodande Karleck"with Acel Breidahl directing Ida Nielsen. The film is lost with no surviving copies existing. The last film produced by Frans Lundberg in Malmo, Sweden was in 1913, the lost film "Love Reigns" (Love Ruin) in which the director Axel Breidahl appears on the screen with actresses Ellen Hygon and Ida Neisen. There are no surviving copies of the film. All three films directed by Danish silent film director Axel Briedahl at Svenska Biografteatern during 1914, in which Lilli Zeidner and Stina Berg starred together are at present presumed to be lost, with no surviving existing copies. All three of Breidahl's films from 1914, THe Birthday Present (Foddsdagspresenten), Solomon's Judgement (Solomos drom) and The Way to a an's Heart (Vagen till mannens Hjarta) were also photographed by cinematographer Henrik Jaenzon. The only film directed by Arthur Donaldson, "En skargards flickorna roman", although photographed by Julius Jaenzon and starring Danish Silent Film actress Lilly Jacobsson, is presumed to be a lost film, with no surviving existing copies. Lilly Jacobsson played Ophelia opposite Asta Nielsen's Hamlet during 1920.
Bo Florin asks the most important, ie. pivotal, question about Lost Films, Found Magazines, "What knowledge do we actually have of Sjostrom as a director, considering the fact that most of his early films for Svenska Bio are lost?" In asking this Florin looks for "an authorial mark of Sjostrom as a director" but in doing this he succinctly relates that Victor Sjostrom had become Victor Seastrom and that his film must be analyzed within "a larger framework of alternative practices within the general field of Hollywood authorship". It of course was a Hollywood authorship that similarly was to affect both Stiller and Murnau, if not Christensen.
There were 478 silent films made in Sweden; of them only 192 still exist, although there are copies of fragments from a number of them. Although preserved and restored by the Swedish Film Institute, the film Nar karleken dodar (1913), a two act drama (with a prologue) photographed by Julius Jaenzon in which Mauritz Stiller directed Victor Sjostrom and George af Klerker, exists only in incomplete form as fragmentary, as does "On the Fateful Roads of Life" (Par livets odesvager) from that same year, again photographed by Julius Jaenzon with Mauritz Stiller directing from a script written by Peter Lykke-Seest. The film by Stiller has been noted as being Svenska Bio's first international success and starred Stina Berg, Clara Pontoppidan and Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson. More perfunctory was the author Aleksander Kwaiatowski, writing in the latter fourth of the twentieth century about the remnants of Mauritz Stiller at Swedish Biograph, "Of the thirty two pictures he made between 1912 and 1916, prints of only one are available, Love and Journalism...Contemporaries thought Love and Journalism a Danish-inspired film, the presentation of society life meant only to entertain audiences, with no attention to social problems." In 1927, scriptwriter Ester Julin, scriptwriter, directed her only film "The Lucky Children" (Lyckobarnen). The film is lost, with no surviving copies existing. Remaining in Sweden after Sjostrom and Stiller left, Julin, as a woman, was a beacon or anchor to the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film, predating it by joing Svenska Bio in 1912 and coscripting with Mauritz Stiller under the psuedonym Alexander Vichetos.
Added to the missing Swedish catalog, countless Danish silent films produced by Ole Olsen for Nordisk Films Kompagni are "presumably lost": the Danish Film Institute notes that approximately 1600 silent short and feature films were made whereas only 250 films presently exist, Not the only webpage concerned with the preservation of Silent Film, the lost films webpage from Berlin show clips and stills from fifty silent film that it claims are "unknown or unidentified". One clue in finding them, or realigning their photo play subject matter and story lines may be that Leif Furhammar has written that after Swedish director George af Klerker left the studio to conceivably film with Pathe and director Paul Garbagni, Producer Charles Magnusson shifted his attention to Denmark, securing the rights to Danish melodramas while exporting Swedish films through Copenhagen rather than Paris. "Several of the movies produced in the Swedish studios were pure imitations of Danish popular films."
From the magazines that were circulated at the time period, there can be found a more detailed view of the films that are now lost. In Close Up magazine, essayist Robert Herring allows a fragment where there would otherwise be none. In the article Film Imagery :Seastrom, he quotes the now deteriorated intertitles while describing a scene, "When the great actress breaks down she cries, 'I can't go on. Oh God, I'm done for. I hate it all.'" It was the author's sentiment that this scene be placed nearer toward the end of the film, and yet what is certain is that there aren't enough remaining stills from the film to piece together how the scene appeared on the screen visually. When the magazine reviewed the film as a new release it advised, "The Divine Woman. If you must see Garbo, see her under Seastrom." Bengt Forslund penned a brief paragraph about the silent film The Divine Woman (En Gudomlig Kvinna, 1928), directed by Victor Sjostrom under the name Victor Seastrom, "This was written 35 years ago and even at that stage all prints seem to have vanished. There is not much hope of finding one today since Garbo's films have been the subject of more research than those of most other stars.". Lon Chaney is quoted as having said, "I told Garbo that mystery served me well and it would do as much for her." Forslund reflected upon the existing early silent film of the Swedish director, "Even more regrettable is that out of the 31 films directed by Sjostrom during this period, only three have survived, and out of the other 8 films in which he acted, not a single one remains."
It was Norma Shearer who was to star opposite Lon Chaney in the other M.G.M directed by Victor Sjostrom under the name Seastrom of which there are no existant copies, that film being Tower of Lies (1924, seven reels). The Tower of Lies was photographed by Percy Hilburn. Photoplay Magazine reviewed the film in a way that doesn't discourage the viewer but only makes us want to screen the film more, "If the director had been as concerned with telling the story as he was with thinking up symbolic scenes, this would have been a great picture. As it is, Victor Seastrom was so busy being artistic, he forgot to be human. The emotions are those of the theater, not of life, in spite of the fact that both Lon Chaney and Nora Shearer might have made them real." After providing a brief synopsis, Exhibitor's Trade Review summarized the film and its tone, "A heart-gripping photoplay well produced and full of fine characterization. It's audience appeal is nevertheless in doubt because of the sombre futility of the story. It is replete with bitterness. Scarce a ray of sunshine penetrates the gloom. When the clouds do part it is for a brief instant. It is depressing...It is full of a rare symbolism. people will not forget it...Get the best people in town to see this one. Tell them about Lon Chaney's latest effort. Stress the book tie-up." A press notice from the studio included, "Another of Lon Chaney's remarkable character portrayals will be seen in 'The Tower of Lies' and the catch lines provided to theater owners were, "Life was cruel to him, but he held Truth and Honor to the end- and when the Tower of Lies crashed, he was ready to meet it." Motion PIcture News reviewed the film, "Victor Seastrom approaches more nearly to the artistic masterpieces which he produced abroad than in anything he has made here. Not that it is finer than 'He Who Gets Slapped' but that it approaches his Swedish pictures more nearly in theme and mood. This is partly due no doubt to the fact that it is based upon Selma Lagerlof's Swedish novel." The plot theme of the "story of Scandinavian peasant life" and "scenes of rural life" was given in outline by the magazine, "Intimate drama of a farmer who awakens to the beauty of life through his daughter, and who loses his reason when she goes astray. His death brings the girl back to herself."
During 1925, Lon Chaney, in an article entitled My Own Story and published by Movie Magazine, while pointing to the themes of "self-sacrifice and renunciation" in his films wrote, "The picture I have just completed, Tower of Lies, is the story of a father's enduring love and sacrifice, even to death, for his wayward daughter. I do not know that it is my favorite of all roles that I have portrayed, but certainly it is one of them and I consider Victor Seastrom, who directed it, the greatest director in the motion picture profession." Also in 1925, The Reel Journal, a sister publication to the magazine New England Film News, reviewed the films of Lon Chaney with the article "Lon Chaney Turns to Less Grotesque Roles". The article initially began by noting that, in regard to depiction of thematic character, "Lon Chaney, who has attracted stardom by playing roles of a weird and grotesque character, is turning to portrayals depending on more deeply human qualities for their interest.", the professionalism as a make-up artist on the part of Lon Chaney is not without having been noticed, "In his first Metro-Goldwyn Mayer picture, Victor Seastrom's production of Leonid Andreyev's He Who Gets Slapped...Chaney donned two make-ups, one as a European scientist, and the other as a clown. It was said by critics of the latter that this portrayal was the first circus clown interpretation to express the humanity which lies behind the painted mask of a mountebank...In The Tower of Lies, his make-up demonstrates a transition from middle age to old age." Both films The Tower of Lies and The Unholy Three were unreleased at the time of the review. Robert Herring, who published Film Imagery: Seastrom in Close Up magazine, wrote, "When Seastrom made Tower of Lies in Hollywood, and his landscapes were reduced to softened orchards, and smooth hills, life in the house was still as living, still almost as Swedish, in the very details exteriorized the main theme as much as ever, even though to my taste, the theme was poor."
Victor Sjostromwould exchange his place behind the camera to play the character he filmed as Victor Seastrom: director Gustav Molander remade Tower of Lies in Sweden during 1944, Victor Sjostrom himself taking Lon Chaney's character in the cast with Swedish actress Gunn Walgren filling in for Norma Shearer. Forsyth Hardy wrote, "Although Sjostrom"s intense acting made the film moving, it was curiously out of sympathy with the new atmosphere of production." A year earlier, Gustaf Molander had directed Sjostrom in Det Brinner en Eld, Forsyth Hardy having written that, "The acting in these parts of Victor Sjostrom, Lars Hanson and Inga Tiblad gave the film a strong human appeal and from the war setting Molander resourcefully drew a nervous tension to sharpen his drama."
Made before Tower of Lies, an earlier film starring John Gilbert and Norma Shearer, The Wolfman, directed by Edmund Mortimer in 1924, is also among the myriad of films now thought to be lost, included among them Four Devils, filmed in the United States by F. W Murnau in 1928 and starring Janet Gaynor and Nacy Drexel. Photoplay, while providing a still from the film, saw The Four Devils as the "long awaited successor" to Murnau's Sunrise and as a source of a plot summary to the film, it alludes to the film's tone, "the final shot implies a happy ending. The film will probably be cut to eliminate the over drawn scenes before it is released."
One film thought to be non-existent before preservation attempts is a film which introduced actor Nils Asther in his first appearance onscreen, a Lars Hanson film directed by Mauritz Stiller in 1916, The Wings (Vingarne)- it was remade, or re-adapted rather, as a silent by Carl Theodore Dreyer. Maurtiz Stiller had directed Lars Hanson in his first film, Dolken, photographed by Julius Jaenzon and starring Lili Bech, a year earlier. Another recent discovery led to the restoration of the "previously thought lost" (Svenska Filminstitutet) 1913 film Gransfolken also directed by Mauritz Stiller. The Svenska Filminsitutet reported the finding of a tinted nitrate print of the film of which black and white negatives were made, thereby allowing recreated intertitles to be added to a Desmet print. The film stars Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson, Lily Jacobsson, Edith Erastoff and Stina Berg and was photographed by Julius Jaenzon and Hugo Edlund. Loves of An Actress (Rowland Lee,1928) in which Nils Asther starred with Pola Negri and Mary McAllister, as a matter of fact, is a lost film.
Bo Florin has noted, "Sjostrom's career as a film director in Sweden before he went to Hollywood is usually divided into two parts: before and after A Man There Was (1917)...much of the earlier material is lost. The rediscovery of Dodskyssen (The Kiss of Death) from 1916, however, calls for a nuancing of this; in its complex stylistic effects, this films stands much closer to Korkarlen (The Phantom Carriage) 1921, his internationally most famous and stylistically most elaborated film, than to A Man There Was." And yet, Florin also compares The Phantom Carriage with Name the Man in an examination of the style of Victor Sjostrom, "The dissolve in Name the Man might serve the particular purpose of softening the spatial reversal...a comparision to The Phantom Carriage might illustrate the function of the dissolve. The whole narrative development in the film could be said to be condensed within one constrasting device...In The Phantom Carriage as in Name the Man, the clear structural parallel between two images adds a new dimension to the interpretation of the film's meaning. These examples of style clearly indicate continuity between Sweden and Hollywood, where Sjostrom has preserved his characteristic signature in spite of the shift between to production cultures." In rmegard to spatial reversal, Florin chronicles that there are eighteen seperate instances of Victor Sjostrom "cutting across the 180 degree line to a completely reversed camera position" in the film The phantom Carriage. Interestingly, David Bordwell has written, "Sjostrom is perhaps the model for a fast learner, having created one of the masterpieces in Ingeborg Holm, and only a few years later making The Girl from Stormycroft (1917) and The Outlaw and His Wife, assured excercises in continuity editing." To which can be added a quote from Jon Wengstrom of the Swedish Film Institute, "The pictorial compostitions in Sea Vultures (Havsgamar, 1916) and the complex narrative structure in the recently rediscovered Kiss of Death (Dodskyssen, 1916) show a director in full command of the medium." Maximillan Schmige quotes author Hans Pensel, "By 1920 Sjostrom had learned to employ a faster editing of his pictures and began to understand the enormous importance of the visual elements in cinema." The Phantom Carriage (Korkarlen/The Phantom Chariot, 1920, also listed as 1921), when shown in the United States during 1922 under the title The Stroke of Midnight, was reviewed by Photoplay Magazine as being, "Drama from the Swedish- so drab and grim in its realism that one longs, almost, for a bit of unassuming splapstick to liven it up...Impressive, but depressing." Picture-play Magazine in 1922 reviewed the film, "It is a Swedish film and full of gloom. But the strong point of 'Midnight' is not the gloom, but its ghost story." it continued to note that the film "will send shivers up your spine" the reviewer conceded that they "had to sit through reels of endless dreary moralizing." On the acting performance of Victor Sjostrom in front of the camera during The Phantom Carriage, Forsyth Hardy wrote, "The exaggerated gestures of some of the earlier films had gone, but the intensity of feeling was still there." Hardy summarizes his impression of Sjostrom with the premise that Sjostrom inevitably preferred acting, and the theater, to directing and staging camerawork. When asked about Victor Sjostrom, Ingmar Bergman had told Torsten Manns, "His films meant a tremendous lot to me, particularly The Phantom Carriage and Ingeborg Holm." In his autobiography Images, Ingmar Bergman writes, "He made the movie that, to me, was the first film of all films. I saw it for the first time when I was fifteen; to this day I see it at least once every summer, either alone or in the company of young people. I clearly see how The Phantom Carriage influenced my work." Birgitta steene in fact writes,"The aim of both The Phantom carriage and Wild strawberries is moral; they tell of a change of character in an egotistical old man and his integration into a community of love." The recently married editor of the online journal Scandinavian Cinema, Australian Emma Vestrheim has expressed a similar common sentiment of film buffs, "Wild Strawberries is a road trip through the Swedish countryside, where the protagonist played by Victor Sjostrom comes to terms with his own life and death, after he dreams that he dies. The trip through nature represents his own inner conflicts and battles, and it fits perfect that Sjostrom is both one of Bergman's inspirations and the director of The Phantom Carriage, one of the first Scandinavian films about death." Emma, with whom I had been taking an online class on Scandinavian Cinema, was extremely polite while I was being considered as a contributor to her fist issue.
Bergman has written that while filming "Wild Strawberries" ("Simultronstallet" 1957) that it seemed to him that it soon became "Victor's film", the film belonging more to the actor than to the director, and yet after "Wild Strawberries", Bergman would begin to write films in which "dialogue and characteristizations would take precedence over scenery and locations." (Cowie) In part, what may account for Berman's feeling that the film had become more of a contribution that Sjostrom had made rather than one of his own, Bergman an auteur if anything, may have been its use of the protagonist as narrative address rather than the omniscient, time-traveling third person authorial camera as an unnown lyrical "I"; the character imparts storyline rather than a construct of the director known as observer. During an interview with Stig Bjorkman, Torsten Manns and Jonas Sima, Bergman had said, "Many of my films are about journeys, people going from one place to another." Narrative space seems character centered- a throne from subjectivity. Sima had noted shortly before that "Wild Strawberries" centers around the character portrayed by Victor Sjostrom and his "relationship to himself". But is the clock ticking differently in the two films, both of which star Sjostrom; are the deadlines and exigencies oblique to each other when films are compared? Victor Sjostrom was in fact not in the best health while filming for Ingmar Bergman and reportedly had difficulty remembering lines of dialogue. There were scenes that had been filmed on interior sets using back screen projection to accommodate Sjostrom.
Film historian Rune Waldekranz, in his article Young Swedish Cinema in Relation to Swedish Film Tradition, sees Victor Sjostrom's work as a combination of "psychological realism and poeticvision" in his striving to "render inward drama in a purely visual means", the"psychological closeup" as a means of expression", Walderkranz citing a similar technique used in "Wild Strawberries" as "The Phantom Carriage", and clearly it is not omly Bergman directing Sjostrom, but Sjostrom playing two different characters that can be thematically connected, if not thematically contrasted.
In regard to narrative linearity, it could be said that there are structural parallels between the two films, beginning with the placement of flashbacks and scene segmentation. Adapted from the novel Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness by Selma Lagerlof and directed by Victor Sjostrom from his own screenplay, the film was photographed by Julius Jaenzon. In the United States, Exceptional Photoplays reviewed the film during 1922, "In this picture is present to a very marked degree the inclination toward the supernatural, toward the the eerie forces beyond the bounds of reason, which is characteristic of nearly all Swedish productions. Obviously any attempt to transpose the works of Selma Lagerlof to the screen would necessitate careful handling of the suggestion of the supernatural nowhere more strikingly present than in her novel Stroke of Midnight is a picturization." Einar Lauritzen wrote, "The double exposures in the graveyard scenes and in the scenes with the phantom chariot are beautifully executed, and, as always in Julius Jaenzon's photography, the interplay of light and shadow is superb. Peter Cowie has noted that during the scene, "Occaisionaly as many as four images are superimposed on a single frame." Francis Taylor Patterson of Exceptional Photoplays reviewed the film, "Here a strong dramatic interest is built upon the legend of the Gray Driver, who drives his grim cart over the moors, through the cities, to the floor of the sea itself, collecting the souls of the dead...There is a wealth of imagery in the play, a freshness both of in conception and execution, which combined with the admirable acting, again, of Victor Seastrom, place the play well forward among screen excellencies." In Remapping Lagerlof:performance, Intermediality and European transmissions; Selma Lagerlof in the Goden Age of Swedish Film, author Anna Nordlund writes, "Sjostrom's ethical and aesthetic ideals coincided with the visual dimensions of Lagerlof's narrative technique, as well as with the drama and growing emotional tension of her narrative content." She highlights that Sjostrom was to "experiment in depth with the cinematic possibilities of depicting more than one level of place and time and of visualizing a complex plot rather than chronological story. During April of 1921, Educational film Magazine reviewed the film with, "The actual story passes in a period of not more than fifteen minutes, during which time a man's soul is completely regenerated...The spiritual wandering a of (the character), as he lies unconscious, and as he believes, dead in a churchyard, after a midnight orgy, convey to the spectator, episode by episode, his complete life history. These retrospective scenes are introduced unite deftly. the thesis of the story is essentially a morality tale...The picture is inspird throughout by the highest ethical motives, although it is in no sense religious or Salvationalist propaganda." Victor Seastrom appears as Victor Seastrom in Film Daily magazine during 1920. During 1920, audiences in the United States were asked to flock to A Man There Was, a full page advertisement with To Our Critics scrolled across the top appearing in The Film Dauly on March 14. beneath the picture of Victor Sjostrom was the caption ,"the Great American artists acclaimed in Europe as "Prince of the Screen", who overwhelmed the American Press as a Grat Actor and still a greater director." quoting reviewers from Moving Picture World, Motion Picture News, Exhibitor!s trade Review and Wids's Daily, in which the ad appeared, it claimed to impart "What the leading critics of the motion picture press said about A Man There Was after it's first (imperfect) Picture Projection arranged for the press." Sjostrom's film, one that had been filmed before the merger of studios in Sweden, has followed him to the United States, finally screened not only four years after it was made, but in a country that Sjostrom would not direct in until four years after that- he was not yet Victor Seastrom. Summarizing the film A Man There was not a moving picture but a moving painting, Victor Seastrom, not a movie star but a screen luminary of the first magnitude. and both combined are the treat of the season." The photo caption identifies the director as Victor Seastrom. Motion Picture News introduced Victor Sjostrom to American readers during 1920 with The review Actor-Director plays role By Proxy., "Victor Sjostrom, the actor director of the Swedish Biograph Company employs a double to his own role during rehearsals of film plays, only portraying the part himself when the actual photographing of the events is going on. By viewing his own role from being the camera, Sjostrom derives a better understanding, declared Ernest Mattsson, American manager of the Swedish Biograph Company.