Greta Garbo and Victor Sjostrom

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Swedish Silent Film, director John W. Brunius


     In the United States, Photoplay magazine during 1919 included two still photographs, one of Mary Johnson and one of Gosta Ekman in Puss in Boots. The former was captioned," above is Miss Johnson and Carlo Kell-Moller in an exterior study. miss Johnson is an ingenue leading woman of a type that we make favorites of in america. location work in sweden hasn't become a bore, evidently, as both town and country people impressed by the novelty of the thing are heartily inclined to make the companies their guests instead of momentary and suspected tenants." it also happened to recapitulate its belief that the import of swedish films had previously been prohibited based on the premise that germany had been scrapping the films in order to produce high explosives before the armistice. The director of Puss and Boots ("Masterkattan I stovlar") John Brunius, the silent film director married to swedish film director Pauline Bruinius, is described by Forsyth Hardy in the volume Scandinavian Film as having been "the most considerable figure often linked with the major directors", his having gained renown for a series of historical dramas begun only a few years later. John Brunius had co-scripted his directorial debut "Puss and Boots" with writer Sam Ask. The film was also the first film in which actress Anna Carlsten was to appear. Author Tytti Solla notes that both John Brunius and Rune Carlsten had been trained as actors. Nils Bouveng, the manager of Skandia, had previously been the manager of Hasselblad studios where Rune Carlsten had also been under the producer's supervision.
During July of 1918, in the United States, Motion Picture World announced the formation of the new company of Filmaktiebolget Skandia, which would include the merging of Skandia Film. “The company expects to have under contract popular Scandinavian actors. The studio will be that of the Hasselblad company at Sodra Linden (Goteburg). The present structure will be enlarged and modernized so that there may be productions on a large scale. The new company will start producing in May.”
While with Filmindustri Skandia, John Brunius directed the film "Oh Tommorow Night" ("Ah I Morron Kvall"), which he co-scripted with writer Sam Ask. Photographed by Hugo Edlund, the film stars actresses Eva Eriksson, Mary Graber, Hulda Malmstrom and Gucken Cederborg.
John Brunius during 1919 directed “The Girl from Solbakken/The Fairy from Solbaken” (”Synnove Solbakken”), based on the novel written by Bjornstjerne in 1857. The assistant director to the film was Einar Brunn, it having been filmed in both Sweden and Norway by photographers Hugo Edlund and Arthur Thorell. Starring Lars Hanson and Karin Molander, it was the first film in which actresses Ellen Dall, Ingrid Sundall and Solvieg Hedengran would appear. The film reunited Sam Ask with John Bruinius, they both having co-written the script, as with the film Masterkattan I Stovlar. Tytti Soila, in regard to the film’s editing writes, “The film’s conflict of ideas is condensed in a sequence when there’s cross-cutting between a religious revival meeting at Synnove’s home and young people celebrating Midsummer by dancing in a meadow.” This seems to be the same sequence that Bo Florin credits Brunius with cutting across the 180 degree line. Scholar Bo Florin, in an article entitled “Norwegian Tableaux: A Norway Lass” writes that “The plot of the film faithfully follows Bjornson’s story.” Florin goes further to look at the adaptation of the visual narrative of the novel, alighting upon observations by both Leif Furhammar and Rune Waldecranz that Bruinius replicates tableau like compositions by the painter Tidemand, showing bruinius’s acurracy in reproduction and adds that he also uses the painting Swedish painter Killian Zoll. This was at a time when Skandia specifically was in competition with Svenska Bio over Nordic Literature on the screen.
     Actor Einar Hanson is listed among the cast of the 1919 film People of Hemso (Hemsoborna) directed by Carl Barclind for Scandia. The film was adapted from the work of August Strindberg by Sam Ask and photographed by Hugo Edlund. Hilma Barklind and Mathilda Casper appear in the film.
Filmindustri Inc. Skandia had begun in 1918; two years later Skandia merged with Svenska Bio to form a partnership between Charles Magnusson and Nils Bourevy to run Svensk Filmindustri. In the United States, Photoplay magazine recorded, "The Skandia Film Corporation has just finished the construction of a great glass studio, modeled after and lighted by American methods, near Langangen, north of Stockholm." Jon Wengstrom, in Sweden during this century, has noted that John Brunius not only continued to direct with Svensk Filmindustri after the merger, but produced "period pieces" for his own company.
     Actor Lars Hanson appeared on screen for Scandia Film under the direction of Rune Carlsten in the film A Dangerous Proposal (Etta fanlight firer, 1919), starring with Gun Cronvall, Hilda Categren and actress Uno Henning in what was to be her first on screen appearance.
Photoplay, during 1919, noted, "The Skandia Film Corporation, the employer of these young stars is doing some really big plays on the screen. Among them are several pieces of Bjornsterne Bjornson and a modern drama of social conditions by Danish playwright Pontoppidan. The title of this is The Bomb." Bomben (1920) was directed by Rune Carlsten, written by Sam Ask and photographed by Rauol Reynolds. The film starred Karin Molander and Gosta Ekman. Rune Carlsten would call upon scriptwriter Sam Ask and photographer Raoul Reynolds again during 1920 when directing Snows of Destiny (Familjens Traditioner), based on a play by Einar Froberg and starring Gosta Ekman Tora Teje and Mary Johnson.
     During 1920, the Swedish director John Brunius wrote and directed two notable films, the first of which, Thora van Deken, starred Gosta Ekman, Ellen Dall and Edvin Adolphson, which Pauline Brunius in the title role. The film was an adaptation of a novel written by Henrik K. Pontoppidan. The second, Gycrksviscarna, photographed by Hugo Edlind, starred Pauline Brunius with Nils Asther and Ragnar Arvedson. Both films were produced by Filmindustri Scandia Stockholm.
Give Me My Son (En villages), directed by John Brunius during 1921 in which he himself starred with Pauline Brunius, Tore Svennberg, Edvin Adolphson, Mona Geiffer Falkner and Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson, was revised in the United States shortly after its release by The Film Daily during early 1922. It summarized the film by claiming it was, "a new angle on the mother love theme presented in foreign dramatic offering..Handles dramatic moments effectively, but otherwise average...Pauline Bruinius plays mother role with considerable feeling, suitable cast." before it provided nearly a half page of synopsis, the periodical reported that the film, "gets away from the conventional happy ending. It is not tragic, but unexpected, and not what you think it will be. The denouement is particularly handled, aPnd there are no humorous incidents whatever, so the atmosphere becomes 'heavy' occaisionally.,,the more dramatic moments Re quite effectively handled in a manner that increases the interest to a proper pitch. It is accumulating." Screenwriter Sam Ask appears on screen in the film The Wild Bird (En Vindfagel), which was an adaptation of a play written by S.A. Duse.
Directed for Filmindustri Scandia, Stockholm during 1920, the first three films directed by Pauline Brunius, “De lackra skaldjuren”, “Ombytta Roller” and “Trollslanden” were also to be the first three films in which Frida Winnerstrand was to appear. All three films were photographed by Carl Gustaf Florin. All three films were co-scripted by Pauline Brunius and Lars Tessing.

The Mill (Kvarnen), directed by John Brunius during 1921 had starred Helene Olsson, Klara Kjellblad and Ellen Dall, it having been photographed by Hugo Edlund. The screenwriter Sam Ask also appears in the film, which was an adaptation of a novel penned by Karl Gjellerup. Author Tommy Gustafsson imparts the thematic structure to the film in Swedish Film during a chapter titled Travellers as a Threat in Swedish film during the 1920's. "Kvarnen's rendering of good and evil takes place on two levels. First with an overt symbolism, the filmmakers let a black cat name Pilatus follow Lise wherever she goes, while Amraenta, on the other hand is followed by a tame roe deer. Second, the dark haired Lise is portrayed as a sexually alluring woman with earrings and unbuttoned blouses where we are even able to get a glimpse of seductively bare shoulders and even cleavage. The blond Amrante on the other hand is portrayed as a fairy tale like and innocent character throughout the film." Author Peter Cowie, in his volume Scandinavian Cinema, writes, " 'The Mill' proved a greater critical success in France than it did in Sweden."

     Pauline Brunius during 1921 wrote and directed the films Lev Livet lee de and Ryggskott, both films of shorter legnth, running under a half hour and both starring Frida Winnerstrand, the photographer for both films having been Carl Gustav.

     The author of Greta Garbo: A Divine Star, David Bret, claims that two films directed by John Brunius that are lost, there being no surviving print of either film, both were films in which Greta Garbo under the name of Greta Gustaffson, had appeared as an extra, whereas, previously, the present author would have only thought to credit her as being in the first film, Soldier of Fortune (En lyckoriddare, 1921), in which she appeared on the set with her sister, Alva. Interestingly enough, Robert Payne, author of The Great Garbo is also among the modern biographers that attribute an uncredited contribution on the part of Greta Garbo to the film, his having noted that she can be seen in the film for well over a full minute.
     Author Jan Olsson recently noted that when Skandia had merged with Swedish Biograph during 1919, one business consideration had been increasing its international market, which would stand to reason as the Danish film industry which had exported was then at a standstill. Olsson advances that it was with an interest in exporting film too foreign markets that the film Karleckens Ogen (Eyes of Love, A Scarlet Angel), directed by Brunius in 1922, had been given a script with a story that transpired in Russia, "Brunius's film featured luxurious cosmopolitan nightclub settings and an intrigue brimming with crimes and passions leading up to redemption of sorts." Brunius co-wrote the film with Sam Ask and it started Pauline Brunius, Karen Winther and Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson. The cinematographer to the film was Hugo Edlund. David Bret, author of Greta Garbo: Divine Star, lists Greta Garbo as having appeared in the film Scarlet Angel as an extra and that the film itself is lost, there being no surviving prints of the work. Writing about the global distribution of Swedish silent film, Sweden as transnational, or reluctantly transnational cinema, scholar Laura Horak chronicles the efforts of producer Nils Bouveng, "While some Swedes blamed international audiences for their lack of sophistication, SF was determined to win these audiences over. The company responded to these reports by making a spate of urban, cosmopolitan films, including 'Erotikon', 'The Eyes of Love' ('Karlekens Ogen' ('The Eyes of Love', John Brunius, 1922) and 'Karusellan' ('The Carousel', Dimitri Buchowetski, 1923)." In light of The exterior silent scene of the the Golden Age of Swedish Film quickly having transferred to the interior dialogue scene of Gustaf Molander after the advent of sound, Horak endearingly adds that during that period, before traveling to the United States, silent director Victor Sjostrom starred well known British actors to make his audiences more international.
     Forsyth Hardy evaluated the directing of John Brunius in his volume Scandinavian Film, "Inside the studio, Brunius was less successful, but his broadly handled spectacles made a contribution to the Swedish cinema which was noted with respect abroad." 
     Actress Mary Johnson, who had previously acted under the direction of George af Klerker and Mauritz Stiller, returned to the screen to act under the direction of John Brunius in 1923 for the film "Johan Ulfstjerna", photographed by Hugo Edlund, in which she starred with Einar Hanson, Anna Olin and Berta Hilbert. The film included scenes shot on location in Finland. The screenplay had been adapted by Carlo Keil-Moller from a play by Tor Hedberg. To lend a sense of the film as a vehicle for the actress author Forsyth Hardy has written, "Brunius could work effectively on a large canvass." Peter Cowie echoes this by noting that director John Brunius used six cameras to film crowd scenes in Helsinki. John Wengstrom, of the Swedish Film Institute, found that the sentiment was echoed by Gosta Werner, whom he quotes as having claimed the film by John Bruinius, “When first theatrically released, was one of his earliest and strongest cinematic experiences”. John W. Bruinius also directed the film "Best of All" in 1923.
     John Brunius during 1924 brought the film Maid Among Maids (En piga bland Piga) to Swedish film audiences. Photographed by cinematographer Hugo Edlund it starred Margit Manstad, Magda Holm, Esther Halling and Halling Lennartsson. During 1924 John Brunius was on stage as an actor at the Svenska Teatern under the direction of Pauline Brunius in a production of “Charites Portratt”, written by Einar Christiansen. John Brunius has begun acting on stage at the Svenska Teatern in 1907 in a production of “Johannes” written by Hemann Suderman. He continued under the direction of Karl Hedberg and Victor Castlegren untill 1910 and under the direction of Gunnar Klintberg untill 1917. Included in his performances were plays written by August Strindberg and Hjalmer Bergman.
     John Brunius in 1925 directed the film Charles XII (Karl II) starring Mona Martenson and Pauline Bruinius. Photographed by Hugo Edlund, it's screenplay was written by Hjalmar Bergman and Ivar Johansson. Many of the scenes of Bruinius's film were shot on the actual historical locations and battle sites. It is in fact listed as having been produced by Historik Film. As is reflected in the list of actor and actresses in the credits of the film, it was one of the most expensive films to have been made in Sweden up until that time. It was a year during which screenwriter Hjalmar Bergman was still corresponding with Victor Sjostrom and during which he had written to Mauritz Stiller, to whom he mentions Sjostrom, Sjostrom's wife, Edith Erastoff and the actress Greta Garbo, or "Garbo" rather. During that year's correspondence he only briefly mentions Mona Martenson, but does in fact more than twice. Although he attributes Hjalmar Bergman with an "imaginatively written screenplay", A. Kwaikauski, author of Swedish Film Classics gives an estimation of the content, and the thematic narrative, or thematic distribution perhaps, of the film, "Brunius did not overcome the danger of excessive trappings. The spectacular and vigorous battle scenes are not matched by the intimate sequences, which are conventional scenes of court intrigue. The film is impressive in size, but essentially illustrative and lifeless."

John Brunius again collaborated with screenwriter Ivar Johansson during 1926 to bring the film Tales of Ensign Stal (Fredrick stalls Sanger) to the screen. Hugo Edlund was the cameraman to the film. Appearing in the film Gosta Ekman, Edvin Adolphson, Pauline Brunius, Elsa Lundqvist and Karin Swanstron.

Brunius directed the film Gusta Wasa from a screenplay by Ivar Johansson in 1928.

Although these last two films, "Tales of Ensign Stals" and "Gusta Wasa" were "mammoth costume dramas", author Peter Cowie notes that John Brunius left no mark on the films of the 1930's as a decade as a director, the scepter having been passed to Gustav Molander as the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film had already reached an anti-climactic close.

After the advent of sound, John Brunius sought to continue the tradition of Swedish filmmaking by turning to the writing of Norwegian novelist Bjornstjerne Bjornson and an adaptation of the 1860 work "En Gald Gut", photographed in Norway for National Film by Gunnar Nilsen-Vig. The film featured actors Hauk Aabel, Goril Havervold and Tore Foss.
John Brunius directed two films during 1930, “The Doctor’s Secret” (“Doktorns Hemlighet”), written by Per Stille and starring Pauline Bruinius, Anne-Marie Bruinius and Marta Ekstrom, and “The Two of Us” (“Vi Tva”), in which Edvin Adolsphson appeared as an actor with Margit Manstad and Marta Ekstrom. “The Two of Us” is the first film in which Lisa Froberg appears on screen as an actress.

Danish Silent Film

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