Greta Garbo

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sweden Talks, Waiting in Vain for Greta Garbo

     Author Jon Wengatrom has noted that as early as October of 1933 director Gustaf Molander and cameraman Julius Jaenzon were among the founding members of the Swedish Film Society (Svenska Filmsamfundet), a body which eventually let to the forming of The Swedish Filminstite (Svensk Filminstitutet), established by Robin Hood, the critic Bengt Idestram-Almquist who wrote for Stockholms Tidningen. Other members included Vilhelm Bryde, Arne Bornesbusch, Eyvind Johnson and later Einar Luritzen.    
      In 1929, Edvin Adolphson directed his first film, it having been the first film made in Sweden to include sound, "The Dream Waltz" ("Sag debt I toner") co-directed by Julius Jaenzon and starring Jenny Hasselquist and Eric Malberg.  per Olov Quistad and Peter Von Bagh specify the place of the film in chronological history, "It had no talking parts, just a soundtrack with music and sound effects on disc, but it's immediate success convinced the direction board to continue."
Aside from the beginning of a discourse of modernity that would express Sweden as a new thriving culture while sharply contrasting the landscape film of the golden age of silent film and its affair with exterior action shots with the new dialogue shot reverse shot interior, it is a dramatic comparison between the limited number of sound films produced in Scandinavia with the more expensive photographic equipment and the startling number of early sound films that have been lost, of which no copies have been preserved. The Swedish Film Institute reports that 56 sound films made in the first decades of sound in Sweden are considered lost and have not survived on celluloid. One can begin with one of the earliest Swedish sound features, "Doctor's Secret" ("Doctorons hemlighet"), of which there are no surviving copies. Directed by John W. brunius, it is among one of the three screenplays written that year by Pelle Stille. The film ran a little over an hour and starred actresses Pauline Brunius, Marta Ekstrom, Anne-Marie Brunius and Ragna Broo-Juter. The film "Hjartats roast" also written by Pelle Stille in 1930 is also lost, with no present archived prints. it was directed by Rune Carlsten and starred Margit Manstad.
American Cinematographer in 1931 described the Svensk Filmindustri studio at Rasunda in the article "A Cinematographer in Sweden", two of their journalist having visited, "They still use the old style glass stages and, unlike most of our producers, instead of spending a Greta deal of money for sound proofing them, they have merely surrounded their sets with heavy monk's cloth drapes, which deaden the unwanted reverberation quite satisfactorily."
Julius Jaenzon, the legendary cinematographer of Victor Sjostrom went ahead to direct in 1930, also photographing the film "Ulla My Ulla" ("Ulla My Ulla") during 1930, the assistant director of the film having been Per Axel Banner, it having been the first film in which actress Karin Granberg was to appear. Also starring in the film were actresses Greta Soderberg and Brita Appelgren. The screenplay of the film was written by Solve Cederstrand. Rather than signaling an overnight change, it marked a technological shift from the Golden Age of Swedish Silent Film, Sjostrom being far from absent from the screen, but returning to Sweden as an actor while Molander and Sjoberg prefaced are return to Strindbergian drama that would be championed by Ingmar Bergman. During 1930, Julius Jaenzon had also if fact been behind the camera to photograph the film "Frida's Song's" (Frida's visor) for director Gustaf Molander. The film starred Elizabeth Frisk, Tore Svennberg, Anna-Lisa Erikson and Lili Lani. Filmed at Filmstraden, Rasundra, Sweden, the script was written by Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius.
     New Movie Magazine during 1930 announce,"Greta Almroth, star of Swedish pictures when Nils Aster was making a humble beginning was the Greta Garbo of Sweden. She plays a bit in "Dream of Love" as an infuriated revolutionist in a scene with with Warner Oland. As exciting as the listing is, the Svenska Filminstitutet lists Greta Almroth as not having appeared in film between 1924-1934. That is not to say that the scene could not have been film and later cut, or the she could have been uncredited for her work, it is just that it is difficult to find biography compelling enough to think that she ever visited Hollywood. Based on the work "Adrienne Lecoureur" by Photoplay dramatist Dorothy Farnum, the film is considered to be lost, there being no surviving prints that can be screened where the scene with Almroth can be viewed,  it being part of my sections on Lost Films,Found Magazines where the only way to experience cinema is look at surviving posters, stills and magazine reviews published during the first run of the film. Scandinavian actress Greta Nissen however was in fact in Hollywood during the advent of sound film, but does not appear with Oland and Asther in the film.
     There had in fact been a Swedish company that during 1928 advertised in the United States in providing the synchronization of motion pictures, Nordicphone in Stockholm, who recorded the human actor and sound effects on disc with the fiber stylus.
     Periodicals of the era reported that sound films were first shown in Sweden on May 2, 1929. A year later, the Roda Kvarn in Stockholm, "the permanent home of the silent film", would still be waiting to decide when it would install sound equipment. it was reported that while there was interest in sound film and that more theaters were being wired based on their success, Sweden currently then had its first two sound films in production, but manufactured no recording or production equipment. In that Nordisk Film had discontinued making films in Denmark entirely, it reformed in to the newly created Nordisk Tone-Film, which produced one reel sound films. American equipment was installed in theaters not using Danish made sound reproduction. Motion Picture News reported that although Svensk Filmindustri would release eight silent films and four that had both silent and sound versions and the production of short subjects with sound was currently in preparation, only one film would be presented with synchronized sound from Rasunda. It is uncanny to read of the difficulty entertained more than a decade earlier by inventor M. Sven Berglund and similar attempts to use telephone wires to synchronize recorded sound to five reel films.
     The appendices to the volume The New Spirit in the Cinema, Analysis, and Interpretation of the Parallel Paths of Cinema, published by Harold Shaylor, Gower Street, reported with a tone of optimism the modernity of the two film studios at Rasunda while it placed the then recent transition from silent to sound film into the bookshelves with hardcover accounts and appraisals of the new technology, "There is no doubt that Svensk Filmindustri has now entered upon another period of successful production. During the past year several films were produced which have enjoyed an extraordinarily great success in Sweden, namely the farce 'Konstgjorda Svennson', 'Norrlangningar', the magnificent film from the frozen polar regions, 'Den Starkaste' and not least, the first Swedish sound film, 'Sage Det i toner', which has beaten all previous records of popularity in Sweden. This year's production has already started with a farce and comedy founded on one of Selma Lagerlof's latest novels, 'Charlotte Lowenskold'. At the moment talking film equipment of the Tobias system is being installed. Svensk Filmindustri will henceforth produce sound films and talkies side by side with silent films." The volume noted that "the public is getting tired of American film and its jazzy mentality", which had flooded European theaters, and that it "feels again attracted to films of lyrical inspiration." It went on to discuss Europe and the fact that films made in Switzerland at the time seemed non-existent, but that there were a half-dozen that seemed worth of being noted.
Film Daily magazine reported during 1931 that, "Scandinavian countries will produce about 32 talking features this year...Practically all important houses in Sweden are wired for sound."
     "One Night" ("En Natt", Molander, 1931) had been written by Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius and yet it owed much of its construction to its assistant director, Gosta Hellstrom. Hellstrom had been a film critic and had met with both Eisenstien and Pudovkin before returning to his native Sweden. The film is distinct from Molander's other film in its technique, it's editing. Appearing in the film were Gerda Lundequist, Unno Henning, Sture Lagerwall, Ingert Bjuggren and Karin Swanstrom.
     Included with the several film directed in Sweden during 1931 that are now unobtainable due to their being no surviving copies are the lost films "Karlek maste vi ha" and ""Generalen". Swedish film director Gustaf Bergman Had continued in 1931, writing and directing the film "General" ("Generalen"), photographed by Phillip Tannura and starring Edvin Adolphson, Inga Tiblad and Karin Sawnstrom. Also that year Gustaf Bergman directed Isa Quensel in her first film appearance, "We Must Have Love" ("Karleck maste vi ha"), written by Torsten Quensel and photographed by Fred Lagenfield. The film stars Margit Rosengren, Valborg Hansson, Isla Backstrom and Anna-Lisa Baude. Also that year Bergman directed Vera Schimterlow, a dear friend of actress Greta Garbo, with Anna Lisa Baude in the film "A Woman's Tommorow/Tommorow for a Woman" ("En Kvinnas Morgandag") written by Elsa af Trolle and photographed by Fred Lagenfield. The film is considered to be lost and the are no archival copies that have been restored. Also lost is the film "Dangerous Paradise" Swedish film director Rune Carlsten during 1931 directed the film "Dangerous Paradise" ("Faroranas Paradis"), adapted from a novel by Joseph Conrad, starring Ragnar Arvedson and Elizabeth Frisk. That year he also co-directed the film "Half to Heaven" ("Halvvags till Himlen"), starring Elisabeth Frisk, Edvin Adolphson and Karin Swanstrom.
     Swedish film director Theodor Berthels in 1931 wrote down and directed the film "His Majesty Will Have to Wait" ("Hans Majectat far Vanta") photographed by Adrian Bjurman and based on a play by Oscar Rydqvist. The film's stars Margit Manstad, Ragnar Arvedson, Aina Rosen, Britta Vieweg and Emmy Albiin.
     Swedish film director Per Axel Branner directed Astrid Bodin in her first film during 1931, "Under Roda Fanor", written by Fredrick Storm and photographed by Gosta Sandin. Also starring in the film are Ruth Weijden and Gertie Lowestrom.
     1931 brought the film "Love and the Homeguard" ("Karleck och Landstrom") directed by John Lindlof and produced by Europa-film, Stockholm. Scholar Christopher Natzenhus, Stockholm, noted that Europa and other emerging companies, then including Sandrews, were too small to compete with Svensk Filmindustri, who were in fact increasing their production output.
Gustaf Edgren during 1932 directed the film “The Varmlanders” (“Varmlanningarna”) with actresses Annalise Ericson, Hilda Borgstrom and Emmy Albiin. Based on a play by Fredreck pa Rannsatt and Andreas Randel, an earlier version of the film had been made in 1921 by Silent Film Director Eric A Petschler.
Gosta Rodin in 1934 wrote and directed “She or No One” (“Hon Eller Ingen”) produced by Europa and starring Inga Tiblad, Anna Olin and Sture Lagerwall. That year he also directed Lagerwall with actress Isa Quensel in the film “Adventyr pa Hotell”. It was the year the director married actress Aina Rosen.
     Out of the 23 feature films made in Sweden, and if the rate of competition from America listed for that year is accurate the country screened less than fifty films for viewing that year, Film Daily Year Book noted that during 1933 "Europa-film, Stockholm, produced four feature films, all sound on film." Accordingly, Svensk Talfilm produced only one film from its studio in Stockholm and only one was made by Irefilm, Stockholm.
     The Kinetograph Yearbook of 1935, published in Long Acre, while providing an assessment of international film markets compared Swedish Film production to that of other leading countries while viewing Saedish Film as comprising a genre of its own, "The conditions prevailing in 1934 have been satisfactory as illustrated by the fact that after 14 years, Svenska Filmindustri...have resumed a payment of a dividend (6 percent) on the ordinary A shares. Film production has also kept its own...Most of the Swedish output is of a national character, inasmuch as the stories are taken from Swedish life and laid against a Swedish landscape." The periodical Cinema Quarterly during 1934 viewed Sweden as in financial competition with other foreign distributors, particularly in the home market, and in doing so it complemented the quality of films made in Sweden before the advent of sound while recognizing a new generation of Swedish filmmakers that were quickly beginning to be viewed outside of Sweden. They were led by the more experienced Gustav Molander, "He received his early schooling in the glorious epoch of Sweden's silent film when he worked as an assistant to, among others, Victor Sjostrom." The periodical gave credit to the photography of Ake Dahlquist in two of Molander's films, "En Natt" and "En Stilla Flirt". " 'A Mild Flirt' has been a great success in Sweden. In spite of the fact that Sweden is the native country of Greta Garbo, a good Swedish film is generally a greater commercial success than a Garbo film. In 'A Mild Flirt', the principal part was taken by Tutta Rolf, who earlier this year, left for Hollywood. Where she is under contract with Fox." Author Paul Rotha, in his volume The Film till Now, a survey of world cinema, offered an alternative, more disillusioned, interpretation, "With their long and fine tradition in film making in the early silent days, the Scandinavian countries have experienced the utmost difficulties in trying to regain their place in world cinema. Severely limited by the dictates of dialogue, comparatively little of their work has been seen overseas. in Sweden, the films produced since 1930 have been strongly marked by national characteristics, but from Gustav Molander's 'En Natt'1931) through 'The Heavenly Play' (1944) and 'Torment' (1946), none of its productions we have seen has broken really fresh ground. Victor Sjostrom returned from Hollywood to Sweden to function primarily as an actor and until recently Gustav Molander and some of other veterans from the silent days have carried on."
     The 1934 film "En Stille Flirt" (A Quiet Affair), starring Birgitta Tengroth and Margit Manstad had been adapted for the screen by Gosta Stevens from the novel by Edith Oberg. It was directed by Gustav Molander. The following year, Gosta Stevens would return to script Gustav Molander's film "A Bachelor Father" ("Ungkarlspappan"), photographed by Einer Akesson.
Gustaf Edgren during 1934 directed the film "Karl Fredrick Reigns" ("Karl-Fredrik regerar") with Gunnar Skoglund, Pauline Bruinius and actress Brit-Lis Edgren in what lulls be her first film appearance. The cinematographer was Martin Bodin, the scriptwriter Oscar Rydvist. Oscar Rydvist also scripted the first film edited by Oscar Rosander, "Valborgsmassoafton", filmed in 1935. Directed by Gustaf Edgren, it stars actress Linnea Hillberg in a seemingly all-star cast which included Victor Sjostrom, Lars Hanson, Karin, George Rydeberg and Ingrid Bergman. Author Forsyth Hardy described the subject matter, or theme perhaps, of the film as being “The everyday life of the people.”
Ragnar Allberg of Cinema Quarterly praised Per Axel Branner as one of the young upcoming directors of Swedish film in 1935. He wrote, “His characters live, and are one with their surroundings, and the conflicts grow up out of the milieu in a way which is not common in film. His sketches in landscapes, and its people with broad powerful strokes and his characters have space and horizon behim them.” Per Axel Branner that year directed the film “Young Hearts” (“Unga Hjartan”), which he conscripted with Martin Rogberg.The Film stars Anne-Marie Brunius, Marta Ekstrom and Wanda Rothgardt. The cinematographer to the film was Valdemar Christensen.
G. Holmgren directed his first film in 1935, a short film titled "Havet lockar". Holmgren later directed the film "Sabotage" ("Se pop Spionen") during 1944, starring Marianne Lofgren and Inga Bodil Vetterlund.Holmgren is also notable for his remake of the film "Malarpirater", made in 1959 and photographed by Ake Dahlquist.
The Americans periodical Motion Picture Daily In 1936 review the film “On the Sunnyside” (“Pa Solsidan”), directed by Gustaf Molander. “It is finely photographed and a finished production. The yacht racing sequences are of particular merit. While the tempo lags at times it usually move slow gayly along.” Photographed by Ake Dahlqvist and adapted from a screenplay written by Gosta Stevens, the film starred Lars Hanson, Ingrid Bergman, Edvin Adolphson, Karin Swanstrom and Marianne Lofgren.
     Movie Classic magazine during 1936 paid tribute to a Swedish actress filming "Dressed to Thrill" in the United States, "Her name is Tutta Rolf. Jot that down in your memory book: you will be hearing it often when this picture gets around....The story revolves around three people, and she is two of them; the third is Clive Brook."
Although the film "Intermezzo" was screened first run in the United States in Swedish with English subtitles, Film Daily magazine looked at the film more than favorably, reviewing it with, "Powerful, Dramatic Story with Deft Comedy Touches, Should Appeal to Foriegn Fans." With a screenplay credited to Gustaf Molander and Gosta Stevens, when reviewed the film was said to include, "The direction of Gustaf Molander is praiseworthy."
Forsyth Hardy in the volume Scandinavian Film uses an unattributed block quote to relate the extratextural reception of the film, in which is included, " 'Intermezzo', however, plunges right into the deep water and tries individualistic descriptions of human beings which are both beautiful and sensitive." He bookends the quite with an observation before chronicling a voyage of Julius Jaenzon and Tancred Ibsen to the South Pole, "It seems strange that it should have been necessary to urge Swedish directors to leave the studio, their concentration on comedies, and farces, drawn from stage examples had blinded them to the virtue to be drawn from the Swedish landscape."


Sven Garbo