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20 January 2017

Sascha Gura

Around 1920, Sascha Gura (1896-?) was highly popular and active in the silent cinema of the Weimar Republic. She is particularly memorable in a few expressionist horror films by Otto Rippert and F.W. Murnau. After the rise of the Nazis, the Jewish actress disappeared in oblivion.

Sascha Gura
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 294/1. Photo: Alex Binder / Decla.

Seducing By Dance


Sascha Gura was born in Munich, Germany in 1896 as Eugenia Theresia Gura. She was the daughter of the singer and actor Hermann Gura and granddaughter of singer and actor Eugen Gura.

Sascha had her professional training at the Königliche Hochschule für Musik (Now Universität der Künste Berlin). Her career started as operetta singer during the First World War and from 1921 on she became successful at the Komische Oper in Berlin.

Gura became a film actress in 1919, debuting in the expressionist silent film Der Totentanz/Dance of Death (Otto Rippert, 1919), a Helios Film production, scripted by Fritz Lang. Gura played the lead of a dancer who kills men after seducing them by her dance. She is forced to do so by a disfigured doctor (Werner Krauss) who thus takes revenge on the world, until she meets a man (Karl Bernhard) she falls in love with.

It was followed by such films as Phantome des Lebens/Phantom of Life (Josef Coenen, 1919) with Lil Dagover, and Das Haupt des Juarez/The Head of Juarez (Johannes Guter, Rudolf Meinert, 1920) starring Eduard von Winterstein. For six years she would perform in more of such dark dramas and adventure stories.

Sascha Gura
German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 294/6. Photo: Alex Binder / Helios Film.

Poison Ivy


In 1920 Sascha Gura went to Vienna to perform in two films by Heinz Hanus at Astoria-Film, the adaptation Wie Satan starb/How Satan Died (Heinz Hanus, 1920) with Nora Gregor, and Unter der Knute des Schicksals/Under the Knout of Destiny (Heinz Hanus, 1921).

Memorable was Gura’s part in F.W. Murnau’s horror film Die Bücklige und die Tanzerin/The Hunchback and the Dancer (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1920), in which she played the female lead Gina, opposite John Gottowt.

Carl Mayer’s script is similar to Der Totentanz: a disfigured man takes vengeance on the world. The story also reminds Batman’s Poison Ivy. A hunchback, who has become a millionaire by finding diamonds in Java, but also learned there about mortal venoms. When Berlin dancer Gina first falls for him and then goes back to the baron she already loved before, he makes her skin mortal to anyone who kisses her. Sadly, the film is considered lost.

Then followed Die Liebschaften des Hektor Dalmore/The love affairs of Hektor Dalmore (Richard Oswald, 1921) featuring Conrad Veidt. In the next years followed more than a dozen film parts in silent films such as the female lead in Die Handschrift des Inka/The manuscript of the Inca (1925) by Gernot Bock-Stieber, with whom she had done various films before as well.

In 1927 Gura quitted acting in silent cinema, after making the action film Bezwinger der 1000 Gefahren/Conqueror of 1000 dangers (1927) directed by its star, Harry Piel. She played two small parts in sound films, in Trenck - Der Roman einer großen Liebe/Trenck (Ernst Neubach, Heinz Paul, 1932) starring Hans Stüwe, and Grüss mir die Lore noch einmal/Greet Lore for Me one more time (Carl Heinz Wolff, 1934).

Then the Jewish actress got into trouble with the Nazi regime and her career ended. We couldn't find more information on the web about her further whereabouts.

Sascha Gura
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 3072. Photo: Ernst Schneider.

Sources: Stephanie d'Heil (Steffi-line.de - German), Filmportal.de, Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

19 January 2017

Albert Rueprecht

Austrian actor Albert Rueprecht (1929) was a member of the Burgtheater and Theater in der Josefstadt in Vienna. The blond actor made over 40 feature films, including many Heimatfilms in which he often played the handsome jeune premier.

Renate Mannheim, Thomas Reyer, Albert Rueprecht and Hanna Hutten in Das Sündige Dorf (1954)
West-German postcard by DLF. Photo: Dörfler-Filmproduktion. Publicity still for Das sündige Dorf/The Village of Sin (Ferdinand Dörfler, 1954) with Renate Mannheim, Thomas Reyer, Albert Rueprecht and Hanna Hutten.

Romeo


Albert Rueprecht was born in 1929 in Vienna, the capital of Austria. He had his first stage experiences at the Akademischen Gymnasium when he played in Ferdinand Raimund’s Alpenkönig und Menschenfeind (King of the Alps and Enemy of the People).

From 1949 to 1951, he took acting classes with Zdenko Kestranek, Helmuth Krauss and Edward Wolters, teachers of the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna. He had his first engagements as an actor at the Theater der Courage and the Theater am Parkring.

At the Wiener Volkstheater he played in 1953 Ferdinand in Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love) by Friedrich Schiller. After appearances at Theater in der Josefstadt, he came in 1954 to the prestigious Burgtheater.

There he played among others Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Don Juan in Dame Kobold by Calderón de la Barca and Gottfried in Das Käthchen von Heilbronn (Cathy of Heilbronn) by Heinrich von Kleist.

In 1955 he was in the cast of the historic production with which the Burgtheater re-opened: König Ottokars Glück und Ende (King Ottokar's Fortune and End) on the stage. For almost ten years he remained at the Burgtheater. From 1958 to 2004 he was an ensemble member at the Theater in der Josefstadt. There he played a total of over 80 roles.

Albert Rueprecht
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 2102. Photo: H.P. / Deutsche London / Schwennecke. Publicity still for Wo der Wildbach rauscht/Where the Wildbach rushes (Heinz Paul, 1956).

Albert Rueprecht
German postcard by Ufa, no. 6309/2. Photo: Wessely / Union-Film.

A Classic of the Heimatfilm


In 1954, Albert Rueprecht had a part in Echo der Berge/Echo of the mountains (Alfons Stummer, 1954), an Austrian classic of the Heimatfilm genre and one the most popular German language films ever.

He would play in many Heimatfilms of the 1950s, including Die Wirtin zur Goldenen Krone/The Innkeeper of the Golden Crown (Theo Lingen, 1955), Dort wo die Alpen glühen/Where the Alpine glow (Otto Meyer, 1956), and Im Prater blüh’n wieder die Bäume/Trees Are Blooming in Vienna (Hans Wolff, 1958) with Johanna Matz.

Often he was the good-looking jeune premier, which made him quite popular. His roles ranged from a young officer to a peasant in love, from the ‘elegant man of the world’ to the emperor.

In the last part of the Sissi trilogy, Sissi – Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin/Sissi - Fateful Years of an Empress (Ernst Marischka, 1957), he played the Archduke Ferdinand Max opposite Romy Schneider.

In total, Rueprecht made over 50 feature films, including the melodrama Das Licht der Liebe/The light of love (Robert Adolf Stemmle, 1954) with Paula Wessely as his mother, and Der Vogelhändler/The Bird Seller (Géza von Cziffra, 1962) with Conny Froboess.

After the end of the Heimatfilm wave, Rueprecht only got small roles including a few parts in international productions, such as Song Without End (Charles Walters, 1960) starring Dirk Bogarde. He participated in TV series and intensified his theatrical work, especially at the Theater in der Josefstadt.

In 2008 he played at the Mörbischer Seefestspiele the Emperor Franz Joseph in the operetta Im weißen Rößl (The White Horse Inn). His later films include Duett zu dritt/Tea for Three (Gerhard Janda, 1976) with Iris Berben, The Fifth Musketeer (Ken Annakin, 1979) and Ein Herz wird wieder jung/A heart becomes young again (Heide Pils, 1999).

Albert Rueprecht was married with the actresses Ellen Umlauf and Ann Millar (Elisabeth Rueprecht, born Millar) who died in 2010. His son is Alexander Rueprecht, from his marriage with Ellen Umlauf.

Albert Rueprecht in Dort oben, wo die Alpen glühen (1956)
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 144. Photo: Rex / Union / Gruber. Publicity still for Dort oben, wo die Alpen glühen/Up there where the Alps glow (Otto Meyer, 1956).

Karin Baal and Albert Rueprecht in Der müde Theodor (1957)
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 2507. Photo: DFH / Lilo. Publicity still for Der müde Theodor/Tired Theodore (Géza von Cziffra, 1957) with Karin Baal.

Albert Rueprecht
Vintage autograph card.

Sources: Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

18 January 2017

Der brennende Acker (1922)

This week's film special is about the German silent film Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922). Murnau shot this drama right before his vampire classic Nosferatu (1922). Der brennende Acker is remarkable for its beautiful exterior shots and its all-star cast, including Vladimir Gajdarov and Lya de Putti. For many decades the film was considered lost, but in 1978 an almost complete print was found in the estate of an Italian priest. There also remains this beautiful series of postcards by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, published for the French release of the film, in France titled La terre qui flambe.

Der brennende Acker (1922)
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922). Maria (Grete Diercks) works in the household of Peter Rog and his father. Peter is in love with her and wants to marry her, but she instead loves his younger brother Johannes.

Eugen Klöpfer in Der brennende Acker (1922 )
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922) with Eugen Klöpfer as Peter Rog.

Der brennende Acker (1922)
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922). Peter Rog (Eugen Klöpfer) takes care of his dying father (Werner Krauss).

The Devil's Field


Der brennende Acker presents two households: that of the wealthy Count Josef Emmanuel of Rudenbergand the Rogs, a fairly prosperous farm family who live nearby.

When the old farmer Rog (Werner Krauss) dies, his hard-working son Peter (Eugen Klöpfer) attends him and stays at the farm after his father's death.

The other, younger son is the more worldly Johannes (Vladimir Gajdarov). He has great ambitions and he refuses the love of the servant Maria (Grete Diercks).

His ambition leads the handsome Johannes to charm Gerda (Lya de Putti), the daughter of the old Count Rudenberg (Eduard von Winterstein), who is also dying. Gerda helps Johannes to a job as the secretary of the Count.

Johannes discovers that the Count's second wife Helga (Stella Arbenina) will inherit the Devil's Field. Only he knows that the land sits on an untapped oil field worth a fortune.

Joahnnes turns his attention from Gerda to Helga. When she is widowed, he marries her. His greed leads to death and burning soil.

Der brennende Acker (1922)
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922). At the farm of the Rog family. The housemaid Maria (Grete Diercks) eyes Johannes Rog (Vladimir Gajdarov), but he is only interested in money.

Der brennende Acker (1922)
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922) with Grete Diercks as the housemaid Marie.

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau


In the 1920s Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (1888-1931) was with Fritz Lang and G. W. Pabst one of the three great German film directors and Sandra Brennan at AllMovie writes that "To this day German filmmaker F.W.Murnau remains one of the most influential directors of cinema."

He made his directorial debut in 1919, the fantasy film Der Knabe in Blau/Emerald of Death (1919). His next films were also fantasy films: The three-part Satanas/Satan (1919), Murnau's first film with cinematographer Karl Freund and leading actor Conrad Veidt, and Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin/The Hunchback and the Dancer (1920), that marked the start of Murnau's collaboration with screenplay writer Carl Mayer.

With Schloss Vogelöd/The Haunted Castle (1921), filmed in only 16 days, Murnau already proved his ability to create an atmosphere of fear and horror, an ability that he masterly refined in Der Brennende Acker (1922) and his famous vampire film Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens/Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922).

His next film, Der letzte Mann/The Last Laugh (1924), utilized unique camera techniques that later became the basis for mise-en-scene. For this film, Karl Freund masterly operated the 'moving camera'.

Besides Der letzte Mann, Murnau's literary adaptations Tartüff/Tartuffe (1925) and Faust (1925/26) also rank among the classic films of Weimar cinema produced by Erich Pommer.

In 1926, Murnau moved to Hollywood to work for Fox studios. His first American film, Sunrise: A Story of Two Humans (1927), is considered to be the apex of German silent cinema, and won an Academy award for its artistic quality.

His next film Four Devils (1928) was turned into a happy ending and was equipped with a sound track. The same happened to Our Daily Bread/City Girl (1929/30).

Murnau returned to Berlin but his negotiations with Ufa did not lead to a result. In 1929, he travelled to Tahiti where he made the naïve love story Tabu (1931) at his own expense. Deep in debt, he returned to Hollywood, where Paramount offered him a ten-year contract.

Tabu became a box-office hit, but the week before it opened, F.W. Murnau was killed in an auto accident. He was only 42.

Der brennende Acker (1922)
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922). Gerda (Lya de Putti) and her maid (Leonie Taliansky).

Der brennende Acker (1922)
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922). Count Rudenburg (Eduard von Winterstein), flanked by, left, his daughter Gerda (Lya de Putti), and right, his second wife Helga (Stella Arbenina).

Der brennende Acker


Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil or in French La terre qui flambe was considered lost for a long time. In 1978 an almost complete print was found in the estate of an Italian priest, who had organised screenings with his film collection in mental hospitals

Since then, Der brennende Acker is acclaimed for its visual quality, the contrast between the simple rustic farm and the airy and elegant castle. Thorkell A. Ottarsson at IMDb: "The film is quite dramatic and dark, even surprisingly dark at times. A superb film from one of the best directors of all time."

To achieve his visual effects, innovative camera angles, and bold lighting, Murnau had two of the most renowned cameramen photographing the film. Fritz Arno Wagner filmed the first part and Karl Freund the second part, and the sets were built by the equally renowned Rochus Gliese.

Karl Freund, who began as a projectionist in Berlin and newsreel cameraman, worked for Ufa in the 1920s and gained the international reputation of being a master cameraman. His later credits include such classics as Metropolis, Der Lezte Mann/The Last Laugh, Der Golem/The Golem and Variété/Variety.

W. Morrow at IMDb describes beautifully his fascination for Der brennende Acker: "a sustained mood of wintry melancholy, perked by a number of understated but impressive directorial touches. There's business involving a document torn into little pieces that is poetic. When Murnau was at his peak, in such films as Faust and Sunrise, he would stage his effects on a much grander scale, but here he manages to create a beautiful moment with a few torn pieces of paper."

Der brennende Acker (1922)
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922). The old maid talks to the young servants about the Devil's Field.

Der brennende Acker (1922)
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922). Helga, Count Rudenburg's second wife (Stella Arbenina), and Gerda, the Count's daughter (Lya de Putti), in a fierce get together.


Der brennende Acker (1922)
French postcard by Edition de la Cinématographie Française, Paris. Photo: G.P.C. Publicity still for Der brennende Acker/Burning Soil/La terre qui flambe (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922). Johannes Rog (Vladimir Gajdarov) arrives too late at the deathbed of his father (Werner Krauss), while, left, his brother Peter (Eugen Klöpfer), and right, the maid Maria (Grete Diercks), look on.

Sources: Sandra Brennan (AllMovie), John DeBartolo (Silents are Golden), W. Morrow (IMDb), Thorkell A. Ottarsson (IMDb), Yepok (IMDb), Filmportal.de (German), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.