23 November 2017

Die goldene Krone (1920)

Henny Porten, Hermann Thimig and Paul Hartmann star in the German silent film Die goldene Krone/The Golden Crown (Alfred Halm, 1920), produced by Messter-Film GmbH. Ross Verlag presented this series of seven sepia postcards with scenes from the film. None of our usual sources offered a plot of the film, but in Die Freie Deutsche Bühne of 22 August 1920, we discovered a review by acclaimed author Joseph Roth.

Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (1920)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 640/1. Photo: Messter. Publicity still of Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (Alfred Halm, 1920).

Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (1920)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 640/2. Photo: Messter. Publicity still of Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (Alfred Halm, 1920).

Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (1920)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 640/3. Photo: Messter. Publicity still of Henny Porten and Paul Hartmann in Die goldene Krone (Alfred Halm, 1920).

Nobody is guilty, it is just fate

In Die goldene Krone/The Golden Crown (1920), Henny Porten plays Marianne, daughter of the owner of the hotel Zur goldene Krone (At the Golden Crown). She loves a duke, Franz Günther (Paul Hartmann), who has tuberculosis and is mortally ill. To prevent the bankruptcy of his hotel, Marianne's father wants her to wed Klaus (Hermann Thimig), son of rich fish trader Stöven. Klaus, who is a good sport, is prepared to compromise and accepts her affair.

But as Joseph Roth writes in Die Freie Deutsche Bühne, Marianne breaks up 'betrothal, best wishes, wedding nights' and flees Klaus to take care of the dying duke, with all her efforts. However, the duke's family arrives and Marianne has to step back, right in the night when he dies. On his deathbed the duke commissions his aide-de-camp to marry Marianne, but the latter shoots himself because of the family. Marianne returns to her father's hotel to help it rise again. There Klaus returns to her and they marry at last.

Of course there is no proof about the reliability of Roth's plot description, and his negative final judgment might have influenced the rest of the text. In his introduction Roth stressed that Olga Wohlbrück, on whose story, published in Die Berliner Woche, the film was based, was a 'Courts-Mahler mit Niveau, und grammatikalischem Deutsch'. Wohlbrück's stories were popular among middle class women, as they always treated young women as protagonists who because of class difference could not marry their beloved aristocrats. Nobody is guilty, it is just fate. It is presented with credibility and cool detachement. Meanwhile the stories give insight in life in the higher classes.

Die goldene Krone had its first night in Berlin on 6 August 1920. The film was scripted by director Alfred Halm and Hans Bennert. Sets were by Ludwig Kainer and cinematography was by Willy Gaebel.

At the end of his critique, Joseph Roth, seriously condemned the film from his left-wing perspective: "Yet, I protest that today, on 7 August 1920, less than 2 years after the revolution, the world view of Die Woche is spread from cosy family circles to the masses by means of cinema. That 'fatzery' tragically works, because Olga Wohlbrück needs to live. I protest." Roth may have been overcharging it a bit, but it is indeed ambiguous that while the Weimar Republic in 1919 stripped the German nobility of all legal privileges and immunities, the aristocracy remained such a focus within the mainstream German cinema.

Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (1920)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 640/4. Photo: Messter. Publicity still of Henny Porten and Paul Hartmann  in Die goldene Krone (Alfred Halm, 1920).

Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (1920)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 640/5. Photo: Messter. Publicity still of Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (Alfred Halm, 1920).

Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (1920)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 640/6. Photo: Messter. Publicity still of Henny Porten and Paul Hartmann  in Die goldene Krone (Alfred Halm, 1920).

Henny Porten in Die goldene Krone (1920)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 640/7. Photo: Messter. Publicity still of Henny Porten and Hermann Thimig in Die goldene Krone (Alfred Halm, 1920).

Sources: Joseph Roth (Die Freie Deutsche Bühne - German),, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

22 November 2017

Katja Riemann

German actress and singer Katja Riemann (1963) was a major star of the German cinema of the 1990s, who appeared in such international successful films as Der bewegte Mann (1994) and Comedian Harmonists (1997). Riemann also often worked with the directors Katja von Garnier and Margaretha von Trotta.

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Mathias Bothor.

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Katja Photo: Mirjam Knickriem.

The biggest grossing homegrown film

Katja Hannchen Leni Riemann was born in 1963 in Weyhe-Kirchweyhe, Germany. She is the daughter of two teachers and she has a sister, Susanne, and a brother, Jochen.

Riemann grew up in Weyhe, near Bremen. After high school she went to study at the School of Theatre and Music in Hanover from 1984 to 1986 and the Otto Falckenberg Drama School in Munich from 1986 to 1987. She attended the Westphalian Landestheater in Castrop-Rauxel and came to the ensemble of the Münchner Kammerspiele before the end of her training.

She made her screen debut in the TV mini-series Sommer in Lesmona/Summer in Lesmona (Peter Beauvais, 1985-1986). For her role she won two awards. After this success, several TV roles followed, including the title role in the series Regina auf den Stufen (Bernd Fischerauer, 1992) with Mark Kuhn and Serge Avedikian.

She had her breakthrough in the cinema with Abgeschminkt!/Making Up! (Katja von Garnier, 1993) opposite Max Tidof. The film is a satire about women of the 1990s in search of the men of their dreams.

The following year, she appeared as the girlfriend of Til Schweiger in the hilarious romantic comedy Der bewegte Mann/ Maybe, maybe not (Sönke Wortmann, 1994), also with Joachim Król. The comedy was based on the gay comics by Ralf König. At the time of its release, this was the biggest grossing homegrown film at the German box office. Other comedies followed like Nur über meine Leiche/Over My Dead Body (Rainer Matsutani, 1995).

Riemann reunited with director Katja von Garnier for the road movie Bandits (Katja von Garnier, 1997) with Jutta Hoffmann. The story is about members of a female rock band who escape from prison. Riemann even learned to play the drums for her role. Both the film and soundtrack album were commercially successful in Germany, and Riemann won the Deutscher Filmpreis (German Film Award) for her role.

With director Rainer Kaufmann, she made the films Stadtgespräch/Talk of the Town (Rainer Kaufmann, 1995) with Martina Gedeck and Kai Wiesinger, and the comedy Die Apothekerin/The Pharmacist (Rainer Haufmann, 1997) with Jürgen Vogel and August Zirner. An international success was Comedian Harmonists (Joseph Vilsmaier, 1997) about the legendary close harmony sextet, played by a.o. Ben Becker, Kai Wiesinger and Max Tidof.

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Stefan May.

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Stefan May, München.

I Am the Other Woman

Beside her acting career, Katja Riemann started singing and released her first album Nachtblende in 2000. In 2003, the English-language jazz album Favourites followed with the Katja Riemann octet.

In the cinema she appeared in the pan-European production Novel (Fabio Carpi, 2001) starring Hector Alterio. She starred with Maria Schrader in the film Rosenstraße (Margarethe von Trotta, 2003) about the Rosenstrasse protest where women waited for seven days and nights outside of a Nazi jail for their Jewish husbands. The protests took place in Berlin during the winter of 1943. In Italy, the film won a David at the David di Donatello Awards.

With Von Trotta, she also worked on the psychodrama Ich bin die Andere/I Am the Other Woman (Margarethe von Trotta, 2006) with Armin Mueller-Stahl and Karin Dor. She played with Moritz Bleibtreu in the drama Agnes und seine Brüder/Agnes & His Brothers (Oskar Roehler, 2004).

With Von Garnier, she made an international production Blood and Chocolate (Katja von Garnier, 2007) with Hugh Dancy and Olivier Martinez, but it was a flop. More interesting was the Swiss-German rural drama Der Verdingbub/The Foster Boy (Markus Imboden, 2011). “she gives a stunning performance as a cold-hearted farmer, who holds an orphan boy like a slave on her yard.”

A huge box office success was the comedy Fack ju Göhte/Suck Me Shakespeer (Bora Dagtekin, 2013) starring Elyas M'Barek. Riemann played a strict school principal and received for her performance a Best Supporting Actress Nomination at the 2014 German Film Award.

In the drama Die abhandene Welt/The Misplaced World (Margaretha von Trotta, 2015) she co-starred with Barbara Sukowa and Mathias Habich. She also had a small part in the Hitler-in the-21st-century comedy Er ist wieder da/Look Who's Back (David Wnendt, 2015).

At the moment of writing, several films with her are in production, including Fack ju Göhte 3/Suck Me Shakespeer 3 (Bora Dagtekin, 2017), the comedy Forget About Nick (Margaretha von Trotta, 2017) and Subs (Oskar Roehler, 2018).

Katja Riemann is the mother of actress Paula Riemann (also Paula Romy), whose father is Peter Sattmann. Riemann met Sattmann, on the set of Von Gewalt keine Rede (1991), and they had a relationship from 1990 to 1998. Since 2007, she has been the longtime companion of sculptor Raphael Alexander Beil.

Riemann won the Bavarian Film Award three times. Twice as Best Actress in 1993 and 1995, and once for the Best Film Score in 1997. She wrote two successful children`s books, Der Name der Sonne (The name of the sun) and Der Chor der Engel (The choir of the angels), together with her sister Susanne (2002).

Katja Riemann
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg. Photo: Jim Rakete / Photo Selection.

German trailer Abgeschminkt!/Making Up! (1993). Source: alleskino (YouTube).

International trailer for Der bewegte Mann/ Maybe, maybe not (1994). Source: Video Detective (YouTube).

Sources:, Wikipedia (English and German), and IMDb.

21 November 2017

Annie Vernay

Pretty little Annie Vernay (1921-1941) catapulted into stardom at an early age, but the career of the Swiss-French actress was cut short. She died only 19 years old.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 25. Photo: Teddy Piaz.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Viny, no. 40. Photo: Star. With an autograph by Vernay at the flipside, dated 11 May 1940.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Erpé, no. 568. Photo: Star.

Annie Vernay
French postcard, no. 720. Photo: Harcourt.

Pushing Mother

Annie Vernay was born Annie-Martine-Jacqueline Vermeersch in Genève-Plainpalais, Switzerland, in 1921. Her father, Gaston Vermeersch, was a rich industrialist.

As her mother Germaine Vermeersch couldn't realise an artistic career because of her marriage de raison, she pushed her daughter into an artistic career after her husband died and she inherited his fortune. She applied her daughter for Jugement d’Hélène, a beauty contest in Paris, when the girl was 16 years old.

During holidays at Juan les Pins a friend of film director Victor Tourjansky spotted her and recommended her to him. Tourjansky engaged her for the role of Lisl in his film Le mensonge de Nina Petrovna/The Lie of Nina Petrovna (Victor Tourjansky, 1937), which starred Italian star Isa Miranda and Fernand Gravey. The film had been shot earlier in Germany as Die wunderbare Lüge der Nina Petrowna (Hanns Schwarz, 1929) with Brigitte Helm.

Vernay did so well that she was cast as the leading actress in the Italo-French multilingual La principessa Tarakanova/Betrayal (1938), shot at Cinecittà in Rome and directed by Russian director Fyodor Otsep and the Italian Mario Soldati.

Vernay played a princess who claims the Russian throne. Empress Catherine II (Suzy Prim) sends her lover and best soldier Orloff (Pierre-Richard Willm) to capture the impostor, but he falls for her beauty and innocence. The film had lavish sets of Venice and St. Petersburg and was one of the first Italian films shot in deep focus. It was a box office hit in 1938.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1139. Photo: Harcourt.

Annie Vernay
German postcard by Ross. Photo: Nero-Film.

Annie Vernay
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano, 1938, XVI. Photo: Pesce.

Annie Vernay
Italian postcard by Rizzoli, Milano. Photo: Pesce.

Rick's Café

Annie Vernay’s mother, who had become her agent and coach as well, knew she had gold in her hands. Annie herself, more sober, continued her studies in between shootings. The result was that the famous producer Seymour Nebenzahl of Nero Film engaged Vernay for several films.

The first was Max Ophüls’ adaptation of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers: Le roman de Werther/Sorrow of Werther (Max Ophüls, 1938). It featured Pierre-Richard Willm as Werther and Vernay as Charlotte/Lotte, the girl for whom Werther commits suicide. The film confirmed Vernay’s status as a new French film star, competing with young stars like Danielle Darrieux.

When World War II broke out in the summer of 1939, French film production hesitated but still continued, enabling Vernay to play in more films: the World War One drama Les otages/The Mayor's Dilemma (Raymond Bernard, 1939) with Pierre Larquey, Dédé la musique/Dédé of Montmartre (André Berthomieu, 1939) with Albert Préjean, Chantons quand même/Let us sing all the same (Pierre Caro, 1940), and the crime film Le collier de chanvre/Hangman's Noose (Léon Mathot, 1940) with Jacqueline Delubac.

Because of the pending German invasion of France, Annie Vernay intended to return to Switzerland, but at that moment she received an offer from Hollywood to play the role of a foreign woman in a movie called Rick's Café. Annie’s mother convinced her to accept the offer, so they travelled to the US via Argentine, on one of the last freighters to leave France.

Aboard the ship, though, Annie fell ill of typhoid and died in a hospital after her arrival in Buenos Aires, in August 1941. Annie Vernay was only 19 years old. Germaine Vermeersch never got over the loss of her daughter.

Other candidates for the same role in Rick's Café had been Hedy Lamarr and Michèle Morgan but eventually it would give Ingrid Bergman everlasting fame. The film in which Annie Vernay was supposed to play the female lead was later filmed as Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942).

Annie Vernay
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 1139 Photo: Harcourt.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by O.P., Paris, no. 122. Photo: Le Studio.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by P.I., Paris. Photo: Teddy Piaz.

Annie Vernay
French postcard by Collection Chantal, Paris. Photo: Nero Film.

Sources: Thomas Staedeli (Cyranos), Cine Vedette (French), Caroline Hanotte & Philippe Pelletier (CinéArtistes), and IMDb.