|"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|
|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. "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|
While Ingmar Bergman was not unknown for his efforts toward film preservation- Widding credits hism with having preserved the film Nattiga Toner directed by Georg af Klerker- 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 (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.
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 space 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 Sjostrom and 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."
Victor Sjostrom: 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." While visiting Stockholm during 1938, Garbo asked 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, Bary 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. 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.
|During her Photoplay interview, Greta Garbo continued on the film 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 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." 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 Filmstar 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|
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 LagerlÃ¶f had begun to disagree in regard to how her novels were to be adapted. LagerlÃ¶f 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 Lageloff, "'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." 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. 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 eventually merged with Hasselblad.
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 Like Greta Garbo, actress Mary Johnson travelled from Sweden to Germany. Mary Johnson had starred with Gosta Ekman in the first film directed by John W. Brunius, Puss and Boots (Masterkattan i stovlar) in 1918 for Film Industri Inc Scandia. The film was co-written by John W. Brunius and Sam Ask and was the first in which actress Ann Carlsten was to appear. The following year Scandia merged with Scandia to team Charles Magnusson with Nils Bouveng to run AB Svensk Filmindustri. Having been an actress for several films directed by George af Klerker, Mary Johnson was also that year to appear in the Swedish silent film Stovstadsfaror, directed by Manne Gothson and photographed by Gustav A. Gustafson. Appearing with Johnson in the film were Agda Helin, Tekl Sjoblom and Lilly Cronwin. Actress Mary Johnson returned to the screen to act for director John W. Brunius and cameraman Hugo Edlund in 1923 for the film Johan Ulfstjerna in which she starred with Anna Olin, Einar Hansson and Berta Hilberg. To add a sense of the film as a vehicle for the actress, author Forsyth Hardy has written, "Brunius could work effectively on a large canvass." Significantly, that same year 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 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.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. 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." 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'sSir 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."
While 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 SjÃ¶strom'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 author, 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 lover." 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, Jannings, and actor George O'Brien. 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. During 1928, actress Olga Barclanova also appeared in the films The Man Who Laughs (Paul Leni, ten reels), The Dove (Roland West, nine reels), Forgotten Faces (Victor Schertzinger, eight reels), Avalanche (Otto Brower, five reels) and Three Sinners (Rowland V. Lee, eight reels). Three Sinners, with Warner Baxter was the second film to pair Olga Backlanova and Pola Negri, their both having appeared in the film Cloak of Death in 1915. During 1928, Photoplay Magazine announced, "Lucy Doraine, of Hungary has been signed by Paramount. She is reported to be the successor to Pola Negri." During 1928, Fay Wray appeared in the films Legion of the Condemned (William Wellman, eight reels), The First Kiss (Rowland V. Lee). It was the year she began her lengthy first marriage to playwright screenwriter John Monk Saunders. Legion of the Condemned also that year appeared in bookstore. The Grosset Dunlap Photoplay Edition advertised John Monk Saunders as having been the author of Wings and published the film as a novel rewritten from one narrative form into another by Eustace H Ball, with illustrations from the film. Ball himself was an author, his having written the mystery novel The Scarlet Fox and had previously adapted into novel form the photoplay of the Douglas Fairbanks film The Gaucho. Pola Negri during 1929 had starred in The Secret Hour (eight reels), directed by Rowland V Lee.
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, seeing 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." 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.
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 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 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." 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."
During 1923, 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. 1922 had been the year during which appeared the second film directed by Gustaf Molander, Amatorfilmen, the first film in which actress Elsa Ebbengen-Thorblad was to appear, brought actress Mimi Pollack to Swedish movie audiences. Molander had made the film The King of Boda (Tyrranny of Hate, Bodakungen) in 1920. It was the first film to be photographed by Swedish cinematographer Adrian Bjurman and starred Egil Eide and Wanda Rothgardt. Karin Molander had in 1920 starred in two films by Mauritz Stiller, in When We Are Married (Erotikon) with Lars Hanson, Tora Teje, and Glucken Cederberg, and in Fiskebyn. 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 naÃ¯vetÃ© 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 dea Mon, July 11, 2016 - 2:29 AM permalink