Saturday, 28 April 2012

Do you remember.. ..Henny Porten?

These days I am watching a lot of old German films - and today I had a little private Henny Porten film marathon.. 

Starting with the silent classic ANNA BOLEYN (1920) by one of my favourite directors ever: Ernst Lubitsch - in this film Emil Jannings was the male lead - and going on with the 2-films-series FAMILIE BUCHHOLZ (1944) (= Buchholz family)  and NEIGUNGSEHE (1944) (= love-match) - both directed by Carl Froelich. Actually these are all films of hers I own on DVD - which is of course not too much.. And after doing this quite short marathon I decided to do a post for my Do you remember series

So - here we go with some bits about Henny Porten (you might pronounce her first name like "Hanny") - one of the first German film stars ever:

Henny Porten was born as Henny Frieda Ulricke Porten on January 7, 1890 in Magdeburg, Germany. By now Magdeburg is the capital city of German Bundesland Saxony-Anhalt. It's also the biggest city of Saxony-Anhalt. According to an article she (? I am not sure about that..) wrote she was born in 1891.

~ Magdeburg in 1890's.
(source of photo: Volksstimme )~

When in the same year her father Franz Porten (who was quite a famous actor, opera singer and director - and later became a pioneer of film in Germany) assumed control of Stadttheater (= city theater) in Dortmund  the whole family moved with him, of course.

In 1896 she had her first performance on a stage in a play called DIE WAISE VON LOWOOD (= the orphon of Lowood. It's actually JANE EYRE..) In the same year the family moved again - this time to Berlin where Henny also went to school.

~ Henny's older sister Rosa Porten ~

In 1906 Henny Porten had - together with her older sister Rosa her first appearances on short films her father directed. Of great influence for those films was the friendship between Franz Porten and film producer Oskar Messter

~ Pioneer of German film: Oskar Messter, November 22, 1866 -  December 6, 1943 ~

As her father came from an opera background most of those films they did were based on opera arias. According to Henny Porten the first "movie" they made together in 1907 was based on an aria from LOHENGRIN by Richard Wagner. These films were actually kind of early talkies: While Henny and her father were acting a record was played - so their acting had to fit the music and of course also had to be just the lenght of those. Afterwards the films were shown simultaneous to the replayed records. 

~ Henny Porten, ca. 1910 ~

In 1911 Rosa and Henny Porten were the stars in their first film with a self-contained plot: LIEBESGLÜCK EINER BLINDEN / DIE BLINDE. (lit. translation: love bliss of a blind woman / The blind woman) The story was written by Rosa Porten - and it's said that the idea came to Henny after she and Rosa saw some blind children on a walk. Henny Porten was finally chosen to play the lead in this film. It was produced by Messter's projection GmbH. 

~ Henny Porten in LIEBESGLÜCK EINER BLINDEN (1911) - source: ~
The film became a big success. Back then actors weren't always named in credits - mostly because film wasn't anything to take serious. But after the showing of LIEBESGLÜCK EINER BLINDEN the audience kept asking who the blind girl was - a star was born. Well.. that's what the press said - and what Henny Porten herself liked to tell about the beginning of her career. It might have been a bit different and less "magical" - but what actually was born was one myth of stardom. 

On October 10, 1912 she married Curt A. Stark - an actor and director - who would direct many of her films with her as the female lead. 

~ Lotte Müller, Curt A. Stark & Henny Porten in EIN LEBEN (= a life) (1911/12) - source : ~

Excuse this short leap, please: Actually Curt A. Stark was born at castle Saupark Springe. I grew up just a few miles/kilometres away from that place.. See: I am practically part of Henny Porten's family.. 

~ Jagdschloss Springe (= hunting castle Springe) - Kaiser Wilhelm II. and his court very often had hunting parties there - some of them were quite.. ..uhm.. ..scandalous.. ending with some pornographic pictures of various guests - and some blackmail, too..~

.. and now back to our star: 

By now Henny Porten already was one of the two big female stars of German films - the other star was Asta Nielsen. Henny was actully that popular that a magazine suggested her (as a joke of course) to be the next president in Reichstag of Weimar Republic.

~ Asta Nielsen in 1912 - quite daring.. ~
In 1913 Messter's film company starts a film series starring Henny Porten. Her big and almost mesmerising eyes made her performances quite impressive. Though she was able to act in quite a burlesque kind of comedy - she mostly appeared in kind of a soulful madonna like parts. Quietly suffering.. According to my great-grandfather (who was a more or less successful pianist) Henny Porten who appeared on screen merely as an "eternal virgin" was in real life "less prudish - but always a real lady."

In 1914 WWI was declared and Curt A. Stark was drafted. There is actually a rumour that Henny Porten herself revived German film industry in 1915 almost on her own - as most males were drafted - or like Oskar Messter enlisted themselves. She was the star in a film written by herself: DAS ENDE VOM LIED (lit. translated: The end of the song).

In 1916 Curt A. Stark was "killed in action".

~ a really beautiful publicity still ~

In 1917 Henny Porten acted in an advertisement film for war bonds which was frequently shown at the movies - which is noteable because it shows how much stardom now could be used to sell things. She made several films during this period and had a big fan base. 

Actually several teenage girls used to write her letters and waited in front of her house for her to come out - one of them adored her that much that she not only waited for Henny Porten so that said little fan could hand her over a self-coloured postcard: No, she also sewed a cushion for her crush - and was more than just happy when she visited a film premiere of a Henny Porten film - and saw her cushion on the screen.. 

This young girl who was intent to become a violonist and reportedly also played the violin for her target of affection later actually had to deal with some fans herself - but by then she wasn't called Marie Magdalene anymore - the world would know her as Marlene Dietrich.

~  romanticising Henny Porten and wearing the biggest bow - of course.. :
Marlene Dietrich
- in 1917 yet to become a Hollywood star.. ~

In 1919 a project which was long anticipated by Henny Porten finally saw the light of day: ROSE BERND based on the play of Gerhart Hauptmann was made into a film - of course with her as the female lead.

In 1920 Henny Porten made two films with director Ernst Lubitsch which both became very successful: The comedy KOHLHIESELS TÖCHTER (KOHLHIESEL'S DAUGHTERS) - which is actually based on a successful droll story. It has it's origins in Shakespeare's THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and was remade several times. Also in 1930 - again with Henny Porten in a double leading role..

~ Henny Porten as both KOHLHIESEL'S DAUGHTERS (1920)~

The other Lubitsch film she did in 1920 was ANNA BOLEYN - and like in KOHLHIESEL'S DAUGHTERS - the male lead was given to Emil Jannings

~ with Emil Jannings in ANNA BOLEYN (1920)~
After that Henny Porten founded her own production company and married Wilhelm Ritter von Kaufmann-Asser (The shorter version is more widely known - it spares his title Ritter = knight : Wilhelm von Kaufmann)

~ a postcard saying:  Henny Porten's wedding - July 24, 1921 - to the civil registry office ~
Wilhelm von Kaufmann was a successful doctor - but he gave up his career to support his wife's career in her production firm. Henny Porten still was one of the most engaged film actresses who worked with several famous directors as E. A. Dupont or Carl Froelich. In 1924 Carl Froelich joined her production company with his own company. Now it was called Henny-Porten-Froelich-Gesellschaft.

In 1927 she suffered from artrithis and had to rest for several weeks to recover. 

In 1930 she appeared in her first real talkie: SKANDAL UM EVA (SCANDAL ABOUT EVA) directed by G.W. Pabst. It was quite a success - though she was not convinced about the success of talkies at all - even in 1932 she still stated that silent movies would have a come back and talkies would not survive for long. Apparently she did not believe in their quality when it came to acting - which to me seems to reflect the attitude of theather actors towards (silent) films.. But Henny Porten always was true to silent films - when years before the talkies became common she was asked to appear on stage she prefered working in the (silent) movies.

~ "Henny Porten in her home" ~

When in 1933 the Nazis took over in Germany Henny Porten suddenly had to face that her stardom could not completely protect her and her husband who was jewish. 

Though she had not to face a kind of persecution like others did because standing to her husband and not agreeing in having a divorce her life wasn't as easy as before anymore. She was practically banned from filming - that she did not have to face concentration camp was mostly based on the fact that Hermann Göring's younger brother Albert spoke out for her. Though Hermann Göring was leader of German air force and quite a high ranked politician in Nazi-Germany Albert Göring was actually against the National socialistic party and helped several potential victims to escape.

~ Albert Göring, March 9, 1895 -  December 20, 1966 ~
During 3rd Reich Henny Porten made only nine films - which is really quite a break-in considering that in her whole career she made more than 170 films - and would after WWII only appear in about four other films. 
She and Wilhelm von Kaufmann planned to leave Nazi Germany - but his mother became seriously ill so they stayed with her. Later his application for leave was approved - but hers was not. 

One of those friends who still sticked by her was Carl Froehlich. He took care that she was casted for the 1944 films FAMILIE BUCHHOLZ (= Buchholz family) and NEIGUNGSEHE (= love-match). Both very entertaining films set in 1880's Berlin with Henny Porten in the part of Wilhelmine Buchholz - a famous and very prudish writer who tries to get her beautiful daughters (Käthe Dyckhoff and Marianne Simson) married properly and overdoing it quite terribly. One of the (not really willing) husbands to be is Gustav Fröhlich - one of my favourite German actors ever who you might know from METROPOLIS (1927)..

~ Henny Porten and Gustav Fröhlich - a few seconds from now and her smile will be gone.. ~
Apparently while she was filming FAMILIE BUCHHOLZ which contained several funny scenes and was meant to entertain the no longer sure of victory German public (and it actually is quite a cute mini film series.. ) Wilhelm von Kaufmann was arrested by the Gestapo. It is reported that she immediately went to the SS to free her husband - with success. I guess this might be based on her still not completely faded popularity. 

~ ca. 1931 ~

According to Cinzia Romani's book TAINTED GODDESSES : FEMALE FILM STARS OF THE THIRD REICH which is actually quite incorrect in some aspects - so I am not sure whether this story is true or not - Henny Porten and her husband were bombed out at some night and practically homeless with no help in sight. - Other sources say they had to leave their home in Berlin by order of German Wehrmacht (= unified armed forces of Nazi Germany) and had to flee.

They found a home in Ratzeburg - which still meant a lot of meanderings in their lifestyle. Ernst Lubitsch who sent some care packages to help was reportedly planning to help her also with her career by envisaging some parts in Hollywood films for her but he died before those plans could be realised. There weren't many parts for Henny Porten now - the truth is that she was almost forgotten because of the big leap in her career - besides: Though there were a few offers from Hollywood - they weren't very promising in the whole - and: she did not accept every film that was offered to her. In case she considered the part too small - or not ambitious enough - she would reject it. For most of the time she now helped her husband who was again working as a doctor. 

~ Henny Porten in better times (though looking grave):
Photo card for DER RUF DER LIEBE  (= call of love) (1916) 

Eventually after solely one film she did in 1950 ABSENDER UNBEKANNT (= addresser unknown) she agreed on making two films for DEFA which was the filmstudio owned by German Democratic Republic: CAROLA LAMBERTI - EINE VOM ZIRKUS (circa. = Carola Lamberti - of circus) (1954) and DAS FRÄULEIN VON SCUDERI (circa. = Miss von Scuderi) (1955).

~ with Catja Görna in CAROLA LAMBERTI - EINE VOM ZIRKUS (1954) ~
After that she did not receive another acting part in a film. It is possible that working for DEFA made it impossible for her to receive one in a West German film. On the other hand she did not receive a DEFA contract because she did not agree to move to German Democratic Republic. In 1956 she appeared in a film which featured stars of bygone days of German film - but this was apparently just kind of a cameo. I did not see that one yet - so I sadly can not tell about it and have to believe what I found out through several sources.

In 1957 Henny Porten and Wilhelm von Kaufmann moved back to Berlin. They were completely broke. On October 21, 1959 Wilhelm von Kaufmann died and barely one year later on October 15, 1960 Henny Porten followed him. In May 1960 when she was already seriously ill she was given the Federal Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Thank you all so very much for listening!

Yours very well and truly


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Fresh from cinema.. ..Mirror Mirror

Well.. actually this time not sooo fresh from cinema for I watched this film last week on Friday in cinema.. - but I hope you'll forgive me this laxness with phrasing.. Here's the film I finally watched (and for which I waited like forever..)


I really like this one.

In a nut-shell:

When the evil queen (Julia Roberts) shows her true colours and raises the taxes of the poor village people with some help by her servant Brighton (Nathan Lane) to finance a giant party for young Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who she intends to marry - her stepdaughter Snow White (Lily Collins) allies with seven not too tall rebels, who live in the woods and make a living out of their robbing business.. 

~Just great: Jordan Prentice as Napoleon, Joe Gnoffo as Grub, Sebastian Saraceno as Wolf, Lily Collins as Snow White, Martin Klebba as Butcher, Mark Povinelli as Half Pint, Danny Woodburn as Grimm and Ronald Lee Clark as Chuckles.. ~

So if you're a fan of...

... fairy tales

... Tarsem Singh's brilliant style of photography

... clean humour

... films you can watch with the younger members of your family

... daughters of musicians starting an acting career.. (said musician here is a certain Phil C. ...)

... great persons in small heights

please watch this film!

~ Prince (Armie Hammer)? What Prince??? I love her outfit! And Lily Collins is very, very cute.. ~

Ok - worst part first - just to get over with it: I am no outspoken fan of Julia Roberts. I think I would not decide to watch a film because of her. It's not like I would avoid to watch a film with her - she is just no cause to make me watch a film. Ok.. that was that. And now I can tell you that I enjoyed her performance in this film. 

Anyway: look at this picture to get a feeling for Tarsem Singh's amazing style: 

~ Evil Queen (Julia Roberts) in a gorgeous gown.. ~

If you've never seen a film by him before: Please, start with this one - his other films are maybe a bit more intense in the visual department (and by that real eyecandy..) but they're also more cruel and contain almost painful scenes and pictures. Whenever you have a chance to watch them on big screen please do so. These films are real, real happenings. (Anyone asking himself whether Tarsem Singh might or might not be one of my favourite recent directors? Stop questioning yourself, folks! He certainly is!! Hm.. I know other bloggers are fond of lists.. maybe I should do one.. at some point..)

~ I love the films of Tarsem Singh because of their wonderful looks.. ~

The seven bandits are just wonderfully casted! Of course Martin Klebba is doing one of his famous stunts (that guy would freak me out.. I would carry a first-aid-bag where-ever we would go..) 

As I said before: this film you can surely watch with children - there were lots of them around when my sister and I went to watch this one.. But I guess I am the only one to get nightmares by two marionettes.. (all the children around were laughing hard.. - and I was okay with it too while watching the film - a few days later I dreamt just a horrible little dream with those marionettes creeping up at me.. yes, ladies and gents yours Irene is a cissy.)

~ Julia Roberts' evil queen goes trough some treatments to keep her good looks - it's a bit satirical.. ~ 

But altogether: This film is really cute and has a lot of humour which will work fine with your (or other people's) children - and maybe with you, too - if you're not too high brow in that departement.. It's a cute and clean humour - you know: the kind that gives you the impression Disney would have produced this flick.. (no - it's actually no Disney film..) - the kind of at some times silly humour which has a prince under a puppy love spell acting like a dog.. 

~ trying to break a spell: Napoleon (Jordan Prentice) and Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer).. ~

Oh - and just by the way: Yours Irene was very pleased to finally see the King.. It was a certain actor she is very fond of.. an actor who was in LORD OF THE RINGS (2001-2003), ANNA KARENINA (1997),  and a certain recent TV show which's title contains another word for play and a special kind of seating furniture.. (2011) *cough, cough* .. DON'T SAY A WORD (2001), please.. 

Have a look - though the king won't appear..:

Oh - and yes: Lily Collins' eyebrows are a bit of the good old Elizabeth Taylor kind.. I actually liked that. Though it's quite unusual for a heroine in a film these days - isn't it?

I think this film is the cinematic equivalent of a slice of cake:  Once in a while one likes just to lean back and enjoy - and stop thinking too much.. 

Thank you very much for listening..

Yours very well and truly


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Titanic - and Titanic - and Titanic.. - and again Titanic..

I always was (and still am) a bit obsessed with the famous Titanic desaster of 1912. And of course there are many films about that event.. Let's have a look at them - so when you're going to celebrate the deaths of ca. 1,600 people you might pick the one that suits you best..

~ source: THE GUARDIAN ~

There is of course the one studios think they have to re-release in "amazing 3D" for it's 100. anniversary. Very tasteful.. and very, very lucrative - I am sure of that. It is of course the 1997 version where for the first time I was able spot Kate Winslet's lovely breasts (another "thing" which became quite an obsession for me.. and thanks to Ms. Winslet - who I adore - I had the chance over many a years to have one or another glimpse at them again..). I have to confess that Leonardo DiCaprio of whom I think that he is one of the best actors there are around nowadays is not at all my type. I was not very impressed by the film itself.. I watched it in cinema with a friend who was in the end up in tears - while I was thinking about the work for the make up and costume department.. 

~ one of Kate Winslet's wonderful costumes.. ~ 

The few parts of this film I actually liked were of course the presence of Kate Winslet and Katie Bates and also the décor and gowns - but not enough to wish to watch that film ever again  I remember very well how much I loathed the theme song - and all those guys in school crying "I'm the king of the world".. (and I am sure that some of them still cry it out in some situations of their sexlife..) 

Frankly: I re-watched it once when it came in Telly because I thought: "Well.. that was years ago - you changed.. maybe your opinion of this film did, too.." Well.. actually: No. Sorry. Still think this film steals time of my life..
~ Two of the best recent actors around. - in a film I found not the best around.. ~ 

But if you like to see Leonardo DiCaprio sliping into Kate Winslet, learn how to spit and have a look at one really marvellous set this might be the film for you..

~ Bon voyage.. The main cast of TITANIC (1953)

Another version I actually prefer is the version of 1953 which has a just wonderful cast: We have some of my favourites here.. E.g. Barbara Stanwyck and Thelma Ritter - besides that Allyn Joslyn and Brian Aherne - who I both like very, very much, too. Clifton Webb is as snobby as he always is. And in Robert Wagner you'll have your gallant young hero.. 

~ Clifton Webb looking quite elegant - even in a life jacket.. He simply knew how to wear it..~

This one is the one I guess most of you will enjoy - and so especially if you are a fan of Thelma Ritter's usual snappy comments - and Barbara Stanwyck in another wonderful performance.. I really liked that one.. 

~ Charlotte Thiele & Karl Schönböck as Lady Astor and John J. Astor.. ~

So then there is one most readers of this blog won't know yet - and might even never watch: It's the German version of 1943 - which has the wonderful (and tragical) Sybille Schmitz and dashing Hans Nielsen (one of my favourite German actors) and some other famous actors of that era.. I think it is no surprise for you to learn that this film was more or less a propaganda film against everything British.. Aparently the audience was to believe that English people were more or less decadent and just a disgrace for human beings.. (...)

~ Hans Nielsen on the rescue.. ~

If you are interested in a film which is in the most very much like every other catastrophe film showing some little and not so little dramas concerning love and family and stuff like this - and in the end have some utterly absurd theses about how degenerated British people are (and this can be kind of funny - because it's so unbelievable risible..) you might pick this film for you..

~ Celia Imrie, Peter Wight, Geraldine Somerville and Linus Roache  - two couples - no friends.. ~

And then there is another version which is my favourite by now. I watched it recently. It was written by the marvellous Julian Fellowes who also wrote GOSFORD PARK (2001), DOWNTON ABBEY (2010 -2012), THE TOURIST (2010) and YOUNG VICTORIA (2009). Actually I think he is one of the best screen writers around these days. Frankly GOSFORD PARK is one of my alltime favourite films. If you ask me for my Top Ten this one will make it every single time.. And I guess most people who ever watched DOWNTON ABBEY love that one, too.. So Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay for a TV mini series called - of course.. who would have guessed it..- TITANIC. Knowing a bit of Julian Fellowes' works you might be aware that of course also the servants and "other working" folks have quite a good share of the plot..

The first reason to watch this series was actually one of my favourite actors: Toby Jones. He might be not one of the greatest actors (actually we share the same hight.. - which feels very high but doesn't look high in Telly - or on the big screen..) - but he is one of the most versatile actors. Also a board in this version: The amazing Celia Imrie - who I also adore.. 

~ looking small but being great: Toby Jones in TITANIC (2012)

This version was the only one ever to make me cry. So: I would highly recommend this mini-series to all of you - just because it's my favourite and because it has Toby Jones and the writing skills of Mr. Fellowes..

All of the versions I presented here have of course very much the same plot. It's the plot all catastrophe films have in common. 

Just by the way: one of the most horrible things for me is the sound shortly before the Titanic (or any other ship) is going to sink.. It's a haunting sound - I hope you know what I mean..

So: What ever you are going to watch - and maybe you'll be (like me) watching something completely different from the TITANIC films..: Enjoy! 

And: keep your powder dry..