In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

103 10 Politics Although it is likely that Die Kreutzersonate was initiated by Lil Dagover, it is absolutely certain that Harlan’s next directorial assignment, Der Herrscher, released only one month later, was initiated by Emil Jannings. Jannings had played the modern-day King Lear, seventy-year-old publisher Matthias Clausen in Gerhart Hauptmann’s drama Vor Sonnenuntergang (Before sundown), on the Vienna stage in October 1932 but did not guest in Berlin, being afraid of comparisons with Werner Krauss, who had played the same part under Max Reinhardt at the Deutsches Theater. Unable to compete with Krauss onstage, Jannings decided to immortalize himself as Matthias Clausen onscreen, knowing that celluloid would last longer. Curiously, for its film adaptation Vor Sonnenuntergang was to be combined with an obscure play, Harald Bratt’s Der Herrscher, a comedy about a steel industrialist who entrusts the leadership of his factories to a team of younger men but realizes a year later that his successors have driven the factories close to ruin. According to Herbert Jhering, who reviewed Der Herrscher after its January 1935 premiere onstage in Breslau, Bratt’s play contrasted “the authority of the individual with the lack of authority of the collective.”1 Combining these plays may have been a subtle punishment of Hauptmann, the only first-rate playwright to stay in Germany. He was the self-appointed heir to the throne of Goethe but also a socialist whose plays Die Ratten and Die Weber could hardly be staged anymore. Like Hauptmann, Jannings was one of those German institutions who were needed by the regime and whose minor sins were thus forgiven. In Jannings’s case, the minor sins were a Jewish mother and a preference for unheroic, degrading situations. Ever since the Ernst Lubitsch spectacles Madame Dubarry (1919) and Anna Boleyn (1920) had been exported as Passion and Deception, respectively, to the United States in 1920, Jannings veit harlan 104 had been the most famous German actor worldwide. (In fact, he was of American and Russian parentage and had been born in Switzerland.) His appearances in Paul Leni’s Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (Waxworks, 1924), Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s Der letzte Mann (The last laugh, 1924), and E. A. Dupont’s Variete (Variety, 1925) followed one another in quick succession —it seemed no German silent classic was made without him. He won the first Best Actor Academy Award for The Way of All Flesh (1927) and The Last Command (1928) and did not perceive the coming of sound as a tragedy because he had not felt comfortable in Hollywood anyway. The legend that his first talkie, Der blaue Engel (The blue angel), released in 1930, made Marlene Dietrich a star at his expense has no foundation in fact; reviews of his work were glowing. What damaged Jannings’s reputation was his eccentric behavior on the set and his unwillingness to cooperate . UFA officials were fed up with him by 1931, and he would make no more films for that company. In addition, he looked older than his age and was getting fat; men like him were playing supporting roles. Much more intelligent than his screen persona suggested, however, Jannings understood what working for the Nazis might do for his international reputation, so he kept some distance, and his first German film under Hitler was the small, apolitical comedy-drama Der schwarze Walfisch (The black whale, 1934), from Marcel Pagnol’s play Marius. Only in early 1935 did he present himself in a big nationalist film: Der alte und der junge König (The old and the young king). On July 17 of that year, the Film-Kurier announced Der Herrscher in a small note: “A suspenseful story full of contrasts from the life of a leading industrialist.” Thea von Harbou was assigned to combine Hauptmann’s play with Bratt’s. The project was delayed, so Jannings first made the teacher’s drama Traumulus, a Blue Angel remake with more emphasis on the pupils. Harlan had not yet completed Die Kreutzersonate when he got the Herrscher assignment from Emil Jannings, Tobis-Filmkunst’s artistic supervisor. Harlan was an odd choice.EversinceclashingwithRobertSiodmakonStürmederLeidenschaft (Storms of passion, 1932), Jannings had avoided young, ambitious directors , preferring such relaxed veterans as Hans Steinhoff and Carl Froelich. He obviously did not know how demanding Harlan could be. The two would have bitter fights, with Jannings emerging the exhausted winner. Harlan, of all people, objected to Jannings’s emotional excesses. Goebbels secretly told Harlan he was on his side...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.