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352 26 Exhaustion Whereas the grosses from Liebe kann wie Gift sein were merely satisfactory , those for Arca’s Liane adventures were sensational. Compared to Brigitte Bardot because of her frequent nudity and wild blond mane that covered her breasts, Marion Michael was a major box-office draw thanks to the films Liane, das Mädchen aus dem Urwald (Liane, the girl from the jungle, 1956), Liane, die Tochter des Dschungels (Liane, daughter of the jungle, 1957), and Liane—die weisse Sklavin (Liane, the white slave, 1957), and she now sought respectability as an actress. She took acting lessons, the result of which was to be showcased in a contemporary drama announced under the working title Rausch eines Sommers (Rapture of one summer). As reported in film magazines, shooting was to begin on June 20, 1958, with seasoned professionals such as Gustav Knuth, Mathias Wieman, and Hilde Körber hired to support the young star. But when, one month later than planned, cameras started rolling on July 23, a different cast was listed, and it was uncertain who would direct. Fritz Stapenhorst was belatedly named as director. His family name was famous because Günther Stapenhorst had been one of UFA’s top producers prior to his emigration in 1935; his son Fritz had just codirected two undistinguished Landser quickies, Heldentum nach Ladenschluss (Bravery after closing time, 1955) and Parole Heimat (Parole homeland, 1955). Now Fritz Stapenhorst, of all people, was assigned to direct three newcomers: apart from Marion Michael and Christian Wolff, there was twenty-fouryear -old Raidar Müller. The title was changed from Rausch eines Sommers to Es war die erste Liebe (It was a first love).1 Once more flirting with scandal , the Arca company announced that this film would “find the critical attention of the Catholic Church.”2 Wolff would play a Catholic theology student who falls in love with a healthy blond girl and doubts his vocation. Exhaustion 353 “Stapenhorst was the director,” Wolff recalled. “But the longer we shot, the less satisfied the producer was with the results. So Harlan was asked to save what still could be saved. Which he also tried. Under the condition that he wouldn’t be officially credited as director.”3 On Marion Michael, Harlan definitely left a stronger impression, but she could hardly recall Stapenhorst.4 According to composer Norbert Schultze’s recollection, it was the other way around: Harlan was the original director but was replaced by Stapenhorst.5 The film’s premiere took place on October 15, 1958, almost the date of Michael’s eighteenth birthday. Reviews were poor, even in the Film-Echo, where Georg Herzberg contrasted Wolff’s fine performances in his previous films under Josef von Baky, Harlan, and Wolfgang Liebeneiner to his confused appearance here, which Herzberg attributed to Stapenhorst’s inability to lead inexperienced newcomers. In defense of Stapenhorst, Herzberg mentioned the director’s last-minute assignment.6 The Katholischer Film-Dienst suspected, with some justification , the film’s disinterest in religious issues and had some good things to say about Wolff, but it found the casting of Marion Michael suspect, not forgiving her the nude appearances in the Liane films. “To see Marion Michael . . . in a role that requires childlike innocence and even an inner development is almost embarrassing.”7 True to the time’s moral climate, this reviewer could not believe in the purity of an actress with a history of onscreen nudity, however chaste the character she played. To the Evangelischer Film-Beobachter, the picture was “again a superficial film that doesn’t convey true life. Therefore especially for youngsters unsuitable and not recommendable for adults.”8 One can only speculate about Harlan’s authorship of Es war die erste Liebe. A few moments in the film recall his previous work. The protagonist ’s uncle plays Bach’s Toccata, the same piece of music that introduces Das unsterbliche Herz. Because Wolff plays a young man from the South of Germany visiting the North, there is again the contrast of two worlds. The voyeurism that characterizes Marion Michael’s scenes is reminiscent of Harlan’s treatment of Söderbaum and much later of Ingrid Stenn and Sabina Sesselmann. In Immensee, a bird symbolizes Elisabeth and Reinhardt’s doomed love; here a salamander fulfills the same function for Annika and Peter. The salamander dies, too. Marion Michael remembered that the salamander scenes were directed by Harlan. Most spectacularly, a rescue operation on a lake recalls Maria, die Magd, Jugend...


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