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Hitchcock Annual (2000) - German Hitchcock






This essay deals with Alfred Hitchcock's work in Germany between 1924 and 1926.1 In 1924, Hitchcock worked as the screenwriter and set-designer of The Blackguard (Die Prinzessin und der Geiger, trans. "The Princess and the Violinist") for Ufa in Berlin, and in 1925/26 he directed his first two films, The Pleasure Garden (Irrgarten der Leidenschaft, trans. "The Labyrinth of Passion") and The Mountain Eagle (Der Bergadler), for Emelka in Munich. Ufa in Berlin was the largest German film company, and Emelka in Munich was its strongest competitor.2 The first Hitchcock films premiered in Germany. The Blackguard premiered in Berlin on September 4, 1925.3 The Pleasure Garden premiered on January 8, 1926 in Berlin,4 and it was followed by The Mountain Eagle in the middle of May in Munich.5

Our knowledge of Hitchcock's German period is almost exclusively based on his own accounts.6 These stories have also been used as the main sources by Hitchcocks biographers.7 The problem with this approach is that it relies on these statements uncritically without asking what functions they serve. A close comparison reveals, for example, that the anecdotes about the production of The Pleasure Garden were modified over time to fit the image Hitchcock had constructed for himself. In the earliest account from 1936 there was no mention yet of his fear of the police during the smuggling of film stock over the border nor of his naivete in sexual matters.8 In accordance with his image as "The Master of Suspense," i.e., as a legendary director of thrillers, which had begun to take shape as early as the 1930s, he declared that the third film he directed, The Lodger, was "der erste spannende Film von Hitchcock" [the first suspenseful film by Hitchcock].9 Because his German films did not belong to the thriller genre, he devalued them and even refused to talk about the films themselves. Instead, he only recounted some of the circumstances of their production, making life sound more thrilling than art, for example, by describing The Pleasure Garden as an "emotional drama that was being enacted on the other side of the camera."10 Similarly, in order to further enhance his reputation for skillful visual narration, he stressed the importance of his experience at Ufa in 1924: "The Germans in those times placed great emphasis on telling the story visually; if possible with no titles .... That's what I learned from the Germans."11 In a German television interview Hitchcock even maintained that this period represented the only external formative influence in his entire career.12

In this essay, therefore, I will try to reconstruct Hitchcock's career in Germany between 1924 and 1926 from contemporary German sources. Hitchcock's own statements will only be used if they can be corroborated by other information. Unfortunately, as far as I know, Emelka's documents on Hitchcock's work have not been preserved.13 Except for censorship documents concerning The Blackguard and The Pleasure Garden, no unpublished source material seems to be extant.14 However, a large amount of press material is still available: reports on contracts, articles on actors, descriptions of Hitchcock's work on the set, pieces of film criticism and, last but not least, an article on Hitchcock himself. On this basis a number of facts will be revealed that may serve to correct our view of Hitchcock's early work. Several aspects identified by researchers as being characteristic of Hitchcock's later work actually begin to emerge in the period between 1924 and 1926. In the work of those years we can already find an answer to the question of how Hitchcock integrated the style of European art films into commercial narrative cinema. We can also witness the birth of the "Hitchcock touch": its most important qualities are the emphasis on visual narrative and the dominance of individual attractive sce...

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Translation by Annemone Ligensa


  1. This essay is based on my contribution to the conference Hitchcock: A Centennial Celebration, New York, October 1999. I would like to thank the Deutsche Forschngsgemeinschaft for their financial support and also Hans-Peter Reichmann (Deutsches Filmmuseum: Frankfurt a. M.) and Werner Sudendorf (Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek: Berlin) for their help in researching contemporary film journals. I am also grateful for the support and perceptive suggestions of Sidney Gottlieb, Annemone Ligensa, and Peter Kramer.
  2. Tom Ryall's statement that Emelka was a part of Ufa is incorrect. See Hitchcock and the British Cinema (London: Croom Helm, 1986), 87.
  3. Dr. M-l, "Die Prinzessin und der Geiger," Lichtbild-Buhne 171 (September 5, 1925): 20.
  4. Herbert Birett, Database of All German Films Produced in the 1920s (unpublished computer file).
  5. Press screening on May 5, 1926, in Emelka's screening rooms; see Dr. W. K., "Der Bergadler," Der Film 19 (September 5, 1926): 16. Concerning the premiere of The Mountain Eagle, see Reichsfilmblatt 20 (May 15, 1926): 11.
  6. See especially Alfred Hitchcock, "My Screen Memories" (1936) and "Life Among the Stars" (1937), both in Sidney Gottlieb, ed., Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 7-26, 27-50, and Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock, rev. ed. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985), 25-42.
  7. John Russell Taylor, Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock (New York: Da Capo, 1996); Donald Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock (New York: Ballantine, 1983).
  8. "But my little German girl told me she'd got so bad a chill she couldn't go into the water. We couldn't wait for her to get well again ... So I got the waitress at the hotel [i.e., probably the 400-year-old Hotel Villa d'Este at Cernobbio on the lake]. I convinced her she could like to be in the pictures. I told her all she had to do was wade out to sea and let Mander 'drown' her" (Gottlieb, Hitchcock on Hitchcock, 30). Hitchcock later (in Truffaut, Hitchcock, 34) changed the "chill" into the popular anecdote every biographer likes to quote: the actress could not go into the water because she had her menstrual period (Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius, 88; Taylor, Hitch, 64).
  9. Television interview with Hitchcock, "Hierzulande—Heutzutage—Alma-nach der Woche," March 10,1966, WDR.
  10. Hitchcock, "My Screen Memories," in Gottlieb, Hitchcock on Hitchcock, 10.
  11. Interview with Bob Thomas, "Alfred Hitchcock: The German Years," Action (Hollywood) January-February (1973): 23-24.
  12. Television interview with Hitchcock, "Hierzulande—Heutzutage—Alma-nach der Woche," March 10, 1966, WDR. Sidney Gottlieb, in "Early Hitchcock: The German Influence," Hitchcock Annual (1999-2000): 100-30 (reprinted in this volume), identifies stylistic, thematic, and generic influences of German films on Hitchcock.
  13. I researched the following archives: Bundesarchiv in Berlin, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv in Munich, Stadtarchiv in Munich, and Cinémathèque Suisse in Lausanne.
  14. Censorship card no. 10918 for The Blackguard in the Bundesarchiv Berlin; The Pleasure Garden, decision no. 777 by the Film-Oberprüfstelle in the Deutsches Filminstitut, Frankfurt a. M.
  15. Unfortunately, I do not know of any source that could provide information on the commercial success of Hitchcock's German films in Great Britain.
  16. Ryall, Hitchcock and the British Cinema, 46-47.
  17. Kristin Thompson, Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907-1934 (London: BFI, 1985), 125.
  18. Thompson, Exporting Entertainment, 125.
  19. "Emelka und England: Ein brauchbares Abkommen," Süddetsche Filmzeitung 14/15 (1925): 8; see also Petra Putz, Waterloo in Geiselgasteig: Die Geschichte des Münchner Filmkonzerns Emelka (1919-1933) im Antagonismus zwischen Bayern und dem Reich (Trier: WVT, 1996), 71, and Rachel Low, "Die Anfänge: Gainsborough und Gaumont British," in Geoff Brown, ed., Der Produzent: Michael Balcon und der englische Film (Berlin: Spiess, 1981), 48.
  20. Gainsborough was not mentioned by the German press. It was always said that Hitchcock worked for W & F: see, for example, J-n, "Große Pause in München," Film-Kurier [Supplement] 229 (September 29,1925); Ryall, Hitchcock and the British Cinema, 46.
  21. "Emelka und England: Ein brauchbares Abkommen," Süddeutsche Filmzeitung 14-15 (1925): 8.
  22. Hitchcock said in 1937: "I was told that the picture was being half financed from London and by a German company." (Gottlieb, Hitchcock on Hitchcock, 28). Hitchcock himself said in 1936 that he had borrowed money in London and Munich when he was in financial difficulties (Gottlieb, Hitchcock on Hitchcock, 10). Hitchcock does not name the companies. Taylor speaks of a joint financing by Gainsborough and Emelka (Hitch, 62).
  23. "Franc Tilley," Film-Kurier (May 27,1925).
  24. "Die Europaische Produktion der Emelka" Der Film 13 (1925): 31. Franc Tilley was an editor with Kinematograph Weekly until October, 1924. See "Franc Tilley," Film-Kurier (May 27,1925).
  25. See Putz, Waterloo in Geiselgasteig, and Robert E. Kapsis, Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 18.
  26. Heinrich Fraenkel, Unsterblicher Film: Die grofie Chronik, von der Laterna Magica bis zum Tonfilm (München: Kindler, 1956), 132.
  27. Wherever possible, I have added the Anglo-American titles used most frequently; when no title could be found, this indicated that the film was probably not released in the U.S. nor in Great Britain. "Das Ergebnis der Abstimmung. 3500 Einzelurteile. Die führenden Kinos haben sich beteiligt", Film-Kurier 85 (September 4,1927): cover. In detail: Ich habe mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren (no. 2, produced by Emelka/released by Bayerische Film GmbH), Unsere Emden (no. 6, produced by Emelka/released by Bayerische Film GmbH), Die Forsterchristl (no. 7, produced by Zelnik, released by Südfilm), Fin Walzertraum (no. 10, produced and released by Ufa), Ben Hur (no. 4, produced by Loew Metro Goldwyn, released by Ufa). Incidentally, the number one film of the year 1926 was An der schönen blauen Donau. See Joseph Garncarz, "Hollywood in Germany: The Role of American Films in Germany, 1925-1990," in David W. Ellwood and Rob Kroes, eds., Hollywood in Europe: Experiences of a Cultural Hegemony (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1994), 94-135.
  28. See Rahel Lipschütz, Der Ufa-Konzern: Geschichte, Aufbau und Bedeutung im Rahmen des deutschen Filmgewerbes (Berlin: Energiadruck, 1932).
  29. Dr. W. K., "Der Garten der Lust," Der Film 33 (August 16, 1925): 21; see also Hans Spielhofer, "Bei der Emelka in Geiselgasteig," Süddeutsche Filmzeitung 32 (August 7,1925): 5-6, and "Der Garten der Lust," Film-Kurier (3rd Supplement) 191 (August 15,1925). The title Der Garten der Lust (trans. "The Garden of Lust") was not approved by the censors and was replaced by the title Irrgarten der Leidenschaft (trans. "Labyrinth of Passion").
  30. "Der Garten der Lust," Der Film 26 (June 28,1925): 23.
  31. "Einsendungen aus der Industrie," Kinematograph 1003 (May 9,1926): 19.
  32. See "Bernhard Goetzke," Die Filmwoche 9 (February 24,1926): 210-11.
  33. "Das Resultat unserer Umfrage," Deutsche Filmwoche (Berlin) 11 (March 18, 1927): 14.
  34. Dr. W. K, "Der Bergadler," Der Film 19 (May 9,1926): 16.
  35. On Ferdinand Martini: "Ferdinand Martini has been a part of Emelka's staff in Munich for several years" (Walter Jerven, "Ferdinand Martini," Film-Kurier [July 29, 1925]). Martini said of himself that he had been working for Emelka since 1921, "where he had been regularly employed." (See the article on Martini in Kurt Mühsam and Egon Jacobsohn, Lexikon des Films [Berlin: Verlag der Lichtbildbühne, 1926], 118). Martini played roles in eight films in 1925 and in five films in 1926 for Emelka. On Karl Falkenberg: "Then Emelka signed him and gave him an important role in almost every single one of their films." (J-n, "Karl Falkenberg," Film-Kurier [October 24,1926]). Falkenberg, who played roles in two Emelka films in 1925 and also in 1926, gives Emelka as the address of his place of work (see the article on Falkenberg in Mühsam and Jacobsohn, 52).
  36. Philip Kemp, "Not for Peckham: Michael Balcon and Gainsborough's International Trajectory in the 1920s," in Pam Cook, ed., Gainsborough Pictures (London: Cassell, 1997), 22.
  37. Spoto classifies these actors as "top American stars" (The Dark Side of Genius, 82); Taylor calls Valli "one of the biggest stars at Universal" (Hitch, 65).
  38. Richard Koszarski, An Evening's Entertainment: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915-1928 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 262, bases his figures on polls in the journals Photoplay and Film Daily.
  39. Koszarski, An Evening's Entertainment, 116.
  40. Nita Naldi received £1500, according to Hitchcock's own report (Gottlieb, Hitchcock on Hitchcock, 33). When this amount is adjusted for inflation and divided by the number of weeks of filming, we have an estimate of Naldi's market value. Thus, with a total salary of $7290 (according to the figures in Statistisches Reich-samt, ed., Statistisches Jahrbuch fur das deutsche Reich [Berlin: Verlag von Reimar Hobbing, 1928], 434), and with 8 to 12 weeks of filming (Putz has January to March 1926 [Waterloo in Geiselgasteig, 224], Taylor, October to December 1925 [Hitch, 68-69]; Taylor's figures seem to be more realistic, because in Kinematograph 983.4 (December 25, 1925): 3, there was an advertisement saying that "The Bergadler ... is almost finished!"), Nita Naldi earned $600 to $900 per week.
  41. Taylor does not mention Nita Naldi. Spoto, however, regards it as a fact (The Dark Side of Genius, 89). Before that, Naldi is mentioned in Peter Noble, Index to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, Special Supplement to Sight and Sound Index Series, No. 18 (May, 1949), 6; see also Charles Barr, English Hitchcock (Moffat: Cameron 8c Mollis, 1999), 215-16.
  42. Hitchcock once said that the actress playing the "native girl" was doubled by a waitress from the hotel where the film team was staying for the scene in which she is ducked in the water by Mander (see note 8 above). In contrast to Taylor's description (Hitch, 65), however, she is not only visible from behind, but also quite clearly from the front. Is Hitchcock's story another one of his inventions?
  43. Gottlieb, Hitchcock on Hitchcock, 30.
  44. Deutsche Filmwoche 24 (October 9,1925): 14.
  45. Deutsche Filmwoche; see also "Irrgarten der Leidenschaft," Illustrierter Film-Kurier 7.341 (1925).
  46. "Irrgarten der Leidenschaft," Der Film 30 (July 26,1925): 15, and "Irrgarten der Leidenschaft," Die Filmwoche 4 (January 20,1926): 92.
  47. "Einsendungen aus der Industrie," Kinematograph 1003 (May 9,1926): 19.
  48. Hans Spielhofer, " Der Bergadler," Reichsfilmblatt 20 (May 15,1926): 12.
  49. "Wer ist der beliebteste Filmstar?," Neue illustrierte Filmwoche 23 (1924): 263; "Wer ist der beliebteste Filmstar?," Deutsche Filmwoche 19 (September 4,1925): 8; "Wer ist der beliebteste Filmstar?," Deutsche Filmwoche 19 (May 7,1926): 14; "Das Resultat unserer Umfrage," Deutsche Filmwoche 11 (March 18, 1927): 14; see also Joseph Garncarz, "Top Ten Stars, 1923-1926," in The BFI Companion to German Cinema, ed. Thomas Elsaesser and Michael Wedel (London: BFI, 1999), 228.
  50. The U.S. audiences favorite female stars of 1924, Mary Pickford and Gloria Swanson, both appeared only once on Germany's lists: they were ranked as number 24 and number 39, respectively, in the same year. This means that Gloria Swanson, for example, received only about ten votes of 15,000. A total of 15,120 votes was collected; for the first fifteen ranks the number of votes is noted, for the next forty-two only the names but not the votes are given, and whoever reached a rank of only forty-two or lower had only received five votes or less.
  51. David McGillivray, "Now You Know," Films and Filming 338 (November 1982): 42-43. The article lists the top male and female stars between 1933 and 1939; the original source is Picturegoer. In 1933, of 20 stars, 10 are from the U.S., 7 are British, and 3 from other European countries.
  52. Der Film 26 (June 28,1925): 23; Film-Kurier (June 22,1925): cover.
  53. Deutsche Filmwoche 19 (May 7,1926).
  54. Advertisement in Film-Kurier (July 2,1925); Valli is also on the cast list in the following articles: Der Film 30 (July 26,1925): 15, and Film-Kurier (June 30,1925): cover.
  55. Hitchcock had left for Italy on June 6 to begin location shooting (Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius, 86); see also Suddeutsche Filmzeitung 28 (July 10,1925).
  56. Gottlieb, Hitchcock on Hitchcock, 10; see also 8.
  57. Kurt Muhsam, Film und Kino (Dessau: Dunnhaupt, 1927), 36-45; Urban Gad, Der Film: seine Mittel und seine Ziele (Berlin: Schuster & Loffler, 1921), 104; Kristin Thompson, "Early Alternatives to the Hollywood Mode of Production: Implications for Europe's Avant-Gardes," Film History 5 (1993): 386-404.
  58. Frederick A. Talbot, Moving Pictures: How They Are Made and Worked (London: William Heinemann, rev. ed., 1923), 211-12.
  59. Andrew Buchanan, The Art of Film Production (London: Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1936), 29-30.
  60. Talbot, Moving Pictures, 218.
  61. Thomas Elsaesser, "Kunst und Krise: Die Ufa in den 20er Jahren," in Hans-Michael Bock and Michael Toteberg, eds., Das Ufa-Buch (Frankfurt a. M.: Zweitausendeins, 1992), 96-105.
  62. Gottlieb, Hitchcock on Hitchcock, 34.
  63. J-n, "Der Bergadler," Film-Kurier (January 1,1926).
  64. Dr. W. K., "Der Bergadler," Der Film 19 (May 9,1926): 16.
  65. Taylor reports: "From London Balcon kept bombarding Hitch with telegrams . . . suggesting all kinds of Hollywood stars—mostly, like Agnes Ayres, rather demodee by this time. Eventually came the curt announcement that he was being sent Nita Naldi, best known for her vamp roles in DeMilles first Ten Commandments and opposite Valentino in Blood and Sand" (Hitch, 69).
  66. "Münchener Portrats: Alfred Hitchcock," Film-Kurier (2nd Supplement) 274 (November 21,1925).
  67. "Der Bergadler," Film-Kurier (January 1,1926).
  68. Dr. W. K., "Der Garten der Lust" Der Film 33 (August 16,1925): 21.
  69. Hans Spielhofer, "Bei der Emelka in Geiselgasteig," Süddeutsche Filmzeitung 32 (August 7,1925): 6.
  70. "Der Garten der Lust," Film-Kurier (3rd Supplement) 191 (August 15,1925).
  71. "Münchener Portrats: Alfred Hitchcock," Film-Kurier (2nd Supplement) 274 (November 21,1925).
  72. "Irrgarten der Leidenschaft," Kinematograph 986 (January 10,1926): 18.
  73. Fritz Olimsky, "Irrgarten der Leidenschaft," unidentified clipping from Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek (SDK), January 17,1926.
  74. Truffaut, Hitchcock, 35-36.
  75. "Der Bergadler," Kinematograph 1003 (May 9,1926): 19.
  76. It is not certain who is meant. Franz Seitz was head-director at Emelka.
  77. "Der Bergadler," Reichsfilmblatt 20 (May 15,1926): 12.
  78. Dr. W. K., "Der Bergadler" Der Film 19 (May 9,1926): 16.
  79. Quoted in Alfred Gordon Bennett, Cinemania: Aspects of Filmic Creation (London: Jarrolds, 1937), 170.
  80. Dr. W. K., "Der Garten der Lust," Der Film 33 (August 16, 1925): 21; see also Hans Spielhofer, "Bei der Emelka in Geiselgasteig," Süddeutsche Filmzeitung 32 (August 7,1925): 5-6, and "Der Garten der Lust," Film-Kurier (3rd Supplement) 191 (August 15,1925).
  81. In connection with The Blackguard, the press has "N." (or sometimes "M") instead of "A." Hitchcock. Since this mistake can be found in all the press items, it probably originated in the press material. The film's credits and the censorship card correctly use "Alfred Hitchcock."
  82. Dr. M-l, "Die Prinzessin und der Geiger," Lichtbild-Buhne 171 (September 5, 1925): 20; see similarly "Die Prinzessin und der Geiger," Film-Kurier, and also Fritz Olimsky, "Die Prinzessin und der Geiger," unidentified clippings from SDK, September, 1925.
  83. Ryall, Hitchcock and the British Cinema, 87-88. Fraenkel comments, "Most of these films [which were regarded as having 'no commercial prospects' and were shown to the Society] were of German origin, and it was certainly no coincidence that Erich Pommer immediately became an honorary member of the Society with its foundation; that I myself, being at that time a young film journalist, received the same honor, was, however, due to the coincidence that I could point out German films of special interest to my British friends now and then" (132).
  84. The Kammerspielfilme were shown for the first time in Ufa's large premiere cinemas in Berlin (Morzartsaal, U. T. am Kurfustendamm, Ufa-Palast am Zoo), some with original musical compositions (by Klaus Pringsheim for Sylvester, Guiseppe Becce for Der letzte Mann). Following the film Scherben, the other Kammerspielfilme were all produced by Ufa (Der letzte Mann is a film by the Ufa production-company Union-Film), commissioned by Ufa (Hintertreppe, a film starring Henny Porten, is a film for Ufa's Gloria-Film GmbH), or at least released by Ufa (in the case of Sylvester).
  85. See Joseph Garncarz, "Kammerspielfilm," in Ginette Vincendeau, ed., Encyclopedia of European Cinema (London: Cassell and BFI, 1995), 235.
  86. Hans Spielhofer, "Der Bergadler," Reichsfilmblatt 20 (May 15,1926): 12.
  87. For reproductions of these photos, see J. L. Kuhns, "Hitchcock's The Mountain Eagle," Hitchcock Annual (1998-99): 31-108, and Dan Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks (New York: Avon Books, 1999), 6-11.
  88. Hans Spielhofer, "Die Mtinchener Herbstproduktion," Süddeutsche Filmzeitung 36 (September 3,1926): 3.
  89. "Die Prinzessin und der Geiger" Deutsche Filmwoche 21 (September 18,1925):
  90. Dr. M-l, "Die Prinzessin und der Geiger," Lichtbild-Buhne 171 (September 5, 1925): 20; see similarly "Die Prinzessin und der Geiger," Reichsfilmblatt 37 (1925): 43, and Fritz Olimsky,"Die Prinzessin und der Geiger," unidentified clipping from SDK, September, 1925.
  91. "Der Bergadler," Film-Kurier (June 1,1926); Dr. W. K., "Der Bergadler," Der Film 19 (May 9,1926): 16.
  92. National Film and Television Archive, London.
  93. Herbert Birett, "Filmalter und Filmstil: Statistische Analyse von Stumm-filmen," in Elfriede Ledig, ed., Der Stummfilm: Konstruktion und Rekonstruktion (München: Schaudig, Bauer, Ledig, 1988), 76-78. Birett calculates a measure Z, to measure the ratio between intertitles and shots: Z = 100 x Z', with Z' = number of intertitles ÷ number of shots.
  94. Dr. M-l, "Die Prinzessin und der Geiger," Lichtbild-Buhne 171 (September 5, 1925): 20.
  95. Barr, English Hitchcock, 22-77.
  96. Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius, 74.
  97. Ivor Montagu, "Working with Hitchcock," Sight and Sound (summer 1980): 190; Kapsis, Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation, 18; Ryall, Hitchcock and the British Cinema, 89.