G. W. Pabst

G. W. Pabst

Additional Names: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (Geburtsname)
Darsteller, Regie, Regie-Assistenz, Drehbuch, Schnitt, Produzent
*27.08.1885 Raudnitz an der Elbe (Roudnice nad Labem), Tschechien; †29.05.1967 Wien, Österreich

Biography

The son of a station master grew up in Vienna where he started to attend actor"s training in 1902. From 1904 on, he performed at theatres in Zurich, St. Gallen, Salzburg, Dortmund, Nuremberg, and in Vienna. In 1910, he went to Deutsches Theater in New York as actor and director. In 1914, on his return to Europe, he was detained by the French as a foreign enemy for the duration of the war near Brest where he organized the detention camp"s theatre. At the beginning of 1919, he went to Vienna and became the artistic director of the avant-garde Neue Wiener Bühnen in 1920.

In 1921, Pabst observed the shooting of Carl Froelich"s film "Im Banne der Kralle" and played his only role in a movie. He became an associate of Froelich"s production company and accompanied him to Berlin where made his debut as a director in 1922 with "Der Schatz" ("The Treasure"). While filming "Gräfin Donelli" (1924), starring Henny Porten in the leading role, Pabst met assistant director Mark Sorkin. He became one of Pabst"s closest assistants and encouraged him to make "Die freudlose Gasse" ("The Street of Sorrow"), starring Asta Nielsen, Greta Garbo, Werner Krauß, and Valeska Gert, in 1924: In the film, the city of Vienna that is shaken by the inflation serves as the background to a realistic panorama of poverty and waste, sexuality and violence – themes that dominated the works of Pabst.

In 1925/26, he finished the "psycho-analytical chamber drama" "Geheimnisse einer Seele" ("Secrets of a Soul") for Ufa"s cultural department. The adaptation of Ilja Ehrenburg"s "Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney" ("Lusts of the Flesh", 1927) that linked the Russian revolution with Parisian flair ranks among the master pieces of Weimar cinema, not least because of the Fritz Arno Wagner"s expert camera work and its imaginative editing.

For "Die Büchse der Pandora" ("Pandora’s Box", 1928/29), based on Frank Wedekind"s "Lulu" dramas, Pabst gave the leading role to the US actress Louise Brooks. She made a brilliant performance alongside Fritz Kortner in this film about passion and crime. Brooks also played the leading role in "Tagebuch einer Verlorenen" ("Diary of a Lost Girl", 1929). This film about a "fallen woman" became a case for the film censors because of its "corruptive effects". It has – like several other films by Pabst – survived only in parts.

After co-directing Arnold Fanck"s mountain drama "Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü" ("The White Hell of Pitz Palu", 1929), Pabst finished his first sound film "Westfront 1918" ("The Western Front 1918", 1930). This realistic war movie gave him the nickname "red Pabst" because of its pacifist tendencies, just like in the bilingually filmed mine drama "Kameradschaft" ("Comradeship", 1931), a plea for the friendship between the Germans and the French.

Between the two films, Pabst directed the German and the French version of the German-American production "Die 3-Groschen-Oper" ("The Threepenny Opera", 1930/31), based on Kurt Weill"s and Bertolt Brecht"s successful musical. The shooting of the film was overshadowed by legal controversies that were incited by Brecht and that negatively affected the perception of the subtle and atmospheric film version. In 1932, Pabst then finished the desert adventure "Die Herrin von Atlantis" ("Queen of Atlantis"), starring Brigitte Helm, in three language versions for Seymour Nebenzahl whose production company Nero-film produced Pabst"s most important films between 1928 and 1933.

Pabst witnessed Hitler"s accession to power while shooting the film "Don Quichotte" in France. In late 1933, he directed "A Modern Hero" (1933/34) for Warner Bros. in Hollywood. But in May 1936, Pabst returned to France after he had experienced problems with Hollywood"s production methods. Until 1939, he directed several atmospheric entertainment movies in France, including "Jeunes filles en détresse" ("Girls in Distress"), that won Pabst a Bronze medal at the Venice film festival. He rejected offers to return to Germany. Shortly before his planned return to the USA during a personal visit to "annexed" Austria, Pabst was surprised by the outbreak of war. In addition, his attempts to get to the USA via Rome failed. Eventually, Pabst stayed in Germany which later damaged his reputation when he was called an opportunist. At first, Pabst had difficulties to be accepted to Reichsfilmkammer. He then finished two films until 1945, the elaborate, somewhat stiff period films "Komödianten" ("The Comedians", 1941) und "Paracelsus" (1942/43).

After the end of the war, Pabst finished "Der Prozeß" ("The Trial") in the Soviet sector of Vienna in 1947/48. The film, an older project, dealt with medieval anti-Semitic prejudices and modern anti-Semitism. Pabst subsequently finished twelve films – partly self-produced – in Austria, Italy, and in West Germany but was not able to link them to his hugely successful films of the Weimar era. His post-war films include "Cose da pazzi" (1953), a mental asylum satire, the crime film "Das Bekenntnis der Ina Kahr" ("Afraid to Love", 1954), and the melodrama "Rosen für Bettina" ("Ballerina", 1956), but also two films that dealt with Germany"s Nazi past: "Der letzte Akt" ("The Last Ten Days", 1954/55) showed Adolf Hitler"s last days in the "Führerbunker" and "Es geschah am 20. Juli" ("It Happened on July 20th", 1955) tried to give a documentary account of the resistance group around Graf Stauffenberg.

After finishing his sole film in technicolor, the "romantic symphony" "Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen" ("Through the Forests and Through the Trees", 1956), Pabst retired and retreated to Austria because of his already deteriorating health.

Filmography

1956 Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen
Director
 
1955/1956 Rosen für Bettina
Director
 
1955 Es geschah am 20. Juli
Director
 
1954/1955 Der letzte Akt
Director
 
1954 Das Bekenntnis der Ina Kahr
Director
 
1953 La voce del silenzio
Director, Screenplay
 
1950 Ruf aus dem Äther
Creative supervisor, Producer
 
1949 1-2-3 Aus!
Producer
 
1949 Geheimnisvolle Tiefe
Director, Producer
 
1949 Duell mit dem Tod
Creative supervisor, Screenplay, Producer
 
1947/1948 Im Namen der Menschlichkeit
Director
 
1947/1948 Der Prozeß
Director
 
1944/1945 Der Fall Molander
Director
 
1942/1943 Paracelsus
Director
 
1940/1941 Komödianten
Director, Screenplay
 
1939 Jeunes filles en détresse
Director
 
1938/1939 L'esclave blanche
Director
 
1938 Le drame de Shanghaï
Director
 
1937 Mademoiselle Docteur
Director
 
1935 Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü
Director
 
1934 A Modern Hero
Director
 
1933 Cette nuit-là
Director, Producer
 
1933 Du haut en bas
Director
 
1932/1933 Don Quixote
Director
 
1932/1933 Don Quichotte
Director
 
1932 The Mistress of Atlantis
Director
 
1932 Die Herrin von Atlantis
Director
 
1932 L'Atlantide
Director
 
1931 Kameradschaft
Director
 
1930/1931 L'opera de quat'sous
Director
 
1930/1931 Die 3-Groschen-Oper
Director
 
1930 Skandal um Eva
Director
 
1930 Westfront 1918
Director
 
1930 Moral um Mitternacht
Creative supervisor
 
1929 Tagebuch einer Verlorenen
Director, Producer
 
1929 Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü
Director
 
1928/1929 Die Büchse der Pandora
Director
 
1928 Abwege
Director, Editing
 
1927 Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney
Director, Editing
 
1926 Man spielt nicht mit der Liebe
Director, Editing
 
1925/1926 Geheimnisse einer Seele
Director
 
1925 Die freudlose Gasse
Director, Editing
 
1924 Gräfin Donelli
Director
 
1922/1923 Der Schatz
Director
 
1922 Luise Millerin
Assistant director, Screenplay
 
1921/1922 Der Taugenichts
Assistant director, Screenplay
 
1921 Im Banne der Kralle
Cast, Producer