Greta Garbo

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sweden Talks While Waiting in Vain for Greta Garbo



       In 1929, Edvin Adolphson directed his first film, it having been the first film made in Sweden to include sound, "The Dream Waltz" ("Sag debt I toner") co-directed by Julius Jaenzonand starring Jenny Hasselquist and Eric Malberg.  per Olov Quistad and Peter Von Bagh specify the place of the film in chronological history, "It had no talking parts, just a soundtrack with music and sound effects on disc, but it's immediate success convinced the direction board to continue."
     New Movie Magazine during 1930 announce,"Greta Almroth, star of Swedish pictures when Nils Aster was making a humble beginning was the Greta Garbo of Sweden. She plays a bit in "Dream of Love" as an infuriated revolutionist in a scene with with Warner Oland. As exciting as the listing is, the Svenska Filminstitutet lists Greta Almroth as not having appeared in film between 1924-1934. That is not to say that the scene could not have been film and later cut, or the she could have been uncredited for her work, it is just that it is difficult to find biography compelling enough to think that she ever visited Hollywood. Based on the work "Adrienne Lecoureur" by Photoplay dramatist Dorothy Farnum, the film is considered to be lost, there being no surviving prints that can be screened where the scene with Almroth can be viewed,  it being part of my sections on Lost Films,Found Magazines where the only way to experience cinema is look at surviving posters, stills and magazine reviews published during the first run of the film. Scandinavian actress Greta Nissen however was in fact in Hollywood during the advent of sound film, but does not appear with Oland and Asther in the film.
     There had in fact been a Swedish company that during 1928 advertised in the United States in providing the synchronization of motion pictures, Nordicphone in Stockholm, who recorded the human actor and sound effects on disc with the fiber stylus.
     Periodicals of the era reported that sound films were first shown in Sweden on May 2, 1929. A year later, the Roda Kvarn in Stockholm, "the permanent home of the silent film", would still be waiting to decide when it would install sound equipment. it was reported that while there was interest in sound film and that more theaters were being wired based on their success, Sweden currently then had its first two sound films in production, but manufactured no recording or production equipment. In that Nordisk Film had discontinued making films in Denmark entirely, it reformed in to the newly created Nordisk Tone-Film, which produced one reel sound films. American equipment was installed in theaters not using Danish made sound reproduction. Motion Picture News reported that although Svensk Filmindustri would release eight silent films and four that had both silent and sound versions and the production of short subjects with sound was currently in preparation, only one film would be presented with synchronized sound from Rasunda. It is uncanny to read of the difficulty entertained more than a decade earlier by inventor M. Sven Berglund and similar attempts to use telephone wires to synchronize recorded sound to five reel films.
     The appendices to the volume The New Spirit in the Cinema, Analysis, and Interpretation of the Parallel Paths of Cinema, published by Harold Shaylor, Gower Street, reported with a tone of optimism the modernity of the two film studios at Rasunda while it placed the then recent transition from silent to sound film into the bookshelves with hardcover accounts and appraisals of the new technology, "There is no doubt that Svensk Filmindustri has now entered upon another period of successful production. During the past year several films were produced which have enjoyed an extraordinarily great success in Sweden, namely the farce 'Konstgjorda Svennson', 'Norrlangningar', the magnificent film from the frozen polar regions, 'Den Starkaste' and not least, the first Swedish sound film, 'Sage Det i toner', which has beaten all previous records of popularity in Sweden. This year's production has already started with a farce and comedy founded on one of Selma Lagerlof's latest novels, 'Charlotte Lowenskold'. At the moment talking film equipment of the Tobias system is being installed. Svensk Filmindustri will henceforth produce sound films and talkies side by side with silent films." The volume noted that "the public is getting tired of American film and its jazzy mentality", which had flooded European theaters, and that it "feels again attracted to films of lyrical inspiration." It went on to discuss Europe and the fact that films made in Switzerland at the time seemed non-existent, but that there were a half-dozen that seemed worth of being noted.
Film Daily magazine reported during 1931 that, "Scandinavian countries will produce about 32 talking features this year...Practically all important houses in Sweden are wired for sound."
     "One Night" ("En Natt", Molander, 1931) had been written by Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius and yet it owed much of its construction to its assistant director, Gosta Hellstrom. Hellstrom had been a film critic and had met with both Eisenstien and Pudovkin before returning to his native Sweden. The film is distinct from Molander's other film in its technique, it's editing. Appearing in the film were Gerda Lundequist, Unno Henning, Sture Lagerwall, Ingert Bjuggren and Karin Swanstrom.
     Swedish film director Gustaf Bergman continued in 1931, writing and directing the film "General" ("Generalen"), photographed by Phillip Tannura and starring Edvin Adolphson, Inga Tiblad and Karin Sawnstrom. Also that year Gustaf Bergman directed Isa Quensel in her first film appearance, "We Must Have Love" ("Karleck maste vi ha"), written by Torsten Quensel and photographed by Fred Lagenfield. The film stars Margit Rosengren, Valborg Hansson, Isla Backstrom and Anna-Lisa Baude. Also that year Bergman directed Vera Schimterlow, a dear friend of actress Greta Garbo, with Anna Lisa Baude in the film "A Woman's Tommorow/Tommorow for a Woman" ("En Kvinnas Morgandag") written by Elsa af Trolle and photographed by Fred Lagenfield.
     Swedish film director Rune Carlsten during 1931 directed the film "Dangerous Paradise" ("Faroranas Paradis"), adapted from a novel by Joseph Conrad, starring Ragnar Arvedson and Elizabeth Frisk. That year he also co-directed the film "Half to Heaven" ("Halvvags till Himlen"), starring Elisabeth Frisk, Edvin Adolphson and Karin Swanstrom.
     Swedish film director Theodor Berthels in 1931 wrote down and directed the film "His Majesty Will Have to Wait" ("Hans Majectat far Vanta") photographed by Adrian Bjurman and based on a play by Oscar Rydqvist. The film's stars Margit Manstad, Ragnar Arvedson, Aina Rosen, Britta Vieweg and Emmy Albiin.
     Swedish film director Per Axel Branner directed Astrid Bodin in her first film during 1931, "Under Roda Fanor", written by Fredrick Storm and photographed by Gosta Sandin. Also starring in the film are Ruth Weijden and Gertie Lowestrom.
     1931 brought the film "Love and the Homeguard" ("Karleck och Landstrom") directed by John Lindlof and produced by Europa-film, Stockholm. Scholar Christopher Natzenhus, Stockholm, noted that Europa and other emerging companies, then including Sandrews, were too small to compete with Svensk Filmindustri, who were in fact increasing their production output.
     Out of the 23 feature films made in Sweden, and if the rate of competition from America listed for that year is accurate the country screened less than fifty films for viewing that year, Film Daily Year Book noted that during 1933 "Europa-film, Stockholm, produced four feature films, all sound on film." Accordingly, Svensk Talfilm produced only one film from its studio in Stockholm and only one was made by Irefilm, Stockholm.
     The Kinetograph Yearbook of 1935, published in Long Acre, while providing an assessment of international film markets compared Swedish Film production to that of other leading countries while viewing Saedish Film as comprising a genre of its own, "The conditions prevailing in 1934 have been satisfactory as illustrated by the fact that after 14 years, Svenska Filmindustri...have resumed a payment of a dividend (6 percent) on the ordinary A shares. Film production has also kept its own...Most of the Swedish output is of a national character, inasmuch as the stories are taken from Swedish life and laid against a Swedish landscape." The periodical Cinema Quarterly during 1934 viewed Sweden as in financial competition with other foreign distributors, particularly in the home market, and in doing so it complemented the quality of films made in Sweden before the advent of sound while recognizing a new generation of Swedish filmmakers that were quickly beginning to be viewed outside of Sweden. They were led by the more experienced Gustav Molander, "He received his early schooling in the glorious epoch of Sweden's silent film when he worked as an assistant to, among others, Victor Sjostrom." The periodical gave credit to the photography of Ake Dahlquist in two of Molander's films, "En Natt" and "En Stilla Flirt". " 'A Mild Flirt' has been a great success in Sweden. In spite of the fact that Sweden is the native country of Greta Garbo, a good Swedish film is generally a greater commercial success than a Garbo film. In 'A Mild Flirt', the principal part was taken by Tutta Rolf, who earlier this year, left for Hollywood. Where she is under contract with Fox." Author Paul Rotha, in his volume The Film till Now, a survey of world cinema, offered an alternative, more disillusioned, interpretation, "With their long and fine tradition in film making in the early silent days, the Scandinavian countries have experienced the utmost difficulties in trying to regain their place in world cinema. Severely limited by the dictates of dialogue, comparatively little of their work has been seen overseas. in Sweden, the films produced since 1930 have been strongly marked by national characteristics, but from Gustav Molander's 'En Natt'1931) through 'The Heavenly Play' (1944) and 'Torment' (1946), none of its productions we have seen has broken really fresh ground. Victor Sjostrom returned from Hollywood to Sweden to function primarily as an actor and until recently Gustav Molander and some of other veterans from the silent days have carried on."
     The 1934 film "En Stille Flirt" (A Quiet Affair), starring Birgitta Tengroth and Margit Manstad had been adapted for the screen by Gosta Stevens from the novel by Edith Oberg. The following year, Gosta Stevens would return to script Gustav Molander's film "A Bachelor Father" ("Ungkarlspappan"), photographed by Einer Akesson.
     Movie Classic magazine during 1936 paid tribute to a Swedish actress filming "Dressed to Thrill" in the United States, "Her name is Tutta Rolf. Jot that down in your memory book: you will be hearing it often when this picture gets around....The story revolves around three people, and she is two of them; the third is Clive Brook."

Swedish Silent Film

Greta Garbo