Louise Kolm-Fleck and Jakob Fleck, c. 1937

b. Louise (aka Luise) Veltée

b. August 1, 1873, Vienna, Austria-Hungary
d. March 15, 1950, Vienna, Austria

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While France’s Alice Guy’s (1876–1968) role as the first film director has been discounted in film history texts or qualified by her gender as the first female film director, the prolific studio founder, writer, director and producer Louise Veltée (or Louise Kolm as she was usually credited until her second marriage in 1923) is almost completely missing from cinema scholarship. She is known to cineastes in her native Austria and in Germany as an early filmmaker who was partnered with her two husbands, and for the quality of her wide talents, but her pioneering stature seems to have been quietly ignored by a century of film critics and historians.

There is scant primary documentation on Louise Kolm as an individual, or on her thoughts and concepts as filmmaker. The best source regarding this aspect of research has been her son, Austrian film director Walter Kolm-Veltée (1910–1999), who describes his mother in simple terms as “energetic and full of humour. She loved fantasy but also desired to comment on the problems of society and the relationships between men and women” (1). Unfortunately, much of her prolific work in silent film is now lost. The resurgent interest in Austrian cinema brought on by New Austrian Film has returned a few of her creations to the screens of Viennese art houses. But in the rest of the cinema world, she has barely rated a footnote (2).

The exact beginnings of Austrian film are difficult to trace. The sprawling nature of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire makes the overlapping of early Austrian film with that of Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian, and other Central and South Central European national cinemas an inescapable fact. During the silent era, the criterion of language, in this case German, can obviously not be used to define the nationality of a film, nor can one consider Austrian only those films made within the German-speaking territory of the Empire. Although it is believed that Austrian filmmakers started somewhat later than the French and the Germans, the Austrians were certainly among the first cinephiles in the world. An Edison Kinetoscope for the viewing of the inventor’s A Barroom Scene (USA) (1894) was unveiled in Vienna’s entertainment park, the Prater, in the summer of 1895. The Deutsch–Österreichische Edison Kinetoskop Gesellschaft (German–Austrian Edison Kinetoscope Society) had been founded that spring to promote Edison’s films in the German Empire and Austria–Hungary (3). By early 1896, the Prater had installed 15 such machines in a special viewing hall. A scant three months after the first Lumière film presentation in Paris in 1896, motion pictures were shown in Vienna on the famed first district boulevard, the Kärnterstrasse, and caused what the Viennese are always said to crave – a sensation. The new art form was approved of by Emperor Franz Joseph, a monarch not known for his appreciation of progress for its own sake. The aging symbol of Habsburg Central Europe even attended a screening (4).

Shortly thereafter, the “Zoological Theatre” (which featured everything from ethnographic displays to circus animal performances) at the Prater installed its own “Kinematograph” machines in its African “Ashanti Village” (5). But the concept of an actual Viennese movie theatre was first developed by Louis Veltée. The Veltée family had originally come to Vienna from Lyon, the city that was also home to the Lumière Brothers; they had gained notability as pyrotechnicians in early 19th-century Austria. In 1896, Louis Veltée began showing films in his Stadt–Panoptikum wax museum on the first district’s fashionable Kohlmarkt street near the imperial Hofburg palace, and swiftly became known as the father of the Austrian movie theatre. His daughter, Louise (sometimes known as Luise), worked as a cashier at her father’s business and learned about the nascent art from one of its very first public practitioners.

Count Alexander “Sascha” von Kolowrat-Krakowsky (1896–1927) has traditionally been labelled the father of the Austrian film industry, but the first Austrians to actually produce feature films were Louise Veltée (1873–1950), her husband, photographer Anton Kolm (1865–1922) and their cameraman Jakob Julius Fleck (1881–1953). Austrian erotic films were re-discovered in the late 1990s which appear to predate even the trio’s productions, but it was the Kolm–Fleck efforts, beginning in 1906, that mark the above-ground beginning of an actual Austrian film industry. Although the Kolm–Fleck team aspired towards the production of features, their primitive equipment and lack of financial support allowed them only a modest start with short documentaries (6). Their first reels consisted of simple live-action scenes: horse races, candid sequences of urban life, or events at the Prater (7).

The impetus towards a first Austrian feature film was generated through a meeting of the trio with the 25-year-old theatre actor Heinz Hanus (1882–1972), at the popular Viennese theatre-haunt, the Café Dobner. Performing on the regional stages of the Empire and fascinated by the new medium he had experienced in the Wanderkinos (tent cinemas that moved across the provinces), Hanus wanted to try his hand at film direction and enthusiastically joined up as the dramatic arm of the Veltée/Kolm/Fleck production team (8). The initial result of this new co-operation was a six-minute (120 metre) drama produced in the film quartet’s studio, located in the attic floor of an office building in Vienna’s first district on the Wipplingerstrasse (9).

Film historian Walter Nepf points out that the birth of Vienna’s film industry during the years 1907 and 1908 coincided with a general crisis in early international film. The short non-narrative form had become commonplace, and even ten-minute “narratives” were beginning to lose audiences. Heinz Hanus always maintained that he directed the first feature film in Austrian cinema history, Von Stufe zu Stufe (From Step to Step) in 1908, but the film, apparently produced by Louise and Anton Kolm, is “lost” and has been a subject of controversy among Austrian film scholars. The redoubtable Walter Fritz recorded his interviews with Heinz Hanus in many publications, and notes that the film was supposedly shot in the Kolm studio, at the Prater amusement park and at Castle Liechtenstein. The script was co-written by Hanus and Louise Kolm and shot by Jacob Fleck. The actors of this approximately 35-minute film (approximately 700 metres) were Hanus, Rudolf Stiassny and Louise Kolm’s brother, Claudius Veltée. Its subject was pure Viennese literary/operetta convention framed by the era’s growing class-consciousness: a young girl meets a count at the Prater, is rejected by his social circle and returned to her father’s home. A contrived happy ending saves the film from becoming what is known in German-language literature and theatre as the bourgeois tragedy (10). Hanus claims the film premiered in Vienna in December 1908, but it is missing from film publications of the time, although several films were produced with this title in France, the US and in Germany. The Filmarchiv Austria (Film Archive Austria, or FAA), which is today central to the collection, research and restoration of Austria’s film legacy, has failed to locate any supporting documentation and considers the film to have been either an incomplete or unrealised project (11).

In January 1910, the first true Austrian film production company was formed by Louise and Anton Kolm with Jakob Fleck, suitably named the Erste österreichische Kinofilms Industrie (First Austrian Cinema Film Company). In that same year the name was changed to embrace the entire Empire as the Österreichisch–Ungarische Kino–Filmsindustrie Ges.m.b.H (Austrian–Hungarian Cinema Film Company Ltd). The new studio relocated from its original site to a spacious and prominent building at Währingerstrasse. It was clear by the display of actor’s photographs and the pompous elegance of the office that the Kolm–Fleck undertaking not only had faith in the developing art form as a potential international industry, but that it also would gain credibility and respect on par with Austrian theatre and opera. They advertised in Austria’s new film publication, Österreichischer Komet (Austrian Comet), seeking financial investment in their company to help them compete with the larger and more established foreign film companies, which were then showing films throughout the Empire. While Anton Kolm would be responsible for the financial and directorial aspects of the productions, Louise Kolm would variously co-script, edit, and assist her brother Claudius Veltée in the laboratory work (12). At the same time, Count Kolowrat established the first film “studio” with Oskar Berka in his castle at Gross–Meierhofen, and proceeded to create short nature films with co-workers Karl Freund and Emanuel Kabath. The Kolm–Fleck and Kolowrat “studios” dominated Austrian film production until the eve of the First World War.

The first film to emerge from the new Kolm–Fleck company was a feature length documentary, Der Faschingszug in Ober St. Veit (The Carnival Parade in Ober St. Veit), which was completed on February 6, 1910 and premiered two days later in Vienna. By March, they had completed their second film, a historically valuable record, Der Trauerzug Sr. Exzellenz des Bürgermeisters (The Funeral Parade of His Excellence the Mayor Dr. Karl Lueger). The Kolm–Fleck firm was able to secure the rights to film the funeral of the popular and still controversial Viennese mayor, beating out the large French competitor, Pathé Frères, which had dominated Austrian “event” film reportage. The film brought the Kolm–Fleck production company and with it, Austria’s emergence in the field, to a wider European audience for the first time. Although the French had long held the rights to film at the imperial court, Kolm–Fleck managed to secure the privilege of filming Emperor Franz Joseph during his visit to a flying field, and thus secured their placement as Austria–Hungary’s pre-eminent film company. But the Kolm–Fleck productions still lagged behind international feature film standards and the new French film d’art trend, which encouraged “high-art” subject matter. The first such feature in Austrian film was also Jakob Fleck’s debut as film director, Die Ahnfrau (The Medium) (1910), based on Austrian neoclassicist playwright Franz Grillparzer’s (1791–1872) tragedy about a family’s self destruction. The film may have lacked true cinematic qualities, being more or less a record of a truncated stage production, but it signalled the vast possibilities in adapting Austrian literature to the new medium. The film was remade by Jakob Fleck and Louise Kolm as a full-length feature (over 2,000 metres) in 1919. With its advanced lighting and editing effects, the second Ahnfrau suggests the future Expressionist direction of German film, rather than the genre of the socially critical melodrama, which the Kolm–Fleck group would be instrumental in developing.

It was, however, the 1910 Kolm/Fleck production of Der Müller und sein Kind (The Miller and his Child) which is today considered the first true Austrian feature film. The 200-metre folk-drama was the first to employ, and thus establish the concept of, a prop company. A major draw in Vienna and the provinces, it was remade the following year in an improved version. The continued success and growing visibility of the Kolm–Fleck productions enabled the studio to expand its scope, and in February 1910 it opened a distribution office and began publishing a weekly newsletter. The now renamed Österreichisch–Ungarische Kinoindustrie Ges.m.b.H. (Austrian–Hungarian Cinema Industry Ltd.) would not only distribute its own product but also market foreign films within the Austro–Hungarian Empire (13). Additionally, the Kolm–Fleck company increased its production of feature films, and by 1911 their output more than doubled the four films produced in the previous year. Not all of the 11 feature films of 1911 were literature-based tragedy or drama. Several short comedies were also produced, with German actor Oskar Szabo starring in Die Schwiegermutter (The Mother-in-Law) (1910) and in Volkssänger (Folk Singers) (1911). This new concept of the “star” performance was repeated in 1912 with Karl Blasel als Zahnarzt (Karl Blasel as the Dentist), which presented one of Vienna’s most famous comic theatre actors of the nineteenth century in a unique filmic record of one of his skits. The film made Blasel accessible to the regional audiences that might never have seen him perform, and ensured and even increased his already legendary status. In 1913, Kolm–Fleck followed up on the success of operetta favourite Alexander Girardi in Sascha Kolowrat’s Der Millionenonkel (The Millionaire Uncle) with their cinematic record of him in Frau Gertraud Namenlos (Mrs. Gertraud Nameless). Also of interest are Martha mit dem Hosenrock (Martha and the Trouser-Dress) and Ein Misslungener Trick (A Failed Jest), both from 1911 (14). The former pokes fun at the follies and foibles of women’s fashion, taking on the subject of the new women’s pant-dress, which emerged from the immobile hobble skirt of the time. The latter emulates American silent slapstick in its saga of a wedding trip made up of bizarre incidents. But these creations were not as popular as the folk-dramas and moralist tales, and so three films satisfying that particular audience interest were produced in 1911: the sociocritical melodramas Nur ein armer Knecht, Mutter (Only a Poor Servant, Mother), Der Dorftrottel (The Town Fool), and Die Glückspuppe (The Good Luck Doll). These films were longer than most of the previous Kolm–Fleck productions, which now ranged from 300 to over 600 metres (15).

Two films displayed a more sophisticated style of film writing, acting and music composition for the first time in Austria. One was the aforementioned Glückspuppe, which was written and directed by the team of Louise Kolm, Anton Kolm, Jakob Fleck and Claudius Veltée. Erich Hiller, a noted Viennese composer, created original music for the film (16). Louise Kolm, who had been one of the first women in international cinema history to found a film studio and write for the screen, now became apparently the second female director who would have a significant and influential career, following Alice Guy and ahead of Germaine Dulac (1882–1942), whose experimental work dates from 1915. Erich Hiller also helped make Louise Kolm’s vision of bringing Jacques Offenbach’s fantastic opera based on the stories of romantic author E.T.A Hoffmann, Hoffmanns Erzählungen (The Tales of Hoffmann) to the screen a reality. Although the original libretto was, naturally, shortened and altered somewhat to suit the aria-less performance, the 317-metre film attempted to remain loyal to the original opera. Star quality publicity also emerged with this project: the Kolm–Fleck company newsletter believed that the names of Hoffmann, Offenbach, Hiller and the actors would be a major draw for the film, and they were proven correct (17).

Given imperial Vienna’s reputation for high-culture, architectural bombast, and of course, music, one might assume that the most dominant subject matter in early Austrian cinema would have been operetta texts or even the mainstay of Italian silent film – the historical costume epic. But it was the sociocritical melodrama, with topics ranging from the rural Heimatfilm, to stories regarding the abuse of women, to tales on the difficult life of the urban working class that dominates early Austrian cinema. Quite clearly, the multicultural Austro–Hungarian Empire was chafing under an old elitist class structure, as it would later be battered by nationalist movements.

The premiere of the second version of the Kolm–Fleck Der Müller und sein Kind on October 21, 1911 signals the true stride of feature film production in Austria. The film was not considered a great work of literature come to the screen, but rather promoted the specific trend of the Austrian sociocritical melodrama genre, which would rival the French film d’art concept. The original five act drama by Silesian author Ernst Raupach (1784–1852) premiered in Vienna in 1830 and had been popular throughout the German-speaking world. The play’s depiction of the conflict between classes and generations, along with a doomed love-story involving opposite ends of the social spectrum, was perfect material for the Austrian tastes of the time. Additionally, the spiritual/horror element of ghostly manifestations, of a gothic cemetrey and a dramatic death scene, promised entertainment value as well as intellectual content. The director of the 1911 version was Walter Friedmann, head of Vienna’s Volksoper (People’s Opera, which was a more popular and operetta-based house than the Court Opera), who immediately understood the nature of the medium:

The theatre director generally works in width, the film director in depth…. The actor in the theatre must find harmony between word and gesture, in cinema, he must ultimately make himself understood through attitude and gesture…. Every gesture must have meaning and have a logical connection with the previous one (18).

The scenic/technical director and cinematographer was Joseph Delmont, who had previously photographed and directed westerns for Vitagraph in the US. The 600-metre film was shot in both studio and exterior settings, and once again used the technique of tinting, often simulating night scenes or various interior lighting qualities. Colour values had been particularly important in turn-of-the-century Austrian and German symbolist and pre-Expressionist theatre, where mood enhancement through coloured lighting and the integration of colour symbols was an essential element in stage production. Not only was this trend an attempt to incorporate early modernist concepts such as art nouveau and abstraction, but also the science of photography and early cinema and the art of performance. The colouration of the Kolm–Fleck productions continued this movement into film, but instead of adding symbolic value to live-performance for the sake of more abstract and philosophical artistic expression, it did so to achieve the opposite, moving towards the (coloured) visualisation of realism.

Still from Das goldene Wiener Herz (1911). Courtesy Filmarchiv Austria, Vienna

Two more films were made by the Kolm/Fleck company in 1911 and 1912 before it ended its work: Das goldene Wiener Herz (The Golden Viennese Heart) (1911) and Trilby (1912). Based on the wildly popular novel of the time by George du Maurier, and co-written and directed by Louise and Anton Kolm, Fleck and Veltée, Trilby told of the story of a Hungarian musician who commands hypnotic control of his singing protégée. The Kolm–Fleck production may have competed with theatre treatments of the novel but led world cinema in bringing the work to the screen twice (19): the Kolm–Fleck team remade the film in 1914 as Svengali but both films are now lost. At 875 metres, the 1912 version was the longest Austrian film to that date.

Louise and Anton Kolm, at odds with a financial investor in their film company who wanted to determine the subject-matter of production, departed the association along with Jakob Fleck and Claudius Veltée at the beginning of 1912 and formed a new company, Wiener Kunstfilm (Viennese Art Film). They upgraded their technical prowess with new studio facilities and sound stages in Vienna’s seventh district. The new establishment, which at first received enormous praise from Austria’s film publications, required a major financial success, and given the international trend for literary adaptations and film d’art, the Kolm/Fleck partnership sought out one of Vienna’s most famous writers of the time, Arthur Schnitzler (1862–1931), who agreed, in principal, to provide material for a film project. Unfortunately, the project was stalled and ultimately abandoned due to the atmosphere of theatre/film rivalry, which apparently suggested to Schnitzler that his reputation as a great writer might be hurt with cinema involvement – at least in Austrian film. The intended material, Schnitzler’s famous play, Liebelei, ironically received its first cinematic treatment outside of Austria in a 1913 Danish production. Kolm–Fleck would eventually create their own version but not until the end of the silent era in 1927.

A major writer was still needed to create the “event” the Kolm–Fleck partnership had planned for their new company’s debut. Oskar Bendiener, a popular author of the day, and the recipient of the prestigious “Raimund Prize” appeared to be the answer. His theatre drama, Der Unbekannte (The Unknown Man), was to become the Kunstfilm company’s first production. Interestingly, while Schnitzler’s Liebelei would have offered a critical and tragic look at class-consciousness in romantic relationships as bourgeois tragedy theatre work, Bendiener’s crime drama was far more sensationalist and less socially critical than any of Kolm–Fleck’s previous work. Louise Kolm insured that pre-production of the film, which she directed on her own, also built anticipation in a manner that has since become a standard aspect of international filmmaking. Famous stage actors were selected for the roles and heavily advertised in newspapers. It was also announced that the beloved Viennese operetta composer Franz Lehár (1870–1948) would score the film, although this failed to materialise. The casting, however, made this the first all-star film in Austrian cinema history as well as Austrian cinema’s longest feature film (1,070 metres cut from 10,000 metres of negative) to that date. Kunstfilm spared no expense in surpassing the expectations of European standards of the time, since their project aimed at an international market. Establishing norms for cinema publicity, the film’s aristocratic female lead, Claire Woff-Metternich-Wallentin, appeared in film and fashion magazines modelling the creations of the “Austrian Theatre Costume and Decoration Studio Company”. The limited press screening of the film (the start of another industry convention) proved to be such a successful word-of-mouth tactic that the film was a hit before it had received general release in Austria–Hungary and Germany. Although the film d’art aspect of the work was more or less met by the reputation of the author rather than by the material, the writing, directorial, artistic and technical aspects of the film were impressive.

Despite the success of the film, Louise Kolm preferred co-direction, and would return to shared creation with Anton Kolm, and her second husband, Jakob Fleck, in future projects. There is no statement from her or her husbands regarding their working relationships, but her son indicates that it was a truly collaborative effort, rather than specific tasks done together. Apparently, Louise Kolm and her husbands worked as a “committee” on the set although Louise had the more dominant voice in actual acting direction, particularly in her work with second husband Jakob Fleck (20).

The Kolm–Fleck firm’s reputation and financial stability could not be secured by this film alone, so even larger “event” films were planned. Unfortunately, the subsequent productions did not find the same level of success as Der Unbekannte, and this was ultimately exploited by the film journal Österreichischer Komet, which had taken up an anti-Louise Kolm attitude, partially influenced by Elias Tropp, a former member of the new Kolm–Fleck company. A malicious “expose” of the company bordered on slander, and was obviously intended to ruin the new studio and the reputations of its talents. Louise Kolm and her partners, however, survived these smear tactics and managed to produce 37 films between 1913 and 1914 (21).

Most of the films during this prolific phase of the Kolm–Fleck partnership were progressive social dramas, and included the 1913 production, Der Psychiater (The Psychiatrist), also known as Das Proletarierherz (The Heart of the Proletarian). An attempt at melding documentary, operetta and feature film on a subject which has become one of the more popular “Austrian” themes in international film history, Johann Strauss an der schönen blauen Donau (Johann Strauss on the Beautiful Blue Danube) in 1913, was a misfire despite its lavish conception and its premiere which coincided with the unveiling of the Johann Strauss Memorial in Vienna’s City Park. The “Waltz King” was portrayed by the Imperial Court Theatre star Carl von Zeska, who also directed the 2,000 metre film, which was saturated with performances and cameos by the stars of theatre, opera, operetta and the concert hall. Unfortunately, the silent operetta and fictionalised Strauss biography failed because of the too recent actual presence of Strauss in Viennese cultural life; at the time he had only been dead for ten years. The film’s disappointing reception once again underscored the Austrian public’s desire for serious social drama rather than what perhaps the world would have expected it to demand – Viennese cliché.

The film’s failure also exacerbated the ongoing rivalry between the theatre and film worlds. Stage loyalists condemned film as a dangerous threat to Austrian theatre and called for a boycott of film by all theatre actors. Film loyalists pointed to the growing popular success of cinema and railed against the publicity tactics of what they considered was a reactionary elite. But the Kolm–Fleck company had their response at the ready: boldly announcing that although the dictatorial director of Imperial Court Protocol, Prince Alfred Montenuevo, had forbidden all members of the Imperial Court Theatre from appearing in cinema, he had in fact issued an official decree allowing Carl von Zeska to play the role of Johann Strauss in the Kolm–Fleck film (22). This imperial recognition had essentially dispelled the negative image of cinema performance. The age of the film actor had begun in Austria–Hungary, and the division between film and theatre, which was to fade by the onset of the Great War, had only helped foster film acting in theory and practice. Von Zeska found harmony between the two arts and claimed that only a well-trained theatre actor could become a good film actor, a notion that has certainly lingered to the present day (23).

Die Hochzeit von Valeni (The Wedding of Valeni) (1914) and Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (The Priest from Kirchfeld) (1914) were the Kolm–Flecks’ most successful productions on the eve of the First World War. The Valeni film was based on a stage work about Romanian peasants penned by Marco Brociner and Ludwig Ganghofer. Unlike previous theatre-based films that cut the drama to a skeletal plot, Louise Kolm sought to extend the narrative to include more character background and motivation in this film, setting the standard for future cinematic treatments of theatrical and literary properties. Perhaps the monument to all Kolm–Fleck artistry, Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld, based on the work by Austrian naturalist playwright, Ludwig Anzengruber (1839–1889) followed, and brought together the various elements that would ensure success: famous actors, beautiful nature photography, and the overall reputation of Viennese literary quality (24). The Anzengruber-based Heimatfilm became so synonymous with the film style and reputation of Louise Kolm that she would remake the work twice.

The Kunstfilm company was also significant in bringing the Great War into the cinemas. The reputation for social dramas was replaced by a new one: theirs would now be the company that offered the most successful pro-Habsburg patriotic dramas with music by famed maestros of the operetta. These films melded heroic notions with sentimental drama and rousing melody or song. Beginning in 1915 with Der Traum eines österreichischen Reservisten (The Dream of an Austrian Reserve Officer) based on the tone-poem by operetta and waltz composer Carl Michael Ziehrer (1843–1922), Louise Kolm and Jakob Fleck wrote and directed Mit Herz und Hand fürs Vaterland (With Heart and Hand for the Fatherland) (1915) with war songs by Franz Lehár, Mit Gott für Kaiser und Reich (With God for Emperor and Empire) (1916) with music by Ziehrer, and produced the 1918 drama, Freier Dienst (Voluntary Service). Although timely, the genre did not escape disapproval from famed cultural critic Karl Kraus (1874–1936), who detested the use of film for the sake of propaganda and as a form of “emotional war” on the audiences. He particularly rejected the often-manipulated “documentaries” and war reportage of Sascha-Film, the War Press Office and Kolowrat’s associate, future actor, theatre director and film producer Hubert Marischka (1882–1959). Kraus’s 1919 play Die Letzte Tage der Menschheit (The Final Days of Mankind), written between 1915 and 1919, refers to both Sascha-Film and Marischka in a cynical portrayal of the cinema craze as nothing less than war on the home front. Kolowrat is the focus of scathing criticism, and one scene of the play even takes place in a motion picture theatre. After the concerted effort by filmmakers to bring literature into the cinema, cinema had now finally become part of literature.

Liane Haid in Mit Herz und Hand fürs Vaterland (1915). Courtesy Filmarchiv Austria, Vienna

Not all production was dedicated to war propaganda. The Kolm–Fleck team filmed Austrian folk-dramatist Ferdinand Raimund’s (1790–1836) magical tale, Der Verschwender (The Spendthrift) in 1917, and used it to build up the career of its actress Liane Haid (1895–2000), the first true Austrian film star. Born in Vienna, Haid had already performed as a neoclassical dancer using the apt-sounding pseudonym Hypolita d’Hellas on stage in Vienna and Budapest when Kunstfilm offered her a role in Mit Herz und Hand fürs Vaterland in 1915. Her success led to an exclusive contract with the company where she specialised in playing the type of sympathetic ingénue that Lillian Gish was famous for in American film. By 1918, she had become Austria’s most noted film performer and commanded the highest salary of any film actor in Vienna. Following her star turn in Louise and Anton Kolm’s Eva, die Sünde (Eva, The Sin) (1920), in which she portrays a femme fatale who attempts to seduce a monk – an early indication of Louise Kolm’s desire to break traditional gender norms in her films – Haid sued the Kunstfilm firm for having exploited her physically and financially.

Eva, die Sünde proved so successful that several other “artistic” productions were released by Kunstfilm in 1918, including Don Cäsar, Graf von Irun (Don Cesar, Count of Irun), based on the work by Dumanoir and d’Emery, Die Jüdin (The Jewess), after Eugene Scribe, Victor Hugo’s Der König amüsiert sich (Rigoletto) (The King Amuses Himself), and Tiefland, after the play by Angel Guimera and the opera by Eugene D’Albert (25). Although these were considered large-scale costume dramas for the time, every attempt was made to reduce costs while giving impressive production values. The gothic “sets” of Der König amusiert sich, for example, were not constructed in a studio but were actual examples of neo-Gothic architecture found in Vienna, such as the famed City Hall on the Ringstrasse (26).

Tastes soon changed after the first years of the war. Grotesque and slapstick comedies had faded from the scene and were replaced by somewhat more sophisticated parody and farce. Literary social dramas continued to hold sway. Playwright Ludwig Anzengruber’s rural images were particularly desired by Louise Kolm and she co-directed Der Meineidbauer (The Perjured Peasant) (1915), Im Banne der Pflicht (In the Line of Duty) (1917), and Der Schandfleck (The Stain of Shame) (1917) in addition to films based on work by Rudolf Hawel, Louis Taufstein, Brieux, and Ibsen.

With the collapse of the Empire and the birth of the Austrian Republic, Kunstfilm established a board of directors and renamed itself Vita-Film in 1919. It countered Kolowrat’s studio with a new facility constructed in the Rosenhügel district of Vienna. But the company’s vast expenditures were criticised by financial investors and the board, which also maintained that the same sort of films that Vita was producing could be completed with far less expense at other leased facilities. In protest, Anton Kolm departed the board. Following his death in 1922, Louise Kolm and Jakob Fleck disassociated themselves from Vita-Film and relocated to Berlin in 1923 where they married and Louise would continue to write and co-direct, now with her second husband and as Louise Fleck. Following their departure, the studio they had founded was expanded and for a time became the most modern and technically advanced film production facility in Europe. Despite the various company names that succeeded Vita-Film, the facility has always popularly been known as the “Rosenhügel Studio”. It has survived all other studios in Vienna and is again a state-of-the-art television and film production facility today.

Most of the close-to-40 German silent features made by Louise and Jakob Fleck between 1923 and 1933 were produced by the Hegewald-Film company owned by Liddy (aka Lydie) Hegewald, the female silent film producer. These German films continued the sociocritical melodrama of the Kolm–Fleck Vienna productions, but Louise Fleck was sensitive to the changing tastes of the audiences and added a few operettas and imperial-era romances in the mix; “Viennese films that were so popular in Berlin” (27). As Frieda Graefe posits, the creation of the “Vienna myth” in early Austrian cinema had little to do with location. Viennese film was often created “extraterritorially – somewhere else” (in addition to Berlin, many of the independent co-productions between 1934 and 1937, including the final films of Louise and Jakob Fleck, were shot in Prague and Budapest). Grafe considers Austrian film a “phantasm”, as it was not bound to a specific location. International from its very inception, the world soon profited from Austrian cinema, through its free-floating talent and from the “reservoir of dreams” Vienna and its clichés represented (28). Among the “Austrian” films made in Berlin was the Flecks’ second version of Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld in 1926, starring an unknown German actor who was to become a major Hollywood director, Wilhelm (William) Dieterle.

The political developments in Austria in 1933 and 1934 put cinema under government control more than it had ever been even during the imperial era. The near civil war and the growing power of Austrian National Socialism which demanded an annexation or Anschluss of “German” Austria to Hitler’s new Third Reich, was answered by Engelbert Dollfuss (1892–1934), a Minister of Agriculture, who managed to disband the embattled parliament on the basis of an obscure law and institute a “non-party” clerico-authoritarian corporate state, often referred to as Austrofascism, to stabilise the country and disallow any merger with Germany. Dollfuss, who admired Mussolini and also benefited from his support of Austria vis-à-vis Nazi German geopolitical designs in the region, based his corporate state on the Italian model, utilised Catholic values as basis for his movement, and rejected German and Austrian Nazism and its racist, expansionist policies. Dollfuss’ authoritarian regime immediately turned to film, appreciating its immense value for spreading political, cultural and economic propaganda. Rather than work with the industry, the new regime, which was officially proclaimed by decree in May 1934, decided to take the film industry totally under its “protection” (29). The Austrian film industry also became a haven for talent who had to leave Germany, and Vienna might have benefited from such an influx if it were not for the plans that Hitler had set in motion since his first days in office to isolate, impoverish and bring Austria to its knees in order to foster a coup. Even tourism, Austria’s most important industry, was to be hampered as Nazi Germany instituted the 1,000 Mark Sperre (Barrier) which required a deposit of 1,000 Marks for Germans who desired to travel to Austria for either business or pleasure. The German pressure aimed at ruining the already troubled Austrian economy increased after the assassination of Chancellor Dollfuss and the failed Nazi coup in 1934. The new Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg (1897–1977), reduced the fascistic appearance of the clerico-authoritarian regime but was equally intent on prohibiting Nazism and ultimate German annexation.

Austria’s film market was dependent upon Germany for production and distribution. Many German companies had bought into Austrian firms during the early years of sound and Austrian film’s largest export audience was Germany. The showing of Austrian films made with Jewish and known or perceived anti-German/anti-National Socialist talent was banned in Germany beginning in March 1933. In his documentary on film talent emigration from Germany after 1933, Günter Peter Straschek reports that the racial laws made about 900 members of the German film industry unemployable in Germany and ultimately stateless (30). Many of these headed towards Hollywood but a substantial portion sought out Vienna and Budapest, to be able to work in the German language and often because Austria or Hungary had been their origin. Their subsequent work in Vienna made German distribution an impossibility, and most of the major film production companies accepted the Nazi dictates in order for “Aryan” talent to be able to sell their films to the largest German language market. What developed from these restrictions was a secondary, independent film industry, which included émigrés and Austrian “non-Aryans”. Companies that created what became known as Emigrantenfilm (emigrant film) were not dependent on Germany for investment or distribution and therefore rejected its racial guidelines. Their films were often co-produced (in multilingual versions) with studios in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, and Sweden, and distributed internationally.

Having left Berlin with Hitler’s assumption of power in 1933 and returning to Vienna, Louise and Jakob Fleck brought the icon of the lost Empire to sound film in Unser Kaiser (Our Emperor) (1933), with Karl Ehmann as Emperor Franz Joseph. The title seemed to dismiss the Austrian republic, but the film was an attempt to define sovereign identity through nostalgia for a benevolent symbol of the lost polyglot empire. The romanticised biopic positioned itself against the pan-Germans of the past and the newsreel image of the Austrian who had become German chancellor of a “new empire” (the Third Reich) in the present. Following this film, the Flecks concentrated on Austrian co-production with Czechoslovakia. They co-directed two films in Prague (with Louise Kolm-Fleck’s son, Walter Kolm-Veltée), both produced by the Brno-based company, Terra-Film: the marriage farce, Csardas (Czardas) (1935) and the Heimatfilm, Der Wilderer von Egerland (The Poacher From Egerland) (1935). Both were simultaneously filmed in German and Czech versions. It is clear that the Flecks, who had been so instrumental in developing the socio-critical melodramas in Austrian cinema history, had continued their ideology in other genres, where, according to official criticism of the time, it was misplaced. Csardas was considered a tasteless comedy due to the “too liberated” persona of the female lead role and Egerland, despite its accomplished nature photography, was taken to task for its artificial characterisations and plot contrivances (31). Louise Fleck had now clearly reached beyond the problematicised image of woman in her previous films, where they were repressed and rescued or destroyed. Csardas deals with a newlywed couple, Dolly and Helwig, who decide to go “on the town” when their relatives do not arrive for a planned visit. While they are enjoying themselves, their house is robbed, their relatives appear, and the couple are ultimately arrested. Of course, all is resolved through an alcoholic haze at the police station. The film uses the screwball comedy formula (which came to Hollywood with Austrian exile talent) of rapid dialogue and action, growing confusion and wild misadventures; despite all this, Dolly’s (Irene von Zilahy) desire to be entertained, her rejection of traditional role-playing, and manipulation of her husband Helwig (Max Hansen) all expose the absurdity of archaic social constructs. Kolm-Fleck’s Csardas deals with possibilities of woman as individual and skewers patriarchal expectations.

Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (1937). Courtesy Filmarchiv Austria, Vienna

The 1937 Austrian-Czechoslovakian co-production of Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (The Priest of Kirchfeld) was the third film version of the Anzengruber drama by Louise Fleck (the second co-directed with Jakob Fleck). This edition was scripted by Jewish author Friedrich Torberg under the pseudonym “Hubert Frohn”, and featured the Vienna Boys Choir and actors who had become synonymous with the Emigrantenfilm: Hans Jaray, Hansi Stork, and Frida Richard. The story, played against the backdrop of Austria’s breathtaking Alpine scenery, revolves around the reputation of a priest who has taken up an orphaned girl as his housekeeper. The man responsible for the hateful gossip which turns the parish against the good priest is ultimately transformed thorough personal tragedy. With the housekeeper finally wed to her beloved, the town learns from the experience and the priest can move on to do God’s work elsewhere. The pro-Catholic “Austrian ideology” (promoted by the clerico-authoritarian regime) in this Heimatfilm clearly stands against the Nazi pan-German propaganda. It was to be Louise and Jakob Fleck’s final Austrian film. Due to their pro-Austrian stance and Jakob Fleck’s Jewish ancestry, the pioneering film couple was forbidden from working in the film industry upon the Anschluss in 1938. For income, Jakob Fleck offered a photo retouching service from his home, but the couple was arrested that same year and Jakob Fleck was interned for 16 months in Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps. Thanks to the financial assistance of German émigré director in Hollywood, William Dieterle, who had launched his career in the couple’s 1926 version of Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (and whose sympathy for old Austria is evident in his 1939 Hollywood film Juarez in which he presents a benevolent image of the doomed Habsburg Emperor Maximilan of Mexico), Fleck was released and the couple fled to Shanghai, China in 1940. There they created the first Austrian-Chinese film – Söhne und Töchter der Welt aka Kinder der Welt (Sons and Daughters of the World aka Children of the World) (1941) – co-directed with Chinese filmmaker Mu Fei. The film premiered on October 4, 1941 in the Jindu Theatre in Shanghai, where it was popular and ran for several weeks. The film was withdrawn from circulation following the Japanese occupation in December 1941 (32).

The Flecks returned to Vienna in 1947 with hopes for new postwar production and fame, but it was not to be. Louise Kolm-Fleck died on March 15, 1950 in Vienna, followed three years later by her husband and creative partner. Her son by her first husband, Anton Kolm, Walter Kolm-Veltée, who had not escaped service in the German army during his mother and stepfather’s exile, would however, continue the long family tradition into the Austrian Second Republic as a director and as founder of the Film Academy at Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts. Kolm-Veltée quotes the simple, self-trusting guidelines by which she wrote 18 scripts, directed over 50 films and served as producer 129 times (although several sources dispute these numbers as being too conservative) (33): “We will create a beautiful film – because if I like it and it turns out well, the public will also like it” (34). Her role as one of the first women to take on nearly all roles in the process of filmmaking may have been reflected in her preference for socially critical material, particularly films that suggest repression by gender, class, or, as the Austrian/Catholic ideology of Pfarrer von Kirchfeld signifies, the repression of a nascent “Austrian Nation” by pan-Germanism/Nazism. This thrice repeated but also final cinematic statement suggests the ideals of an artist who chose to leave Vienna and the studio she helped build rather than be pressured by business intrigues, and who remained partnered with her Jewish second husband when she might have escaped arrest and exile. It also made her co-creation of a Chinese film no more daunting than a Hungarian or Czech production. Louise Kolm-Fleck found her personal and creative identity in the multiculturalism and the progressive artistic hothouse of the last years of the Danubian Empire. It was an idealised concept of Austria never abandoned by her or her films.

Filmography

This filmography is a compilation based on various published and unpublished lists and it is hoped that it will provide a reliable basis for further expansion. Indication of contribution as writer or co-writer is incomplete as her work was often uncredited.

As Director

Die Glückspuppe (1911) with A. Kolm, J. Fleck, C. Veltée (also writer and co-producer)

Hoffmanns Erzählungen (1911) with A. Kolm, J. Fleck, C. Veltée (also writer and co-producer)

Das goldene Wiener Herz (1911) with A. Kolm, J. Fleck, C. Veltée (also writer and co-producer)

Zweierlei Blut (1912) with A. Kolm, J. Fleck, C. Veltée (also writer and co-producer)

Am Gänsehäufl (1912) (also writer and co-producer)

Der Unbekannte (1912) (also writer and co-producer)

Trilby (1912) with A. Kolm, J. Fleck, C. Veltée (also co-producer)

Der Psychiater (aka Das Proletarierherz) (1913) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Johann Strauss an der schönen blauen Donau (1913) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Unrecht Gut gedeihet nicht (1913) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Die Hochzeit von Valeni (1914) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (1914) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Traum des österreichischen Reservisten (1915) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Mutter Sorge (1915) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Mit Herz und Hand fürs Vaterland (1915) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der Meineidbauer (1915) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Mit Gott für Kaiser und Reich (1916) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Sommeridylle (1916) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Die Landstreicher (1916) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Die Tragödie auf Schloß Rottersheim (1916) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Armer Teufel (1916) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Auf der Höhe (1916) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Im Banne der Pflicht (1917) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der Verschwender (1917) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der Schandfleck (1917) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Lebenswogen (1917) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Mir kommt keiner aus (1917) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der rote Prinz (1917) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der Doppelselbstmord (1918) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Freier Dienst (1918) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der König amüsiert sich (1918) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Don Cäsar, Graf von Irun (1918) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Die Jüdin (1918) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Die Geisel der Menschheit (1918) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Die Schlange der Leidenschaft (1918) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Die Ahnfrau (1919) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Die Zauberin am Stein (1919) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Seine schwerste Rolle (1919) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Seemannsbraut (1919) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Lumpazivagabundus (1919) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Im Schatten des Glücks (1919) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Das Geheimnis der alten Truhe (1919) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Eva, die Sünde (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Freut euch des Lebens (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Verschneit (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Herzblut (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Anita (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der tanzende Tod (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Die Stimme des Gewissens (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der Leiermann (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Der Herr des Lebens (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Großstadtgift (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Durch Wahrheit zum Narren (1920) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Eine Million Dollar (1921) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Revanche (1922) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Olga Frohgemut (1922) with A. Kolm (also co-producer)

Frühlingserwachen (1923) with J. Fleck

Die Tochter der Frau von Larsac (1925) with J. Fleck

Der Meineidbauer (1926) with J. Fleck

Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (1926) with J. Fleck

Liebelei (1927) with J. Fleck

Das Fürstenkind (1927) with J. Fleck

Der Bettelstudent (1927) with J. Fleck and R. Walther-Fein

Ein Mädel aus dem Volke (1927) with J. Fleck and Rudolf Dworsky

Der Orlow (1927) with J. Fleck

Der fröhliche Weinberg (1927) with J. Fleck

Wenn Menschen reif zur Liebe werden (1927) with J. Fleck

Die Geliebte seiner Hoheit (1928) with J. Fleck

Der Zarewitsch (1928) with J. Fleck

Die kleine Sklavin (1928) with J. Fleck

Die schönste Frau von Paris (1928) with J. Fleck

Die lustigen Vagabunden (1928) with J. Fleck

Die Jacht der sieben Sünden (1928) with J. Fleck

Frauenartzt, Dr. Schäfer (1928) with J. Fleck

Die Recht auf Liebe (1929) with J. Fleck

Der Leutnant Ihrer Majestät (Ger. 1929) with J. Fleck

Mädchen am Kreuz (1929) with J. Fleck

Die Warschauer Zitadelle (1930) with J. Fleck

Der Fleck auf der Ehr’ (1930) with J. Fleck

Die Csikosbaroness (1930) with J. Fleck (also writer)

Einbruch im Bankhaus Reichenbach (1930) with J. Fleck

Wenn die Soldaten… (1931) with J. Fleck

Ein Auto und kein Geld (1931) with J. Fleck

Unser Kaiser (1933) (sound) with J. Fleck

Csardas (1935) (sound) with J. Fleck and W. Kolm-Veltée

Der Wilderer von Egerland (1935) (sound) with J. Fleck and W. Kolm-Veltée

Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (1937) (sound) with J. Fleck

Söhne und Töchter der Welt (1941) (sound) with Mu Fei and J. Fleck (also writer and co-producer)

Other Credits

Writer/Co-Writer only (as credited or known)

Von Stufe zu Stufe (1908)

Die Ahnfrau (1910)

Der Müller und sein Kind (1910)

Die Schwiegermutter (1910)

Volkssänger (1911)

Martha mit dem Hosenrock (1911)

Ein Misslungener Trick (1911)

Nur ein armer Knecht, Mutter (1911)

Der Dorftrottel (1911)

Editor/Co-Editor/Assistant Editor

According to primary sources and her son Walter Kolm-Veltée, Louise Kolm edited, co-edited or assisted in the editing of most of the films of the Kolm/Fleck production companies between 1908 and the early 1920s without specific assignment or credit. No exact details survive.

Co-Producer only

(as known; with A. Kolm, J. Fleck and C. Veltée)

Von Stufe zu Stufe (1908)

Der Faschingszug in Ober St. Veit (1910)

Der Trauerzug Sr. Exzellenz des Bürgermeisters (1910)

Die Ahnfrau (1910)

Der Müller und sein Kind (1910)

Die Schwiegermutter (1910)

Volkssänger (1911)

Martha mit dem Hosenrock (1911)

Ein mißlungener Trick (1911)

Nur ein armer Knecht, Mutter (1911)

Der Dorftrottel (1911)

Der Müller und sein Kind (1911)

Frau Gertraud Namenlos (1913)

Select Bibliography

Elisabeth Büttner and Christian Dewald, Das tägliche Brennen. Eine Geschichte des österreichischen Films von den Anfängen bis 1945, Residenz, Salzburg, 2002.

Robert von Dassanowsky, “Male Sites/Female Visions: Four Female Austrian Film Pioneers”, Modern Austrian Literature, vol. 32, no. 1, 1999, pp. 126–140.

Walter Fritz, Im Kino erlebe ich die Welt. 100 Jahre Kino und Film in Österreich, Brandstätter, Wien, 1997.

Walter Fritz, Kino in Österreich 1896–1930: Der Stummfilm, Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Wien, 1981.

Gabriele Hansch and Gerlinde Waz, Filmpionierinnen in Deutschland, Ein Beitrag zur Filmgeschichtsschriebung, Berlin, 1998. Unpublished.

Armin Loacker, Anschluss im ¾-Takt: Filmproduktion und Filmpolitik in Österreich 1930–193, WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Trier, 1999.

Armin Loacker and Martin Prucha, “Die Unabhängige deutschsprachige Filmproduktion in Österreich, Ungarn und der Tschechoslowakei”, Unerwünschtes Kino: Der deutschsprachige Emigrantenfilm 1934–1937, eds. Armin Loacker and Martin Prucha, Filmarchiv Austria, Wien, 2000.

Markus Nepf, “Die ersten Filmpioniere in Österreich. Die Aufbauarbeit von Anton Kolm. Louise Veltée/Kolm/Fleck und Jakob Fleck bis zu Beginn des Ersten Weltkriegs”, Elektrische Schatten: Beiträge zur Österreichischen Stummfilmgeschichte, Filmarchiv Austria, Wien, 1999.

Markus Nepf, Die Pionierarbeit von Anton Kolm Louise Veltée/Kolm/Fleck und Jakob Fleck bis zu Beginn des 1. Weltkriegs, Diss., Filmakademie/U Musik und darstellende Kunst, Wien, 1991.

Paul Rosdy, “Emigration und Film”, Zwischenwelt: Zeitschrift für Kultur des Exils und des Wiederstands, no. 2, August 2001, pp. 61–65.

Guoqiang Teng, “Fluchtpunkt Shanghai. Louise und Jakob Fleck in China 1939–1946”, Filmexil no. 4, 1994, pp. 50–58.

Web Resources

Biography at Deutsches Filminstitut Online (in German)

Brief Biographical notes at AEIOU: The Austria Lexicon Online (in German)

KinoTV
Biography, brief filmography and links at KinoTV site (in German).

Endnotes

  1. Personal interview with Walter Kolm-Veltée, Vienna, June 1997.
  2. See Robert von Dassanowsky, “Male Sites/Female Visions: Four Female Austrian Film Pioneers”, Modern Austrian Literature, vol. 32, no. 1, 1999, pp. 126–140.
  3. Elisabeth Büttner and Christian Dewald, Das tägliche Brennen. Eine Geschichte des österreichischen Films von den Anfängen bis 1945, Residenz, Salzburg, 2002, p. 22.
  4. While the Emperor would appear in films recording official functions, he rejected any form of economic or political exploitation. In a letter dated Vienna, May 5, 1913 and labeled “highly confidential”, Prince Montenuovo, the Director of Imperial Court Protocol and Affairs, responds to the First Imperial Chamberlain, Prince August Lobkowitz, regarding producer Count “Sascha” Kolowrat’s request to film the Emperor and members of the imperial family for a “patriotic film” that would be shown in theatres with the agreement of political representatives. He conveys the Emperor’s inaction on this request adding that the Emperor “does not wish that a film be made for such purposes.” From the private collection of the author.
  5. Büttner and Dewald, Brennen, p. 22.
  6. Walter Fritz, Geschichte des österreichischen Films. Aus Anlaß des Jubiläums 75 Jahre Film, Bergland, Wien, 1969, p. 28.
  7. Markus Nepf, “Die ersten Filmpioniere in Österreich. Die Aufbauarbeit von Anton Kolm. Louise Veltée/Kolm/Fleck und Jakob Fleck bis zu Beginn des Ersten Weltkriegs”, Elektrische Schatten: Beiträge zur Österreichischen Stummfilmgeschichte, Filmarchiv Austria, Wien, 1999, p. 12.
  8. Fritz, Kino in Österreich 1896–1930: Der Stummfilm, Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Wien, 1981, p. 22.
  9. Nepf, p. 13.
  10. The dramatic genre of the bourgeois tragedy was created by Enlightenment playwright G.E. Lessing and continued to be popular in German language theatre into the early twentieth century. It presents different variations around the tragic consequences of a lower class woman who is loved or seduced and then abandoned by an upper class man. These dramas were often revolutionary in their criticism of class and gender inequality.
  11. Nepf, p. 11.
  12. Gabriele Hansch and Gerlinde Waz, Biographie Luise Kolm (=Luise Fleck), Deutsches Filminstitut Biographien.
  13. Films produced by Bioskop (Germany), Le Lion (France), Kineto Ltd. (UK), American Wild West Film Manufacturing Co. (USA), and Pasquali & Co (Italy). Nepf, p. 18.
  14. Nepf, p. 19.
  15. Nepf, p. 19.
  16. Hiller gained fame as composer for several later Asta Nielsen films. See Nepf, pp. 19–20.
  17. Mitteilungen der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Kinoindustrie Ges.m.b.H., 30, October 1911, p. 4.
  18. Nepf, p. 21.
  19. Later versions were filmed in the USA in 1915 and 1932 and in Germany in 1927.
  20. Interview with Walter Kolm-Veltée.
  21. Nepf, p. 27.
  22. Walter Fritz, Im Kino erlebe ich die Welt. 100 Jahre Kino und Film in Österreich, Brandstätter, Wien, 1997, p. 31.
  23. Walter Panofsky, Die Geburt des Films. Ein Stück Kulturgeschichte, Konrad Triltsch, Würzburg, 1944, p. 71.
  24. Nepf, p. 29.
  25. The opera, which depicts a gypsy dancer caught between the control of a sadistic aristocrat and the love of an innocent shepherd, found popularity in communist Eastern European opera houses after 1945. Although the Kolm/Fleck team created pro-Habsburg propaganda films, Tiefland must have been a calculated choice for production based on the atmosphere of war fatigue, nationalism and the growing resentment of the class system in the collapsing Empire. It also suited Kolm’s desire to spotlight female repression and abuse. It was remade by Leni Riefenstahl as her final film during the Third Reich. For information on Riefenstahl’s use of the material for her own filmic statement see Robert von Dassanowsky, “’Wherever you may run, you cannot escape him’: Leni Riefenstahl’s Self-Reflection and Romantic Transcendence of Nazism in Tiefland”, Camera Obscura, 35, May 1995, pp. 107–129.
  26. Fritz, Im Kino,p. 84.
  27. Walter Kolm-Veltée quoted by Gabrielle Hansch and Gerlinde Waz, Filmpionierinnen in Deutschland. Ein Beitrag zur Filmgeschichtsschriebung, Berlin, 1998. Unpublished.
  28. Frieda Grafe, “Wiener Beiträge zu einer wahren Geschichte des Kinos”, Aufbruch ins Ungewisse. Österreichische Filmschaffende in der Emigration vor 1945, Wespennest, Wien, 1993, pp. 227–44.
  29. Armin Loacker, Anschluss im ¾-Takt: Filmproduktion und Filmpolitik in Österreich 1930–1938, WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Trier, 1999, p. 31.
  30. See the film Filmemigration aus Nazideutschland (Günter Peter Strascheck) (1975).
  31. Armin Loacker and Martin Prucha, “Die Unabhängige deutschsprachige Filmproduktion in Österreich, Ungarn und der Tschechoslowakei”, Armin Loacker and Martin Prucha (eds), Unerwünschtes Kino: Der deutschsprachige Emigrantenfilm 1934–1937, Filmarchiv Austria, Wien, 2000, p. 152.
  32. See Guoqiang Teng, “Fluchtpunkt Shanghai. Louise und Jakob Fleck in China 1939–1946”, Filmexil, no. 4, 1994, pp. 50–58 and Paul Rosdy, “Emigration und Film”, Zwischenwelt: Zeitschrift für Kultur des Exils und des Wiederstands, no. 2, August 2001, pp. 61–65.
  33. See Markus Nepf, Die Pionierarbeit von Anton Kolm Louise Veltée/Kolm/Fleck und Jakob Fleck bis zu Beginn des 1. Weltkriegs, Filmakademie/U Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien, Diplomarbeit, 1991.
  34. Walter Kolm-Veltée quoted by Hansch and Waz.

About The Author

Robert von Dassanowsky is Professor of German and Film Studies, director of the Film Studies Program at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and an independent film producer. His cultural, literary and film criticism is widely published. He is the author of Austrian Cinema: A History, editor of New Austrian Cinema and the forthcoming Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: A Manipulation of Metacinema.