Producer. Nationality: Austrian. Born: Count Alexander Joseph Kolowrat-Krakowsky in Glenridge, New York, 29 January 1886; son of Count Leopold Kolowrat and Nadine Baroness von Huppmann-Valbella. Education: Attended the Kalksburg Gymnasium, near Vienna, 1896–1906. Military Service: One year voluntary service in the exclusive feudal Thirteenth Dragoons, 1907–08. Family: Married the Russian émigré Sophia Nikolajewna Princess Troubetzkoy, 30 April 1923 in Vienna. Career: Inherited the vast Bohemian family estates, including a palace in Prague and one in Vienna, as well as 21 churches, 1910; began Sascha film company at his castle in Pfraumberg, Bohemia, 1910; opened Sascha film company in Vienna, 1914; served as officer in the imperial automobile corps, 1914; head of the film branch of the imperial War Press Service; 1915; film company becomes Sascha-Messter film company, and began construction of new studio in Sievering, 1916; Sascha film becomes a stock company, 1918; president of film company until his death, 1918–1927. Constructed with Porsche sen. in Wiener Neustadt, Lower Austria, the Sascha Daimler car, after war ended in 1918. Award: Award of the Internationale Kino-Ausstellung , Vienna, 1912. Died: Of Cancer, in Sanatorim Loew, Vienna, on 4 December 1927.
For many early films the director is not known. Early attempts at filmmaking included short travelogues and documentaries: Die Gewinnung des Eisens am steirischen Erzberg ( Mining on Erzberg ), Burg Kreutzenstein ( Castle Kreutzenstein ); Die Dolomiten ( The Dolomites ); Der Gardasee ( Lake Garda ); Der Stapellauf der Dreadnought Tegetthoff ( The Launch of the Battleship Tegetthoff ); Im Auto durch die österreichischen Alpen ( By Car through the Austrian Alps ).
Early attempts at comedies, which were never shown publicly: Pampulik hat Hunger (P. Is Hungry) ; Pampulik kriegt ein Kind (P. Is Pregnant) ; Pampulik als Affe (P. as a Monkey) , all of them with Max Pallenberg.
Onkel Cocl am Gänsehäufel ( Uncle Cocl at the Gänsehäufel Swimming Pool ); Cocl als Säugling ( Cocl as Baby ); Kaiser Joseph II ( Emperor Joseph II ) (Kolowrat and J.H. Groß)
Cocl geht zum Maskenball ( Cocl Goes to the Masked Ball ) (Zeitlinger); Die Feuerprobe ( Test by Fire ); Wie aus Cocl Asta Pilsen wurde ( How Cocl Became Asta Pilsen ); Der Millionenonkel ( The Millionaire Uncle ) (Marischka)
Augustin auf Brautschau ( Augustin Looks for a Bride ); Cocl als Hausherr ( Cocl as the Master of the House ); Onkel Cocls Klassenlos ( Uncle Cocl's Lottery Ticket ); Durch Verrat zum Sieg ( Through Treason to Victory ); Siegreich durch Serbien ( Victorious through Serbia ) (exact year unknown)
Wien im Krieg ( Vienna at War ); Sami der Seefahrer ( Sami the Seafarer ); Die Verteidigung der Karpaten ( The Defense of the Carpathians )
Der Nörgler ( The Grumbler ); Der Viererzug ( Team of Four ) (Wilhelm); Er muß sie haben ( He Must Have Her ) (Hahn); Das schwindende Herz ( The Disappearing Heart ); Der Brief einer Toten ( Letter from a Dead Woman ) (Freissler), Wenn die Liebe auf den Hund kommt ( When Love Fades ); Um ein Weib ( For a Woman ) (Ernst and Hubert Marischka); Licht und Finsternis ( Light and Darkness ); Frank Boyers Diener ( Frank Boyer's Servant ) (Wiene); Der Mann mit der Maske ( The Man with the Mask ); Der Diebstahl ( The Theft ) (R. Löwenstein); Der gewonnene Prozeß ( Victory in Court ); Die goldene Wehr ( The Golden Shield ) (Stein); Die feldgraue Krone ( The Gray Crown ); Wir und die andern ( We and the Others ) (Rob); Der sichere Weg zum Frieden ( The Sure Way to Peace ) (Rob); Was die Liebe vermag ( What Love Can Do ) (Freissler); Er rächt seine Schwiegermutter ( He Revenges His Mother-in-Law ); Dem Frieden entgegen ( Towards Peace ) (K. Wiene); Der Gewissenswurm ( A Guilty Conscience ) (Theyer); Herrn Zabladies seltsamer Traum ( The Strange Dream of Mr. Zabladie ); Das Nachtlager von Mischli-Michloch ( The Camp of Mischli-Mischloch ) (Freissler)
Der Märtyrer seines Herzens ( The Martyr of His Heart ) (Jistitz); Das neue Leben ( The New Life ); Fred Roll , parts I and II (Ernst Marischka); Das andere Ich ( The Other Self ) (Freissler); Don Juans letztes Abenteuer ( Don Juan's Last Adventure ); Der letzte Erbe von Lassa ( The Last Heir of Lassa ) (Konrad Wiene); Das Haus ohne Lachen ( House without Laughter ) (K. Wiene); Am Tor des Lebens ( At the Gate of Life ) (Wiene)
Der Umweg zur Ehe ( Detour to Marriage ) (K. Wiene); Die Spinne ( The Spider ) (K. Wiene); Zwei Welten ( Two Worlds ) (Wiene); Der Einbrecher im Frack , parts I and II ( The Thief in Tuxedo ) (Ralph); In letzter Stunde ( At the Last Minute ) (Freissler); Ein gefährliches Spiel ( A Dangerous Game ) (Freissler); Die Dame mit den schwarzen Handschuhen ( The Lady with the Black Gloves ) (Kertész)
Der Stern von Damaskus ( Star of Damaskus ) (Kertész); Die Gottesgeissel ( God's Punishment ) (Kertész); Die Dame mit den Sonnenblumen ( The Lady with the Sunflowers ) (Kertész); Prinz und Bettelknable ( The Prince and the Pauper ) (Korda)
Mrs. Tutti Frutti (Kertész); Cherchez la femme (Kertész); Dorothys Bekenntnis ( Dorothy's Confession ) (Kertész); Wege des Schreckens ( Roads of Horror ) (Kertész)
Herren der Meere ( Masters of the Sea ) (Korda); Eine versunkene Welt ( A Sunken World ) (Korda); Der Ausflug in die Seligkeit ( The Trip to Bliss ) (Freissler); Zigeunerliebe ( Gypsy Love ) (Walsh); Serge Panine (Maudru); Sodom and Gomorrha ( Moon of Israel ) (Kertész)
Kinder der Revolution ( Children of the Revolution ) (Theyer); Die Lawine ( The Avalanche ) (Kertész); Das Rumpelstilzchen ( Rumpelstiltskin ) (Desider Kertész); Fräulein Frau ( Miss Mrs. ) (Theyer); Der junge Medardus ( The Young Medardus ) (Kertész); Namenlos ( Without a Name ) (Kertész)
Harun al Raschid (Kertész); Wenn du noch eine Mutter hast ( If You Still Have a Mother ) (Desider Gardener-Kertész); Jedermanns Weib ( Everyman's Woman ) (Korda); Die Sklavenkönigin ( The Slave Queen ) (Kertész)
Salammbo (Maradon); Die Rache des Pharao ( Pharao's Revenge ) (Theyer); Das Spielzeug von Paris ( The Toy of Paris ) (Kertész)
Fiaker Nr. 13 (Kertész); Der goldene Schmetterling ( The Golden Butterfly ) (Kertész); Die Pratermizzi ( Prater Girl ) (Kolowrat and his staff)
Tingel Tangel (Ucicky); Die Beichte des Feldkuraten ( The Confession of a Military Priest ) (Löwenstein); Café Electric (Ucicky)
During World War I, Kolowrat produced a newsreel: Österreichischer Kino-Wochenbericht vom nördlichen und südlichen Kriegsschauplatz ( Austrian Weekly Newsreel from The Northern and Southern Battlefronts ), later Sascha-Kriegswochenbericht ( Sascha's Weekly Report ).
War documentaries include: Heldenkampf in Schnee und Eis ( Heroic Battle in Snow and Ice ); Die zehnte Isonzoschlacht ( The Tenth Isonzo Battle ).
Porges, Friedrich, Schatten erobern die Welt , Basel, 1946.
Sascha-Film, ed., Dreißig Jahre Sascha-Film , Vienna, 1948.
Gesek, Ludwig, Gestalter der Filmkunst. Von Asta Nielsen bis Walt Disney , Vienna, 1948.
Hübl, Ingrid Maria, Sascha Kolowrat. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der österreichischen Kinematographie , unpublished manuscript, Filmarchiv Austria, 1950.
Festschrift der Sascha-Film Gesellschaft m.b.H. Wien , Vienna, 1957.
Herle, Roman, Die 9. Seligkeit. Licht und Dunkel des Films , Vienna, 1962.
Guha, Wilhelm, Die Geschichte eines österreichischen Filmunternehmens: Von der Sascha-Film-Fabrik in Böhmen zur Wien-Film , unpublished manuscript, Filmarchiv Austria, Vienna, 1975.
Österreichisches Filmarchiv, ed., Materialien zu Sascha Kolowrat , Vienna, 1987.
Fritz, Walter, and Margit Zarahdnik, Erinnerungen an Graf Sascha Kolowrat. Bound typescript. Vienna, 1992.
Steiner, Gertraud, Traumfabrik Rosenhügel. Filmstadt Wien/Wien-Film/Tobis-Sascha/Vita-Film. Vienna, 1997.
Krenn, Günter, "Der bewegte Mensch—Sascha Kolowrat," in Elektrische Schatten. Beiträge zur österreichischen Stummfilmgeschichte , edited by Francesco Bono, Paolo Caneppele, and Günter Krenn, Vienna, 1999.
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The "film count," one of the most flamboyant personalities ever to work in film, had been preceded by Anton and Louise Kolm as professional filmmakers in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, but Alexander Kolowrat was the one to found the larger and lasting firm. "Sascha," as his friends called him, was descended from old Bohemian aristocracy. With the fortune he inherited upon his father's death in 1910, he was financially able to indulge his passion for the new art. His wealth and title also gave him useful high ranking contacts in his own country and abroad. He could travel at will on business and pleasure trips to Paris and New York to stay abreast of the newest developments in film technology and distribution.
Kolowrat was born in the United States in Glenridge, New York, where his father spent a few years in exile for killing Prince Auersperg in a duel of honor. The family soon returned to the monarchy. From early youth on Sascha was fascinated by technical matters, even working at the Laurin and Klement car factory. He was a daredevil, who won motorcycle races as a student and was a regular participant in the Semmering mountain race car competition. He was one of the earliest Austrian pilots and the first balloonist. His parties at the Viennese Sacher hotel were legendary, and in spite of his corpulence the young count was a dashing and charming man with an eye for beautiful women.
Upon seeing his first film in 1909 at the Pathé Brothers in Paris, he knew he had found his mission in life. Film enabled him to combine all of his passions: technology, adventurous travel, and women. He especially indulged his appetite for beautiful women by regularly inviting them to his studio for screen tests.
In 1910 he founded the "Sascha-Filmfabrik in Pfraumberg in Bohemia," and after two years of experimenting he showed a film in 1912 about mining iron at Styrian Erzberg mountain. He produced a number of travelogues before he attempted feature films. In one of his castles, Gross-Meierhöfen near Pfraumberg in Bohemia, he installed a makeshift workshop for film developing. When he found that he had to be closer to the market, he moved to a studio in Biberstrasse in the center of Vienna in 1912. In 1913 he achieved his first big success with Der Millionenonkel. This film featured the famous Alexander Girardi performing scenes from his most famous operetta roles.
Kolowrat hired a stellar professional team: Oskar Berka, the head of his laboratory; Karl Freund, later the famous cinematographer; and the cameraman Hans Theyer, who had learned his craft with Pathé in Paris. In 1916 Theyer helped Kolowrat set up the first free-standing film studio in Austria. Kolowrat had bought the iron structure of an airplane hangar in Germany and rebuilt it, covered with glass for maximum light, in the quaint, wine-growing Viennese suburb of Sievering.
The First World War marked the turning point of the business. The exclusion of competitors, mainly the French, propelled the Sascha company into a thriving business. Kolowrat's influential contacts made possible his appointment as director of the film section of the military press service. As director, his authority enabled him to gather many of his trusted coworkers, among them Theyer, Karl Hartl, Gustav Ucicky, and Fritz Freissler. In October 1914 the Sascha company received permission to produce a weekly war newsreel, Sascha-Kriegswoche. An even bigger coup was his gaining the exclusive right to film the funeral of Emperor Franz Joseph in November 1916. By working around the clock, Kolowrat and his staff produced 255 copies within three days and nights, to be distributed to every corner of the monarchy. By the end of the war, the Sascha company had turned out approximately 300 films. The satirist Karl Kraus attacked Kolowrat in his monumental play Die letzten Tage der Menschheit as a war profiteer.
In 1916 the Sascha company formed a partnership with Messter-Film in Berlin. In 1918 the German UFA took over Messter-Film, thus becoming a shareholder in Sascha. In 1918 Sascha-Film merged with the Viennese distributing firm Philipp and Pressburger to form Sascha-Filmindustrie AG. The company established headquarters at Siebensterngasse 31 in the seventh district of Vienna, where it operated for many decades.
The end of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918 meant the loss of markets for Sascha. To seek new opportunities and learn the latest developments in the film business, Kolowrat made two trips to the United States in 1919 and 1920 as president of the company, accompanied on the second visit by Arnold Pressburger, Director General of Sascha-Film. They were able to engage the Herz Film Corporation as a distributor of Sascha Films in the United States. At the same time, they contracted to represent Paramount Pictures in Austria. Greatly impressed by D.W. Griffiths' Intolerance (1916), Kolowrat produced costly spectaculars for the world market: Sodom and Gomorrha in 1922, the bizarre climax of Austrian silent film, and Die Sklavenkönigin in 1924, both directed by Michael Kertész, a Hungarian who worked for Kolowrat for several years. In 1926, under the name Michael Curtiz, he began an extremely successful career in Hollywood, directing Casablanca in 1942.
Kolowrat also teamed up with other Hungarians in the early 1920s. Alexander Korda and his wife, the silent film star Maria Corda, who worked for him briefly before they moved to Berlin and later to Hollywood. Ultimately Korda found his niche as a major producer in England. He achieved Sascha-Film's first international success with Prinz und Bettelknabe ( The Prince and the Pauper ) in 1920, a film based on Mark Twain's novel.
The last costly production was Der junge Medardus , a film based on Arthur Schnitzler's drama. The film, which was set in the Napoleonic wars in 1809 in Vienna, was also directed by Michael Kertesz. By the middle of the 1920s the economic crisis had put an end to lavish spectaculars in Austria. A less expensive production, but a film depicting the effects of the depression and similar in style to G.W. Pabst's Die freudlose Gasse (1925), was Café Elektric (1927), which introduced the future stars Willi Forst and Marlene Dietrich. Kolowrat became seriously ill during this production which proved to be his last film. He died of cancer on 4 December 1927 at the age of 42 in Vienna. With his energy, charisma, contacts, and money he had brought Austrian film to international recognition. In the years after his death, his film company fell on hard times, but the legacy of this remarkable film pioneer—with his 140 feature films of various lengths between 1911 and 1927—and his company have endured.
—Gertraud Steiner Daviau