Thea Von Harbou - Writer





Writer. Nationality: German. Born: Tauperlitz, 27 December 1888. Family: Married 1) the actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge (divorced); 2) the director Fritz Lang, 1924 (divorced 1934). Career: actress in Dusseldorf, 1906, Weimar, 1908–10, Chemnitz, 1911–12, and Aachen, 1913–14; novelist; 1920—first film script, Die heilige Simplizie ; also wrote several scripts with Lang; joined Nazi party in the 1930s, and appointed official scriptwriter; directed two films in the 1930s. Died: In Berlin, 1 July 1954.


Films as Writer:

1920

Die heilige Simplizie (May); Das wandernde Bild ( Wandernder Held ) (Lang)

1921

Die Frauen von Gnadenstein (Dinesen); Kämpfende Herzen (Lang); Das indische Grabmal ( The Indian Tomb ) (May); Der müde Tod ( Between Two Worlds; Beyond the Wall ) (Lang); Der Leidensweg der Inge Krafft (May)

1922

Der brennende Acker ( Burning Soil ) (Murnau); Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler ( Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler ) (Lang); Phantom (Murnau)

1923

Die Austreibung ( Driven from Home ) (Murnau); Die Prinzessin Suwarin (Guter)

1924

Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs ( The Grand Duke's Finances ) (Murnau); Michael (Dreyer); Die Nibelungen (Lang—2 parts)

1925

Zur Chronik von Grieshuus ( At the Grey House ) (von Gerlach)

1927

Metropolis (Lang)

1928

Spione ( Spies ) (Lang)

1929

Die Frau im Mond ( By Rocket to the Moon ; The Woman in the Moon ) (Lang)

1931

M (Lang)

1932

Das erste Recht des Kindes ( Aus dem Tagebuch einer Frauenärzin ) (Wendhausen)

1933

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse ( The Testament of Dr. Mabuse ) (Lang); Der Läufer von Marathon (Dupont)

1934

Hanneles Himmelfahrt (+ d); Prinzessin Tourandot (Lamprecht); Was bin ich ohne Dich? (Rabenalt)

1935

Der alte und der junge König (Steinhoff); Ein idealer Gatte (Selpin); Ich war Jack Mortimer (Froelich); Der Mann mit der Pranke (van der Noss)

1936

Eine Frau ohne Bedetung ( A Woman of No Importance ) (Steinhoff); Eskapade ( Seine offizielle Frau ) (Waschneck); Die unmögliche Frau (Meyer)

1937

Der Herrscher ( The Ruler ) (Harlan); Versprich mir nichts! (Liebeneiner); Mutterlied (Gallone); Der zerbrochene Krug ( The Broken Jug ) (Ucicky)

1938

Jugend ( Youth ) (Harlan); Verwehte Spuren (Harlan); Die Frau am Scheidewege (von Baky)

1939

Hurra! Ich bin Papa! (Hoffmann)

1940

Lauter Liebe (Rühmann); Wie konntest du, Veronika? (Habich)

1941

Annelie ( Die Geschichte eines Lebens ) (von Baky); Am Abend auf der Heide (von Alten)

1942

Mit den Augen einer Frau (Külb)

1943

Die Gattin (Jacoby); Gefährten meines Sommers (Buch)

1944

Eine Frau für drei Tage (Kirchhoff)

1948

Fahrt ins Glück (Engel—produced 1945); Via Mala ( Die Strasse des Bösen ) (von Baky—produced 1944)

1950

Es kommt ein Tag (Jugert); Erzieherin gesucht (Erfurth—produced 1944)

1951

Dr. Holl (Hansen)

1953

Dein Herz ist meine Heimat (Häussler)

Film as Director:

1934

Elisabeth und der Narr

Publications

By VON HARBOU: fiction—

Die nach uns kommen , Stuttgart, 1910.

Von Engeln und Teufelchen , Stuttgart, 1913.

Der Krieg and Die Frauen , Stuttgart, 1913.

Die Masken des Todes , Stuttgart, 1915.

Der unsterbliche Acker , Stuttgart, 1915.

Aus Abend und Morgen ein neuer Tag , Heilbronn, 1916.

Gold in Feuer , Stuttgart, 1916.

Das Mondscheinprinzesschen , Stuttgart, 1916.

Der belagerte Tempel , Berlin, 1917.

Das indische Grabmal , Berlin, 1917.

Adrian Drost und sein Land , Berlin, 1918.

Sonderbare Heilige , Berlin, 1919.

Das Haus ohne Tür und Fenster , Berlin, 1920.

Legenden , Berlin, 1920.

Das Nibelungenbuch , Munich, 1923.

Mann zwischen Frauen , Leipzig, 1927.

Metropolis , Berlin, 1926, translated as Metropolis , London, 1927.

Frau im Mond , Berlin, 1928, as The Girl in the Moon , London, 1930.

Die Insel der Unsterblichen , Berlin, 1928.

Spione , Berlin, 1928, as The Spy , London, 1928.

Rocket to the Moon , New York, 1930.

Du bist unmöglich Jo , Berlin, 1931.

Aufblühender Lotos , Berlin, 1941.

Gartenstrasse 64 , Berlin, 1952.


By VON HARBOU: other books—

Deutsche Frauen , Leipzig, 1914.

Die junge Wacht am Rhein , Stuttgart, 1915.

Die deutsche Frau im Weltkrieg , Leipzig, 1916.

Die unheilige Dreifaltigkeit , Heilbronn, 1920.

Liebesbriefe aus St. Florin , Leipzig, 1935.

Das Dieb von Bagdad , Holzminden, 1949.

With Fritz Lang, M (script), edited by Gero Gandert and Ulrich Gregor, Hamburg, 1963, translated as M , New York, 1968.

With Fritz Lang, Metropolis (script) in Avant-Scène (Paris), 1 December 1977.

On VON HARBOU: book—

Keiner, Reinhold, Thea Von Harbou und der deutsche Film bis 1933 , Hildesheim, 1984.

On VON HARBOU: articles—

Mein Film (Vienna), 29 August 1952.

Filmblätter , 8 January 1954.

Chaplin (Stockholm), December 1968.

Nenno, Nancy P., "Kinomythen: 1920–1945, Die Filmentwurfe der Thea von Harbou," in German Quarterly , Summer 1996.


* * *


Thea Von Harbou worked as Fritz Lang's principal scenarist from 1924 to 1932, when she split with Lang on political matters, and enthusiastically joined the Nazi Party. If we are to believe Fritz Lang's later statements, made in the 1960s in America, it was Von Harbou who turned Lang in to Joseph Goebbels, the head of the Reich Propaganda Ministry.

Von Harbou's work as a scenarist for Lang includes her scripts for Metropolis , By Rocket to the Moon , Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler , and Spies . She also worked with Murnau, Dreyer and Joe May. After writing the screenplay of Lang's most anti-Nazi film, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (in which Hitler's words are put in the mouth of Dr. Mabuse, a criminal madman), Von Harbou made a fatal decision, deciding for the nihilistic vision of the Nazis over the humanistic if sometimes brooding realism of the best of Lang's works. She worked continually up to her death on screen fare of decreasing distinction, ending her career with the screenplay for the mediocre film Dein Herz ist meine Heimat .

In all of Von Harbou's screenplays, one can easily detect the strident notes of propaganda. Her work with Lang is the most restrained and fleshed-out of her long career, but, Lang later claimed that Von Harbou was, at her best, merely a journeyman screenwriter who lacked the ability to get inside the motivations of her characters. Because Von Harbou supported a regime which took a dim view of individualism or artistry without state direction, it is to be expected that her work under the Hitler regime, such as the screenplay for Jugend , a study of the Hitler Youth Movement, would fail as both propaganda and cinematic art.

Between 1945 and 1951 Von Harbou was prevented from working in the German cinema by order of the Nuremburg Tribunal, but clearly her major work, for better or worse, was long behind her. She also directed two films under the Nazis, Elisabeth und der Narr and Hanneles Himmelfahrt . Neither was a commercial or critical success. The same must be said of her work as a screenwriter between 1933 and 1945. That her resultant efforts were quickly forgotten by both the public and the critics seems an inescapable by-product of Von Harbou's ardent espousal of the Nazi cause. For the researcher, prints of Von Harbou's work during the Second World War are available for screening at the National Archive in Washington, D.C. Although Von Harbou was undoubtedly one of the key figures in the Expressionist movement of the 1920s, her work from 1937 to 1945, founded as it inevitably was on a doctrine of racial hatred, simply has no place in a thoughtful or caring society.

—Wheeler Winston Dixon

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