Georg Wilhelm Pabst
25 August 1885
|Died||29 May 1967 (aged 81)|
Georg Wilhelm Pabst (25 August 1885 - 29 May 1967) was an Austrian film director and screenwriter. He started as an actor and theater director, before becoming one of the most influential German-language filmmakers during the Weimar Republic.
Pabst was born in Raudnitz, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (today's Roudnice nad Labem, Czech Republic), the son of a railroad official. While growing up in Vienna, he studied drama at the Academy of Decorative Arts and initially began his career as a stage actor in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. In 1910, Pabst traveled to the United States, where he worked as an actor and director at the German Theater in New York City.
When World War I began, Pabst returned to Europe, where he was interned in a prisoner-of-war camp in Brest. While imprisoned, Pabst organised a theatre group at the camp. Upon his release in 1919, he returned to Vienna, where he became director of the Neue Wiener Bühne, an avant-garde theatre.
Pabst began his career as a film director at the behest of Carl Froelich who hired Pabst as an assistant director. He directed his first film, The Treasure, in 1923. He developed a talent for "discovering" and developing the talents of actresses, including Greta Garbo, Asta Nielsen, Louise Brooks, and Leni Riefenstahl.
Pabst's best known films concern the plight of women, including The Joyless Street (1925) with Greta Garbo and Asta Nielsen, Secrets of a Soul (1926) with Lili Damita, The Loves of Jeanne Ney (1927) with Brigitte Helm, Pandora's Box (1929), and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) with American actress Louise Brooks. He also co-directed with Arnold Fanck a mountain film entitled The White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929) starring Leni Riefenstahl.
After the coming of sound, he made a trilogy of films that secured his reputation: Westfront 1918 (1930), The Threepenny Opera (1931) with Lotte Lenya (based on the Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill musical), and Kameradschaft (1931). Pabst also filmed three versions of Pierre Benoit's novel L'Atlantide in 1932, in German, English, and French, titled Die Herrin von Atlantis, The Mistress of Atlantis, and L'Atlantide, respectively. In 1933, Pabst directed Don Quixote, once again in German, English, and French versions.
After making A Modern Hero (1934) in the USA and Street of Shadows (1937) in France, Pabst (who was planning to emigrate to the United States) was caught in France in 1939 whilst visiting his mother, when war was declared, and was forced to return to Nazi Germany. Under the auspices of propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels, Pabst made two films in Germany, during this period; The Comedians (1941) and Paracelsus (1943).
Pabst directed four opera productions in Italy in 1953: La forza del destino for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence (conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos, the cast included Renata Tebaldi, Fedora Barbieri, Mario del Monaco, Aldo Protti, Cesare Siepi), and a few weeks later, for the Arena di Verona Festival, a spectacular Aïda, with Maria Callas in the title role (conducted by Tullio Serafin, with del Monaco), Il trovatore and again La forza del destino.
G.W. Pabst, the Austrian film producer and director, died here last night. He was 82 years old.(Subscription required.)