Willi Wolff

R.: Willi Wolff. In.: Ellen Richter, Arnold Korff, Georg Alexander. P.: Ellen Richter Film GmbH, Berlin.
L.: 1800m., D.: 81’ a 20 f/s.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

“Always the leading player from the very first of her sixty movies, seen all over Europe and lauded for her interpretations, Ellen Richter is today a completely forgotten name. Fortunately, certain old German reviews allow us to deduce that Ellen Richter was born in Vienna on July 21st 1893 and that after having attended the town’s Academy and Conservatory, she made her debut at a very young age at the Burgtheater, later going on tour to Brno, Munich and finally Berlin. Here in 1915, Joe May offered her the chance to play alongside Max Landa in a movie in the crime series “Stuart Webb” […] In 1918, when Richter, already a familiar face on the German screen, was put under contract to Frankfurter Film Co. Gmbh, Rudolf Meinert became her favourite director, a director who had a singular figure as his assistant and screenwriter, Doctor Willi Wolff. A dentist by profession, witty improviser of rakish songs and author of revues (never staged) by vocation, Wolff (Schoenebeck, 16th April 1883) fell in love with the fascinating actress for whom he wrote more and more bizarre and fantastic scenarios. From his hand came such pictures as Das Spielzug der Zarin, where Richter played the role of the wayward Catherine of Russia, Das Teehaus zu den zehn Lotosblumen, with the protagonist as a Japanese woman, Der rote Henker, a variation of Marion Delorme by Victor Hugo, but also Mary Tudor or Madame Sans-Gêne (Napoleon und die kleine Wäscherin), the Adventuress of Montecarlo, in three episodes, a blood-thirsty Sicilian woman (Sizilianische Blutrache, banned by the censorship in Italy). In these and other films of that period, released under the imprint of “Ellen Richter Produktion”, the actress, who by temperament and features resembled more a Mediterranean woman than a Central European star, a slimmer version of Pola Negri, seemed to move with perfect ease, although some of Wolff’s roles did not suit her. In the end the two got married and spent their honeymoon in Spain and Italy, shooting Lola Montez, the movie where Wolff, as well as writing the script, made his debut behind the camera. The result was a praiseworthy work recounting the splendour and misery of the famous dancer, painstakingly based on her real life story, from her days as a gypsy to the heady times when she became the voluptuous mistress of many crowned heads. […]  From the late twenties to the arrival of the talkies, there were to be many more movies that bore the joint signature of Wolff as director and Ellen Richter as star. […] The story of the fortunate couple ended in 1933: one day in that accursed year, Wolff was beaten up by a group of frenzied Brown Shirts outside a Berlin movie theater, where one of his movies was being screened – the picture was immediately cut from the programme after the incident. He managed to flee with his wife to no one knows where. Ellen Richter returned alone to Germany twenty years later to die, completely forgotten, in Düsseldorf in 1969. Wolff had died in 1947”.

(Vittorio Martinelli, Cinegrafie, n. 9, 1996)

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Restoration co-financed by the Projecto Lumière