Thursday, May 21, 2009

Victor Sjostrom


Swedish Silent FilmSwedish Film

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And yet, before Garbo,it seems Swedish cinema was established by a director who later came to the United States to direct Lillian Gish in screenplays by Frances Marion, Victor Sjöström.

Victor Sjostrom

In her book Lulu in Hollywood, Brooks compares him to Gish by writing that he "in his direction, shared her art of escaping time and place. Seastrom and Gish were made for each other." Gish, after having remarked upon her having seen Stroke at Midnight (The Phantom Carriage, Korkarlen, 1921, six reels), in her book The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me had written, "It seemed to me he had Mr. Griffith's sensitivity to atmosphere.". Of the films in which he had directed Gish, Kenneth MacGowan wrote that they were films to which "he brought some of the lyricism that had distinguished his work in Sweden.", whereas, interestingly, Norma Shearer, who had starred under Victor Sjostrom's direction in Tower of Lies (1926, seven reels) with William Haines and Lon Chaney, had said that Sjöström "was more concerned with the moods he was creating than the shadings he should have injected into my performance."

In addition to his is also having had been being on the sets of Name The Man (1924, eight reels) with Mae Busch and Conrad Nagel, Confessions of a Queen (1925, seven reels) with Alice Terry and Lewis Stone, Masks of the Devil (1928, eight reels) with Eva Berne and John Gilbert, Victor Sjostrom filmed what would be his ninth film before returning to Sweden, A Lady to Love (1930, ten reels) with Vilma Banky as both a silent film and as a sound film.

 

During 1924, Carl Sandberg reviewed Victor Sjostrom's film Name the Man, his remarking upon Sjostrom's use of lighting, which, whether or not it may have been a use of realism or naturalism, seemed underplayed to Sandberg and based upon the enviornment rather than made more elaborate or as being artificial. "He was an actor once, rated as Sweden's best, and his voice leads his actors into slow, certain moods."

Begnt Forslund writes, "His final films in the United States had not been successful. However much they valued him at MGM, they were not exactly eager for him to return." Although photographed by Swedish cinematographer Julius Jaenzon, The Markurell Family in Wadkoping (Markurells I Wadkoping) was filmed in Sweden after the departure of Charles Magnusson from Svenska Filmindustri. It having been also filmed as both a silent and sound film, Bengt Forslund sees the film as one that Sjostrom had directed mostly out of friendship, its script having had been being based on a novel written by Swedish playwright Hjalmar Bergman first considered by Svenska Filmindustri shortly after its publication in 1919. In his autobiography, Images, Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman remembers being asked for by Stina Bergman in regard to her commisioning him to write for the script department at Svensk Filmindustri, his including his giving her a compliment on the experience she aquired in Hollywood, one in which he outlines the technique of Hollywood filmaking and "classical narrative" scriptwriting. "When Victor Sjostrom had moved to Hollwood in 1923, the Bergmans followed."

The Scarlet Letter (1926) directed by Victor Sjöström and starring Lillian Gish was remade in 1934 starring Collen Moore.

To mark the birthday of Lillian Gish, Sjöström's film was screened Oct 14, 2005 at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. It was also featured at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, July 10, 2005. In a volume that was written when William Everson was only a research assistant, one silent film author not only remarked upon Victor Sjöström's use of "austere theme and background" in the film, but noted that "the photography was affected by this Scandinavian approach. Hendrik Sartov's camerawork is magnificent throughout", his noticing that the cinematographer had filmed Lillian Gish differently than he had under the direction of D. W. Griffith. Sartov used tinted light during its filming and panchromatic stock, which had been used to film Gish in the 1925 film La Boheme. Bengt Forslund compares Sjöström's direction of He Who Gets Slapped with his direction of The Scarlet Letter, the former being 'more personal, and also more cinematically exciting" while the latter can be regognized as being a return to the type of film that Sjöström had made in Sweden, to which he briefly returned after making the film. Not incidently, it was the Swedish actor Gösta Ekman who had portrayed the Lon Chaney role in Han som far orfilarna on stage in 1926 in Stockholm, at the Oscarteatern.

Victor Sjostrom Victor Sjostrom-Swedish Film DirectorsGreta Garbo-Victor Sjostrom
Greta Garbo-Silent Film Silent Film-Victor Sjostrom

The fragment left of Greta Garbo in The Divine Woman showcases the interior editing of director Victor Sjöström. Garbo and Lars Hanson are filmed behind a dining table in a stationary medium fullshot, a brief insert shot of a clock included during the sequence. They are then filmed in a series of alternating closeups while seated at the table. On Garbo's later delivering the line of dialougue, "I'd give up the whole world for you.", Sjöström dissolves to another insert shot of a clock, using the object, an the motion provide by an animate object, to punctuate the events driven by the characters.

Greta Garbo-Victor Sjostrom

(One rewrite of the continuity script has the character's name as being 'Marah', who is introduced by a dolly shot, her apparently coming to Paris from the province of Auverone.) Also in the film are Polly Moran, Dorothy Cumming and John Mack Brown. When reviewed in the United States, it was deemed that, "Mr. Seastrom revels in sharp contrasts...When the actress tries to end her life because of her love for Lucien, Mr. Seastrom introduces the idea of having a group of sympathizers, some with a bouquet of flowers, filling a doorway while Marianne is unconscious on her bed." Bengt Forslund, in his book Victor Sjostrom: His Life and Work, writes, "One recognizes that the story could not be helped, but clearly Sjöström was trying to do something different with Garbo, to make her a softer, more easy-going woman than she had appeared in her earlier films." The overture of the film's music had been selections from The Student Prince. The film had taken six weeks to shoot. Fritiof Billquist quotes Sjöström as having said, "She never once came to the set without having prepared herself thoroughly down to the last detail, and if one gave her directions, she accepted them glady, even though she was a big star even then."

Greta Garbo-Victor Sjostrom Greta Garbo

Sjöström corresponded with Greta Garbo from Sweden, as did Alf Sjöberg, before she returned in December 1928. It was there that she saw Two Kings (Tva Kongungar, 1925), which, directed by Elis Ellis and photographed by Jaenzon, had starred her younger sister, Alva Gustafson. It was also there that she had agreed to film The Painted Veil and there where she had first read the script of Queen Christina at a time when, according to author Bary Paris, Gösta Ekman was in hope of sharing the Swedish stage with her in a theater run of Grand Hotel. Of the off-screen romance of Greta Garbo with John Gilbert, Clarence Brown, who had introduced the two to each other, had said, "After I finished a scene with them I felt like an intruder. I'd have to walk away, to let them finish what they were doing." In an e-mailed correspondence to the present author, Sheryl Stinchum of the John Gilbert Society wrote, "Gilbert and Garbo were a dynamic duo...The love they felt for each other off-screen was reflected on-screen-- especially in 'Flesh and the Devil'. They literally fell in love on the set." Clarence Brown also first introduced to film technique the pullback shot, a shot when the camera dollies back away from its subject, while filming Silent Film actress Vilma Banky in The Eagle at United Artists with cameraman George Barnes, it having become part of the grammar of film, used later by many directors including Brown. Writing about Greta Garbo, Richard Corliss quotes Brown as also having related that he would "direct her very quietly" and never "gave her directions above a whisper." In a later e-mailed correspondence with the present author, silent film webpage author Greta de Groat reiterated Ms Stinchum's enthusium in regard to Greta Garbo by writing, "She is fabulous, though, isn't she! I've always been a big fan."

Och ma vi harmed satta punkt for Greta Garbos Saga- tills vidare. Einar Nerman ends his article on Greta Garbo with an enthusiasm that may or may not seem seductive.

Greta Garbo

Greta Louisa Gustafson, or perhaps Keta or G.G from Sodermalm that as a young actress had spoken with Agnes Lind, or still perhaps the more enigmactic Garbo that would later sign her correspondence as "Gurra", was born at South Maternity Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden September 18, 1905.

Swedish Film-Greta GarboA commemorative postal stamp bearing Greta Garbo was issued by the United States Postal Service on September 23, 2005; two stamps were issued by Sweden. Only a little older than Garbo, Karin Granberg, who appeared in films in Sweden between 1930-1937 while Greta Garbo was at MGM, was born on August 2, 1905, while Sigge Furst, who appeared in Swedish films from 1931 untill 1969, was born on November 3, 1905. Two Swedish Film directors were born in September of that year, a month after Greta Garbo, Ake Ohberg, who was born September 20, 1905, and Ragnar Falck, who was born September 23, 1905. Swedish Film director Arne Bornebusch was born December 10, 1905. Only slightly younger than Garbo, Greta Nissen appeared in two films in Denmark under the direction of Lau Lauritzen before her first film made in the United States, Lost: A Wife, scripted by Clara Beranger and directed by William C. deMille. Greta Nissen was born on January 30, 1906 in Oslo Norway. Swedish Film actress Karin Kavli was born on June 21, 1906. Thomas Gladysz of the Louise Brooks Society e-mailed a notice that Nov 14, 1906 was the one hundredth birthday of Louise Brooks and to coincide with the event, Ingmar Bergman biographer Peter Cowie will be publishing the volume, "Louise Brooks: Lulu Forever". If anything, on her birthday Greta Garbo left us again with a long, static dolly shot, her face motionless in its symmetry, waiting for her eyes to mention something we should already know, much like the dolly shot that concludes Queen Christina (1933), directed by Rouben Mamoulian, not a look of goodbye, but an aloof, penetrating stare from the bow of a vessel that acknowledges it may be headed into an unknown the mystery of which it may already be familiar.

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