Der Geiger von Florenz

Germany 1926, Feature film, silent, 68' | Director, Screenplay Paul Czinner | DoP Adolf Schlasy, Arpard Viragh | Music Giuseppe Becce | Cast Elisabeth Bergner, Nora Gregor, Conrad Veidt, Walter Rilla, Grete Mosheim, Ellen Plesnow

Young Renée has lost her mother and can't come to terms with the fact that her father has married another woman. A catfight flares up and Renée is packed off to a Swiss boarding school. Well, she absconds and heads for Italy, disguised as a shepherd's boy. An artist, his attention caught by the young "lad" playing the fiddle, asks Renée to model for him. The two feel magically attracted to another. But the final painting of "The Violinist of Florence" arouses her father's suspicions; Renée's incognito is revealed; and artist and model can confess their love. Silent movie piano accompaniment by Ruth Bieri.


Elisabeth Bergner was born in 1897. Having studied at a private drama college, she went on to Vienna Conservatory. Numerous roles in the theatre then followed. Playing Rosalind in As You Like It directed by Max Reinhardt, she made her first breakthrough in 1923. ''Bergner! Bergner!' the audience in the gallery called. And those of us present nodded sagely and blessed her and wished her all the best. Praying that God would preserve her so young, so beautiful, so charming. And that the film world would leave her alone … ' (K. Tucholsky, Die Weltbühne, 10.5.1923).

But it was in fact in 1923 that she made her film debut in Der Evangelimann (The Preacherman) as the hunchback tailor's daughter. A year later, she began her artistic collaboration with Paul Czinner, her husband-to-be, who was happy to write roles customised to her sexual ambiguity. 'Her gracefulness as tender and fragile as it is boyish, the flutter of her eyelids, the way she lets her dark hair fall to the side over her cheek only to shake it away again, and the shuddering gesture with which she presses her shoulders together, pulling them high, were all imitated thousands of times. When entire Berlin had a relationship with her, her lovers came from both sexes. She created and illustrated the androgynous ideal of beauty that the world had been waiting for after centuries of ample-bosomed sashaying womankind'. (Spiel 1986).

Both of Jewish extraction, Elisabeth Bergner and Paul Czinner emigrated to England in 1933 and married there. She continued to work for stage and screen. In 1935, for her role in Escape Me Never, she was nominated for an Oscar. In 1940, the couple settled in Hollywood and, after the Second World War, Ms Bergner was able to capitalise on her previous successes. In the 1950s, she made appearances in West Germany. Finally, she rounded off her long acting career with roles as strong-willed old ladies in German TV productions. She died in London in 1986.

Paul Czinner
Feature Film, Silent Film
Focus: Freedom