Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Asta Nielsen, the first Lulu

From Wikipedia: "Asta Nielsen (11 September 1881 – 24 May 1972) was a Danish silent film actress who was one of the most popular leading ladies of the 1910s and one of the first international movie stars. Seventy of Nielsen's 74 films were made in Germany where she was known simply as Die Asta (The Asta). Noted for her large dark eyes, mask-like face and boyish figure, Nielsen most often portrayed strong-willed passionate women trapped by tragic circumstances. Due to the erotic nature of her performances, Nielsen's films were heavily censored in the United States and her work remained relatively obscure to American audiences. She is credited with transforming movie acting from overt theatricality to a more subtle naturalistic style. Nielsen founded her own film studio in Berlin during the 1920s, but returned to Denmark in 1937 after the rise of Nazism in Germany. A private figure in her later years, Nielsen became a collage artist and an author."

Asta Nielsen was also the first screen Lulu, having played the character created by Frank Wedekind in the film, Earth Spirit (1923). Louise Brooks was well aware of Nielsen and her approach to Lulu, at least later during her life in Rochester, New York. It is not known if Brooks was aware of or made aware of Nielsen prior to her playing Lulu in Pandora's Box (1929).

I recently came across a German language booklet (on the Internet Archive) about Nielsen which contains some sublime images of the actress, including one of her as Lulu. She was certainly striking in her appearance. I would encourage everyone to learn more about this significant and too little known actress. (p.s. Nielsen had a role in the G.W. Pabst film, The Joyless Street, which set Greta Garbo on the path to stardom.)

 

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