Paul Leni

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Paul Leni

Paul Leni (8 July 1885, Stuttgart – 2 September 1929, Los Angeles) born Paul Josef Levi was a German filmmaker and a key figure in German Expressionist filmmaking, making Backstairs (Hintertreppe, 1921) and Waxworks (1924) in Germany, and The Cat and the Canary (1927), The Chinese Parrot (1927), The Man Who Laughs (1928), and The Last Warning (1929) in the U.S.

Life and career[edit]

Poster

Leni was born to a Jewish family.[1] He became an avant-garde painter at the age of 15, he studied at Berlin's Academy of Fine Arts, and subsequently worked as a theatrical set designer, working for a number of theatres in Berlin (but not with Max Reinhardt).

In 1913 he started working in the German film industry designing film sets and/or costumes for directors such as Joe May, Ernst Lubitsch, Richard Oswald, and E. A. Dupont.

During World War I, Leni started directing as well with films such as Der Feldarzt (Das Tagebuch des Dr. Hart, 1917), Patience (1920), Die Verschwörung zu Genua (1920/21) and Backstairs (1921). Waxworks (1924) was planned as a four-part omnibus feature, but the last part was not shot when money ran out. He also made a series of unusual short animated films Rebus-Film Nr. 1 - 8, which were filmed crossword puzzles.

Leni designed short prologues for festive film premieres in Berlin cinemas, such as Lubitsch's Forbidden Paradise (1924), Herbert Brenon's Peter Pan (1924), and E. A. Dupont's Variety (1925).

In 1927, he accepted Carl Laemmle's invitation to become a director at Universal Studios and moved to Hollywood. There Leni made a distinguished directorial debut with The Cat and the Canary (1927), an adaptation of John Willard's stage play. The film had a great influence over Universal's later classic "haunted house" horror series, and was subsequently remade several times, notably in 1939 with Bob Hope. The following year he directed the big budget The Man Who Laughs, one of the most visually stylized of late period silent films.

Paul Leni died of blood poisoning in Los Angeles on 2 September 1929.

Filmography[edit]

German films[edit]

As art director

As director (and art director)

Universal Studio films[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brook, Vincent (2009). Driven to Darkness: Jewish Emigre Directors and the Rise of Film Noir. Rutgers University Press. p. 256. ISBN 0813548330. 

External links[edit]