Mauritz Stiller

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Mauritz Stiller
Mauritz Stiller 1927.jpg
Mauritz Stiller in 1927
Moshe Stiller

(1883-07-17)17 July 1883
Died18 November 1928(1928-11-18) (aged 45)
Stockholm, Sweden
Occupation(s)Director, screenwriter, actor
Years active1912–1928
AwardsWalk of Fame - Motion Picture
1713 Vine Street

Mauritz Stiller (born Moshe Stiller, 17 July 1883 – 18 November 1928) was a Swedish film director of Finnish Jewish origin, best known for discovering Greta Garbo and bringing her to America.[1]

Stiller had been a pioneer of the Swedish film industry, writing and directing many short films from 1912. When Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer invited him to Hollywood as a director, he arrived with his new discovery Greta Gustafsson, whose screen name Greta Garbo is believed to have been his suggestion.

After frequent disagreements with studio executives at MGM and Paramount Pictures, Stiller returned to Sweden, where he died soon afterwards.


Moshe Stiller was born in Helsinki. His family was of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, having lived in Russia and Poland before settling in Finland, these countries being part of the Russian Empire. After his father's death when he was four, his mother committed suicide. He was raised by family friends. From an early age, Stiller was interested in acting. His talents did not go unnoticed, and soon Stiller was offered the opportunity to practice and display his acting skills in the theaters of Helsinki and Åbo in Finland.

Drafted into the army of Czar Nicholas II — Finland was at the time an autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, part of Russia — rather than report for duty he fled the country for exile, and settled in Sweden. He became a Swedish citizen in 1921.


By 1912, Stiller had become involved with Sweden's rapidly developing silent film industry. He began by writing scripts, acting and directing in short films but within a few years gave up acting to devote his time to writing and directing. He was soon directing feature-length productions, and his 1918 work Thomas Graals bästa barn (Thomas Graal's First Child), starring Karin Molander, and with Victor Sjöström in the leading role, received much acclaim.

By 1920, having directed more than 35 films, including Sir Arne's Treasure and Erotikon, Stiller was a leading figure in Swedish filmmaking. He also directed The Blizzard starring a young Einar Hanson and based on the Selma Lagerlöf novel En herrgårdssägen.

Stiller and Garbo[edit]

Greta Garbo and Stiller aboard SS Drottningholm in 1925 en route to the United States

At the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, he met a young actress named Greta Gustafsson whom he cast in an important but secondary role in his film, Gösta Berlings saga (The Atonement of Gosta Berling), and who some[who?] have said gave her the stage name Greta Garbo. For Stiller, the screen presence of the 18-year-old actress led to him bringing her and Hanson to the United States after he accepted an offer from Louis B. Mayer to direct for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

In Hollywood, Mauritz Stiller was assigned to direct The Temptress (1926), Garbo's second film with MGM, but he could not deal with the studio structure. After repeated arguments with MGM executives, he was replaced on the film by Fred Niblo, and his contract with the studio terminated. Stiller immediately was hired by Paramount Pictures, where he made three successful films, but he was let go a second time while directing his fourth film because of his continuing disagreements with studio bosses.

Death and legacy[edit]

Stiller returned to Sweden in 1927 and died the following year from pleurisy at the age of 45. He was interred in the Norra begravningsplatsen in Stockholm.

Stiller's contribution to the motion picture industry was recognized in 1960 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1713 Vine Street. Originally his star was listed erroneously as "Maurice Diller" and was not corrected until the late 1980s. In Kristianstad, a monument was erected in his honor.

In the Badehotellet episode "Feriebarnet", Kitty tells Frigh that Stiller wrote her a letter and wants to take her to Hollywood. When Fright admits he doesn't know who he is, Kitty replies that Stiller discovered Garbo and shows him a newspaper clipping of the photo of Garbo and Stiller posing on the deck of the SS Drottningholm.


Year Film Credited as
Director Writer Actor Role
1912 The Gardener (Trädgårdsmästaren) Yes Yes Passenger
1912 Mor och dotter Yes Yes Yes Raoul de Saligny
1912 I lifvets vår Yes von Plæin
1912 Den tyranniske fästmannen Yes Yes Yes Elias Pettersson
1912 De svarta maskerna Yes Yes
1913 Vampyren Yes Yes
1913 På livets ödesvägar Yes
1913 När larmklockan ljuder Yes
1913 När kärleken dödar Yes Yes
1913 Mannekängen Yes Yes
1913 The Conflicts of Life (Livets konflikter) Yes
1913 Brother Against Brother (Gränsfolken) Yes
1913 En pojke i livets strid Yes
1913 Den okända Yes Yes
1913 Den moderna suffragetten Yes Yes
1913 Barnet Yes
1914 Stormfågeln Yes
1914 Skottet Yes
1914 När svärmor regerar Yes Yes Yes Elias
1914 Kammarjunkaren Yes
1914 För sin kärleks skull Yes Yes
1914 Det röda tornet Yes Yes
1914 Bröderna Yes Yes
1915 När konstnärer älska Yes
1915 Minlotsen Yes
1915 Mästertjuven Yes
1915 Madame de Thèbes Yes
1915 Playmates (Lekkamraterna) Yes Yes
1915 Hans hustrus förflutna Yes
1915 Hans bröllopsnatt Yes
1915 Hämnaren Yes
1915 Dolken Yes
1916 The Wings (Vingarne) Yes Yes Yes Film director
1916 Lyckonålen Yes
1916 Kärlek och journalistik Yes
1916 Kampen om hans hjärta Yes
1916 Balettprimadonnan Yes
1917 Thomas Graals bästa film Yes
1917 Alexander den store Yes
1918 Thomas Graals bästa barn Yes
1919 Song of the Scarlet Flower (Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta)[2] Yes Yes
1919 Sir Arne's Treasure (Herr Arnes pengar) Yes Yes
1920 Fiskebyn Yes
1920 Erotikon Yes
1921 Johan Yes Yes
1921 Guarded Lips (De landsflyktige) Yes Yes
1923 The Blizzard (Gunnar Hedes saga) Yes Yes
1924 The Saga of Gösta Berling (Gösta Berlings saga) Yes Yes
1926 The Temptress Yes replaced by Fred Niblo
1927 The Woman on Trial Yes
1927 Hotel Imperial Yes
1927 Barbed Wire Yes
1928 Street of Sin Yes


  1. ^ "Mauritz Stiller". Biografiskt lexikon för Finland (in Swedish). Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland. urn:NBN:fi:sls-5614-1416928958220.
  2. ^ Music by Armas Järnefelt, possibly the first original film music by a Nordic composer. See Hannu Salmi (2008) Järnefeltin jalanjäljillä: Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta (1919) (In the footsteps of Järnefelt : Song of the Scarlet Flower). (In Finnish). Retrieved 24 August 2015.

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