Thea von Harbou
Thea von Harbou
Thea Gabriele von Harbou
27 December 1888
|Died||1 July 1954 (aged 65)|
|Spouse(s)||Rudolf Klein-Rogge (1914–1920)|
Fritz Lang (1922–1933)
Ayi Tendulkar (c. 1933–??)
Thea Gabriele von Harbou (27 December 1888 – 1 July 1954) was a German screenwriter, novelist, film director, and actress. She is remembered as the screenwriter of the science fiction film classic Metropolis (1927) and for the 1925 novel on which it was based. Harbou collaborated as a screenwriter with film director Fritz Lang, her husband, during the period of transition from silent to sound films.
Early life, family, and education
Thea von Harbou was born in Tauperlitz (now part of Döhlau), Bavaria, in 1888, into a family of minor nobility and government officials, which gave her a level of sophisticated comfort. As a child, she was educated in a convent by private tutors who taught her several languages as well as piano and violin. She was a child prodigy.
Her first works, a short story published in a magazine and a volume of poems published privately, focused on perceptions of art, subjects considered unusual for a girl of thirteen. Despite her privileged childhood, Harbou wanted to earn a living on her own, which led her to become an actress despite her father's disapproval.
From novelist to screenwriter
After her debut in 1906, Harbou met Rudolf Klein-Rogge and married him during World War I. By 1917, she and Klein-Rogge had moved to Berlin where Harbou devoted herself to building her career as a writer. She was drawn to writing epic myths and legends with an overtly nationalistic tone. In one historian's estimation: "Her novels became patriotic and morale-boosting, urging women to sacrifice and duty while promoting the eternal glory of the fatherland".
Her first close interaction with cinema came when German director Joe May decided to adapt a piece of her fiction, Die heilige Simplizia. From that moment forward, "Her fiction output slowed down. In short order she would become one of Germany's most celebrated film writers, not only because of her partnership with Fritz Lang, but also for writing scripts for F. W. Murnau, Carl Dreyer, E. A. Dupont, and other German luminaries".
Partnership with Lang
Thea von Harbou's first collaboration with Fritz Lang was marked by a common interest in India. As Harbou worked on an adaptation of her novel Das indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb, 1918), Joe May assigned Lang to help her write the screenplay and work out production details. Praising Harbou's skills, Erich Kettelhut recalled: "She was not only well-liked by her colleagues, but also as much a creative force, as highly motivated and smoothly efficient, as her husband. Her loving personality was crucial to the professional teamwork. Harbou's ability to reach out to people and find compromise in the worst situations was a vital resource."
Harbou and Lang began an affair during this time; she divorced Klein-Rogge in 1920. Following the success of Dr. Mabuse der Spieler (Dr. Mabuse the Gambler) and the death of Lang's first wife, the couple married in 1922. They worked on a script that would reflect their pride in their German heritage, Die Nibelungen (1924), and enhance Harbou's reputation as a writer for the screen. She became known for her unique habit of wearing the same dress throughout filming, even as she cooked hot meals for the crew during late nights. Visitors remembered Harbou taking charge of all the domestic and social responsibilities when visiting the couple's apartment. During this time of poverty in 1920s Germany, Harbou became active in acquiring food for her film crew, as one friend recalled, "She was even able to talk the UFA into carrying the costs so the crew could get their meals for free ... she stood there on the rough floor of that drafty shed for hours and didn't mind peeling potatoes or cleaning vegetables with the other women. Such was the spirit of sacrifice."
Harbou often developed her screenplays into full-length novels, with their publication scheduled to coincide with the release of the film, though this was not the case with Metropolis (1927). Harbou was a central player in producing Metropolis, and this epic became significant. Besides writing the novel and the screenplay, and developing the distinct moral ending of Metropolis, she discovered Gustav Fröhlich, who played the lead role of Freder Fredersen.
Her next major collaboration with Lang was M (1931), a film about a child murderer. It was written with exquisite attention to accuracy. Lang and Harbou had been enthralled with news coverage of Peter Kürten, known as the Monster of Düsseldorf, during the late 1920s. She used newspaper articles in developing the script and "maintained regular contact with the police headquarters on Alexanderplatz and was permitted access to the communications and secret publications of Berlin's force". Recalling the script, Harbou's secretary Hilde Guttmann later said, "I saw many other film manuscripts, but never one which could compare with the manuscript for M. Two typewriter ribbons were stuck together to give us three colors: one black and red, and the other blue. The camera work and the action were typed in black, the dialogue blue, and the sound, where synchronized, was typed in red". Harbou received no credit as the script writer for M.
Our main goal is to find a new form of preventing pregnancy and therefore to make the entire 218 unnecessary. Immediately, however, the paragraph must fall because it is no longer morally recognized by women. It is no longer a law. We need a new sexual code because the old was created by men and no man is in a position to understand the agony of a woman who is carrying a child she knows she cannot feed. This law derived from male psychology, which forces a woman into having a child, creates, even if not deliberately, constitutional inferiority of women in relation to men which serves as a bulwark against women's activity in economic and political life.
Shortly after Harbou married Lang, he developed the habit of openly pursuing younger women, but they nevertheless presented themselves as a happy couple with a contented home that would have seemed like a small museum of exotic art for the common citizen. Then, during the production of Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse, Lang discovered Harbou in bed with Ayi Tendulkar, an Indian journalist and student 17 years younger than her.
After Lang and Harbou's divorce became final on 20 April 1933, the couple slowly lost contact with each other. Shortly after the divorce, Harbou and Ayi Tendulkar contracted a secret marriage, because the Nazi state did not permit someone of her public stature to marry a dark-skinned Indian.
Under Nazi rule
With Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933, the German film industry began to be used for propaganda purposes. Harbou was loyal to the new regime. Around 1934, a year after the Nazi Party came to power, on her own initiative she wrote and directed two films, Elisabeth und der Narr and Hanneles Himmelfahrt. However, she did not find the experience of directing satisfactory and remained a prolific scenarist during this time. "Under a regime where every film was a 'state film,' Thea von Harbou amassed writing credits on some twenty-six films, while giving uncredited assistance on countless others-including a handful with an indisputable National Socialist worldview".
After World War II
From July to October 1945, Thea von Harbou was held in Staumühle, a British prison camp. Though many have asserted she had significant Nazi sympathies, Harbou claimed she only joined the Nazi Party to help Indian immigrants in Germany, like her husband. Lang's biographer, Patrick McGilligan, wrote: "Her direct work on behalf of the government consisted, she claimed, entirely of volunteer welding, making hearing aids, and emergency medical care. In fact, she received a medal of merit for saving people in two air raids." In prison, she directed a performance of Faust and when released she worked as a Trümmerfrau (rubble woman) in 1945 and 1946.
Toward the end of Harbou's life, pain from high blood pressure, migraines, and neuralgia weakened her, although she continued to write or dictate from her bed. After attending a showing of Der müde Tod (Destiny, 1921) as a guest of honor in 1954, she fell and suffered a hip injury. On 1 July 1954, she died in hospital at the age of sixty-five.
Several years after her death, Lang directed the film The Indian Tomb (1959), based upon one of Harbou's novels.
- The Passion of Inge Krafft, directed by Robert Dinesen (1921, based on an idea by Thea von Harbou)
- Das Haus des Dr. Gaudeamus, directed by Friedrich Feher (1921, based on the novel Das Haus ohne Tür und Fenster)
- The Indian Tomb, directed by Joe May (1921, based on the novel Das indische Grabmal)
- The Stone Rider, directed by Fritz Wendhausen (1923, based on an idea by Thea von Harbou)
- Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang (1927, based on the novel Metropolis)
- Spione, directed by Fritz Lang (1928, based on the novel Spione)
- Woman in the Moon, directed by Fritz Lang (1929, based on the novel The Rocket to the Moon)
- The Legend of Holy Simplicity (dir. Joe May, 1920)
- The Wandering Image (dir. Fritz Lang, 1920)
- The Women of Gnadenstein (dir. Robert Dinesen and Joe May, 1921)
- Four Around a Woman (dir. Fritz Lang, 1921) - Screenplay based on a play by Rolf E. Vanloo
- Destiny (dir. Fritz Lang, 1921)
- The Indian Tomb (dir. Joe May, 1921)
- The Burning Soil (dir. F. W. Murnau, 1922)
- Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (dir. Fritz Lang, 1922) - Screenplay based on Dr. Mabuse by Norbert Jacques
- Phantom (dir. F. W. Murnau, 1922) - Screenplay based on a novel by Gerhart Hauptmann
- Princess Suwarin (dir. Johannes Guter, 1923) - Screenplay based on a novel by Ludwig Wolff
- The Expulsion (dir. F. W. Murnau, 1923) - Screenplay based on a play by Carl Hauptmann
- The Grand Duke's Finances (dir. F. W. Murnau, 1924) - Screenplay based on a novel by Frank Heller
- Die Nibelungen—Part 1: Siegfried (dir. Fritz Lang, 1924) - Screenplay based on the Nibelungenlied
- Die Nibelungen—Part 2: Kriemhild's Revenge (dir. Fritz Lang, 1924) - Screenplay based on the Nibelungenlied
- Michael (dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1924) - Screenplay based on a novel by Herman Bang
- Chronicles of the Gray House (dir. Arthur von Gerlach, 1925) - Screenplay based on a novella by Theodor Storm
- Metropolis (dir. Fritz Lang, 1927)
- Spione (dir. Fritz Lang, 1928)
- Woman in the Moon (dir. Fritz Lang, 1929)
- M (dir. Fritz Lang, 1931)
- The First Right of the Child (dir. Fritz Wendhausen, 1932)
- The Marathon Runner (dir. E. A. Dupont, 1933) - Screenplay based on a novel by Werner Scheff
- The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (dir. Fritz Lang, 1933) - Screenplay based on Dr. Mabuse by Norbert Jacques
- Hanneles Himmelfahrt (dir. Thea von Harbou, 1934) - Screenplay based on The Assumption of Hannele by Gerhart Hauptmann
- What Am I Without You (dir. Arthur Maria Rabenalt, 1934)
- Elisabeth und der Narr (dir. Thea von Harbou), 1934)
- Princess Turandot (dir. Gerhard Lamprecht, 1934) - Screenplay based on Turandot
- The Old and the Young King (dir. Hans Steinhoff, 1935)
- An Ideal Husband (dir. Herbert Selpin, 1935) - Screenplay based on An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
- I Was Jack Mortimer (dir. Carl Froelich, 1935) - Screenplay based on I Was Jack Mortimer by Alexander Lernet-Holenia
- Der Mann mit der Pranke (dir. Rudolf van der Noss, 1935) - Screenplay based on a novel by Fritz Zeckendorf
- The Impossible Woman (dir. Johannes Meyer, 1936) - Screenplay based on a novel by Mia Fellmann
- Escapade (dir. Erich Waschneck, 1936) - Screenplay based on My Official Wife by Richard Henry Savage
- A Woman of No Importance (dir. Hans Steinhoff, 1936) - Screenplay based on A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde
- Der Herrscher (dir. Veit Harlan, 1937) - Screenplay based on a play by Gerhart Hauptmann
- Don't Promise Me Anything (dir. Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1937) - Screenplay based on a play by Charlotte Rissmann
- The Broken Jug (dir. Gustav Ucicky, 1937) - Screenplay based on The Broken Jug by Heinrich von Kleist
- Mother Song (dir. Carmine Gallone, 1937)
- Youth (dir. Veit Harlan, 1938) - Screenplay based on a play by Max Halbe
- The Woman at the Crossroads (dir. Josef von Báky, 1938) - Screenplay based on a novel by Alice Lyttkens
- Covered Tracks (dir. Veit Harlan, 1938) - Screenplay based on a radio drama by Hans Rothe
- Menschen vom Varieté (dir. Josef von Báky, 1939)
- Hurrah! I'm a Father (dir. Kurt Hoffmann, 1939)
- Lauter Liebe (dir. Heinz Rühmann, 1940)
- Wie konntest Du, Veronika! (dir. Milo Harbich, 1940)
- Am Abend auf der Heide (dir. Jürgen von Alten, 1940) - Screenplay based on a novel by F. B. Cortan
- Clarissa (dir. Gerhard Lamprecht, 1941) (uncredited)
- Annelie (dir. Josef von Báky, 1941) - Screenplay based on a play by Walter Lieck
- With the Eyes of a Woman (dir. Karl Georg Külb, 1942) - Screenplay based on a novel by Zsolt Harsányi
- Maria Malibran (dir. Guido Brignone, 1943)
- Gefährtin meines Sommers (dir. Fritz Peter Buch, 1943) - Screenplay based on a novel by Klaus-Erich Boerner
- Die Gattin (dir. Georg Jacoby, 1943) - Screenplay based on two plays by János Bókay
- Eine Frau für drei Tage (dir. Fritz Kirchhoff, 1944) - Screenplay based on a novel by Elisabeth Gürt
- Via Mala (dir. Josef von Báky, 1945) - Screenplay based on Via Mala by John Knittel
- Journey to Happiness (dir. Erich Engel, 1944/1948)
- Erzieherin gesucht (dir. Ulrich Erfurth, 1944/1950)
- A Day Will Come (dir. Rudolf Jugert, 1950) - Screenplay based on a novella by Ernst Penzoldt
- Dr. Holl (dir. Rolf Hansen, 1951)
- Your Heart Is My Homeland (dir. Richard Häussler, 1953) - Screenplay based on a novel by Irmgard Wurmbrand
- The Tiger of Eschnapur (1938) – remake of The Indian Tomb (1921)
- The Indian Tomb (1938) – remake of The Indian Tomb (1921)
- M (1951) – Remake of M (1931)
- The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959) – remake of The Indian Tomb (1921)
- The Indian Tomb (1959) – remake of The Indian Tomb (1921)
- Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1962) – remake of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
- Wenn's Morgen wird, 1905
- Weimar: Ein Sommertagstraum, verse stories 1908
- Die nach uns kommen, a village novel, 1910
- Von Engeln und Teufelchen, ten stories, 1913
- Deutsche Frauen. Bilder stillen Heldentums, five stories, 1914
- Der unsterbliche Acker, a war novel, 1915
- Gold im Feuer, novel, 1915
- Der Krieg und die Frauen, eight stories, 1915
- Die Masken des Todes. Sieben Geschichten in einer, 1915
- Die Flucht der Beate Hoyermann, 1916
- Die Deutsche Frau im Weltkrieg, essays, 1916
- Aus Abend und Morgen ein neuer Tag, 1916
- Du junge Wacht am Rhein!, 1917
- Adrian Drost und sein Land, 1918
- Das indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb), 1918
- Der belagerte Tempel, 1917
- Die nach uns kommen, 1918
- Legenden, five stories (including Holy Simplicity), 1919
- Sonderbare Heilige, ten stories, 1919
- Die unheilige Dreifaltigkeit, 1920
- Das Haus ohne Tür und Fenster, 1920
- Gute Kameraden, 1920
- Gedichte, 1920
- Das Nibelungenbuch, 1924
- Mondscheinprinzeßchen, 1925
- Metropolis, 1926
- Der Insel der Unsterblichen, 1926
- Mann zwischen Frauen, 1927
- Frau im Mond, 1928
- Spione, 1929
- Du bist unmöglich, Jo!, novel, 1931
- Liebesbriefe aus St. Florin; Novella, 1935
- Aufblühender Lotos, 1941
- Der Dieb von Bagdad, 1949
- Gartenstraße 64, 1952
- "Thea von Harbou (1888–1954)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
- McGilligan 1997, pp. 62–63.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 63.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 62.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 64.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 92.
- Eder, Bruce. "Overview:Rudolf Klein-Rogge". Allmovie. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 87.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 97.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 91.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 109.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 113.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 150.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 152.
- Stevens, Dana. "Writing, Scratching, and Politics from M to Mabuse." Qui Parle 7.1 1993 (63)
- Petro, Patrice. Joyless Streets: Women and Melodramatic Representation in Weimar Germany. New Jersey: Princeton UP, 1989 (26)
- McGilligan 1997, pp. 90–91.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 168.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 181.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 184.
- Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul, In the Shadow of Freedom: Three Lives in Hitler's Germany and Gandhi's India, Zubaan Books, 2013
- Padgaonkar, Dileep (8 March 2013). "The singular destiny of Ayi Tendulkar". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 185.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 330.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 413.
- McGilligan 1997, p. 414.
- AFI/Film Index: Thea von Harbou[permanent dead link]
- McGilligan, Patrick (1997). Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-19454-3.
- Thea von Harbou - AMC Movie Guide
- Joyless Streets: Women and Melodramatic Representations in Weimar Germany by Patrice Petro
- Writing, Scratching, and Politics from M to Mabuse in Qui Parle by Dana Stevens
- In the Shadow of Freedom by Ayi Tendulkar's daughter Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul née Laxmi Thea Tendulkar