Pabst, Georg Wilhelm: Director Profile

Born in Bohemia on August 27, 1885, Georg Wilhelm Pabst was raised in Vienna by Viennese parents. Pabst began his career as a stage actor and toured throughout Europe before sailing to New York where he began directing theatre. Detained in France at the outbreak of World War I, Pabst continued to direct theater, now in French, until returning to Vienna at the end of the war.

 

He began working in film in 1921 as an actor, assistant director, and screenwriter for German director Carl Froelich. Pabst began directing in 1923 with The Treasure, followed by Countless Donelli, the next year. In 1925, Pabst directed Garbo in Joyless Street, a depiction of the human suffering caused by postwar economic difficulties and inflation. Its stark and savage portrayal of war profiteers and the corrupt poor shocked its audiences and caused the film to be censored in Europe and America. In Secrets of a Soul (1926), Pabst used dream sequences to illustrate Freudian psychoanalytic theory.

 

In 1928, Pabst brought to Hollywood Louise Brooks for two films: Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. For the first film, Pabst chose not to cast the then unknown Marlene Dietrich as Lulu, because he felt she lacked the look of innocence essential to avoid making a burlesque out of the film's sensual atmosphere. The collaboration between Pabst and Brooks resulted in a powerful portrayal of a detached and passive Lulu, who unknowingly brings about her victims' downfall. Brooks again portrayed an innocent caught up in an outwardly respectable but inwardly base and evil society in Diary of a Lost Girl. This film was another of Pabst's indictments of Weimar Germany and, like Pandora's Box, another of his films to be attacked by the censors.

 

By the time Westfront 1918 (1931), a highly acclaimed anti-war film, and Kamaradschaft (1932), a true story of a mining disaster, were released, G. W. Pabst as considered Germany's foremost social realist director, known for his “Xray-Eye” camera.

 

In 1932, Pabst filmed an adaptation of Brecht's Threepenny Opera before leaving Germany in 1933 with the rise of the Nazi, disillusioned by his films' apparent lack of impact on society.

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Pabst went to Hollywood to make A Modern Hero then returned to France where he made several films such as The Shanghai Drama and Don Quixote. After having stated his intentions of becoming an American citizen, Pabst returned to Austria for family reasons and remained in Germany during World War II.

 

With the end of the war, he made The Trial, a condemnation of anti-Semitism and The Last Ten Days, two of his postwar films to explore the phenomenon of Nazism. G. W. Pabst retired from filmmaking in 1956 and died in 1967 at the age of 81.

 

Pabst Filmography:

 

Through the Forests and Through the Trees

Ballerina

It Happened on July 20th

The Last Ten Days

Afraid to Love

Voice of Silence

Cose da pazzi

Ruf aus dem Äther

Mysterious Shadows

The Trial

Fall Molander, Der

Paracelsus

The Comedians

Girls in Distress

The Shanghai Drama

Street of Shadows

A Modern Hero

Don Quixote

That Night

Don Quixote

High and Low

Queen of Atlantis

The Lost Atlantis

Kameradschaft

The Threepenny Opera

Westfront 1918

White Hell of Pitz Palu

Diary of a Lost Girl

Pandora's Box

The Devious Path

The Loves of Jeanne Ney

One Does Not Play with Love

Secrets of a Soul

The Joyless Street

Gräfin Donelli

The Treasure

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