Nationality: Danish. Born: Holger Madsen, 11 April 1878, began spelling name with hyphen, 1911. Career: Actor in Danish provinces, 1896–1904, and in Copenhagen, from 1904; actor in films, from 1907; directed first film, 1912; director for Nordisk Films Kompagni, 1913–20; worked in Germany, from 1920; returned to Denmark, 1930; manager of small Copenhagen cinema, 1938–43. Died: 30 November 1943.
Films as Director:
Kun en Tigger (+ role)
Under Savklingens Taender (The Usurer's Son) (+ role); Under Mindernes Trae (Dengamle Baenk, Left Alone); Skaebnens Veje (Under Kaerlighedens Aag; In the Bonds ofPassion); Det mrke¡ Punkt (Staalkongens Vilje; The SteelKing's Last Wish); Mens Pesten raser (Laegens Hustru; During the Plague); Ballettens Datter (Danserinden; UnjustlyAccused); Elskovsleg (Love's Devotee); PrinsesseElena (The Princess's Dilemma); Den hvide Dame (TheWhite Ghost); Fra Fyrste til Knejpevaert (The Gambler'sWife); Millionaerdrengen (The Adventures of a Millionaire's Son); Guldet og vort Hjerte (Et vanskeligt Valg; TheHeart's Voice)
Tempeldanserindens Elskov (Bajaderens Haevn; TheBayadere's Revenge); Brnevennerne¡ (A Marriage of Convenience); En Opstandelse (Genopstandelsen; A Resurrection); Husassistenten (Naar Fruen skifter Pige; TheNew Cook); Svngaengersken¡ (The Somnambulist); Opiumsdrmmen¡ (The Opium Smoker's Dream); Denmystiske Fremmede (A Deal with the Devil); Endelig Alene (Alone at Last); Min Ven Levy (My Friend Levy); Ned medVaabnene (Lay Down Your Arms); Trold kan taemmes (TheTaming of the Shrew); De Forviste (Uden Faedreland; Without a Country); Et Huskors (Lysten styret; Enough ofIt); Barnets Magt (The Child); Et Haremseventyr (AnAdventure in a Harem); Evangeliemandens Liv (The Candle and the Moth); Kaerlighedens Triumf (Testamentet; TheRomance of a Will); Krig og Kaerlighed (Love and War); Spiritisten (A Voice from the Past): Det stjaalne Ansigt (TheMissing Admiralty Plans); En Aeresoprejsning (Misunderstood); Liykken draeber
Cigaretpigen (The Cigarette Maker); Hvem er Gentlemantyven (Strakoff the Adventurer); En Ildprve¡ (A Terrible Ordeal); Danserindens Haevn (Circus Arrives; The Dancer'sRevenge); Danserindens Kaerlighedsdrm¡ (Den Ddsdmte¡¡; A Dancer's Strange Dream; The Condemned); Den frelsendeFilm (The Woman Tempted Me); Grevinde Hjertels¡ (TheBeggar Princess); Guldets Gift (The Tempting of Mrs.Chestney); Den hvide Djaevel (Caught in the Toils; TheDevil's Protege); Hvo som elsker sin Fader or Faklen (WhoSo Loveth His Father's Honor); I Livets Braending (TheCrossroads of Life); Manden uden Fremtid (The Manwithout a Future); Den omstridte Jord (Jordens Haevn; TheEarth's Revenge); Sjaeletyven (The Unwilling Sinner; HisInnocent Dupe); Det unge Blod (The Buried Secret); KrigensFjende (Acostates frste¡ Offer; The Munition Conspiracy); En Kunstners Gennembrud (Den Ddes¡ Sjael; The Soul ofthe Violin)
For sin Faders Skyld (The Veiled Lady; False Evidence); Maaneprinsessen (Kamaeleonen; The Mysterious Lady; The May-Fly); Brnenes¡ Synd (The Sins of the Children); Fange no. 113 (Convict No. 113); Hans rigtige Kone (Which Is Which); Hendes Moders Lfte¡ (Ddens¡ Kontrakt; A Super Shylock); Hittebarnet (The Foundling of Fate): Hvor Sorgerne glemmes (Sster¡ Cecilies Offer; SisterCecilia); Livets Gglespil¡ (An Impossible Marriage); Mandenuden Smil; Nattens Mysterium (Who Killed Barno O'Neal); Nattevandreren (Edison Maes Dagbog; Out of the Underworld); Pax Aeterna; Lydia (The Music Hall Star); Lykken (The Road to Happiness; Guiding Conscience); PraestensDatter; Testamentets Hemmelighed (Den Ddes¡ Rst¡; TheVoice of the Dead; Nancy Keith); Den Aerelse¡ (TheInfamous; The Prison Taint); Smil (Far's Sorg; FatherSorrow; The Beggar Man of Paris)
Himmelskibet (A Trip to Mars); Retten sejrer (Justice Victorious); Hendes Helt (Vogt dig for dine Venner)
Folkets Ven (A Friend of the People); Mod Lyset (Toward theLight); Manden, der sejrede (The Man Who Tamed theVictors; Fighting Instinct)
Gudernes Yndling (Digterkongen; Trials of Celebrity; ThePenalty of Fame); Har jeg Ret til at tage mit eget Liv (Flugten fra Livet; The Flight from Life; Beyond the Barricade); Det Strste¡ i Verden (Janes gode Ven; The Greatestin the World; The Love That Lives)
Am Webstuhl der Zeit; Tobias Buntschuh (+ role); Den dvendeStad (Die sterbende Stadt)
Pömperly's Kampf mit dem Schneeschuh (co-d)
Das Evangelium; Zaida, die Tragödie eines Modells
Der Mann um Mitternacht
Die seltsame Nacht; Die Sporck'schen Jäger; Spitzen
Die heilige Lüge
Freiwild; Die seltsame Nacht der Helga Wansen; Was ist losmit Nanette
Kbenhavn¡, Kalundborg og—? (co-d)
Sol over Danmark
Films as Actor:
Den sorte HertugMagdalene; En grov Spg¡ (A Practical Joke and a SadEnd); Verdens Herkules (Hercules the Athlete); Karneval (The Bank Director, Carnival); Svend Dyrings Hus (TheStepmother); De smaa Landstrygere (Sold to Thieves); Smaeklaasen (The Spring Lock); Natten fr¡ KristiansFdelsdag¡ (The Night before Christian's Birthday); Rulleskjterne¡ (On Roller Skates); Sherlock Holmes I; Sherlock Holmes III
Den graa Dame (The Gray Dame)
Det store Fald or Malstrmmen¡; Ddssejleren¡ orDynamitattentatet paa Fyrtaarnet; Den svarte doktorn
Paa Livets Skyggeside
Praesten i Vejlby; Krudt med Knald
Fem raske Piger; Med tuld Musik
* * *
The two leading directors at Nordisk Films Kompagni in the Golden Age of the Danish cinema from 1910 to 1914 were August Blom and Holger-Madsen. They were similar in many respects. They both started as actors, but unlike Blom, Holger-Madsen began as a director with companies other than Nordisk. When he came to Nordisk he worked in almost all of the genres of the period—sensational films, comedies, farces, dramas, and tragedies. Gradually, though, Holger-Madsen developed his own personality, both in content and style.
Holger-Madsen specialized in films with spiritual topics. His main film in this genre was Evangeliemandens Liv, in which Valdemar Psilander plays the leading part of a dissolute young man of good family who suddenly realizes how empty and pointless his life is. He becomes a Christian and starts working as a preacher among the poor and the social outcasts of the big city. He succeeds in rescuing a young man from the path of sin. Several of the clichés of the period are featured in this tale, but the characterization of the hero is largely free of sentimentality, and Holger-Madsen coached Psilander into playing the role with a mature calm, and genuine strength of feeling. Formally the film is exquisite. The sets, the camerawork, and the lighting are executed with great care, and the film is rich in striking pictorial compositions, which was the director's forte.
Holger-Madsen had a predilection for extraordinary, often bizarre images and picturesque surroundings. With his cameraman, Marius Clausen, he emphasized the visual look of his films. His use of side light, inventive camera angles, and close-ups, combined with unusual sets, made him an original stylist. He was not very effective in his cutting technique, but he could establish marvelously choreographed scenes in which people moved in elegant patterns within the frame.
Holger-Madsen's reputation as an idealistic director led him to direct the big prestige films with pacifist themes which Ole Olsen, the head of Nordisk Films Kompagni, wanted to make in the naive hope that he could influence the fighting powers in the First World War. The films were often absurdly simple, but Holger-Madsen brought his artistic sense to the visual design of these sentimental stories. One of his most famous films is Himmelskibet from 1917, a work about a scientist who flies to Mars in a rocket ship. There he is confronted with a peaceful civilization. The film has obtained a position as one of the first science–fiction films.
When the Danish cinema declined, Holger-Madsen went to Germany. Returning to Denmark after the 1920s, he was offered the opportunity of directing during the early sound film period, but his productions were insignificant. He was a silent film director; the image was his domain, and he was one of the craftsmen who molded and refined the visual language of film.