Nationality: German. Born: Dresden, 1881. Career: Actor, writer, and director, Lessing-Theater, Berlin, until 1913; offered film directing debut by producer Kolowrat, 1913; collaborated with Walter Turszinsky on several comic films, 1915; directed a number of Henny Porten films, 1916; worked in Austria, 1924–26; left Nazi Germany, 1934. Died: In Paris, 17 July 1938.
Films as Director:
Die Waffen der Jugend (d: Wiene or Friedrich Müller, + sc)
Frau Eva (Arme Eva) (+ co-sc): Die Konservanbraut; Derspringende Hirsch (Die Diebe von Günsterburg) (co-d?)
Der Sekretär der Königen (+ sc); Der Liebesbrief der Königin (+ sc); Das wandernde Licht; Die Räuberbraut; Der MannSpiegel (+ sc)
Der standhafte Benjamin (+ sc): Das Leben—ein Traum (+ co-sc)
Der Umweg zur Ehe (d: Wiene or Fritz Freisler, + co-sc); DieMillionärin
Die verführte Heilige (+ sc); Ein gefährliche Spiel (+ sc); Umdas Lächeln einer Frau
Die Drei Tänze der Mary Wilford (+ co-sc); Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari); Genuine; DieNacht der Konigin Isabeau (+ sc)
Die Rache einer Frau; Das Spiel mit den Feuer (+ co-sc)
Die höllische Macht
Raskolnikow (Schuld und Sühne) (+ sc); Der Puppenmachervon Kiang-Ning; I.N.R.I. (Ein Film der Menschlichkeit) (+ sc)
Orlacs Hände; Pension Groonen
Der Leibgardist (Der Gardeoffizier); Der Rosenkavalier (+ co-sc); Die Königin vom Moulin-Rouge
Die Geliebte; Die berühmte Frau; Le Tombeau sous L'Arc deTriomphe
Die Frau auf der Folter; Die grosse Abenteuerin; LeontinesEhemänner; Unfug der Liebe
Der Andere (French version: Le Procureur Hallers)
Der Liebesexpress (Acht Tage Gluck) (French version: HuitJours de bonheur); Panik in Chicago
Polizeiakte 909 (Der Fall Tokeramo) (+ sc)
Eine Nacht in Venedig (+ sc)
Ultimatum (completed by Robert Siodmak)
Fräulein Barbier (Albes) (co-sc); Arme Marie (Zeyn and Mack) (sc); Flucht der Schönheit (Seine schöne Mama) (Rector, i.e. Zeiske) (co-sc); Die büssende Magdalena (Albes) (co-sc); Lottekens Feldzug (Ziener) (co-sc); DerSchirm mit dem Schwan (Froelich) (sc)
Gelöste Ketten (Biebrach) (sc)
Frank Hansens Glück (Larsen) (sc); Die Prinzessin vonNeutralien (Biebach) (sc)
Die Heimkehr des Odysseus (Biebrach) (sc); Das Geschlechtderer von Rinwall (Biebrach) (sc); Opfer der Gesellschaft (Grunwald) (sc); Die Dame, der Teufel und dieProbiermamsell (Biebrach) (sc); Am Tor des Lebens (AmTor des Todes) (Conrad Wiene) (sc)
Satanas (Murnau) (artistic spvr); Ihr Sport (Biebrach) (sc); Die lebende Tote (Biebrach) (sc)
Das Blut der Ahnen (Gerhardt) (co-sc); Die Jagd nach demTode (Gerhardt) (co-sc); Die verbotene Stadt (Gerhardt) (co-sc); Die Abenteuer des Dr. Kircheisen (Biebrach) (sc)
Die Macht der Finsternis (Conrad Wiene) (sc)
Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (Waxworks) (Leni) (artistic spvr)
Heut Spielt der Strauss (Der Walzerkönig) (Conrad Wiene) (sc)
The Robber Symphony (Feher) (artistic spvr)
By WIENE: book—
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, New York, 1972.
On WIENE: books—
Kracauer, Siegfried, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, Princeton, New Jersey, 1947.
Eisner, Lotte, The Haunted Screen, Berkeley, 1969.
Manvell, Roger, and Heinrich Fraenkel, The German Cinema, New York, 1971.
Laqueur, Walter, Weimar: A Cultural History 1918–1933, New York, 1974.
Barton, John D., German Expressionist Film, Boston, 1982.
On WIENE: article—
Mayer, Carl, "Le Cabinet du Docteur Caligari," in Avant-Scène duCinéma (Paris), July/September 1975.
* * *
Robert Wiene's name will ever be associated with Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), his most famous film, although there are critics who would minimize his responsibility for this masterpiece of the cinema. His work is uneven and often blatantly commercial, but in spite of this many of his films show some originality of theme and distinguished performances by actors who worked under him.
Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari, originally intended for Fritz Lang, put Wiene's name on the map. It is the most important of the expressionist films and today its power seems undiminished and its daring timeless. It ran continuously in Paris for seven years, thereby creating a record, and at the Brussels World's Fair of 1958 it was chosen by 117 film historians from 26 countries as one of the top twelve most important films of all time.
In Genuine, Wiene failed to repeat his success in the same genre, although the film was also scripted by the talented Carl Mayer. Three 1923 Wiene films show an interesting range of subject matter. I.N.R.I. dealt with the death of Christ and was mounted on a grand scale; it boasted the cream of German acting in the leading roles, and featured settings by the promising young Hungarian designer, Ernö Metzner. Der Puppenmacher von Kiang-Ning, a tragic-comedy with a script by Carl Mayer, and Raskolnikow, with fantastic sets by the Russian designer Andreiv, completed an interesting trilogy. The latter used emigré actors in an adaptation of Dostoievsky's Crime and Punishment. From 1924 to 1926 Wiene worked in Austria, where he made other distinguished films. Orlacs Hände was a horror film that starred Conrad Viedt as a sensitive musician who has the hands of a murderer grafted on to him. Der Rosenkavalier, meanwhile, a film adaptation of the Strauss opera, was co-scripted by Hugo von Hoff-manstahl. It included a special score arranged by the composer, who personally conducted the orchestra when it had its premiere at the Dresden State Opera House and at the Tivoli Cinema in London. The leading roles were taken by the French stars Huguette Duflos and Jacque Catelain.
Wiene returned to Germany, but his later work showed no special qualities and consisted of lightweight comedies with artists like Lily Damita, Dina Gralla, and Maria Jacobini. He also directed Mady Christians and Andre Roanne in a French production, La Duchesee de Les Folies. In 1935 he went to England and supervised The Robber Symphony, directed by his former actor from Caligari, Friedrich Feher. Of his sound films the Johann Strauss operetta Eine Nacht in Venedig merits attention.
Wiene died in Paris in 1938 while directing Erich von Stroheim and Dita Parlo in Ultimatum, which was completed by Robert Siodmak. While he covered a wide range of material in his films he never developed a personal style. His merit lay in encouraging many diverse talents and his ability to securing often outstanding contributions from them. He controlled his productions, in most cases writing the scripts himself. Wiene lived in a great period of cinema, which he served in his fashion.