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Stern, Ernest

STERN, ERNEST

STERN, ERNEST (1876–1954), stage designer. Stern was born in Bucharest, going to Munich at the age of 19 to study under Franz van Stuck. He worked as a caricaturist for Jugend and Simplizissimus and began to contribute to political cabarets. He moved to Berlin in 1905 as illustrator on the Lustigen Blatter and in the same year began his historic collaboration with Max Reinhardt, with the famous production of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. The following year he was taken on by Reinhardt as artistic director, a position he held for 16 years. There followed a series of remarkable productions which made both men world famous: works by Shakespeare, the pantomime Samurun (1910), Faust (1911), the remarkable Miracle (1914), Danton's Death (1916), John Gabriel Borkman (1917). Between 1919 and 1929 Stern also worked for the German cinema, including films by Ernst *Lubitsch. Before the advent of Nazism Stern was already famous on the London stage, designing Noel Coward's Bitter Sweet in 1929, followed by a series of spectacular musicals including Offenbach's La Belle Héléne and White Horse Inn. In 1934 he settled in London where he lived for the rest of his life. He continued to design the plays of Shakespeare, especially for the actor Donald Wolfit, and popular musical plays. An artist of deep historical knowledge and remarkable imagination, Ernest Stern had a profound effect on 20th-century stage design. He was regarded as one of the outstanding stage designers of the century.

[Charles Samuel Spencer]

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