Thea von Harbou

Thea von Harbou

Additional Names: Thea Gabriele von Harbou (Geburtsname)
Darstellerin, Regie, Drehbuch
*27.12.1888 Döhlau-Tauperlitz; †01.07.1954 Berlin

Biography

Thea Gabriele von Harbou was born December 27, 1888, in Tauperlitz near Hof (Saale) as the daughter of the forester and farmer Theodor von Harbou and his wife Clotilde Constance, born d'Alinge. Her brother is the still photographer Horst von Harbou (born in 1879). She grew up in Niederlössnitz and attended Luisenstift school in nearby Dresden. Harbou, an avid Karl May reader, already started to write fiction as a school girl and wrote animal stories for provincial newspapers. In 1902, she published her first poems herself, and in 1905, the Berlin newspaper Deutsche Zeitung published her first novel, "Wenn's Morgen wird".

In 1906, Thea von Harbou made her acting debut at Düsseldorf's Schauspielhaus. Later, she became a cast member at Hoftheater Weimar (1908 to 1913), at Vereinigte Stadttheater Chemnitz (1911 to 1913), and at Stadttheater Aachen (1913 to 1914). In Aachen, she married director and actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge on September 28, 1914.

Following the popular success of her novel "Die nach uns kommen" (1910) and "Der Krieg und die Frauen" (1913), a collection of novellas, in particular, she withdrew from acting and became a full-time writer. From 1915 on, she and her husband lived in Nuremberg. In 1918, the couple moved to Berlin. From then on, Harbou from then on published her books at the Ullstein publishing house.

Harbou's first screen play for Eiko-Film GmbH was not made into a film, thus, she did not make her debut as a screenplay writer until 1919 when her novella "Die heilige Simplicia" ("The Legend of Holy Simplicity") was made into a film by the Joe May Film GmbH. When preparing the adaptation of her novel "Das indische Grabmal" ("The Indian Tomb"), she met Fritz Lang who was initially scheduled to direct the film. For Lang, von Harbou then wrote all screenplays between his films "Das wandernde Bild" ("The Moving Image", 1920) to "Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse" ("The Testament of Dr. Mabuse", 1933).

After the separation from Klein-Rogge, who from then on played leading roles in many of Fritz Lang's films, Harbou married Lang on August 26, 1922. She not only wrote screenplays for him but also for F. W. Murnau ("Der brennende Acker" - "Burning Soil" and "Phantom" - "The Phantom", 1922; "Die Austreibung" - "The Expulsion" and "Die Finanzen des Großherzogs" - "The Grand Duke’s Finances", 1923), for Carl Theodor Dreyer ("Michael" - "Chained", 1923/24), and Arthur von Gerlach ("Zur Chronik von Grieshuus" - "The Chronicles of the Gray House", 1923 to 1925).

For Lang, she wrote her first screenplay for a sound film: "M" ("M – A Town Is Looking For A Murderer", 1931). "Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse" ("The Testament of Dr. Mabuse"), the last film that von Harbou and Lang collaborated on and that was later described by Lang as an anti-Nazi film, was banned in 1933. The couple separated in October 1931, and divorced on April 4, 1933. Until about 1939, Thea von Harbou lived together with the Indian Ayi Tendulkar.

While Lang emigrated to the US, Thea von Harbou, who was the head of Verband Deutscher Tonfilmautoren, took hold as a sought-after screenplay writer in the Third Reich. She also directed two films herself: "Elisabeth und der Narr" (1933) tells the crude story of a murder in a nunnery. Prior to the film's release by Film Assessment Headquarters, it was re-cut several times because of alleged "disturbance of the population's religious sense". Furthermore, the film received mainly bad reviews in the press. The fairy-tale movie "Hanneles Himmelfahrt" (1933/34), based on a play by Gerhart Hauptmann, also flopped. A third film project, "Karussell Berlin", was then abandoned by Aafa-Film.

Besides numerous comedies, such as "Hurra! Ich bin Papa!" ("Hurrah! I'm a Papa"), and film adaptations (for instance, "Ein idealer Gatte" ("An Ideal Husband") and "Eine Frau ohne Bedeutung" ("A Woman of No Importance"), based on plays by Oscar Wilde), Harbou wrote the Fridericus Rex film "Der alte und der junge König" ("The Old and the Young King", 1935) for Hans Steinhoff, and "Der Herrscher" ("The Ruler", 1937), "Jugend" ("Youth", 1937/38), and "Verwehte Spuren" ("Covered Tracks", 1938) for Veit Harlan during the following years. Her films "Fahrt ins Glück" (directed by Erich Engel) and "Via Mala" (directed by Josef von Baky), so-called "Überläufer" films, were shot during the Third Reich, but did not premiere before the end of the war.

In 1945, Harbou, who had been a member of NSDAP since 1940, was detained for a short period of time by the British occupation authorities. She then worked in construction and in a factory and at the end of the 1940s wrote screen plays for dubbed version films by Deutsche London Film like "The Third Man", directed by Carol Reed; "An Ideal Husband", directed by Alexander Korda; or "The Thief of Bagdad", directed by Ludwig Berger). Furthermore, Harbou wrote serial novels like "Der Fernfahrer und der Teufel", that was published in the newspaper Berliner Morgenpost in 1952, and three more screenplays, that paradigmatically embraced the range of German post-war cinema: one screenplay for the anti-war film "Es kommt ein Tag" ("A Day Will Come", 1950), one "Dr. Holl" ("Affairs of Dr. Holl", 1950/51), a film about a physician, and one for the regional film "Dein Herz ist meine Heimat" (1953).

At the same time, Harbou was an active member of the board of the association of the members of German film business and of the German-Asian society. With his two-part film "Der Tiger von Eschnapur" ("Tiger of Bengal") / "Das indische Grabmal" ("The Indian Tomb") from 1958, Fritz Lang was the last director who made a film of one of her screenplays. At the same time, this was already the third adaptation of her novel.

On July 1, 1954, Thea von Harbou died in West-Berlin.

Filmography

1962 Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
based on
 
1960 Journey to the Lost City
Screenplay, based on
 
1958/1959 Das indische Grabmal
based on
 
1958/1959 Der Tiger von Eschnapur
based on
 
1957/1958 Das gab's nur einmal
Participation
 
1953 Dein Herz ist meine Heimat
Screenplay
 
1951 M
Scenario
 
1950/1951 Dr. Holl
Screenplay
 
1950 Es kommt ein Tag
Screenplay
 
1944/1945 Fahrt ins Glück
Screenplay
 
1944/1945 Erzieherin gesucht
Screenplay
 
1944/1945 Das Leben geht weiter
Screenplay
 
1943/1944 Eine Frau für drei Tage
Screenplay
 
1943-1945 Via Mala
Screenplay
 
1943 Die Gattin
Screenplay
 
1942/1943 Gefährtin meines Sommers
Screenplay
 
1942 Mit den Augen einer Frau
Screenplay
 
1941 Annelie
Screenplay
 
1941 Clarissa
Screenplay
 
1940/1941 Am Abend auf der Heide
Screenplay
 
1940 Wie konntest Du, Veronika!
Screenplay
 
1939/1940 Lauter Liebe
Screenplay
 
1939 Hurra! Ich bin Papa!
Screenplay
 
1938/1939 Menschen vom Varieté
Screenplay
 
1938 Verwehte Spuren
Screenplay
 
1938 Die Frau am Scheidewege
Screenplay
 
1937/1938 Le Tombeau hindou
based on
 
1937/1938 Le Tigre du Bengale
based on
 
1937/1938 Das indische Grabmal
based on
 
1937/1938 Der Tiger von Eschnapur
based on
 
1937/1938 Jugend
Screenplay
 
1937 Der zerbrochene Krug
Screenplay
 
1937 Versprich mir nichts!
Screenplay
 
1937 Mutterlied
Screenplay
 
1936/1937 Der Herrscher
Screenplay
 
1936 Eine Frau ohne Bedeutung
Screenplay
 
1936 Eskapade
Screenplay, Co-author
 
1935/1936 Die unmögliche Frau
Screenplay
 
1935 Ich war Jack Mortimer
Screenplay
 
1935 Ein idealer Gatte
Screenplay
 
1935 Der Mann mit der Pranke
Screenplay
 
1934/1935 Der alte und der junge König
Screenplay
 
1934 Prinzessin Turandot
Screenplay
 
1934 Was bin ich ohne Dich
Screenplay
 
1934 Turandot. Princesse de Chine
Screenplay
 
1933/1934 Hanneles Himmelfahrt
Director, Screenplay
 
1933/1934 Elisabeth und der Narr
Director
 
1932/1933 Le testament du docteur Mabuse
Screenplay
 
1932/1933 Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
Screenplay
 
1932/1933 Der Läufer von Marathon
Screenplay
 
1932 Das erste Recht des Kindes
Screenplay
 
1931 M
Screenplay
 
1928/1929 Frau im Mond
Screenplay, based on
 
1927/1928 Spione
Screenplay, based on
 
1925/1926 Metropolis
Screenplay, based on
 
1923/1924 Die Finanzen des Großherzogs
Screenplay
 
1923/1924 Michael
Screenplay
 
1923-1925 Zur Chronik von Grieshuus
Screenplay
 
1923 Die Austreibung. Die Macht der zweiten Frau
Screenplay
 
1922/1923 Die Prinzessin Suwarin
Screenplay
 
1922/1923 Der steinerne Reiter
Story
 
1922-1924 Die Nibelungen. 2. Teil: Kriemhilds Rache
Screenplay
 
1922-1924 Die Nibelungen (2 Teile)
Screenplay
 
1922-1924 Die Nibelungen. 1. Teil: Siegfried
Screenplay
 
1922 Phantom
Screenplay
 
1921/1922 Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler II: Inferno. Ein Spiel von Menschen unserer Zeit
Screenplay
 
1921/1922 Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (2 Teile)
Screenplay
 
1921/1922 Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler I: Der große Spieler. Ein Bild der Zeit
Screenplay
 
1921/1922 Der brennende Acker
Screenplay
 
1921 Das indische Grabmal, Teil 2 - Der Tiger von Eschnapur
Screenplay
 
1921 Das indische Grabmal (2 Teile)
Screenplay, based on
 
1921 Das indische Grabmal, Teil 1 - Die Sendung des Yoghi
Screenplay
 
1921 Der müde Tod
Screenplay
 
1921 Das Haus ohne Tür und Fenster
based on
 
1920/1921 Der Leidensweg der Inge Krafft
Story
 
1920/1921 Kämpfende Herzen
Screenplay
 
1920-1921 Die Frauen vom Gnadenstein
Screenplay
 
1920 Das wandernde Bild
Screenplay
 
1920 Die Legende von der heiligen Simplicia
Screenplay