Friday, 13 April 2012

The Ufa divas

Old Movies are my world, that’s a fact. And over the years I dived deeper and deeper in it. So I’m always searching the fleamarkets, antique stores and ebay off course for special literature about it. One of the great findings is this:

Just the cover was worth the money for me…

When you think about the glamour in the golden years of the German movie production UFA you should also include the reality of the Nazi-regime, which was a brown and cruel era. It started in the early 30s and came to an end with the ending of the WW II in 1945.

The most important and inflentual gents in the movie business were surely Joseph Goebbels, the secretary of propaganda and the “Führer” and Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler himself. Both were crazy about the movies. Hitler had his private cinema, a private film archive and watched up to three movies a day. He loved the simple ones about the homecountry and mothership and – weired enough - funny american stuff like Mickey Mouse.

UFA-Palace in Berlin decorated for the Führer's birthday

The agitator Joseph Goebbels was a small and ugly man with a limping. But he had the power to decide which actress could play in which movie. Needless to say what other inhuman things he could decide and what he did - especially to Jewish artists. Please remember: My idol of that time is Marlene Dietrich, who decided not to be part of that play. 

Goebbels was after all of starlets and stars, especially after the “not arian”-ones like the dark-haired Lida Baarova. His clandestine nickname was “the buck of Babelsberg”. Babelsberg is the place near Berlin where the UFA Studios were.

Lida Baarova - the favorite concubine of Goebbles 

Lil Dragover - Hitlers favorite actress

The women in most UFA-movies were smart characters who were at the same time devoted to their husbands and children. Type-casting was a big thing. The gents where mostly good and dolish. The women played always a leading role.

A big star was the Russian-born actress Olga Tschechowa who was starring in a lot of movies and was close to Hitler until the end.

One of my favorite movies is “The Big Love” with the swedish redhead Zara Leander, 
THE  “Third Reich”-superstar. 



I think that she was more a singer than an actress, I love her incredible deep voice. She had a lot of hits, these songs are still legendary for many Germans. The movie played while the World War in 1942 and is full of simple contemporary propaganda, a dramatic lovestory with great songs. Because Zara Leander was tall and corpulent, the chorus ladies next to her were soldiers in women’s clothings, so she looked more feminin.  

Those movies were called „Durchhaltefilme“, which means “movies to stay the course”. And after the war had ended, the Germans seemed to need this kind of escapistic movies badly, so a lot of them had a comeback. “The Big Love” was first banned by the allies, but after some time admitted again. 

I want to end with something more cheery. I love the movie “We make Music” with Ilse Werner. It’s a spectacle picture and the best 40s UFA musical comedy for me. The stagedesign and the costumes where state of the art in 1942. Enjoy:


  1. Well, so pleasant to find someone who shares my interests! I grew up without knowing any Ufa stars here, but in the past dozen years I have come to really like these old Ufa stars. Wir Machen Musik is nice, indeed, and I was disappointed to find that Ilse Werner didn't get to sing in Wunschkonzert. Yes, big Ilse Werner fan, I think I have all the Ross cards of her now! Last summer I sent Margot Hielscher an autogrammkarte from 1943....she signed it for me and sent me back others. Very sweet! I think I will enjoy your blog. Dave, from New Bern.

  2. I' m a playwright and am working on a play about UFA stars just after the war. Do you have any information regarding ILLSE WERNER? I would particularly like to find out how long she was banned from making pictures for.