Wegener, Paul

(1874-1948)
   actor and director; Bertolt Brecht* deemed him one of Berlin s* two delights (the other being the underground railway). Born in the West Prussian town of Arnoldsdorf, he was an experienced actor when he joined Max Reinhardt* in 1906. While he worked with Reinhardt into the 1920s, he was captivated by cinema (he claimed that "light and darkness in the cinema play the same role as rhythm and cadence in music ) and was making films* before World War I. In Student von Prague (1913) he introduced the psychological motif of the Doppelganger—the unobtrusive person with an independent, evil existence.
   The possibilities of light effects inherent in the camera led Wegener to the Golem theme, based on a sixteenth-century legend from the Prague ghetto in which a rabbi creates a clay giant who is magically brought to life in order to help the Jewish community. Wegener modernized the legend. In his 1915 Golem (the first of three), the statue becomes a destructive monster when it is frustrated in its love for a girl. In the 1920 version, which uses macabre combinations of light and shadow, the monster is overcome by the innocence of a child. Wegener starred in several Ernst Lubitsch* films (e.g., Sumurun in 1920 and Weib des Pharao in 1922), worked for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during 1925-1926, and then returned to Germany to be typecast in pathological roles. In 1928, as a scientist in Alraune (Unholy Love), his character experiments with artificial in-semination to create an evil human being.
   A powerful stage presence, Wegener performed in 1929 in Erwin Piscator s* Rasputin and in the 1932 production Gott, Kaiser, und Bauer (God, Kaiser, and peasant). Although contemporary testimony suggests that he rejected Nazism— his pacifistic book Flandrisches Tagebuch (Flanders diary) appeared in 1933— he remained in Germany during the Third Reich and directed two propaganda films. He was active in the theater* after 1945.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Masterworks of the German Cinema; Thomson, Biographical Dictionary ofFilm.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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  • Wegener, Paul — (1874 1948)    Actor. Wegener made more than 60 films in a five decade long career, though he remains best known for Der Golem (The Golem, 1920), which he also directed and wrote. He began his career in Rostock and Nuremberg, but in 1906 Max… …   Historical dictionary of German Theatre

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