|"The stylistic changes brought about by Sjostrom's moving to Hollywood may not have been as definite as film history would have it according to the paradigm. Still the story of Sjostrom was transformed by his transition to Seastrom"- Bo Florin|
|While evaluating, or comprising, a filmography of silent film of the Swedish directors of Svenska Bio and Svenska Filmindustri; Mauritz Stiller, Victor Sjostrom, John Brunius and George Af Klercker and with them the camerman Julius Jaenzon, It was refreshing to find that author Astrid Soderberg Widing tries to agree with film critic Leif Furhammar that Georg af Klerker, who began as a filmmaker at Svenska Biografteatern, can be placed with Sjostrom and Stiller as being an autuer of the pioneering art form, in that, although he seldom wrote scenarios, he added a "personal signature" to filmmaking contemporary to the other two directors- during the centennial of the two reeler in the United States and of Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller having become contemporaries at Svenska Bio. "Of the utmost importance is an appreciation of film, film as a visual literature. film as the narrative image, and while any appreciation of film would be incomplete without the films of Ingmar Bergman, every appreciation of film can begin with the films of the silent period, with the watching of the films themselves, their once belonging to a valiant new form of literature. Silent film directors in both Sweden and the United States quickly developed film technique, including the making of films of greater length during the advent of the feature film, to where viewer interest was increased by the varying shot lengths within a scene structure, films that more than still meet the criterion of having storylines, often adventurous, often melodramatic, that bring that interest to the character when taken scene by scene by the audience." The study of silent film is an essential study not only in that the screenplay evolved or emerged from the photoplay, but in that it is imperative to the appreciation of film technique. In my earlier webpage written before the death of Ingmar Bergman I quoted Terry Ramsaye on filent film,"Griffith began to work at a syntax for screen narration...While Griffith may not have originated the closeup and like elements of technique, he did establish for them their function." Director Ingmar Bergman had been among those who had spoken on the death of the Swedish actor- American director Victor Sjostrom|
While Ingmar Bergman was not unknown for his efforts toward film preservation- Widding credits hism with having preserved the film Nattiga Toner directed by Georg af Klercker- Gosta Werner painstaking restored Swedish Silent Films "frame by frame", taking thousands of frames from envelopes and reassembling them before copying them into a modern print, his enlarging prints made on bromide paper and then in order to reconstruct their shot structure, comparing them to stills from several films to insure the director's sense of compostition, his also recommending the searching for of all material on the film, including a synopsis of the plot and other descraptions of what the film contained. Essential to the viewing Swedish Silent film is the evaluation of the thematic technique of conveying a relationship between man and his environment, the character to the landscape, but before even introducing this the present author would share that there is an interesting quote form Gosta Werner the archivist from his having examined the restoring the films The Sea Vultures (Sjostrom), The Death Kiss (Sjostrom), The Master Theif (Stiller) and Madam de Thebes (Stiller), "In pre-1920 films, close ups were very rare, as were landscapes devoid of actors. Actually, shots without actors were very rare. Almost every shot included an actor involved in some obvious situation. The film told its story with pictures, but they were pictures of actors." It is with that appreciation of the art that the present author would look toward the photoplays that, with the development of both their dialogue and expository intertitles, became cinematic novels during the silent era. Werner further analyzes the early films and their mise-en-scene, making them seem as though they were in fact part of the body of work produced in the United States, "Many sequences begin with an actor entering the room pand with the main actor (not always the same one) leaving the set." It is also of interest that the last film of the twenty seven that he restored was one of the most difficult in that it was a Danish detective film that lacked intertitles. Particularly because I found the cutting on the action of the actor leaving the frame of interest, if I can connect the quote to one from my own previous webpages on silent film, before reading Werner I had written, "The aesthetics of pictorial composition could utilize placing the figure in either the foreground or background of the shot, depth of plane, depth of frame, narrative and pictorial continuity being then developed together. Compositions would be related to each other in the editing of successive images and adjacent shots, the structure; Griffith had already begun to cut mid-scene, his cutting to another scene before the action of the previous scene was completely finished, and he had already begun to cut between two seperate spatial locations within the scene." It is now difficult to overlook the importance of Gosta Werner's having directed the short film Stiller-fragment in 1969. Produced by Stiftelsen Svenska Filminstitutet it showcased surviving footage from several silent films made by Mauritz Stiller in Sweden, including Mannekangen (1913) with Lili Ziedner, Gransfolken (1913) with Stina Berg and Edith Erastoff, Nar Karleken dodar(1913) with Mauritz Stiller behind the lens and George af Klerker and Victor Sjostrom both in front of the camera, Hans brollopsnatt (1914) starring Swedish silent film actresses Gull Nathorp and Jenny-Tschernichin-Larson and Pa livets odesvager.
There is one important recent quote from that Swedish Film Institute and the Internet, "Films considered to be lost still resurface in private collections or in foreign archives."
It may be fitting that, although a film version of the novel the Atonement of Gosta Berling had been planned by Skandinavisk Film Central, a company that had merged the Danish Silent Film companies Dania Biofilm and Kinogram into Palladium, between 1919 and 1921, the first part of The Saga of Gosta Berling, during March of 1924 premiered in Stockholm at The Roda Kvarn, it's second part having premierPed a week later- not only is the art-deco, art-nouveau theater famous as having continued into the twenty first century, but when constructed in 1915 by Charles Magnusson, included in the first films screened in the art-house theater were those directed for Svenska Biografteatern by Mauritz Stiller, particularly, the 35 minute film Lekkamraterna, written by Stiller and photographed by Henrik Jaenzon, which starred Lili Bech, Stina Berg and Emmy Elffors, and the 65 minute film Madame Thebes, written by Mauritz Stiller and photographed by Julius Jaenzon, which starred Ragnar Wettergren, Martha Hallden and Karin Molander. It is often written that Swedish silent film before Molander had paid devout attention to Scandinavian landscape and its effect upon the characters in the drama, there also being an underlying sense that the conception of space, traveling through space according the the seasonal, played a transparent part during the recoding of the now ancient, therefore runic, Prose and Poetic Eddas. true to form the daughter of Ingmar Bergman, Journalist Linn Ullmann, included the historical place of Swedish Filmmaking in her second novel, Stella Descending. "The once thriving ostrich farm in Sundbyberg was sold, taken over by two rival companies, Svensk Bio and Skandia, who joined forces to build Rasunda Filmstad, home of the legendary film studios. Here the filmmakers Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller worked alongside such stars as Tora Teje, Lars Hanson, Anders de Wahl, Karin Molonder and Hilda Bjorgstrom. Greta Garbo turned in an impressive performance in Gosta Berling's Saga in 1924, "giving us hope for the future" to quote the ecstatic critic in Svenska Dagbladet. I can well imagine how Elias must have cursed the day his parents put their money in ostriches rather than the movies....And so it passed that Elias was part of the audience that evening in February 1934 to see When We Dead Awaken."
Victor Sjostrom: Swedish Silent Film
|Peter Cowie writes of a voice that was described to Vilgot Sjoman as being "so nice and gentle" it having "a quiet huskiness that makes it interesting". "'Yes, this is Stiller's room, I know for sure.' |
After Greta Garbo took off her glasses to show Ingmar Bergman what she looked like, her watching his face to measure the emotion of the director, she excitedly began discussing her acting in The Saga of Gosta Berling. When they returned to the room, one that had also been used by Molander, Bergman
poeticlly studied her face." It had been
Gustaf Molander, during 1923 while director of the Royal Dramatic Academy, who had been asked by Mauritz Stiller to decide upon two students to appear in his next film. Mona Martenson was already in Molander's office when Greta Garbo was called in and asked to report to Svenska Filmindustri's studios the following morning. Garbo went to Rasunda to meet Stiller for a screen test to be filmed by Julius Jaenzon, whom sh happenned to meet on the train, it almost to presage the unexpected encountering she had years later with Swedish director ragnar Ring while crossing the Atlantic. While waiting for Stiller to arrive, cinematographer Julius Jaenzon told Greta Garbo, "You are the lovliest girl I've ever seen walk into the place." While visiting Stockholm during 1938, Garbo asked view the film The Saga of Gosta Berling, her having said to William Sorensen it was "the movie I loved most of all." Not incidentally, Barry Paris has since chronicled that it was Kerstin Bernadette that had brought Garbo to meet then renowned Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman, his having requested it in order for her to return to the screen in his film The Silence. One of the smaller theaters, one with 133 seats, at Borgavagen 1, is named after Mauritz Stiller, another one with 14 seats named after Julius Jaenzon, cameraman for Svenska Bio. Biografen Victor, with its 364 seats is a permanent tribute to Victor Sjostrom and the 363 ghosts that at anytime may accompany him to, perhaps in search of a new Strindbergian theater known as filmed theater, step into the past. My earlier webpages, which often noted film festivals in Scandinavian, namely Sweden, had mentioned that, "In previous years Cinemateket has screened the films of Mauritz Stiller, it having published with Svenska Filminstituet the volume Morderna motiv-Mauritz Stiller I retrospektiv, under Bo Florin, to accompany the screenings. Bo Florin and the Cinematecket have also published Regi:Victor Sjostrom= Directed by Victor Seastrom with the Svenska Filminstituet." It also noted that at that time that the silent films of Sweden were also being screened on Faro, where resided the Magic Lantern and the dancing skeletons that appear when lights are lowered, possibly representative of the magician-personnas we only for a brief time borrow, identify with, while spectators; Ingmar Bergman had added a screening room to Faro that sat fifteen with a daily showing at 3:00.
|During her Photoplay interview, Greta Garbo continued on the film remarking that,' Lars Hanson played my leading man...but there were no love scenes, not even a kiss.' About Lars Hanson, after having seen The Saga of Gosta Berling, Lillian Gish wrote, 'When I saw it I thought that he would be the ideal Dimmesdale.' There is a similar earlier account written before her autobiography where she is quoted as having said that she had been told to go into the projection room to watch The Saga of Gosta Berling specificly to decide whether Lars Hanson would be aquirred by the studio to play against her in an adaptation of Hawthorne's novel, "The moment Lars Hanson appeared on the screen, I knew he was the man we wanted." |
Mauritz Stiller in 1921 had directed Lars Hanson in the film The Emigrants (De landsflyktiga) with Karin Swanstrom, Jenny Hasselquist and Edvin Adolphson. The scrapt was co-written by Stiller with Ragnar Hylten Cavallius, it having had been being an adaptation of the modern novel Zoja, written by Runar Schildt. There also seems to have been an unused screenplay written by Ture Newman. Photographed by Henrik Jaenzon, it was the first film in which Tyra Ryman was to appear. Exhibitor's Trade Review during 1922 listed the film under the title In Self Defence, it also appearing as Guarded Lips. It wrote, "It has a closing of real power. And by power, we mean the final thousand feet...It is a generally sombre role that falls to Miss Hasselquist, but it is played with fine feeling and excellant judgement." In the United States, Motion Picture News Booking Guide during 1922 provided a brief synopsis of the Swedish Biograph film In Self Defence, directed by Mauritz Stiller, "Melodrama centering about a group of Russioan refugees. The Prince and Princess were able to escape at the time of the uprising through aid of young revolutionist under obligation to them. Living in a foreign country, their means dwindles and the Prince becomes heavily indebted to a banker who covets the Princess. She repulsed him but still a situation develops where the Prine dies, the banker is shot and she is accused. Through the assistance of the young revolutionist who has left Russia, she is cleared of the charge and the story closes with a promise of happiness for them."
Interestingly, actor Lars Hanson had been briefly mentioned in the United States in Pantomine magazine during March of 1922, in Out of the Make Up Box, On to the Screen, written by Helen Hancock. "Lars Hanson, who is one of the most versatile actors on the screen, and one of the most versatile artistic breakers of the hearts of the Swedish flapper, is an adept in the art of make-up." An appreciation of the film made by Hanson in Sweden was displayed by photos of Hanson not only as himself, but in greasepaint as men much older than himself, it including stills from Bluebeard's Eighth Wife, Andre the Red and The Lodge Man. Helen Hancock had only months earlier in Pantomine praised Swedish Silent Filmstar Lars Hanson in the article How About those Viking Ancestors, A little Talk about Swedish Matinee Idols. The photo caption read, "He looks mild- but dare him to do something" It reads, "A star of the legitimate stage, where for a number of years he has has been one of the principal attractions at the Intima Theatre, Stockholm, this virile specimen of manhood is best known for his psychological characterizations." The author then praised Hanson for his doing his own stunts, acting on screen without a stuntman. To highlight this, the magazine The Film Daily later reviewed the performance of Lars Hanson opposite Lillian Gish, "Hanson may lack looks, but is a splendid dramatic actor." During 1929, Photoplay Magazine reviewed the release of The Legend of Gosta Berling, "the only European film appearance of Greta Garbo before she was sold down the river to Hollywood..It need only be said that Hollywood has made The Glamorous One...You won't die in vain even if you miss this one." Greta Garbo was interviewed in Sweden during the filming of Gosta Berling's Saga by for the magazine Filmjournalen (Filmjournal) by Inga Gaate, who had interviewed Mauritz Stiller in 1924, Garbo in the article having praised Stiller for his direction and having referred to him as Moje. Greta Garbo appears on the cover of Filmjournalen 8, bareshouldered, in 1925. Stiller, incidently, had invited Sten Selander, a poet rather than actor, to Rasunda before his having decided upon
During its filming Greta Garbo and Mona Martenson had stayed in the same hotel together. The beauty of Mona Martenson is miraculous, a deep beauty that can only be seen as wonderous. In The Story of Greta Garbo, a rare interview with Ruth Biery published in Photoplay during 1928, Garbo relates of Martenson's being in Hollywood and of her planning to later return to Sweden. Karin Swanstrom, who had already directed her first film, also appears in The Saga of Gosta Berling. Gloria Swanson, when asked what she enjoyed in literature by Picture Play magazine during February of 1926 replied, "Just now I am greatly interested in Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerlof. I first read it in the hospital in France during my illness and brought it home with me."
After The Saga of Gosta Berling was shot, Greta Garbo briefly returned to Sweden to the Royal Dramatic Theater before being brought to Berlin for its premiere- Stiller was also with Greta Garbo for the premiere of The Joyless Street. Like Greta Garbo, actress Mary Johnson travelled from Sweden to Germany. Mary Johnson had starred with Gosta Ekman in the first film directed by John W. Brunius, Puss and Boots (Masterkattan i stovlar) in 1918 for Film Industri Inc Scandia. The film was co-written by John W. Brunius and Sam Ask and was the first in which actress Ann Carlsten was to appear. The following year Scandia merged with Scandia to team Charles Magnusson with Nils Bouveng to run AB Svensk Filmindustri. Having been an actress for several films directed by George af Klerker, Mary Johnson was also that year to appear in the Swedish silent film Stovstadsfaror, directed by Manne Gothson and photographed by Gustav A. Gustafson. Appearing with Johnson in the film were Agda Helin, Tekl Sjoblom and Lilly Cronwin.
While Greta Garbo was finishing the The Temptress, Stiller, having written the scrapt before the scrapt department had reworked its plot, had begun shooting Hotel Imperial (1927, eight reels) for Paramount; she went to the preview of the film. Greta Garbo had said, 'Stiller was getting his bearings and coming into his own. I could see that he was getting his chance.' The conversation between the two actresses related in retrospect by Pola Negri may almost seem eerie, her account beginning with a telephone
call from Mauritz Stiller, "May I be permitted to bring along a friend? She does not know many people here yet. Greta Garbo." After dinner Negri gave Garbo advice in creating for herself a unique personna, something individual, her going so far as to say, "Never be aloof or private" with Garbo adding the rejoinder without noting that they were both actresses that had worked abroad that they were in fact both remaining private while in Hollywood and Negri telling Garbo that she would soon have to film without Stiller. Negri writes, "She held her head high. A look of intense interest was spreading over that perfectly chiseled face, making it the one thing that one would not have thought possible: even more beautiful." In a letter to Lars Saxon, Greta Garbo wrote, "Stiller's going to start working with Pola Negri. I'm still very lonely, not that I mind, except occaisionally." Motion Picture Classic gives a jarring account of Stiller's new assignment, "It's just one director after another with Pola Negri...And the blame has rested equally on the mediocre stories given her and on the directors. The latter have failed to understand her...So Pola, according to my spies on the Coast, will give Mauritz Stiller a chance to understand her moods and make the best of them. The tempermental swedish director has been given a verbal barrage of bouquets by the other foreigners who handle the megaphone. Practically all of them proclaim him the master of them all." It went on with a severity to explain that the director and star were forever joined by their being tempermental, and that that in fact was the reason Stiller was dismissed from The Temptress, it claiming "maybe it needs temperment to combant temperment." Paramount, having had been being reluctant to allow Stiller to direct, at the insistence of the producer relented and granted his artistic license and freedom to create with the other branches of the studio. "He wrote the scenario for the film in nine days." Biographer John Bainbridge quotes Lars Hanson as having said, "I saw Stiller when he was ready to shoot Hotel Imperial', Lars Hanson has recalled, "He was bursting with energy. He showed me the scrapt of some of the scenes he was preparing to do- mass scenes of people in a square. According to the scrapt, that was to take three weeks of shooting. Stiller did it in three days." The biographer continues later by writing that after Hotel Imperial Stiller told Lars Hanson he then intended, for financial reasons and for commercial success to make only one more film in the United States. Greta Garbo had intimated words very much to the same effect, "'I'm not staying here much longer,' she told the Hansons when they talked about leaving Hollywood, 'Moje and I will go home soon.'"
Of Stiller's camerawork in the film, Kenneth MacGowan wrote, 'Hung from an overhead trolley, his camera moved through the lobby and the four rooms on each side of it.' In a brief review of the film R.E. Sherwood complimented Stiller on his use of camera postion and shot structure, but while praising Stiller as a director and the film's "visual qualities", which included "trick lighting" among its camera effects, which according to the author harken back to earlier "photo-acrobatics" from silent film director F.W. Murnau, Sherwood sees a lack of depth or meaning in the film's screenplay or its message as an organic whole in its having moment. Whether or not the United States can be viewed as imperial, as it is as seen by Dianne Negra, she writes about Pola Negri's character in Stiller's film, her almost connecting thematically the difference between Negri's role in the film and earlier vamp roles with the film's ending and its reuniting of Negri and her lover in a plotline similar to that of Victor Sjostrom's The Divine Woman (En Gudomlig Kvinna). 'The film closes with its most emphatic equation of romance and war as a close up of a kiss between Anna and Almay fades to the images of marching troops.' Mauritz Stiller, when invited to a private screening of Hotel Imperial for Max Reinhardt had said, 'Thank you. But if not for Pola, I could not have made it.'
Photoplay Magazine reviewed the film favorably, "Here is a new Pola Negri in a film story at once absorbing and splendidly directed...Actually, "Hotel Imperial" is another variation of the heroine at the mercy of the invading army and beloved by the dashing spy. This has been adroitly retold here, untill it assumes qualities of interest and supspense...Miss Negri at last has a role that is ideal..."Hotel Imperial" places Stiller at the foremost of our imported directors." Motion Picture Magazine reviewed the film with, "It accomplishes almost to perfection those photographic effects which directors have been striving for; and so simply and directly that one is unconscious of the freakishness of the camerawork in one's absorption in the dramatic unfolding of the plot, with rapid succession...It is a smooth, eloquent tale told in an entirely new language- a thrilling language of pictures...Though one is ever conscious that it is essentially a war story, and the menace of wartime is (constantly) present, there are no actual battle pictures. It is almost altogether a story of the reactions of individuals to war." Motion Picture News during 1927 looked at the view, "The story could be stronger, yet its weakness is never manifested so expertly has the director handled it. The plot disntegrates toward the finish principally because it is so difficult to keep it so compact all the way. The story centers around The Hotel Imperial...Pola Negri plays the servant with splendid feeling and imagination." Under its section on Theme, the magazine summarized, "Drama of intrigue and decepetion revolving around hotel maid outwitting commander of army and finding happiness with her bethrothed."
In The Negri Legend, A new view of Pola Negri written by one who really knows her, Helen Carlise of Motion Picture Magazine wrote, "In Hotel Imperial we see a world figure who having sufferred much, having learned much, can with her great gift of artistry portray the soul of a Woman." When reviewed by Film Daily it was deemed that, "Although the vehicle does not offer her anything particularly fine, Pola Negri makes a fairly unimportant role outstanding...There is ready made exploitation in the star's name and the mention of her latest production." Paul Rotha writes, "Not only was it the comeback of Miss Negri, but it was a triumph of a star in a role that asked no sympathy." Paul Rotha extensively quotes Mr. L'Estrange Fawcett, but because The Film till Now is out of print, the present author will requote it here, "Some may remember the use of the travelling camera in Hotel Imperial...the stage accomodating the hotel was one of the largest in existence, and eight rooms were built complete in every detail...Suspended above the set were rails along which the camera mounted on a little carriage moved at the director's will. Scenes (shots) could be taken of each room above from every point of view...to experiment with angle photography, representing impressions of scenes taken from the point of view of a character watching the others...the story could be filmed in proper sequence. In Hotel Imperial, an attempt was made to build up cumulative dramatic effect following the characters swiftly from one room to another by means of several cameras and rolling shots." For those who may have seen the subjective camera of Carl Dreyer in Vampyr, the quote is intriguing.
Stiller also directed Pola Negri, and Clive Brook, in Barbed Wire (Ned med vapen 1927, seven reels). Motion Picture Magazine wrote, "Again in Barbed Wire, Pola Negri proves herself one of our great screen artists. It would seem that Pola is to match the European pictures in which we first knew her, after her appearing in countless poor American productions." Barbed Wire was adapted from the novel The Woman of Knockaloe by Sir Hall Caine. Author and curator Jan-Christopher Horak writing about scraptwriter Lajos Biro in Film History chronologically follows Barbed Wire with a scrapt directed by Victor Fleming, "His next film was to be The Man Who God Forgot (released as The Way of All Flesh, 1927), again to be directed by Mauritz Stiller, which went into preproduction as Emil Jannings' first American film. Pommer and Stiller both disagreed with studio executives about the scrapt." This, according to the author, lead to Pommer's resignation and to Stiller's dismissal from the studio. When Stiller directed the actress Pola Negri again, with Einar Hanson in The Woman on Trial (En kvinnas bekannelse 1927, six reels), Photoplay reviewed the film as "An unusually fine story and one that offers Pola Negri a chance for penetrating character study. Not for children." Motion Picture News reviewed the film as being "well-suited" for Pola Negri, "Having done pretty well by Pola Negri with Hotel Imperial, Mauritz Stiller takes her in tow and guides her through a likely melodrama- one in which she makes a strong bid for sympathy...The director uses the cutback method in building the plot. but he gets away from the obvious plan by refraining from flashing to the woman...the characters are sharply contrasted and as the cutbacks develop it is easy to guess...it is logically told and builds progressively. Miss Pola Negri gives a sincere performance and succeeds in establishing a sympathetic bond with her audience. The late Einar Hanson delivers some elegant pathos as the sick lover." During 1927, Film Daily foreshadowed, quietly and not ominously enough, that, "Immediately following The Woman of Trail, Pola Negri is planning a vacation trip to Europe." It had earlier that year reported that "Cortez Opposite Negri, Ricardo Cortez will play opposite Pola Negri in Confession." A month later it reported, "Pola Negri began work yesterday on A Woman on Trial with Mauritz Stiller directing and Ricardo Cortez and Lido Mannetti in the lead roles" That year Paramount advertised Negri as "The Empress of Emotions". Negri was in Paris during the early Spring while Stiller was viewing the rushes and working on the cutting. It was reported that upon her return from Europe that she would make one more picture for Paramount before filming and already decided film slated to be filmed with Rowland V. Lee- it was elaborated that, "Although she is now a princess by virtue of her recent marraige, Pola Negri will not retire from the screen." She had by then wedded Prince Devani.
The previous year Pola Negri had starred in the films The Crown of Lies (Buchowetski, five reels) and Good and Naughty (Malcom St. Clair, six reels). In her autobiography, Memoirs of a Star, Pola Negri describes her first meeting with Greta Garbo.'To tell the truth, I was also very curious about the girl...She smiled wistfully, as we shook hands...Through dinner she was resolutely silent...', her then giving an account of their conversation and of her having given Garbo advice. There is also an account of her attending a dinner party that Pola Negri had "given in her honor" "She had her hair waived and arranged in a novel style resembling a half-open parasol. Her gown for the occasion was equally sensational, being a silk green creation that had been to the cleaner's and shrunk so that the hem was at her knees." All four films that Stiller had begun directing at Paramount had been a collaboration between him and cameraman Bert Glennon. It was through Stiller that Greta Garbo became acquainted with Emil Jannings, who in turn had brought Garbo together with director Jacques Feyder, with whom Garbo often met with socially. Motion Picture News during 1927 published a photograph of "a little Sunday afternoon group of celebrities" in front of the home of Emil Jannings, the group consisting of Mauritz Stiller, F.W. Murnau, Jannings, and actor George O'Brien. That year the trade magazine reported that Emil Jannings' second starring film for Paramount, tentatively titled Hitting for Heaven, "was started last Monday under the direction of Mauritz Stiller."
The Street of Sin (Syndens gata 1928, seven reels) starring Fay Wray and Olga Barclanova was begun by Stiller and finished by the director Joseph von Sternberg. It would be Stiller's last attempt to film in the United States before returning to Sweden in late 1927 and presently there are no copies of the film. Motion Picture Magazine during 1927 reported that, "Maurice Stiller, who was slated to direct Jannings in his first picture, will not be given that pleasure. Stiller is to handle megaphone work on Pola Negri's next production." Kenneth MacGowan writing about the film notes, 'The film was more distinguished for its players-Jannings and Olga Barclanova- than for its scrapt by Joseph Sternberg. Paul Rotha wrote, "Taking shots through hanging iron chains did not establish the atmosphere of place, although it may have created pretty pictorial compositions. Sternberg seems lodged in this gully of pictorial values. He has no control over his dramatic feelings (Street of Sin and very little idea of the filmic psychology of any scene that he shoots. He has, however some feeling for the use of women. His contrast of Betty Copson and Olga Baclanova in the latter film was good." (It might be asked if this criticism is lacking in regard to the symbolic scenework of Ingmar Bergman, and that if his "pretty pictorial compositions" have been given just enough dramatic ambiguity to become symbolic in their being arbitary, a personal obscurity accepted as having layers of meaning.) Sternberg's work on Stiller's film has been credited as having secured his position as the writer and director of the silent films The Last Command (1928) with Evelyn Brent and The Case of Lena Smith (1929) with Esther Ralston. During 1928, actress Olga Barclanova also appeared in the films The Man Who Laughs (Paul Leni, ten reels), The Dove (Roland West, nine reels), Forgotten Faces (Victor Schertzinger, eight reels), Avalanche (Otto Brower, five reels) and Three Sinners (Rowland V. Lee, eight reels). Three Sinners, with Warner Baxter was the second film to pair Olga Backlanova and Pola Negri, their both having appeared in the film Cloak of Death in 1915. During 1928, Photoplay Magazine announced, "Lucy Doraine, of Hungary has been signed by Paramount. She is reported to be the successor to Pola Negri." During 1928, Fay Wray appeared in the films Legion of the Condemned (William Wellman, eight reels), The First Kiss (Rowland V. Lee). It was the year she began her lengthy first marriage to playwright screenwriter John Monk Saunders. Legion of the Condemned also that year appeared in bookstore. The Grosset Dunlap Photoplay Edition advertised John Monk Saunders as having been the author of Wings and published the film as a novel rewritten from one narrative form into another by Eustace H Ball, with illustrations from the film. Ball himself was an author, his having written the mystery novel The Scarlet Fox and had previously adapted into novel form the photoplay of the Douglas Fairbanks film The Gaucho. Pola Negri during 1929 had starred in The Secret Hour (eight reels), directed by Rowland V Lee.
The death of Mauritz Stiller is more frequently encountered when discovering the reaction of Greta Garbo, whom had heard of his passing while on the set with Nils Asther. Sjostrom, who had been with Stiller the night before and had telegrammed Garbo, described his last time seeing the then ill Stiller after his release from the hospital, "Then Stiller got desperate. he grabbed my arm in despair and would not let me go. 'No,no', he cried. 'I haven't told him what I must tell him!' The nurse separated us and pushed me toward the door. I tried to quiet and comfort him, saying that he could tell me tommorow. But he go more and more desperate. His face was wet with tears. And he said, 'I want to tell you a story for a film. It will be a great film. It is about real human beings, and you are the only one who can do it.' I was so moved I didn't know what to say. 'Yes, yes, Moje,' was all I could stammer. 'I will be with you the first thing in the morning and then you can tell me.' I left him crying in the arms of the nurse. There was no morning." Close Up magazine marked the director's passing, "The death of Mauritz Stiller has been a genuine loss to the whole cinema world. The great Swedish director, poineer of the artistic film, did more for the screen than people will realize. While others were despairing the lowly medium, when it was given over exclusively to vulgarity akin to that of the penny novelellete, Stiller was froming his conception of a great art, developing its potenialities, seeing far into the future. He was a great artist, working with profound care and intensity. His intensity may have been impart responsible for his early demise." Journalist Harriet Parsons goes beyond having written that Stiller hated John Gilbert as she added a tragic chord to her account of the silent era, much like biographer John Bainbridge, she quotes Greta Garbo by listing an unknown source. Parsons describes an anonymous woman during 1931 in Modern Screen Magazine, "She holds herself irrevocably and inexcusably accountable. One day a woman friend was visiting her at home. Garbo insisted on playing over and over a collection of melancholy, Swedish records. 'Why do you play that sad music?' asked the friend. 'It must depress you frightfully.' 'Yes,' said Garbo. 'it reminds me of the one I hurt- one I murdered. But that is good. It is right that I should remember.' No one else in the world would dreamed saying that Greta Garbo killed Mauritz Stiller. No one could possibly hold her responsible that a man died because she did not love him."
Among the events of 1924 had been a visit by silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to Stockholm, Sweden. The two had that year appeared on the September cover of Motion Picture Magazine in the United States. There are accounts that while in Sweden, Pickford and Fairbanks sailed on the small vessel The Loris with Greta Garbo and Mauritz Stiller, their departing from Lilla Skuggan, and before arriving in Saltsjobaden, their passing where Charles Magnusson lived at Skarpo. As he was wont to do, biographer John Bainbridge quoted an unknown source in order to indirectly quote Garbo, possibly lifted from a fan magazine, or perhaps actually from a personal interview, "Content with her little circle of friends, Garbo resolutely refused to anything to do with the conventional social life of the film colony. When Mary Picford invited her to a dinner in honor of Lord Montbatten...Miss Garbo declined with thanks. Miss Pickford then wrote Miss garbo a long letter...This pleading missive brought no results. 'It would be the same old thing,' Garbo said to one of ther friends. 'Strangers staring at me and talking about me. I would be expected to dance and I despair dancing. I can't do it.'" Marion Davies laso gave a similar dinner for Lord Montbatten where Garbo also declined her invitation.
In the United States, Exceptional Photoplays, in an article titled The Swedish Photoplays distinguished the film of Svenska Bio for their "quality of composition" and "imaginative presentation" by introducing Mortal Clay, "Costume plays are often unconvincing on the screen because they fail to reproduce period atmosphere, but Mortal Clay (banal in nothing but its name) has succeded in creating for us the spirit of the Twelfth century...The plot is dramaticlly sound and absorbingly interesting. But the real claim to greatness which the picture posesses lies in the splendid composition of its scenes and incomparable lovliness of its lighting effects. There is a certain architectural magnificence in the picture". The magazine noted that Victor Seastrom was both actor and director and commended a "fineness of shading" in his performance. In the United States, during 1923 it was reported that the Sjostrom film Mortal Clay was screened by Little Theaters Inc, "an organization recently formed to boost the artistic standards of motion pictures." (Film Daily). That year the films Sjostrom had made in Sweden were becoming more widely reviewed in the United States- in an article that compared the no longer new art form of film to painting, Majorie Mayne, in The New Masters published in Pictures and PictureGoer, wrote, "And the director went to picture galleries for his data; Victor Seastrom reincarnated Renaisance art in his Love's Crucible, scene after scene of which remains an unforgettable memory, and in Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness, pictures of a different, thoroughly compelling type abounded." During January of 1922, Victor Sjostrom was already known in the United States as Victor Seastrom. Apparently he was then the object of the desire of the female spectator, which is reflected in the extratextual discourse of Helen Hancock, in Pantomine Magazine, who wrote, "We have kept Victor Seastrom untill the last. Because perhaps Mr. Seastrom might not like to be called a matinee idol- leaving that phrase to younger and perhaps handsomer men. But he is one, just the same...Of the heavy, rugged type, portraying men of strong emotions and virile personalities." She claims he was one of the foremost directors and a pioneer, and then compliments him on being an actor of the legitimate stage. Director Victor Sjostrom had left Sweden for Hollywood in 1922 upon the completion of the film The Hellship. The title of the book on Victor Sjostrom written by Bo Florin is fitting; the idea that Victor Sjostrom's coming to Hollywood to film would entail some type of transition and transformation was prefigured in Scenario Bulletin Digest, the Open Forum between the Writer and Studio, published by the Universal Scenario Corporation in 1923 when Sjostrom had first signed his contract with Goldwyn and the need to keep his artistic integrity was formulated by Sjostrom himself before he had toured the studio. The article illustrates the theme of Florin's book on Sjostrom by outlining the expectations of Sjostrom and Goldwyn, "The arrangement gives him a free hand in the artistic making of photodramas. The assurance that Mr. Seastrom will be unhampered in the development of his art is one of the most significant features of his connection with Goldwyn." The magazine quoted Sjostrom at a time when he had just only arrived in Hollywood and it would have been suprising that the quote had not come to the attention of Bengt Forslund, a biographer who had chronicled Sjostrom's transitions while becoming a revered, hallowed director of Swedish Silent Film and later through letters Sjostrom had sent while in Hollywood. "'No definite plans have been made as of yet,' he said, but I am to make pictures in the best way I am able, to satisfy myself as nearly as possible. That is all there is to it.'" He is again quoted,"The most striking attribute of American made motion pictures,' he continued, 'is their humanness. It is my hope that I will be able to develop this remarkable quality of humanness on the screen. It is this quality, i think that has made the popularity os so many American pictures abroad.'" It then profiled the director with, "Mr. Seastrom, who is also one of the most noted actors on the screen, has not decided, he said, whether or not he will appear in his productions in this country...Although Mr. Seastrom's fame has been more closely associated in this country with the grimmest sort of screen dramas. beautifully photographed, (some of his double exposure effects, notably in The Stroke of Midnight, never have been equalled) he has had striking success in his country with comedies." The Film Daily during January of 1923 announced that Sjostrom had signed with Metro: Victor Sjostrom had become Victor Seastrom, "Seastrom under the contract signed is understood to have the right to act in as well as direct his productions." Three months later it announced that Paul Bern was engaged to write continuity for The Master of Man. While noting that Name the Man had not been Sjostrom's Photoplay, Bo Florin records that while in Hollywood, where the techniques of Griffith and Ince had differed as to the details included in a shooting scrapt, Sjostrom created from behind the camera, Paul Bern having had drawn the storyline into its treatment. "When compRing the scrapt to the film, it becomes clear that these details consist of stylistic devices which Sjostrom in Sweden had been used to including at the scrapt stage, but which are now added afterwards. Thus, Name the Man contains a dissolve combined with a cut across the line which shows exactly the same space from the reverse angle. While the dissolve remains quite conventional in its function, bridging a spatial transition, it's combination with the violation of the 180 rule creates an interesting effect." Oddly, as the studio was using Seastrom's name before filming had completed to advertise that "Golddwyn is doing big things.", the publication added to the extratextural discourse with "Americanizing Sweden by Films, Victor Seastrom, in a recent address stated that Sweden is fast becoming Americanized by American motion pictures." Early in June of 1923, it tersely reported, "Victor Seastrom has started shooting on Master of Man and later that month, if only to allow itself to be more concise, reported, "Edith Erastoff, a popular Swedish dramatic star, and wife of Victor Seastrom is en route to the Pacific Coast to join her husband who is Master of Man for Goldwyn." Exhibitor's Trade Review in March, 1923 reported similarly, "Another recent addition was the signing of Victor Seastrom, director and actor with Swedish Biograph to come to this country and direct productions for it. hat his first picture will be is not known." In April of that year it printed that he had selected The Master of Men, "The story selected is of such unusual dramatic quality that it will be worth all of the energy and directorial genius that Mr. Seastrom brings to bear upon his productions...The leading members of the cast are now being selected and the sets are being built." The film stars Mae Busch, Bo Florin noting that Sjostrom had not wanted Mae Busch for the lead, but that she had appeared in an earlier film, The Christian, an adaptation of the novel by Sir Hall Caine by Maurice Tourner- according to the studio, Sjostrom had to relent. Film Daily had avoided speculation for months before announcing, "Nagel replaces Schildkraut. Conrad Nagel will play the leading masculine role in Master of Man, which Victor Seastrom is now making for Goldwyn. Joseph Schildkraut was originally cast for the role." It soon added that "Hobart Bosworth will have an important role" before reporting in September that Sjostrom had finished while Alan Crosland was nearing the completion of his film Three Weeks. Motion Picture Magazine had a similar, but conflicting report during 1923, "Gost Ekman, matinee hero of Stockholm is coming over for the first American picture to be made by Victor Seastrom, the famous Swedish director...He plays in stock during the winter months- in pictures every summer. Seastrom's wife, Edith Erastoff, who usually plays opposite Ekman is coming to Hollywood to be with her husband. He has not stated whether she will go in the movies."
During 1924 Carl Sandberg reviewed the film Name the Man (eight reels), his remarking upon Sjostrom's use of lighting, which, whether or not it may have had been a use of realism or naturalism, seemed underplayed to Sandberg and based on the enviornment rather than made more elaborate or as being artificial. "He was an actor, rated as Sweden's best, and his voice leads actors into slow, certain moods." Iris Barry is timely writing in 1924, imparting to the readers of Lets Go to The Movies, "Victor Seastrom, who had made Swedish pictures before Germany had begun its work (and too good to be popular) went last and they had they idiocy to put him to turning one of Hall Caine's intensely stupid stories into moving pictures. He did the best he could and played about a bit with the Yankee studio devices." And yet rather than providing a synopsis to the film, Motion Picture Magazine in 1923 relegated the novelization of the film to Peter Andrews. "She half rose as he returned and his bathrobe which she had flung around her slipped down, perhaps farther than it needed to." It was accompanied by a table explaining the cast of the film directed by Victor Seastrom and a capition which read, "told in short story form by permission from the Goldwyn Production of the scenario by Paul Bern." In his volume The Film Till Now, author Paul Rotha resonates a tone that can be likened to other critics his contemporary, "I cannot recall any example of a European director, who, on coming to Hollywood, made film better, or even as good as he did in his own surroundings." After mentioning Murnau, Leni and Lubitsch, the opines, "Sjostrom's Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness is preferable to Name the Man." Motion Picture News Booking Guide during 1924 provided a brief synopsis of Name the Man, directed by Victor Seastrom, "Drama showing how human passions changed the lives of four persons from low and high positions in the social strata."
During 1923, Sjostrom wrote from the United States that he thought he might be given a scrapt by Elinor Glyn to adapt into a photoplay, "I told them that I knew a film like that would succeed on her name, but that I didn't believe it was the kind of stuff I should do." He also writes that the novel Born av tiden (A Simple Life, written by Knut Hamsun, at that time could have been a possibility. 1922 had been the year during which appeared the second film directed by Gustaf Molander, Amatorfilmen, the first film in which actress Elsa Ebbengen-Thorblad was to appear, brought actress Mimi Pollack to Swedish movie audiences. Molander had made the film The King of Boda (Tyrranny of Hate, Bodakungen) in 1920. It was the first film to be photographed by Swedish cinematographer Adrian Bjurman and starred Egil Eide and Wanda Rothgardt. Karin Molander had in 1920 starred in two films by Mauritz Stiller, in When We Are Married (Erotikon) with Lars Hanson, Tora Teje, and Glucken Cederberg, and in Fiskebyn. She also that year appeared in the film Bomben, directed by Rune Carlsten. And yet Karin Molander would only later be mentioned to audiences in the United States, Photoplay Magazine noting in 1926 that she was no longer in Sweden and no longer married to Gustaf Molander, "With Lars Hanson came his wife, Karin Nolander, leading woman in the Royal State Theater of Stockholm and billed as 'Sweden's most beautiful woman' She hasn't appeared on the screen yet, but it shouldn't be long now with so many good Scandinavian directors over here." Karin Molander had been married to the Swedish director between 1910-1919, her and Lars Hanson having been paired together under the direction of Victor Sjostrom during 1917. Pictured together, a 1927 photocaption from Photoplay Magazine read, "When Mr. and Mrs. Lars Hanson worked for Swedish companies, Mrs. Hanson was popular on the European screen as Karin Nolander. But now that her husband has made a hit in this country, she has retired and decided to let his gather all the glory for the family." After their return to Sweden the Molander's were invited to a dinner party with Garbo acquaintance Knut Martin by visiting journalist Jack Cambell, who quoted Karin Molander in the article "I am the Unhappiest Girl in the World- says Greta Garbo", published by The New Movie Magazine. After Hanson related that he had lately seen very little of Greta Garbo Karin Molander described the actress, "She was always a timid girl. terribly shy. Even in the old days in Hollywood, she used to go right home from the studio and go to bed. she'd never see anybody...You must admire her for the way she has fought herself upward, all alone, since Stiller." Picture Play magazine printed the article Two Gentlemen from Sweden, which was to comparatively interview both Einar Hansen and Lars Hanson. It read, "To crush flappers hopes, I regret that I must report he is happily married to Karen Nolander, formerly an actress in Sweden.She is charming and a lovely lady, whose sparkle and quaint naïveté have intrigued Hollywood."
Victor Sjostrom wrote an article entitled The Screen Story of the Future, published by The Story World and Photodramatist in July, 1923, in which he advised, "The screenwriter must first of all have something to say, and secondly, the vitality and the sincerity that will enable him to say it in a deeply human way. But technique is vastly essential." As an act of spectatorship, Iris Barry looked at film directors in the United States, "Seastrom, the Swedish director, is a man whom America has ruined. In Sweden, one cannot help feeling the cinema has steered its own sweet course irrespective of a desire to please the people at all costs...There has been much poetry and a great deal of fancy in Swedish films." The Film Daily advised, "Keep your eye on Seastrom. He is liable to do some things that will make him one of the most important directors in this country." Readers in Sweden can affectionately know that it added, "Incidentally, if they can prevail upon him to act in one of of his productions he will also prove suprising." Photoplay magazine featured a magnificient photo Victor Sjostrom during 1923 in which he is holding a megaphone while standing next to his camera and camera crew in a foot of water while on location, shooting a scene from the middle of a stream; it is the same photo that appeared in Screenland Magazine, which, during October of 1923, in addition to that featured cameraman Charles Van in a photograph, his having been on the set of The Master of Man. The title of the article, written by Constance Palmer Littlefield, was New Hope for the American Photoplay. It described the film Mortal Clay directed in Sweden by Victor Sjostrom as a film that was more artistic than commercial and anticipates the director's next film as there being on the screen "food for comparision", the soon to also be an adaption of the writing of Sir Hall Caine with The Master of Man, directed in the United States by Victor Seastrom. Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine had been secretary to Dante Gabriel Rosetti during the last year of the painter's life, his novels having been adapted to the screen by George Fitzmaurice, who filmed Barbara LaMarr in The Eternal City (1923) and by Hugh Ford, who filmed Katherine McDonald and Katherine Griffith in The Woman Thou Gavest Me (1919.) "But in Victor Seastrom lies hope. Since his coming to us from Sweden, he has been instrumental in organizing the Little Theatre movement of the screen."
Screenland Magazine notes that Joseph Schildkraut was originally been slated for the lead role in the film untill his scenes were reshot with Conrad Nagel. Where the article is continued, to the back pages of the magazine issue, there begins an interview with Victor Sjostrom where he is asked about the size of Svenska Filmindustri, to which there is the account of his having replied, "'Well-," and this strong man actually faltered, choosing his words, so carefully, 'It is quite large." When describing the size of the studios themselves. Victor Sjostrom, the actor, almost deferentially reveals himself, Victor Seastrom, the film director while answering that not all of the studios at Rasunda were as large as Goldwyn's huge Stage Six, "'Maybe as large as this,' he waved his hand inclusively at the courtroom, which is not large as sets go".Cinematographer Charles Van Enger not only photographed the 1924 film Name the Man (Infor hogre ratt), directed by Victor Sjöstrom, but also that year photographed the films Lovers' Lane (Phil Rosen, seven reels) with actress Gertrude Olmstead, Three Women (Lubitsch, eight reels) with May McAvoy, Forbidden Paradise (Lubitsch, eight reels) with Pola Negri and Daughters of Pleasure (six reels) and Daring Youth (six reels), both directed by William Beaudine. The Film Daily reviewed the film's scrapt. "It has the usual strength of a Hall Caine story is there, and in spots where censors weild wicked shears, there may be some difficulty...It is a gripping drama, of the type of Anna Christie. As with most films, the magazine added its "Box Office Angle" and advice for the film's "Exploitation", it suggesting to rely upon the name recognition of Hall Caine in that it was the first film Victor Sjostrom had made in the United States, but promised the film would make a financially turn a profit and included one of Conrad Nagel's very best performances, "Of strong appeal to women. Love story will hold them to the very end. Unusual treatment of ratherP old theme." Filmnyheter in 1923 ran the heading "Victor Sjostroms nya film bestamd. Infor Hogre ratt av Hall Caine." It began with, "Ett telegram fran Victor Sjostrom meddlar att for vilken film han forst skall gripa sig an med hos Goldwyn." and ended with, "Som nan ser, en stark och dramatisk handling ihed det etiska innehall Victor Sjostrom alltid sokt for sinafilmer." Photoplay returned to Seastrom in 1925, "When Victor Seastrom presented his version of Hall Caine's Name the Man, we were disappointed. he failed to rise much above the level of a fourth rate novel." They reversed their position with He Who Gets Slapped, rating it superb and claiming it would lift Sjostrom to "the top rank of directors". While in the United States, Victor Sjostrom, under the name Victor Seastrom, was to direct the first feature released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer, He Who Gets Slapped (Hans som for orfilarne, 1924 seven reels), starring Jack Gilbert, Norma Shearer and Lon Chaney. Photoplay wrote, "All this is unfolded in a series of beautiful camera pictures, technically faultless. It is told clearly and directly in pantomine, as is the right function of the photoplay. True, there are subtitles, but in the main they are philosophic (and well written) comments on the action. " Motion Picture Magazine wrote, "The director has never permitted the irony of the play to touch the mark of bitterness and the result is a touching, warm and at moments, tender narrative." Of Chaney's performance, it added, "The picture is a clean-cut score for Lon Chaney, who climbed to fame as a "master of make-up" and is now justifying his place in the sun of popularity with a display of an amazing skill in the delineation of character." Film Daily also mentioned Conrad Nagel as being the second choice for the film's "masculine lead." "The Master of Men" was noted by Film Daily as having been in production during July of 1923. During August, Film Daily reported, "Victor Seastrom is now making scenes with the crowd storming the castle in "The Master of Men". It ran "Seastrom Finsihes Picture" that September, finally providing the tile of the film rather than the title of the novel Sjostrom was adapting. A photocaption during 1924 in Screenland was to read, "Victor Seastrom directing a scene of The Judge and The Woman. Seastrom has his camera mounted upon an automobile chassis while he shoots Patsy Ruth Miller and Conrad Miller out for a stroll." Pictures and Picturegoer Magazine reported in early 1924, "Goldwyn will not allow the title of Victor Seastrom's new film to be made public. It is a film version of a popular novel." Months later it added, "Victor Seastrom is working for Goldwyn now...His next film will be called The Tree in the Garden and his leading lady is Norma Shearer." It then crescendoed, "After all his big talk, Victor Seastrom is now making He Who Gets Slapped." Bo Florin admittedly agrees with Bengt Forslund that there is a parallel between the storylines of Name the Man and the earlier film The Sons of Ingmar, the two novelist thereby compared after their having had been being adapted to the screen.
During 1925 actress Vilma Banky was filming for George Fitzmaurice rather than Victor Sjostrom, who featured her in his first sound film, A Lady To Love, that being before her Hungarian accent purportedly had contributed to an unacceptance on the part of movie going audiences. The Great Goldwyn, an early biography on producer Sam Goldwyn written by Alva Johnston, gives an account of her having been brought to the United States States, "He discovered Miss Banky when he saw her picture in a photograph shop in Budapest. This was a feit, because when the photograph was sent to Hollywood, the Goldwyn executives could see no possibilites in her. She arrived in Hollywood herself a few days after her photograph. Miss Banky was bewildered on her arrival in Hollywood. 'I thought I was being tricked,' she told an interpreter, 'I didn't believe the man was Goldwyn untill he gave me two thousand dollars.'"
During 1924 Film Daily ran the sub-headline, "Three from Seastrom, Swedish Director Signs with Metro-Goldwyn, His Next 'Kings in Exile'. It printed, "Victor Seastrom, the Swedish director borught over by Goldwyn before the merger has signed a new contract to direct three more pictures. It is understood his original arrangement was for two which were Name the Man and He Who gets Slapped. His next will be Kings in Exile, in which Alice terry will appear as the Queen. Work starts in six weeks." It again during October wrote, "Victor Seastrom signs new contract with Metro-Goldwyn to direct three more." It reported during December of 1924 that the title had been changed to Confessions of a Queen, it being one of three films from Metro-Goldwyn reported to have title changes, Henley and Vignola being the other two directors affected. During 1925, Victor Sjostrom, brought Lewis Stone and Alice Terry to the screen in the film Confessions of a Queen (Kungar i landsflykt). Photoplay wrote, According to all reports Alice Terry has knocked them dizzy with The Great Divide...It will be interesting to observe this brilliant woman under the director of Victor Seastrom." With Sjostrom was a cinematographer that became widely used on the back lots of the silent films of the decade to turn flicker into fantasy, Percy Hilburn, his having worked with several directors, notably Reginald Barker, George Melford, Fred Niblo and Monta Bell. Filming was completed in four weeks. Picturegoer Magazine reviewed the film, "Confessions of a Queen is a Ruritanian theme, with a long suffering Queen- Alice Terry, and a dissolute King- Lewis Stone; and here the acting of the principals lifts Seastrom's production shoulder-high above the ordinary." Sjostrom's film was written by Agnes Christine Johnson, adapted from The Painted Laugh a novel by Alphonse Daudet; to avoid controversy, Exhibitor's Trade Review reported the novel's title as The King's Exile, "Of course, much of Daudet's original novel is eliminated, chiefly, perhaps, because of the screen's limitations. But the plot is interesting, has a humoruous angle and despite its unpopular ending, will please the average audience...And both Alice Terry and Lewis Stone ably depict the royal character roles, which Victor Seastrom rounds out with considerable skill." Picturegoer magazine saw Sjostrom's contribution to film as being exemplary as a literate director, "You may have noticed that Seastrom has changed the titles- this however is not an example of vandalism; he changed the stories too, and, if I may say so, with all deference to the authors, has changed them for the better...Yes they have box office appeal, but they are still and sober, artistic and sombre." To the present author, it seems that this is in part due to Sjostrom having been an actor during the time of August Strindberg and in part a nod to his having worked with Selma Lagerlof, harkening back to when the reverse was true for Mauritz Stiller and his break with Lagerlof over how faithfully her writings should have beeen adapted. Bo Florin writes that, "The film in several respects is less elaborate than the director's other Hollywood films. This may partly have been due to the film being produced in such haste, but probably partly also to the previously mentioned fact that he as a director, to a large extent seems to have chosen to subordinate his wishes to the demands of the scrapt, which was, in this case, a straitforward, realist story."
In Sweden, Olaf Molander directed Lady of the Camellias (Damen med kameliorna, 1925), starring Ivan Hedqvist and Hilda Borgström and photographed by Gustav A. Gustafson. Forsyth Hardy writes, "The film derived some distinction from the delicately composed interiors and from the touching performance Tora Teje gave in response to Molander's skilled direction."
John W. Brunius in 1925 directed the film Charles XII (Karl XII), starring Gösta Ekman. Gosta Ekman had earlier been seen as leading man in the United States, as a "romantic type" In Pantomine magazine it was surveyed that, "he plays the impudent, but loveable adventurer to life and his slender blonde figure lends itself most admirably to graceful interpretations of this kind." Photoplay magazine saw Ekman in a similar way, describing him in 1923 as "the Swedish sheik" (the Swedish Valentino) and predicted his soon aquiring fame in the United States, as it did that year with Sigrid Holmqvist. Holmqvist had often been depicted as "The Swedish Mary Pickford". Photoplay reported, "Arriving with him from Stockholm was Edith Erastoff, the wife of Victor Seastrom, the Swedish director who is now working for Goldwyn. Miss Erastoff played opposite Mr. Ekman at the Stockholm Theater....'A beautiful boy,' says director Seastrom, 'Too beautiful- but he is a great actor and never hesitates to conceal his good looks for a character part which demands make-up.'" The magazine that year speculated that "in all probability" Ekman woulod appear on screen in a version of "Three Weeks", concievably opposite actress Theda Bara. It was in 1926 that Lillian Gish, while filming La Boheme (King Vidor, nine reels) with John Gilbert, had met Victor Sjöström. Lillian Gish was quoted by an early biographer as having said that it was on the set of La Boheme that she began working with Frances Marion on the continuity behind The Scarlet Letter. Photoplay Magazine in 1926 added a photocaption to a still from Victor Sjostrom's film, for they had trouble getting Lillian to put torrid temperature into her La Boheme scenes. Here is Lillian sending hot looks to Lars Hanson. Motion Picture Magazine included the character Pearl from the film adaptation with a portrait of Lillian Gish taken by Ruth Harriet Louise entitled "Lillian's Protoge". Quoted by Liberty Magazine during 1927, Lillian Gish said, "King Vidor directed La Boheme, and one of the best cameramen in my experience, Hendrik Sartov, lent his aid?..We finished it on a Saturday, and without waiting for my weeks holiday, we began The Scarlet Letter on Monday."
There is an account of Victor Sjostrom's shooting the exterior scenes to the film The Scarlet Letter in which during the film he climbed down from a platform after Swedish silent film director Mauritz Stiller had announce that he was there, Stiller then saying, "This is Garbo." Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller had met in Stockholm the day before the shooting of the 1912 film The Gardner/The Broken Spring Rose was to begin at the studio in Lindingo, Bengt Forslund later chronicling that "Sjostrom didn't know Stiller before they became associated at Svenska Bio, but he was aware of his reputation." Bo Florin, in Victor Sjostrom and the Golden Age, quotes Victor Sjostrom, "Both Stiller and I had the great fortune to stumble upon directing careers at a time that was so suitable for us. Suitable to break away from the muck, to question the assumptions behind what I was so often to hear in Hollywood later on-'give the public what it wants'. We also had the good fortune to work for a studio whose president, Charles Magnusson was an intelligent man. So intelligent, in fact, that he eventually discovered the best way to deal with us was to leave us alone." John Bainbridge quotes Victor Sjosrom as having said, "We were great, very great friends. But in spite of our sincere friendship, I am not sure that I knew him profoundly, got deep under his skin. I don't think anybody did. So many different kinds of men were gathered within him." Photoplay reviewed the 1926 film version of The Scarlet Letter, "Hawthorne's classic and somber study of the New England conscience has just been somberly translated to the screen. Lillian Gish wears the red letter of sin with her stock virginal sweetness failing to grasp the force of Hester Prynne's will power and intelligence...The camerawork has been perfectly handled but the puritans have been seen with a slightly Swedish eye by director Victor Seastrom. They are dour rather than high minded fanatics....Take your handkerchiefs and the older children". Decades before Lillian Gish published her autobiography The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me, she had layered some its preliminary by laying out its chronicle during conversations to biographer Albert Bigelow Paine, author of Life and Lillian Gish. Paine quotes her discussing her having been on the set with Victor Sjostrom, "He got the spirit of the story exactly, and was hinself a fine actor, the finest that ever directed me. I never worked with anyone I liked better than Seastrom. He was Scandinavian- thorough and prompt. If Mr. Seastrom said we would start at eight, or half past, the camera was ready at that time, and so were we." Gish connects this to an illness in her family while filming The Scarlett Letter, "At the studio, Seastrom said that by working day and night we could do the remaining two weeks on the picture in the three days I had left...We didn't waste a moment and during those three days there was very little sleep for anyone." Sidney Sutherland, author of the several installments of Lillian Gish, The Incomparable Being: The Story of Great Tragedienne that appeared in Liberty Magazine during 1927 quoted the silent film actress, "We finished The Scarlet Letter on schedule. eight weeks having been allotted to it by Mr. Thalberg, but we found we would require about two weeks for certain retakes and changes. Just as we began this added work, I received word from London my mother was dying...That would give me just to finish up the fourteen days necessary for the retakes. I told Mr Thalberg and Victor Seastrom, my director, and we worked forty eight hours, without more than two hours sleep. Interiors were made all night and outdoor scenes every moment of sunlight." The Film Daily magazine reviewed the work of actress Lillian Gish, "Another very credible performance. At times Miss Gish reaches real heights." It reviewed the film favorably, "Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Victor Seastrom are to be congratulated for their courage in telling this dramatic without any extraneous and unnecessary flourishes", but also advice as to its "Exploitation". "No ballyhoo for this. It isn't that type of a picture. The import of the letter A which Lillian Gish carries like a cross might be used to arouse interest." It was a set where "Lillian Gish is gelatinizing the famous Scarlet Letter" as seen by Photoplay of that year. Motion Picture Classic published stills of Lillian Gish taken by Milton Brown. It reviewed the film with "Miss Gish's Hester should be an interesting addition to her gallery of suffering heroines." Before beginning his chapter An Aesthetics of Light, Bo Florin lays an emphasis to the "cinematic language" used by Victor Sjostrom in the film, particularly superimposures and the metaphoric function of their metrynomy, and the use of off-screen space. a language which "emphasizes the presence of the spectator"(Florin). The chapter title ultimately leads to an analysis of the film's mise-en-scene by author Orjan Roth-Lindberg, and then continues to a look at stylistic devices, summarized in Florin having written, "Thus continuity may be traced on a general thematic level as well as stylistically, in the handling of light and landscape, and down to the smallest details, such as the use of one specific device, the dissolve, which perhaps, more than any other, has characterized Sjostrom as a director." November 1926, Motion Picture announced "Seastrom Returns". Victor Sjostrom had sailed to to United States on the Gripsholm from Sweden, where he and his family had been vacationing.
Silent Film: Lost Film, Found MagazinesMauritz Stiller, after having met cameraman Julius Jaenzon, had begun directing for Svenska Bio in 1912, one film that he directed that year for Svenska Biografteatern having been The Black Masks (Den Svarta Maskerna), a circus movie in regard to its subject. It has been noted that the films is exceptionally edited, its numerous, various scenes, " a constantly changing combination of interiors and exteriors, closeups and panoramic shots." (Forsyth Hardy) It has also been reported that the film starring Victor Sjostrom and Lili Bech is lost. It has been described as a melodrama dealing with espionage with an exciting action sequence as its climax. Begnt Forslund exuberantly remarks upon the discovery of a hitherto unknown copy of Predators of the Sea (Sea Vultures, Havsgama, 1914), starring Richard Lund, Greta Almoth and John Ekman, and not so exhuberantly on the unlikelihood of a copy of Victor Sjostrom"s film The Divine Woman ever being found in the future. There were 478 silent films made in Sweden; of them only 192 still exist, although there are copies of fragments from a number of them. Although preserved and restored by the Swedish Film Institute, the film Nar karleken dodar (1913), a two act drama (with a prologue) photographed by Julius Jaenzon in which Mauritz Stiller directed Victor Sjostrom and George af Klerker, exists only in incomplete form as fragmentary, as does Par livets odesvager from that same year, again photographed by Julius Jaenzon with Mauritz Stiller directing from a scrapt written by Peter Lykke-Seest. More perfunctory was the author Aleksander Kwaiatowski, writing in the latter fourth of the twentieth century about the remnants of Mauritz Stiller at Swedish Biograph, "Of the thirty two pictures he made between 1912 and 1916, prints of only one are available, Love and Journalism...Contemporaries thought Love and Journalism a Danish-inspired film, the presentation of society life meant only to entertain audiences, with no attention to social problems. Added to the missing Swedish catalog, countless Danish silent films produced by Ole Olsen for Nordisk Films Kompagni are "presumably lost": the Danish Film Institute notes that approximately 1600 silent short and feature films were made whereas only 250 films presently exist, Not the only webpage concerned with the preservation of Silent Film, the lost films webpage from Berlin show clips and stills from fifty silent film that it claims are "unknown or unidentified". One clue in finding them, or realigning their photo play subject matter and story lines may be that Leif Furhammar has written that after Swedish director George af Klerker left the studio to conceivably film with Pathe and director Paul Garbagni, Producer Charles Magnusson shifted his attention to Denmark, securing the rights to Danish melodramas while exporting Swedish films through Copenhagen rather than Paris. "Several of the movies produced in the Swedish studios were pure imitations of Danish popular films." From the magazines that were circulated at the time period, there can be found a more detailed view of the films that are now lost. In Close Up magazine, essayist Robert Herring allows a fragment where there would otherwise be none. In the article Film Imagery :Seastrom, he quotes the now deteriorated intertitles while describing a scene, "When the great actress breaks down she cries, 'I can't go on. Oh God, I'm done for. I hate it all.'" It was the author's sentiment that this scene be placed nearer toward the end of the film, and yet what is certain is that there aren't enough remaining stills from the film to piece together how the scene appeared on the screen visually. When the magazine reviewed the film as a new release it advised, "The Divine Woman. If you must see Garbo, see her under Seastrom." Bengt Forslund penned a brief paragraph about the silent film The Divine Woman (En Gudomlig Kvinna, 1928), directed by Victor Sjostrom under the name Victor Seastrom, "This was written 35 years ago and even at that stage all prints seem to have vanished. There is not much hope of finding one today since Garbo's films have been the subject of more research than those of most other stars.". Lon Chaney is quoted as having said, "I told Garbo that mystery served me well and it would do as much for her." Forslund reflected upon the existing early silent film of the Swedish director, "Even more regrettable is that out of the 31 films directed by Sjostrom during this period, only three have survived, and out of the other 8 films in which he acted, not a single one remains."
It was Norma Shearer who was to star opposite Lon Chaney in the other M.G.M directed by Victor Sjostrom under the name Seastrom of which there are no existant copies, that film being Tower of Lies (1924, seven reels). The Tower of Lies was photographed by Percy Hilburn. Photoplay Magazine reviewed the film in a way that doesn't discourage the viewer but only makes us want to screen the film more, "If the director had been as concerned with telling the story as he was with thinking up symbolic scenes, this would have been a great picture. As it is, Victor Seastrom was so busy being artistic, he forgot to be human. The emotions are those of the theater, not of life, in spite of the fact that both Lon Chaney and Nora Shearer might have made them real." After providing a brief synopsis, Exhibitor's Trade Review summarized the film and its tone, "A heart-gripping photoplay well produced and full of fine characterization. It's audience appeal is nevertheless in doubt because of the sombre futility of the story. It is replete with bitterness. Scarce a ray of sunshine penetrates the gloom. When the clouds do part it is for a brief instant. It is depressing...It is full of a rare symbolism. people will not forget it...Get the best people in town to see this one. Tell them about Lon Chaney's latest effort. Stress the book tie-up." A press notice from the studio included, "Another of Lon Chaney's remarkable character portrayals will be seen in 'The Tower of Lies' and the catch lines provided to theater owners were, "LIfe was cruel to him, but he held Truth and Honor to the end- and when the Tower of Lies crashed, he was ready to meet it." Motion PIcture News reviewed the film, "Victor Seastrom approaches more nearly to the artistic masterpieces which he produced abroad than in anything he has made here. Not that it is finer than 'He Who Gets Slapped' but that it approaches his Swedish pictures more nearly in theme and mood. This is partly due no doubt to the fact that it is based upon Selma Lagerlof's Swedish novel." The plot theme of the "story of Scandinavian peasant life" and "scenes of rural life" was given in outline by the magazine, "Intimate drama of a farmer who awakens to the beauty of life through his daughter, and who loses his reason when she goes astray. His death brings the girl back to herself."
During 1925, Lon Chaney, in an article entitled My Own Story and published by Movie Magazine, while pointing to the themes of "self-sacrifice and renunciation" in his films wrote, "The picture I have just completed, Tower of Lies, is the story of a father's enduring love and sacrifice, even to death, for his wayward daughter. I do not know that it is my favorite of all roles that I have portrayed, but certainly it is one of them and I consider Victor Seastrom, who directed it, the greatest director in the motion picture profession." Also in 1925, The Reel Journal, a sister publication to the magazine New England Film News, reviewed the films of Lon Chaney with the article "Lon Chaney Turns to Less Grotesque Roles". The article initially began by noting that, in regard to depiction of thematic character, "Lon Chaney, who has attracted stardom by playing roles of a weird and grotesque character, is turning to portrayals depending on more deeply human qualities for their interest.", the professionalism as a make-up artist on the part of Lon Chaney is not without having been noticed, "In his first Metro-Goldwyn Mayer picture, Victor Seastrom's production of Leonid Andreyev's He Who Gets Slapped...Chaney donned two make-ups, one as a European scientist, and the other as a clown. It was said by critics of the latter that this portrayal was the first circus clown interpretation to express the humanity which lies behind the painted mask of a mountebank...In The Tower of Lies, his make-up demonstrates a transition from middle age to old age." Both films The Tower of Lies and The Unholy Three were unreleased at the time of the review. Robert Herring, who published Film Imagery: Seastrom in Close Up magazine, wrote, "When Seastrom made Tower of Lies in Hollywood, and his landscapes were reduced to softened orchards, and smooth hills, life in the house was still as living, still almost as Swedish, in the very details exteriorized the main theme as much as ever, even though to my taste, the theme was poor."
Victor Sjostrom would exchange his place behind the camera to play the character he filmed as Victor Seastrom: director Gustav Molander remade Tower of Lies in Sweden during 1944, Victor Sjostrom himself taking Lon Chaney's character in the cast with Swedish actress Gunn Walgren filling in for Norma Shearer. Forsyth Hardy wrote, "Although Sjostrom"s intense acting made the film moving, it was curiously out of sympathy with the new atmosphere of production." A year earlier, Gustaf Molander had directed Sjostrom in Det Brinner en Eld, Forsyth Hardy having written that, "The acting in these parts of Victor Sjostrom, Lars Hanson and Inga Tiblad gave the film a strong human appeal and from the war setting Molander resourcefully drew a nervous tension to sharpen his drama."
Made before Tower of Lies, an earlier film starring John Gilbert and Norma Shearer, The Wolfman, directed by Edmund Mortimer in 1924, is also among the myriad of films now thought to be lost, included among them Four Devils, filmed in the United States by F. W Murnau in 1928 and starring Janet Gaynor and Nacy Drexel. Photoplay, while providing a still from the film, saw The Four Devils as the "long awaited successor" to Murnau's Sunrise and as a source of a plot summary to the film, it alludes to the film's tone, "the final shot implies a happy ending. The film will probably be cut to eliminate the over drawn scenes before it is released." One film thought to be non-existent before preservation attempts is a film which introduced actor Nils Asther in his first appearance onscreen, a Lars Hanson film directed by Mauritz Stiller in 1916, The Wings (Vingarne)- it was remade, or re-adapted rather, as a silent by Carl Theodore Dreyer. Maurtiz Stiller had directed Lars Hanson in his first film, Dolken, photographed by Julius Jaenzon and starring Lili Bech, a year earlier. Another recent discovery led to the restoration of the "previously thought lost" (Svenska Filminstitutet) 1913 film Gransfolken also directed by Mauritz Stiller. The Svenska Filminsitutet reported the finding of a tinted nitrate print of the film of which black and white negatives were made, thereby allowing recreated intertitles to be added to a Desmet print. The film stars Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson, Lily Jacobsson, Edith Erastoff and Stina Berg and was photographed by Julius Jaenzon and Hugo Edlund. Loves of An Actress (Rowland Lee,1928) in which Nils Asther starred with Pola Negri and Mary McAllister, as a matter of fact, is a lost film.
Bo Florin has noted, "Sjostrom's career as a film director in Sweden before he went to Hollywood is usually divided into two parts: before and after A Man There Was (1917)...much of the earlier material is lost. The rediscovery of Dodskyssen (The Kiss of Death) from 1916, however, calls for a nuancing of this; in its complex stylistic effects, this films stands much closer to Korkarlen (The Phantom Carriage) 1921, his internationally most famous and stylistically most elaborated film, than to A Man There Was." And yet, Florin also compares The Phantom Carriage with Name the Man in an examination of the style of Victor Sjostrom, "The dissolve in Name the Man might serve the particular purpose of softening the spatial reversal...a comparision to The Phantom Carriage might illustrate the function of the dissolve. The whole narrative development in the film could be said to be condensed within one constrasting device...In The Phantom Carriage as in Name the Man, the clear structural parallel between two images adds a new dimension to the interpretation of the film's meaning. These examples of style clearly indicate continuity between Sweden and Hollywood, where Sjostrom has preserved his characteristic signature in spite of the shift between to production cultures." In regard to spatial reversal, Florin chronicles that there are eighteen seperate instances of Victor Sjostrom "cutting across the 180 degree line to a completely reversed camera position" in the film The phantom Carriage. Interestingly, David Bordwell has written, "Sjostrom is perhaps the model for a fast learner, having created one of the masterpieces in Ingeborg Holm, and only a few years later making The Girl from Stormycroft (1917) and The Outlaw and His Wife, assured excercises in continuity editing." To which can be added a quote from Jon Wengstrom of the Swedish Film Institute, "The pictorial compostitions in Sea Vultures (Havsgamar, 1916) and the complex narrative structure in the recently rediscovered Kiss of Death (Dodskyssen, 1916) show a director in full command of the medium." Maximillan Schmige quotes author Hans Pensel, "By 1920 Sjostrom had learned to employ a faster editing of his pictures and began to understand the enormous importance of the visual elements in cinema." The Phantom Carriage (Korkarlen/The Phantom Chariot, 1920, also listed as 1921), when shown in the United States during 1922 under the title The Stroke of Midnight, was reviewed by Photoplay Magazine as being, "Drama from the Swedish- so drab and grim in its realism that one longs, almost, for a bit of unassuming splapstick to liven it up...Impressive, but depressing." Picture-play Magazine in 1922 reviewed the film, "It is a Swedish film and full of gloom. But the strong point of 'Midnight' is not the gloom, but its ghost story." it continued to note that the film "will send shivers up your spine" the reviewer conceded that they "had to sit through reels of endless dreary moralizing." On the acting performance of Victor Sjostrom in front of the camera during The Phantom Carriage, Forsyth Hardy wrote, "The exaggerated gestures of some of the earlier films had gone, but the intensity of feeling was still there." Hardy summarizes his impression of Sjostrom with the premise that Sjostrom inevitably preferred acting, and the theater, to directing and staging camerawork. When asked about Victor Sjostrom, Ingmar Bergman had told Torsten Manns, "His films meant a tremendous lot to me, particularly The Phantom Carriage and Ingeborg Holm." In his autobiography Images, Ingmar Bergman writes, "He made the movie that, to me, was the first film of all films. I saw it for the first time when I was fifteen; to this day I see it at least once every summer, either alone or in the company of young people. I clearly see how The Phantom Carriage influenced my work." Birgitta steene in fact writes,"The aim of both The Phantom carriage and Wild strawberries is moral; they tell of a change of character in an egotistical old man and his integration into a community of love." The recently married editor of the online journal Scandinavian Cinema, Australian Emma Vestrheim has expressed a similar common sentiment of film buffs, "Wild Strawberries is a road trip through the Swedish countryside, where the protagonist played by Victor Sjostrom comes to terms with his own life and death, after he dreams that he dies. The trip through nature represents his own inner conflicts and battles, and it fits perfect that Sjostrom is both one of Bergman's inspirations and the director of The Phantom Carriage, one of the first Scandinavian films about death." Emma, with whom I had been taking an online class on Scandinavian Cinema, was extremely polite while I was being considered as a contributor to her fist issue. Bergman has written that while filming "Wild Strawberries" ("Simultronstallet" 1957) that it seemed to him that it soon became "Victor's film", the film belonging more to the actor than to the director, and yet after "Wild Strawberries", Bergman would begin to write films in which "dialogue and characteristizations would take precedence over scenery and locations." (Cowie) In part, what may account for Berman's feeling that the film had become more of a contribution that Sjostrom had made rather than one of his own, Bergman an auteur if anything, may have been its use of the protagonist as narrative address rather than the omniscient, time-traveling third person authorial camera as an unnown lyrical "I"; the character imparts storyline rather than a construct of the director known as observer. During an interview with Stig Bjorkman, Torsten Manns and Jonas Sima, Bergman had said, "Many of my films are about journeys, people going from one place to another." Narrative space seems character centered- a throne from subjectivity. Sima had noted shortly before that "Wild Strawberries" centers around the character portrayed by Victor Sjostrom and his "relationship to himself". But is the clock ticking differently in the two films, both of which star Sjostrom; are the deadlines and exigencies oblique to each other when films are compared? Victor Sjostrom was in fact not in the best health while filming for Ingmar Bergman and reportedly had difficulty remembering lines of dialogue. There were scenes that had been filmed on interior sets using back screen projection to accommodate Sjostrom.
In regard to narrative linearity, it could be said that there are structural parallels between the two films, beginning with the placement of flashbacks and scene segmentation. Adapted from the novel Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness by Selma Lagerlof and directed by Victor Sjostrom from his own screenplay, the film was photographed by Julius Jaenzon. In the United States, Exceptional Photoplays reviewed the film during 1922, "In this picture is present to a very marked degree the inclination toward the supernatural, toward the the eerie forces beyond the bounds of reason, which is characteristic of nearly all Swedish productions. Obviously any attempt to transpose the works of Selma Lagerlof to the screen would necessitate careful handling of the suggestion of the supernatural nowhere more strikingly present than in her novel Stroke of Midnight is a picturization." Einar Lauritzen wrote, "The double exposures in the graveyard scenes and in the scenes with the phantom chariot are beautifully executed, and, as always in Julius Jaenzon's photography, the interplay of light and shadow is superb. Peter Cowie has noted that during the scene, "Occaisionaly as many as four images are superimposed on a single frame." Francis Taylor Patterson of Exceptional Photoplays reviewed the film, "Here a strong dramatic interest is built upon the legend of the Gray Driver, who drives his grim cart over the moors, through the cities, to the floor of the sea itself, collecting the souls of the dead...There is a wealth of imagery in the play, a freshness both of in conception and execution, which combined with the admirable acting, again, of Victor Seastrom, place the play well forward among screen excellencies." In Remapping Lagerlof:performance, Intermediality and European transmissions; Selma Lagerlof in the Goden Age of Swedish Film, author Anna Nordlund writes, "Sjostrom's ethical and aesthetic ideals coincided with the visual dimensions of Lagerlof's narrative technique, as well as with the drama and growing emotional tension of her narrative content." She highlights that Sjostrom was to "experiment in depth with the cinematic possibilities of depicting more than one level of place and time and of visualizing a complex plot rather than chronological story. During April of 1921, Educational film Magazine reviewed the film with, "The actual story passes in a period of not more than fifteen minutes, during which time a man's soul is completely regenerated...The spiritual wandering a of (the character), as he lies unconscious, and as he believes, dead in a churchyard, after a midnight orgy, convey to the spectator, episode by episode, his complete life history. These retrospective scenes are introduced unite deftly. the thesis of the story is essentially a morality tale...The picture is inspird throughout by the highest ethical motives, although it is in no sense religious or Salvationalist propaganda." Victor Sjostrom appears as Victor Seastrom in Film Daily magazine during 1920. During 1920, audiences in the United States were asked to flock to A Man There Was, a full page advertisement with To Our Critics scrolled across the top appearing in The Film Dauly on March 14. beneath the picture of Victor Sjostrom was the caption ,"the Great American artists acclaimed in Europe as "Prince of the Screen", who overwhelmed the American Press as a Grat Actor and still a greater director." quoting reviewers from Moving Picture World, Motion Picture News, Exhibitor!s trade Review and Wids's Daily, in which the ad appeared, it claimed to impart "WhT the leading critics of the motion picture press said about A Man There Was after it's first (imperfect) Picture Projection arranged for the press." Sjostrom's film, one that had been filmed before the merger of studios in Sweden, has followed him to the United States, finally screened not only four years after it was made, but in a country that Sjostrom would not direct in until four years after that- he was not yet Victor Seastrom. Summarizing the film A Man There was not a moving picture but a moving painting, Victor Seastrom, not a movie star but a screen luminary of the first magnitude. and both combined are the treat of the season." The photo caption identifies the director as Victor Seastrom Motion Picture News introduced Victor Sjostrom to American readers during 1920 with The review Actor-Director plays role By Proxy., "Victor Sjostrom, the actor director of the Swedish Biograph Company employs a double to his own role during rehearsals of film plays, only portraying the part himself when the actual photographing of the events is going on. By viewing his own role from being the camera, Sjostrom derives a better understanding, declared Ernest Mattsson, American manager of the Swedish Biograph Company.
The films of Sjostrom and Stiller can be compared while relating their influence upon the silent film of Finland, but it can be allowed that, "Victor Sjostrom delved deeper into the mysteries of landscape"(Annetti Alanen). Venerated film historian Forsyth Hardy compared the two silent film directors by writing, "Both turned instinctively for materials from the works of Selma Lagerlof with their combination of ardent puritainism and passionate love of nature. And both were sensitively aware of the virtue which the cameraq could draw out of inanimate objects." Director Mauritz Stiller had in 1921 used the Swedish part of Lapland to film the beautiful actress Jenny Hasselquist in the film "Johan" ("Troubled Waters"), an adaptation of the 1911 novel written by Juhani Aho. As well as being an author, Aho had translated the work of Selma Lagerlof into the Finnish language. Like Selma Lagerlof, Juhani Aho complained that if the novel had not been translated exactly to film by Stiller, it had certainly not been translated to the screen literally, but his objections seem less strongly put and Stiller's poetic liscence seems less flagrant. Aho had been promised he could review the film scrapt before it had been filmed, which was apparently passed by at the time. Juhani Aho wrote from Helsinki to Mauritz Stiller in Stockholm with the announcement that he has translated the intertitles to Stiller's Photoplay into Finnish. "The Swedish actors," wrote Aho, "are above all criticism. They are faultless. I don't know who I should praise most." Once considered a lost film "Johan", directed by Mauritz Stiller has since been restored. It was photographed by Swedish cinematographer Henrik Jaenzon. The scholar Antii Alanen has written, "The composition is based on the elements of light and the stream. The characters radiate in the enchanted light and night never falls. The ever-present stream rushes forth as an image of life and even time itself." As an "ode to light", Antii compares Stiller's film to Murnau's "Faust", but in doing so it would seem that he was thinking more about "The Wind", directed by Victor Sjostrom.
Birgitta Steene noted that, "it was Sjostrom and Stiller (as well as Griffith) who began to shoot pictures outdoors." Peter Cowie has noted that Swedish films were often shot on location and that Sjostrom had "revelled in location shooting and embarked on the most perilous of stunts for the sake of realism." Often in the films of Sjostrom, like in those of Bergman, "the landscape in which his journeys take place are part of the journey." (Simon) During 1920, Victor Sjostrom had veered from Selma Lagerlof and had adapted, that is to say wrote and directed, a story by Franz Grillparzer, his relying upon Swedish camerman Henrik Jaenzon behind the lens to film The Monastery of Sendomir (Klosteret i Sendomir/The Secret of the Monastery, starring Tora Teje, Renee Bjorling, Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson and Erik A Petschler. Francis Taylor Patterson reviewed the film for the magazine Exceptional Photoplays, "The Secret of the Monastery has used for dramatic purposes an interior setting just as 'Sir Arne' used an exterior." The magazine felt that as there were only two exterior shots employed in the film in shifted the interest from setting to characterization at the expense of depicting the splendor of the Scandinavian landscape. There is a beauty to film criticism if it is not a separate art form and if it is not a separate form of extratextural discourse in its being a specificity if not in its being personal that is reflected in a quote from Francis Taylor Patterson in his Swedish Photoplays published in Exceptional Photoplays magazine during 1922, "This is an impression of quietude, of dramatic repose. There is a smoothness in the flow of the scene sequence. There does not seem to be that constant urge to speed up the action, which mars some of our pictures. A slowness of movement, a dignity, sits well upon the tragic mood which most of these pictures sustain." There is an appreciation of film for what it is, the viewer experience- yet in comparing Sjostrom before he came to the United States to Griffith or Ince, the author has alighted upon film theory and just that; the principle that montage should acclerate, that it is necessary that it should, that cross cutting inordinately should become more rapid.
Forsyth Hardy brackets the film with Masterman with the observation, "Sjostrom never lost his interest in the film as a medium for the expression of inner conflicts and for the revelation of character from within." While providing a synopsis-analysis of the film, Bo Florin writes that Sjostrom uses the dissolve in Monastery of Sendomir as a transformatory device, "In addition to the cuts [across the line cutting, reverse angle], the dissolve plays a particularly central role among other optical transitions in Sjostrom's films. Moreover, it is often used as a transformatory device creeating analogies between two images- sometimes also in connection with superimposures...The dissolve works, as an independent device which does not in this context recieve any clarifying support from any other narrative patterns. In this single changing of images through motion in reverse direction (is) the whole drama". Florin continues to note a series of five transformatory dissolves in the film Love's Crucible (Vem Domer, 1922).
During August of 1919, Motion Picture News ran two full pages of illustrated advertisement for the Swedish Biograph Company, reminiscient of the advertisements for Nordisk film that had Untill then been placed in magazines during most of the decade. It, along with a page devoted to the films Love the Only Law, a Man There Was, Flame of Life and Dawn of Love, announced its first feature that had been brought to the United States, the Girl from Marshcroft, which "was run at Tremont Temple, Boston, Mass. For two record breaking weeks. During 1920, Film Daily reported that Fine Arts Pictures had acquired for distribution in the United States the film "The Woman He Chose, which is The Girl Of Marshcroft renamed." To Bengt Forslund, Sjostrom had found a "descraptive visual language" which accounts for his collaboration with Selma Lagerlof and her novels being particularly suited for adaptation. John Fullerton, in his article Notes on the Cultural Context of Reception: The Girl from Marsh Croft 1917, includes novelist Selma Lagerlof in his assessment of how the film interpellated audiences to identify with its subjects in the triad of unseen-observer/authorial camera, viewing subject as objectification-embodiment of the look and the spectator-in-the-public-sphere; Fullerton enters the extra-textural deigesis of flanneur/commodity by pointing to a fourpage advertisement or "publicity newsheet" that appeared in Film Nyheter prior to the film's release that primarily details a screening of the film that author Selma Lagerlof and director Victor Sjostrom attended together, a sneak preview in effect, in Gothenburg where Lagerlof publicly approves of the content of the film, "we are told that she believes Sjostrom has given of his best in this production and the he has not compromised his intentions." Fullerton mentions that Lagerlof criticises the number of intertitles in one particular scene and then quotes her as having said that despite of this she was in tears like everyone else who had seen the ending of the scene. Fullerton continues, "Lagerlof is reported as saying that '[f]ilm is much better and stronger that drama...Never before have the different roles in a dialogue scene been so thoroughly or excellantly realized." After analyzing a pivotal scene of the film, Fullerton writes, "In conjunction with an unusually high number of medium shots and medium close shots, intertitles promote character-centered narration. In do so, the film recasts the conventions of the dramatic tableau whose origin in nineteenth centuring staging [proscenium arch], genre painting and museum display had been so central to the formal development of the medium before the mid-1910's. The Girl from Marshcroft redefined earlier nodes of investment in the folk body as nostalgic object." The Girl From Marshcroft, which begins with a panning exterior establishing long shot and then reverses the screen direction to repeat it in a second shot before cutting to an interior with Greta Almroth after an introductory expository intertitle. It advances the scene with an over-the shoulder mirror shot of her readying to leave. Anna Nordlund, in Selma Lagerlof in the Golden Age of Swedish Cinema chronicles that "Sjostrom made no attempt to capture cinematically Lagerlof's flashback technique and the complex shifts in time and place in the opening sequence of her story. on the contrary, while remaining faithful to the events portrayed in Lagerlof's story, Sjostrom rearranged the sequence of events chronologically throughout the film." Forsyth Hardy compares The Girl from the Marshcroft (Tosen fran Stormytorpet to the film The Outlaw and his Wife (Berg-Ejvind och frans Hustru. "Both films showed a marked advance on anything previously achieved in the Swedish cinema. There was greater freedom of movement, an assured sense of rhythm and a fine feeling for composition." In order to arrive at the premise that Sjostrom's productions in Hollywood were far removed from those made in Sweden, Bo Florin, in Transition and Transformation, begins his chapter Lyrical Intimacy as Authorial Style, with a look at the technique and cutting used in The Girl from the Marshcroft, The Monstery of Sendomir and The Outlaw and His Wife, "Sjostrom's preserved films from the Swedish years, which have formed the overall picture of the director, are perhaps above all characterized by their lyrical intimacy, created through downplayed acting, through a mise-en-scene and montage privileging a circular space with a clear center, towards which movements converge." The Girl From Marshcroft was produced by Charles Magnusson and was co-written with Victor Sjostrom by Esther Julin. Bo Florin notes that Sjostrom made modifications in the margins of the scrapt of the film The Girl From Marshcroft while collaborating with Esther Julin, particularly one specific instance of cutting across the 180-degree line, a photographic device that Florin returns to while discussing the film Name the Man. On the silent film of Victor Sjostrom, Bo Florin has previously written, "In his review of The Outlaw and His Wife, french filmmaker and critic Louis Delluc has already mentioned "a third interpreter, particularly eloquent: landscape'- which echoes several other comments from this period. Henri Agel repeats the same point, talking about a fascinating "fusion between man and landscape.'" It is central to Florin's appreciation of Sjostrom that as a director, the journey to the United States was one where Sjostrom wasn't entirely out of his element, and that the camerawork was to be used to deepen the thematic content and symbolic characterizations in his films. "In my own analysis of The Outlaw and his Wife I have shown in detail how man's exposure to the overwhelmingly powerful forces of nature seem to make the latter more and more hostile. This, the shape of the landscape in the film functions as a series of visual presages, which to the spectators forebode the dark conclusion of the narrative. In quite a similar manner, the central element in The Wind appears an ever-present overwhelming force in the film that makes all attempts at human resistance appear futile and ineffectual." Florin also notes, "The film had been distributed in the United States with the title You and I, with the addition of a prologue and epilogue providing the original film with a frame which made it appear as a film within a film." Love the Only Law has also been listed as an alternative title to the film. Anne Bachmann, in Locating Inter-Scandinavian Silent Film Culture: Connections, Contentions, Configurations summarizes the view of critics toward the film, "In the reception of Berg-Ejvind och hans hustru, the most reiterated statements were comments on how the film engaged with nature: 'Natur och naturlighet helt igenom dew ar denna films stora sturka' (Nature and naturalness all through- that is the great strength of this film) was the phrase in Stockholms Dagblad. In several aspects Berg Ejvind was an offshoot from Terje Vigen, the first specimen of the Swedish wave of nature-focused films...In the reception of Berg-Ejvind, the nature discourse conversely fully overshadowed the mentions of the both popular and recent theater production of the play." Bachmann happened to find a quote from the author of the play, whom has seen the film, regarding the use of landscape as the veracity of the "nature-shot" when filming for an authenticity of location, "Johann Sigurjonsson stepped forward as a guarantor of the location's felt authenticity when declaring Lapland had the 'same' mountains, views, and clean air as Iceland.... 'I have wandered on foot through ther most desolate areas of Iceland, he said, and now [in the film] it was as if I recognized every spot. But, above all, it was the inner, invisible likeness [metaphysical aspect]- that which lives in the soil itself.' Photographed by Julius Jaenzon, it is Victor Sjostrom's scrrenplay, co-written by Swedish screenwriter Sam Ask, as the first scrapt Ask had written, and was adapted from a novel by Johann Sigurjonsson that had already been brought to the theater. Victor sjostrom had performed the four act play quickly after it had been published; Eyvind of the Hills had been printed in Danish in 1911 and only later published in Icelandic. Sjostrom had performed the play in Goteborg that same year. The playwright, Johann Sigurjonsson explained it was built around the two principal characters by writing, "Halla's nature is moulded on a Danish woman's soul," but oddly he adds something more thematic by writing, "In my little garret in Copenhagen, i learned by my own experience the agony of lonliness." Sigurjohansson relates that it had been his correspondence with Bjornstjerne Bjornson that had helped him publish his first play, Dr. Rung, in 1905. He followed in 1908 with the play The Hraun Farm (Bondinn a Hrauni). Before the screening of Victor Sjostrom's The Outlaw and His Wife, Sigurjonsson also published the play The Wish (Onsket), which was printed in 1915. Anne Bachmann of Stockholm Universityl lends an insight into Victor Sjostrom the actor and director, "Hand in hand with the the discourse of 'nature and naturalness' went tales of danger encountered while filming, particularly by Victor Sjostrom himself. For Berg-Ejvid he allegedly risked a fatal accident, and for Terje Vigen, his health in cold dips." Later in her essay, Bachmann identifies the scene as a stunt displaying "the anecdotal trope of danger of slipping down a rope and falling down a precipice to a certain death".
During 1926, Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius directed his first film, which he also scrapted, Flickorna Gyurkovics, starring Betty Balfour, Karin Swanstrom, Stina Berg and Lydia Potechina. Contemporary to Victor Sjostrom's use of symbolic narrative, Swedish poet Birger Sjoberg during 1926 published the volume Cries and Wreaths (Kriser och kransar in which scandinavian landscape is used within mood images to envelope its symbolism. Landscape to thematicly depict emotion that needed to be expressed through the symbolic had been used earlier in the poetry of Vilhelm Ekelund. In Sweden, during 1926 author Selma Lagerlof watched filmstrips of the adaptation to the screen of her novel by Victor Sjostrom as Seastrom in the United States, the scenario having been drawn up by Agnes Christine Johnston. All seven reels of the film are presently considered to be lost. There are seventeen dissolves in the film, the lowest incidence in the films directed by Sjostrom, but that nevertheless contributing to his "authorial imprint" (Florin). Norma Shearer, who had starred under Victor Sjostrom's direction in Tower of Lies with William Haines had said that Sjostrom "was more concerned with the moods he was creating than the shadings he would have injected into my performance." When reviewed by Photoplay Magazine, the film was seen as "a worthwhile picture spoiled by a too conscious effort to achieve art. Consequently, a human story suffers from artificiality." When further reviewed by Photoplay, it was added that, "If the director had been as concerned with telling the story as he was thinking of symbolic scenes, this would have been a great picture. As it is, Victor Seastrom was so busy being artistic that he forgot to be human. The emotions are of those of the theater, not of life." Actor William Haines later was to tell Photoplay Magazine, "But then it is strange, too, that I have worked here for several years on the same lot with Greta Garbo and have never met her." On Sjostrom, Author Iris Barry observed, "He has a genius for the rural. In Tower of Lies he has redeemed himself on exactly these lines. Also witness the love scene in He Who Gets Slapped, the only really attractive part in that rather tedious picture."