German 1930s Photo Album documenting, in part, Film Production of Director Richard Eichberg’s 1937 drama Das Indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb).
Personal photograph album of German film sound engineer, Erich Lange, documenting 1930s Nazi-era movie productions in which he participated. About 100 photographs clearly show film sets or productions; the others depict Lange and others at leisure or views in various German locales.¹
Most notable, is the inclusion of director Richard Eichberg’s 1937 drama Das Indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb). Eichberg’s film was later remade in the 1950s by noted Austrian film director Fritz Lang. Eichberg’s career was recently the focus of Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum’s exhibition Eichberg Wiederentdeckt (Eichberg Re-Discovered).
Richard Eichberg (1888–1953) was a central figure of German cinema, active in the 1920s and 1930s, a popularizer of historical dramas; a director of melodramas, crime, adventure, and musicals. Eichberg has been credited with discovering and introducing to cinema movie stars such as Anna May Wong (by some accounts, the first Chinese–American movie star), Lee Parry, Lilian Harvey, Willy Fritsch, Hans Albers, and Heinrich George.
The most striking photographs in Lange’s album is Eichberg’s epic erotic adventure fantasy, the two-part Das Indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb). The movie was filmed on location in India and in a studio in Germany. Over 50,000 feet of film was shot. Erich Lange engineered the sound.
Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum described Das Indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb) as being one of the high spots for Nazi film production for 1937. The screenplay was written by Thea von Harbou who also wrote the screenplay for the 1927 German expressionist film masterpiece, Metropolis, directed by her husband Fritz Lang. In the 1950s, the celebrated Austrian film director Lang re-made both of these Indian dramas which were later combined into one epic film.
The album presents 16 photographs of the film’s production of the German portion of the production, in Jofa studios, and show the elaborate palatial sets and the bejeweled costumes worn by the actors. The film starred La Jana (Henriette Margarethe (“Henny”) Hiebel), Frits van Dongen, and Gustav Diessl. Four of the photographs in this group show the scantily clad La Jana performing in an elaborate dance production. Erich Lange’s album also contains photographs of scenes in a zoo and show elephants and tigers, including a photograph of a tiger cage that appears again in the album among the photos for the film. Das Indische Grabmal had its 1938 Berlin première at the Ufa-Palast Zoo, perhaps re-visiting the more likely venue for filming scenes involving dangerous animals.
In addition to Das Indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb), at least three other distinct movie productions are found in Lange’s album. Based on the costuming, 25 photographs document a film set in eighteenth century, possibly Johannes Meyer’s drama Fridericus (1937) for which Lange engineered the sound. This group is interesting in that it shows Lange’s mobile sound unit set up on a sledge that is being drawn through the open landscape by a bulldozer. (In one photo, Lange himself is at the controls!) The reason for the mobility becomes clear when it is realized that the director is preparing to film an elaborate battle scene complete with soldiers, cannon, and cavalry. An additional series of 19 photographs depicting scenes of a burning building on set may be from this film too as a man on horseback and wearing a cocked hat appears in one photograph.
An unidentified nineteenth century period piece is also seen, but is only represented by one photograph; a film crew member holding a clapperboard or director’s slate for the Boston-Films Company mbH (Berlin). The film is not identified, but Lange was the sound engineer for at least four films by this studio, 1934–1935, all of them directed by Hungarian director, Géza von Bolváry. Finally, a contemporary movie, unidentified, that appears to have at least one scene within a Berlin cabaret is part of the 100 photographs.
Curiously, the album contains a series of five photographs showing a movie production crew with their camera and klieg lights filming a polar bear on a prop ice floe in a zoo mauling a human-like form. It is unclear for what movie production it was intended. The remaining 34 photographs depicting movie sets or film production can not be associated with a particular movie. Two of the small contact print photographs show what appear to be crashed model airplanes; one shows the models from a slight distance and reveals their true scale while the other shows a close-up of what passes very well for actual wreckage. At least three photographs depict Nazi flags flying in the background; none of them appear to be film sets.
An unusual 1930s photograph album documenting German film production during the Nazi era kept by a well-employed sound engineer who worked with one of the major German directors of the period.
Description: German 1930s Photo Album documenting, in part, Film Production of Director Richard Eichberg’s 1937 drama Das Indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb).
[Germany, c. 1934–1937]. ll., interleaved with glassine. 9½ x 7 inches. Photo Album. Quarter brown cloth and paper boards; spine gilt-titled “Meine Photos.” 234 photographs; from 2½ x 2¼ inches to 5 x 6½ inches. 13 contact prints, 1 x 1½ inches, from negatives, laid in. Joints starting at head and tail of spine; some photos loose; very good.
1. A photograph taken on the set of another film, an eighteenth-century period drama, is the key to associating the album with Lange. The image depicts Lange with his sound equipment seated in a chair with his name on its back. Erich Lange can be seen distinctly in 17 photographs throughout the album, most of them showing him on set or with his sound crew and their equipment.
Refs. Bock and Bergfelder, The Concise Cinegraph (Bergahan Books, 2009). Boston-Films Company mbH (Berlin) | filmportal.de and Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin and DAS INDISCHE GRABMAL: Liebesabenteuer im Dschungel all accessed online March 2014.