Erich Pommer

Erich Pommer

Erich Pommer (July 20, 1889 – May 8, 1966) was one of the most influential producers of the silent film era, having been one of the most influential creators behind the German Expressionism movement as the head of production at Ufa from 1924 to 1926. Under his guidance, many of what critics consider the greatest movies ever made were directed, such as "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920), "Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler" (1922), "Die Nibelungen" (1924), "Mikaël" (1924), "Der Letzte Mann/The Last Laugh" (1924), "Variety" (1925), "Tartuffe" (1926), "Faust" (1926), "Metropolis" (1927) and "The Blue Angel" (1930).

Life and career

Pommer was born in Hildesheim, Province of Hanover, to Gustav Pommer and his wife Anna. After a commercial practice with the Herrenkonfektion Machol & Lewin, Pommer begins his film career in 1907, with the Berlin branch of the Gaumont company, where he fulfills different functions, eventually taking over the Viennese branch in 1910. In 1912, Pommer concludes his military service and joins the competition: he becomes a representative of the "Film und Kinematographen GmbH Eclair" in Vienna, where he is responsible for Central and Eastern Europe. From 1913, he becomes the general representative of the Eclair for Central Europe, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Poland, based out of Berlin. In the same year, he marries Gertrud Levy and becomes, together with Marcel Vandal, the director-general of Eclair, the Viennese author film company. Under Pommer's direction, the company begins the production of features for the Viennese Eclair. The film "Das Geheimnis der Lüfte / Le mystère de l'air" (in English, the "Mystery of the Air") is released. Another 5 films will follow in 1915.

With the French capital from Eclair and together with Fritz Holz, Pommer sets up in 1915 the Decla-Film-Gesellschaft-Holz & Co.(Decla Film Society Holz & Co.), in Berlin. The Decla ("German Eclair") produces adventure and detective films, drama, and society pieces, as well as short film series. Its own Decla rental business, led by Hermann Saklikower, also presents foreign films. Pommer serves in the First World War at the West and East fronts; injuries bring him back to Berlin in 1916, where he becomes active first recruiting teachers, then for the Office for Film and Picture (Bufa). After the 1919 merger of Decla with the Meinert-Film-Gesellschaft, Rudolf Meinert leads production and Erich Pommer takes charge of the representation abroad. Decla production becomes more ambitious. The brands "Decla Abenteuerklasse" (producing, among others, Fritz Lang's "") and "Decla Weltklasse" (e.g. producing "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", under the direction of Robert Wiene) appear. In an interview in 1922, Pommer will state the international success of the German film would have to be linked to quality pictures. The international success of "Dr. Caligari" seemed poised to confirm it.

Decla merges with German Bioskop AG to create the Decla Bioskop AG, thus becoming in 1920 the second largest German film company after the Ufa. It now owns a studio in Neubabelsberg and its own cinema chain. Two subsidiaries are created: Uco-Film GmbH and Russo Films. The Uco film GmbH, in whose establishment the Ullstein publishing house is involved, dedicates itself to filming continuation novels. "Schloß Vogeloed-Die Enthüllung eines Geheimnisses/The Haunted Castle" and "Phantom", under the direction of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, as well as Fritz Lang's "Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler", are released. Adaptation of works of the world literature is the focus on Russo Films.

Pommer gathers around him a successful team of directors (F. W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Robert Wiene, Carl Froelich, Fritz Wendhausen), film script writers (Thea von Harbou, Carl Mayer, Robert Liebmann), cameramen (Karl Freund, Carl Hoffmann, Willy Hameister), architects (Walter Roehrig and Robert Herlth), as well as actors and actresses. In November 1921, the Decla Bioskop transfer to the Ufa, although it will maintain a modicum of independence.

In early 1923, Erich Pommer joins the Ufa executive committee, to oversee the Decla Bioskop operations. At the same time, he becomes the first chairman of the Central Organization of the Film Industry (SPIO), which will shape the film history of the Weimar Republic. The German galoping inflation makes complex productions possible: in that time some "classical authors" are turned into movies, and expensive and internationally successful large films like "Der letzte Mann/The Last Laugh", "Faust", "Manon Lescaut" or "Variety" are released. High production costs lead Ufa to a heavy financial crisis. Finally, due to the enormous cost increase of "Metropolis" (6 million marks, the most expensive to date at that time) the Pommer contract is not extended.

Pommer goes into the USA and works for Paramount Pictures as a production manager for two Pola Negri films, "Hotel Imperial" and "Barbed Wire". After a short intermezzo at MGM, Ufa gets him back (1927). From the USA, Pommer brought organizational and technical novelties, such as the use of turning plans or of camera crane cars. As production manager and a boss of the "Erich-Pommer-Produktion der Ufa" (Erich Pommer production of the Ufa), he celebrates 1928 with "Homecoming" and "Ungarische Rhapsodie/Hungarian Rhapsody". Pommer is a pioneer of the language versions: His "Melodie des Herzens/Melody of the Heart", produced at the end of 1929 in Berlin, is produced in an English, a French, a Hungarian as well as a silent version. The film becomes a world success. The "Erich-Pommer-Produktion der Ufa" turns several box office hits in the following years, such as Josef von Sternberg's"The Blue Angel" in 1930, starring Marlene Dietrich.

In the course of the "Arisierung", the Ufa resolves the contract with Erich Pommer in 1933. At the height of his career, Pommer goes into exile. He works for Fox Film Corporation, first in Paris, where he produces Max Ophüls' "On a volé un homme" and Fritz Lang's "Liliom", then in Hollywood. In 1936, he produces for Alexander Korda in England. In the next year he creates a production company, the Mayflower Picture Corp., with Charles Laughton, whose first film, "The Vessel Of Wrath/The Beachcomber", will also be directed by Pommer (his only attempt at direction). In 1938, he produces "Sidewalks of London" by Tim Whelan (also starring Laughton and Vivien Leigh) and in 1939 he produces Alfred Hitchcock's "Jamaica Inn".

The political situation in Europe deteriorates and Pommer signs in 1939 with the RKO Radio Pictures, in Hollywood, for whom he'll produce two pictures. When World War II breaks out, he is in New York and decides to stay in the USA. Becoming seriously ill in 1941 (he suffers a heart attack), his contract with RKO isn't renewed. Pommer gets into financial difficulties: he and his wife resort to working in a porcelain factory. In 1944, Pommer gets the American nationality.

In 1946, Pommer returns to Germany, where he becomes the highest-ranking film officer of the American military Government for the reorganisation of the German film production (e.g., reconstruction of studios, assignment of production licenses). After some controversy, in 1949 Pommer lays down his office and returns to the USA. He attempts to launch Signature Pictures to produce German-American films, an endeavor that fails.

In 1951 he starts the "Intercontinental Film GmbH" in Munich, where he makes some remarkable movies: "Nachts auf den Strassen" (1951) and "Kinder, Mütter und ein General" (1955). However, restrictions forced upon him lead to his return to California. Physically badly shaken - a leg is amputated and he is confined to a wheelchair - his career as a producer ends.

In 1966, he died in Los Angeles, California.


*1953 German Film Award for "Nachts auf den Strassen".

*1955 Golden Globe Award for Best Picture for "Kinder, Muetter, und ein General".

*1956 Gran-Prix de l'Union de la Critique de Cinéma (UCC) for "Kinder, Muetter, und ein General".


*"The Silent Cinema Reader", edited by Lee Grieveson and Peter Kramer.
*Deutsches Film Institut, article by Laura Bezerra []

External links

* [ IMDb]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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