"Varieté" (1925)

"Varieté" was produced in Germany by UFA
Released November 16, 1925 at the UFA-Palast an Zoo in Berlin
The original length was 2,844 meters (seven reels). The American version was 7,800 feet, and the British version was 8,400 feet. This video release of "Variety" is said to be the original version and all other available copies are the truncated versions.

The Story

"Varieté" is the story of an aging trapeze artist who, after an accident, becomes a barker and manager of a cheap sideshow of dancing girls. One day a friend of his, the captain of a ship, brings him a young girl who had stowed away on his ship with her mother. Her mother had died at sea and he asked the trapeze artist to give the young girl shelter. The young girl eventually becomes the center of attraction of the dancing troupe, and he becomes infatuated with her. He deserts his wife and child and takes the young girl to Berlin. He trains his young mistress to be a trapeze performer, and they both find a position with a circus doing an act together. They are seen by a famous aerialist, Artinelli, from England, and he hires them to perform with him as "The Three Artinellis."

They become a sensation in the Wintergarten, and all is well until Artinelli seduces the young girl. Then his aging partner seeks revenge.

Trite and Conventional Melodrama

The plot of "Varieté" is a rather trite and conventional melodrama of heated passion and seething jealousy. However, this has always been popular subject matter with audiences. In Dupont's hands, the film became an immediate success, and it won rave notices throughout Europe. It was a tremendous hit in New York City where it did a sensational business for over six weeks. Many cites in the United States were shocked by the film's immorality, and Paramount deleted the first two reels (twenty minutes) entirely. The subsequent viewers in the other parts of the United States saw the censored version that was missing the opening scenes where the owner of the carnival meets the new dancer, deserts his family and moves to Berlin with his new girlfriend. The American sanitized version has him and his girlfriend as man and wife. Even in its censored version it retained its power and went on to become "the Best Picture Of The Year." This film was also listed on the N.Y. Times "Top 10 Films f 1926."

Variety (film reviews), June 30, 1926, states, "Opened at the Rialto, New York, June 27, for a run limited to six weeks, running time 92 minutes. "Variety" is a corking picture, made anywhere as it has been much in Germany. It has variety, so much, so many an American director may be only to eager to watch it the second time . . ."

"Varieté" was directed by Ewald Andre Dupont (E.A. Dupont), and the cast included Emil Jannings, Lya de Putti, Maly Delschaft, Warwick Ward, and Georg John. The screen adaptation of the novel was done by Dupont who once had been the manager of a vaudeville theater and was acquainted with carnival atmosphere. The film was also notable for its unconventional impressionistic use of swirling light and movement and spectacular camera effects. It was a tremendous success, stylistically influential, and brought Dupont to the attention of Hollywood, where, rather sadly, he ended up making mostly B-movies.

Lya de Putti

Lya de Putti was born in 1899 in Hungary to wealthy parents, her mother a former countess, and her father a Baron and a cavalry officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army. She began as a dancer in vaudeville and eventually became a ballet dancer in Berlin. She starred in many of the films produced by the German UFA company playing vamp roles. She went to Hollywood in 1926 where she starred in several films and died at the beginning of the sound era.

Emil Jannings

Emil Jannings ran away from home at the age of sixteen to become a sailor. After serving as an assistant cook he returned to Germany and became a professional actor on the stage. When he made his screen debut in 1914, he was an established and well-known stage actor. "Varieté" was made after his appearance in Murnau's "The Last Laugh" (UFA, 1924), and he was acclaimed as the world's greatest actor. His international reputation won him a Paramount contract in 1927. His thick German accent ended his American career with the coming of sound. He immediately went back to Germany to continue making films during the Nazi regime. He died in 1950.

"Varieté" is a classic film, and this video release is very enjoyable, especially given the fact that this is the most restored, original version available.

The Holt Foreign Film Guide by Ronald Bergan and Robyn Karney
Dictionary Of Films by Georges Sadoul
The Great German Films by Frederick W. Ott
Lya De Putti by P. Herzog and R. Tozzi.

copyright 2002 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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