Frederic Zelnik

Frederic Zelnik (17 May 1885 - 29 November 1950) was one of the most important producers-directors of the German silent cinema. Zelnik became a successful director and also producer of period operetta films in 1920s and 1930s. [1] He also appeared on screen as an actor.

Friedrich Zelnik
Zelnik prior to 1931
Born(1885-05-17)17 May 1885
Died29 November 1950(1950-11-29) (aged 65)
London, England

Early life and career

Friedrich Zelnik was born in a Jewish family in Czernowitz, today in Ukraine, at the time the capital of the Duchy of Bukovina in the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Czernowitz has been then largely populated by Jews and has been after Wilno the most an important city for the Jewish culture in Eastern Europe. After the studies in Vienna, Friedrich Zelnik worked as an actor in theaters in Nürnberg, Aachen, Worms, Prague and finally Berlin - in the theaters Theater an der Königsgrätzer Straße, Berliner Theater, Komödienhaus.

In 1914 Friedrich Zelnik began acting in films, and after 1915 producing and directing movies while still appearing in roles as an actor in other director's films. In 1918 he married a young Polish ballet dancer turned film actress named Lya Mara and promoted her to stardom by producing and directing movies for her. In 1920 he established a film production firm Zelnik-Mara-Film GmbH.

Popular, operetta style costume films like The Blue Danube, The Bohemian Dancer, Dancing Vienna, Mariett Dances Today brought Lya Mara and Zelnik enormous success in Germany and beyond. Several of his collaborators, such as cameraman Frederik Fuglsang and production designer André Andrejew are perceived today as important artists of the German silent cinema.

Upon the introduction of sound film, Friedrich Zelnik became the first director in Europe to postsynchronize a movie, The Crimson Circle (1929), using the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process. In 1930, Zelnik travelled to Hollywood, California and upon his return directed his first full sound film, a new version of his silent success The Bohemian Dancer.

After Hitler took power in 1933, Zelnik and Lya Mara left Germany for London. In the following years, Zelnik continued to direct and produce movies in Great Britain and The Netherlands. He also changed his name to Frederic Zelnik and took British citizenship.

Friederich Zelnik died in 1950 in London.

Selected filmography




  1. Bock, Hans-Michael (2009). The Concise Cinegraph: Encyclopaedia of German Cinema. Berghahn Books. p. 548. ISBN 9780857455659.
  • Hans-Michael Bock (Ed.): The Concise CineGraph. Encyclopedia of German Cinema. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books 2009, p. 548-549
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