G. W. Pabst

Georg Wilhelm Pabst (25 August 1885 – 29 May 1967) was an Austrian film director and screenwriter. He started as an actor and theater director, before becoming one of the most influential German-language filmmakers during the Weimar Republic.

G.W. Pabst
G. W. Pabst during production of the film L'Opéra de quat'sous (The Threepenny Opera) in 1931
Georg Wilhelm Pabst

(1885-08-25)25 August 1885
Died29 May 1967(1967-05-29) (aged 81)
Resting placeZentralfriedhof
Years active1901–1957
Gertrude Hennings (m. 19241967)

Early years

Pabst was born in Raudnitz, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (today's Roudnice nad Labem, Czech Republic), the son of a railroad official. While growing up in Vienna, he studied drama at the Academy of Decorative Arts and initially began his career as a stage actor in Switzerland, Austria and Germany.[1][2] In 1910, Pabst traveled to the United States, where he worked as an actor and director at the German Theater in New York City.[1]

When World War I began, Pabst returned to Europe, where he was interned in a prisoner-of-war camp in Brest. While imprisoned, Pabst organised a theatre group at the camp. Upon his release in 1919, he returned to Vienna, where he became director of the Neue Wiener Bühne, an avant-garde theatre.[1]


Pabst began his career as a film director at the behest of Carl Froelich who hired Pabst as an assistant director. He directed his first film, The Treasure, in 1923.[2] He developed a talent for "discovering" and developing the talents of actresses, including Greta Garbo, Asta Nielsen, Louise Brooks, and Leni Riefenstahl.[3]

Pabst's best known films concern the plight of women, including The Joyless Street (1925) with Greta Garbo and Asta Nielsen, Secrets of a Soul (1926) with Lili Damita, The Loves of Jeanne Ney (1927) with Brigitte Helm, Pandora's Box (1929), and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) with American actress Louise Brooks. He also co-directed with Arnold Fanck a mountain film entitled The White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929) starring Leni Riefenstahl.

After the coming of sound, he made a trilogy of films that secured his reputation: Westfront 1918 (1930), The Threepenny Opera (1931) with Lotte Lenya (based on the Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill musical), and Kameradschaft (1931). Pabst also filmed three versions of Pierre Benoit's novel L'Atlantide in 1932, in German, English, and French, titled Die Herrin von Atlantis, The Mistress of Atlantis, and L'Atlantide, respectively. In 1933, Pabst directed Don Quixote, once again in German, English, and French versions.

After making A Modern Hero (1934) in the USA and Street of Shadows (1937) in France, Pabst (who was planning to emigrate to the United States) was caught in France in 1938 whilst visiting his mother, when war was declared, and was forced to return to Nazi Germany. Under the auspices of propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels, Pabst made two films in Germany, during this period; The Comedians (1941) and Paracelsus (1943).

Pabst directed four opera productions in Italy in 1953: La forza del destino for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence (conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos, the cast included Renata Tebaldi, Fedora Barbieri, Mario del Monaco, Aldo Protti, Cesare Siepi), and a few weeks later, for the Arena di Verona Festival, a spectacular Aïda, with Maria Callas in the title role (conducted by Tullio Serafin, with del Monaco), Il trovatore and again La forza del destino.[4]

He directed The Last Ten Days (1955), the first post-war German feature film to feature Adolf Hitler as a character.[5]


On 29 May 1967, Pabst died in Vienna at the age of 81.[6] He was interred at the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna.[7]



See also



  1. Bock, Hans-Michael; Bergfelder, Tim. The Concise Cinegraph: An Encyclopedia of German Cinema. Berghahn Books. p. 355. ISBN 0-857-45565-6.
  2. Langham, Larry (2000). Destination Hollywood: The Influence of Europeans on American Filmmaking. McFarland. p. 80. ISBN 0-786-40681-X.
  3. "Opening Pandora's Box". The Criterion Collection. 2006.
  4. "Music: Pabst's Blue Ribbon". time.com. 10 August 1953.(Subscription required.)
  5. "Opening Pandora's Box". The Criterion Collection. 2006.
  6. Reuters (31 May 1967). "G. W. Pabst, Maker Of Films Abroad. Early Viennese Producer and Director Dies at 82". New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2010. G.W. Pabst, the Austrian film producer and director, died here last night. He was 82 years old.(Subscription required.)
  7. Bahn, Paul G. (2014). The Archaeology of Hollywood: Traces of the Golden Age. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 236. ISBN 0-759-12378-0.
  8. "ASAC Dati: Premi". Retrieved 30 September 2014.

Further reading

  • Amengual, Barthélémy. G.W. Pabst. Paris, Seghers, 1966
  • Atwell, Lee. G.W. Pabst. Boston, Twayne Publishers, 1977
  • Baxter, John. "G.W. Pabst" in International Directory of Films and Filmmakers. Chicago, 1990. pp. 376–378
  • Groppali, Enrico. Georg W. Pabst. Firenze, La Nuova Italia, 1983
  • Jacobsen, Wolfgang (ed.) G.W. Pabst. Berlin, Argen, 1997
  • Kagelmann, Andre and Keiner, Reinhold. "Lässig beginnt der Tod, Mensch und Tier zu ernten: Überlegungen zu Ernst Johannsens Roman Vier von der Infanterie und G. W. Pabsts Film Westfront 1918" in Johannsen, Eric; Kassell (ed.) Vier von der Infanterie. Ihre letzen Tage an der Westfront 1918. Media Net-Edition, 2014. S. 80-113. ISBN 978-3-939988-23-6
  • Kracauer, Siegfried. De Caligari à Hitler. Une histoire psychologique du cinéma allemand, Paris, Flammarion, 1987
  • Mitry, Jean. Histoire du cinéma: Art et industrie (5 volumes) Paris, Editions Universitaires – J.P. Delarge, 1967–1980
  • Rentschler, Eric (ed.) The Films of G.W. Pabst. An extraterritorial cinema. New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1990
  • Pabst, Georg Wilhelm. "Servitude et grandeur de Hollywood" in Le rôle intellectuel du cinéma, Paris, SDN-Institut International de Coopération Intellectuelle, 1937. pp. 251–255
  • Van den Berghe, Marc. La mémoire impossible. Westfront 1918 de G.W. Pabst. Grande Guerre, soldats, automates. Le film et sa problématique vus par la 'Petite Illustration' (1931), Bruxelles, 200

"The Other Eye", Filmessay on G.W.Pabst, by Hannah Heer & Werner Schmiedel (A/USA 1991/92)

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