Paul Leni

Paul Leni (8 July 1885 – 2 September 1929), born Paul Josef Levi, was a German filmmaker and a key figure in German Expressionist filmmaking, making Backstairs (Hintertreppe, 1921) and Waxworks (Das Wachsfigurenkabinett, 1924) in Germany, and The Cat and the Canary (1927), The Chinese Parrot (1927), The Man Who Laughs (1928), and The Last Warning (1929) in the U.S.

Paul Leni
Born(1885-07-08)8 July 1885[1]
Died2 September 1929(1929-09-02) (aged 44)[1]
Cause of deathSepsis[2]
OccupationFilm Director, Art Director
Years active1913–1929
Notable work
The Cat and the Canary, The Man Who Laughs
MovementGerman Expressionist Film

Life and career

Leni was born to a Jewish family[3] in Stuttgart. He became an avant-garde painter at the age of 15, he studied at Berlin's Academy of Fine Arts, and subsequently worked as a theatrical set designer, working for a number of theatres in Berlin (but not with Max Reinhardt).

In 1913 he started working in the German film industry designing film sets and/or costumes for directors such as Joe May, Ernst Lubitsch, Richard Oswald, and E. A. Dupont.

During World War I, Leni started directing as well with films such as Der Feldarzt (Das Tagebuch des Dr. Hart, 1917), Patience (1920), Die Verschwörung zu Genua (1920/21) and Backstairs (1921). Waxworks (1924) was planned as a four-part omnibus feature, but the last part was not shot when money ran out. He also made a series of unusual short animated films Rebus-Film Nr. 1–8, which were filmed crossword puzzles.

Leni designed short prologues for festive film premieres in Berlin cinemas, such as Lubitsch's Forbidden Paradise (1924), Herbert Brenon's Peter Pan (1924), and E. A. Dupont's Variety (1925).

In 1927, he accepted Carl Laemmle's invitation to become a director at Universal Studios and moved to Hollywood. There Leni made a distinguished directorial debut with The Cat and the Canary (1927), an adaptation of John Willard's stage play. The film had a great influence over Universal's later classic "haunted house" horror series, and was subsequently remade several times, notably in 1939 with Bob Hope. The following year he directed the big budget The Man Who Laughs (based on the novel by Victor Hugo), one of the most visually stylized of late period silent films.

His final film was The Last Warning, envisioned as a companion film for The Cat and the Canary due to its predecessor's popularity.[4] Leni died in Los Angeles on 2 September 1929, of sepsis brought on by an untreated tooth infection, [2] only eight months after its release. [5] He was 44.


German films

As art director

As director (and art director)

Universal Studio films


  1. "BFI database: Paul Leni". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  2. Landazuri, Margarita. "The Cat And The Canary". Retrieved November 16, 2016. He died on September 2, 1929, of blood poisoning caused by a neglected tooth infection. He was 44 years old.
  3. Brook, Vincent (2009). Driven to Darkness: Jewish Emigre Directors and the Rise of Film Noir. Rutgers University Press. p. 256. ISBN 978-0813548333.
  4. Atkinson, Michael. "The Last Warning". Retrieved November 16, 2016. The kind of party we’re in for was immediately familiar to audiences in 1929 because of the intense popularity two years earlier of Leni’s The Cat and the Canary—to which The Last Warning is devised to be a companion film, almost a redux.
  5. Atkinson, Michael. "The Last Warning". Retrieved November 16, 2016. was the final film for the illustrious Leni who died eight months after its release of blood poisoning at the age of forty-four.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.