[Lola Montez, the King’s Dancer]
Willi Wolff 

From the dozens of films she made, Ellen Richter later singled out Lola Montez, die Tänzerin des Königs as her most cherished accomplishment. Indeed, the film can be seen to epitomize her work in many respects. Loosely based on the story of the infamous Irish dancer Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, who in the 1840s and 1850s became the talk of Europe’s capitals and the mistress of Bavarian King Ludwig I, Lola Montez contains all the typical ingredients of an Ellen Richter film: a dramatic story centred on a beautiful, desirable, and somewhat “exotic” outsider, lavish costumes, and a wide variety of picturesque locations. As in many of her other films, Richter here has an ideal opportunity to display her love for disguises and tongue-in-cheek humour. Deviating from the historical facts, Lola is introduced as a young Spanish “Gypsy” who becomes involuntarily embroiled in an attempt to poison the Infante of Spain (a short but splendid cameo by Heinrich George). As a result, she has to flee the country, arriving first in Italy, where she is taught how to act like a lady. Later, in Paris, she is invited to dance at the city’s prestigious opera house, becoming a worldwide sensation. She then becomes secretly involved in a revolutionary plot by Louis Napoléon, the future emperor of France. When the plot fails, Lola is once again forced to flee, this time to Munich, where she captures the attention of Ludwig I. Their ensuing affair arouses a great deal of hatred among the people and the establishment, however. In the end, Lola has no choice but to leave again, and vanishes into the night mist.
In contrast to many of Ellen Richter’s other films,
Lola Montez not only proved popular at the box office but was also positively received by the more ambitious critics, who often tended to write off her particular brand of entertainment. For example, Film-Kurier (29.12.1922) noted on the day after the premiere: “As Lola Montez, Ellen Richter was permitted to display her skills to the full: grand, amorous, seductive, beautiful, catlike, demonic, but also calmer effects emanated from her.” Fritz Olimsky, writing in Berliner Börsen-Zeitung (31.12.1922), was also full of praise: “A woman as beautiful as she is racy, at the centre of it all. Amiable, slightly trenchant humour in the plot and intertitles. (…) In addition, charming images of quite exquisite photographic quality from the most beautiful countries of Europe, from Spain, Italy, Paris, Munich. Ergo: ‘film’ in the best sense of the word. (…) In the title role, Ellen Richter delights with her charm, a beautiful woman who can do a lot more than just look beautiful. (…) The excellent, immensely film-like direction was provided by Mr. Ellen Richter, alias Dr. Willi Wolff.”
In the context of Richter’s
œuvre, Lola Montez is situated between the end of one era and the beginning of another. In the two years preceding the release of Lola Montez, Richter had portrayed a veritable “who’s who” of famous women from European history, from Mary Tudor, Queen of England, and Marion Delorme, the famous French courtesan active during the reign of Louis XIII, to the Russian Empress Catherine the Great and Catherine Lefèbvre (née Hübscher), better known as “Madame Sans-Gêne”, who became a Duchess under Napoleon Bonaparte. These films based on historical celebrities, of which Lola Montez was the last, were, by and large, part of a trend in German cinema at the time that flourished with Ernst Lubitsch’s Madame Dubarry (Passion, 1919) and Anna Boleyn (Deception, 1920). At the same time, the episodic nature of Lola Montez mirrors the structure of the multi-part travel-and-adventure films which mark Richter’s work between 1921 and 1925. As in her films like Die Frau mit den Millionen (The Woman Worth Millions, 1922/23) and Der Flug um den Erdball (The Flight Around the World, 1924/25), the story jumps from one country to another, thereby creating ample opportunity for location shooting. Thus, the acts of travelling and making films merged into one, becoming more than just a new style for Ellen Richter and Willi Wolff. It became a new way of life. – Philipp Stiasny

The restoration  Lola Montez, die Tänzerin des Königs is presented in a new 4K digital restoration by DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum. Its premiere at the Giornate takes place 25 years after a first restoration attempt was shown at Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in July 1996. The previous restoration, spearheaded by the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, essentially preserved the heavily truncated and re-edited Swiss version, a vintage print of which had survived in the collections of the Cinémathèque Suisse. The availability of additional sources as well as the possibilities afforded by digital technology have now made an approximate reconstruction of the original German release version possible. The same Swiss print served as the main source element in the new restoration, with additional footage drawn from an incomplete Dutch release print held at Eye Filmmuseum. The German censorship card and a vintage plot summary helped in re-ordering the footage, despite heavy losses and discrepancies in the editing of the two prints. The titles, which don’t survive in their original design, were re-created using the censorship card and the titles in a surviving print of Richter’s previous film, Die Abenteuerin von Monte Carlo (The Adventuress from Monte Carlo, 1921), as references. Technical work was carried out by Haghefilm Digitaal.

(Lola Montez, la danzatrice del re) [Lola Montez, the King’s Dancer] 

regia/dir: Willi Wolff.
scen: Willi Wolff, Paul Merzbach.
photog: Arpad Viragh. scg/des: Prof. Stefan Lhotka.
cons. artistico/artistic advisor: Paul Merzbach.
prod. mgr: Max Paetz.
costruzione set/construction: Albert Alscher.
cost: Carl Töpfer, Berlin; Peter A. Becker Nachf., Berlin; A. Dieringer, München.
cast: Ellen Richter (Lola Montez), Hugo Döblin (correggitore di/Corregidor of Barcelona), Mizzi Schütz (Donna Juana, sua nipote/his niece), Arthur Bergen (Madras, zingara/a “gypsy”), Frida Richard (zingara/a “gypsy” woman), Hermann Picha (capocuoco/the head cook), Heinrich George (Don Miguel, Infante di Spagna/of Spain), Georg Alexander (Ludwig von Hirschberg, uno studente/a student), Maria Forescu (padrona di casa/landlady, Verona ), Robert Scholz (Louis Napoléon), Gustav Potz (Louis Philippe, re di Francia/King of France), Leonhard Haskel (Pillet, direttore dell’/director of the Opéra de Paris), Julius Falkenstein (Dujarrier, giornalista/a journalist), Max Gülstorff (Beauvallon, giornalista/a journalist), Emil Rameau (Baron Rothschild), Fritz Beckmann (Cerf, banchiere/a banker), Arnold Korff (Ludwig I, re di Baviera/King of Bavaria), Julia Serda (Regina/Queen Therese), Fritz Kampers (Tenente/Lieutenant Nussbaum, Adjutant), Albert Patry (ministro/Minister von Abel), Friedrich Kühne (consigliere di stato/State Councillor von Berks), Georg Baselt (Von Pechmann, il capo della polizia di Monaco/chief of the Munich police), Hans Junkermann (direttore del teatro reale/director of the royal theatre), Toni Tetzlaff (prima ballerina), Ernst Pittschau (Peisner, uno studente/a student), Hans Heinrich von Twardowski (Friedemann, uno studente/a student), Wilhelm Diegelmann (Havard, titolare dell’albergo “Al Cervo d’Oro”/manager of the hotel “The Golden Stag”), Herbert Paulmüller (Meyerhöfer, cioccolataio/chocolatier), Carl Geppert (sentinella bavarese/Bavarian sentry [Nymphenburg palace gardens]), Fritz Schulz (giovane veneziano/a young Venetian), Rudolf Meinhard-Jünger, Fritz Beckmann, Alfred Walters, Kurt von Wolowski, Martha Hoffmann, Fritz Richard, Rudolf del Zopp.
prod: Ellen Richter, Willi Wolff, Ellen Richter-Film GmbH, Berlin.
dist: Universum Film AG (Ufa), Berlin.
riprese/filmed: 1922 (studio: Jofa-Atelier, Berlin-Johannisthal; locs: España, Venezia, Verona, Paris, Bayern).
v.c./censor date: 15.12.1922.
première: 28.12.1922, Berlin (U.T. Kurfürstendamm).
copia/copy: DCP, 113′ (orig. 3096 m., 136′, 20 fps), col. (imbibito e virato/tinted & toned); did./titles: GER, subt. ENG.
fonte/source: DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum, Frankfurt.

Restauro/Restored: 2019-20.
Digitalizzazione e restauro effettuati con il sostegno della delegazione del governo federale per la cultura e i media, BKM – Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien; dei Länder tedeschi e dell’agenzia tedesca per la promozione cinematografica, FFA – Filmförderungsanstalt. / Digitization and restoration funded by BKM – Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media), the German federal states (Länder), and the FFA – Filmförderungsanstalt (Federal Film Board), within the framework of Förderprogramm Filmerbe.

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