Henny Porten was the first great star of the German cinema, yet is little known outside that country. Her early films are rarely shown, and it is difficult to know what she was like in them. In the 20s, however, her persona seems to have exemplified compassionate womanhood. As an illustration of the difference between her and her biggest rival Asta Nielsen, in their only film together, I.N.R.I. (1923) Porten played the Virgin Mary to Nielsen's Mary Magdalen. Her best known film outside Germany is Hintertreppe (Backstairs)(1921). She continued as a star through the entire silent period and into the talkies. Despite her classic "Aryan" looks, she was largely blacklisted in the Nazi period because she refused to divorce her Jewish husband. Welcomed back after the war, she continued appearing in films into the 1950s.
Anna Boleyn (1920)
Available from Kino Video (DVD)
Hintertreppe (Backstairs) (1921)
Available from Nostalgia Family Video , Movies Unlimited
Belach, Helga. Henny Porten, der erste deutsche Filmstar, 1890-1960. Berlin: Haude & Spener, c1986.
©2001, by Greta de Groat. All Rights Reserved
Last revised April 14, 2011