24 Frames: O Estudante de Praga (Der Student von Prag, Arthur Robison, 1935)
ARTHUR ROBISON (aka Artur Robison)
Born June 25, 1888, Chicago (Illinois, USA)
Died October 20, 1935, Berlin (Germany)
The director of one of Weimar cinema’s enduring classics, SCHATTEN (Warning Shadows, 1923), Robison made his name as a consummate professional in a range of genres.
Born into a family of German-Americans, Robison grew up in the United States and from 1895 in Germany. He studied medicine and subsequently worked as a general practitioner before returning to the United States in 1911, where he appeared as an actor on stage in German-language theatres.
Back in Germany after his father’s death in 1914, Robison entered the film industry, writing scripts for adventure serials. Working for Lu Synd-Film his directorial debut was DES NACHSTEN WEIB (Your Neighbour’s Wife), starring Synd and Friedrich Kiihne, followed by NACHTE DES GRAUENS (Nights of Terror, both 1916) with Synd, Werner Krauss and Emil Jannings. Over the following years he worked in Switzerland and, once again, in the United States.
ZWISCHEN ABEND UND MORGEN (Between Evening and Morning, 1923) marked his first collaboration with cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner, who also contributed much to the foreboding and claustrophobic atmosphere of SCHATTEN, Robison’s next and most famous production. The film, which starred Fritz Kortner as an intensely jealous husband, whose inner violent fantasies are given expression in a shadowplay performance, won wide acclaim, and remains a classic of Weimar cinema’s ‘haunted screen’.
Subsequently contracted by Erich Pommer to Ufa, Robison’s assignments included the lavish costume dramas PIETRO, DER KORSAR (Peter the Pirate, 1924/25) and MANON LESCAUT (1925/26), confirming Robison’s talent for ambitious entertainment productions. The Parufamet production DER LETZTE WALZER (The Last Waltz, 1927) was among only a handful of German films during these years with a successful release in the United States.
Following the circus melodrama LOOPING THE LOOP (1927/28), which had been partially shot in London, he made THE INFORMER (1929) for British International Pictures, an atmospheric adaptation of Liam O’Flaherty’s novel, elevated by Werner Brandes’s chiaroscuro camerawork and Lya de Putti’s naturalistic performance as the fiancee of an IRA informer.
In the early 1930s, Robison directed a number of German language versions of MGM productions in Hollywood, before returning to Germany in 1933, again working for Ufa. His final film was a remake of DER STUDENT VON PRAG (The Student of Prague, 1935), with Adolf Wohlbrük in the title role.
The Concise Cinegraph: Encyclopaedia of German Cinema (Hans-Michael Bock)