24 Frames: I Was Jack Mortimer (Ich war Jack Mortimer, Carl Froelich, 1935)
CARL FROELICH (Carl August Hugo Froelich)
Born September 5, 1875, Berlin (Germany)
Died February 12, 1953, Berlin (West Germany)
Considered one of Germany’s most dependable directors of melodrama and comedy during the 1920s and 1930s, Carl Froelich was referred to by colleagues as ‘the old hand’ due to his lengthy career in the industry.
After studying electrical engineering at Darmstadt’s Technical College, he started out at Siemens in Berlin before joining Oskar Messter’s company – the foremost maker of cinema apparatus at the time – in 1903. Helping to instigate technological developments such as the Tonbild system (allowing short musical films to be shown with synchronised gramophone accompaniment), Froelich additionally worked as a cameraman on scientific documentaries, actuality and fiction films, and Tonbilder including Henny Porten’s debut in MEISSNER PORZELLAN (Meissen Porcelain, 1906).
He also undertook sporadic directing work, eg co-directing the biopic RICHARD WAGNER (The Life and Works of Richard Wagner, 1913) together with William Wauer. He then served as one of the company’s newsreel cameramen at the front during World War I.
From 1919 to 1921, he was a director both at Maxim-Film and Decla-Bioscop, where his films included the Asta Nielsen picture IRRENDE SEELEN (Souls in the Mire, 1921); and in 1920 he founded his own Berlin-based production company, Froelich-Film GmbH (known for short as FFG). Following the success of his Henny Porten film MUTTER UND KIND (Mother and Child, 1924), the latter was superseded by Henny Porten-Froelich Produktion GmbH, which produced some fifteen vehicles for the star under Froelich’s direction.
When the two parted ways in 1929, FFG resumed production with the early sound film DIE NACHT GEHORT UNS (The Night Is Ours, 1929) starring Hans Albers. The company had its own sound studio in Berlin-Tempelhof near the Ufa lot, and also produced other directors’ works, including Leontine Sagan’s MADCHEN IN UNIFORM (Girls in Uniform, 1931), on which Froelich served as artistic director, as well as Germany’s first colour fiction film short, DAS SCHONHEITSFLECKCHEN (The Beauty Spot, 1936), directed by Froelich’s long-term assistant Rolf Hansen.
Closely affiliated with Ufa, Froelich produced and directed a succession of entertainment pictures such as the rural farce KRACH UM JOLANTHE (What a To-Do!, 1934); the award-winning TRAUMULUS (The Dreamer, 1935) starring Emil Jannings; numerous Zarah Leander melodramas including HEIMAT (Homeland, 1938), ES WAR EINE RAUSCHENDE BALLNACHT (One Enchanted Evening / The Life and Loves of Tchaikovsky, 1939) and DAS HERZ DER KONIGIN (Mary, Queen of Scots / The Heart of a Queen, 1939/40); as well as the comedy DIE 4 GESELLEN (The Four Companions, 1938), featuring a young Ingrid Bergman; and the nostalgic Henny Porten two-parter FAMILIE BUCHHOLZ (The Buchholz Familiy) and NEIGUNGSEHE (Love Marriage, both 1943/44).
A Nazi party member since 1933, Froelich was appointed head of the Gesamtverbandes der Filmherstellung und Filmverwertung (Association of Film Producers and Distributors) the same year, and from 1934 made works for the regime’s propaganda section. He was later given a professorship and in 1939 became president of the Reichsfilmkammer (Reich Film Chamber).
Imprisoned after the war, he was declared ‘denazified’ in 1948, and in 1950/51 his newly-licensed Froelich-Film GmbH produced three films that failed to cause a ripple. Shortly before his death, he was made honorary president of the West German industry’s trade body SPIO on the occasion of his fiftieth anniversary in the business.
The Concise Cinegraph: Encyclopaedia of German Cinema (Hans-Michael Bock)