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The History of German Cinema: 1916-1920








Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari (1920)



  31/10 - Deputy Gustav Streseman calls for a parliamentary debate on the importation of foreign films.   All foreign films – other than Danish – are subsequently banned. [ADD]
    – The German High Command establishes Bild & Film Amt (BUFA) – the Office of Photography & Film – in an attempt to influence public opinion. [ADD]
    – Alfred Hugenberg founds Deutsche Lichtspiel-Gessellschaft e. V (DLG, German Motion Picture Company). [ADD]

Other Key German Films of 1916

Homunculus (Otto Rippert) [ADD]
Rubezahls Hochzeit (Paul Wegener) [ADD]
Das Tagebuch des Dr Hart (Paul Leni) [ADD]


  1/1 - The Deulig (Deutsche Lichtbild Gesellschaft) sets itself the goal of acting whenever possible in defence of German economy and culture throughout the world. [ADD]

Ernst Lubitsch

  16/11 - Ernst Lubitsch writes and directs Wenn Vier das selbe machen, which stars Ossi Oswalda, ‘Germany’s Mary Pickford [ADD]
  14/12 - Universum-Film AG (Ufa) is formed following the buying out of such film production and distribution companies as Messter, Nordisk, Union, PAGU, BB-Film, and Gloria and Joe May Film.   It instantly becomes the country’s largest film organisation, boasting vertical integration. [ADD]
    – During the war, the German government creates more than 900 makeshift cinemas for its frontline troops.  [ADD]

Other Key German Films of 1917


Lulu (Alexander von Antalffy) [ADD]



  30/6 -

Ufa assumes control of all cinemas previously owned by the Danish company Nordisk. [ADD]


Erich Pommer

  30/9 -

The Decla Film Company, formed by Erich Pommer with financing from French film company Eclair, becomes wholly German after buying all stocks. [ADD]

  12/11 -

The Rat der Volksbeauftragten (Council of the People's Representatives) abolish state censorship. [ADD]


Carmen (1918)

  17/12 -

Ernst Lubitsch’s second feature film, Carmen, is released in Berlin.   The film stars Pola Negri and Harry Liedtke, both of whom starred in his first feature, Die Augen der Mumie Ma, earlier in the year. [ADD]


Other Key German Films of 1918


Die Spinnen (1918)


Die Augen der Mumie Ma (Ernst Lubitsch) [ADD]





  17/4 -

Hans Vogt, Joe Engl and Joseph Massolle patent the Tri-ergon, a sound recording system that uses Lee DeForest’s electrode tubes.  [ADD]


Fritz Lang

  Apr -

28-year-old former screenwriter Fritz Lang’s debut effort at directing, Halbblut, premieres in Berlin. [ADD]

  28/5 -

Conrad Veidt stars as Paul Korner, probably the first homosexual character written for cinema, in Richard Oswald’s Anders als die Andern. [ADD]

  Jun -

At Gastelgasteig, near Munich, film producer Peter Ostermayr purchases 37 hectares of land on which he plans to build a film studio for his company EMELKA (Munchner Lichtspielkunst), which will later become Bavarian Film Studios.   Construction of the glass-enclosed studio begins in September. [ADD]


Madame DuBarry (1919)

  18/9 -

Ernst Lubitsch’s Madame DuBarry premieres at the luxurious new Ufa-Palast am Zoo cinema in Berlin before going on to become a worldwide hit. [ADD]


– Lotte Reiniger makes Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens (Ornament of the Lovestruck Heart), the first of her 2D animated shadow puppet films. [ADD]


– Industry employees successfully strike for better pay. [ADD]


– The first issue of the daily Film-Kurier (Film-Courier) is published. [ADD]

Other Key German Films of 1919
Die Austernprinzessin

Die Austernprinzessin (Ernst Lubitsch) [ADD]


Die Herrin der Welt (Joe May) [ADD]


Der Knabe im blau (F. W. Murnau) [ADD]


Maria Magdalene (Reinhold Schuntzel) [ADD]


Meyer aus Berlin (Ernst Lubitsch) [ADD]


Die Puppe (Ernst Lubitsch) [ADD]


Die Spinnen (Fritz Lang) [ADD]


Veritas vincit (Joe May) [ADD]


Wunder der Schneeschuhs (Arnold Fanck) [ADD]




Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari

  27/2 -

Demonstrating the robustness of the German industry after its years of isolation during the Great War, Robert Weine’s Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is released in Berlin.   Produced by Erich Pommer and written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Meyer, the film creates a bizarre and nightmarish world through the use of expressionist sets. [ADD]

  Mar -

Deutsche Bioskop and DECLA merge to become DECLA-Bioskop. [ADD]

  21/6 -

Production begins at the new Emelka film studios in Geiselgasteig near Munich. [ADD]

  1/9 -

Ernst Lubitsch’s Sumurun is released.   The film, in which Lubitsch appears as a hunchback, stars Pola Negri, Jenny Hasselquist and Paul Wegener. [ADD]


Der Golem (1920)

  29/10 -

Paul Wegener directs and stars in his second version of The Golem. [ADD]


– The Reichslichtspielesetz orders licensing of all films for public exhibition. [ADD]


– The ban on the importation of foreign films is lifted at the end of the year. [ADD]


– The Kinotechnische Gesellschaft is founded. [ADD]

Other Key German Films of 1920
    Anna Boleyn (1920)

Anna Boleyn (Ernst Lubitsch) [ADD]

    Genuine (Robert Weine) [ADD]



Germany: 1911-1915

Germany: 1921-1925



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