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The Joyless Street (1925)
"Die freudlose Gasse" (original title)

 |  Drama  |  5 July 1927 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 879 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 12 critic

Vienna in the biggest depression, directly after WW1. In a slum, Lila Leid, the wife of lawyer Leid is murdered, Egon, secretary of one of Leid's clients is arrested. He was with her, and ... See full summary »


(as G.W. Pabst)


(based on the novel by), (translator), 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Greta Rumfort
Agnes Esterhazy ...
Regina Rosenow
Metzger von Melchiorstrasse
Henry Stuart ...
Egon Stirner
Einar Hanson ...
Lt. Davis
Gregori Chmara ...
Karl Etlinger ...
Max Rosenow
Ilka Grüning ...
Frau Rosenow
Jaro Fürth ...
Hofrat Rumfort


Vienna in the biggest depression, directly after WW1. In a slum, Lila Leid, the wife of lawyer Leid is murdered, Egon, secretary of one of Leid's clients is arrested. He was with her, and had her necklace, because he needed some money for his own stock exchange deals. The same deal brings poverty to ex-government official Rumfort, his daughter Greta, who also has lost her job, tries to get some money to get food. She rents a room of the flat she, her young sister and her father are living in to an American Red Cross official, who pays $60 rent, but the money is taken by some of her father's creditors. But their neighbour, shop owner Mrs Greifer knows how to "help", she and Mrs. Merkel are running a nightclub with a brothel... Written by Stephan Eichenberg <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




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Release Date:

5 July 1927 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Joyless Street  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (1981 restored) | | (copy with English titles at Brussels Musée du Cinéma) | | | | (2012 print of the Filmmuseum München 1989-2009 restoration)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Throughout her life, Asta Nielsen (Maria Lechner) always said that she failed to see the attraction and talent of Greta Garbo (Greta Rumfort). See more »


Referenced in I Am Curious, Film (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

On the Verge of Negligence and Mutilation
18 July 2010 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

Significant movies have usually been associated with eminent directors or cast. That was also the case of the earliest nitrate silent movies, including the European cinema of that time. However, the movie that appeared to be a true phenomenon, a screen production that talked about people in unbelievable power, a silent recognized by many as the border between German Expressionism and new realism was THE JOYLESS STREET by Georg Wilhelm Pabst. Along with F.W. Murnau who became popular thanks to his thrilling NOSFERATU and innovative LAST LAUGH, Pabst became a highly respected director thanks to the controversial THE JOYLESS STREET. He proved to be a director who could create something thought provoking and ambiguous, who could surely enjoy appreciation among modern ambitious viewers. At that time, however, the movie's power occurred barely legal, which resulted in chopping it up, mutilating it and censoring it. Consequently, THE JOYLESS STREET became the most censored film of the Weimar Republic.

Years have passed emerging in various versions in multiple countries (for instance, the widely known Kino print missed four reels). Gaps have occurred more serious, which, however, did not stop various attempts to restore the film supplying it, at least partly, with the 'lost' glamor (Munich Filmmuseum restorations: the 1989 Patalas works and the 1995 'Project Lumiere' efforts). One of the thoughts accompanied their successful attempts: 'a thought provoking movie' by a great master that Pabst was will also find its audience nowadays.

In the times of computers and action movies, someone may ask: 'What is it that makes THE JOYLESS STREET worth being called 'thought provoking'? Now, Pabst's movie is, on the one hand, a historical glimpse of social classes in the post War I Vienna (homeless "Lumpenproletariat", working class, destitute middle class, and nouveau riche upper middle class); on the other hand, a unique insight into the psyches of individuals within the social misery. Rather than a tear jerking drama, this is the perfect exploration of despair, difficult decisions, determination contrasted with the manipulative upper classes, who spread false rumors that destroy the poor but rouse the wealthy. This is, in other words, the depiction of the joyous life in wealth and speculations clashing with the joyless life in poverty and distress...that is what emerges from THE JOYLESS STREET (consider the source novel by Hugo Bettauer murdered in 1925).

Indeed, it is something that builds an unforgettable experience that does not allow anyone remain indifferent. However, in spite of its universal nature and a very provocative content, the movie was almost on the verge of negligence and still remains highly mutilated, condensed, subjective. Why is it so bound to be distorted? In most cases, the reason appears to be the aforementioned censorship. Paradoxically, however, this subjectivity appears to be caused by one name, a great star who makes its title remembered.

That is Greta Garbo, without doubt, one of the greatest charisma of cinema. The title in her filmography is bound to be treated solely as a Garbo film. Yet, THE JOYLESS STREET is not at all a sort of film like many of her MGM vehicles. This is, along with GOSTA BERLING SAGA directed by her Swedish mentor Mauritz Stiller, a beautiful exemplification of Garbo's exceptional talent still uninfluenced by Hollywood. It is here we encounter the young Greta Garbo (19 years old at the time) who is not in the lead, not a great queen of MGM, who is not a vamp, a seductress nor a symbol, but a poor young girl, one of many in a queue for meat within the sorrows of the joyless street. Thanks to many of her scenes, we find out that Garbo acquired this unique 'magic' of hers already in Europe, at the side of great directors and great European cast (THE JOYLES STREET also casts Asta Nielsen, Werner Kraus, and Hertha Von Walter). Much is born here, much that we find elsewhere: her overwhelming gestures, her unique contact with the camera, her face that alone speaks to us more clearly than inter-titles (beside the strange make-up that one can surely get used to in the long run). Although her role of Greta in THE JOYLESS STREET is a secondary role, she seems to take over our attention. But here, let me highlight some aspects of Garbo's role and performance in a more detailed manner.

Garbo's job is very difficult; yet, she crafts it with extraordinary flair and profound insight into determination and dignity. It is clear that she truly identifies with the character she plays. There are some moments, particularly near the end, where her face expresses a chain of different feelings from angst, despair, fear to relief and joy. The role is something that addresses her personality more than seductive vamps or women in love with diamonds. Perhaps, that is why she does not need much experience yet portrays the character so genuinely and memorably. But, unfortunately, many do not understand that interesting fact. Nevertheless, Garbo's impact on the film's success is so strong that there is no doubt THE JOYLESS STREET has been solely considered a Garbo movie since 1925. That September (1925), Garbo arrived in the USA with her mentor director Mauritz Stiller and became the supreme artist. Yet,...

nowadays, when we view THE JOYLESS STREET, we should keep in mind that it is much more than Garbo's masterful acting. It is an exception in the history of cinema due to its highly psychological content, border of expressionist - realist atmosphere, its 'political incorrectness' and innovations galore; yet, also its strange fate of various versions, different attempts of preservation and the widespread subjectivity. Although it was on the verge of negligence, there are, fortunately, people who appreciate the great potential of this film. It is a pity that so few movie buffs have seen this film, but, perhaps, the movie's difficult fate proves its greatness. Highly recommended!

(some data are derived from Jan-Christopher Horak's article "Film history and film preservation" 1998)

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