|Born||in Baden, Austria-Hungary [now Baden, Lower Austria, Austria]|
|Died||in New York City, New York, USA|
|Birth Name||Maximilian Goldmann|
Mini Bio (1)
Max Reinhardt was from an Austrian merchant family (surname officially changed from the family name Goldmann to Reinhardt in 1904), and even as a boy, after his family moved to Vienna, he haunted the "Hofburg Theater" and tried to see every play. In 1890 he studied at the Sulkowsky Theater in Matzleinsdorf and started acting in Vienna and later at the "Stadtheater" in Salzburg with duties as an assistant director. But by 1894 he was invited to Berlin by Otto Brahm, director, critic, and theater manager. And that was an important juncture. Brahm had founded the "Free Stage" (1890), a theater company crusading for realism in German theater by providing a forum for so-called banned plays - the iconoclastic works, such as, those of Henrik Ibsen and Leo Tolstoy. The result was the opening of German state theater to the corpus of the modern stage by 1894. Brahm became director of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, and there Reinhardt cut his teeth on the full theater experience, not simply acting alone, although he was much applauded for his convincing specialty of playing old men.
In 1901 Reinhardt co-founded his own - sort of avant garde - cabaret "Schall und Rauch" (Sound and Smoke) for experimental theater. It was renamed "Kleines Theater" (Small Theater) in 1902, a place for contemporary plays accented with the sort of spirit confined to cabaret entertainment. He then opened and managed his own theater "Neues Theater", now called the "Berliner Ensemble", from 1902 to 1905. These were all a part of his evolving philosophy of the harmony of stage design, costumes, language, music, and choreography as a whole unified artwork, Gesamtkunstwerk. He was influenced by several figures, August Strindberg for one, but most significantly by Richard Wagner and his operatic ideal that the director must pull together all aspects of art in his production. Reinhardt's infusion gave new dimensions to German theater. After producing more than fifty plays at Neues Theater, wherein he always found somebody to donate the money for productions, he was asked to take the helm of Deutsches Theater in Berlin for Brahm in 1905. At Deutsches Theater he embarked on big theater, employing the whole physical theater space for productions and often even spreading scenes into the audience as a means of fusing actors and audience in a total theater experience. Here was something different - making theater a democratic institution - after all the audience was the means of generating the money to do more. And Reinhardt was never avant garde enough to disdain making profit when it finally came knocking. He staged truly gargantuan productions of epic pageantry and lighting with stark colors for various dramatic effects. He staged one of his most famous early productions, his first rendition of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with a wooded forest revolving stage - turning to reveal progressive new scenes. He became famous for realistic direction of huge crowd and mob scenes.
He built the smaller Kammerspiele, a theater near Deutsches Theater in 1906. At this latter theater Reinhardt developed "Kammerspiel" theater, chamber dramas in a minimalist and naturalistic style. This followed from his expressionist influences which defied the realist dictum (though he would look to realism as well in the mix to appropriately stage some of his most ambitious efforts) and sought out more personal, expressive, and emphatic ways of coaxing the elements of theater from the conventional objective into palpable subjectivity. This all opened Reinhardt to even more experimental ideas in staging with sometimes nightmarish and vivid lighting techniques. He began introducing the expressionist plays to the German-speaking public. And he also opened a famous acting school which would function for decades turning out many of Germany's great actors and actresses. In addition there was a acting troupe that played in neutral areas of Europe during World War I. On the bill was always a cycle of Shakespeare plays. Reinhardt did everything in a big way and to accommodate a growing enthusiastic theater-going public he had expanded with a chain of theaters throughout Germany. He would manage thirty theaters and acting companies in all.
Reihardt fulfilled another of his ideals, and that was of finding the 'perfect playhouse' as a means of complementing the content and experience of a play. In 1919 he opened an enormous arena theater, the "Grosses Schauspielhaus", (Great Playhouse), but known as the "Theatre of the Five Thousand", which included a large revolving stage. Many of his biggest productions were done here, including Shakespeare and Greek plays. In the 1920s he built the two Boulevard Theaters on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. And yet, the privations of post-war Germany and the perennial anti-Semitic undercurrent caused a gradual loss of his big audiences. In 1920 Reinhardt went back to Salzburg and established the Salzburg Festival with composer Richard Strauss and playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Annually he enjoyed staging the most apropos of morality plays, the medieval "Everyman", with the biggest set he could muster as a backdrop-the Austrian Alps in the open air before the Salzburg Cathedral. From 1924 he became director of the Theater in der Josefstadt in Vienna and renewed his Berlin popularity with a new theater called "Komoedie". His output was no less than astounding. Whereas a theater director today would not commit himself beyond two or three productions in a year, Reinhardt averaged twenty in his first twelve years. Between 1916 and 1917 he produced 48 - his highest output. Although he did few films, he was very interested in the potential of the medium. He directed four silent movies starting in 1910. One of these was the filming of one his favorite pantomime plays "The Miracle".
Reinhardt was a titan of influence and inspiration on a whole generation of theater and film directors in Germany-many who spread the word to the rest of the world. His disciples included: F.W. Murnau, Paul Leni, Ernst Lubitsch, William Dieterle , and Otto Preminger. His staging of crowds and use of lighting were frequently appropriated by the great silent filmmakers of the Weimar Republic, including 'Fritz Lang' and Murnau. And he profoundly influenced the expressionist movement in German film. He also influenced many actors with his techniques of developing expressive characterizations and movement-many would eventually come to New York and Hollywood. But by 1933 Hitler had come to power, and Reinhardt found himself falling victim to the same methods of attrition as other German Jews. So-called assimilative families of ethnic mixtures, whether high or low, were increasing placed in the same category as ethnic Jews. His theaters were `appropriated' one-by-one by the government and later his considerable properties confiscated. Later in 1933 he moved back to Austria to the "Theater in der Josefstadt" in Vienna (where Preminger had quickly become a director), hoping his native land could resist the Nazi machine. But the same pressures enveloped him there. He left for a last theater tour of Europe and arrived in America in 1934. "Midsummer" had a special significance for Reinhardt. The play was his continued inspiration of a world without ideologies - a utopia - as the theater itself was a haven from the harsh realities of the world and of the individual. The audience learned something, but they also could steep themselves without taxing imagination in the illusion of theater. "Midsummer" was always a work-in-progress for him - he had staged it twelve times up to 1934, and in fact had already brought it to Broadway in late 1927. And that was not his first trip to the US, having started presenting plays as producer, director, or writer since early 1912 there (he did ten productions in all to 1943).
He came to Hollywood in 1934 with his fame preceding him. His last tour through Europe had included lavish productions in Florence (1933) and a"Midsummer" at Oxford (1934). He offered to do the same in Hollywood at an ideal outdoor stage-the Hollywood Bowl. But the bowl had to go - it was removed to provide a view of a "forest" up the hillside - a "forest" that required tons of dirt hauled in especially for its planting, Reinhardt and his design staff erected a 250-foot wide, 100-foot deep stage. Also included was a pond and a suspension bridge or trestle constructed from the hills in back to the stage to be lined with torchbearers - with real flaming torches - for the wedding procession inserted between Acts IV and V. This lavish production included a ballet corps, children playing faeries, and hundreds of extras. The 18-year-old Olivia de Havilland was at Mills College in Oakland, participating in a school "Midsummer" production where in attendance was none other than Max Reinhardt himself. He was so impressed with her that he picked her for his extravaganza. Along with other Hollywood actors, was 14 year old veteran of the cinema 'Mickey Rooney', added to the cast as Puck. Another new arrival from Austria was classical opera composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, musical collaborator of Reinhardt's from Vienna. Reinhardt cabled his friend to come over and help him by doing the orchestrations of Felix Mendelssohn's famous 1843 music for the Hollywood Bowl production. It was a night to remember - even for Jack L. Warner - who was not always sure of what he was seeing. But it was enough to sign Reinhardt to direct a filmed version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) which began shooting in December of 1934. De Havilland was back to start her film career-Rooney for another memorable part. Otherwise, it was new cast headed by Hollywood stars 'Dick Powell' and James Cagney and boasting the best actors from Warner's impressive stock company of players. Since Reinhardt did not know Hollywood filmmaking, Warner assigned a co-director, William Dieterle, Reinhardt's acting then directing protege, from the Deutsches Theater days in Berlin. Dieterle, the disciple, had directed in Germany since 1923 and then came to Hollywood to become one of the studio's most reliable new directors. It was the beginning of Korngold's screen career as a film composer when he was hired to do the film score, an arrangement based on Mendelssohn's music used at the Bowl. But he actually mixed in much more of a variety of the composer's music to fit the play. Warner's laid down 1.5 million dollars and had its top technical staff step up to the challenge. But all-most of all, Reinhardt - was on a bit of a learning curve. Reinhardt was allowed the liberty of long play-like rehearsals instead of rehearsing scene by scene. Reinhardt's early over-emphasized stage acting directions were recalled by Cagney, who noted the actors often stood around on the sidelines whispering to one another, "Somebody ought to tell him." It was the politic Dieterle who did - setting his old master straight as to the subtle wonders of the microphone and sound film techniques. Shakespeare's lines were cut for public consumption, but there was so much to see - who would notice. In Depression era America the movie theater had taken the place of Reinhardt's all encompassing theater as a haven - and that was certainly fine with him. And here was a feast for starving souls. Reinhardt's multi-faceted approach to theater shone in all its entertaining best-through Warner stage design efficiency. There was the realist extravagance in forested backdrops, but the wonderful ballet of the coming of night with dancer Nini Theilade was distilled expressionism. Other ballet sequences featuring the fairies-children and adults - were choreographed by 'Bronislava Nijinska' (the great Nijinsky's sister). Reinhardt conjured all his and the camera's magic to create the summation of a lifetime of stagecraft. His imaginative wizardry with lighting put the remarkable glow on the faces of Cagney and his motley peasant comrades as they rehearsed - on the dancing faeries in their sequins - on the enchanted sparkle of shimmering (painted and tensiled) woods and veiled atmosphere that awaited the gaiety of Titania and the black looks of King Oberon. Everything of British and German folklore was thrown in for good measure - from gossamer English faeries and magic animals to rather frightening, rubber-masked dwarfs dressed as Teutonic gnomes and goblins. Reinhardt fuzzed and gauzed the camera lens and even put scintillating borders and covers of various sorts on the camera cowling to frame some faerie scenes as if from a Victorian painting by English artists Richard Dadd and Joseph Noel Paton-obvious influences. The movie was not a box office success, but it was Hollywood history-salute to Shakespeare? - certainly - but more so, a great event of melting pot talent and modern film making that was Hollywood coupled with profound European stage traditions that began with Max Reinhardt. He - by the way - did no more films, perhaps deciding that the real challenge was still the stage. But this one record on sound film measures the genius of the man of theater and gives today a glimpse of his creative powers and something of what his stage productions were like. He was more interested in continuing working on-stage as a director and producer, but he did not forsake Hollywood. With his second wife actress 'Helene Thimig', from a famous Viennese acting family, he split his time between the coasts. He found a Hollywood-based theater workshop and an acting school in New York. All of Reinhardt's productions were tallied - just from 1905 to 1930 - and found to total 23,374 performances of 452 plays - and still a little short. His wide-eyed exuberance for spreading out a great show was indicative of the child in Max Reinhardt. He betrayed that very comparison unashamedly: "Theater is the happiest haven for those who have secretly put their childhood in their pockets, so that they can continue to play to the end of their days."
- IMDb Mini Biography By: William McPeak
|Helene Thimig||(8 May 1935 - 30 October 1943) ( his death)|
|Else Heims||(22 July 1910 - 30 April 1935) ( divorced) ( 1 child)|