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Der var engang (1922)

A beautiful but imperious princess refuses all offers of marriage, often condemning her suitors to death. The prince of Denmark comes seeking her hand and, aided by magic objects given to him by a mysterious spirit, seeks to win her love.


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Credited cast:
Clara Pontoppidan ... The Princess of Illyria (as Clara Wieth)
Svend Methling Svend Methling ... The Prince of Denmark
Peter Jerndorff Peter Jerndorff ... The King
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Hakon Ahnfelt-Rønne Hakon Ahnfelt-Rønne ... Kasper Røghat
Mohamed Archer Mohamed Archer ... Frier
Bodil Faber Bodil Faber ... Hofdame
Wilhelmine Henriksen Wilhelmine Henriksen ... Doktor Dorthe
Lili Lani Lili Lani ... Hofdame
Henry Larsen Henry Larsen ... Frier
Frederik Leth Frederik Leth ... Kulsivieren
Schiøler Linck Schiøler Linck ... Papegöje Kammerherren
Gerda Madsen Gerda Madsen
Lars Madsen Lars Madsen ... Bissekraemmeren
Torben Meyer ... Ceremonimesteren
Karen Poulsen Karen Poulsen ... Bolette


A beautiful but imperious princess refuses all offers of marriage, often condemning her suitors to death. The prince of Denmark comes seeking her hand and, aided by magic objects given to him by a mysterious spirit, seeks to win her love.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

3 October 1922 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Once Upon a Time See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Sophus Madsen Film See more »
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Technical Specs



Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The recent DVD of the extant portions of this film, produced by the Danish Film Institute for sale to the public - though playable only in the European Region - reveals it is based on an operetta, which in turn was based on Shakespeare's "The Taming Of The Shrew". The first third (almost all of the sequences in the castle) survives, followed by a series of takes of low comedy [prince's servant and kitchen maids] scenes, followed by the last segment of the film (the forest scenes). Anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour is missing in the middle of the film. No shooting script or review exists so timing is not certain. The DVD runs for about 75 minutes and is all we have left of the film. This information was derived from Jean and Dale Drum's biography of Carl Dreyer: MY ONLY GREAT PASSION. See more »


Featured in Ved den danske films vugge (1941) See more »

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User Reviews

A Fairy Tale Is Combined With A Serious Moral

Sometimes-though not often-you find an aristocrat who behaves improperly and in a bizarre way not in keeping their privileged condition. It would seem that strange conduct among aristocrats is not uncommon in Denmark as some English playwright wrote some centuries back. Such odd behaviour can also be found in the film "Der Var Engang" (Once Upon A Time) directed by Herr Carl Theodor Dreyer in the silent year of 1922.

The film depicts the case of the Prince of Denmark who travels to the land of Illyria where lives a princess who knows pretty well her exalted role and acts accordingly, a capricious and spoiled royal who rejects one by one all her suitors and certainly the Prince of Denmark wouldn't be an exception for her.

Annoyed by this and smitten with the royal brat, the Prince of Denmark decides to teach her a lesson with the help of his assistant, called "Smokehat". The Prince will disguise himself as a commoner in his plan to win the princess' heart.

"Der Var Engang" was an adaptation of a play by Herr Holger Drachmann that was very popular in Denmark and the film captures the fairytale atmosphere, especially during the first half of the picture in which there is much subtle humour that makes good use of Danish folklore and is supported by astonishing art direction and beautiful bucolic scenery.

In the second half of the film things take a new turn with the luxurious fairytale setting and the easy life at the palace disappearing as the Princess learns of real life and must endure the perils and hardships of commoners. Far from the safety of the palace, she learns humility, forgets her pride and finally falls in love.

Although almost half of the film is lost, the surviving footage is well supported by still photos to make up a complete narrative, a great restoration by the Danish Film Institute giving the opportunity to silent film fans around the world to see a very different type of Herr Dreyer work in which a fairy tale is combined with a serious moral, the latter being more characteristic of the Dreyer films that were to come.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must continue to behave as a true Teutonic aristocrat.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com

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