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06 August 2013

Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru (1917)

Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru/The Maharaja’s Favourite Wife (Robert Dinesen, 1917) was a Danish orientalist melodrama produced by the Nordisk studio. The stars were Gunnar Tolnaes and Lily Jacobson. The film was so popular that it had a Danish sequel in 1919, again with Tolnaes and Jacobson, and a German sequel in 1921.

Lilly Jacobson and Gunnar Tolnaes in Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 2992. Photo: Nordisk. Gunnar Tolnaes and Lilly Jacobson in Die Lieblingsfrau des Maharadscha/Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru/The Maharaja’s Favourite Wife (1917).

Gunnar Tolnaes
The Danish film industry was an international super power in the 1910s and the Nordisk productions were the most successful of them all - especially in Germany. The studio heads at Nordisk hoped that Norwegian-born actor silent film star Gunnar Tolnaes would become as popular as their biggest star, Valdemar Psilander. Tolnaes had his most famous performance for Nordisk in Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru/The Maharaja’s Favourite Wife (Robert Dinesen, 1917). He played an Indian prince, and Lily Jacobson played his love interest, the Danish Elly von Langen.

In 1913, Tolnaes started his film career for the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern AB in Stockholm and worked there with legendary director Victor Sjöström. They made the silent dramas Halvblod/Half Breed (Victor Sjöström, 1913) with Karin Molander, Gatans barn/Children of the Streets (Victor Sjöström, 1914) starring Lili Beck, and En av de många/One of the Many (Victor Sjöström, 1915). He also worked with the other great director of the silent Swedish cinema, Mauritz Stiller.

Then Tolnaes moved to Denmark, where he was offered a contract at the Nordisk studio. He was immediately successful with Doktor X/Doctor X (1915) directed by Robert Dinesen. He had an impressive career in Denmark in such films as the science fiction film Himmelskibet/400 Million Miles From Earth  (Holger-Madsen, 1918) and of course Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru/The Maharaja’s Favourite Wife and its sequel.

Gunnar Tolnaes in Die Lieblingsfrau der Maharadscha (1921)
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 2995. Photo: Nordisk.

Gunnar Tolnaes, Lilly Jacobson
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin. Photo: Nordisk.

Gunnar Tolnaes
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 3003. Photo: Nordisk.

Lilly Jacobsson
In 1916 Nordisk was looking for a new female star. Swedish actress Lilly Jacobson was chosen from hundreds of competitors and became the leading actress in Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru/The Maharaja’s Favourite Wife.

Jacobsson had already starred in Swedish and Danish silent films by such directors as Eric Malmberg, Mauritz Stiller and Holger-Madsen. In Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru she performed as Elly von Langen who enters the harem of an Indian Maharaja. In the following years, Jacobsson played in various Danish films, mostly directed by Holger-Madsen. These films include the science fiction-film Himmelskibet/400 Million Miles From Earth (Holger-Madsen, 1918) starring Nils Asther, Folkets ven/Friend of the People (Holger-Madsen, 1918), and Mod Lyset/Towards the Light (Holger-Madsen, 1918) starring Asta Nielsen.

She played a cold, partying woman who neglects religion, but later on repents and becomes the wife of a preacher man (Alf Blütecher) who takes care of the poor. The film eventually resulted in Jacobson playing Ophelia in Asta’s famous production of Hamlet (Svend Gade, Heinz Schall, 1921), in which Nielsen played the title role herself. In 1919 Lilly Jacobson married director Corbett Edwards in Odense (Denmark), which ended her film career.

Lilly Jacobson
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 3009. Photo: Nordisk.

Lilly Jacobson
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 3008. Photo: Nordisk.

Lilly Jacobson
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K.1475. Photo: Nordisk.

German Version
At IMDb, "I give this movie credit for several genuine surprises: it sets up a very obviously formulaic plot, and then contradicts the formula several times. Quite a few movies from this period (both European and American) depicted exotic foreigners as swarthy villains, keen on defiling white women. I was intrigued that the maharajah in this movie seems to be all set to fit neatly into that stereotype, but then turns out to be a virtuous character (by his own culture's rules) who's meant to receive the audience's sympathy. The photography and art direction are superb, and the editing is impressive."

Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru/The Maharaja’s Favourite Wife was so popular that  Nordisk made a sequel: Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru II/The Maharaja's Favourite Wife II (August Blom, 1919). It features a different set of characters. In 1921 the German studio PAGU would produce another sequel Die Lieblingsfrau des Maharadschas - 3. Teil/The Maharajah's Favourite Wife III (Max Mack, 1921) in which Aud Egede Nissen replaced Jacobson.

Die Lieblingsfrau des Maharadscha  was Tolnaes' first German film. He then alternated acting in German films with acting in Danish films, until the end of the silent era. Most of his Danish films in the 1920s were directed by A.W. Sandberg.

Gunnar Tolnaes & Lilly Jacobson
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K1919. Photo: Nordisk.

Gunnar Tolnaes
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 3004. Photo: Nordisk.

Gunnar Tolnaes
German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K 1917. Photo: Nordisk.

Sources: Wikipedia (German) and IMDb

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