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11 May 2017

Ernst ist das Leben (1916)

Ernst ist das Leben/Life is Serious (1916) is a silent German film directed by American actress Fern Andra (1893-1974). Andra, who is also the the leading actress of the film, was one of the most popular film stars of the German cinema in the 1910s and early 1920s. Ernst ist das Leben was the first production of her own studio, Fern Andra-Atelier, which was situated at the roof of Chausseestraße 42 in Berlin.

Fern Andra in Ernst ist das Leben
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 513/1. Photo: Fern Andra Atelier. Publicity still from Ernst ist das Leben/Life is Serious (Fern Andra, 1916).

Fern Andra in Ernst ist das Leben
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 513/2. Photo: Fern Andra Atelier. Publicity still from Ernst ist das Leben/Life is Serious (Fern Andra, 1916).

Death by broken heart


Ernst ist das Leben premiered on 27. October 1916 at the Berlin Tauentzienpalast cinema. The film was a typical example of Fern Andra's melodramatic films of the 1910s, set either in aristocratic or artists milieus.

Andra plays Fanny, daughter of a flowershop seller. She is engaged with Fritz (Fritz Delius), who works at an engineering agency. But Fanny meets a ballet master who discovers her dancing talent and trains her. Fast, she makes a career as ballerina and becomes solo performer at the theatre.

When during one nighthly performance a fire breaks out, young sculptor Holger (Alfred Abel) saves her. Soon both get together more closely than her fiance can permit. Holger wants Fanny to model for him, but Fritz opposes.

Fanny breaks up with Fritz and marries Holger, but the marriage proves to be unhappy, as Holger goes out with other women while Fanny suffers. One night she catches him red-handed and still she tries to save her marriage, but Holger rejects her. She dies of a broken heart, in front of his sculpture.

Fern Andra in Ernst ist das Leben
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 513/3. Photo: Fern Andra Atelier. Publicity still from Ernst ist das Leben/Life is Serious (Fern Andra, 1916) with in the middle Alfred Abel and right Fritz Delius.

Fern Andra
German postcard by Rotophot in the Film Sterne series, no. 513/4. Photo: Fern Andra Atelier. Still from Ernst ist das Leben/Life is Serious (Fern Andra, 1916) with Fritz Delius. This card was sent to us by Gill (Many thanks!).

Fern Andra in Ernst ist das Leben
German postcard in the Film Sterne series by Rotophot, no. 513/5. Photo: Fern Andra Atelier. Publicity still from Ernst ist das Leben/Life is Serious (Fern Andra, 1916). The man on the left of Fern Andra is Fritz Delius. The dying woman in the bed is Frida Richard, who plays Andra's mother in the film.

Sources: The German Early Cinema DatabaseWikipedia (German) and IMDb.

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