Theresa Neumann’s Stigmata

Theresa Neumann’s Stigmata, the film that was never made …

Lillian concluded a contract with the United Artists for three pictures, to be directed by Max Reinhardt, foremost director and producer of Europe. The company had a contract with Reinhardt, and it was on their promise that he should direct her, that Lillian signed with them. Her plan had had its inception a year earlier, she said, during a visit of Reinhardt’s to Los Angeles. “My connection with Reinhardt was this: In 1923-24, I had seen his stage production of ‘The Miracle,’ with Lady Diana Manners and Rosamond Pinchot. Morris Gest brought it over, and at the time had asked me to play the part of the nun. Reinhardt, who had seen something of mine—I suppose ‘The White Sister’—had suggested this. I could not do it because of my contract. I was then on the eve of returning to Italy, to make ‘Romola.’ “I did not meet Reinhardt until he was in California, with ‘The Miracle.’ With Rudolph Kommer and Karl von Mueller he came out to our Santa Monica house, for luncheon. Before luncheon we went to the studio and ran, I think, ‘Broken Blossoms.’ Then, in the afternoon, ‘La Boheme’ and ‘The Scarlet Letter.’ They seemed to please him. He spoke no English, and I spoke no German, at the time.

Lillian Gish at the balcony of the Esplanade Hotel Berlin 1930
Lillian Gish at the balcony of the Esplanade Hotel Berlin 1928

Kommer served as interpreter. It was then that Reinhardt suggested that we might work together. He had never made a picture, but was eager to try. He had spent thirty-five years in the theatre, and was tired of it. He had theatres in Berlin and Vienna, the finest in Europe.” From Kansas City, Reinhardt and Kommer telegraphed: Once more we want to thank you for that most fascinating Sunday you gave us. “We greet you as the supreme emotional actress of the screen and hope fervently that the near future will bring us in closer contact on the stage and on the screen. Please do not forget Salzburg when you come to Europe. We shall be waiting for you. Salzburg was Reinhardt’s home, where in an ancient castle, Leopoldskron, he kept open house, for a horde of congenial guests.

Douglas Fairbanks, Max Reinhardt and Lillian Gish at train station - 1920s

  • Douglas Fairbanks, Max Reinhardt and Lillian Gish at train station – 1920’s

Reinhardt and Kommer had spoken of a picture they would prepare when she came to New York. Now, at the Drake Hotel, they started on a story for it. Reinhardt, meantime, had brought over a company and was producing “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Danton’s Todt.” Reinhardt, Lillian said, talked to her about Theresa Neumann, the peasant miracle girl of Konnersreuth, who on every Friday except feast days went through the entire sufferings of Christ, the blood trickling from stigmata onher forehead, her hands and her feet. Nobody but those who have seen it will believe it, but her case is a very celebrated one, and has been studied by scientists of Germany and Austria, and of other countries. Reinhardt believed that a great miracle picture could be based on the case of Theresa Neumann, and Lillian agreed with him. She would come to Leopoldskron, and would go to see Theresa Neumann for herself. “I must do that, of course,” she said, “and familiarize myself with the lives of the peasantry of which she was one.” (Albert Bigelow Paine – “Life and Lillian Gish”)

Max Reinhardt mit Lillian Gish im Hotel Esplanade in Berlin 1928
Max Reinhardt mit Lillian Gish im Hotel Esplanade in Berlin 1928

“Late in the twenties I went to Germany to work with Max Reinhardt on a film I hoped to make on the life of Theresa Neumann, the peasant girl of Konnersreuth, famous for her stigmata. Not only had she been without food for two years or water for eighteen months, but in her ecstasy she could speak in any language (normally she could neither read or write). Hugo von Hofmannstahl was to do our script. During the summer I went to Salzburg and spent several months at Leopoldskron where the three of us worked on the story. Rudolph Kommer, Reinhardt’s American manager, became a dear friend as well as our interpreter until I learned a little German. Here with Rudolph Kommer and George Jean Nathan, who stopped by to visit on his trip abroad. Unfortunately, due to the advent of talking pictures, this film was never made.” (Dorothy and Lillian Gish by Lillian Gish)

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