“Max Reinhardt” (“Stigmata”; The Film that was never made)

“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. 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.”

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

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. 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.”

Max Reinhardt - Midsummer Night Dreams 1935
Max Rainhardt – Midsummer Night Dreams 1935
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Max Reinhardt – Midsummer Night Dream

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 on her 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.”

“In April, Mother, Miss Davies and I sailed for Hamburg. We arrived at Cuxhaven early one morning. Mother had to be carried to the train and to a private car. Reinhardt was already over there. His secretary met us, and Mr. Melnitz, head of the United Artists in Germany.

“At Hamburg, we put Mother to bed for two hours. She had been up since half-past four. Nurse and I had not slept all night. We took train for Berlin, arriving at six in the evening. I had not realized that Germany is like America in the matter of news. I supposed we would go in quietly. Instead, we found the station literally jammed with people, all trying to get around us. It was terribly hard on poor Mother.”

Lillian Gish arriving in Germany
Lillian Gish arriving in Germany

There were a dozen or two camera-men, and when they found they couldn’t all take pictures of Lillian, they got around Mrs. Gish, who was in a big chair carried with poles. She could not tell them that she did not want her picture taken, and began to cry. When at last they got into an automobile, all the camera-men and reporters jumped into other cars and came racing behind, taking pictures all the way to the hotel. During the next few days, Lillian was too nervous to give more than a few interviews. Reinhardt comforted her by saying that no artist ever had come into Germany with such a reception from the press.

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

At Berlin Lillian consulted Professor Vogt, head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, supposed to know more than anyone else about cases like her mother’s. Professor Vogt said he could not do very much for Mrs. Gish, but warned Lillian that she herself was likely to be headed in the same direction. He advised that her mother be taken to Doctor Sinn’s Sanatorium at Neubabelsburg, advice promptly followed. Mrs. Gish remained there a year.

photo of Gish by Witzel of L. A., signed and inscribed in black ink 1914

To Lillian, in Berlin, came this letter:

O smallest blonde:

You must not think of any other place but Leopoldskron! Max Reinhardt and we all would think that we had failed completely to please you. Besides, the hotels are now terribly overcrowded and you would be perfectly miserable there. So please, do overcome any inhibitions, and come to Leopoldskron! I am expecting your wire about train and hour.

We are just having Anthony Asquith and Elizabeth Bibesco here. This means that the whole castle is one flaming song in gloriam Lilliane Gish. . . .

I do hope that Professor Vogt will entirely satisfy the expectations of your poor mother. My sincerest wishes and regards to her . . . Schloss Kommer and Salzburg are sending you loving greetings. Au revoir! Yours ever,

  1. K. Kommer

“I went to Salzburg,” Lillian said, “to Leopoldskron.

Lillian Gish - Germany
Lillian Gish – Germany

Reinhardt and his secretary, Miss Adler, were on the train, and Kommer was at the station to meet us. Leopoldskron is a huge place, a little way out of Salzburg, built hundreds of years ago. I don’t know how many rooms it has, but only candles were used to light them. I was much impressed when we drove up to it, and when we got inside. There were ever so many guests, distinguished persons from everywhere. It is like a great hotel, and has three dining-rooms. Among the guests, was the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who had come to work on the story we had planned for our picture. Kommer got me a maid, Josephine, whom I afterwards brought to America.

“We worked three weeks on our story, that time; then I went to Paris for a fortnight, then to Mother at Neubabelsburg. Later I went to Leopoldskron for another three weeks, to meet Mr. Joe Schenck, who had come over to hear the story. Frances Marion was in Salzburg by that time. She said we had a wonderful theme. Schenck also liked it—said we should get back to Hollywood as quickly as possible, and make it. Possibly he suspected that some’ thing was likely to happen—something like an earthquake in the picture world. Off there in that corner of Austria, we never dreamed of it.

Miss Lillian Gish - Leopoldskron
Miss Lillian Gish – Leopoldskron

“I was anxious to see something of Austrian peasant life at close range. At Leopoldskron was the artist Feistauer. He himself was a peasant, and he asked me to pose for him. So we made a bargain. I agreed that if he and his wife would go with me, I would get a car, pay the expenses of the trip and he could take us to the part of the country he knew. If he would do this, I would pose for him. He was quite willing, and we arranged our party. There were five of us besides the chauffeur: Feistauer and his wife; von Hofmannsthal’s son Raymond; myself, and Josephine, my maid.

“It was a wonderful experience. I saw peasant life as I should never have seen it otherwise. We would stay a day and a night in a peasant house—huge houses they had, like those in the Schwartzwald, with their animals in one part of it. Their food was a coarse bread, milk and potatoes, placed on a kind of framework in the middle of the table. I was so impressed with it all—different from anything I had ever seen:—the great room below, the small chambers above. The combined living-room and kitchen was sometimes very beautiful. The great cooking-stoves so unlike any I had known. Beautiful, too, because primitive.

Lillian Gish and Max Reinhardt - Germany
Lillian Gish and Max Reinhardt – Germany

“We came one day to a house where a man walked out to meet us, carrying a child in his arms, leading another. I thought he had the most wonderful face I had ever seen, a perfect Christus. He was followed by some geese, two dogs and a baby lamb. He came up and greeted us with the word they use with strangers, ‘Christgott,’ and led us to the house. He apparently knew Feistauer, but his greeting to him was the same as to us. We sat down for a little ; then he took Raymond and myself through the house. We were there perhaps an hour in all. When he had gone I said to Feistauer: ‘If you should ever wish to paint the Christus, I should think you would use that man. He is nearer my idea of the Christ than anyone I have ever seen.’

Feistauer said:

I have done so, often. He is my brother!’ Because Feistauer had given up the land to be a painter in town, he was, in a sense, an outcast, a stranger—no more than any other of our party.

“It was at the end of my second visit to Salzburg that I saw the miracle girl, Theresa Neumann—at Konnersreuth. I was on the way to see Mother again, and stopped off there. She was to be the subject of our picture, and it was very necessary that I see her. No one is allowed to do so without special permission. I had letters from the Archbishop of Regensburg. Josephine, my maid, went with me.

“I found poor, the very poorest, accommodations in the peasant village where Theresa Neumann lived. She is just a peasant girl herself, the eldest of eleven children, about thirty years old when I was there. Hundreds try to see her, but only members of the clergy, or those with special permits, can get near her on the days of the miracle. There is no charge of any sort, and her people are very poor, helped a little by the Church.

Therese Neumann - Bundesarchiv Bild
Therese Neumann – Bundesarchiv Bild

“It is the most amazing sight in the world. Her ecstasy begins about one o’clock Friday morning, and lasts until noon. The wounds, which are closed and black between times, open, and blood flows from them—from those on her hands and feet, from the spear-wound in her side, and the thorn-wounds on her forehead. Tears of blood drip from her eyes, run down her cheeks, and stain her white gown. I was within three feet of her, and saw all this. I don’t expect anyone to believe these things, but I saw them, exactly as I have said, and if it is trickery, it is beyond anything of the sort I have ever heard of. I asked her to pray for Mother, and I believe she did. Mother got better, so it may have helped.

“The miracle has been accounted for in many ways, both by skeptics and believers. The believer, a priest, who talked about it to me, called her a ‘child of grace,’ which may be as good an explanation as any, if one knew what it meant. Dozens of books have been written about her. Perhaps she is all mind, but that seems a poor explanation. It is claimed that she has not taken food or drink for a number of years. Incredible, of course, but no more so than the things I saw.”

 

(Albert Bigelow Paine – Life and Lillian Gish – “Reinhardt”)

 

 

George Jean Nathan, Lillian Gish and Rudolph Kommer at Leopoldskron
George Jean Nathan, Lillian Gish and Rudolph Kommer at Leopoldskron

 

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.’

Max Reinhardt - The Miracle
Max Reinhardt – 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. 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.

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”)

Lillian Arrives in Germany
Lillian Arrives in Germany

“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.

George Jean Nathan, Lillian Gish and Rudolph Kommer at Leopoldskron
George Jean Nathan, Lillian Gish and Rudolph Kommer at Leopoldskron

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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