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Scandinavian auteur as chameleon: how Benjamin Christensen reinvented himself in Hollywood, 1925–29

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Abstract:

As a visionary stylist and innovator, Danish film-maker Benjamin Christensen (1879–1959) is part of the European silent-era canon. Less fully explored has been Christensen’s émigré period in 1920s Hollywood. This article particularizes that history in deeper scope than previous studies, while more fully contextualizing Christensen within immigrant labour in Hollywood of the period. Christensen’s greater personal and professional success at the First National studio following his problematic period at MGM is well established. But how much the film-maker deliberately manipulated his image within the industry during this period has not been as fully investigated as it merits. Archival evidence reveals Christensen as a shrewd, chameleon-like reinventor of his own persona. In light of this image makeover, Christensen’s surviving First National feature, Seven Footprints to Satan (1929), can be read as a brilliant satire of the late-1920s Hollywood studio system and remains a much richer film than has been previously acknowledged.

Keywords: Benjamin Christensen; First National; Häxan; Seven Footprints to Satan; studio system; émigré film-maker

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/jsca.1.1.7_1

Affiliations: University of California, Los Angeles

Publication date: 2010-10-15

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  • The Journal of Scandinavian Cinema is a new scholarly journal devoted to film in the Scandinavian countries. It aims to become the prime site for excellent research and engaging discussions on cinema in Scandinavia, both within the national context of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and as a region existing in a globalized world.
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