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The spy who loved me: Benjamin Christensen and the Danish silent spy melodrama

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This article examines the spy melodrama films produced in Denmark from 1909 to 1918, 21 in all. The best-known (and one of only two to survive) is Benjamin Christensen’s Det hemmelighedsfulde X (Sealed Orders) (1914). A coda will briefly discuss the only pre-1945 spy talking film, Damen med de lyse Handsker (The Lady with the Light Gloves) (1942), also directed by Christensen. The article employs an approach similar to James Chapman’s contextual film history, examining the Danish silent spy melodramas in the context of political climate and genre, but with an emphasis on the concerns of film producers and practitioners. Surviving plot summaries, which exist for all 21 films, reveal a considerable degree of consistency in the storylines. The article argues that the melodramatic elements found in nearly all the films suggest a more female-oriented audience appeal than that of many later spy fictions.
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Keywords: Benjamin Christensen; Danish silent cinema; Nordisk Films Kompagni; copyright; film genre; film history; spy fiction; spy films

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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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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