Frequently lauded as “die Duse des Kinos” [the Duse of the cinema], as Poul Elsner noted in Weltrundschau in 1911 (517), the Danish actress Asta Nielsen was the first major star of German silent film. She acted in more than seventy films, all but four of them made with German production companies, during the twenty-two years of her film career. The phenomenal success of her debut film, Afgrunden/The Abyss (1910) enabled her to become the first global film star under the new monopoly distribution system. From 1910 to 1914, she collaborated closely with director Urban Gad, who was also her first husband, under the auspices of Deutsche Bioscop and Projektions-AG “Union” (PAGU), and later established two film companies of her own. Although she struggled to come to terms with the director-centric turn of the film industry in Germany in the 1920s that restricted the artistic autonomy she had enjoyed in the 1910s, she made several of her most artistically impressive films, including several Weimar street films, during this period. In 1932, she acted in her only sound film, Unmögliche Liebe/Impossible Love, which was also her final film, aside from two documentaries about her made decades later.
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