Elizaveta Thiemann

Bagrov, Peter; Kovalova, Anna

Elizaveta Thiemann is the first credited female film director in Russia, which is a substantial accomplishment in and of itself. But she is best known for her work as a producer. Together with her husband Paul Ernst Julius (Pavel Gustavovich) Thiemann (1881-1954), she managed one of the most successful film companies in pre-revolutionary Russia, known, at different times, as Thiemann and Rheinhardt Trading House, Russian Golden Series [Russkaia zolotaia seriia], and Era. In his memoirs, director Viacheslav Viskovskii writes about the “missises” [“khoziaiki”] who were often in charge of film company affairs no less than their producer husbands. Apart from “madame Thiemann,” he mentions “madame Khanzhonkova” (Antonina Khanzhonkova, the wife of legendary film producer Alexander Khanzhonkov), who he describes as “a very business-like lady, yet ignorant in literature and art” (Viskovskii 4-5). While most characterizations of Khanzhonkova in memoirs are similar to Viskovskii’s, or even more negative, Thiemann is usually described more positively: director Vladimir Gardin mentions “Thiemann, with his wife who knew the film industry quite well and took part in directing films” (Gardin 116); and cinematographerAlexander Levitskii recollects the Thiemanns very favorably, writing that, “Thiemann was set apart [from other producers] due to his high level of culture as well as decency. His wife Elizaveta Vladimirovna was also a great admirer and expert of art. Their house was often packed with Moscow writers, artists, and actors” (Levitskii 67). While the prominent role played by Elizaveta Thiemann in Russian film history was emphasized by memoirists, as well as later film scholars like Neia Zorkaia, Vladimir Mikhailov, and Denise J. Youngblood, it is hard to determine the extent of her contributions; her name was rarely mentioned in the trade press, and there are few surviving documents from the time.


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Academic Units
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
July 20, 2021