Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Must see: the first LULU twerking in a 1910 film

Asta Nielsen (born on this day in 1881) was a Danish silent film actress who was one of the most popular leading ladies of the 1910s - and one of the first international movie stars. Her most acclaimed role is likely Hamlet (1921). In 1925, she starred in the German film Die freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street), directed by G. W. Pabst. It also featured a new Scandinavian actress, Greta Garbo, months before Garbo left for Hollywood and MGM.

In 1921, some eight years before Louise Brooks, Nielsen starred as Lulu in the first feature-length film adaption of Frank Wedekind's  Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box). That version was directed by Arzén von Cserépy. All together, seventy of Nielsen's 74 films were made in Germany, where she was known simply as Die Asta (The Asta).

Like Louise Brooks, Nielsen was noted for her large dark eyes, mask-like face and boyish figure, Nielsen most often portrayed strong-willed passionate women trapped by tragic consequences. Due to the erotic nature of her performances, Nielsen's films were heavily censored in the United States, and her work has remained relatively obscure to American audiences. Nielsen is credited with transforming movie acting from overt theatricality to a more subtle naturalistic style.

Nielsen founded her own film studio in Berlin during the 1920s, but returned to Denmark in 1937 after the rise of Nazism in Germany. A private figure in her later years, Nielsen became a collage artist and, like Brooks, an author.

Nielsen's erotic "twerk" dance caused an uproar when Afgrunden (directed by Peter Urban Gad) was released in 1910. This role made her a star. After that, she remained popular because of her sex appeal, sense of style, and androgynous looks. This is pretty hot stuff, then and now.

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