Germaine Dulac’s La Souriante Madame Beudet (1923) and the Film Scores by Arthur Kleiner and Manfred Knaak

  • Jürg Stenzl
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Audio-Visual Culture book series (PSAVC)


Germaine Dulac (1882-1942) must have been an uncommonly impressive figure: a DVD released in 2007 introduces her as ‘a chain smoker with short hair, a theater and film critic, feminist, film producer, silent movie director, cinematic theorist, head of the French Film Club Federation and a leading member of the Committee against Film Censorship’ — and, I might add, a musical connoisseur with a performance degree in piano. After her death during World War II, she was long consigned to oblivion, only to resurface in the final decades of the 20th century as a feminist and a major avant-garde film director. True, there is still not a trace of her to be found in Germany’s Lexikon des Internationalen Films (2002), but three of the many films she made in France between 1915 and 1929 have become established ‘classics’: first and foremost La Souriante Madame Beudet (The smiling Madame Beudet, 1923, 38’), now considered the ‘first feminist film‘; then L’Invitation au voyage (The invitation to a journey, 1927, 39’); and finally the surrealist La Coquille et le clergyman (The seashell and the clergyman, 1928, 40’), already legendary at the time of its creation because of the quarrels that ensued between Dulac and screenwriter Antonin Artaud. Thanks to Germany’s Second Broadcasting Corporation (ZDF) and Arte (ARTE Edition), all three films have now been restored and released on DVD (Absolut Medien) with newly composed music.


Silent Film Film Festival Musical Accompaniment Terminus Post Quem Film Censorship 
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  1. 1.
    Germaine Dulac, Écrits sur le cinéma (1919–1937): Textes réunis et présentés par Prosper Hillairet (Paris: Éditions Paris Expérimental, 1994).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    These are Thèmes et variations, Disque 957, Danses espagnoles (all 1928) and Étude cinégraphique sur une arabesque (1929). Important recent monographs include William Van Wert, ‘Germaine Dulac: Die erste Feministin des Films’, [Program] 7. Internationales Forum des Jungen Films, Berlin, 26.6.-3.7.1977, no. 2 [1–7]; Eng. trans. in Women and Film 5–6 (Santa Monica, 1974): 55–58; L’Invitation au Voyage. Germaine Dulac (see endnote 1) with comprehensive bibliography on 149–160; and Germaine Dulac, au delà des impressions, sous la direction de Tami Williams, 1895: Revue de l’association française sur l’histoire du cinema [no vol. no.] (Paris: Laurent Véray, 2006). Still essential reading is Richard Abel, French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915–1929 (Princeton University Press, 1984): 340–344.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Oliver Fahle, Jenseits des Bildes: Poetik des französischen Films der zwanziger Jahre (Mainz: Bender, 2000): 110.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    On Obey’s early stage plays, see Joachim Kwaysser: Untersuchungen zur Struktur der frühen Theaterstücke André Obeys (Dissz., Hamburg, 2007), with further reading and bibliography, though he merely summarizes La Souriante Madame Beudet on 5 and 7–8. The play was last published in Paris by Albin Michel in 1926 and has not yet appeared in the complete edition launched in 1977.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    See Joël Aguet’s entry on her in Dictionnaire du théâtre en Suisse, Andreas Kotte (ed.) (Zurich: Chronos, 2005): 2, 1437–1438. From 1915 on, Prozor spent decades working in French-speaking Switzerland. Her only film appearance was in the Swiss production La Croix du Cervin (1922), where she was the only professional actor in a work crucial to the history of the ‘mountain film’.Google Scholar
  6. See discussion with illustration in Hervé Dumont, Histoire du cinéma suisse (Lausanne: Cinémathèque Suisse, 1987): 69, Ill. 49a.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal, CXXI. Eng. trans. by Cyril Scott as The Flowers of Evil (London: Elkin Mathews, 1909). A Baudelaire poem has a similar function (as a title and as the name of a nightclub) in Dulac’s film L’Invitation au voyage. La Mort des amants was also set to music by Debussy in his Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire, L. 70 (64), no. 5 (1887).Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Stefan Jarocinski, Debussy — Impressionisme et Symbolisme (Paris, 1970), orig. Polish edn. (Warsaw, 1966); and Johannes Trillig, ‘Das Klischee vom “Impressionisten” Debussy’, idem: Untersuchungen zur Rezeption Claude Debussys in der zeitgenössischen Musikkritik, Frankfurter Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 13 (Tutzing: Schneider, 1983): 393–407, quote on 407. See also the section ‘In der Moderne’ in Fahle, Jenseits des Bildes (see endnote 4), 18–29.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Located in the Arthur Kleiner Collection at the University of Minnesota. The piano score of Mme Beudet is in Box 7, File 9. The collection does not contain a score for Man Ray’s Star of the Sea; MoMA has only a cue sheet without music. See Gillian B. Anderson, Music for Silent Films 1894–1929: A Guide (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1988): 119, no. 858.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    The catalogues of these three archives are in Anderson’s indispensable Music for Silent Films (see endnote 15); the catalogue of the Kleiner Collection can also be found at (accessed 1 November 2012). In October 2012, I was able to consult the copy in the FIAF archive in Brussels, for which I wish to express my thanks to Christophe Dupin and Jacqueline Renaut for their assistance. On Arthur Kleiner and his score for Dmitri Kirsanov’s Ménilmontant, see chapter 1 of Jürg Stenzl, Dmitri Kirsanov (1899–1957) — ein verschollener Filmregisseur (Munich: Edition Text + Kritik, 2013).Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    This same question has just been convincingly posed by Francesco Finocchiaro in ‘Panzerkreuzer Potemkin zwischen Moskau und Berlin: Parallele Leben eines Meisterwerks’, MusikTheorie 27 (2012): 213–228, using two settings of the legendary ‘Odessa Steps’ sequence from Sergey Eisenstein’s silent film Battleship Potemkin (with music by Edmund Meisel and Dmitri Shostakovich). See especially his resumé on 226–227.Google Scholar
  12. 30.
    In L’Idée (Berthold Bartosch, F., 1932), Rapt (Dmitri Kirsanov, CH, 1934) and Der Dämon des Himalaya (Ende/Andrew Marton, CH/D, 1935). Honegger’s music in L’Idée is discussed in Jacques Tchamkerten, ‘De Frans Masereel à Arthur Honegger, ou comment L’Idée devient musique’, in Peter Jost (ed.) Arthur Honegger: Werk und Rezeption/L’cruvre et sa reception (Bern: Lang, 2009): 229–251.Google Scholar
  13. 32.
    Michel Chion, Audio—Vision: Son et image au cinéma (Paris: Nathan, 1990): 55; Eng. trans. as Audio—Vision: Sound on Screen, Walter Murch (ed.) (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  14. 34.
    See Jürg Stenzl, Auf der Suche nach Geschichte(n) der musikalischen Interpretation, Salzburger Stier 7 (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2012).Google Scholar

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© Jürg Stenzl 2014

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  • Jürg Stenzl

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