Sascha Gura

Silent movie star Sascha Gura was born in Munich in 1896. Born Eugenia Theresia Gura, she was the daughter of actor and singer Hermann Gura and the granddaughter of actor and singer Eugen Gura. Growing up in an artistic home it wasn’t long before Sascha’s talent was recognised. After an early education at the local gymnasium she auditioned for a place at the Königliche Hochschule für Musik in Munich. Sascha was accepted and in 1914 started her studies at the Königlichen Musikkonservatorium under the artistic director Franz Hauser. While still at the Königlichen Musikkonservatorium she started singing professionally mainly in short operettas. At the same time she was spotted by Otto Rippert, the film director, who offered Sascha a part in his new film. Der Totentanz (Dance of Death) had been scripted by Fritz Lang and was an exploration of sex and death, love and power. Sascha played a dancer who seduced men by her dancing and then killed them under direction of a man seeking revenge on the world. The film was released in 1919 and was an instant success. This was followed by a several more films films exploring dark themes: Das Phantom des Lebens (Phantom of Life) in 1919, Wie Satan starb (How Satan Died) in 1920 and Unter der Knute des Schicksals (Under the Knout of Destiny) in 1921.

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While she was filming Das Phantom des Lebens she met Hermann Karl Rudolf Friederich von Oppen. After something of a whirlwind romance the two were married in September 1920. At the same time Sascha was enjoying success at the Berlin’s Komische Oper. Her greatest success came when she was chosen for the lead role in a new film by F.W. Murnau. The great director had seen her in Der Totentanz and thought Sascha perfect for a similar film he was developing. Die Bücklige und die Tanzerin explored similar themes to Der Totentanz: a disfigured man wreaks his revenge on the world via a young dancer. Sacha was cast as the dancer Gina opposite John Gottowt. The film was yet another success and Sascah’s career continued to prosper. Unfortunately her marriage was proving to be less successful. In July 1922 Sascha and Hermann divorced although she kept the name von Oppen Gura.

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Sascaha’s film career continued to develop as she became an lead in several German and Austrian films mostly dealing in drama and horror.  She was a favourite of film going audiences and critics alike and was known by directors as a consummate professional. In 1921 she had acted in Die Liebschaften des Hektor Dalmore(The love affairs of Hektor Dalmore) Directed by Richard Oswald, the role of Hektor had been played by Conrad Veidt. This film raised Sascha’s profile with the general public. Several more film roles cam along until in 1927 Sascha starred in Bezwinger der 1000 Gefahren (Conqueror of 1000 dangers) directed by its male star, Harry Piel. This was to be Sascha’s last silent movie.
The coming of ‘the talkies’ was a new challenge for Sascha and one that she relished. The expressionist acting style of silent movies, with the need to visually portray emotion, gave way to the more natural style in films with dialogue. Unfortunately for Sascha, at the same time as the new film media was coming to the fore the Nazi part was coming to increasing prominence in Germany. And Sascha was Jewish.

In 1932, Sascha appeared in Trenck – Der Roman einer großen Liebe (Trenck – The novel of a great love). Her part was not a leading one but she showed as ever her screen presence, capable of the new acting style and her speaking voice translated well. For some silent movie stars the arrival of talking films was a transition that proved difficult to make. Sascha’s next role was in 1934 in Grüss mir die Lore noch einmal (Greet Lore for me one more time). Her role was main supporting actress and her performance showed her growing confidence in the new medium. However, this role was to prove her last.

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Sascha’s last entry in the Berlin address book was in 1931 where she was listed as a singer. The continued pressure on Jewish artists from the Nazi regime caused many to flee, most notable to the United Kingdom and the USA. Sascha, however, was not one of them. Sascha disappeared some time after the release of Grüss mir die Lore noch einmal. Her fate remains unknown.

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