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Ernst Winar

German postcard, no. 988/1, 1925-1926. Photo: Kiesel, Berlin.


Dutch actor Ernst Winar (1894-1978) appeared in 34 films between 1916 and 1955, in The Netherlands and as well in Germany. He was also a film director and made 14 films between 1922 and 1955. Later he edited the first short films of Paul Verhoeven.


Ernst Winar was born as Joseph Wilhelm Carl von Eichhof-Winner from a German family in Leiden, The Netherlands, in 1894. After finishing school he began an engineering study in Germany, but the outbreak of World War I forced him to break off this studies. Temporarily exempted from military service, he was employed by the Filmfabriek Hollandia (Film factory Hollandia) in Haarlem as a real Jack of all trades. At Hollandia, he started as an actor in a small role in the silent film Majoor Frans/Major Francis (1916, Maurits Binger) with Annie Bos in the lead. Other silent Dutch films in which he appeared were La renzoni (1916, Maurits Binger) also starring Annie Bos, the opera film Gloria transita (1917, Johan Gildemeijer), Ulbo Garvema (1917, Maurits Binger) with Annie Bos, De kroon der schande/The Crown of Shame (1917, Maurits Binger) with Annie Bos and Adelqui Migliar, Toen 't licht verdween/Blind (1918, Maurits Binger) again with Bos and Migliar, and Pro domo (1918, Theo Frenkel Sr.) starring the legendary Dutch stage actor Louis Bouwmeester. Winar usually appeared in a supporting role or even as an extra in these films. After the war he tried to gain a foothold as an actor. He played on stage under the name of W. Eikhof at the Casino ensemble in The Hague. He also translated plays by Ferenc Molnar into Dutch, and he continued to appear in films. Een Carmen van het Noorden/A Carmen of the North (1919, Maurits Binger) based on the novel by Prosper Mérimée, was a highlight among the films of the Filmfabriek Hollandia. This film featured again the stars Annie Bos and Adelqui Migliar, and was a moderate international success. Other films in which Winar appeared were De duivel in Amsterdam/The Devil in Amsterdam (1919, Theo Frenkel Sr.) based on his translation of a Molnar play and starring Eduard Verkade as the devil and Louis Bouwmeester as a banker, and Verborgen levens/Fate's Plaything (1920, Maurits Binger, B.E. Doxat-Pratt).


In the 1920’s Ernst Winar ventured into Germany as an actor but he also took the opportunity to direct several films. As an actor, he got his first major role in Die Benefizvorstellung der Vier Teufel/The benefit performance of the four devils (1920) by Danish director Anders Wilhelm Sandberg. The film was a success and numerous films followed. The now sought-after actor appeared in such films as Der Liebling der Frauen/The favorite of the women (1921, Carl Wilhelm) with the then largely unknown Maly Delschaft in the lead role, Der unsichtbare Gast/The invisible guest (1921, Friedrich Zelnik), and Wettlauf ums Glück/Race to happiness (1923, Bruno Ziener). In this love story located in Tibet, Winar starred alongside his future wife and frequent film partner, British actress Colette Brettel. From 1921 on, Winar was also active as a director. First he was responsible for three episodes of the Terra series Flappy with Adolphe Engers in the lead role. In 1922, he directed his first feature film, the crime film Der Mann im Hintergrund/The man in the background, but the film was released only after several changes in October 1924. In the following four years Winar mainly worked as an actor. He played supporting roles in the comedy Komödie des Herzens/The Comedy of the Heart (1924, Rochus Gliese) with Lil Dagover, in Die Millionenkompagnie/The Millions Company (1925, Fred Sauer) with Olga Tschechowa, and the successful comedy Die Kleine vom Bummel/The little girl from Bummel (1925, Richard Eichberg) starring Lilian Harvey. In 1923, he also taught directing at the Terra film school in Berlin. His later German films as a director included Wochenend wider Willen/Weekend Against Sake (1927) starring Ossi Oswalda, Das Haus am Krögel/The House on Krögel (1927), Der Neffe aus Amerika/The Cousin From America (1927), Wochendbraut/Weekend Bride (1928) starring Anny Ondra, and Der Hafenbaron/The Port Baron (1928). Most of these films featured Colette Brettel. With his film § 182 minderjährig/ Paragraph 182 – Minor of Age (1927) he got three times in conflict with the censors. With the advent of the sound film era his acting period in Germany ended. In 1930, he appeared for the last time in a German production, the Luis Trenker film Die heiligen drei Brunnen/The three holy wells (1930, Mario Bonnard).


In 1932 Ernst Winar returned to the Netherlands. He made the short sound film Hollandsch Hollywood (1933) for which revue star Fien de la Mar sang the title song, announcing a new Dutch film industry. In 1935 Winar and Fien de la Mar worked together again on the musical Op Stap (1935, Ernst Winar) which also featured revue stars Louis and Heintje Davids and Adolphe Engers, who was also back from Berlin. For the Cinetone studios Winar co-directed the film De Kribbebijter/The Double-Patch (1935) with German émigré director Hermann Kosterlitz aka Henry Koster as his co-director. This successful comedy starred Cor Ruys and Frits van Dongen, who later became a well known film actor in Berlin and Hollywood under the name of Philip Dorn. Winar was one of the few Dutch directors who had mastered the trade of film directing and he would have a major impact in the 1940’s and 1950’s, when the appearance of a Dutch feature film was rare. During the war he presented De laatste dagen van een eiland/The Last days of an island (1942, Ernst Winar) with Max Croiset, based on a story of Klaas Norel. The film was already recorded in 1938 and privately screened later that year, but only in 1942 publicly, probably because only a few films were approved by the German occupiers. It was the second film produced by the Dutch Christian Film Centre, but during the war this organization was already shut down. After the Second World War, Winar’s interest shifted to children's films, such as Dik Trom en zijn dorpsgenoten/Dik Trom and his fellow villagers (1947, Ernst Winar) with his former director Theo Frenkel Sr. in one of the supporting roles, and Vier jongens en een jeep/Four guys and a jeep (1955, Ernst Winar) with Sylvain Poons. The latter film was his last feature as a director and he also made his final film appearance in it. During the 1960’s, Winar escorted the young filmmaker Paul Verhoeven as editor of the short films Een Hagedis teveel/A Lizard Too Much (1960, Paul Verhoeven), De Lifters/The Hitchhikers (1962, Paul Verhoeven), Feest!/Party! (1963, Paul Verhoeven) and Het Korps Mariniers/The Royal Dutch Marine Corps (1965, Paul Verhoeven). He also worked for the Foundation Film en Wetenschap (Film and Science) in Utrecht. In 1976 he finally appeared one more time in a small role in the TV film Volk en vaderliefde/People and Father Love (1976, Wim T. Schippers) based on the story by Herodotus. Ernst Winar died in 1978 in Leiden, aged 83.


Sources: Fred van Doorn/Peter van Bueren (Filmbijlage VN 1975), Deutsches Filminstitut (German), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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Taken on August 23, 2009