Ways to Strength and Beauty

A new biography of Leni Riefenstahl by Steven Bach – Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl – contains the remarkable discovery that she made her film debut in the once celebrated 1925 German sports documentary Ways to Strength and Beauty (Wege Zu Kraft und Schönheit). This proto-Nazi film, a celebration of physical culture interlaced with scenes of classical humbug was highly popular in its day, probably on account of its several scenes of nudity. The film, directed by Wilhelm Prager, has long been seen as a pecursor of Riefenstahl’s Olympia (her brilliant film of the 1936 Olympic Games) but it was not known (or at least not proven) that she appeared in Prager’s film, in various cod-classical scenes. It can’t be entirely unknown, since Riefenstahl is credited on the IMDB entry for the film, but I think it is the first time solid evidence (a credited photograph) has been found to support the rumour.