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.

3 responses

  1. It’s worth mentioning that is this week’s ‘book of the week’ on radio 4, read by Kenneth Branagh no less. A bit of ‘Cinema Europa’ deja vu moment as I turned on the radio last night! Really good, and definitely worth checking out.

  2. Intriguing choice of reader. Anything to do with his turn as Heydrich in CONSPIRACY? Oddly enough, I’m just about to post something on Jon Savage’s “Teenage”, which I think was last week’s Book of the Week, and has some interesting stuff on audiences and the social function of early cinema.

  3. I have the original printed English version of the program, the full cast is listed. Perhaps the Nazi’s who came later were inspired by the film, and perhaps Hitler saw it as a boy, but it was not the other way around. This film was more an inspiration to be healthy and beautiful than anything else. Anyway times were very raunchy then, possibly more than now, although with recent developments such as naturist only nude flights we may have taken the lead. Swinger’s flights can’t be far behind.

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