Ich glaub’ nie mehr an eine Frau (Never Trust A Woman)—The Sound for the Film

There are films slumbering in an archive somewhere, waiting to be discovered. And there are films that have sunk into oblivion but then suddenly pop up again, in the form of a soundtrack.

packages of schellac records

The schellac records, as found © Jewish Museum Berlin, Photo: Regina Wellen

Recently, when stock was being moved to another depot, our colleague Regina Wellen looked over the collection of 78rpm schellac records with a view to devising a new way of storing them. She thereby came across eleven not yet inventoried records, much larger than the usual sort and with a label suggestive of some other purpose than easy listening on the home gramophone. Luckily for us, Regina was quickly able to establish that these were examples of the sound-on-disc recordings played in cinemas as an accompaniment to screenings of otherwise silent films—synchronously, thanks to the built-in start signal. One of the twenty numbered boxes on each label used to be checked after each screening, so as to ensure that a worn-out record would be replaced in good time. After Regina had dry-cleaned the records and prepared appropriate packaging for them, she set about digitizing their content under the supervision of Nadja Wallaszkovits of the Austrian Audiovisual Research Archive in Vienna—this latter task as part of her Bachelors degree course at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences.

The label of a sound-on-disc recording, with numbered boxes to be checked

The label of a sound-on-disc recording, with numbered boxes to be checked © Jewish Museum Berlin, Photo: Regina Wellen

We are now in possession of the complete soundtrack for the film Ich glaub‘ nie mehr an eine Frau (Never Trust A Woman, 1929/30), which starred Richard  Tauber and Gustav Gründgens and was directed by Max Reichmann, with musical direction by Paul Dessau. This film from the early days of cinema was believed to be completely lost —and, sadly, the motion footage still is. Its plot revolves around the celebrated singer Stefan (Richard Tauber), who goes to sea following an unrequited love affair, and a sailor (Werner Fuetterer), who returns home from a voyage and falls in love with a woman whom he is not supposed to love. In order to do justice to the rich timbre of Richard Tauber’s voice, the Tri-Ergon Musik AG in Berlin used its freshly patented optical sound recording technology. This method assured such a substantial improvement in quality that Siegfried Kracauer, writing in the Frankfurter Zeitung of 1 March 1930, described the sound as the most outstanding feature of Ich glaub‘ nie mehr an eine Frau: “Tauber’s voice in this film sounds perfectly pure, its nuances are faithfully reproduced and all the voices come out of the right mouths at the right moment.”

Cover of the Illustrated Film Courier showing a man with a cap

Illustrierter Filmkurier (Illustrated Film Courier) 12.1930, No. 1341

When Regina brought me the digitized film recording in various formats (which will facilitate audio restoration at a later date) for storage in the media archive, we thought about how best to archive it, long term, and also about how to ensure that the sound-on-disc recording could be easily traced if ever the film footage were found. We decided to hand over a copy of the digitized recording to the Deutsche Kinemathek. But what is a film without images? Well, you can enjoy at least a taste of how the film sounds, here, or come and listen to the complete soundtrack in the Reading Room of the Academy—and leave the images to your mind’s eye.

Richard Tauber, Paul Hörbiger, Werner Fuetterer are speaking. This is the first dialog after the intro and some indistinct voices. Then Tauber sings “Übers Meer grüß ich dich, Heimatland” (Homeland, I greet you from overseas); lyrics by Fritz Rotter.

Tracing the provenance of the artifacts held in our archive is another part of our work—yet we are unable to say with any certainty where the eleven sound-on-disc recordings come from. The Jewish Museum Berlin either acquired them in 1999 as part of an extensive package of over three hundred Richard Tauber schellac records or they somehow mysteriously made their way from the Tri-Ergon Company at Ritterstraße 43 to us here, at Lindenstraße 9-14: a distance as the crow flies of only 250 meters.

Bernhard Jensen, Library

Comment by Alwyn Wood on 23. November 2023 at 22:03

The entire film has now been found. Do you have a copy? If so, would it be possible to buy it on DVD?

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