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Girls in Uniform (Maedchen in Uniform)

Girls in Uniform
Scene from "Girls in Uniform" (photo courtesy of Filmmuseum Berlin/Deutsche Kinemathek)

After the death of her mother, the 14-year-old officer’s daughter Manuela is sent to an aristocratic girl’s boarding school. The school is run with an iron hand by the headmistress, whose basic principles are discipline, orderliness and abstinence. In these surroundings Manuela becomes more and more introverted. She doesn’t take active part in the classes, gets bad grades and isolates herself from the others. Her only ray of light is the young teacher Elizabeth von Bernburg, who is less strict than her other colleagues and shows the girls love and understanding. All the girls adore Miss von Bernburg, but Manuela absolutely idolizes her. After taking part in a school play, which is a huge success, Manuela celebrates with the others and, tipsy from the punch, declares all her love for Miss von Bernburg. The headmistress is scandalized and locks Manuela in the isolation room. When Manuela learns that Miss von Bernburg is to be fired, she loses all hope. Standing at the top floor staircase banister, she is saved at the last minute from jumping by her classmates. As the girls all gather around Miss von Bernburg, the headmistress, broken and her principles shaken, unsteadily descends the staircase...

Leontine Sagan was born in 1889 in Vienna as Leontine Schlesinger and began her film career as an actress, Trained by Max Reinhardt, she defied the male-only world of Central European theater direction with her work as a stage director in 1920s Austria. After promoting several female stage authors, she decided to base a film on the drama Gestern und Heute, by German playwright Christa Winsloe, which had already gained notoriety for its all-female cast. Sagan turned the stage work into her 1931 film, Girls in Uniform (Maedchen in Uniform), which she directed in Germany. In 1932, she was asked by the former Austro-Hungarian director, Alexander Korda, to direct Men of Tomorrow in England. She also edited the film, which was intended as a star vehicle for Korda's protegee, Merle Oberon. Sagan then moved to South Africa with her husband in 1939, returned to theater direction and co-founded the National Theater of Johannesburg. She died in 1974 without ever approaching the film medium again, except for her contribution to George King's 1946 British musical film, Showtime.
Genre Drama
Category Feature
Year of Production 1931
Director Leontine Sagan
Screenplay Christa Winsloe, F.D. Andam
Cinematography Reimar Kuntze, Franz Weihmayr
Hansom Milde-Meissner
Fritz Maurischat, Friedrich Winckler-Tannenberg
Cast Hertha Thiele, Gertrud de Lalsky, Dorothea Wieck, Emilia Unda, Marte Hein, Hedwig Schlichter, Lene Berdolt, Lisi Scheerbach, Margory Bodker, Erika Mann, Ellen Schwannecke
Producer Friedrich Pflughaupt
Production Company Deutsche Film-Gemeinschaft/Berlin
Length 98 min
Format 35 mm, b&w
Original Version
Subtitled Version English
Sound Technology Optical
Festivals Venice 1932
German Distributor Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum für Film und Fernsehen/Berlin

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