Stellan Rye

Active - 1913  |   Born - Jul 4, 1880 in Ränders, Denmark  |   Died - Nov 11, 1914 in Ypres, Belgium  |   Genres - Fantasy, Romance

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Stellan Rye was a Danish playwright who became one of the most important film directors in German cinema before the First World War. Rye was an officer in the Danish Army before becoming infatuated with the theater, and in 1906 he began writing plays for the Dagmar Theater in Copenhagen; by 1910 he was directing them. Rye also became a protégé of the Danish writer Hermann Bang and, like Bang, a homosexual. Some sources state that Rye contributed film scenarios that were made into Danish comedy shorts in the years from 1907-1911, but these reports are not yet verified. His earliest known screen credit is for the writing the Danish film Det Blaa Blod (The Blueblood, 1912). This would've been Rye's directorial debut also, but other events intervened -- on March 11, 1911, Stellan Rye was arrested for his homosexuality and sent to prison for three months. He was forced to resign his commission from the Danish Army and left Copenhagen penniless, in shame.

Ultimately Det Blaa Blod was made under Danish director Vilhelm Glückstadt and proved an important milestone in the early history of Danish cinema. It is uncertain as to whether this was a factor in celebrated German novelist Hanns Heinz Ewers' decision to seek Stellan Rye out, but Ewers soon named Rye as the director of his screenplay for Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague, 1913). This production had significant implications for the future of German cinema -- it was on a supernatural topic (a doppelganger story fashioned after Edgar Allan Poe's story William Wilson) and had touches of expressionist style (in part thanks to the cinematography of Guido Seeber). Der Student von Prag was the first German feature to set the tone for the expressionist revolution to come, years before The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). It also starred stage actor Paul Wegener in an early screen role; he would go on to play the monster role of the Golem in at least three further features. More often than not, Wegener is awarded credit for directing Der Student von Prag, but unfortunately this reassigns to the wrong man the only film by which Stellan Rye's reputation was made.

In a very short career as a director, barely more than a year in duration, Rye produced at least ten more films, with many of them based on scripts by Hanns Heinz Ewers. Stellan Rye's last film was Das Haus Ohne Tür (The House Without a Door, 1914). With the outbreak of war in 1914, Stellan Rye conscripted to the German Army, and proved courageous in battle, earning the distinguished Iron Cross for bravery. However, in November 1914, Rye's luck ran out -- he was mortally wounded in battle on the Western Front, and died a prisoner of war in a French Army hospital.