The film's great personal dictionary

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Picture of the dictionary in the slipcase

The large personal lexicon of the film by the art historian and film scholar Kay Less is an eight-volume, German-language lexicon with biographical entries on 6,104 filmmakers worldwide, published in November 2001 by Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag in Berlin. As the subtitle suggests, actors, directors, cameramen, producers, composers, scriptwriters, film architects, costume designers, outfitters, cutters, sound engineers, make-up artists and special effects designers of the 20th century are portrayed on around 5550 pages .

On the creation of the lexicon

The person lexicon was preceded by around 30 years of research activity. Since the early 1970s he has been collecting all available information about films and the artists involved in their creation. Less used archives on all five continents: not only the classic film archives (including in Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Vienna, London, Paris, Stockholm, Rome, Prague and Warsaw), but also the document and material collections of German, Austrian and Swiss city and state archives, population registers of numerous European cities - above all the city archive in Vienna - as well as the extensive documents of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles. For the biographical preparation of German filmmakers up to 1945, the personnel files of the former Reichsfilmkammer , which are kept in the Berlin Federal Archives, proved to be particularly informative. In addition, Kay Less personally contacted numerous filmmakers who gave him information about their work. His interviewees included Gyula Trebitsch , Heinz Schubert , Peter Biziou , Max Douy , Erwin Hillier , HR Giger , Maurice Fellous , Peter Lamont , Wolf Englert , Oskar Schnirch , Roger von Norman , Walter Wischniewsky , Syd Cain , Peter Rothe , Walter Partsch , Robert Blum , Paul Beeson , Willy Holt , Ira Oberberg , Jutta Hering , Anthony Pratt , Leo Metzenbauer , Walter Boos , Hans Berthel , Franz Antel , Erna Fentsch , Hans-Jürgen Kiebach , Edmond Richard , Karl Schwetter , Tambi Larsen , Götz Weidner , Egon Werdin , Tony Woollard , Siegfried Hold , Werner Achmann , Theo Nischwitz , Herbert Strabel , Winfried Hennig , Elisabeth Müller , Peter Murton , Franz Seitz junior , Ina Stein , Hans Burmann , David M. Walsh and Ingrid Zoré . A wealth of information on long-dead filmmakers was made available to him by relatives of the men and women portrayed in the books.

The rough version of the lexicon was created at the beginning of 1994. Over the next seven and a half years, the author condensed the previously collected materials into biographies of varying depth. The focus was on those filmmakers whose works were performed in German-speaking countries. As Less writes in the foreword (page 7), both the representatives of the “ modern cinema of the turn of the millennium and the cinematography of the cinematic 'Stone Age' around 1900 ” were taken into account . ”And: The present work includes“ all ambitious and historically significant cinema Artists, but also representatives of popular cinema, whose only goal was and is to create nothing but pure entertainment . ”For example, camera pioneers from the late 1890s ( Georg Furkel , Guido Seeber , Billy Bitzer ) are presented as well as newcomers to acting from the early 2000s Years (such as Haley Joel Osment , Thora Birch and Kirsten Dunst ). In addition to detailed portraits of ambitious filmmakers such as François Truffaut , Luchino Visconti and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, there are also biographies such as those of the film pop singer Rex Gildo , the television presenter Thomas Gottschalk or that of the American B-film director Edward L. Cahn .


The first seven of the eight volumes are around 700 pages each, the last volume has a good 650 pages. The three-page foreword, in which Less describes the intentions and special features of the film lexicon, is followed by four more pages on the design (“On the systematic structure”) of the lexicon. Less emphasizes, among other things, that the dating of the films is based on the year of production and not on the year of premiere and explains the handling of German distribution titles. The individual biographies in the main part are structured as follows: The filmmaker's name is followed by the life data, then the scrolling text that provides information on the personal and artistic vitae. Relevant information beyond the cinematic - such as family relationships to other film artists and any secondary careers (e.g. in politics or writing) - is also contributed. The last block is filmography. The German-language rental title, if available, is followed by the original title in brackets and the year of production and, if applicable, the country of production, if this is not identical to the nationality of the sitter. Any additional functions - if, for example, a director also worked as a scriptwriter or producer on his film - are also added in abbreviations (like the country of production). As an annex in the last volume there is an almost 80-page index. Finally, the primary sources and the literature used are listed. The dictionary of persons ends with a five-and-a-half-page acknowledgment, which also lists a wealth of names of those people and institutions that provided less information about the filmmakers portrayed.


The personal lexicon was discussed in numerous regional and national newspapers and presented in various radio interviews with Weniger and two television programs (Jo Müller's Filmtipps, SWR 2001, and the talk show Riverboat , MDR 2002). Above all, the precision and the enormous volume of the eight-volume was recognized. The film critic Peter W. Jansen described it in a review note printed in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on October 11, 2002 as “ terrific ” and “ astonishing ”.

Bibliographical information

  • Kay Less: The film's great personal dictionary. The actors, directors, cameramen, producers, composers, screenwriters, film architects, outfitters, costume designers, editors, sound engineers, make-up artists and special effects designers of the 20th century . 8 volumes. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89602-340-3 .

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The large personal dictionary of films , Volume 8, pp. 646 ff.
  2. In the Hamburger Abendblatt edition of October 8, 2001, it said on p. 16: “ It is the most comprehensive work of its kind in Germany, probably in the world ”. The Westfälische Rundschau wrote in its edition of April 19, 2002: “ Fewer’s work [is] impressive just because of its size …”. The Augsburger Allgemeine noted in its February 12, 2002 edition: " In any case, it is a treasure trove for film scholars, but also for enthusiastic moviegoers ". In the Eßlinger Zeitung of February 4, 2002, the personal lexicon was described as " one of the most extensive and precise reference works for cineastes ". The Sächsische Zeitung in its edition of January 4, 2002 summed up: " In terms of balance and precision it finally raises the bar on a world scale ." Ute Gebauer from the Hamburger Morgenpost pointed to another in the MoPo edition of December 13, 2001 central aspect of the eight-volume: “It was a concern of the author to include long-forgotten film artists in the lexicon. This applies in particular to many Jewish filmmakers who were expelled or murdered by the National Socialists, whose fates have often not been clarified so far . "And the Leipziger Rundschau finally summed up in its issue of December 16, 2001:" There is no comparable work in the whole world " .
  3. Jansen book review in the NZZ