Henny Porten

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Henny Porten on a photograph by Nicola Perscheid
Henny Porten with Oskar Messter, 1935

Henny Frieda Ulricke Porten (born January 7, 1890 in Magdeburg , † October 15, 1960 in West Berlin ) was an actress and a star of German silent films .


In the year Henny was born, the Porten family, originally from Schweich on the Moselle , moved from Magdeburg to the Ruhr area . The father Franz Porten took over the management of the city ​​theater in Dortmund after working as an opera singer in Magdeburg. In 1895 the family moved to Berlin. Porten went to school here.

Memorial plaque on Albrechtstrasse 40, Berlin-Steglitz

Through her father and his friendship with the film producer Oskar Messter , she had her first appearances in front of the camera under her father's direction from 1906. Her debut film was called Meißner Porzellan . At the end of 1910, based on the script of her sister Rosa Porten, Das Liebesglück der Blind was shot, the first German film with a self-contained plot. She was active in film throughout the 1910s and became the first German-speaking film star alongside Asta Nielsen . On October 10, 1912, she married the actor and director Curt A. Stark , who directed several films with her as the leading actress. Stark fell in the First World War in 1916 . Under Messter's production, Porten shot a successful three-minute short advertising film with the title Hann, Hein and Henny for the purchase of war bonds, which was repeatedly performed until the end of the war . In doing so, the bond sellers took advantage of the iconographic value of the Porten as an advertising medium. In 1919, the film Errungen followed with a socially critical plot. In the same year she starred in a film adaptation of Gerhart Hauptmann's drama Rose Bernd . She had great success under the direction of Ernst Lubitsch and as a partner of Emil Jannings in Anna Boleyn in 1920 and in Kohlhiesel's daughters that same year . In 1921 she continued working with well-known directors, under Ewald André Dupont she played Geierwally in the first film adaptation , under Leopold Jessner in the chamber fiction film Hintertreppe , and in 1923 under Robert Wiene in the monumental film I.NRI

Porten founded his own film production company in 1919, which merged with Carl Froelich's company in 1924 . At first she was very skeptical about talkies, but made her successful debut in 1930 with the film Scandal about Eva .

On June 24, 1921, she married the Jewish doctor Wilhelm von Kaufmann-Asser (1888–1959), then head of the “Wiggers Kurheim” sanatorium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen . From that year on he took over the production management of her films. In 1922 the couple moved into a villa in Dahlemer Parkstrasse 74 (today Bernadottestrasse). In 1935 it moved to Sachsenplatz 10 (today Brixplatz ) in the Westend district of Berlin .

Since Henny Porten stuck to her marriage to Wilhelm von Kaufmann-Asser, the National Socialists tried to prevent Porten from being involved in feature films after they came to power. Nevertheless , a total of nine films were made, partly because of Albert Göring's advocacy . In other productions that Henny Porten was involved in preparing, her roles were revoked immediately before shooting began.

After 1945 the West German film industry no longer showed any interest in the aging actress. In 1954, Henny Porten, putting the sensitivities of the Cold War aside, accepted an offer from DEFA . With two last films shot in Babelsberg , Henny Porten said goodbye in the roles of the circus director Carola Lamberti and the benevolent Fräuleins von Scuderi.

The legend that Henny Porten is said to have lived for many years in the house at Kurfürstenstrasse 58 (today Café Einstein Stammhaus ) in Tiergarten cannot be confirmed by the Berlin address books. Bombed out, she left Berlin in 1945 and lived in Ratzeburg for twelve years , in the first year provisionally with Emmy von Weber, nee. Rée, the widow of Theodor von Weber . In 1957 she returned to Berlin.

Henny Porten died on October 15, 1960 after a serious illness at the age of 70 in a Berlin hospital. She was cremated and her urn was buried in the crypt of her husband's family in the basement of the cemetery chapel of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Cemetery in Charlottenburg (today's district of Berlin-Westend ). Only a simple inscription panel with an ornamental frame on the south wall of the cemetery chapel marks the grave site.


In 1960 she received the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany . At 40 Albrechtstrasse in Steglitz , a memorial plaque was attached to her, reminding her that Henny Porten grew up in the previous building.

Memorial stone for Henny Porten with honorary grave marking on the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Cemetery

By resolution of the Berlin Senate , Henny Porten's final resting place has been dedicated to the State of Berlin as an honorary grave since 1984 . The dedication was extended in 2005 by the usual period of twenty years. The mark of honor on the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Cemetery is not on the actual grave site, the cemetery chapel, but on a specially erected memorial stone in the form of a tombstone on the south wall of the cemetery. The memorial stone has a portrait relief and bronze letters.

The Henny-Porten-Strasse in her native Magdeburg was named in her honor.

Filmography (selection)


  • Helga Belach (Ed.): Henny Porten. The first German film star. 1890-1960. Haude & Spener, Berlin 1986, ISBN 3-7759-0280-5 .
  • Björn Bergold: Porten, Henny Frieda Ulrike. In: Eva Labouvie (Ed.): Women in Saxony-Anhalt 2. A biographical-bibliographical lexicon from the 19th century to 1945. Böhlau, Cologne 2019, ISBN 978-3-412-51145-6 , pp. 350–355.
  • Manfred Michael: Porten, Henny Frieda Ulrike. In: Guido Heinrich, Gunter Schandera (Hrsg.): Magdeburg Biographical Lexicon 19th and 20th centuries. Biographical lexicon for the state capital Magdeburg and the districts of Bördekreis, Jerichower Land, Ohrekreis and Schönebeck. Scriptum, Magdeburg 2002, ISBN 3-933046-49-1 .
  • Gustav Holberg: Henny Porten. A biography of our popular film artist. Gebr. Wolffsohn, Verlag der "Lichtbild-Bühne", Berlin 1920.
  • Jürgen Kasten:  Porten, Henny Frieda Ulrike. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 20, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-428-00201-6 , p. 643 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Jürgen Kasten, Jeanpaul Goergen (ed.): Henny Porten - Gretchen and Germania. New studies about the first German film star (= Filmblatt. Filmblatt-Schriften. Vol. 7). CineGraph Babelsberg, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-936774-07-8 .
  • Julius Urgiß : Henny Porten. Published by the Illustrated Film Week, Berlin around 1920.
  • Martin Wiehle : Magdeburg personalities. Published by the Magistrate of the City of Magdeburg, Department of Culture. imPuls Verlag, Magdeburg 1993, ISBN 3-910146-06-6 .
  • Applause, flowers and stockings . In: Der Spiegel . No. 42 , 1947 ( online ).

Web links

Commons : Henny Porten  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ulrike Oppelt: Film and Propaganda in the First World War. Propaganda as media reality in topical and documentary films (= contributions to the history of communication. Vol. 10). Steiner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-515-08029-5 , p. 167 (With CD-ROM. The era of the silent film in the end of the German Empire is analyzed under the aspect of propaganda methods and motives as well as their mentality-historical requirements and effects).
  2. Ulrike Oppelt: Film and Propaganda in the First World War. Propaganda as media reality in topical and documentary films (= contributions to the history of communication. Vol. 10). Steiner, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-515-08029-5 , p. 168.
  3. Christoph Gunkel: The good Göring. In: one day . April 23, 2012. Retrieved April 23, 2012 .
  4. a b Fred Gehler: Henny Porten . "... then the cinema owner has good days ..." In: Das Magazin . No. 3 , 1985, pp. 65-67 .
  5. Dr. Klaus J. Dorsch: an almost forgotten Ratzeburg celebrity Henny Porten, the “first German film star”, article from the “ Lauenburgische Heimat ”, issue 179, 2008 p. 17, www.kmrz.de
  6. ^ Hans-Jürgen Mende : Lexicon of Berlin burial places . Pharus-Plan, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86514-206-1 , pp. 475–476, 479.
  7. Honorary graves of the State of Berlin (as of November 2018) . (PDF, 413 kB) Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, p. 67; accessed on March 20, 2019. For a time limit of 20 years see: Implementing Regulations for Section 12 Paragraph 6 of the Cemetery Act (AV Ehrengrabstätten) (PDF, 24 kB) of August 15, 2007, Paragraph 10; accessed on March 20, 2019.
  8. ^ Hans-Jürgen Mende : Lexicon of Berlin burial places . Pp. 475-476, 479.
  9. Friedrich Schulte-Kramer: A world star in Amecke - Henny Porten made a silent film in the Sauerland. In: Sunderner Heimatblätter. Vol. 19, 2009, ZDB -ID 2096153-4 , pp. 4-7.