Valdemar Psilander

(1884 – 1917)

Actor. Born 9 May 1884. Died 6 March 1917, at age 32. Married to the actress Edith Buemann (1879-1968).

Psilander was taken on as a student actor at Copenhagen's Casino theatre in 1901. From engagements with small touring companies, he soon moved up to major stages in the Copenhagen area. Though he never had a real breakthrough onstage, he did enjoy some success as Bill Sikes in "Oliver Twist" at the theatre Frederiksberg Teater. From 1907-1909, he was with the Dagmar theatre, where he ended his stage career.

Psilander became Denmark's biggest silent-film star. Debuting in autumn 1910 with the small Regia Kunst Film company, he was hired shortly after by Nordisk Film. In his six years at Nordisk, he made 83 films. Already after his first film, "Ved fængslets port" / "Temptations of the Great City" (August Blom, 1911), he was the studio's highest paid actor. Nordisk had a good reputation abroad at the time and a widely ramified distribution network, but the studio still needed a spearhead and Psilander's films largely filled that need. In particular, he took German, Russian and Hungarian audiences by storm. Even a mediocre script became - at least to Psilander lovers - a must-see film solely by virtue of his charisma.

Psilander starred in innumerable assembly-line productions turned out by the well-oiled Nordisk Film machine, while he also demonstrated his acting talent in films that today are considered major works of the period, including "Evangeliemandens Liv" / "The Candle and the Moth" (Holger-Madsen, 1914) and "Klovnen" / "The Clown" (A.W. Sandberg, 1916). At year-end 1916, Psilander broke with Nordisk to found his own production company, "Psilander-Film." The company never really got off the ground, before Psilander died on 6 March 1917, just 32 years old, at the pinnacle of his career.

Why was he so popular? There are several reasons. Personally, he said: "We often see fine actors become nothing in a film, because they don't understand that here concentration counts. The interesting thing about film is that we play to every social class and on every continent. Hence, we must, in our means of expression, be primitively, thoroughly authentic. (...) One can learn how to become an actor, but one can never learn to film - in film, acquired emotions become inauthentic and false. Film requires relentless veracity and authenticity." (Interview in the København newspaper, 4 March 1913.)

Bibliography: Arnold Hending: Valdemar Psilander (1942). Lisbeth Richter Larsen: Valdemar Psilander - A World Star in Danish Film (in Cinegrafie 17, 2004).

Title Year Function Category
Adrift 1920 Frank Carrel DK/Feature
The prince's love 1920 Prins Harro, fyrstens nevø og tronfølger DK/Feature
The Actor's Love-Story 1920 Ludvig Romay, berømt skuespiller DK/Feature
Kærlighedsleg 1919 Sir Georges Wilton DK/Feature
The mute 1919 Silvio Gaetano DK/Feature
Den Æreløse 1919 Robert Müller, en ung kontormand DK/Feature
Hostile powers 1919 Frederik Storm, billedhugger DK/Feature
The Wages of Virtue 1919 Jacob Arendt DK/Feature
Love the conqueror 1918 William Sheldon, professor DK/Feature
The Road to Happiness 1918 Peter Niemand, smed DK/Feature
The Music-Hall Star 1918 Karl Fribert, prokurist DK/Feature
The gentleman chauffeur 1918 Grev Alex Alexis DK/Feature
For his country's honour 1918 Robert Carmilhan, løjtnant DK/Feature
The secret of the desert 1918 Mr. Hunter, Annies forlovede DK/Feature
Her knight 1918 Leon d'Ouchams, Claudes sekretær DK/Feature
The Clown 1917 Klovnen Joe Higgins DK/Feature
The wager 1917 Maurice Marshall DK/Feature
The motor-car mystery 1917 Victor Lebrassier, automobilfabrikant DK/Feature
The battle of hearts 1917 Axel von Lejon, løjtnant DK/Feature
The munition conspiracy 1917 Johannes Acosta, dr. phil. og fysiker DK/Feature
The poisonous arrow 1916 Edmond Vernon, undersøgelsesdommer DK/Feature
The crossroads of life 1916 Hugo Dyhre DK/Feature
The fatal necklace 1916 Robin Cray DK/Feature
Misunderstood 1916 Jens Holck, professor, dr. med. DK/Feature
In Defence of the Nation 1916 Løjtn. Erich von Wimpen, generalens søn DK/Feature
The missing admiralty plans 1916 Georg, Jacobs søn, officer/James Howard DK/Feature
A Marriage of Convenience 1916 Poul Bjerne, læge DK/Feature
The Man Without a Future 1916 Percy Fancourt, cowboy på ranchen DK/Feature
The samatarian 1916 Halfdan Borg, redaktør DK/Feature
The Candle and the Moth 1915 John Redmond, Evangeliemanden DK/Feature
A resurrection 1915 Konstantin Frübner DK/Feature
The Nordisk Films Kompagni's Studios 1915 Appearance Non-fiction footage
A Revolution Marriage 1915 Marc-Arron, oberstløjtnant DK/Feature
A romance of a will 1915 Jack Montford, grevindens søn DK/Feature
The three caskets 1915 Walter Haldann DK/Feature
Alone with the Devil 1914 Fréderic Nessières, fabrikant DK/Feature
Love's Devotee 1914 Fritz Lobheimer DK/Feature
A Golden Heart 1914 Poul Holck, kunstmaler DK/Feature
A Daughter of Eve 1914 Dr. med. Anton Esmarck DK/Feature
A master of men 1914 Kurt Rømer, skibsreder DK/Feature
Count Dahlborg’s Secret 1914 Appearance, Production DK/Short fiction
Darkness and dawn 1914 Grev Joachim , stamhusbesidder DK/Feature
The Convict's Son 1914 Poul, Helvigs søn DK/Feature
The Reformation 1914 Cecil, Lady Thorns søn DK/Feature
A Woman's Right 1913 Kurt Bornel, forfatter DK/Feature
One Life One Love 1913 Frede Lund, ingeniør DK/Short fiction
The Birthday Gift 1913 Boldt, polyteknisk kandidat DK/Short fiction
A Court Intrigue 1913 Fyrst Balduin DK/Feature
An old maid's love 1913 Kai Brummer, søn af professor DK/Short fiction
The Fugitives 1913 Einer Bang DK/Feature
Gold from the Gutter 1913 Egil Stevenson DK/Feature
At the eleventh hour 1913 Otto Berg, detektiv DK/Feature
A Dash for Liberty 1913 Winkel DK/Feature
All the world's a stage 1913 Grev Franz von Ihlig DK/Feature
A Shot in the Dark 1913 Overretssagfører Einar Jarl DK/Short fiction
In the Bonds of Passion 1913 Alfons Dupont, læge DK/Feature
The Sacrifice 1913 Hans, fabrikant Goldsteins søn DK/Short fiction
Amerikansk Skoleskib 1913 Appearance DK/Feature
Man's great adversary 1913 Fritz Bolm, skuespiller DK/Feature
Dina's decision 1913 Hertugen af Portland DK/Feature
An Orphan's Conquest 1913 Mr. Gerald DK/Short fiction
The vicar's daughter 1913 Bøgh, godsinspektør DK/Feature
A Modern Desdemona 1912 Ejnar Løwe, skuespiller DK/Feature
The Little Railroad Queen 1912 Iwan Groblewsky, greve DK/Feature
The Fire of Life 1912 Herbert Jyrtel, professor i kemi DK/Feature
Love in the Tropics 1912 Mr. Cecil Brown DK/Feature
Fire at Sea 1912 Frank Harvey, skuespiller DK/Feature
When Bacchus reigns 1912 Løjtnant Victor DK/Feature
The Great Circus Catastrophe (Fire) 1912 Grev Willy von Rosenörn DK/Feature
The Convict 1912 Hutkinson, fuldmægtig/fange/politi DK/Feature
Midsummer-time 1912 Aage, købmandssøn DK/Feature
In the Hour of Need 1912 Rittmester Helmuth DK/Feature
Vanquished 1912 Chas Burns DK/Feature
The Modern Girl 1912 Hans v. Berner, Greve DK/Feature
Uncle and Nephew 1912 Kai, professor Tarms nevø DK/Short fiction
The Black Chancellor 1912 Løjtnant Parlow DK/Feature
Love and Money 1911 Hans von Bremer, premierlieutenant DK/Feature
The Aviator's Generosity 1911 Journalist Warren DK/Feature
A Fatal Lie 1911 Willy Prager, læge DK/Feature
A Victim of the Mormons 1911 Andrew Larsson, mormonpræst DK/Feature
The Rights of Youth 1911 Hofjægermester Søtoft DK/Feature
The Ballet Dancer 1911 Poul Rich, maler DK/Feature
The Black Dream 1911 Johan Waldberg, greve DK/Feature
Temptations of a Great City 1911 Aage Hellertz, bankassistent, Methas søn DK/Feature
Annie Bell 1911 Owen Kildare, vagabond DK/Feature
The Price of Beauty 1911 Leopold von Würzen, Lisas forlovede DK/Feature
Lady Mary's Love 1911 Poul, skovfoged DK/Feature
Dorian Grays Portræt 1910 Appearance DK/Short fiction