Mauritz Stiller  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Mauritz Stiller (July 17, 1883 – November 18, 1928) was a Finnish Jewish actor, screenwriter and silent film director, who was mostly active in Sweden.


Born Moshe Stiller in Helsinki, his family was of Russian-Polish origin. At age four, his mother committed suicide, after which Stiller was raised by family friends. From early on, Stiller was interested in acting. His talents did not go unnoticed, and soon Stiller was offered the opportunity to practice and display his acting skills in the theaters of Helsinki and Turku in Finland.

Drafted into the army of Czar Nicholas II -- Finland was at the time an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia—rather than report for duty he fled the country for exile, and settled in Sweden.


By 1912 Stiller had become involved with Sweden's rapidly developing silent film industry. He began by writing scripts, in addition to acting and directing in short films but within a few years gave up on acting to devote his time to writing and directing. He was soon directing feature-length productions and his 1918 effort Thomas Graals bästa barn (Thomas Graal's First Child) with Victor Sjöström in the leading role, received much acclaim.

By 1920, having directed more than thirty-five films including Herr Arnes pengar (Sir Arne's Treasure), Stiller was a leading figure in Swedish filmmaking. At the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm he met a young actress named Greta Gustafsson whom he cast in an important but secondary role in his film, Gösta Berlings saga (The Atonement of Gosta Berling) giving her the stage name Greta Garbo. For Stiller, the screen presence of the eighteen-year-old actress led to him bringing her to the United States after he accepted an offer from Louis B. Mayer to direct for MGM.

In Hollywood, Mauritz Stiller was assigned to direct 1926's The Temptress but he could not deal with studio structure and after repeated arguments with MGM executives he was replaced on the film by Fred Niblo and his contract with the studio terminated. Stiller was immediately hired by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation where he made three successful films but was let go a second time while directing his fourth as a result of his continuing disagreements with studio bosses.

Mauritz Stiller returned to Sweden in 1927 and died the following year from pleurisy at the age of forty-five. He was interred in the Norra begravningsplatsen in Stockholm.

Stiller's contribution to the motion picture industry has since been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1713 Vine Street. In Kristianstad, a monument was erected in his honor. Originally, his star on the Walk of Fame was erroneously listed as "Maurice Diller" and wasn't corrected until the late 1980s.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mauritz Stiller" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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