This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Werner Fuetterer

19 December 2010

What makes a successful soundtrack for a Hollywood blockbuster? The sound of the horn. Film music draws from operatic traditions, and no instrument conveys more  dramatic emotions than the horn.

But how many movies actually have a character who plays the horn?  This trivia question has no easy answer. But if you knew German film history, you'd say, "Der Sohn der Hagar - with Werner Fuetterer of course."

This photo is a promotional postcard published by the Ross Verlag company of Berlin. They produced thousands of cards depicting the many celebrities of the early German film industry of the 1920's and 30's. The last production of Ross Verlag cards ended, perhaps understandably, in 1944, but people still try to collect them all! History of Ross Verlag Cards
Werner Fuetterer was number 1925/1 on this card from the 1927 silent movie, Der Sohn Der Hagar - The Son of Hagar, directed by Fritz Wendhausen. It was Werner's 13th film appearance and one of 11 movies he made in that year! And he was only 20 years old. Werner Fuetterer (come on, let's say it 3 times fast!) was born in 1907 and successfully capitalized on his handsome looks to negotiate the transition of silent films to sound. Until his death in 1991, he made over 97 movies, the last in 1976.  Wikipedia - Werner Fuetterer

In this photo, Werner portrays Robert Winter, a traveling musician in Der Sohn  der Hagar (1907) a novel written by Paul Keller. The title refers to the Bible story of Hagar, the Egyptian servant girl given to Abraham by his barren wife Sarah, so that she might give him a son. That boy is named Ishmael, and years later when Sarah finally bears a son, Isaac,  Abraham casts off Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness. You can look it up.  It's complicated.

Keller's tale is set in 1900 Silesia, a region of central Europe that was once part of Prussia and is now part of Poland and the Czech Republic. The story revolves around Robert, a horn player, who with three fellow musicians, wanders the countryside in search of work. But Robert carries the burden of a tragic past. His unwed mother died at his birth, and he does not know his father. 

His small band arrives in Teichau, where a kindly doctor tries to find them work. Robert is placed in the household of a man who is actually his father. And just like in the movies, there is a beautiful girl - Lore. She is the man's niece, and of course Robert falls in love with her. But it is not to be. 

Denied his love, Robert leaves for the big city; works in a toxic factory; catches a terminal lung disease; discovers his true parentage; tries to start up the band again; learns that Lore, now married, still loves only him; makes a vain effort to see her one last time; and dies.  Maybe I paraphrase a bit. Find more about it here: Der Sohn der Hagar

Here are two pages taken from the December 1931 issue of Filmwelt that give a retrospective on Werner Fuetterer's body of work up to that year, around 37 films. It shows the same photo but reversed for the aesthetic layout.

Not too shabby for an actor. Perhaps playing the horn gave him that sophisticated, classy air. Portraying a musician in the days of silent film should  have been easy, but what about the cinema orchestras? Did they have an accompaniment score for the movie that called for a real horn player?  Even finding a piano score would be a wonderful find. I'll keep looking.

You can find the original Paul Keller novel on Goggle Books. Der Sohn der Hagar was only published in German but  I ran parts of it through Google Translate. After the band splits up, Robert's three companions realize than they really need him.

A melody on the trumpet is "hard,"said the conductor. "By smashing pieces she is good, but for the love songs they attack (t├Ąttert) too much. Since the horn is better. We might find in a city hostel more horn blowers. Meanwhile, we manage with the trumpet."

For anyone interested in German Film history,
I found the FilmWelt magazine at

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday.
where the theme this weekend is a picture of Claude Raines from 1912.

My other contribution is a current February 2012 post on The Verdi Sextette
which is about a group of vaudeville musicians.


Wendy said...

You are the master of research for your posts. I continue to be amazed, but I have ceased to be surprised.

Postcardy said...

It seems like postcards of actors and actresses must have been a lot more popular in Europe than in the U.S.
Interesting quote about the trumpet's personality.

Bob Scotney said...

Splendid post again, Mike. I can only echo Wendy's comment.

Howard said...

Great post Mike. So, a musician in a silent movie? Bet he was glad when the talkies arrived.

Christine H. said...

Where the heck do you find copies of Filmwelt from 1931?

Wibbo said...

Interesting post and that's a beautiful portrait.

Mike Brubaker said...

Christine - I've updated this post with a link to the website where there are more Filmwelt magazines and photos of Werner.

Last night I went to see movie, "The Artist", which is about a handsome actor of the silent screen struggling to make the transition to sound movies. Werner's story is part of that storyline too.

Kristin said...

My father had a book called "The Bible in Art". My favorite painting was "Hagar Gives the Lad Drink" Where Hagar is trying to get the boy, who looks near death to take some water.

Joy said...

He looks very handsome on the pages of Filmwelt. The Artist arrives here at the beginning of March so I look forward to spotting Werner Fuetterer.

Little Nell said...

Another handsome (and talented) film actor!

Linda@VS said...

Wow, you've really done your homework here! I love the Filmwelt pages.

Karen S. said...

You always unravel the best stories ever....that photo is dreamy! Or should I say the man is!

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

Amazing research as usual and I love the story of Robert.

Christine H. said...

Thanks for the link. Fabulous website.

Linda said...

I've seen The Artist twice, loved it. Fuetterer was quite handsome.

Who Were They? said...

I have seen many musicians represented in films but never a French horn. Love it!


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