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 }

A Pair of Musical Partners

06 March 2021

 Do these two funny fellows look familiar?
A handsome dark-eyed young man
plays a lute shape guitar.
His foppish sidekick cuts
a pose with a violin.

You probably don't recognize them
you've seen characters
like this duo many times.

Think Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye,
or Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.


And the same goes
for these two string musicians. 
A goofy sailor boy fiddles and sings
as a pretty young girl
accompanies him on guitar.
The expressions on their faces
hint at humorous lyrics
we can not hear.

Think Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds,
or  Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.

The names of these musical partners
were once well known.
People recalled the catchy tunes
and the comical sketches
because they had heard them, live on stage.
It was the golden age of German musical theater.
And every show had songs to sell
and celebrity performers to promote.


The first pair of characters are the actors Oscar Sabo and Carl Clewing. They are dressed in their roles as Kurt Match and Hermann Plannenschmidt from the operetta Bummelstudenten – The Student Loafers. The song is Ballade von Geigerchen – Ballad of the Violinist. This musical comedy by Austrian composer, Rudolf Bernauer (1880 – 1953), and Austrian lyrist, Rudolf Schanzer (1875 – 1944) opened in Berlin in 1910 with 429 performances that season. 

The storyline involves two carefree students who are disinclined to ever complete their studies. When Hermann's rich uncle dies, he inherits a fortune of a million marks, with one condition. He must get a real job and earn 5,000 marks on his own.  The two pals set off to try a variety of occupations but, of course, succeed at none of them. There's a girl involved too. The lesson learned is that love is worth more than money.

Carl Clewing (1884–1954)
Source: The Internet

Carl Clewing (1884–1954) began his acting and singing career in Berlin. His character as Hermann was his first successful roll that led to his appointment at the Royal Court Theater in 1911. During the war he first served as a messenger and then became a fighter pilot. After the war, his Heldentenor voice  took him to the Bayreuth Festival where he sang in Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Parsifal. Clewing was also an avid hunter and is reportedly the inventor of the pocket hunting horn, a tightly coiled bugle horn that became popular with German/Austrian hunting enthusiasts. (As a horn player, I can't resist showing what this instrument looks like. It is about 7 to 8 feet long, yet fits into the pocket of a shooting jacket.) 

* * *

Oscar Sabo
Source: Theatermuseum Wien

The funny fellow on both postcards is Oscar Sabo (1881-1969), an Austrian actor and singer who first trained to be a violinist, but found real success in Berlin as a singer. During the war years, he began appearing in silent films and later transitioned to sound films. Sabo is credited with 115 films from 1915 to 1964. In 1916 he replayed his roll of Kurt Match, in a silent film adaptation of Bummelstudenten. However Carl Clewing was then serving in the army and is not listed in the cast, so these postcards date from the earlier stage production.

The young women on the second postcard is Lisa Weise (1880–1951). The top caption reads Grosse Rosinen, Links sass Munga, Rechts sass Mongo, which translates as "Large Raisins.  Munga sat on the left, Mongo sat on the right." 

Lisa Weise and Carl Sabo co-stared in a number of operettas and Posse mit Gesang, a type of German farce with songs. In this photo they are performing in Große Rosinen or "The Choicest Plums", a better contemporary English translation, which was an operetta by German composer, Walter Kollo, (1878–1940) with libretto by Willy Bredschneider. This operetta premiered on New Year's Eve 1911 in Berlin and was Kollo's first successful work. He went on to become one of the most celebrated German composers of light music, producing 44 operettas, farces, and revues between 1907 and 1940. 

Thanks to the wonderful I found two recordings of Oscar Sabo and Lisa Weise in their roles in this operetta, Grosse Rosinen. These were reproduced from Gramophone disks made in 1912. The first recording is entitled Mädel Jung Gefreitwhich translates roughly as: "Young maid courted."  

* * *

* * *
If the embedded player does not work,
try this song link to hear it on the website

I've been unable to find any description of the plot to Große Rosinen, so we will just have to imagine its story. But I did discover another postcard of the same scene at the archives of the New York Public Library. This card has the caption, Das Lied von Munga und Mongo, and it is autographed by Oscar Sabo and Lisa Weise. 

Oscar Sabo and Lisa Weise
Source: New York Public Library

A second song from 
the operetta, Grosse Rosinen
is entitled: Pauline geht Tanzen,
which translates as:
Pauline goes dancing.


* * *

* * *

 Lisa Weise and Oscar Sabo
in Extrablätter at the Berliner Theater, 1914
Source: Wikimedia

Oscar and Lisa were photographed for several stage productions in Berlin. This postcard shows them in the 1914 operetta Extrablätter – The Extra Special at the Berliner Theater. Both actors appeared in some silent films, but following the war, Lisa Weise retired from the theater and disappeared into obscurity. 
In 1912, the July 20th edition of The Literary Digest, published a report on the current state of Germany's theater life. During the period from September 1910 to August 1911, 38,000 performances were recorded in 435 cities at 665 theaters. There were 2,525 works presented from 1,324 authors. Of these works, 2,056 were plays from 1,077 dramatists, and the remaining shows were 218 operas and 208 operettas from 214 composers. Twenty-five plays of Shakespeare were presented with 1,042 performances. It was also the year that Richard Strauss premiered his sparkling great opera Rosenkavalier, which had 228 performances. 
It was indeed a golden age for Germany's theater culture. In the two postcards of these three entertainers, Lisa Weise, Carl Clewing, and Oscar Sabo, we get a glimpse of their charm and wit, and even a treat of their singing voices from old grainy gramophone records. We can assume that they were talented actors and probably good instrumentalists too. Still without seeing them in the context of their full show, we can only imagine the laughter and applause that came from their audiences. 

Sadly we do know how over the next three decades, German history will abruptly change its culture. I think that makes scenes like these all the more poignant for their sentimental nostalgia. 


This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where two are not too many.



Liz Needle said...

That was a fascinating post. How sad that this culture in Germany died out as a darker side took over. Thanks again for your research. It never fails to entertain.

Barbara Rogers said...

Those generations who enjoyed such entertainment have long passed...though thanks to records left we do get glimpses, like these recordings, photos, and the films made in black and white! I wonder how that innocent sense of humor seemed to evaporate.

Wendy said...

How do you get to be a singer in a silent film? I could be a singer in a silent film. I love the opening of this blog asking if they reminded us of anyone. My first thought was that this is exactly like photos of my sister and me. Of course, I'm the serious one in that scenario.

ScotSue said...

As usual great photographs and a detailed history of the musicians and the music they played. I was particularly struck by your perceptive final comment on how this happy German music gave way to a darker side.

La Nightingail said...

As per your ending comment, the photos (which are wonderful) are especially nostalgic in their referral to a happier, funnier time in Germany's history.

Molly's Canopy said...

How different Oscar and Carl look in their studio portraits compared to the jocular performance shots -- and what fun those audios are, recorded before war and fascism eclipsed more lighthearted times. Thank you for another well-documented walk through cultural history.

smkelly8 said...

Their spirit of fun shines through. Great post.


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