Karl Dane - DFI Article, English Translation
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FILM Magazine article
(English translation)

The following is an English translation of this article (see page 50) that appeared in the September 2006 issue of FILM, the periodical of the Danish Film Institute. The translation is by the author, DFI Librarian Christian Hansen.

On the Trail of Karl Dane

The library at The Danish Film Institute receives requests from all over the world every day. This is the story about a research job concerning the danish Hollywood star Karl Dane, who couldn't find work after the silent films became talkies, and who comitted suicide in 1934. The project will probably turn into a biography - the first on Dane ever!

By Christian Hansen / Librarian / DFI

Laura Balogh from New Jersey e-mailed the library in April, asking for material on Karl Dane (1886-1934), who left Denmark for New York in 1916, and later established himself as an actor in Hollywood.

In the autumn of 2005, Balogh had seen the serial The Whispering Shadow (1933), starring, among others Bela Lugosi and Karl Dane. She knew Dane from other films, but was once again fascinated by his charismatic presence and exotic accent. But what was the story about Danes accent? Wasn't it this accent that ruined his career? And didn't Dane end his days in a tragic suicide, after having sold hot dogs outside the film studio where he was a star a few years earlier, making $2500 a week?

Balogh was hoping that a biography on Dane could give her some answers. But since there was no such biography, she decided to write one herself. She contacted the library at DFI, which had been recommended by an American film biographer. At first it seemed like an easy research task, since the library had a newspaper clipping file on Karl Dane. But getting on from there should turn out to be more difficult.

I sent Balogh copies of a number of Danish newspaper articles. The name Arnold Hending (Danish poet and film journalist) kept showing up in those articles. I therefore looked through Hendings's film- and scrap-books, but didn't find Dane mentioned. I contacted Århus Stiftstidende (a Danish newspaper), who in 1958, in preparation for a large article on Dane, had asked their readers for information and storys about Dane's life, before his departure for the U.S. But this research material had not been kept. The journalist, Tage Elmholdt didn't remember writing the article, when I spoke to him.

Balogh had already been in contact with the State Archives, so the research possibilities in Denmark seem to have come to an end. But Balogh is in contact with ancestor of the children Dane had with his first wife in Copenhagen. In the U.S., she is in contact with several libraries, archives and persons. Maybe this will provide further information.

There are still many unanswered questions regarding Karl Dane. Who was this Rasmus Karl Therkelsen Gottlieb, who did danish military service during WW1, worked as a carpenter, machinist, and farmer, was married three times, left his wife and children in Copenhagen to pursue happiness in the U.S., and finally had success as a comedian and supporting actor with King Vidor's WWI picture The Big Parade (1925) as his biggest success?

Laura Balogh will soon publish an article on Dane, a precursor to the book. The article might be published in Danish; the library at DFI has established contact with some danish film magazines.

The research so far can be studied at www.karl-dane.com. Supplementary information can be directed to bibliotek@dfi.dk or +45 3374 3590.

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Last modified: October 6, 2006