"Young Apollo, Friend of an old Damsel": Psilander and Finnish Film Culture

PEER REVIEWED. How was film star adoration understood and how was film publicity constructed in Finland in the 1910s? This article examines how Psilander’s popularity in Finland became visible and what this phenomenon tells about the film culture of the era.

How was film star adoration understood and how was film publicity constructed in Finland in the 1910s? This article examines how Psilander’s popularity in Finland became visible and what this phenomenon tells about the film culture of the era.1

Suggested citation

Hupaniittu, Outi (2017): “Young Apollo, Friend of an Old Damsel”: Psilander and Finnish film culture. Kosmorama #267 (www.kosmorama.org.)

Film actor Valdemar Psilander, who has been the most popular film actor in recent years, has recently died of heart failure at the age of 36. Helsinki audiences are used to admiring his art. For eight years he was employed by the Nordisk Films Company and acted in several hundred leading roles. In 1916, he moved to the service of Kinografen. He performed first and foremost in “first lover” roles and had excellent external qualifications for their success.2

In March 1917, a leading Helsinki newspaper broke the news of the death of Valdemar Psilander, who was in fact just 32 years old and had made 83 films.3 The notion that the audience was “used to admiring his art” was a mild description of the craze Psilander’s films had triggered in Helsinki. In terms of primary sources, two film magazines, Biograafilehti/ Biograftidning (Spring 1915) and Bio (Spring 1916) offer a representative glimpse of the era.4 They were published by a group of Helsinki cinemas and included, besides the weekly programs, a variety of articles on film-related issues. Both magazines were connected to the ticket tax introduced in 1915, which promised to compensate for the increased ticket price by providing an expanded program booklet. The first of the magazines was printed in two versions, in Finnish and Swedish, and the second was bilingual Finnish-Swedish with a Russian synopsis section. (Hirn 1991: 174,176,178,182) Biograafilehti was advertised as Finland’s most affordable magazine at the price of 10 pennies. Copies were sold at the sponsoring theaters and subscriptions were also available.5 Offered at the same price the following year, Bioclaimed a circulation of 25 000 copies in 19166, which could reflect a wider distribution in newsstands. Compared to the more program-booklet-style of BiograafilehtiBio resembles a more mainstream magazine, with a named editor-in-chief and an abundance of advertisements.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the most important target audience for both publications were the patrons of the sponsoring cinemas. The core sponsors were Maxim, Olympia and Esplanad, cinemas located right next to each other in downtown Helsinki on the most important cinema street, North Esplanade. Maxim was the largest and grandest cinema in Finland at the time. Owner Gösta Lindebäck had close business connections with Erik Estlander and Ernst Ovesen, who owned the other two cinemas, respectively. All three cinemas were first-class establishments. (Hupaniittu 2013: 227-235) Along with these three, two smaller cinemas were also involved in the publication of the magazines for shorter periods of time. Gösta Lindebäck is known to have played a central role in editing the publications (Hirn 1991: 176), which implies his active participation in the formulation of the contents of the publications. As a result, the publications became important vehicles for promoting the operations of Maxim, which held exclusive rights for Nordisk Films Kompagni films in Finland, and therefore also instrumental in shaping Psilander’s public image in Finland.

Both of the weekly magazines only ran for a couple of months, but they contain several articles about the general development of cinema in preceding years, providing a contemporary glimpse into Finnish film culture for most of the duration of Psilander’s career. In addition, newspaper ads for Psilander’s films in Helsingin Sanomat help to convey the extent of Psilander’s impact on Finnish film culture. Between 1911 and 1917, a total of forty-seven different Psilander films were advertised in Helsingin Sanomat, which means that about least two-thirds of his works, and almost all of the released films were screened in Helsinki. When reruns are included, Psilander appeared in the programs at least 71 times (see chart 1.).7

Source: Cinema ads in Helsingin Sanomat 1911-1917.

As all the import and distribution companies were situated in the capital, where they also had their premiere cinemas (Hupaniittu 2013: 128, see also 129-143), the

Helsinki numbers reflect the situation in other Finnish cities as well.

Although all the source material utilized in this article was produced by film exhibitors, these magazines facilitate research into audience opinions of Psilander, as distribution was tied to the interests of viewers (deCordova 1990: 7). If the cinemagoers had not been keen to see Psilander, his name would not have become so prevalent in the ads and his films so frequently screened in reruns. It is possible that the distributors got advertisement materials, especially the picture plates, with the films, but it is clear that the ads were created for and aimed at local audiences. The cinema owners knew how to lure customers to the box offices, so they formulated their advertisements to maximize audience interest. It was a two-way process: audience picked their favorites regardless of the hopes of cinema owners, so their choices played important part in the programming. As Richard deCordova has pointed out, neither production companies nor audiences could create a cinema star on their own. Instead, it was an interaction where both reacted to each other. When one film became particularly successful, producers wanted to recreate its success, and cinemas wanted the most successful films in their programs. In the process the favorite actors that the companies used in their promotions became increasingly prominent, but the advertising had to fit audience expectations.8

The articles published in Biograafilehti and Bio in 1915-16 depict Finnish film culture and fandom as it existed in Helsinki at that time. The publishers of the magazines aimed the publications at those viewers who frequented their cinemas. Thus, the mentions of Psilander reflect the exhibitors’ expectations about who was expected to come to see his films. Moreover, the way the publication depicted film culture and fandom had to fit audience expectations– it may not have been specific to the Finnish situation per se, but it could not pose a stark contrast to it either, as the publishers’ motivation was to enhance the profitability of the cinemas. It is therefore possible to research film culture and Psilander’s popularity on the level of phenomenon, even though we cannot describe the experiences of individual fans.

Finnish film culture in the 1910s was very different compared with later decades, even on the level of vocabulary. Many of the words used nowadays were missing – for example the term “star” was almost unknown. When used, it was usually attached to American actresses and, even then, only sporadically.9 Psilander was referred to as a “star” in only two ads10, even though his name is mentioned dozens and dozens of times. Because Psilander was not a “star” for Finns in this period, I do not use the term in this article, but contemplate what it meant to admire a film actor before the time of stardom.

Hero of the long melodrama

When Psilander’s film career began in the early 1910s, travelling cinema shows had been replaced by cinema palaces in the large city centers and more modest establishments elsewhere. Streams of films were crossing borders and being distributed from one theater to another. Mere travel films were no longer enough to attract the audience and the time of multi-reel melodrama was about to start.11 Melodramas arrived in Finland in force in 1911,  which also redefined advertising strategies. At the beginning of the year, few of the cinemas published ads, which were modest and did not separate fiction films from non-fiction. The film program was seen as an entity, in which all films were equal and none were a greater attraction than another – it was more about the reputation of the establishment (the overall quality of the programs, the skills of the pianist, location and interiors of the rooms, the machinery and so on). By the beginning of the following year, the situation had changed – ads had grown large and ambitious, and their aim was first and foremost to promote the long dramas that had become the main attraction of the program.12

Danish films were a key factor in this change, as they were at the height of their popularity during the first half of the 1910s. In Helsinki, Danish films, especially those produced by Nordisk Films Kompagni, were screened at Maxim, Olympia, and Scala, the most upscale downtown cinemas. They were owned by powerful import and distribution companies, which ensured that the films gathered widespread audiences throughout the country (Hupaniittu 2013: 236-43, passim). In the end, the Danish dominance was so potent, that in 1915 Biograftidning published a letter from the audience, demanding a change in program policy:

By the way, would it not be too inappropriate to at least sometimes have the opportunity to see the Gaumont films that are without question of the highest quality instead of the never-ending Aggerholms, Alstrups and Psilanders?13

In the reply, no promises were made, as the owner of Maxim noted that the majority of audience was keen to see the aforementioned actors of Nordisk Films Kompagni.14

​​​​First ad mentioning Psilanders name, Maxim in Helsingin Sanomat, no 238, 15.10.1911 (digi.kansalliskirjasto.fi)

Nevertheless, in 1911, when the first Psilander films came to Finland, it was not customary that the name of the leading actors would be mentioned in advertising for the film. Cinema had not developed along the lines of theatrical tradition, but within the world of magic lanterns, shadow theaters, circuses, and other forms of entertainment, where the performer’s anonymity was more common. At the turn of the 1910s, the situation was about to change.

According to Lisbeth Richter Larsen (2004), Nordisk was reluctant, as late as 1911, to reveal the names even when asked but did refuse to do it. As a result, Finnish audiences got acquainted with Valdemar Psilander before ever knowing his name. The first recorded screening of one of his films in Finland was Ved Fængslets Port (August Blom 1911, Temptations of the Great City), which premiered in Helsinki in April 1911. It was Psilander’s breakthrough film and Nordisk’s greatest success up to that point.15 It’s popularity in Helsinki was instantaneous and the film received a second week of screenings per request of the audience.16 This was highly unusual, as programs changed weekly as a rule. Moreover, the theater had not even advertised the first screening week in the newspaper, which suggests that audiences discovered the film even without the normal assistance of publicity. Given Nordisk’s reluctance to reveal the actors’ names, specifically in connection with the distribution of Temptations of the Great City, it is possible that owner of the Helsinki cinema did not even know who the dashing hero on his screen was.

Psilander’s films were screened in Helsinki throughout 1911, but his name was mentioned for the first time in October 1911, when Hendes Ære (August Blom 1911, lit: Her Honour) premiered. His was the last of the five names in the ad.17 The transition from anonymity to recognition did not happen instantly, but only little by little. Asta Nielsen, who had been a minor celebrity during her stage years, was spectacularly present in January 1911 in the Finnish ads for her breakthrough film Afgrunden(Urban Gad 1910. The Abyss). In October of the same year, she was the main attraction, when Balletdanserinden (August Blom 1911, The Ballet Dancer) premiered. For the former film, the ad mentioned the whole leading cast, but for the latter Nielsen was enough – among others, Psilander remained unmentioned. Nevertheless, playing alongside Nielsen brought enormous visibility to Psilander and helped him to establish his status among Finnish audiences.

One crucial reason for Psilander’s success was that his film career started at a pivotal moment – he happened to be at the right place at the right time. Nordisk Films Kompagni, established in 1906, had managed to construct effective production and distribution systems, as well as gaining financial stability in its operations and technical and artistic quality in its productions. Fiction films were becoming more and more popular by the end of the decade. In 1910, the company started the production of multi-reel fictions, which undergirded the development of the cinema industry in the 1910s (Thorsen 2006: 53-57, Richter Larsen 2004). The new multi-reel fictions were no longer historical stories, but modern urban melodramas. Bringing the cameras much closer to the actor than before was one of ways film was able to distinguish itself from stage plays, as the audience was able to see the actors better than ever before and in more detail. In these melodramas, facial expressions played a pivotal role in narrating the emotions and sentiments, thus promoting the actors (Ibid; Laakso 2006: 6-7, Mottram 1988: 80-81).

Even though Danish cinema attempted to distinguish itself from the theater, there were close connections. For example, in the acting style film embraces the Nordic stage traditions of modern, realistic (“Ibsenian”) acting. When early Danish films are compared with films produced elsewhere, the difference is obvious – the Danish style is subdued, even restrained, although the stories are filled with passion and despair. Since the focus is not on movement and action, but in miniscule motions and discreet gazes depicting the inner battles of the characters, films feature the specific actors much more intimately. The emergence of the “Danish style” at the turn of the 1910s was only possible because of actors like Valdemar Psilander and Asta Nielsen – trained theater actors who had embraced the Nordic stage traditions, but had not found great success there and were willing to change for the new industry. Conversely, Nordisk and other Danish companies needed permanent staff to ensure rapid and effectual production, and thus they were willing to offer long term contracts for the theater actors.18

The relationship between Danish multi-reel films and theatrical traditions was highlighted in the Finnish advertising. When The Abyss premiered in January 1911, the advertisements announced the Copenhagen theater affiliation of each of the main cast members and declared that the film “engrossed like a genuine theater performance”.19 Similarly, in October 1911, each of the five principal cast members of Hendes Ære were mentioned as affiliated with different Copenhagen stages – the last of them, mentioned in an ad for the first time, was “Mr. W. Psilander from Dagmar Theater”.20 Making comparisons with stage plays as well as underscoring the professional background of the actors gave assurance of the high quality of the films. It was a question of distinction, by which Danish films were advertised to be better than other fictions. It did not matter, that Psilander’s motivation, like that of many of his colleagues, to attempt screen acting had been a lack of success on stage. Earlier experience at a theater was enough to guarantee the professionalism and to elevate the artistic value of film.

Richard deCordova dates the first steps towards film stardom in the USA to the same years when Valdemar Psilander started his film career. DeCordova has pointed out that the appearance of the names in the advertising was not enough to start the process, but that the shift from performing to acting was at least as important factor. In the early texts about film, the performers are often referred to be “posing” in front of the camera, but in the 1910s appeared beside it the notion of “acting” which paralleled film with theater. Nevertheless, at first the “acting” in film was in quotes and for a long time it alternated with “posing” as it took time to get used to the idea.21 It was not merely a question of the development of the film acting or the emergence of professional actors in film, but also how filmmakers, publicists and audience construed the situation. DeCordova mentions the Sarah Bernhardt film La Dame aux Camélias (1912) as a pivotal moment on the road from performing to acting in film. The French Film d’Art productions had been bringing stage actors and plays to the screen since 1907, but it took the world famous actress to establish the parlance of acting. The film itself had strong effect on advertising, as Bernhardt’s name and the fee she received were heavily emphasized in the promotion. (Ibid: 39) The sum of 30,000 dollars for six weeks of work was so well known that Biograafilehti mentioned it three years later and stressed that it was the highest compensation ever paid for a film role. The magazine explained the justification for it:

However, this sum was paid to elevate the value of the work. With it, the guest performance of Sarah Bernhard actually opened the road for genuine artists to perform on the film stage. If Sarah Bernhard did not consider film acting degrading, how could other less shining stars scorn to walk this golden road?22

However, Bernhardt, like most other theatrical actors in Film d’Art productions, made only singular film appearances, whereas Nordisk Films Kompagni managed to attract theater actors with permanent contracts. La Dame aux Camélias premiered in Helsinki in February 191223, but that was already more than a year after Asta Nielsen and, in her wake other Danish theater professionals, had come to the foreground in film advertising. Still, Nielsen cannot be straightforwardly compared with Bernhard, as “The Divine Sarah” was the best known actress in the world and even though Nielsen had gained some fame, she only rose to full celebrity through her films.

For Danish actors, the individual recognizability was not the foremost merit, but the theatrical background. Their professionalism functioned as a guarantee of quality and respectability, as Biograafilehti explained:

The fact that [film art] has achieved its high status can be particularly seen to derive from the circumstance where many accomplished stage talents have started to dedicate their vigor and gifts to film art. Many of the greatest stage actors, who were previously ill-disposed toward film as they saw its triumphs throughout the world and were afraid of the hindrances it undoubtedly will cause to the theatrical art, have eventually been drawn into the whirl, changed their occupation and given themselves to the film art wholeheartedly.24

Nevertheless, by the mid1910s, film actors’ popularity was no longer based on a theatrical background:

The size of audiences in particular stems from the fact that a film features well-known and popular artists. The audience has already acquired particular favorites among film artists and is as keen as a theater audience to argue the merits and talents of a particular actor or actress. It is only necessary to mention names like Asta Nielsen, Ebba Thomsen, Betty Nansen, Waldemar  Psilander, Olaf Föns, Prince, Max Linder and others to realize that the number of film visits is highly dependent of whether one of these names mentioned in the film program or not.25

Even though all the above mentioned actors had a background in theater, they were no longer presented as stage professionals but as well-known personalities of the screen (Compare with deCordova 1990: 50-51). The name of the actor had become the most important factor in attracting an audience. Film culture had matured beyond needing to reassure viewers with references to theaters. The significance of Danish cinema in the process is highlighted by the fact that all the above mentioned actors, except for French comedians Prince and Linder, came from Denmark.

The great tide of Psilander screenings

Although Psilander’s name had not had been mentioned in the film ads in 1911, by the next year he had become the most important draw for his films. For example, in December 1912 in the ads for Rakkaus ja viha (unidentified, lit: Love and Hate), no other performers were mentioned aside from the fact that “Mr V. Psilander performs, as usual, an excellent leading role.”26 However, this did not mean that his name would have always been visible – for example, Vor Tids Dame (Eduard Schnedler-Sørensen 1912, lit: A Lady of our Time), which premiered a few weeks later, was advertised without names.27 From 1913 onwards, Psilander had risen to such fame that there does not appear to have been any screenings of his films in Finland that were not advertised with his name or face.28 The years 1914-1915 were the time of his greatest success in Finland. Screenings of his films rose considerably and premieres were followed by reruns. Before 1914, it appears that only two of his films, the Asta Nielsen picture Den sorte Drøm (Urban Gad 1911, lit: The Black Dream) and En Lektion (August Blom 1911, lit: A Lecture) returned to the screens29, but in 1914–1915 at least sixteen Psilander reruns were screened in Helsinki, eight of them during June-August 1915. Twelve Psilander films had already been screened during the season 1914-1915, which anticipated the upcoming wave of reruns. As there were a couple of premieres during the same period as well, a Psilander film was screened somewhere in the city practically every week that summer. Reruns were a typical feature during the quiet summer months, but the frequency of Psilander films testifies to his success – that summer, he was able to attract audiences to the otherwise abandoned cinemas.

In the mid-1910s, there were about 25 cinemas in Helsinki and their number was rising. In the competition, programming was essential to attracting audiences. (Hupaniittu 2013: 133-143, 161-164, 495) At the height of Psilander’s popularity, almost all his films premiered in Maxim.30 Other major exhibitors also wanted a share, which meant that theaters like Olympia, Eldorado and Lyyra, which normally built their programs upon new films from their own import connections, screened even four-year-old Psilander films that had been imported before Maxim had gained its exclusive deal with Nordisk. Eldorado was even able to secure a couple of premieres, most likely because the owner Erik Estlander had joint business ventures with Gösta Lindebäck, the owner of Maxim (Hupaniittu 2013: 227-234).

At around the same time, advertising strategies regarding Psilander changed. Earlier ads had referred to him as “Mr. Psilander” or “Mr V. Psilander”, but by late 1914, it became customary to typeset “Psilander” without initial or salutation and with the largest possible types at the head of the ad. He was no longer merely a distinguished actor but an audience favorite. In December 1914, Lyyra advertised “Divine Psilander”31 and ads soon started to refer to “Magnificent Psilander Screenings”.32 Simultaneously, the information given in the ads diminished. As the name of the actor was enough to attract the audience, there was no need to give hints about the storyline.33 Instead the ads focused on emphasizing how Psilander had yet again surpassed himself in his performance. For example, the film Et Læreaar (August Blom 1914, lit: A Year of Learning) was advertised as follows:

As usual, Psilander has succeeded in creating something so grand and real in his role that it keeps the audience’s interest vivid from beginning till the end. With his irresistible talent this favored actor conquers everyone’s heart.34

Sometimes the main cast was listed, but the descriptions focused solely on the favorite. When Eldorado brought the Nielsen-Psilander film Balletdanserinden as a rerun, both names were mentioned in the cast list, but only Psilander’s name was printed on the side of the ad in large capital letters to attract attention.35 The tide had turned, when compared with the 1911 premiere when only Asta Nielsen’s name was featured in the ad.

The descriptions of Psilander’s performances were enthusiastic. An ad for Livets Baal (Eduard Schnedler-Sørensen 1912, lit: Fire of Life) declared:

The greatest, most popular film actor of the Nordic countries in one of his brilliant roles. Psilander is always great; he has the rare talent for depicting the drawbacks and depths of the soul, but in this film he surpasses all his previous achievements.36

Similarily, Scenen og Livet (Robert Dinesen 1913, lit: Stage and Life) was advertised:”For the deepest emotions, the grimmest agonies of soul, this admired artist gives a powerful, brisk rendition.”37 Teatteripalo (unidentified, lit: Theater Fire) was described as a ”touching, tearful drama in which the extraordinary talents of the famous actor are presented in all their glory.”38 Both of the ads mentioned several actors and did not define which of them the praised artist was. Nevertheless, there could be no uncertainty about his identity.

The advertisements focused on the screen performances of Psilander or referred to the grandeur of his success, but there was no information about him nor platform for distributing it. Only Biograafilehtiand Bio in 1915 and 1916 created a channel for actor publicity.39 DeCordova has defined such popularity as an initial or preliminary stage of stardom. The actors were not stars but picture personalities, from “pictures” that are only seen on the screen, therefore the audience can gather information only from the performance. DeCordova points out three main characteristics of the ”picture personality”: physical appearance, where the recognizability is the most important attribute; a personality that was based on the screen characters and performance, and professionalism that included both screen performances and background information, such as references to the previous stage career. (deCordova 1990: 51,73, 85-91) Of these three, deCordova regards personality as the most important trait and reminds that no difference was perceived to exist between the actor and roles, as the characteristics of the role character were conceived to stem from the true character of the actor.40 Nevertheless, in the Finnish advertisements, professionalism might have even overshadowed Psilander’s personality - the ads continually reminded audiences about his performances, about his skillful creation of characters. Psilander was depicted as a highly talented actor who used his outstanding talents to create and render believable characters. Even though his previous stage career was not mentioned after the initial phase, the idea of his professionalism in acting was incorporated in the later ads as well. 

Advertisements do not tell how Finnish audiences admired Psilander, but Bio published an article describing the act of admiration. The narrator is a man who goes to the cinema every day to see his favorite (unnamed) actress:

She has deep and expressive eyes, and as she turns them to me, she is irresistible. In vain I fight for my freedom, as her enchantment is too strong and my fortress has to surrender. […] I enfold her figure with my eyes and notice that I have never seen anything more beautiful than that charming vision. I buy all the photographs I can find in the bookstores and arrange them all around my home. I delight immensely when my gaze makes contact with her handsome features whereever I turn my eyes.41

Photographs of Psilander were most likely available in Helsinki and other cities, as Nordisk distributed them along with the films (Richter Larsen 2004). The narrator of the article did not want to know the person behind the picture:

I am content to adore her from a distance, as I am only able to form an image of her in my imagination. Perhaps, my illusions would collapse, if I were in the situation to see how she truly is. No, it is better as it is, even if it is only a copy of herself that I adore and worship, an empty silhouette without flesh and blood, with no opportunities to talk or hear me. My adoration is absolutely platonic, or rather idolatry, as the queen of my heart only exists for me on the silver screen.42

The adoration was a private matter between the admirer and the favorite. It was isolated from real life, but the admirer had nevertheless not lost his sense of reality. He understood well that it was about illusion, about loving a picture:

Yes, I am in love, quite blindly in love! Perhaps I am not the only one admiring the object of my passionate affection, - it is possible that there are thousands that compete with me in this praised task, but I do not mind – like I do not mind that my idol does not have the slightest clue about my existence (Ibid.).

As the name of the adored actress or any other details of her were never mentioned, the article did not endorse any particular actress, film, or cinema, but instead promoted the act of admiring a film actor by giving a vivid depiction of an act of adoration. There is no information about the writer of the text – whether if it was made in Finland or translated from some foreign source – and hence we cannot assess how it reflects the actual acts of adoration. At the very least, however, its publication in the magazine was aimed at a Finnish audience and made it available for readers as an example of the adoration of a film favorite. Furthermore, it most likely did not diverge too sharply from readers’ preexisting notions of adoration, as the publishers’ aim was to promote the bankability of the actors’ popularity.

If the adoration of Psilander was similar, his fans would not necessarily have desired to know about him as an individual— his mere film appearances and publicity photographs were enough to fulfill their fantasies (Compare with deCordova 1990: 51, 81). This interpretation resonates with the ads that focused on describing how each new film was an opportunity to see Psilander rendering the grand emotions and agonies of the distressed soul. Instead of a “real person”, the object of admiration was the mystified image, the worshipped picture personality.

Masculine hero and the agonies of the soul

Danish melodramas of the 1910s have been described as a genre of strong women in which male characters are considered weak or even bystanders (Laakso 2005: 12). When it comes to Psilander, however, the narrative was all about masculinity and the promotion of one particular man. Already in his breakthrough role Temptations of the Great City Psilander was shown to be the initiator of all action, which continued all through his screen career. The most important exceptions were the two films he made with Asta Nielsen in 1911. In The Black Dream and The Ballet Dancer Nielsen overshadowed Psilander, but when she relocated to Germany, Psilander’s career was able to grow unhindered. Exiting Nielsen’s shadow made it possible to confirm Psilander’s status as a hero, making him the true star of his films from this point on. He was paired with the leading ladies of Nordisk Films Kompagni, like Else Frölich, Clara Wieth and Ebba Thomsen, but no one became his usual companion or challenged his status as the focus of the films.

Finnish publicity promoted “agonies of soul” as Psilander’s specialty, while, as Richter Larsen notes (2004), Psilander was generally known as an athletic performer and adept equestrian, who did himself even the most daring stunts. The action scenes were explicitly advertised in Finland during the early years of his career. For example, in advertising of En Lektion (August Blom 1911, lit: A Lecture) the main attraction was not the story itself or the performances, but the aeroplane that was allegedly used for the first time in a fiction film.43 In 1912-1913, the action scenes of films like Dødsangstens Maskespil (Eduard Schnedler-Sørensen 1912, Fire at Sea) or Dødsspring til Hest fra Cirkuskuplen (Eduard Schnedler-Sørensen 1912, The Great Circus Catastrophe) were the main attraction44, but they competed with Psilander’s agonies of the soul for prominence in the advertising. For example, Den glade Løjtnant (Robert Dinesen 1912, lit: The Merry Lieutenant) was described being a film “about love and pride, caprice and male strength, about a battle where the male strength in the end forces the capricious woman to beg for his love45, but the advertisement also noted:

It is surprising that a human hand could have made such a film. The wild chases over giant obstacles, down deep shafts, and the terrible mid-air automobile ride are almost unbelievable (Ibid.).

Despite the fact that the action scenes were characteristic of Psilander’s films throughout his career46, they soon disappeared from Finnish advertisements. At the height of his success in Finland, Psilander was known for his intense masculinity that he utilized in either depicting harrowing heroes or amoral womanizers.

Psilander with question mark, the name of the film is not mentioned in Helsingin Sanomat, no 322, 26.11.1916. (digi.kansalliskirjasto.fi).

The Psilander boom peaked in 1915; already by the next year there was a decrease to five screenings. Nevertheless, most of the references to Psilander are not in the Biograafilehti in 1915 but in the following year’s Bio. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that Psilander’s status as a film celebrity was also highlighted in the newspaper advertisements. For example, in November 1916 Maxim’s advertisement consisted only of Psilanders photograph accompanied with a large question mark.47 No film title was included, no other hints, not even the name of the actor was listed. During this time, it was extremely rare to use photographs in the ads, which highlights the extraordinariness of the fact that Psilander’s face was sufficiently recognizable among film audiences to promote screenings of his films. Bio gives an insight to whom Psilander attracted the most. The article “Cinema advertisement’s effects on women” explains:

It is generally known that women can also become infatuated with well-known film performers, whose acting (even if only in a picture) arouses their personal compassions. The prominent  Danish film actor Waldemar Psilander is an excellent evidence of the veracity of these words. In this case, the performer’s name, photograph or ad picture are enough to bring about the desired effect. What is psychologically interesting in this case is that women focus so deeply on the persona of the performer that they completely forget that in front of them is simply a moving image. The consequence of this can be that they, at some intriguing moment of the play, in the midst of their psychic enchantment, burst into spontaneous applause.48

Subtitled ”A psychological study,” the article emphasizes that women tended to conflate the performer with his image – i.e. the person and the character were seen as a single, intertwined picture personality. Unlike the male admirer who had described his feelings towards his favorite actress a year earlier, the women portrayed in the article were not able to restrain themselves. Instead their emotions erupted in cries and applause. Nevertheless, the admiration in this case as well was focused on the image alone; the female fans did not need any real-life interaction, just the sight of their favorite actor on the screen.

The article does not document the ways women actually acted when Psilander appeared on the screen, but the depictions suggest a pattern of reception. The fact that Psilander was chosen to be the example of the effects film had on women testifies to his popularity and impact especially on female fans. However, the exact reactions he evoked are unknown, although Psilander’s widespread popularity was confirmed in an anecdote in Bio in 1916:

At Maxim’s Box Office

The Old Damsel: Say, does my friend perform in this program?

The salesgirl: Yes.

The Old Damsel: Well, give me a one mark ticket.49

Me: Who is her friend?

The salesgirl: (slightly astounded): Psilander naturally!50

During the months Bio was published, Maxim screened only one Psilander film despite having exclusive distribution rights. Nevertheless, the anecdote insinuates that his films were commonplace in the programs. The reference to the old damsel suggests that Psilander films were popular among women of all ages, although the melodramas were generally preferred by adult audiences, while youth were drawn to his action films, as both Biograafilehti and Bio note.51 Psilander’s on-screen depiction of agonies of soul seem to have appealed particularly—but not exclusively—to mature viewers. One 1916 article attributed to “Gyurka” reports:

The Great Valdemar – the Dane with the sonorous name – has doubtlessly found his way into the rose red dreams of the downtown damsels. It is precisely there he has found his position most rapidly and maintains his image most constantly. The hearts of both maidens and ladies – if you can imagine – throb most vigorously when Psilander steps on the screen and arouses their hearts, descending into blissful sentiments.52

The young were the most eager to see films in general, so the references to old damsels and adult ladies reveal that Psilander also attracted other demographic groups. According to the article, women – young and old – flocked the cinemas whenever the Great Valdemar was to appear on the screen.

Gyurka’s article was an exception among the texts in Biograafilehti and Bio that introduce actors. Despite being quite long, it was the only one focusing solely on the fandom of one particular actor. The author’s pseudonym suggests that the writer was male, like most of the editorial staff, and it seems to be written for the Finnish publication, not translated from some other paper. Thus, Gyurka seems to give an insight into the particularly Finnish aspects of Psilander’s stardom. According to the article, the actor affected all cinema-goers – both men and women – with his great popularity:

[The evidence is] the fact that he is so much discussed, that the female population is divided in two, between those who love him and those who adore him, that mankind either detests him or hates him, that in general there are so few who raise as strong opinions and passions than the loved and hated Danish Apollo. (Ibid.)

The article takes a critical tone, depicting the way women in particular admired Psilander as childish adoration. In this sense, it could be seen as a commentary on the current phenomenon than the promotion of film culture. When describing Psilander’s private life, Gyurka goes into detail on a scale unfamiliar from the previous texts. He reveals that Psilander had been unsuccessful in the theater before his screen career but now lived in luxury:

Psilander, who presents himself in princely fashion, can live up to his standards. His magnificent villa is situated in Copenhagen’s most luxurious quarter and next to it is his sports park, as he is an able sportsman. He can walk on a rope wound up from rooftop to rooftop, he swims in stormy seas, does reckless jumps, performs outstanding equestrian stunts and other samples of his sports virtuosity. (Ibid.)

Despite the admiring account of his physical exploits, the article does not paint a positive picture of the man behind the picture personality, alleging that money was more important to him than his fans:

We mention Psilander, since every day’s post delivers him hundreds of love letters. We do not know how he receives them, but most probably less keenly than the piles of gold that Nordisk Films Comp. annually pays him for of his popularity. (Ibid.)

The belittling references to Psilander’s admirers or the critique of his salary seem peculiar. A decade or two later this kind of commentary would have been impossible to find in a film magazine, since the film star was at least as important a part of film culture as the film itself. In the 1910s, however, it was still possible for film favorite to be called greedy without tarnishing his picture personality.

Psilander’s appearance was one of the most important factors in his popularity, but it is also closely tied to the norms of his particular era. After his death in 1917, his obituaries unanimously praised his looks. Even Gyurka wrote:

On the racetrack of life, achievements require certain attributes. For an actor, one of these is an attractive, advantageous appearance. Even when in dire circumstances, this actor made his way through many battles has, this actor who has not merely the God-given face and body of a half-Apollo, but also his skills, though they are not without limits. In the end he is first and foremost a beautiful and charming vision.53

In one of his obituaries, Psilander was described as being as beautiful as young god and dressed as if he had stepped out of the latest English fashion paper, the idol of all women and the target of slander by all envious men.” (Ibid.) Nowadays, the pictures of Psilander remind more of a middle-aged civil servant than a young Apollo, even though he was merely 32 years at the time of his death. Beauty standards in the 1910s were very different from those of the next decade when Hollywood’s cult of youth changed the concept. In the Biograafilehti article mentioned above, the admirer’s description of his favorite actress evokes this earlier norm:

I am not able to say if she is blond or dark. But it is sure that she is handsome. She is tall and stately like a queen with her impressive bosom and beautifully round hips. She is dexterous like the blade of a sword and her pose is like a cavalry officer’s.54

In this article, the actress’s majestic appearance was the object of admiration. In the first half of the 1910s, the corsets and close-fitting dress styles still created a voluptuous bosom and impressive hips for the ladies. The turn toward looser and narrower shapes that concealed instead of highlighting the conformations of the female body were still a few years away. Even though the great heroines of the era, such as Sarah Bernhardt and Asta Nielsen, were slender, they cannot be described as slim or petite in the same sense as the film stars who came a couple of decades later. Similarly, Psilander was a gorgeous, grown-up man. He lacked the young man’s body and straightforward sensuality that Rudolph Valentino sported, or the boyish charm of Douglas Fairbanks. Heather Addison, who has studied the reduction craze in 1920s Hollywood, describes the previous masculine body ideal as “jovial corpulence that [was] associated with prosperity” (Addison 2003: 6), which also describes Psilander’s appearance. Full figures were en vogue, and the narrow waist created with the help of a corset was the only place where a woman was expected to be slim.

Age was also a factor that changed with the fashion. In the Danish films of the 1910s, the performers of leading roles were somewhat older than the film stars of the later decades. Psilander and his colleagues who had come from the theater in the early 1910s were already at least 30 years old. Through them, the Danish cinema was tied to the traditions of theater, where great success was not usually attained when young, but only in more mature years.55 The actors and actresses of Nordisk Films Kompagni resembled more their contemporary colleagues at theaters than the film stars of later years.

Fading popularity

At the same time as Psilander’s popularity in Helsinki was at its height, his work pace was slowing down – as the obituary in Suomen Kuvalehti put it, he “worked for six months and lived like a lord for twelve”.56 Nevertheless, it was not the sole reason for the number of his films in Finland decreasing, especially as Nordisk Films Kompagni had plenty of them in stock waiting for release. Other changes in the Finnish film distribution were occurring at the same time. In the fall of 1915, Russian film made its breakthrough in Finland with Vera Holodnaja, Vitold Polonsky, Ivan Mozzhukhin and other great favorites of empirical Russian screen became favorites also in the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland. Simultaneously, Charles Chaplin became the king of comedy shorts, so there were plenty of new faces to choose from. Nevertheless, Psilander’s significance did not vanish overnight, as his name was used to market films by other actors (Compare with deCordova 1990: 64). On several occasions, the Russian actor Ivan Mozzhukhin was called ”the Psilander of Russia.” In one extreme example, in an advertisement for Sin (Greh, Yakov Protazanov 1916), Mozzhukhin’s name was not even mentioned57 - the moniker "Psilander of Russia" was considered enough to attract audiences.

Side by side ad of Psilander film and film by Ivan Mozzhukhin – “Russian Psilander” in Helsingin Sanomat, no 19, 21.01.1917. (digi.kansalliskirjasto.fi). Click illustration to enlarge

In March 1917, just before the February Revolution, the surprising news of Valdemar Psilander’s untimely passing arrived from Copenhagen.58 Obituaries for him were published at least in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat and the pictorial Suomen Kuvalehti. The article in Helsingin Sanomat, quoted at the opening of this article, was published only a couple of days after his death, but the lengthy article in Suomen Kuvalehti had to wait until late spring, as the revolution news took over the magazine for several issues. It was a translated piece by pseudonym G. M. that made no reference to Psilander’s popularity or fans in Finland. Instead the text was full of details about Psilander’s life and career. It is obvious that the writer was either Danish or had abundance of Danish material to create the in-depth profile. Nevertheless, still the actor and his character were treated as identical. The obituary begins: 

Valdemar Psilander has died and thus ends a film fairy tale full of astonishing events both in reality and on the silver screen. Valdemar Psilander was his true self both in film and in his everyday life, which is the first and foremost explanation for his unprecedented success.59

The obituary suggests that Psilander’s real life was just as beautiful a fairy-tale as his film stories. However, his roles and life were not entirely similar, as he only suffered the agonies of the soul on screen, while his real life described to be filled with luxury and elegance:

At his home in Copenhagen, the famous hero scattered gold all over himself. His annual income of 100 000 kroner was not enough for him. Champagne flowed whenever he was present. With his generous hand, he helped his friends in need. He lived his life with a speed of a film and died as if he had been acting one of his hero roles –when we least expected it. (Ibid.)

For the first time, Finnish audiences were offered information about Psilander’s life behind his screen persona. However, the article did not speculate about the cause of death aside from a mention of mundane heart failure. The writer’s imagination – or the material he utilized – was not as vivid as others who suggested suicide or even a crime of passion. (Ibid., compare with Richter Larsen 2004)

Psilander’s untimely death did not occasion special re-screenings of his films. Nevertheless, advertisements capitalized on the news. Three weeks later, when his film Kunnianhyvitys(unidentified, lit:  Compensation of Honour) premiered, one advertisement declared:”The papers have broken the news of Valdemar Psilander’s death, but on screen he still lives.”60 A month later, when Pro Patria (August Blom 1916) premiered, the emphasis was even stronger:

The film is the greatest and grandest that Nordisk Films Comp has so far released, and its interest is greatly increased by the fact that it is one of the last in which Valdemar Psilander appears among the main cast.61

The reference to the last of his films was unnecessary fearmongering, as Nordisk still had Psilander films to release until 1920. However, Psilander’s greatest successes in Helsinki were in the past. He did not entirely disappear overnight – there were still premieres and reruns of his films until at least early 192062, but their number was small. For example, in the fall of 1917, there was only one screening in Helsinki, the premiere of Klovnen (A.W. Sandberg 1917, lit: The Clown). It was advertised as his memorial role:

Whoever has seen Psilander in his usual grand roles cannot help but wonder at the way he performs this tragic part. Here Psilander is an artist who touches us, engrosses us with something else than his personal attraction and finesse. It is certain that in The Clown, he has gained the results on the sacred sphere of tragedy of which no one could have believed him capable.63

The Clown has been afterwards heralded as Psilander’s best performance, and it is evident that much of it has to do with the fact that the role is, like the advertisement emphasized, completely different from his other screen characters. In the end, Psilander was heralded because he did something unexpected and brought to life something that was in direct conflict with his beloved picture personality.


In 1915–1916 Biograafilehti and Bio wrote about several actors, but only the names of Asta Nielsen and Valdemar Psilander kept reappearing – Nielsen in both years and Psilander especially during the latter. This was despite the fact that the importation of all German products, including Nielsen films, was banned during 1914–1917 because of the First World War. Cinemas only screened reruns of Nielsen’s films, but fan magazines never even referred to the ban. Instead, they mentioned simply that Nielsen was taking some time off from filmmaking.64 By contrast, the war was on Psilander’s side as Danish imports did not suffer any major setbacks in Finland before 1918.65

Although there were numerically more articles about Nielsen, focusing on her experiences in or opinions of filmmaking66, the texts about Psilander focused on how the audience related to him. In this sense, Asta Nielsen was more of a film star as we know them today, whose private life and opinions were passed on to the readers. However, together they surpassed anyone else, or as Gyurka put it: “This is demonstrated best by his unlimited popularity. Were his name not Valdemar Psilander, he would rather be Asta Nielsen.”67

The notion of old damsels and young women bursting into spontaneous applause reflect the reactions audience had to Psilander’s picture personality. Even though one cannot simply equate newspaper articles with reality, it would be odd if the film advertisements and fan magazine articles were completely disconnected from the audience’s actual experiences.

Finnish film criticism in the 1910s praised picture personalities as an integral part of film culture and educated audiences about how to consume the films in a particular manner. Simultaneously, the texts reflect the existing situation in Finland. If female fans had not cared for Psilander, he would not have become such a favorite. If he had only been popular among male audiences, the reaction of the press would have been completely different. However, it is also obvious that the women of Helsinki did not follow the newspapers’ advice, but instead found their own way to the cinemas and felt their hearts beating heavily when Psilander depicted agonies of the soul on the screen.

Although relatively scant, just few articles and less than a hundred ads, the textual evidence of Psilander’s stardom in Finland draws a vivid picture of the film culture in Helsinki in the 1910s. Psilander’s success reveals that Helsinki audiences had strong emotions about film, both positive and negative. The sources do not let the audience or fans tell about their feelings for the Danish Apollo, but the number of screenings is proof of his success. Psilander’s admirers probably obtained information about him from other sources in addition to those used in this article, but it is clear that he was seen as a picture personality and public interest was focused on his screen persona. In Finnish film culture of the 1910s, the focus was on the films themselves, not the private lives of the actors. As a picture personality, Psilander was a great friend of damsels both old and young, a divine creature. He was able to render the agonies of soul better than anyone else, so that women could not help themselves from applauding and men suffered pangs of jealousy.

This article is a revised version of: Outi Hupaniittu,”Nuori Apollo, vanhan mamsellin ystävä. Helsinkiläisten suosikkinäyttelijä Valdemar Psilander ja 1910-luvun elokuvakulttuuri.” In Elokuva historiassa, historia elokuvassa. Edited by.Heta Mulari & Lauri Piispa. Turku: k&h, 2009.



1. Until December 1917, Finland was part of Russian Empire, but because of its autonomous status it had its own separate juridical, financial, commercial and cultural structures and can be thus researched as a separate entity.

2. "Pikku uutisia". HS 13.3.1917, 5. This and other sources cited in this article contain factual errors. They reflect the scarce and unreliable information available for the writers, but as the focus here is on the film publicity, not in the transmission of information, they are not pointed out.

3. The number of films is based on Richter Larsen (2004); Richter Larsen & Nissen (2006: 13). The Danish National Filmography lists 86 films, but at least one of them is an advert Psilander used in his tours. Danmarks nationalfilmografi.

4. In some sense Bio was renamed version of Biograafilehti, but there were differences between the magazines that emphasize their status as individual publications. 

5. ”Biograafilehden lukijoille”. Biograafilehti 1/1915, 2.

6. Advert, Bio 6/1916, 6.

7. There are no adverts from 1.7.-7.8.1917, as newspapers were on strike. As some of the films were advertised without his name, it is possible that the actual numbers are somewhat higher. Especially the films made in 1913 are missing from the Helsinki ads.

8. Ibid, 6–7, 12. Pseudonym Escamillo wrote in Biograafilehden in 1915 about the audience’s favorites in very similar fashion than deCordova 75 years later. Escamillo: "Mielenkiintoinen filmi". Biograafilehti 7/1915, 3–4.

9. The found instances of the term ”star”: "Huimaavia filmipalkkioita. Miss Pickfordilla 390,000 vuositulot". Biograafilehti sample issue 4/1915, 13–14, Lyyra ad, HS 3.11.1912 and "Ruotsalaisen Biografiteatterin uudet filmikuvaamiset". Bio 14/1916, 14. Most certainly there are more occasions in the ads of 1911–1917, but they are few and far between.

10. Maxim ads, HS 17.10.1915 and 21.1.1917.

11. Richard deCordova emphasizes that the same changes occurred in the United States in the end of the first decade of 1900s. DeCordova (1990: 28–29) compare with Nenonen (1999: 69–72, 85); Hirn (1991: 11–39, 97–126). Of the Finnish development for example Escamillo: "Kinematograafi". Biograafilehti 1/1915, 3; Escamillo: "Biograafiteatterien yleisöstä, mausta ja muusta". Biograafilehti11/1915, 3.

12. With the breakthrough of the long fiction, the length of program rose to about one hour long. Like before, it consisted of several films. (Hupaniittu 2013: 133–134).

13. The letter to the director of Maxim was published only in the Swedish edition of the magazine. ”En för många: "Från Allmänheten". Biograftidning 5/1915, 15.

14. Maxim Teatern: "Till svar…". Biograftidning 5/1915, 15.

15. Nordisk sold 246 copies of the film, whereas the two most successful films of the previous year had both sold about 100 copies each. Richter Larsen 2004.

16. Lyyra ad, HS 30.4.1911.

17. Maxim ad, HS 15.10.1911.

18. Laakso 2005: 7, Mottram 1988: 101, 135–141. About the ”Ibsenian style” see Laakso 2005: 12–16 and passim. Also Biograafilehti wrote that the superiority of the Danish films was closely connected to the theatrical background of the actors. Unknown: ”Filmi.” Biograafilehti sample issue 0/1915, 3.

19. Scala ad, HS 22.1.1911.

20. Maxim ad, HS 15.10.1911.

21. DeCordova 1990: 2–7, 19–21. In Finland, it was still in the 1920s customary to use “posing” or “performaning” if the film actor did not have professional theatrical background. Compare with Nieminen 2006, passim.

22. "Huimaavia filmipalkkioita". Biograafilehti 4/1915, 13.

23. Maxim ad, HS 18.2.1912. The screening might have happened even earlier than in France or Denmark, as according to IMDB their release dates were 8th March and 26th February 1912 respectively.

24. Escamillo: ”Kinematograafi”. Biograafilehti sample issue 1/1915, 3.

25. Escamillo: "Biograafiteatterien yleisöstä, mausta ja muusta". Biograafilehti 11/1915, 3.

26. Olympia ad, HS 8.12.1912.

27. Scala ad, HS 5.1.1913.

28. One has to note that more than 30 of Psilander films were not found in the ads. Part of them were released only later, but part of the films were in circulation during the years in question in this article. Probably at least some of them were advertised in Helsinki without his name.

29. Lyyra and Maailman ympäri ads, HS 24.9. 1911, Maxim ad, HS 26.11.1911 and 12.5.1912.

30. Yhtä ja toista". Biograafilehti 7/1915, 12.

31. Lyyra ad, HS 13.12.1914.

32. See for example Eldorado ads, HS 10.1. and 21.2.1915; Maxim ad, HS 23.5.1915.

33. As no facts about the film were given, the identifying them becomes more difficult. See for example the ad of an unidentified Psilander film. Lyyra ad, HS 11.4.1915.

34. Maxim ad, HS 23.5.1915.

35. Eldorado ad, HS 11.7.1915.

36. Eldorado ad, HS 30.5.1915.

37. Eldorado ad, HS 20.6.1915.

38. Most propably not Operabranden (August Blom 1912, lit: Fire at the Opera), as the ad lists actors Valdemar Psilander, Robert Dinesen, Ella Sprange and Ella la Cour. Maxim ad, HS 27.6.1915.

39. For example weekly magasine Veckans Krönika did not mention Psilander at all and the only text in Suomen Kuvalehti (est 1916) was the obituary.

40. Ibid, 86–87. Similar texts can be found from later decades. Compare with Hupaniittu 2008, 34–43.

41. Sans pour: "Hän". Biograafilehti 5/1915, 15.

42. Sans pour: "Hän". Biograafilehti 5/1915, 15.

43. Exceptionally, the film premiered in two cinemas simultaneously. Lyyra and Maailman ympäri ads, HS 24.9.1911.

44. Olympia, HS 3.11.1912, Scala ad, HS 15.9.1912. Other action films of 1912–1913 where for example Operabranden (August Blom 1912) and Den glade Løjtnant (Robert Dinesen 1912). Olympia ads, HS 27.10.1912 and 5.1.1913.

45. Olympia ad, HS 27.10.1912.

46. About the action scenes in the films of Nordisk Films Kopagni, see Richter Larsen & Nissen 2006, 15. See also Mottram 1980, passim.

47. Maxim ad, HS 26.11.1916.

48. "Biograafireklaamin vaikutus naiseen". Psykologinen tutkielma. Bio 17/1916, 1–2.

49. The most expensive tickets for the premium seats cost one mark.

50. "Kino-Historier. Vid Maxims biljettlucka". Bio 6/1916, 3.

51. Compare with Nenonen (1999: 85–86, 93); Kertoja: "Havaintoja". Bio 1/1916, 9–10. Biograafilehti was even advertised as a magazine favored by the youth. Biograafilehti sample issue 0/1915, 2.

52. Gyurka: "Psilander…!" Bio 13/1916, 13–15.

53. G. M.: "Filmisankarin satu". Suomen kuvalehti 18/1917, 272

54. Sans pour: "Hän". Biograafilehti 5/1915, 15.

55. Similar development occurred in Finland in 1920s, when the commendable theater actors appeared in leading screen roles. The new Hollywood ideals of youth and beauty had already arrived to Finland, which created a conflict between appreciations of the external appearance and accomplishments in acting. Nieminen (2006: 17–18, passim).

56. G. M.: "Filmisankarin satu". Suomen Kuvalehti 18/1917, 272.

57. Eldorado ad, HS 21.1.1917; Sampo ad, HS 4.3.1917. Other Mozzhukhin films advertised with ”Psilander of Russia”:  Kto bez greha, kin v nejo kamen (Cheslav Sabinski 1915) and Queen of Spades(Pikovaja dama, Yakov Protazanov 1916). Esplanad ad, HS 13.8.1916; Eldorado ad, HS 14.10.1917. I would like to thank Lauri Piispa for help in identifying the Russian films.

58. Valdemar Psilander died on 6 March and first demonstrations of the February Revolution commenced two days later in St. Petersburg. The death of Psilander was published in Helsingin Sanomat on 13 March, and the first news about the already much escalated situation in St. Petersburg arrived to Helsinki the same day. Tsar Nicolai abdicated two days later.

59. G. M.: "Filmisankarin satu". Suomen kuvalehti 18/1917, 272.

60. Maxim ad, HS 25.3.1917.

61. Maxim ad, HS 22.4.1917.

62. For example, in December 1919 Kinopalatsi screened Hvorledes jeg kom til Filmen (Robert Dinesen 1919). It was accompanied with a short comedy In search for Venus (Aleko Lilius 1919), which was the first Finnish fiction to premiere after the first world war and Finnish independence. Kinopalatsi ad, HS 7.12.1919.

63. Maxim ad, HS 2.12.1917.

64. See for example "Asta Nielsen". Bio 15/ 1916, 4, 9.

65. The Danish imports were halted only in summer 1918, when Great Britain declared total import blockage Finland had allied with German Empire. The blockage lasted for couple of month, and during it, all the films shipped towards Finland were stopped in Denmark or Sweden. (Hupaniittu 2013: 286–301).

66. See for example "Asta Nielsenin juttelu filmistä ja vaatteista". Biograafilehti 8/1915, 10; "Kun Asta Nielsen kerran nukahti". Bio 1/1916, 10; "Erotkaamme". Bio 2/1916, 9; "Asta Nielsen’in lausuntoja filmitaiteesta". Bio 9/1916, 1, 3–4; "Asta Nielsen". Bio 15/ 1916, 4, 9.

67. Gyurka: "Psilander…!" Bio 13/1916, 13–15.


Electronic databases:

DFI Filmdatabasen. http://www.dfi.dk/FaktaOmFilm.aspx  (referred 13.11.2016)

Newspapers and periodicals:

Helsingin Sanomat (HS) 1911-1917

Biograafilehti 1915

Biograftidning 1915

Bio 1916

Suomen Kuvalehti 1917


Addison, Heather.  Hollywood and the rise of physical culture. New York: Routledge, 2003.

deCordova, Richard. Picture Personalities. The Emergence of the Star System in America. ,

Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990.

Hirn, Sven. Kuvat kulkevat. Kuvallisten esitysten perinne ja elävien kuvien 12 ensimmäistä

vuotta Suomessa. Helsinki: Suomen elokuvasäätiö, 1981.

Hirn, Sven. Kuvat elävät. Elokuvatoimintaa Suomessa 1908–1918. Helsinki: Vapk-kustannus

and Suomen elokuva-arkisto, 1991.

Hupaniittu, Outi. ”Suomalaisen valkokankaan sielukkaimmat kasvot. Helena Karan

julkisuuskuva elokuvalehdissä vuosina 1937–1952.” In:Valkoiset ruusut. Hannu Lemisen ja Helena Karan elämä ja elokuvat. Edited by Kimmo Laine ja Juha Seitajärvi, Helsinki : Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura and Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen arkisto, 2008.

Hupaniittu. Outi. Biografiliiketoiminnan valtakausi. Toimijuus ja kilpailu suomalaisella elokuva-

alalla 1900–1920-luvuilla. Turku: Turun yliopisto and Arkistolaitos, 2013.

Laakso, Hanna Maria. ”Asta Nielsen – Teatterimaailman marginaalista eurooppalaisen

elokuvan ensimmäiseksi tähdeksi.” Lähikuva 4/2005, 5–21.

Mottram, Ron. Danish Cinema Before Dryer. London: Scarecrow Press, 1988.

Nenonen, Markku.  Elokuvatarkastuksen synty Suomessa (1907–1922). Bibliotheca Historica

46. Helsinki: Suomen Historiallinen Seura, 1999.

Nieminen, Outi. ”Kuuluisuuksien sisarolennot. Filmiaitan vuoden 1924

Filminäyttelijätärkilpailu, lukijattaret ja suomalainen elokuvanäyttelijyys.” Lähikuva 1/2006, 6–22.

Richter Larsen, Lisbeth. “Valdemar Psilander – A World Star in Danish Film.”

http://www.dfi.dk/bibliotekogarkiver/Filmarkivet/filmarchive/dvd/valdemarpsilander/psilanderarticle/psilanderarticle.htm (referred 23.6.2008)

Lisbeth Richter Larsen & Dan Nissen, 100 Years of Nordisk Film. In: 100 Years of Nordisk

Film. Edited by Lisbeth Richter Larsen & Dan Nissen. Copenhagen: Danish Film Institute, 2006.

Thorsen, Isak. “The Rise and Fall of the Polar Bear.” In: 100 Years of Nordisk Film. Edited by

Lisbeth Richter Larsen & Dan Nissen. Copenhagen: Danish Film Institute, 2006.

Suggested citation

Hupaniittu, Outi (2017): “Young Apollo, Friend of an Old Damsel”: Psilander and Finnish film culture. Kosmorama #267 (www.kosmorama.org).


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