“Maria Orska, she is simply the actual embodiment of the human beast.... here, again, she is the man-beguiling Lulu, so vivid in her performance that one can almost hear her words.” With these lines in his review of Die Bestie im Menschen (1920/21), critic Fritz Olimsky describes Orska as she was widely regarded: a femme fatale Lulu or vamp type known for her tragic, expressive performances, who was often cast in psychologically complex roles involving dramatic love affairs. Orska, like her Hollywood contemporary Theda Bara, rarely moved beyond her reputation for playing this type of character. In addition to exploring the largely overlooked work of Jewish theater and film actress Maria Orska (1893–1930), this chapter takes Orska as the basis for a broader discussion about casting, Jewishness, and gender. To what extent were known Jewish actresses cast in certain roles—including roles that were coded Jewish—in Weimar films? How did widespread perceptions of Jewish women affect the reception of the roles they played? [excerpt]
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Wallach, Kerry. “The Jewish Vamp of Berlin: Actress Maria Orska, Typecasting, and Jewish Women.” In Rethinking Jewishness in Weimar Film, edited by Valerie Weinstein and Barbara Hales, 72-92. New York: Berghahn Books, 2020.
Required Publisher's Statement
This chapter appears in a larger collection published by Berghahn Books (https://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/HalesRethinking). Wallach, Kerry. 2020. “The Jewish Vamp of Berlin: Actress Maria Orska, Typecasting, and Jewish Women.” In Rethinking Jewishness in Weimar Film, eds. Valerie Weinstein and Barbara Hales, 72-92. New York: Berghahn Books.