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André Andrejew

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

André Andrejew (21 January 1887 – 13 March 1967) was one of the most important art directors of the international cinema of the twentieth century. He had a distinctive, innovative style. His décors were both expressive and realistic. French writer Lucie Derain described Andrejew at the peak of his career as "an artist of the grand style, blessed with a vision of lyrical quality."[1] Edith C. Lee wrote recently: "Believing in creative freedom rather than academic reconstruction, André Andrejew fulfilled the 20th century's notion of the romantic, individualistic artist. The unusual titillated his imagination."

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Early life

André Andrejew was born in Schawli (Lithuanian: Šiauliai), Russian Empire (now Lithuania), on 21 January 1887[2] as Andrej Andreyev (Russian: Андрей Андреев). He studied architecture at the Fine Arts Academy in Moscow. At the time in Russia, architecture could be studied at technical universities and with the more artistic angle at art academies, where accent was on interior design and decor and students were trained as artists. After the studies, André Andrejew worked as a scene designer at the Konstantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre.

In Berlin

After the October Revolution of 1917, Andrejew left Russia. In Germany and Austria, he worked as stage designer in theater productions in Berlin and Vienna, working among others with Max Reinhardt. In 1921/1922, he designed stage decorations for the Jasha Jushny's Der Blaue Vogel (Blue Bird), a legendary Russian émigré cabaret at Goltzstrasse in Berlin.

In 1923, he designed his first cinema décor for Raskolnikow, directed by Robert Wiene, film based upon Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. This expressionist work made him the foremost art director in Germany. Rudolf Kurtz in his Expressionismus und Film (1926) wrote: Andrejew is a typical Moscow mixture, distinction of the streaked folk art (his decors) dissolves the rhythm of images, creates gentle forms, establishes balance even when everything is broken and torn.

Germany produced at the time hundreds of feature movies each year, and as cinema was silent, they were often produced in a co-production with France and released in both countries with different language inter-titles. Andrejew designed décors for several major German and Franco-German productions directed by Pabst, Feyder, Duvivier, Christian-Jacque. The titles of this period include Dancing Vienna, Pandora's Box, The Threepenny Opera, Don Quixote, The Golem, Meyerling.

Especially interesting is today The Threepenny Opera (1930), directed by G.W. Pabst. Andrejew built for this film huge sets of the imaginary London. These decors artistically continue German Expressionism of the 1920s, but bring it to another level, creating the world far more realistic, intense and somber.

France, Great Britain, Czechoslovakia: 1933-1940

Immediately after Hitler took power in Germany in 1933, Andrejew as several other Russian artists living in Berlin left for Paris. At first he worked with the directors who also left Germany (Fedor Ozep, Alexis Granowsky, G. W. Pabst), but later with the most successful French filmmakers of the time, working on art direction of numerous film productions in France, England, and Czechoslovakia. In collaboration with Pimenoff, Andrejew art directed 'Les Yeux Noirs'. Following this came sumptuous sets for 'Les Nuits Moscovites' and 'Myerling'. His sets for Duvivier's 'Golem' made in Prague were remarkable, the camera reproducing the artist's original designs very faithfully. Toeplitz brought Andrejew to England in 1937 to make 'The Dictator', and he stayed on to make 'Whom the Gods Love' for Basil Dean. Both these films were set against lavish eighteenth century backgrounds on which he was so much at home(...)Until 1937 he was associated with many productions for London Films but returned to his chateau in France in 1938.[3] Just before the World War II, Andrejew was active in France making decors for two films with Pabst and several other films with L'Herbier, Ozep, Pottier, Lacombe and Mirande.

War years in France: 1940-1944

When Germany invaded France in May 1940 and the Vichy regime was established, German producer Alfred Greven[4] and his firm Continental Films continued to produce French films. These films were shown in cinemas in France and other occupied by Germany countries, where cinema had to be kept alive while it has been seen by the Nazi regime, as an important propaganda tool. Several directors left France escaping the Nazis as Luis Buñuel and Jean Renoir, but the directors who stayed in France like Marcel Carné, Jean Cocteau, Sacha Guitry continued to make films and André Andrejew continued to design and build film décors. These French films had nothing to do with the occupiers ideology. Their default was to pretend normality, while Europe suffered under the Nazi German occupation.

Le Corbeau controversy

In 1943, André Andrejew worked as a production designer on Le Corbeau, a thriller by Henri-Georges Clouzot. This anti-authoritarian film became very controversial during the occupation, when it was seen as indirectly attacking the Nazi system, and censored; yet after the liberation of France in August 1944, Le Corbeau was perceived as being made by collaborators, and it was rumored to have been released in Germany as Nazi anti-French propaganda, when in fact it was suppressed by the Germans.

However, the film was disliked by all political parties in postwar France, and there was a strong consensus to treat this movie as a scapegoat for a national feeling of guilt for not putting up enough resistance against Nazi Germany. Clouzot was at first banned for life from directing films in France; his actors, who acted also in other movies, were sentenced to long prison terms.

Several important personalities in France, including artist Jean Cocteau and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, went to the defense of Le Corbeau and Clouzot himself. Clouzot's ban was commuted to three years, counted from the release of Le Corbeau, which in fact meant two years' ban. Andrejew, as his close collaborator, was banned for nine months, forcing him to renew his English contacts.

The French ban on Le Corbeau was lifted only in 1969.

Final years — Hollywood productions

Andrejew continued to work as a production designer in England, France, and since 1948, he designed décors for several major international productions as Anna Karenina, Alexander the Great (shot in Spain), and Anastasia.

Anna Karenina produced by Alexander Korda and directed by Julien Duvivier, with the cinematography by Henri Alekan, costumes by Cecil Beaton and Vivien Leigh in the title part, stands out in Andrejew's work as probably one of his best films. 'Andre Andrejew has done something good that very few set designers for films set in czarist Russia are able to do: create the impression of sumptuous wealth without making the rooms look like nearly barbaric combination of harems and safaris. The seeming alien-ness of Russia, particularly before 1917, has influenced many set designers to make the place look strange and combine several bizarre cultures which have nothing to do with anything. This production of Anna Karenina takes into account something very important: Upper class Russians were, in effect, Europeans, and they tended to live in the same sort of surroundings as other Victorian-era Europeans did.´[5]

In Alexander the Great (1956), Andrejew successfully used existing elements of primitive Spanish architecture to create the richness and glory of ancient Greece and Persia in far more authentic way, than the plaster and plywood decorations in similar Hollywood films of the time. Andrejew's ideas were continued a decade later in the mythological films directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Edipo re (Oedipus Rex, 1967) with the production design by Luigi Scaccianoce, and Medea (1969) with the production design by Dante Ferretti.

Andrejew briefly returned to Berlin in 1952, to work on a Carol Reed's The Man Between. He made his last movies in the mid-1950s in Germany (then West Germany).

André Andrejew died of natural causes in Loudun, south of Paris on 13 March 1967.[6]

Influence of Andrejew on production design in film

Through his individual style of the art directing, the visual wealth and the artistic quality of his decors and the sheer number of films produced in different countries, Andrejew influenced for more than thirty years aesthetics of the art directing in Europe and America. Several production designers were following his style and today Andrejew is regarded as a classic. Edith C. Lee writes about him: As critics began to condemn any strongly stated art direction as distracting, Andrejew slightly toned down his style. Nonetheless, he maintained his belief in the importance of intrinsic meaning in design.[7]

Andrejew's production drawings are today in the collections in France and Great Britain, they also appear on art auctions and offering by the commercial galleries in France. Cinémathèque Française in Paris presented several of Andrejew's gouaches during the exhibition 'Le cinéma expressionniste allemand — Splendeurs d'une collection (French Expressionist Cinema — Splendors of the Collection) ´ - held in winter of 2007. They were collected by Lotte H. Eisner, German film historian living in France, who documented for the Cinémathèque works of the most important Filmarchitekte of the German expressionist cinema.


This is a filmography of films made by André Andrejew as a production designer or an art director, as in Europe at the time there was no sharp distinction between these functions. This filmography lists a year of release (not of production), an original title of the film and the name of its director. Eventual Andrejew's collaborators are mentioned before the film director's name. Additionally, after some titles, some significant names of the cast or of the crew have been noted.

Germany: 1923 – 1933

Silent films:

sound films:

France, Great Britain, Czechoslovakia : 1933 – 1940

France, war time: 1940 – 1944

Great Britain: 1947 – 1952

Big Hollywood productions: 1953 – 1956

Germany (West): 1956 – 1957

Further reading

About the German and French periods of Andrejew's work

  • Rudolf Kurtz, Expressionismus und Film, Verlag der Lichtbildbühne, Berlin, 1926 (Reprint: Hans Rohr, Zürich, 1965)
  • Jochen Meyer-Wendt, Zwischen Folklore und Abstraktion. Der Filmarchitekt Andrej Andrejew; a chapter in Fantaisies russes. Russische Filmmacher in Berlin und Paris 1920-1930, Jörg Schöning (Editor), CineGraph Buch, München, 1995, 187 pages, for Andrejew see page 113, ISBN 3-88377-509-6;
  • Jean Loup Passek, Jacqueline Brisbois, Lotte H. Eisner, Vingt ans de cinéma allemand, 1913-1933: catalogue d'une exposition, 15. octobre-1. décembre 1978, Published by Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, 1978
  • Jeanpaul Goergen, Künstlerische Avantgarde, visionäre Utopie. Die Regisseure Victor Trivas und Alexis Granowsky., a chapter in Fantaisies russes. Russische Filmmacher in Berlin und Paris 1920-1930, Jörg Schöning (Editor), CineGraph Buch, München, 1995, ISBN 3-88377-509-6 (in German)
  • André Andrejew, Cinématographe n° 76, mars 1982 (in French)
  • Expressionistischer Dekor im deutschen Stummfilm, Gabriela Grunwald, Universität Köln, 1985, University Diploma Work (in German)
  • Mists of Regret: Culture and Sensibility in Classic French Film, Dudley Andrew, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA, 1995, ISBN 978-0-691-00883-7 (in English), pages 185-186
  • City of Darkness, City of Light. Émigré Filmmakers in Paris 1929-1939, Alastair Phillips, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2003, ISBN 978-90-5356-633-6 (in English)
  • The French Cinema Book, by Michael Temple, Michael Witt;. London: BFI Publishing, 2004; 300pp; ISBN 1-84457-012-6; read about André Andrejew on pages 103, 109 - 111.

About the British and Hollywood periods of Andrejew's work

  • Edward Carrick, Roger Manvell, Art and Design in the British film: a pictorial directory of British art directors and their work, comp. by Edward Carrick. With an introduction by Roger Manvell, Dobson, London 1948, re-edited by Arno Press, New York 1972, ISBN 0-405-03913-1
  • Larry Langman, Destination Hollywood, The Influence of Europeans on American Filmmaking, Jefferson, North Carolina and London, 2000


  1. ^ 1
  2. ^ 2
  3. ^ 3
  4. ^ 4
  5. ^ 5
  6. ^ 6
  7. ^ 8
  • [1] quoted after Pictorial directory of British art directors and their work, comp. by Edward Carrick.Dobson, London 1948
  • [2]. Often St. Petersburg is mistakenly given as a place of André Andrejew's birth.
  • [3] quoted from Pictorial directory of British art directors and their work, comp. by Edward Carrick.Dobson, London 1948
  • [4] See Alfred Greven at IMDB.
  • [5]A Beauty, a Breakdown, and a Russian Epic, Anna Karenina, A Review by Laurie Edwards
  • [6] French death certificate no. n° 28/1967 quoted at Les Gens du Cinema. Sometimes Leningrad(?)- a communist name for St. Petersburg, mistakenly and mysteriously (Andrejew lived in France and did not return to Russia) is reported as a place of Andrejew's death. Movie Database IMDb is one of the erroneous sources.

External links

This page was last edited on 29 March 2024, at 20:40
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