Paul Davidson (producer)

Last updated
Paul Davidson
Paul Davidson.jpg
Paul Davidson
Born(1867-03-30)30 March 1867 [note 1]
Lötzen, East Prussia (modern Giżycko, Poland)
Died18 July 1927(1927-07-18) (aged 60)
Occupationfilm producer

Paul Davidson (30 March 1867 – 18 July 1927) was a German film producer.



Paul Davidson was born in Lötzen, East Prussia (modern Giżycko, Poland) the son of Moritz Davidson. He initially worked as a commercial traveller in the textile industry and became the manager of a security firm in Frankfurt am Main in 1902. On vacation to Paris he saw his first movie, a Georges Méliès film, in a cinema. [1] [2] [3] Back in Frankfurt he founded the "Allgemeine Kinematographen-Theater Gesellschaft, Union-Theater für lebende und Tonbilder GmbH" (A.K.T.G.) on 21 March 1906 and opened Mannheim’s first permanent cinema, the Union-Theater (U.T.). Further cinemas followed in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Strasbourg, Amsterdam and Brussels. [1] [2]

On 4 September 1909 Davidson opened the Union-Theater at Berlin, Alexanderplatz. [4] [5] Another Union-Theater was opened at Berlin's Unter den Linden on 21 August 1910, by 1910 Davidson had built up a "sizeable chain of 600–1000 seater luxury cinemas". [6] On 2 August 1913 the Union-Palast, Kurfürstendamm, one of the first buildings of Berlin exclusively built as a movie theater, premiered with Max Reinhardt’s "Die Insel der Seligen". [6] [7] In March 1910 Davidson founded the Projektions-Aktiengesellschaft Union (PAGU), Germany’s first joint-stock company in film industry and the first to integrate production, distribution and equipment hire. [1]

Following the success of Asta Nielsen’s The Abyss he founded the Internationale Film-Vertriebs-Gesellschaft in conjunction with Nielsen and her husband Urban Gad on 1 June 1911. [8] The company held the European rights on all Nielsen films and Nielsen became a “scintillating international film star” with an annual fee of 85,000 Marks in 1914 alone. [1] [9]

Grand Hotel Alexanderplatz, the location of Davidson's first Union Theater in Berlin Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1976-028-11, Berlin, Alexanderplatz.jpg
Grand Hotel Alexanderplatz, the location of Davidson’s first Union Theater in Berlin

Davidson described Nielsen as the decisive factor for his move to film productions:

I had not been thinking about film production. But then I saw the first Asta Nielsen film. I realised that the age of short film was past. And above all I realised that this woman was the first artist in the medium of film. Asta Nielsen, I instantly felt could be a global success. It was International film Sales that provided Union with eight Nielsen films per year. I built her a studio in Tempelhof, and set up a big production staff around her. This woman can carry it ... Let the films cost whatever they cost. I used every available means – and devised many new ones – in order to bring the Asta Nielsen films to the world. [8] [10]

In late 1912 the PAGU moved to Berlin and opened a studio in Berlin-Tempelhof (Davidson would also play an important role in the founding of the Babelsberg studios). [11] The PAGU engaged directors like Ernst Lubitsch and Paul Wegener as well as actors like Asta Nielsen, Fern Andra, Pola Negri, Ossi Oswalda, Emil Jannings and Harry Liedtke. [1]

In January 1914 PAGU was merged with Jules Greenbaum’s company to form PAGU-Vitascope, however, the project, including a cooperation with the French Pathé Freres ended at the outbreak of World War I. In August 1915 Davidson sold his cinemas to the Danish Nordisk Film. [9] [12] PAGU became part of the newfounded Universum Film AG (UFA) in 1917 and Davidson worked as the UFA’s artistic director and head of production. [12] In 1920 he left the UFA to produce Lubitsch’s "Das Weib des Pharao" (The Wife of the Pharaoh) and "Die Flamme" (The Flame) within the short-living Europäische Film-Allianz (EFA). [1] [13]

When Lubitsch moved to Hollywood in 1922, Davidson had produced 39 movies directed by Lubitsch. [10] [14] From 1922 he produced pictures independently, but exclusively for the UFA. He canceled his contract early in 1927 and committed suicide on 18 July that year. [1]

Selected filmography

Scenery at the Tempelhof studios (1920) Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1991-0109-502, Berlin, Aufnahmegelande der Ufa in Tempelhof.jpg
Scenery at the Tempelhof studios (1920)


  1. Thomas Elsaesser (A second life: Germany's cinemas first decades) gives 1871 as year of birth
  2. The exact place of death remains unclear:
    * Hans-Michael Bock (The concise Cinegraph: encyclopaedia of German cinema) gives Ebershausen
    * Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie: Ebenhausen, Oberbayern
    * Kay Weniger: Das große Personenlexikon des Films: Dresden on 11 June 1927
    * IMDb: Berlin (IMDb biography)

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asta Nielsen</span> Danish silent film actress (1881–1972)

Asta Sofie Amalie Nielsen was a Danish silent film actress who was one of the most popular leading ladies of the 1910s and one of the first international movie stars. Seventy of Nielsen's 74 films were made in Germany where she was known simply as Die Asta.

UFA GmbH, shortened to UFA, is a film and television production company that unites all production activities of the media conglomerate Bertelsmann in Germany. The original UFA was established as Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft on December 18, 1917, as a direct response to foreign competition in film and propaganda. UFA was founded by a consortium headed by Emil Georg von Stauß, a former Deutsche Bank board member. In March 1927, Alfred Hugenberg, an influential German media entrepreneur and later Minister of the Economy and Minister of Agriculture and Nutrition in Adolf Hitler's cabinet, purchased UFA and transferred ownership of it to the Nazi Party in 1933.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Urban Gad</span> Danish film director (1879–1947)

Peter Urban Bruun Gad was a Danish film director, stage actor, screenwriter, and author. He directed 40 films between 1910 and 1927. His wife Asta Nielsen starred in 30 of his films, also in his début the film Afgrunden from 1910. They moved to Germany in 1911 where Gad worked with Paul Davidson until 1922.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joe May</span> Austrian film director

Joe May was an Austrian film director and film producer and one of the pioneers of German cinema.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paul Leni</span> German film director (1885–1929)

Paul Leni was a German filmmaker and a key figure in German Expressionism, making Hintertreppe (1921) and Waxworks (1924) in Germany, and The Cat and the Canary (1927), The Chinese Parrot (1927), The Man Who Laughs (1928), and The Last Warning (1928) in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alfred Abel</span> German actor (1879–1937)

Alfred Peter Abel was a German film actor, director, and producer. He appeared in more than 140 silent and sound films between 1913 and 1938. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis.

Giuseppe Becce was an Italian-born film score composer who enriched the German cinema.

Ferdinand "Fred" Immler was a German stage and film actor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henny Porten</span> German actress and film producer

Frieda Ulricke "Henny" Porten was a German actress and film producer of the silent era, and Germany's first major film star. She appeared in more than 170 films between 1906 and 1955.

Fritz Arno Wagner is considered one of the most acclaimed German cinematographers from the 1920s to the 1950s. He played a key role in the Expressionist film movement during the Weimar period and is perhaps best known for excelling "in the portrayal of horror," according to noted film critic Lotte H. Eisner.

Jules Greenbaum was a German pioneering film producer. He founded the production companies Deutsche Bioscope, Deutsche Vitascope and Greenbaum-Film and was a dominant figure in German cinema in the years before the First World War. He is also known for his early experiments with sound films around twenty years before the success of The Jazz Singer made them a more established feature of cinema.

The Projektions-AG Union was a German film production company which operated between 1911 and 1924 during the silent era. From 1917 onwards, the company functioned as an independent unit of Universum Film AG, and was eventually merged into it entirely.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Max Landa</span> German actor

Max Landa was a Russian Empire-born Austrian silent film and stage actor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ufa-Pavillon am Nollendorfplatz</span> Cinema in Berlin, Germany

The Ufa-Pavillon am Nollendorfplatz was a cinema located at 4 Nollendorfplatz, Schöneberg, Berlin. Built in 1912–13 and designed and decorated by leading artistic practitioners of the day, it was the German capital's first purpose-built, free-standing cinema Described as "historically, [...] the most important cinema in Berlin", it incorporated a number of technical innovations such as an opening roof and a daylight projection screen, and opened as the Nollendorf-Theater in March 1913.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tempelhof Studios</span> Film studios in Berlin

The Tempelhof Studios are a film studio located in Tempelhof in the German capital of Berlin. They were founded in 1912, during the silent era, by German film pioneer Alfred Duskes, who built a glass-roofed studio on the site with financial backing from the French company Pathé. The producer Paul Davidson's PAGU then took control and constructed a grander structure. The First World War propaganda drama The Yellow Passport, the historical comedy Madame DuBarry and the expressionist 1920 silent film The Golem were made there by PAGU.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grete Diercks</span> German actress

Margarete "Grete" Diercks was a German actress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Weissensee Studios</span> Film studios in Berlin

The Weissensee Studios was a collection of separate film production studios located in the Berlin suburb of Weißensee during the silent era.

Decla-Film was a German film production and distribution company of the silent era, founded by Erich Pommer and Fritz Holz in February 1915.

The Union-Theater was a large cinema located on the Alexanderplatz in the German capital Berlin. Opened in 1909 it was the first of a chain of cinemas built by the German film magnate Paul Davidson. Equipped with an orchestra to accompany the action on screen, it provided a model for numerous subsequent film palaces across the German Empire. In 1913 Davidson had it remodelled and expanded its capacity to 1,200 seats, at that time the largest in the country. It hosted a number of premieres of new films, both German and foreign imports.

Eiko Film was a German film production company of the silent era. It was established in 1912 by the producer Franz Vogel and swiftly became one of Germany's more important companies. Having initially produced its films at the Rex Film studios in Berlin, the company moved to construct the Marienfelde Studios in the suburb of that name. A glasshouse studio, it was part of Germany's growing film infrastructure. During the First World War era, when foreign imports were largely excluded from the German market, the company enjoyed success with its productions. In 1922, the company and its Marienfelde Studios were acquired by Terra Film, although the name Eiko was used by productions released by the rival National Film until later in the decade.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Bock, Hans-Michael; Bergfelder, Tim (2009). The Concise Cinegraph: Encyclopaedia of German Cinema. Berghahn books. p. 80. ISBN   978-1-57181-655-9 . Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  2. 1 2 Elsaesser, Thomas; Wedel, Michael (1996). A second life: German cinema's first decades. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 79, 80. ISBN   90-5356-183-8 . Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  4. Grand Hotel Alexanderplatz (in German)
  5. Jochheim, Gernot (2006). Der Berliner Alexanderplatz (in German). Ch.Links. p. 104. ISBN   978-3-86153-391-7 . Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  6. 1 2 Elsaesser: A second life: German cinema’s first decades; page 24
  7. (in German)
  8. 1 2 Elsaesser: A second life: German cinema’s first decades; page 85
  9. 1 2 Ingram, Susan; Sark, Katrina (2011). Berliner Chic: A Locational History of Berlin Fashion. Intellect Books. p. 119. ISBN   978-1-84150-369-1 . Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  10. 1 2 Prawer, Siegbert Salomon (2005). Between two worlds: The Jewish Presence in German and Austrian Film, 1910–1933. Berghahn books. pp. 2, 3. ISBN   1-84545-074-4 . Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  11. biography at Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (in German)
  12. 1 2 Elsaesser, Thomas (2000). A second life: Weimar cinema and after: Germany's historical imaginary. Routledge. p. 112. ISBN   0-415-01234-1 . Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  13. Kreimeier, Klaus (1999). The Ufa story: a history of Germany's greatest film company, 1918–1945. University of California Press. p. 74. ISBN   0-520-22069-2 . Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  14. "Lubitsch joined Davidson after a brief experiment with a company of his own, and eventually made thirty-nine films for PAGU – most of them before and some after it became one of four main units that merged into Ufa", in Between two worlds: The Jewish Presence in German and Austrian Film, 1910–1933 by Prawer, 2005, in this reference list.