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Dupont, E.A. (1891-1956)

Director, Writer

Main image of Dupont, E.A. (1891-1956)

Ewald André Dupont was one of the many European émigrés who arrived in Britain in the late 1920s to work in a production industry embarking upon expansion stimulated by government legislation. Dupont was a prominent director at the Decla-Bioskop arm of UFA, the leading German studio, and had established a substantial reputation following the international success of Varieté (UK title: Vaudeville, 1925), a film marked stylistically by the boldness and fluidity of its camera movements and the use of the subjective camera.

He arrived in England in 1926 after a brief and unsuccessful period in Hollywood and joined the newly-formed British National Pictures as supervisor of production. British National was soon absorbed by British International Pictures, and Dupont was to become BIP's leading foreign director making films aimed at an international market.

His debut film, Moulin Rouge (1928), had a German cinematographer (Werner Brandes) and art director (Alfred Junge), and featured the Russian actress, Olga Tschechowa. Like Varieté, it had a show business setting and though filmed with some of the bravura qualities of the German art film, it did not have the elaborate camera movements that marked Varieté. Dupont then made Piccadilly (1929), BIP's most expensive and prestigious production at the time, from a script by the British writer Arnold Bennett and featuring the American stars Anna May Wong and Gilda Gray.

The advent of the 'talkie' in the late 1920s brought yet another redirection in Dupont's career. He directed Atlantic in 1929, an early BIP sound picture about the Titanic disaster, and a multilingual film made in English and German versions (a French version was also made early in 1930 with another director using some of Dupont's footage). It was the first film made in multiple language versions with separate casts performing on common sets, at the start of a short-lived trend designed to overcome the threat to the international circulation of films posed by 'talking pictures'. Dupont made two further multilinguals for BIP then returned to Germany. He went back to Hollywood in 1932, where he worked mainly on 'B' pictures until his death from cancer in 1956.

Dupont's place in film history almost certainly rests upon his innovative direction of the German Varieté and, to a lesser extent, as the director of the first multilingual film - the British Atlantic. However, both Moulin Rouge and Piccadilly merit attention as sophisticated European-style films made in Britain in a period when its film industry harboured serious international aspirations and emulated Hollywood by hiring a number of talented and experienced filmmakers from Europe.

Elsaesser, Thomas, Weimar Cinema and After (London: Routledge 2000)
Film Dope, Jan. 1978 pp. 40-42
Higson, Andrew, 'Polyglot Films for an International Market', in Andrew Higson and Richard Maltby (eds), 'Film Europe' and 'Film America'. Cinema, Commerce and Cultural Exchange 1920-1939 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1999)
Vincendeau, Ginette, 'Hollywood Babel', Screen, Spring, 1988, pp. 24-39

Tom Ryall, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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Thumbnail image of Piccadilly (1929)Piccadilly (1929)

Late silent classic of envy, desire and murder in a London nightclub

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