Michael H. Hardern
Operetta Research Center
25 April, 2015
If you check the International Movie Data Base, you’ll find that the Nazi film operetta Liebespremiere (1943) is an adaptation of Benatzky’s Hollywood satire Axel an der Himmelstür (1935). It’s the show that made Zarah Leander an international star and contains one of her most famous songs: “Gebundene Hände.” In the film version, another Scandinavian diva took the central role of the eccentric film star: Kirsten Heiberg. Now, finally, her biography has come out, entitled Glamour For Goebbels.
What makes Heiberg and Liebespremiere interesting from an operetta point of view is not so much the fact that the film is an adaptation of a successful stage operetta turned into a typical backstage musical, eliminating all traces of the “Jewish” original. No, what makes Liebespremiere unique is the newly constructed story of a woman who wants to be a single mother, looking for a man as a sperm donor. It’s not a plot line you’ll find every day in operetta history. Of course, it’s very topical for 1943. Women were supposed to give the Führer children for his war efforts; and since most men were fighting on some distant frontiers, often not coming back alive, the Nazis encouraged women to produce children without waiting to be married. This notion is given the glamour treatment in Liebespremiere; and Heiberg as Vera Warden – instead of Leander as Gloria Mills – explains to each and every one of her colleagues why she doesn’t need a man. Not as a husband, not as a partner. She is a strong woman who can do it all alone; and still be a film star and working mother. Her big song is “Ich bin frei, meine Herrn!”, translating as “I am free, gentlemen” – an unashamed invitation to have sex. Newly composed by Franz Grothe, who replaced Benatzky in this production by director Arthur Maria Rabenalt.
It’s a very modern story that makes this first “sperm donor operetta” in history, noteworthy even today, where the topic of single parents is still hotly debated. Sadly, most operetta historians – and feminists – have chosen to ignore Liebespremiere. Maybe this Heiberg biography will change that?
In order for that to happen, the biography would have to be published in a language other than Norwegian, though.
Even if the title Glamour For Goebbels is in English, the narrative by Bjorn-Erik Hanssen is not. And, yes, a commercial release of Liebespremiere on DVD would help too to kindle a discussion of sperm donors and Nazi operetta. Maybe someone can organize both things together, an English book and a DVD with English subtitles?
For more information on the book and its author, click here.