‘The Loves of Pharaoh’

Director: Ernst Lubitsch


 DAS WEIB DES PHARAO (The Loves of Pharaoh)

Production Company: Ernst Lubitsch-Film GmbH, for Europäische Film-Allianz GmbH, Germanyfetch_001
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Writers: Norbert Falk, Hanns Kräly
Music: Eduard Künneke
Cinematography: Theodor Sparkuhl, Alfred Hansen
Art Direction: Ernst Stern, Kurt Richter
Costums: Ernst Stern, Ali Hubert, Ernö Metzner
Emil Jannings (Amenes, the Pharaoh of Egypt)
Dagny Servaes (Theonis, a Greek slave)
Harry Liedtke (Ramphis, son of Sothis)
Paul Wegener (Samlak, King of Ethiopia)
Lyda Salmonova (Makeda, his daughter)
Paul Biensfeldt (Menon, the Pharaoh’s Governor)
Friedrich Kühne (High Priest)
Albert Bassermann (Sothis, the Pharaoh’s architect)

Premiere: 21.2.1922 (Criterion, New York), 14.3.1922 (Ufa-Palast am Zoo, Berlin)
Film Length: 2,246 m (2011 restored version) – Format: 35mm – 1.33:1 – Color: B&W (tinted)


 The Ethiopian King Samlak offers his daughter Makeda to the powerful Pharaoh Amenes in order to secure peace between the two countries. What was intended as a political move ends as a debacle. Instead of Makeda, Amenes chooses Samlak’s beautiful slave girl Theonis. Nevertheless, Amenes can not secure the love of Theonis as she is in love with the young Egyptian Ramphis. Having suffered humiliation, the Ethiopians declare war on Egypt. Amenes is injured in a battle and perishes – but only seemingly. The happy union between Theonis and Ramphis is in peril when Pharaoh Amenes returns to claim his wife and his throne.

Stills from the Film

Alterations to the original German version in the Russian, Italian and US release versions

Peculiar alterations were made to the original German version in the Russian, Italian and US release versions: The Russian version shows the Pharaoh as a tyrannical ruler; harsh and despotic. The Italian version, on the other hand, emphasizes the love-stricken, vulnerable Pharaoh.
In the US release version the film ends with Ramphis’ rise to power and the happy union between him and Theonis. The return of the Pharaoh and the subsequent tragedy is omitted in favor of a happy end to satisfy the expectations of the US audiences.

The Stars


*29.01.1892, Berlin; ; †30.11.1947, Los Angeles

Ernst Lubitsch began his career as a bit-player in 1911 at Max Reinhardt’s German Theater. His first film role was in Carl Wilhelm’s comedy Der Stolz der Firma (1914, The Pride of the Firm). In 1914 Lubitsch also directed his first film Fräulein Seifenschaum (Miss Soapsuds). Lubitsch began his collaboration with Pola Negri and Emil Jannings with Die Augen der Mumie Ma (1918, Eyes of the Mummy Ma), notable for its high production values. In the same year Lubitsch made his first historical drama Madame DuBarry, a subject which he continues with Sumurun, Anna Boleyn und The Loves Of Pharao. In 1923 Lubitsch moved to the USA where he made 5 films for Warner Brothers, including The Marriage Circle and Lady Windermere’s Fan. The ‘Lubitsch-Touch’ continued to developed as the director worked under a contract for Paramount from 1928 onwards. Lubitsch’s former star, Emil Jannings, starred in a main role in his first Paramount film The Patriot. Film operettas followed such as the The Love Parade, Monte Carlo and The Smiling Lieutenant.
In January 1935 the NS-Government stripped Lubitsch of his German nationality. In the following years Lubistch made his most well-known films, such as Angel with Marlene Dietrich (1937), Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife with Claudette Colbert (1938), Ninotchka with Greta Garbo (1939) and To Be Or Not To Be (1942). For Twentieth Century Fox he directed Heaven Can Wait. Lubitsch received a special Academy Awards Oscar in 1947 “for his distinguished contributions to the art of motion picture”. He was not able to complete his last film That Lady In Ermine, a task that Otto Preminger took on himself. Ernst Lubitsch died on the 30th November 1947 in Hollywood und rests at the Forrest Lawn cemetery.


*23.07.1884 Rorschach/CH; †02.01.1950 Strobl am Wolfgangsee

Jannings signed a contract with the German Theater in 1915 and distinguished himself as a character actor under the direction of Max Reinhardt. Jannings’ great film career began in 1919. He starred opposite to Pola Negri in a number of historical dramas, often directed by Ernst Lubitsch; for example in Die Augen der Mumie Ma (Eyes of the Mummy Ma), and most importantly in Madame Dubarry.

Jannings stage roles, such as Othello, Tartuffe or Danton earned him much admiration. He was the first actor to receive an Oscar in 1929 for his role in the films The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command.

But with the transition from silent to sound film the taste of the audience changed rapidly and Jannings’ exalted style was considered old-fashioned. He returned to Germany as early as 1929 where he starred in Blue Angel alongside Marlene Dietrich. Jannings appeared in a number of films under the NS-Regime which resulted in a life-long acting ban after WWII. Jannings died in 1950 in Austria.



*10.03.1894, Berlin; †10.07.1961, Vienna

The actress Dagny Servaes began her acting career in the mid 1910s with Stein unter Steinen (1916). Only 6 years later she played the main part in one of the biggest productions of the year The Loves Of Pharao and she was expected to become as famous as Pola Negri. In the 1920s Dagny Servaes could be seen in many notable production such as The Tales of Hoffmann (1923), Oberst Redl (1925) or The Weaver (1927). She remained popular after the introduction of sound and starred in numerous German and Austrian films until 1951.




* 11. 12 1874; † 13. 09 1948, Berlin

Paul Wegener is one of the biggest stars of the German Theater- and Filmhistory. He was one of the first established stage actors to seriously turn to the new filmic medium. With Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague, 1913) and Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem, 1920) Wegener accomplished milestones in the art of film. The actor enjoyed national and international fame and in 1928 he briefly worked in Hollywood. Paul Wegener was married 5 times, amongst others to Lyda Salmonova with whom he also co-starred in The Loves of Pharaoh. Paul Wegener died in Berlin in September 1948.


Making of Pharaoh

Unlike other German films of the time The Loves of Pharaoh was filmed outdoor on the outskirts of Berlin-Steglitz, an area known as ‘cragged mountains’. In real-size scales Lubitsch built a huge Egyptian palace, an ancient Egyptian city location and a gigantic Sphinx.

Also notable were the night scenes which were actually filmed in darkness. Lubitsch used extremely powerful floodlights, normally employed by the military. The thus achieved look for the night scenes was entirely new to the audiences. Some of the battle scenes between the Egyptians and Ethiopians were filmed from a balloon hovering above the set. Up to twelve cameras were used for the mass scenes for which Lubitsch employed thousands of extras and dozens of horses.

All in all, the film belongs to one of the biggest German productions of the silent era. In 1921 it was the most expensive film made to date; The film first premiered in New York on 21st February 1922 and then in Berlin at the Ufa-Palast on 14th March 1922.

Original Documents and Promotional Material

Excerpt from Lyda Salmonova’s (Makeda) script. Makeda prepares for her reception at Pharaoh Amenes’ palace. Salmonova’s hand written note refers to her cosume: ‘Red dress, no coat, no jewelry’


Original Posters




Glassplate Announcement of The Loves of Pharaoh



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Eduard Künneke - a versatile composer

Original Music Score for The Loves of Pharaoh

Lubitsch authorized Eduard Künneke to compose an original music score for his film. Künneke presented a symphonic orchestra score that fortunately survives to a large degree. The music score not only shows the variations of Künneke’s composing talent, it perfectly supports the characters in each part of the dramatic storyline. Künneke’s original score, which was kept with his legal estate, was used to produce a new orchestral recording, adapted and synched to the restored film images.

Künneke composed music for the silent film The Loves of Pharaoh in the winter of 1921/1922. On December 23rd 1921 he wrote in a letter: „Today I finished the 1st act – another 5 to go. I’m working like a devil“. Künneke’s goal was to achieve a symphonic unity not dependent on the succession of images and scenes whilst respecting the integrity of the film. He divided the action according to dramatic events rather than following protagonists. He thus avoided creating a musical patchwork dependent on the fast change of mood and images. He created motifs for the love of the young heroes, for the brutality of the Pharaoh, the fierceness of the Ethiopians or the war riot. Image by image the characteristic motifs for a given theme are repeated.

Eduard Künneke

Eduard Künneke – a versatile composer

Eduard Künneke was born in Emmerich on the Niederrhein river in Germany in 1885. From 1903 Künneke studied piano and thereafter composition in Berlin. Encouraged by his teacher Max Bruch, Künneke turned to opera and musical theatre. His opera Robins Ende premiered successfully in Mannheim in 1909. Künneke’s search for an individual composition style was marked by his engagement with various forms of musical theatre, song genres and composition for film music. Until 1919 he found employment as bandmaster and choirmaster at various Berlin theatres (amongst others the German Theater/Friedrich-Willhelmstättisches Theater). During this time Künneke also conducted and accompanied numerous disc recordings. In 1919 Künneke became Hermann Haller’s in-house composer at the Nollendorfplatz theatre. Together with librettist Rideamus the trio produced five operettas. Amongst them Der Vetter aus Dingsda (The Cousin from Nowhere, 1921) – a worldwide success and a work with which Künneke is associated almost exclusively to this day. Motivated by his success, Künneke commited to the operetta genre in the 1920s and 1930s. With his work he displayed an enormous gift for adaptation to the prevalent style in popular music of the time.

With Liselott, Glückliche Reise (Happy Voyage), Die Lockende Flamme, Herz über Bord, Ehe im Kreise (Marriage in Crisis) and Lady Hamilton he created veritable works of popular theatre. During his time in New York (1924-1925) he composed a successful operetta based on Offenbach’s Life and Music entitled The Love Song. Künneke aspired to integrate various elements from popular music to jazz in his compositions. The composer also applied his art to the filmic medium writing music for over 30 sound films. In the pre-war years (1933-1935) Künneke was partially boycotted and his work was shown to a lesser extent. This was due to his marriage to singer Katarina Garden who was of Jewish origin. After the war Künneke was unable to return to his earlier success. He remained active in arts administration until his death in 1953 in Berlin.