Svend Rindom: Fall of the Tyrant

Rindom’s play, about a tyrannical husband who is put in his place by his "better," was first realised on stage and later adapted into a silent film, a radio play and, finally, a sound film. All his life, Rindom, who wrote 35 films, mostly comedies, struggled to be recognised as a serious artist.

Rindom’s play, about a tyrannical husband who is put in his place by his "better," was first realised on stage and later adapted into a silent film, a radio play and, finally, a sound film. All his life, Rindom, who wrote 35 films, mostly comedies, struggled to be recognised as a serious artist.

The screenplay for the Palladium-produced Master of the House (1925) was co-written by Dreyer and Svend Rindom (1884-1960) based on Rindom’s hit play, Tyrannens Fald (Fall of the Tyrant) (1919). This would be the only time in Dreyer’s directing career that he collaborated with the writer whose work he was adapting. The play premiered at the theatre Det ny Teater on 2 Feb. 1919, where it ran for 98 performances, ending 5 Feb. 1921. The production subsequently went on a successful three-month tour of Danish provincial theatres. According to Rindom, he actively participated in the tour, probably as stage director. Because the play was mainly considered to be a comedy, an adaptation was a good fit for Palladium’s line.



Popular success and international recognition 

Since debuting as a playwright in 1910 with Komedianter [Play-actors] (based on the Anatole France novel Histoire Comique), Rindom had enjoyed several hits. Often they were international hits as well. His string of hits seems to have lasted into the 1930s. In a letter of 12 June 1934 to high court attorney Ludvig Bing, Rindom argues that it is high time he be considered for a public poet’s stipend: "My victories for Danish comedy in Germany (…) greatly entitle me thereto." In 1939, Rindom wrote his last work for the stage, the comedy Bravo, Tobias! [Excellent, Tobias!] (Swedish premiere 1939, Danish premiere 1940). According to Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, 2nd edition, the play "is performed in Stockholm, Oslo, and in Berlin, where, titled 'Der Triumph des Tobias,' it ran for more than 300 performances" (Rimestad, 1940, p. 544). Likewise confirming this impression of a certain measure of international recognition, Rindom’s play Kobberbryllup [12½ Years' Wedding Anniversary] (1924) was made into a German film, Die Kupferne Hochzeit, directed by Heinz Rühmann and premiering in Germany on 15 Dec. 1948.

The perennial Tyrant

For certain periods, Rindom also enjoyed some success as an actor, both on stage and in silent films. Until 1960 he supplied the screenplays for 35 films, many adapted from his stage plays. Twice he also sat in the director’s chair: Skæbnebæltet [The Belt of Destiny] (1913) and Hans Store Aften [His great Evening] (1946), the latter based on his play, Premiere (1925). Tyrannens Fald proved to be a perennial favourite. On 7 July 1939 it was broadcast as a radio play on Danish national radio and in 1942 it was made into a new film, which this time retained the play’s title (once again Rindom wrote the script, while Alice O’Fredericks and Jon Iversen directed). Incidentally, Karin Nellemose, who in Dreyer’s film played Karen, the daughter, in the new film played Ida, the wife.

Marriage prevails in spite of everything

In terms of literary history, Rindom is best described as a popular realist with a hint of social criticism. He did take up various issues in his plays – Tyrannens Fald offers a rather gentle critique of the marital power dynamic – but never so radically that he could be called Brandesian or otherwise considered a part of Denmark’s Modern Breakthrough. With a few minor adjustments Rindom lets marriage prevail, and the same conciliatory view colours his descriptions of practically any contemporary condition in the public and private spheres. Kaj Flor, aptly defining this harmless social criticism in his review of Tyrannens Fald in the journal Teatret (March 1919), points out that the reason for the play’s popularity likely is that "high prices and low incomes [are] an issue of interest in all walks of life" and that women desire to witness a domestic tyrant "after a radical therapy being converted into a gentle and loving spouse."

'You are committing a bloody injustice against me…'

Rindom personally seems to have considered himself to be related to the Popular Breakthrough of the early 1900s. Not surprisingly, the writer with whom Rindom is most on the same wavelength is Jeppe Aakjær, the movement’s most folk-culture-oriented writer. Rindom wrote the screenplays for two Aakjær adaptations, Livet paa Hegnsgaard [Life on Hegnsgaard] (1938) and Naar Bønder elsker [When Farmers fall in Love] (1942), both directed by Arne Weel. Nonetheless, Rindom in certain instances early on in his screenwriting career had shown a sense for the darker and more instinctual aspects of the human mind, as seen in his scripts for the first two Danish film noirs, En Forbryder [A Criminal] (1941, dir. Arne Weel) and Afsporet [Off Track] (1942, dirs. Bodil Ipsen and Lau Laritzen Jr.). Moreover, from the beginning of his career, Rindom appears to have had a deep desire to be recognized as a serious artist – he did not want to be regarded merely as an effective purveyor of lightweight comedies. Oozing bitterness and resentment, a 1922 letter to the theatre censor P.A. Rosenberg is an early counterattack against a more general criticism of him as a playwright: "You are committing a bloody injustice against me by mentioning me as an example of a writer angling for a vile audience in the Goulash Age. 'The black sheep' – perhaps it was thin and weak in its satire, but it was a satire (…) written in sincere indignation against the materialism and meanness of our day. You have taken the liberty of publicly pillorying me (…) Ask your daughter-in-law – Mrs. Harriet Lehman, who for 3 months was in my employ on my tour with 'Tyrannens Fald' – ask her if I am an idealistic working artist or not" (letter of 8 January 1922).

Colloquial realism is a far cry from social criticism

Presumably, it was as difficult for Dreyer as P.A. Rosenberg to see that Rindom’s satire cut particularly deep. Dreyer seems to have been attracted to Tyrannens Fald mainly for its colloquial realism. That is apparent from a short autobiographical note Dreyer wrote in 1939 to Ebbe Neergaard, emphasizing that the film should appear as a "a microscopic shot of the trivial everyday that is the life of thousands of people in the big city."