The European mentality of this German silent was a bit racy for mainstream American tastes of the era; nevertheless, the images created by director Paul Czinner told this story well. A wife (Elizabeth Bergner) is bored...展开by her overweight slob of a husband (Emil Jannings). She gives in to the temptation of a slickly seductive poet (Conrad Veidt). The cuckolded husband (a common role for Jannings) tries to convince the pair to stop the philandering, but the wife runs off with her lover anyway. The lover shortly grows tired of her (just as the husband predicted he would) and dumps her. Without either her lover or her husband, the desperate woman throws herself off a cliff. Although Husbands or Lovers was not released in the U.S. until 1927, it was filmed in 1924, before Jannings came to America to make his mark on films there. In European release it was called Nju, which was the Bergner character's name.
A playwright and theatrical producer in Austria, Paul Czinner directed his first film in Vienna in 1919. He scored a success in the German film industry with his 1924 drama Nju (aka Husbands or Lovers), starring Elisabeth Bergner. She went on to act in most of Czinner's films, and the two married in 1933. That same year they fled the Nazis and moved to England, where their films included Catherine the Great and As You Like It. In the '40s they lived in America, working on the Broadway stage. Returning to England in the '50s, Czinner filmed dance (The Bolshoi Ballet}, The Royal Ballet) and opera (Don Giovanni, Der Rosenkavalier) using his own innovative multi-camera methods.