When asked to partake in a radio show featuring film stars of the Finnish studio era, I chose actress Hanna Taini as my subject. I find Taini to be one of the most interesting of Finnish film stars. Finnish speakers can now listen to the Hanna Taini episode at Yle Areena.
The Finnish Jewish actress was born Hanna Schlimowitsch in 1911. Her career began during the final years of the silent era in films by Valentin Vaala and Theodor Tugai, later known as Teuvo Tulio.
During the Finnish silent era when national subjects dominated the silver screen, Hanna Taini portrayed characters that were new and exotic to Finnish audiences. She often played flapperesque characters associated with dancing and active sexuality.
In Mustalaishurmaaja (1929) she plays a Romanian girl competing for the affections of Theodor Tugai, Finland’s answer to Rudolph Valentino. In Jääkärin morsian (1931) Taini is a ballet dancer from Warsaw, in Laveata tietä (1931) a Spanish dancer in Paris and in Erämaan turvissa (1931) a Russian nihilist.
With the success of Siltalan pehtoori in 1934, Hanna Taini became one of Finland’s first film stars. In the mid-1930s when Finnish production companies were only beginning to manufacture stars, Siltalan pehtoori broke attendance records: it was seen by an estimated million people, more than any other Finnish film at the time. In fact, it is still in the top 5 of most watched Finnish films of all time.
The character of Lilli Lind, the proud mistress of a country house, altered Taini’s star image forever. She would play similar upper-class ladies until the end of her career in the early 1940s, a fact that bothered the actress to the point of annoyance. Only the role of a scheming vamp in Morsian yllättää (1941) would allow Taini to expand her repertoire once more.
Hanna Taini was a unique star in the 1930s and 1940s Finland. Although the fact that she was Jewish wasn’t mentioned in the press at the time, Taini was a rare dark haired and brown eyed film star when the large majority of the leading ladies were blonde. Taini was married to Josef Lefko, the President of the Jewish Community of Helsinki.
Yle Radio Suomen 12-osaisessa kesäsarjassa tutustutaan kotimaisen studiokauden elokuvanäyttelijöihin. Jakso, jossa puhun Hanna Tainin urasta ja tähtikuvasta, esitetään 14.8.2014. SF-tähtiä ja tähdenlentoja kesätorstaisin klo 19.06 Yle Radio Suomessa ja nyt myös Yle Areenassa.
Lisää Hanna Tainista kirjoittamassani biografiassa, joka löytyy Elonetistä.