Mauritz Stiller

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Mauritz Stiller
File:Mauritz Stiller 1927.jpg
Mauritz Stiller in 1927
Born Moshe Stiller
(1883-07-17)17 July 1883
Helsinki, Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire
Died 18 November 1928(1928-11-18) (aged 45)
Stockholm, Stockholms län, Sweden
Occupation Director, screenwriter, actor
Years active 1912 - 1928
Awards Walk of Fame - Motion Picture
1713 Vine Street

Mauritz Stiller (17 July 1883 – 18 November 1928) was a Finnish-Swedish film director, best known for discovering Greta Garbo and bringing her to America.

Stiller had been a pioneer of the Swedish film industry, writing and directing many short films from 1912. When MGM invited him to Hollywood as a director, he arrived with his new discovery Greta Gustafsson, whose screen name Greta Garbo is believed to have been his suggestion.

After frequent disagreements with studio executives at MGM and Paramount, Stiller returned to Sweden, where he died soon afterwards.


Born Moshe Stiller in Helsinki, his family was of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, having lived in Russia and Poland before settling in Finland. When he was four, his mother committed suicide, after which he was raised by family friends. From early on, Stiller was interested in acting. His talents did not go unnoticed, and soon Stiller was offered the opportunity to practice and display his acting skills in the theaters of Helsinki and Turku in Finland.

Drafted into the army of Czar Nicholas II—Finland was at the time an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia—rather than report for duty he fled the country for exile, and settled in Sweden. He became a Swedish citizen in 1921.


By 1912, Stiller had become involved with Sweden's rapidly developing silent film industry. He began by writing scripts, in addition to acting and directing in short films but within a few years gave up on acting to devote his time to writing and directing. He was soon directing feature-length productions and his 1918 effort Thomas Graals bästa barn (Thomas Graal's First Child), starring Karin Molander, and with Victor Sjöström in the leading role, received much acclaim.

By 1920, having directed more than thirty-five films including Sir Arne's Treasure and Erotikon, Stiller was a leading figure in Swedish filmmaking. He also directed The Blizzard starring a young Einar Hanson and based on the Selma Lagerlof novel Gunnar Hedes saga.

Stiller and Garbo

Greta Garbo and Stiller on board the S/S Drottningholm in 1925 en route to the United States

At the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, he met a young actress named Greta Gustafsson whom he cast in an important but secondary role in his film, Gösta Berlings saga (The Atonement of Gosta Berling), and who some have said gave her the stage name Greta Garbo. For Stiller, the screen presence of the eighteen-year-old actress led to him bringing her and Hanson to the United States after he accepted an offer from Louis B. Mayer to direct for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

In Hollywood, Mauritz Stiller was assigned to direct The Temptress (1926), Garbo's second film with MGM, but he could not deal with the studio structure. After repeated arguments with MGM executives, he was replaced on the film by Fred Niblo and his contract with the studio terminated. Stiller was immediately hired by Paramount Pictures, where he made three successful films but was let go a second time while directing his fourth as a result of his continuing disagreements with studio bosses.

Death and legacy

Mauritz Stiller returned to Sweden in 1927 and died the following year from pleurisy at the age of forty-five. He was interred in the Norra begravningsplatsen in Stockholm.

Stiller's contribution to the motion picture industry has since been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1713 Vine Street. In Kristianstad, a monument was erected in his honor. Originally, his star on the Walk of Fame was erroneously listed as "Maurice Diller" and wasn't corrected until the late 1980s.


Year Film Credited as
Director Writer Actor Role
1912 The Gardener (Trädgårdsmästaren) Yes Yes Passenger
1912 Mor och dotter Yes Yes Yes Raoul de Saligny
1912 I lifvets vår Yes von Plæin
1912 Den tyranniske fästmannen Yes Yes Yes Elias Pettersson
1912 De svarta maskerna Yes Yes
1913 Vampyren Yes Yes
1913 På livets ödesvägar Yes
1913 När larmklockan ljuder Yes
1913 När kärleken dödar Yes Yes
1913 Mannekängen Yes Yes
1913 The Conflicts of Life (Livets konflikter) Yes
1913 Brother Against Brother (Gränsfolken) Yes
1913 En pojke i livets strid Yes
1913 Den okända Yes Yes
1913 Den moderna suffragetten Yes Yes
1913 Barnet Yes
1914 Stormfågeln Yes
1914 Skottet Yes
1914 När svärmor regerar Yes Yes Yes Elias
1914 Kammarjunkaren Yes
1914 För sin kärleks skull Yes Yes
1914 Det röda tornet Yes Yes
1914 Bröderna Yes Yes
1915 När konstnärer älska Yes
1915 Minlotsen Yes
1915 Mästertjuven Yes
1915 Madame de Thèbes Yes
1915 Playmates (Lekkamraterna) Yes Yes
1915 Hans hustrus förflutna Yes
1915 Hans bröllopsnatt Yes
1915 Hämnaren Yes
1915 Dolken Yes
1916 The Wings (Vingarne) Yes Yes Yes Film director
1916 Lyckonålen Yes
1916 Kärlek och journalistik Yes
1916 Kampen om hans hjärta Yes
1916 Balettprimadonnan Yes
1917 Thomas Graals bästa film Yes
1917 Alexander den store Yes
1918 Thomas Graals bästa barn Yes
1919 Sången om den eldröda blomman Yes Yes
1919 Song of the Scarlet Flower (Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta)[1] Yes
1919 Sir Arne's Treasure (Herr Arnes pengar) Yes Yes
1920 Fiskebyn Yes
1920 Erotikon Yes
1921 Johan Yes Yes
1921 Guarded Lips (De landsflyktige) Yes Yes
1923 The Blizzard (Gunnar Hedes saga) Yes Yes
1924 The Saga of Gosta Berling (Gösta Berlings saga) Yes Yes
1926 The Temptress Yes
1927 The Woman on Trial Yes
1927 Hotel Imperial Yes
1927 Barbed Wire Yes
1928 Street of Sin Yes


  1. Music by Armas Järnefelt, possibly the first original film music by a Nordic composer. See Hannu Salmi (2008) Järnefeltin jalanjäljillä: Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta (1919) (In the footsteps of Järnefelt : Song of the Scarlet Flower). (In Finnish). Retrieved 24 August 2015.

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