Anita Berber 1922

Anita Berber (June 10, 1899November 10, 1928) was a German dancer, actress and writer who was the subject of an Otto Dix painting.

Born in Leipzig to divorced bohemian parents (a cabarét artist and a violinist), she was raised mainly by her grandmother in Dresden. By the time she was 16, she had moved to Berlin and made her debut as a cabaret dancer. By 1918 she was working in film, and she began dancing nude in 1919. She was scandalous, androgynous and infamous, quickly making a name for herself on the Berlin scene. She wore heavy dancer’s make-up, which on the black and white photos and films of the time came across as jet black lipstick painted across the heart-shaped part of her skinny lips, and charcoaled eyes.[1]

Her hair was cut fashionably into a short bob and was frequently bright red, as in 1925 when the German painter Otto Dix painted a portrait of her, titled "The Dancer Anita Berber". She danced together with Sebastian Droste to whom she was also briefly married to. Neither of them wore much more than loincloths and Anita occasionally a corsage worn well below her small breasts.[1]

Berber's cocaine addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter.[2] She was allegedly the sexual slave of a woman and the woman's 15-year-old daughter. She could often be seen in Berlin's hotel lobbies, nightclubs and casinos, naked apart from an elegant sable wrap, with a pet monkey and a silver brooch packed with cocaine. Besides being a cocaine addict, she was an alcoholic, but at the age of 29, gave up both suddenly and completely. According to Mel Gordon in The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber,[3] she was diagnosed with galloping tuberculosis while performing abroad. She died on November 10, 1928 in a Kreuzberg hospital and was buried at St. Thomas cemetery in Neukölln.

A 1987 film by Rosa von Praunheim titled Anita - Tänze des Lasters centres around the life of Anita Berber.[4]

Selected filmographyEdit

Year Title Role
1918 The Three Girls' House (Das Dreimäderlhaus) Grisi
The Story of Dida Ibsen (Dida Ibsens Geschichte) Dida Ibsen
1919 Prostitution (Die Prostitution, 1. Teil - Das gelbe Haus) Lola, dessen Tochter
Die Reise um die Erde in 80 Tagen Aouda
Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern) Else
Peer Gynt - 1. Teil
Peer Gynt - 2. Teil
Unheimliche Geschichten various roles
1920 Yoshiwara, die Liebesstadt der Japaner
Der Graf von Cagliostro Lorenza Cagliostros Skalvin
Nachtgestalten Tänzerin
Der Schädel der Pharaonentocher
Der Falschspieler Tänzerin Asta
1921 Verfehltes Leben
Die Nacht der Mary Murton
Die goldene Pest
1922 Schminke
Die vom Zirkus Die Zirkusdiva
Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler - Ein Bild der Zeith Taenzerin im Frack (uncredited)
Im Kampf mit dem unsichtbaren Feind Bessie Freds Freundin
Lucrezia Borgia Gräfin Julia Orsini
1923 Vienna, City of Song (Wien, du Stadt der Lieder) Mary Cullen
Die drei Marien und Herr von Marana
Irrlichter der Tiefe
Tänze des Grauens, des Lasters und der Ekstase herself
1925 Ein Walzer von Strauß Tänzerin



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  • Capovilla, Andrea. "Berber, Anita." Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. New York: Routledge, 2001. 50-51.
  • Fischer, Lothar. Tanz zwischen Rausch und Tod: Anita Berber, 1918-1928 in Berlin. Berlin: Haude und Spener, 1996.
  • Funkenstein, Susan Laikin. "Anita Berber: Imaging a Weimar Performance Artist." Woman's Art Journal 26.1 (Spring/Summer 2005): 26-31.
  • Gill, Anton. A Dance between the Flames: Berlin between the Wars. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1993.
  • "Legendary Sin Cities [series]--Berlin: Metropolis of Vice." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Richie, Alexandra. Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1998.
  • Toepfer, Karl Eric. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

External links Edit