Mai Zetterling


Actor, Director

About

Also Known As
Mai Elizabeth Zetterling
Birth Place
Sweden
Born
May 24, 1925
Died
March 17, 1994
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

Mai Zetterling came to feminism gradually. In her autobiography, "All Those Tomorrows," she notes, "When the reviews of my first full-length feature movie came out, I was horrified to read that 'Mai Zetterling directs like a man.' What did that mean?" As an actress she was considered no threat. But when she decided to become a film director, she was "not the same any more in the eyes of ...

Family & Companions

Tutte Lemkow
Husband
Ballet dancer, ice hockey player. Divorced; father of her two sons.
David Hughes
Husband
Author. Divorced.

Bibliography

"Nattlek/Night Games"
Mai Zetterling

Biography

Mai Zetterling came to feminism gradually. In her autobiography, "All Those Tomorrows," she notes, "When the reviews of my first full-length feature movie came out, I was horrified to read that 'Mai Zetterling directs like a man.' What did that mean?" As an actress she was considered no threat. But when she decided to become a film director, she was "not the same any more in the eyes of men." It took years to realize "the change I had made was positive and, in the end, the only way."

As a teenager, Zetterling joined a children's theater club and at 16 played the lead in a play by Par Lagerkvist. At 17, she joined the Swedish National Theater, where Alf Sjoberg became her mentor and directed her in her first major film, "Frenzy/Torment" (1944), written by Ingmar Bergman.

For British film director Basil Dearden she played the title role in "Frieda" (1947), which led to a successful British film career with Rank. Back in Sweden, she also made one film under Ingmar Bergman, "Music in the Dark" (1948).

In the early 1950s, she accepted an offer to be Danny Kaye's leading lady in "Knock on Wood" (1954). It was to be her only film in Hollywood, a place she hated. She returned to England and starred on the stage in a production of "A Doll's House."

After she married British writer David Hughes, Zetterling made plans toward becoming a film director. She and Hughes collaborated for BBC-TV on a series of documentaries: "The Polite Invasion" (1960), about the problems of the Lapps and the Swedes; "Little Lords of Egypt" (1961), concerning the plight of Gypsies; and "The War Game" (1961), an anti-war short about two boys playing a game that turns nasty. The latter film won the Golden Lion Prize at the 1963 Venice Film Festival.

Her directing career went into high gear with her feature, "Loving Couples" (1964). Its poster won a prize in Vienna but it was banned in Cannes as obscene. "Night Games" (1966), based on her own novel, was even more of a cause celebre. Banned from the Venice Festival, it was censured by critics for scenes of sexuality, childbirth, and vomiting in detailing the story of a 35-year-old man's attempts to deal with childhood memories marked by depravity and perversity. Three films later, her marriage with Hughes came to an end.

Most notable among her more recent films are "We Have Many Faces" (1975), which drew on "the pain and misery of the break-up of my marriage"; "Of Seals and Man" (1978), detailing the disappearing breed of Eskimo seal hunters; and "Scrubbers" (1982), which dealt with young female offenders sent to Britain's Borstal prison. Zetterling never entirely gave up her acting career, either; in one of her last roles she was especially memorable as the wise grandmother who warns her grandson about "The Witches" (1990).

Zetterling's work shows a fascination with outsiders, whether Eskimos, Gypsies or girl delinquents. "Perhaps I am a mad-hatter Swede," she says, "who got lost in the world ... I feel very far from the norm of just about everything."

Life Events

1941

Debut as stage and screen performer at aged 16 (date approximate)

1945

Performed with Royal Dramatic Theater, Stockholm

1946

First leading film role in "Hets/Torment"; directed by Alf Sjoberg, written by Ingmar Bergman

1947

Signed contract with Rank; British film acting debut in "Frieda"

1963

Directed first short fiction film, "The War Game" (also producer, co-writer)

1964

Feature film directing debut, "Alskande Par/Loving Couples" (also co-writer)

1966

Filmed own novel "Night Games"

1982

Last British feature, "Scrubbers"

1986

Final feature as director "Amarosa"

1990

Final screen appearance in Nicholas Roeg's "The Witches"

Videos

Movie Clip

Loving Couples (1964) — (Movie Clip) Men Always Let You Down Part of the second extended flashback montage by director Mai Zetterling, on each of three pregnant woman characters, this one for servant’s-wife Adele (Gunnel Lindblom) whose child is expected to be stillborn, recalling childhood misfortune in turn-of-the-century Sweden, Rebecca Pawlo her younger self, in Loving Couples, 1964.
Loving Couples (1964) — (Movie Clip) Open, Remember It’s Our Child Zero sugar coating, established Swedish actress Mai Zetterling opening the first of seven features she directed, a harsh sound environment, a maternity hospital ca. 1915, introducing Gio Petré as Angela, Anita Björk her escort, Gunnar Björnstrand her physician, in the acclaimed Loving Couples, 1964.
Loving Couples (1964) — (Movie Clip) Beware Of Women Introducing the third expectant mom at a pre-WWI Swedish hospital, Harriet Andersson as Agda in a reckless attempt to induce labor while the head doctor Lewin (Gunnar Björnstrand) muses contemptible attitudes to junior colleague Sam (Henrik Schildt), first-time director Mai Zetterling working from her script co-written with husband David Hughes, in Loving Couples, 1964.
Abandon Ship! (1957) - To Die Without You! Cruise ship officer Alec Holmes (Tyrone Power, also the un-credited producer), after the sinking of the liner, has left one raft to save his girlfriend, nurse Julie (Mai Zetterling), then after shark trouble, McKinley (Stephen Boyd) hails them to the crowded boat of the ailing captain (Laurence Naismith), James Hayter as “Cookie” giving aid, early in Abandon Ship 1957.
Abandon Ship! (1957) - We Can't Eat You With seaman Sam (Orlando Martins) in the water griping, ships' officer Alec Holmes (Tyrone Power), taking over from the dead captain, has to deal with a dog on the lifeboat, owned by Noel Willman, Clive Morton the offended General, Victor Maddern also in the drink, Mai Zetterling and Stephen Boyd supporting his commands, in Abandon Ship 1957.
Abandon Ship! (1957) - Thirty-seven Survived The entire credit sequence was a slow camera move into this rusted, derelict mine, ending in the explosion, grim narration from writer-director Richard Sale, and the introduction of producer and star Tyrone Power, joining a raft with Finlay Currie, Robert Harris and distraught mother Sheila Manahan, in the British-made Columbia release, Abandon Ship, 1957.
Only Two Can Play (1962) - I'd Love One Of Those Welsh wanna-be lothario and librarian Lewis (Peter Sellers) at work, with client Hyman (noted Sellers pal Graham Stark), then meeting Mrs. Gruffydd-Williams (Mai Zetterling), who takes an interest, in Only Two Can Play, 1962, from the Martin Amis novel.
Prize of Gold, A - Conrad When a kid named Conrad (Andrew Ray) steals his jeep, Sgt. Joe Lawrence meets Maria (Mai Zetterling) and Dr. Zachman (Karel Stepanek) who save orphans in post-war Berlin in A Prize of Gold, 1955.

Trailer

Family

Etienne Lemkow
Son
Louis Lemkow
Son

Companions

Tutte Lemkow
Husband
Ballet dancer, ice hockey player. Divorced; father of her two sons.
David Hughes
Husband
Author. Divorced.

Bibliography

"Nattlek/Night Games"
Mai Zetterling