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Biography

Swedish actress. Born Tora Adelheim Johansson in Stockholm. Studied acting at the Royal Dramatic Theatre 1908-1911.Tora Teje was one of the most famous Swedish stage actresses at the beginning of the 20th century, making her name in a series of outstanding performances at Svenska Teatern and the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, including some of the great female parts in literature such as Phaedra and Lady Macbeth. As she in 1920 also started to act in films, she really became the first major Swedish star actress; a diva and the focus of numerous articles in trade papers in...

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Biography

Swedish actress. Born Tora Adelheim Johansson in Stockholm. Studied acting at the Royal Dramatic Theatre 1908-1911.

Tora Teje was one of the most famous Swedish stage actresses at the beginning of the 20th century, making her name in a series of outstanding performances at Svenska Teatern and the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, including some of the great female parts in literature such as Phaedra and Lady Macbeth. As she in 1920 also started to act in films, she really became the first major Swedish star actress; a diva and the focus of numerous articles in trade papers in which she posed in luxurious milieus and extravagant clothes. Thus she represents the emergence of a kind of a showbiz modernity in Sweden with an international flair, not unlike the character she plays in Erotikon (Mauritz Stiller, 1920).

Teje only acted in nine silent and one sound film, but her memorable performances  contributed to the lasting fame and quality of most of them. Her first screen performances were as the major female lead in two Victor Sjöström films, showing her versatility as an actress – the period piece Klostret i Sendomir (1920), in which she creates a very moving portrayal of a woman torn between her family and the man she loves, and Karin Ingmarsdotter (1920), again a film in historical setting where she plays an abused farmer’s wife. She is however most known for her performance in Erotikon, in which she plays the courted wife of a scientist. The film was originally conceived as the first in a series of films to be set in upper-class, urban, contemporary settings, each one of them to have been directed by Stiller and with a famous actress in the leading role. Teje’s character is evasive, and is tantalizing the men around her but she gives great depth to her character, and with fine nuances in the expressions she reveals when true love comes her way.

She also made a brief but very memorable appearance in Häxan / Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922), Benjamin Christensen’s unrivalled screen portrayal of withchraft and medieval perceptions of the Devil. The film ends with a modern-day episode, as Christensen wanted to show that what was perceived as schemings of the Devil in medieval times is not unsimilar to various illnesses of the mind revealed by studies of the mind that came into fashion at the turn of the last century. In this episode Teje gives brief, precise and touching portrayals of several women with kleptomania, hysterical tendencies and other nervous disorders. The following year she made her perhaps finest performance, as one of four female office workers in Norrtullsligan / The Norrtull Gang (Per Lindberg, 1923), living together in a kind of commune and trying to get by in a man’s world. The character she plays also has the added burden of taking care of her much younger brother (because of the conventions of the time, the character couldn’t be seen as single-handedly raising her own child).

Though her career in films was very brief and sparse, Tora Teje made an everlasting impression as one of the very best Swedish silent film actresses. Whether she played a farmer’s wife in 19th century rural Sweden, a struggling ‘single mother’ in contemporary Stockholm, a torn woman on the verge of nervous break-down or a wealthy but slightly bored wife of a ‘blind husband’, she brought depth, understanding, intelligence and beauty to the screen, always hinting that there was more hidden within the characters than what first appears.

Jon Wengström (2010)

Films

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