Swedish producer, director and actress. Born as Karin Sofia Svanström in Norrköping. Died in Stockholm.
Not a household name, Karin Swanström was nonetheless a major figure in Swedish film history. As an actress we can study her film roles between 1921 and 1942, when she died aged 59. But as a director she made only four silent films between 1923 and 1926, plus two sound films for which she was assistant director. Yet Swanström's influence during what was one of the most illustrious periods of Swedish film history cannot be ignored, especially since in her role as artistic advisor at Svensk Filmindustri from 1933 to 1941, it was largely down to her which films would be made.
Swanström made her screen debut in Mauritz Stiller's Guarded Lips (De landsflyktige, 1921. US title: In Self Defence) and both she and the film itself were highly praised. Swanström was described as "the most beautiful middle-aged lady with acting ability one could hope to find." She continued to mix work both in front of the camera, where she developed an impressive range as a character actor, and behind it, where she ruled with an iron hand and with the constant backing of her husband, Captain Stellan Claësson.
In 1923 the publishing company Albert Bonniers Förlag founded Bonnierfilm, primarily as a vehicle for film versions of their own publishing successes. A new film studio at was set up for the new company in Stockholm's Kungsholmen. Appointed Production Manager, Swanström was the creative force behind Bonnierfilm, and four films were premiered in that first year. The first of them was a film version of the hugely popular comedy Hemslavinnor ('Domestic Slaves'), directed by Ragnar Widestedt and starring Dagmar Ebbesen. This was followed by the comedies Anna-Clara och hennes bröder ('Anna Clara and her Brothers', directed by Per Lindberg), Norrtullsligan ('The Norrtull Gang', directed by Per Lindberg) based on the novel "Men and Other Misfortunes" by Elin Wägner, and Boman på utställningen ('Boman at the Exposition'), all three of which went on release before the year was out. Swanström made her directing debut with Boman på utställningen, in which she also played the female lead.
1924 saw Bonnierfilm off to a flying start with the action comedy Unge greven tar flickan och priset ('The Young Count Wins the Girl and the Prize', directed by Rune Carlsten), a great success which featured Gösta Ekman. There was then a lull before Kalle Utter premiered in 1925, with a screenplay by Hjalmar Bergman, Anders de Wahl in the title role and Karin Swanström directing. Despite its success, especially for Swanström, the film was Bonnierfilm's last production. Swanström directed a further two films which were produced at the Kungsholmen studio by the company Skandinavisk Film: Flygande holländaren ('The Flying Dutchman', 1925) was something of a flop, yet the charming comedy Girl in Tails (Flickan i frack, 1926) has subsequently come to be regarded as one of the comic gems of Swedish silent film.
In 1933 Swanström took over the helm of Svensk Filmindustri's Filmstaden studio complex in Råsunda, north of Stockholm. Her first contribution as producer, or "artistic advisor", came with the Fridolf Rhudin success Simon i Backabo ('Simon in Backabo', Gustaf Edgren, 1934). Throughout the 1930s and up until 1941, when she was forced to resign from her post, possibly because of some screenplay plagiarism, Swanström was the undisputed leader of Filmstaden. SF developed into Sweden's biggest and most influential film company, producing films ranging from populist farces to elegant comedies and melodramas. The company employed directors such as Gustaf Molander, Gustaf Edgren and Weyler Hildebrand; and stars like Sickan Carlsson, Tutta Rolf, Edvin Adolphson, Åke Söderblom and Ingrid Bergman.
Mikaela Kindblom (2011)
(Translated by Derek Jones)