Luis Trenker

Luis Trenker (born Alois Franz Trenker, 4 October 1892 – 13 April 1990) was a South Tyrolean film producer, director, writer, actor, architect, alpinist, and bobsledder.

Luis Trenker
Alois Franz Trenker

4 October 1892
Died13 April 1990 (aged 97)
OccupationFilm producer, director, writer, actor, architect, bobsledder
Years active1921–1982
Spouse(s)Hilde Bleichert (1903–1988)


Early life

Alois Franz Trenker was born on 4 October 1892 in Urtijëi, Tyrol (German: St. Ulrich in Gröden, Italian: Ortisei) in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (in present-day northern Italy).[1] His father Jacob Trenker was a painter from North Tyrol, and his mother Karolina (née Demetz) was from Urtijëi in Val Gardena. He grew up speaking two languages: German, the language of his father, and Ladin, the language of his mother. He attended the local primary school from 1898 to 1901, and then attended the Josefinum in Bolzano in 1902 and 1903. From 1903 to 1905, he attended the arts and crafts school in Bolzano, where he developed his skills as a woodcarver.

In 1912, he entered the Realschule in Innsbruck, where he studied Italian as a foreign language. There he began his middle school studies. During his high school years, he spent his holidays working for mountain guides and ski instructors. After his matriculation examinations in 1912, Trenker studied architecture at the Technical University in Vienna.

World War I

At the start of World War I, Trenker fought as a cadet in an Austro-Hungarian heavy artillery unit on the Eastern Front in Galicia and Russisch-Polen. From 1915 to 1918, he fought in the mountain war against Italy in the border fortress of Nauders. Later he fought in Trento. From 1916 he served as a mountain guide in the Dolomites. At the end of the war he had achieved the rank of Lieutenant. He would write 23 books based on his war experiences, the most important of which were Fort Rocca Alta and Berge in Flammen, the latter of which was made into the 1931 film Mountains on Fire.

At the end of the war, Trenker made several unsuccessful attempts to start an architecture business in Bolzano. In 1924, he enrolled at the Technical University of Graz, and then worked as an architect in Bolzano, forming a business partnership with the Austrian architect Clemens Holzmeister. In 1924, Trenker participated in the Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix as a member of the Italian five-man bobsled team. Under the leadership of Pilot Lodovico Obexer, they ended up in sixth place.

Film career

Trenker's first contact with film came in 1921, when he helped director Arnold Fanck on one of his mountain films. The main actor could not perform the stunts required, and so Trenker assumed the leading role. He gradually assumed more roles on the set, and by 1928 was directing, writing, and starring in his own films. By now he had abandoned his job as an architect to concentrate on his films.

In 1928 he married Hilda von Bleichert, the daughter of a fabrics manufacturer from Leipzig, and together they had four children. In 1932 Trenker created (with Curtis Bernhardt and Edwin H. Knopf) an historical film The Rebel. Trenker stated that the film's plotline of a Tyrolean mountaineer Severin Anderlan leading a revolt against occupying French forces in 1809, during the Napoleonic Wars. The greatest Tirolean patriot Andreas Hofer was a proto-type of "Severin Anderlan" ... Trenker was designed to mirror what was happening in contemporary Germany as it rejected the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.[2]

The main theme of Trenker's work was the idealization of peoples connection with their homeland and pointing out the decadence of city life (most clearly visible in his 1934 film Der verlorene Sohn (The Prodigal Son). This loosely played into the hands of Nazi propagandists, who seized upon the nationalistic elements of his work. However, Trenker refused to allow his work to be subverted as such and eventually moved to Rome in 1940 to avoid further governmental pressure. After a pair of documentary films, however, Trenker returned to Bolzano and stopped making films. The style he had developed in the thirties was not limited to nationalistic, folkloristic, and heroic clichés. His impersonation of a hungry, downtrodden immigrant in depression era New York was regarded as one of the seminal scenes for future Italian neorealism by the likes of Roberto Rossellini.

After World War II

Trenker was accused of fascist opportunism after the war, but the charges were eventually dropped. In the 1950s, he returned to the movie industry, though by 1965 he was making primarily documentary films that focused on the Austrian province of Tyrol and South Tyrol (his homeland), which had become part of Italy. He also returned to writing about the mountains.

Later life

In 1988 Hilda Trenker von Bleichert died. Luis Trenker died on 13 April 1990 in Bolzano at the age 97. He was buried in his family's plot at Urtijëi. In 1992, for the centennial of his birth, his native town of Ortisei dedicated a monument that shows him in mountaineer dresses while looking at the Langkofel, a mountain he liked to climb. In March 2004, the Museum Gherdëina displayed a collection of Trenker's belongings from a bequest of his family.


  • Mountain of Destiny (1924), Der Berg des Schicksals, actor
  • The Holy Mountain (1926), Der heilige Berg, actor
  • The Great Leap (1927), Der grosse Sprung, actor
  • Struggle for the Matterhorn (1928), Der Kampf ums Matterhorn, actor
  • The Call of the North (1929), Der Ruf des Nordens, producer, actor
  • The Son of the White Mountain (1930), Der Sohn der weißen Berge, director, story, actor
  • The Great Longing (1930), Die große Sehnsucht, actor
  • Les Chevaliers de la montagne (1930), Knights of the Mountains, writer, actor
  • Die heiligen drei Brunnen (1930), actor
  • Mountains on Fire (1931), Berge in Flammen, director, novel, screenplay, actor
  • Doomed Battalion (1932), director, story, screenplay, actor
  • The Rebel (1932), Der Rebell, director, story, actor
  • The Prodigal Son (1934), director, novel, screenplay, actor
  • Der Kaiser von Kalifornien (1936), producer, director, writer, actor
  • Giovanni de Medici: The Leader (1937), director, story, screenplay, actor
  • Condottieri (1937), director, story, screenplay, actor
  • The Mountain Calls (1938), Der Berg ruft, director, writer, actor
  • The Challenge (1938), director, actor
  • Love Letters from Engadin (1938), Liebesbriefe aus dem Engadin, producer, director, writer, actor
  • Boundary Fire (1939), producer
  • Urlaub im Schnee (1939, short), producer
  • Der Feuerteufel (1940), producer, director, writer, actor
  • Der König der Berge (1940, short), producer, writer
  • Pastor Angelicus (1942), director
  • Germanin – Die Geschichte einer kolonialen Tat (1943), actor
  • Monte Miracolo (1945), producer, director, screenplay, actor
  • Barrier to the North (1950), Barriera a settentrione, Duell in den Bergen, director, writer, actor
  • Aus König Laurins Rosengarten (1951), producer, actor
  • Bergsommer (1952, short), producer
  • An der Dolomitenstraße (1952, short), producer, director, writer
  • Kleine Kletterfahrt (1952, short), producer, director, writer
  • Niemals mutlos (1952, short), Don't Surrender Never!, producer, director, writer
  • Gondelfahrt durch Venedig (1952, short), Venetian Walk, producer, director, writer
  • Lofotenfischer (1952, short), The Lofoten Fisher, producer, director, writer
  • Die Sphinx von Zermatt (1953, short), producer, director, writer
  • Kavaliere im Eis (1954, short), producer, director, writer
  • Il prigioniero della montagna (1955), director, writer, actor
  • S.O.S. Zinnennordwand (1955, short), director
  • Gold aus Gletschern (1956), producer, director
  • Von der Liebe besiegt (1956), director, novel, actor
  • Wetterleuchten um Maria (1957), director
  • Unser Freund, der Haflinger (1957, short), Our Friend Haflinger, producer, director
  • Zwei Wege, ein Gipfel (1961, short), producer, director, writer
  • His Best Friend (1962 film) (1962), His Best Friend, director, screenplay, actor
  • Vacanze scambio (1962), director
  • Luftsprünge (1969–70, television series), actor
  • Skifreuden in den Dolomiten (1970, short), producer, director, writer
  • Ich filmte am Matterhorn (1970), producer, director, writer
  • Olympia (1971), actor
  • Die Glückspirale (1971), actor
  • Heimat aus Gottes Hand (1979), producer, director, writer
  • Hochkant (1982), actor


  • Meine Berge (1931), with Walter Schmidkunz
  • Berge in Flammen. Ein Roman aus den Schicksalstagen Südtirols (1931), with Walter Schmidkunz
  • Kameraden der Berge (1932)
  • Der Rebell. Ein Freiheitsroman aus den Bergen Tirols (1933)
  • Berge und Heimat: Das Buch von den Bergen und ihren Menschen (1933), with Walter Schmidkunz
  • Der verlorene Sohn. Roman (1934)
  • Berge im Schnee. Das Winterbuch (1935)
  • Helden der Berge. Roman (1936), with Karl Springenschmid und Walter Schmidkunz
  • Leuchtendes Land. Roman (1937), with Karl Springenschmid
  • Sperrfort Rocca Alta. Der Heldenkampf eines Panzerwerkes (1937)
  • Hauptmann Ladurner. Ein Soldatenroman (1940)
  • Der Feuerteufel. Ein Speckbacherroman (1940)
  • Sterne über den Gipfeln. Roman (1942)
  • Heimat aus Gottes Hand. Roman (1948)
  • Duell in den Bergen. Ein Roman aus den Dolomiten (1951)
  • Glocken über den Bergen. Roman (1952)
  • Sonne über Sorasass. Ein heiterer Roman aus den Dolomiten (1953)
  • Schicksal am Matterhorn. Roman (1957)
  • Helden am Berg. Roman (1956)
  • Das Wunder von Oberammergau. Roman (1960)
  • Sohn ohne Heimat. Roman (1960)
  • Die Farm am Kilimandscharo (1960)
  • Der Kaiser von Kalifornien. Roman (1961)
  • Alles gut gegangen. Geschichten aus meinem Leben (1965, autobiography)

Honors and awards


Trenker family grave - Urtijëi - 01

Luis Trenker's grave in Urtijëi

Trenker memorial plaque - Urtijëi

Memorial plaque near the grave

Luis Trenker

Luis Trenker memorial statue

Hotel Adler Holzmeister

Hotel Adler designed by Luis Trenker and Clemens Holzmeister


  1. ^ Vierhaus, Rudolf (2008) Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie "Trenker" Volume 10:94 Walter de Gruyter ISBN 9783110963816
  2. ^ Prawer p. 207.
  3. ^ "Luis Trenker". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2013.

Further reading

  • Birgel, Franz A. (2000). “Luis Trenker: A Rebel in the Third Reich?” In "Through a National Socialist Lens: Cinema in Nazi Germany." Ed. Robert Reimer and intro. David Bathrick. Rochester, NY: Camden House. Pages 37–64.
  • Friehs, Julia, and Daniel Winkler, Marie-Noëlle Yazdanpanah (1955). "Südtirol-Trentino, Heimatfilm und Nachkriegskino" in Zibaldone. Zeitschrift für italienische Kultur der Gegenwart. Südtirol. Nr. 49/2010.
  • Friehs, Julia, and Daniel Winkler, Marie-Noëlle Yazdanpanah. "Alpine Medienavantgarde? Luis Trenker, der John Wayne der Dolomiten" in Journal für Kulturstudien 21. S. 80–91.
  • Gorter, Wolfgang (1977). Mein Freund Luis Trenker. Heering, Seebruck am Chiemsee. ISBN 9783776351507.
  • König, Stefan, and Florian Trenker (2006). Bera Luis. Das Phänomen Luis Trenker. Eine Biographie. München: Berg und Tal. ISBN 9783939499022.
  • Köpf, Gerhard (1994). Ezra und Luis oder die Erstbesteigung des Ulmer Münsters. Innsbruck.
  • Kratochvíl, Antonín (1980). Abendgespräche mit Luis Trenker. München: Athos. ISBN 9783884990087.
  • Leimgruber, Florian (1994). Luis Trenker, Regisseur und Schriftsteller. Bozen: Frasnelli-Keitsch. ISBN 9788885176041.
  • Menzel, Roderich. (1982). Luis Trenker. Düsseldorf: Hoch. ISBN 9783777903026.
  • Nottebohm, Rudolf, and Hans-Jürgen Panitz (1987). Fast ein Jahrhundert Luis Trenker. München: Herbig. ISBN 9783776614893.
  • Panitz, Hans-Jürgen (2009). Luis Trenker – ungeschminkt. Bilder, Stationen, Begegnungen. Tyrolia und Athesia. ISBN 9783702230418.
  • Thalhammer, Hans (1933). Luis Trenker, der Bergführer. Lilienfeld: Waldland.
  • Waldner, Hansjörg (1990). Deutschland blickt auf uns Tiroler. Südtirol-Romane zwischen 1918 und 1945. Wien: Picus. ISBN 9783854522102.

External links

Barrier to the North

Barrier to the North (Italian: Barriera a Settentrione) is a 1950 Italian mountain film directed by and starring Luis Trenker. It also stars Amedeo Nazzari, Marianne Hold and Margarete Genske. It is sometimes known by the alternative title of Mountain Smugglers.

Condottieri (1937 film)

Condottieri is a 1937 Italian historical film directed by Luis Trenker and starring Trenker, Loris Gizzi and Laura Nucci. It portrays the life of Giovanni de' Medici, a celebrated condottiere of the sixteenth century. A separate German-language version was also made.

The film received 9.6 million lire of funding from the Italian government, as part as a major drive by the Fascist authorities to develop the Italian film industry (which also involved the construction of the large Cinecittà complex in Rome). Along with Scipio Africanus, the film was an attempt to harness history to support the Fascist regime's current policies. Condottieri drew parallels between the dictator Benito Mussolini and the historical figure of de' Medici, portraying both as unifying Italy. The film's elaborate sets were designed by Virgilio Marchi.

Der Kaiser von Kalifornien

The Kaiser of California, better known as "The Emperor of California" (German Der Kaiser von Kalifornien), is a 1936 film that has the distinction of being the first western film made in Nazi Germany. Some exterior scenes were even shot on location in the United States at Sedona, Arizona, the Grand Canyon and at Death Valley in California.

The film follows the life story of Johann Augustus Sutter, the owner of Sutter's Mill, famous as the birthplace of the great California Gold Rush of 1849.

While the basic story of Sutter's life is retained, the producers inserted some notable changes reflecting the political environment of the film's creation: though Sutter was a Swiss-German, the film emphasizes his German ethnicity and though he changed his name to John Sutter when he came to the United States, throughout the film he retains the name Johann Sutter.

The film opposes the "easy" money of gold-digging with the wealth and values created by hard work, as the Gold Rush eventually destroys Sutter's fortunes and creates social disintegration and the loss of solidarity and companionship.

In the final scene the aged and impoverished Sutter is shown in Washington, D.C., where he has a vision of America's future industrial might, seeing a land full of skyscrapers and factories.

Unlike most American Westerns of the 1930s, The Kaiser of California offers a sympathetic portrait of the Indians, whom Sutter respectfully befriends. In this it follows the Karl May tradition of German Western stories, which often featured noble Indians and German immigrants turned pioneers and gunmen.The film won the 1936 Mussolini Cup for best foreign film at the Venice Film Festival. It was screened as part of the "Venice Days" series at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in September 2011.

The film was written and directed by the Tyrolean Luis Trenker, who also starred as Johann Sutter. Trenker had previously directed Der verlorene Sohn (The Prodigal Son, 1934), the story of an Alpine immigrant in New York City, which is the only other film produced in Nazi Germany with scenes photographed on location in the United States.

Doomed Battalion

Doomed Battalion is a 1932 American drama film directed by Cyril Gardner and written by Karl Hartl, Patrick Kearney, Paul Perez and Luis Trenker. The film stars Luis Trenker, Tala Birell, Albert Conti, Victor Varconi, Henry Armetta and Gustav von Seyffertitz. The film was released on June 16, 1932, by Universal Pictures. Footage was used from the 1931 German film Mountains on Fire starring Trenker.

His Best Friend (1962 film)

His Best Friend (German: Sein bester Freund) is a 1962 West German drama film directed by Luis Trenker and starring Toni Sailer, Dietmar Schönherr and Hilti von Allmen.

Love Letters from Engadin

Love Letters from Engadin or Love Letters from the Engadine (German: Liebesbriefe aus dem Engadin) is a 1938 German romantic comedy film directed by Luis Trenker and Werner Klingler and starring Trenker, Carla Rust and Erika von Thellmann. It contains elements of the mountain film genre for which Trenker was best known. It is set in London and in the Engadin valley in the Swiss Alps, where much of the location shooting took place.

The film's sets were designed by the art director Fritz Maurischat.

Mountain of Destiny

Mountain of Destiny (German: Berg des Schicksals) is a 1924 German silent drama film written and directed by Arnold Fanck and starring Hannes Schneider, Frida Richard, Erna Morena, and Luis Trenker. The film is about an alpinist who falls to his death while climbing a dangerous peak. His son later succeeds where his father had failed. The film was released in the United Kingdom with the title The Mountaineers. After seeing Mountain of Destiny, Leni Riefenstahl, then a dancer, decided she wanted to start appearing in films. She got in touch with Fanck and starred in his 1926 film The Holy Mountain.

Mountains on Fire

Mountains on Fire (German: Berge in Flammen) is a 1931 German war film directed by Karl Hartl and Luis Trenker and starring Trenker, Lissy Arna and Luigi Serventi. The film was based on Luis Trenker's novel of the same title, partly based on his own experiences. Separate French and English-language productions were also made. One of the series of popular Mountain films of the era, it was shot on location in the Dolomites.

Struggle for the Matterhorn

Struggle for the Matterhorn (German: Der Kampf ums Matterhorn) is a 1928 German-Swiss silent drama film co-directed by Mario Bonnard and Nunzio Malasomma and starring Luis Trenker, Marcella Albani, and Alexandra Schmitt. The film is part of the popular cycle of mountain films of the 1920s and 1930s. Art direction was by Heinrich Richter. Based on a novel by Carl Haensel, the film depicts the battle between British and Italian climbers to be the first to climb the Matterhorn. Trenker later remade the film as The Challenge in 1938.

The Call of the North (1929 film)

The Call of the North (German: Der Ruf des Nordens) is a 1929 German adventure film directed by Nunzio Malasomma and Mario Bonnard and starring Luis Trenker, Max Holzboer and Eva von Berne. Originally produced as a silent film, it was subsequently released with an added soundtrack.

The only survivor of a polar expedition returns to try to find out what happened to his colleagues. It is similar to the tradition of mountain films, with large amounts of location footage shot, but with the setting moved to the North Pole.

The film's sets were designed by Heinrich Richter.

The Challenge (1938 film)

The Challenge is a 1938 British drama film directed by Milton Rosmer and Luis Trenker and starring Robert Douglas and Luis Trenker. The film is about the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 by Edward Whymper. The film is a remake of Struggle for the Matterhorn (German: Der Kampf ums Matterhorn) in which Trenker acted in 1928.

The Great Leap (film)

The Great Leap (German: Der grosse Sprung) is a 1927 German silent comedy film directed by Arnold Fanck and starring Leni Riefenstahl, Luis Trenker and Hans Schneeberger. A young Italian girl living in the Dolomites falls in love with a member of a tourist party skiing on the nearby mountains.

The Holy Mountain (1926 film)

The Holy Mountain (German: Der heilige Berg) is a 1926 German mountain film directed by Arnold Fanck and starring Leni Riefenstahl, Luis Trenker and Frida Richard. It was the future filmmaker Riefenstahl's first screen appearance as an actress. Written by Arnold Fanck and Hans Schneeberger, the film is about a dancer who meets and falls in love with an engineer at his cottage in the mountains. After she gives her scarf to one of his friends, the infatuated friend mistakenly believes that she loves him. When the engineer sees her innocently comforting his friend, he mistakenly believes she is betraying him.

The Mountain Calls

The Mountain Calls (German: Der Berg ruft) is a film directed by Luis Trenker which recreates the struggle between Edward Whymper and Jean-Antoine Carrel for the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865.

The film is a remake of Der Kampf ums Matterhorn (Struggle for the Matterhorn) in which Trenker acted in 1928.

The Prodigal Son (1934 film)

The Prodigal Son (German: Der verlorene Sohn) is a 1934 German drama film directed by Luis Trenker and starring Trenker, Maria Andergast and Bertl Schultes. A South Tyrolean immigrates to New York City, but ultimately finding the U.S. is not for him, returns to his home village.

It was made by the German branch of Universal Pictures.

The Rebel (1932 film)

The Rebel (German: Der Rebell) is a 1932 German historical drama film directed by Curtis Bernhardt, Edwin H. Knopf, and Luis Trenker and starring Trenker, Luise Ullrich, and Victor Varconi. The film's art direction was by Fritz Maurischat. It was made by the German subsidiary of Universal Pictures, with location shooting in Austria and St. Moritz, Switzerland. Interior scenes were filmed at the Tempelhof Studios. A separate English language version The Rebel was released the following year. The film is part of the Mountain film genre.

Trenker stated that the film's plotline of a Tyrolean mountaineer Severin Anderlan leading a revolt against occupying French forces in 1809, during the Napoleonic Wars. The greatest Tirolean patriot Andreas Hofer was a proto-type of "Severin Anderlan" (both died in the same year!).. Trenker was designed to mirror what was happening in contemporary Germany as it rejected the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1933 there was published Luis Trenker's novel, Der Rebell. Ein Freiheitsroman aus den Bergen Tirols.

The Son of the White Mountain

The Son of the White Mountain (German: Der Sohn der weißen Berge) is a 1930 German mystery romance film directed by Mario Bonnard and Luis Trenker and starring Trenker, Maria Matray and Renate Müller. It was part of the popular series of Mountain films of the era. A separate French-language version was also released.

The films of Luis Trenker

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