Joyless Street

Joyless Street (German: Die freudlose Gasse, 1925, exhibited in the U.S. as The Street of Sorrow, in Britain as The Joyless Street[2]), a film based on the novel by Hugo Bettauer and directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst in Germany, is one of the first films of the New Objectivity movement. Greta Garbo stars in her second major role. The film is often described as a morality story in which the 'fallen woman' suffers for her sins, while the more virtuous is rewarded.[3]

Joyless Street
Joyless Street cover.jpg
Video cover for short version
Die freudlose Gasse
Directed byGeorg Wilhelm Pabst
Written byHugo Bettauer (novel)
Willy Haas
StarringGreta Garbo
Asta Nielsen
Werner Krauss
Agnes Esterhazy
Henry Stuart
Robert Garrison
Einar Hanson
CinematographyGuido Seeber
Curt Oertel
Robert Lach
Edited byMarc Sorkin
Distributed bySofar-Film-Produktion GmbH
Release date
  • 18 May 1925 (1925-05-18)
Running time
151 minutes
LanguagesSilent film
German intertitles

The film's sets were designed by the art directors Otto Erdmann and Hans Sohnle.


In 1921 in an alley called Melchiorgasse in the poor part of Vienna, Austria, there are only two wealthy people: the butcher Josef Geiringer and Mrs. Greifer, who runs a fashion boutique and a nightclub, patronized by wealthy Viennese. Annexed to the nightclub is Merkl Hotel, a brothel to which the women of the nightclub bring their clients. The film follows the lives of two women from the same poor neighborhood, as they try to better themselves during the period of Austrian postwar hyperinflation. They are Maria, a streetwalker with a cruel and abusive father, and Grete, who at the last moment, is saved from this fate.

For the poor, the central crisis which begins the film is the lack of meat. Greta's family is made up of a proud, civil servant father and a little sister who bitterly complains that she can no longer live on cabbage soup. Grete promises meat the next day, as the butcher has advertised frozen Argentine meat in the morning. But while standing in the overnight line, Grete passes out and loses her place.

As for Maria, after being screamed at by her father for failing to bring home margarine, she writes to her lover, banking clerk Egon Stirner, and begs him to take her but ultimately believes him to be unfaithful, and falsely accuses him of murder, all the while knowing the true identity of the murderer, from having witnessed it herself.

At the finale, Else, a wife and mother, who previously provided sexual favors to the butcher for meat, kills the butcher because he refuses her any more meat. The poor of the neighborhood, hearing the sounds of the nightclub, revolt against the clients by throwing stones. The nightclub burns down killing Else and her husband in the attic, but not before allowing them to ease their infant safely to the waiting poor. Only Grete seems to have any hope of leaving Melchiorgasse, and this because of her relationship with an American Red Cross officer.


Versions of the filmEdit

Shortly after its release, different versions of the film circulated because of censorship cuts. The Filmmuseum in Munich restored the film in 1999 to its original length.[4] A digital version of this new film, 151 minutes in length, was then produced by Austrian Filmarchiv, from which it is available. A region 2 DVD version with documentary extras is available.


Greta Garbo by Alexander Binder during the filming of Die freudlose Gasse.


  1. ^ David Robinson; Paul Duncan (2007). Greta Garbo. Taschen. p. 180. ISBN 978-3-8228-2209-8. Retrieved July 18, 2010.
  2. ^ Alexander Walker; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (October 1980). Garbo: a portrait. Macmillan. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-02-622950-0. Retrieved July 27, 2010.
  3. ^ Essay by Michael Kohler on The Joyless Street at Senses of Cinema:
  4. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: Joyless Street". Silent Era. Retrieved September 11, 2009.

External linksEdit