This chapter deals with Harlan’s sudden rise to fame as a theater actor. In 1925, he becomes a member of Berlin’s State Theater and has his breakthrough with Max Halbe’s play Jugend (Youth), a story of doomed love that he will later adapt for the screen. In contrast to this rather old-fashioned play, he repeatedly appears in provocative, sexually charged productions and experimental plays written by young radicals such as Arnolt Bronnen who openly attack the older generation. Critics usually describe Harlan as vivid, boyish, and sometimes too loud. There are early signs of stagnation in his acting career; he does not always play the lead, and some of his stage partners such as Lucie Mannheim and Marlene Dietrich ultimately get more attention. But even in supporting parts, he occasionally steals scenes and becomes the center of attention, as in Erwin Piscator’s celebrated Eisenstein-influenced staging of Die Räuber (The robbers) in 1926.
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