The Lichtbild-Bühne on Gerhard Dammann as “Bumke”

Bumke the Trademark

The Lichtbild-Bühne on Gerhard Dammann as “Bumke”

A New Film-Personality

Lichtbild-Bühne no. 9, March 1, 1913

The fame shared by Christopher Columbus, Bismarck, Pastor Kneipp, Störtebeker, Asta Nielsen, Zola, Prof. Dr. Ehrlich, Buffalo Bill, and many others roused our Bumke from his Sleeping Beauty-like slumber. He went to the Continental Kunstfilm company, apologized for his late arrival, pratfalled his way into the studio, and with a pathetic gesture announced: “Here I am!”

So Bumke is here. Which means: He’s on his way. This seeming contradiction contains a grain of truth. When cinema greats are on their way, that means they have yet to arrive. This involves not only a dangerous modicum of personal appeal and technical skill before the camera, but patience and very talented management.

For now and for months to come, whenever anyone in our business asks, “Who’s Bumke?” the answer he will get is: “How do I know? Am I a prophet?” It will take some time before Bumke catches on; and to do so he will need above all to work hard and to be talented, original, and funny. Especially since his name is Bumke and his task is the rather grave one of fostering German comedy, which, as everyone knows, is a horrible thing for us ponderous northerners. Even his name, which implies far too much eccentric humor and not enough German wit, suggests a figure without any particular program to speak of.

The pseudonym Bumke, which has been trademarked, is a cover for a certain Dammann, who dared to make the leap from stage to screen. He is a true child of Berlin’s Hasenheide, the erstwhile classic forcing house of the circus, where young trapeze artists and various Original Blondins “finished” themselves as acrobats. Varieté greats learned their craft here so that later they could race across the prairies in their Pullman cars on the other side of the Big Pond, where they were celebrated as the Kings of Vaudeville. Even our Bumke, who despite his small stature is a great daredevil, spent his youth on the international vaudeville circuit and for the last decade was part of the duly famous Hans Hansen Trio, a first-class acrobatic troupe. Due to the troupe leader’s untimely death, Dammann was free to follow new paths and turned to the two dimensional art of film. What he does today may be far less dangerous than before, when he worked without a net high above the vaudeville stage or just under the big top. But his impetuous acrobatic blood continues to demand its due; his work in film is larded with eccentric little pratfalls and cascades that betray his expertise.

[…] Bumke is an original personality with the potential to be the coming attraction for German film humor. For now, however, he lacks the right director, a director who understands how to downplay his weaknesses and to foreground and spotlight his many strengths.

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