Victor Sjöström

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Victor Sjöström
Victor David Sjöström

(1879-09-20)20 September 1879
Died3 January 1960(1960-01-03) (aged 80)
Spouse(s)Alexandra Stjagoff (1900–1912)
Lili Bech (1914–1916)
Edith Erastoff [sv] (m. 1922; died 1945)
Parent(s)Olof Adolf Sjöström (1841–1896)
AwardsNBR Award for Best Actor
1958 Wild Strawberries

Victor David Sjöström (Swedish: [ˈvɪ̌kːtɔr ˈɧø̂ːstrœm] (About this soundlisten); 20 September 1879 – 3 January 1960), sometimes known in the United States as Victor Seastrom, was a pioneering Swedish film director, screenwriter, and actor. He began his career in Sweden, before moving to Hollywood in 1924. Sjöström worked primarily in the silent era; his best known films include The Phantom Carriage (1921), He Who Gets Slapped (1924), and The Wind (1928). Sjöström was Sweden's most prominent director in the "Golden Age of Silent Film" in Europe. Later in life, he played the leading role in Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1957).[2]


Born in Årjäng/Silbodal, in the Värmland region of Sweden, he was only a year old when his father, Olof Adolf Sjöström, moved the family to Brooklyn, New York. His mother died when he was seven years old in 1886. Sjöström returned to Sweden where he lived with relatives in Stockholm, beginning his acting career at 17 as a member of a touring theater company.

Drawn from the stage to the fledgling motion picture industry, he made his first film in 1912 under the direction of Mauritz Stiller. Between then and 1923, he directed another forty-one films in Sweden, some of which are now lost. Those surviving include The Sons of Ingmar (1919), Karin, Daughter of Ingmar (1920) and The Phantom Carriage (1921), all based on stories by the Nobel Prize–winning novelist Selma Lagerlöf. Many of his films from the period are marked by subtle character portrayal, fine storytelling and evocative settings in which the Swedish landscape often plays a key psychological role. The naturalistic quality of his films was enhanced by his (then revolutionary) preference for on-location filming, especially in rural and village settings.[citation needed] He is also known as a pioneer of continuity editing in narrative filmmaking.[3]

In 1923, Sjöström accepted an offer from Louis B. Mayer to work in the United States. In Sweden, he had acted in his own films as well as in those for others, but in Hollywood he devoted himself solely to directing. Using an anglicized name, Victor Seastrom, he made the drama film Name the Man (1924) based on the Hall Caine novel, The Master of Man. He directed stars of the day such as Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Lillian Gish, Lon Chaney, and Norma Shearer in another eight films in America before his first talkie in 1930. His 1926 film The Scarlet Letter, starring Lillian Gish as the adulterous Hester Prynne, allows Hester a certain voluptuousness; when she leaves the bare rooms of the town for a date with her lover in the verdant woods, she defiantly pulls off her scarlet letter A, takes off her cap as well, and we see her beautiful, rich head of hair.

Uncomfortable with the modifications needed to direct talking films, Victor Sjöström returned to Sweden where he directed two more films before his final directing effort, an English-language drama filmed in the United Kingdom Under the Red Robe (1937). Over the following fifteen years, Sjöström returned to acting in the theatre, performed a variety of leading roles in more than a dozen films and was a company director of Svensk Film Industri. Aged 78, he gave his final acting performance, probably his best remembered, as the elderly professor Isak Borg in Ingmar Bergman's film Wild Strawberries (1957).

Personal life[edit]

Sjöström was married three times. His daughter was actress Guje Lagerwall (1918-2019).

Victor Sjöström died in Stockholm at the age of 80, and he was interred in the Norra begravningsplatsen (Northern cemetery).




  • De svarta maskerna (1912) as Lieutenant von Mühlen
  • I lifvets vår (1912) as Cyril Alm
  • The Voice of Passion (1913) as Daniel Barkner
  • The Conflicts of Life (1913) as Otto Berner
  • För sin kärleks skull (1914) as Borgen
  • The Strike (1914) as Karl Bernsson / Gustav Bernsson
  • Kiss of Death (1916) as Òveringenjör Weyler / Ingenjör Lebel
  • Terje Vigen (A Man There Was, 1917) as Terje Vigen
  • Thomas Graals bästa barn (Thomas Graal's First Child 1917) as Thomas Graal
  • The Outlaw and His Wife (1918) as Outlaw / Kári
  • Thomas Graals bästa barn (1918) as Thomas Graal
  • Sons of Ingmar (1919) as Lill Ingmar Ingmarsson
  • Karin Daughter of Ingmar (1920) as Ingmar
  • A Lover in Pawn (1920) as Sammel Eneman
  • Körkarlen (The Phantom Carriage, 1921) as David Holm
  • Det omringade huset (1922) as Captain Davies
  • Eld ombord (1923) as Dick
  • Brokiga blad (1931) as Sjöström, director (uncredited)
  • Markurells i Wadköping (1931) as Markurell
  • Synnöve Solbakken (1934) as Sämund - Sæmund
  • Valborgsmässoafton (1935) as Frederik Bergström, Editor
  • John Ericsson - segraren vid Hampton Roads (1937) as John Ericsson
  • Gubben kommer (1939) as Carl-Henrik de Grévy, 'Gubben'
  • Mot nya tider (1939) as Hjalmar Branting
  • The Fight Continues (1941) as Andreas Berg
  • Det brinner en eld (1943) as Henrik Falkman
  • The Word (1943) as Knut Borg Sr.
  • Kejsarn av Portugallien (1944) as Jan i Skrolycka
  • Rallare (1947) as Stora Ballong
  • Jag är med eder... (1948) as Vicar
  • Farlig vår (1949) as P. Bladh, antiques dealer
  • Till glädje (To Joy, 1950, directed by Ingmar Bergman) as professor Sönderby
  • Kvartetten som sprängdes (1950) as Gustaf Borg
  • Hård klang (1952) as Klaus Willenhart
  • Kärlek (1952) as Bishop
  • Männen i mörker (1955) as Gustaf Landberg
  • Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries, 1957, directed by Ingmar Bergman) as Dr. Eberhard Isak Borg (final film role)


  1. ^ kommun, Årjängs. "Victor Sjöström - Årjängs kommun".
  2. ^ Florin, Bo (2013). Transition and Transformation: Victor Sjöström in Hollywood, 1923–1930. Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 978-90-8964-504-3.
  3. ^ "The "golden age" of silent film - Sweden - bio, actress, children, wife, cinema, role, story".

External links[edit]