Quick, a riddle: Who wouldn’t love a lesbian boarding school story?
Believe it or not, the first widely-released film featuring a lesbian plot came out in Germany just as Hitler was rising to power.
Despite being made in Germany, Mäedchen in Uniform was more successful elsewhere in Europe than in its home country. Its infamous goodnight kiss scene was even credited with starting a “stockings and kissing cult” in Romania.
When the Nazis came into power (unsurprisingly), they banned the film, and attempted (unsuccessfully) to burn all the prints. Mäedchen was initially banned in the United States, too, until Eleanor Roosevelt persuaded the censors to release it. Today, the whole film is not only not burned–it’s also right here, on YouTube.
Many of the artists behind Mäedchen were Jewish, and eventually fled Nazi Germany—including the director, Leontine Sagan, and actor Ilse Heim-Winter. Hertha Thiele, who played the lead character who has a crush on her teacher, was not Jewish, but was an anti-fascist who refused to cater to the expectations of the National Socialists. Rather than lend her talents to state propaganda, Thiele left Nazi Germany in 1937, eventually settling in Switzerland and working as a psychiatric nursing assistant.
Sorry we couldn’t wrap this story up on a happier note. What did you expect from a 1930s teenage lesbian drama?