Margot Klausner was born in Berlin in 1905 to Julius and Dora Klausner. She was an author, film producer, founding owner of the first film laboratory in Israel, and active in bringing the Habimah Theater to Israel.
Klausner studied Theater and Art History in Berlin before coming to live in Palestine in 1926. Together with her husband, Yehoshua Brandstatter, she was influential in bringing the Habimah Theater from Moscow to Palestine on its first tour in 1927, and from 1932 until 1936 served as part of the management of the theater after it settled in Palestine. In 1933, the couple established Urim, a film production company. They produced their first film, Land of Promise in 1933, in cooperation with Keren Hayesod. The film, one of the most important documentaries of the Zionist period, won a prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1935. Other Urim company productions include Out of Evil (1950), Tomorrow is a Wonderful Day (1947) and Avodah 1935).
Klausner established and managed a theater in Palestine for German Jewry from 1936 to 1948. In 1949, Klausner and Brandstatter invested all their personal resources in the building of the first film studio in Israel, known as the Israel Motion Picture Studios Herzliyyah Ltd. Ground was broken in 1949; the sound stage and film laboratory were opened in 1952; color services were added in 1969; and in the early 1970s, satellite facilities were introduced. The first film to appear with the production credit of the new studios was the documentary The New Pioneers, produced in 1949. In 1956, Klausner acquired 50% of Carmel Newsreels; two years later she acquired the other 50%. From that time until the demise of newsreels (with the beginnings of Israeli television in 1968), the Studios produced hundreds of weekly Carmel-Herzliyyah Newsreels.
Klausner was a woman with a vision. In a country where cinema was not yet considered a cultural artform, Klausner realized the importance of developing a film industry for political or perhaps even propaganda purposes. Presenting her goals at the cornerstone-laying ceremony of the Studios on July 3, 1949, she said: “It is the aim of the founders of these Studios to draw the attention of the nations towards our way of life in Israel, through the aid of cinema, an art which has such a great influence in the world and reaches into all countries; to disclose to all peoples throughout the generations our spiritual and social ideals; to lead them to understand the history of Israel since the time we became a nation until this very day. May our work be blessed and may the cornerstone be a link in the chain of deeds that will establish our people in their country forever and ever.”
During the first twenty-five years of the Studios, Klausner produced five feature films: Yonatan and Tali (1953); The Boy Across the Street (1966), a prizewinner at the Venice Film Festival; Sabina and Her Men (1967); The Prodigal Son (1968); Tamar Wife of Er (1972). In addition, she invested in some of the most important films of the period, including Tent City, Every Mile a Stone, Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer, Clouds Over Israel, The Policeman, The Hero’s Wife, Peeping Toms and Big Eyes. During this period, the laboratory of the Studios processed 1,000 documentaries, 850 advertising films, 400 newsreels, 1,100 television productions and 100 feature films.
Klausner wrote a short book about her work in the film industry, entitled The Dream Industry, Memories and Facts—Twenty-five Years of the Israel Motion Picture Studios. Tel Aviv: 1974. Both her children went into the theater and film business. Her daughter, Miriam Spielman, ran the Studios after her death, and her son, Amos Mokadi, is an actor and producer.
SELECTED WORKS BY MARGOT KLAUSNER
Joseph in Egypt (Hebrew). Tel Aviv: 1965; On the Sources of Drama (Hebrew). Tel Aviv: 1953; The Death of Haim Arlozoroff (Hebrew). Tel Aviv: 1956; The Dream Industry, Memories and Facts—Twenty-five Years of the Israel Motion Picture Studios. Tel Aviv: 1974.
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Kronish, Amy. "Margot Klausner." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 24, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/klausner-margot>.