Das Fest der Schwarzen Tulpe
(The Festival of the Black Tulip)

'Lichtbild-Buehne' from 1920

Directed by Marie-Luise Droop
    and E. Mouhssin-Bey (1920)


      Carl de Vogt

Alexander Dumas published The Black Tulip in 1850. The movie, Das Fest der schwarzen Tulpe, was advertised as being based upon the novel. The book's hero is Cornelius Van Baerl, and as he spends most of the novel in prison, there is very little physical action in the plot. Therefore, more action scenes and other characters were probably introduced into the film script to make it more saleable to movie audiences. Whatever the outcome, Marie-Luise Droop's production company (which also produced Karl May's Die Teufelsanbeter which starred Carl in 1920 ) went bankrupt. The following is a summary of the book's plot. IT IS NOT NECESSARILY WHAT WAS ACTUALLY FILMED BUT PRESUMABLY IS CLOSE TO THE SCRIPT.

Set in Holland in 1672 during the throes of tulipmania, the plot concerns the brothers John and Cornelius De Witte who are supporters of Louis XIV in a time when most of the Dutch people support William of Orange. Cornelius De Witte has been arrested and tried for his support of Louis. Having negotiated extensively with France, the brothers have correspondence with the Marquis de Louvois which, if found by Prince William of Orange, would be their death.

Cornelius has given the letters to his godson, Cornelius Van Baerle, without telling him what the parcel contains. From prison De Witte writes a note on a page from the family bible telling his godson to burn the parcel without looking at it. The note also states that Van Baerle has no knowledge of the parcel's contents. Rosa, the daughter of the turnkey Gryphus, aids the two brothers to escape from the prison. However, they are overtaken by the mob and murdered as the Prince of Orange, traveling incognito, looks on.

Cornelius Van Baerle is a na´ve and gentle soul. Possessed of a large fortune, he spends his time cultivating tulips. Unknown to him, his neighbor, Isaac Boxtel, is a tulip fancier who is furious that the vastly richer Van Baerl is his rival in tulip growing. The Haarlem Tulip Society offers a 100,000 guilder prize for the first grower who can produce a truly all-black tulip, and Van Baerl becomes determined to win the contest. He produces a bulb with three suckers which he believes will be the first all black tulip in history. It is at this time that Cornelius de Witte visits his godson and leaves his precious correspondence with the Marquis de Louvois to be hidden among Van Baerl's tulip bulb cabinets. The spying Boxtel views this act through his telescope and accurately surmises that these are political papers. This sets in motion Boxtel's idea to steal the bulbs and win the prize. Boxtel causes Van Baerl to be arrested. Van Baerl grabs a paper from inside his bible and wraps up the three suckers of the black tulip bulb which he secretes in his pocket.

The jailer Gryphus falls and breaks his arm. As Van Baerl tries to help him Rosa arrives. Van Baerl sets Gryphus' arm and forms a friendship with her. Later, after Van Baerle is found guilty of treason and condemned to death, he takes the piece of paper which he has wrapped the bulbs in and writes that he bequeaths the bulbs to Rosa if she takes the prize money and marries a good man

Despite having set his arm, Gryphus hates Van Baerl and considers him a conspirator against the Prince of Orange. Rosa comes in the evenings and Cornelius has decided that he will try to grow one sucker in his cell, Rosa will try to grow one in her garden at the prison and she will save the third one for an emergency. Cornelius decides to teach Rosa to read and write and she practices on Cornelius' family bible.

Boxtel has shown up at the prison ostensibly seeking Rosa's hand in marriage. He realizes that Van Baerl must have the suckers with him. Gryphus, seeing that Van Baerl protects a small plant in his cell, smashes it to a pulp. Gryphus tells Boxtel about the smashed plant, and Boxtel becomes furious. Rosa overhears this and tells Cornelius, and they soon realize that Boxtel is after Cornelius' suckers.

Rosa's sucker blooms into an entirely black tulip. Boxtel manages to steal it, and Rosa goes to Haarlem to intercept him. At the house of the president of the Haarlem Tulip Society, the tulip is displayed and Boxtel states that the tulip is his while Rosa says that a prisoner has grown it in his cell at her father's prison. The Prince of Orange is also there and is startled to find that the prisoner is none other than the godson of John De Witt. He listens to Rosa's story, and he and the president are impressed with Rosa's sincerity. Rosa denies that Cornelius ever conspired against the Prince or connived to steal the tulip as he had created it.

The Prince asks how many suckers were from the tulip. Rosa tells him that there is a third and she removs it from her dress. It is wrapped in the paper from Cornelius De Witte which shows that Cornelius Van Baerl knew nothing of his godfather's dealings with the French. The Prince is ashamed of having allowed Cornelius Van Baerl to languish in prison and tells Isaac Boxtel that justice will be done.

Cornelius is taken to the tulip day ceremony in Harlem, and Boxtel walks behind the tulip holding the purse with 100,000 guilders prize. The Prince asks of the assemblage who has grown the flower? Cornelius, Rosa and Boxtel all walk forward. Boxtel, realizing that all is lost, swoons down dead. The Prince announces that the De Wittes were unjustly murdered. Cornelius marries Rosa, and Gryphus becomes the gardener at their estate The couple live happily ever after.

I do not know whether or not a copy of Das Fest der schwarzen Tulpe exists.