Eva Henning was a popular actress and filmstar in the mid-1900s.
Eva Henning was the daughter of the Norwegian engineer Edgar Voss Wetlesen and his Swedish wife Ragni. She was born in Newark in USA in 1920. Her parents separated however and her mother moved home to Sweden with her daughter in 1924. She remarried there in 1926 and her second husband was Uno Henning. Eva Henning had two half-sisters, Stina and Maj, through her mother's second marriage. In Norway, her father remarried too, the same year, and on his side she also had two half-sisters, Hedvig and Anna Louise.
Eva Henning studied at the Annaskolan and Lyceum for girls in Stockholm. Through her step-father, she received the surname Henning and also early contact with the innermost theatre cirles in Stockholm. The theatre attracted her too and in 1938 she started studying at Dramaten’s theatre school in Stockholm. Among her classmates were Viveca Lindfors, Anders Ek and Bengt Ekerot.
Eva Henning made her stage debut in 1940 in her theatre school classmate Hampe Faustman’s production of the play Diana går på jakt at Nya teatern. During the 1940s and 1950s she was active at many Stockholm theatres, among them Blancheteatern, Nya teatern, Intiman, Vasateatern, Södra teatern and Alléteatern. Later she would also be active in Norway, where she was for example engaged at the Centralteatret and Det Nye Teater in Oslo. In 1968, she made her comeback on the Swedish stage, after more than ten years’ absence, with a guest performance at Folkteatern in Gothenburg. It was successful and led to a permanent engagement the following season.
Among her stage roles may be mentioned Wenche in På solsidan in 1941 at Blancheteatern, Lisbeth Drake in Väninnor in 1942 at Blanche, Irina in Three sisters in 1945 at Nya teatern, Elisabeth in På tre man hand in 1946 at Nya teatern, Marianne Anker in De fem fåglarna in 1949 at Blanche, the title role in Drömflickan in 1951 at Intiman, Maj Lovén in Fullmåne in 1952 at Intiman, Irene Elliot in Hustruleken in 1953 at Vasateatern and at Centralteatret in Oslo, Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1956 at Det Nye Teater in Oslo, Tekla in Kreditorer (Strindberg’s Creditors) in 1961 at Nationaltheatret in Oslo, Fru Elvsted in Hedda Gabler in 1966 at Oslo Nye Teater, Stephanie in Kaktusblomman in 1968 at Folkteatern in Gothenburg and Esther Franz in Priset in 1969 at the same. She particpated also in among others the Taggen-revyn in 1941 at Nya teatern and in the Nyårsrevyn 1942 at Södra teatern.
Eva Henning made her film debut in 1940 in Ragnar Arvedson’s comedy Gentleman att hyra. She had her breakthrough in 1943 in the title role in Åke Ohberg’s reality-based costume drama Elvira Madigan. She was to play the main roles in several of her husband Hasse Ekman’s films during the 1940s and 1950s. Eva Henning acted as a kind of muse who inspired her husband to new dimensions and even new choices of subject – a stimulating cooperation that lifted both of them to new heights, he in further tightening his bow as a film-maker and she in fully being able to show her special charisma and her deep and intelligent as well as insightful artistic creativity. One example of the couple’s cooperation is the film Banketten, in which Eva Henning had her breakthrough as a character actress. She had the role of the neurotic young upper-class woman Viveca ”Vica” Stenbrott who is tangled in a net of destructive relationships, drug abuse and lies about her life. It was a filmatisation of Marika Stiernstedt’s novel with the same title from 1947. The following year, Eva Henning also played the main role in the filmatisation of her colleague Birgit Tengroth’s collection of short stories: Törst. Her work was crowned the year after, with Ekman’s Flicka och hyacinter, a depiction that was as sorrowful as it was poetically beautiful, showing a fragile thread of life that breaks in its mid-flowering. The main role was tailormade for and about Eva Henning, and she breathed life into it while giving it all her strength, fragility and sensitivity of role creation.
Eva Henning performed in altogether 30 films during her career. Among these may be mentioned Snapphanar in 1941, Stopp! Tänk på något annat in 1944, Kungliga patrasket in 1945, Vandring med månen also in 1945, Banketten in 1948, Fängelse in 1949, Flickan från tredje raden and Törst also in 1949, Flicka och hyacinter and Den vita katten in 1950, Gabrielle in 1954 and Ture Sventon, privatdetektiv in 1972. Eva Henning was honoured with the Swedish Film Society’s Plaquette in 1949.
In 1954, Eva Henning moved to Norway, where she continued her work as an actress, while sometimes returning to Sweden to make a film. Around 1970, she withdrew more and more from acting, with a few exceptions. She participated through the years in various radio contexts in Sweden and Norway, as well as in Norwegian TV. Among other things, she recited Swedish poetry on the Norwegian radio, NRK, for example Karin Boye, Gustaf Fröding and the Finnish-Swedish Edith Södergran.
Eva Henning often created modern, illusion-free, sometimes neurotic young girls and women in films. She acted in farce just as naturally and convincingly as she did in psychological dramas, and she had just as self-evident a place in costume dramas. Eva Henning owned a purity and wealth of nuances, was gentle, cool and reserved while at the same time being empathetic and straightforward. She was able to communicate a kind of poetic melancholy, a soulful sadness, a feeling of bearing a secret, or rather that she herself was that enigmatic, insoluble mystery. A shy, sweet fay who did not want to allow herself to be captured, but to continue being illusory, almost ethereal – but despite all fasten on film.
Eva Henning was married for the first time in 1943–1946, when her husband was Jockum Beck-Friis. Her second marriage was in 1946–1953 to the director and actor Hasse Ekman, and her third marriage in 1954–1970 was to the Norwegian actor Toralv Maurstad. In her second marriage, her daughter Fam Ekman was born, and in the third her son Peder Maurstad as well as another son who died in 1956 at the age of six months. Her daughter is an artist and author living in Norway. Eva Henning died in Oslo in 2016. She is buried in the Western Cemetery in Oslo.