Danish stage star who entered films in 1910 under the auspices of director August Blom and caused a sensation with her striking performance as a woman who obsessive passion with a ne'er-do-well man plunges her into "The Abyss" (1910). The following year, with first husband and director Urban Gad, Nielsen moved to Germany, where her intense, expressive features and markedly naturalistic acting style earned her international fame. By the early 1920s Nielsen, with her huge, dark eyes had established herself as the greatest tragedienne of the European silent cinema. She played landmark title roles in such films as "Miss Julie" (1922), "Hedda Gabler" (1924) and even "Hamlet" (1920), the latter directed by her second husband, Sven Gade, and produced by Nielsen. Probably the Asta Nielsen film best known to contemporary audiences came relatively late in her star reign, G.W. Pabst's striking "Joyless Streets" (1925).
Nielsen left films around the advent of talking pictures and worked instead on the stage. She made a brief return to films for one sound picture in 1932 and then continued her stage career for another decade, leaving Germany during the 30s as Nazism came to the fore and returning to Denmark. Nielsen published a memoir, "The Silent Muse", in 1946 and, late in life, narrated, appeared in and directed a half-hour short film about her heyday in cinema.