Teuvo Tulio

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Teuvo Tulio
Tulio in 1973
Theodor Antonius Tugai

(1912-08-23)23 August 1912
Died8 June 2000(2000-06-08) (aged 87)
Helsinki, Finland
OccupationActor, film director
Years active1929–1972

Theodor Antonius Tugai (23 August 1912 – 8 June 2000), better known as Teuvo Tulio, was a Finnish film director and actor. Beginning his career as an actor at the end of the silent era, Tulio turned to directing and producing in the 1930s. His films are noted for their extremely melodramatic style.[1][2][3]


Tulio (right), with Valentin Vaala in the 1920s.

Tulio was born as Theodor Antonius Tugai to a Turkish-Polish father named Aleksander Tugai and a Persian-Latvian mother named Helena Garschin in Rēzekne, in the Vitebsk Governorate of the Russian Empire (present-day Latvia). His mother was an 18-year-old aspiring ballerina when he was born. His parents' marriage was brief, and he spent the early part of his childhood in rural Latvia with his grandparents while his mother pursued a career as a ballerina in St. Petersburg. After his mother married a Finnish man named Alarik Rönnqvist, she sent for him to move to Helsinki in 1922, when he was ten years old.[4]

The family settled in the Katajanokka neighborhood of Helsinki. The move was not easy, however, for a boy accustomed to rural life. Theodor spoke Latvian, Russian and German, but was unable to speak Finnish and Swedish, which were spoken in Helsinki. Other children taunted him for his appearance, due to his mixed-ethnic heritage, and he later recalled that was involved in many physical altercations.[4]

In his teens, he befriended Valentin Vaala, three years older, after they met at an ice rink. Both were students at Helsinki's Russian-language Tabunov School and both were avid cinema goers who were fans of Charlie Chaplin and adventure films. At age fourteen, Tugai was the star of his Vaala's film Mustat silmät (Black Eyes), which was completed in 1929. Due to his "exotic" appearance, the young Tugai was sometimes referred to as Finland's answer to Rudolph Valentino.[4]

In 1936 he changed his name to the more Finnish Teuvo Tulio. His first work as director was the 1936 film Taistelu Heikkilän talosta (Fight over the Heikkila Mansion), starring Regina Linnanheimo.[2] Linnanheimo would become Tulio's lifelong companion, though the two were never married. She acted as the leading lady in many of his films and co-wrote the screenplays for six of his features, including his last film, 1973's Sensuela. Linnanheimo wrote the screenplay to Rikollinen nainen (The Crooked Woman) and to Olet mennyt minun vereeni (You've Gone in My Blood).

Altogether, Tulio directed 15 feature films, three of which were destroyed in a fire in 1959. Parts of two of the films have been found in 2007 and in 2015.[5]

Later influence and reputation[edit]

Tulio in the 1930s.

Tulio's films were an influence on the Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki, whose admiration brought the filmmaker international attention later in his life.[1] In 2008 and 2009, short retrospectives of his work were held in the United States at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Pacific Film Archive. Covering the former for the Village Voice, film critic J. Hoberman wrote: "At once arty and artless, stark and fulsome, Cine Tulio is characterized by an exaggerated emotional intensity and an equally primal lack of self-consciousness ... His movies are desperate and insistent, sometimes clumsy but never less than forceful. Tulio's strenuous lyricism allows the objective correlative to run wild."[1]

In a brief essay on the filmmaker for the English-language film website The Auteurs, Anna Bak-Kvapil referred to Tulio's work as "spectacles of suffering and sex,"[3] writing: "His style can be Eisensteinian, with expressionistic montages of the shining faces of the proletariat intercut with kittens, crucifixes, or half-smoked cigarettes, but he adores Hollywood, mimicking in his own over-enthusiastic way, Cukor, Lubitsch and Von Sternberg."[3]





  • Mustat silmät (1929) as Mustalaispäällikkö Eb-Anzio
  • Mustalaishurmaaja (1929) as Manjardo
  • Laveata tietä (1931) as Antti Larto alias Anton Lardozo
  • Erämaan turvissa (1931) as Lappalainen
  • Sininen varjo (1933) as Joel Orma, 'Sininen overall'
  • Fredløs (1935) as Paavo (final film role)


  1. ^ a b c Village Voice: BAM Samples Finland's Teuvo Tulio
  2. ^ a b "How did Theodor Tugai turn into Teuvo Tulio?" at Embassy of Finland, Riga
  3. ^ a b c The Auteurs: The Strange Loves of Teuvo Tulio
  4. ^ a b c Nikula, Jaana (2000). Polttava katse – Regina Linnanheimon elämä ja elokuvat (in Finnish). Helsinki: Like. ISBN 951-578-795-5.
  5. ^ a b "SILJA - FALLEN ASLEEP WHEN YOUNG — Midnight Sun Film Festival". Midnight Sun Film Festival. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  6. ^ Teuvo Tulio at Elonet (in Finnish). Retrieved February 24, 2017.
  7. ^ "THE FIGHT OVER THE HEIKKILA MANSION — Midnight Sun Film Festival". Midnight Sun Film Festival. Retrieved 12 May 2018.

External links[edit]