He was a painter and a stage designer. He was intersted in theater. He was a screenwriter, an actor and started direction in 1916. He asserted himself with two main films in silent German cinema, the one close to Kammerspiel, and the other closer to expressionism: Le Cabinet des figures de cire. In 1927, Carl Laemmle asked for him in Hollywood where he directed four films for Universal, like La Volonté du mort.