Born in Vienna, Sagan relocated to South Africa with her family at an early age, ultimately returning to Europe in the early 1910s. Fascinated by theater, Sagan would go on to pursue her acting studies further in Berlin with her mentor Max Reinhardt. Although Sagan spent most of her early career in theatre, she is perhaps best known for the films she directed in the early 1930s, particularly Mädchen in Uniform (1931). The film was groundbreaking for various reasons – most notably for the use of an all-female cast as well as its depiction of a young girl’s attraction to her female teacher. The film caused a sensation upon release and is still considered a benchmark of lesbian cinema.
Sagan would go on to direct two more features – Men of Tomorrow in 1932 and Showtime in 1946. In the years between her two later features, Sagan returned to South Africa and co-founded the National Theatre, where she would continue to produce and direct plays until her death in 1974.