Monday, May 24, 2010

#190: As Time Goes By

I don't know nearly enough about pre-World War II German cinema as I want to, or indeed should know.  In fact my knowledge kind of starts and stops with the silent era and then begins again with the Leni Riefenstahl propaganda films, such as Triumph Of The Will, which still has some of the most amazing visuals ever filmed, if you can get past the subject matter.  Still, Riefenstahl always denied that she knew of any crimes that the Nazis were doing, or any knowledge of any mass slaughter, this despite there being photographic evidence that she was present at a massacre at least once.  Still if there's one thing that old Nazis hate it's being called Nazis - just ask the Pope.

I know most of the classic horror and science fiction films - Fritz Lang, a genuis and visionary, created two of the most stunning films of all time: Metropolis and M, both of which I saw at the Shedley movie club in 1983-1984, along with some of the most amazing movies of the first part of the 20th Century - but in Hollywood his vision was stifled, as Hollywood has a tendency to do.  Idiots.

You can thus imagine my utter delight when I came across a series of pre WWII German movie flyers and, even better, a 1936 Movie Magazine Calendar, packed with images of actors that I've only ever heard of in passing and text - if only I read German, fluent or otherwise.

Some of the flyers are highly amusing and all are interesting to say the least.  Mister Deeds Geht In Die Stadt is a classic example.  Whoever did the translation must have struggled for the right word, and I defy anyone to tell me the German translation of Longfellow. Langer Gefährte perhaps? Großer Hahn? For the record, it's Longfellow here.

Also interesting is the flyer for Dunkle Geschafle (aka Dark Journey).  You could be forgiven for thinking that the movie was a starring vehicle for Vivien Leigh, but you'd be wrong.  Made two years before Leigh became a superstar with Gone With The Wind, in this film she took second billing to none other than Conrad Veidt, something that would have filled Berlin audiences with delight until the Nazis decided to blacklist Veidt because he refused to support their war effort and instead threw his lot in with the Allies. I can both admire and respect that, especially as Veidt had a career that included two of my all time favourite movies, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari and Casablanca.

It doesn't end there.  What made me chuckle for ages were some of the names that the Germans had.  Only in Germany could a man with a name like Rolf Wanka become a romantic lead.  Can you imagine the booming voice announcing the previews today?  "Coming this summer to a cinema near you: Rolf Wanka is Mad Max!"

Yep, I chuckled a lot.

And I hope she was, the delightfully looking little kitten that she was.  Personally I'd have asked her to keep that mask on right up until the vinegar strokes.  Thankfully both Wanka and Horney survived World War II intact and were able to continue making movies, mainly in Europe, although Horney did make an appearance in a Disney TV movie - beats me how that got past the Keepers Of The Mouse.

And don't we all?  The lucky bastard!  If I were the cheese in that sandwich I'd be smiling like a combination of The Mask and The Joker as well, but then I know who I'd be throwing out of bed....

Ahhhh German cinema, I need to read more about you and expand my knowledge through study, so once I've finished the books I have on European cinema and French Cinema I might track down some German cinema books and immerse myself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This'd be why Paramount was easily the most interesting Hollywood studio of the 1940s: their Germans were better than UFA's Germans, and frequently the same people.