United Artists no more-How “Heaven’s gate” broke the studio

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This is more of a personal blog then factual although the facts are real, but when I say personal it is more a matter of taste.

In 1978 Michael Cimino directed the classic movie “the Deer Hunter” The_Deer_Hunter_posterEven though I was only 10 at the time I did recognize it to be a genuine masterpiece and it has stayed in my top 10 all time favourite movies ever since. It won the oscar for best picture and director and best supporting actor for Christopher Walken and rightfully so.

And although I would love to continue about how brilliant the performances were and the amazing cinematography and the classic sound track, I won’t.

Because this blog is not about the Deer Hunter but the movie that Michael Cimino directed 2 years later and how it stole 149 minutes of my life which I  will never get back and how it basically broke United Artists studios.

The film was “Heaven’s Gate “MV5BMjAxNDE5MzQ5M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTk3MTE3NA@@._V1_a 1980 American epic Western film written and directed by Michael Cimino. Loosely based on the Johnson County War, it portrays a fictional dispute between land barons and European immigrants in Wyoming in the 1890s. The film features an ensemble cast, including Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Brad Dourif,  Terry O’Quinn, Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe . It is generally considered one of the biggest box office bombs of all time, and was initially described as one of the worst films ever made.There were major setbacks in the film’s production due to cost and time overruns, negative press (including allegations of animal abuse on-set), and rumors about Cimino’s allegedly overbearing directorial style; the film resultantly opened to poor reviews, earning only $3.5 million domestically (from an estimated $44 million budget.

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The film’s subject was the Johnson County War of 1889-1893, a conflict between Wyoming’s biggest cattle ranchers and the immigrant homesteaders who challenged their monopoly. In Cimino’s version of events, the cigar-puffing patricians of the Stockgrowers’ Association compile “a death list” of 125 Central and Eastern Europeans they have classed as cattle rustlers, and they recruit a small army of mercenaries to wipe them out.

But Cimino wasn’t just planning a series of shoot-outs. Heaven’s Gate was to be a work of art: a monumental American saga encompassing roller-skating and baseball, a graduation waltz at Harvard, and a steamboat puffing through Newport. At its heart would be a tragic love triangle between Kristofferson’s noble marshal, the Association’s ruthless sharp-shooter (Christopher Walken), and the bordello madam they both adore. MV5BNTY5Yzc0ODEtZjUwMS00NGI4LWFkNjctNzUxOGNiMmViZGNjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_

And in here lies its downfall, the movie was just to complicated. In a way I am lucky because the first cut of the movie was 229 minutes.

The movie had a major negative impact on the US film industry.

The film’s $44 million cost  and poor performance at the box office ($3.5 million gross in the United States) generated more negative publicity than actual financial damage, causing Transamerica Corporation, United Artists’ corporate owner, to become anxious over its own public image and to abandon film production altogether.

Transamerica inserted Andy Albeck as UA’s president. United had its most successful year with four hits in 1979: Rocky IIManhattanMoonraker, and The Black Stallion.

The new leadership agreed to back Heaven’s Gate, the pet project of director Michael Cimino overran its budget and cost $44 million. This led to the resignation of Albeck who was replaced by Norbert Auerbach. United Artists recorded a major loss for the year due almost entirely to this fiasco

Transamerica then sold United Artists to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which effectively ended the studio’s existence. MGM would later revive UA as a subsidiary division. While the money loss due to Heaven’s Gate was considerable, UA was already struggling after the executive walkout in 1978 and several other major box office flops in 1980, including Cruising, Foxes and Roadie.

Six days into filming, Cimino was five days behind schedule, and had spent $900,000 on a minute-and-a-half of usable footage. Two weeks into filming, the studio calculated that, at the rate he was going, Heaven’s Gate was going to cost them $1m per minute of running time. Something had to be done. But when another UA executive, Derek Kavanagh, was dispatched to Wyoming to rewrite Cimino’s schedule, the director responded by dictating and posting a memo: “Derek Kavanagh is not to come to the location set. He is not to enter the editing room. He is not to speak to me at all.” The budget grew from a proposed $7.5m to an agreed $11.6m to a total of $44m.

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Some of the tales of Heaven’s Gate are hair-raising. In a making-of documentary, Jeff Bridges, who played a local entrepreneur, recalls that when it was time to film the climactic battle scenes, the actors would be woken at 3:30am, and driven for three hours along dirt roads to the site. Once there, it was mostly actors, rather than stunt-riders, who had to race their horses full-pelt through clouds of dust, guns blazing. Bridges was terrified by the lack of safety precautions. “Even in a real battle,” he comments, “you don’t do it over and over again.”

Most of the on-set folklore, however, isn’t about a lunatic taking dangerous risks, but about an artist labouring to make the best film possible. “From someone on the outside it would look like it was almost too much,” says Bridges, “but it never appeared that way to me. It was like, oh, this guy really cares.”

Movie are one of my biggest passions and especially westerns, but Heaven’s gate made the movie experience a living hell.

It had all started so promisingly. Cimino had been an advertising whizz-kid who moved into film with the Clint Eastwood/Jeff Bridges crime caper, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, in 1974. His follow-up was an elegiac Vietnam drama, The Deer Hunter, a critical smash that went on to win five Oscars, including best picture, in 1979.

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But the ‘Heaven’s Gate’ fiasco effectively ended Michael Cimino’s career, he did direct a few more movies afterwards but he was never able to rekindle the success he had with “the Deerhunter”

Cimino died July 2, 2016, at age 77 at his home in Beverly Hills, California.Eric Weissmann, a friend and former lawyer of Cimino, said that friends had been unable to reach Cimino by phone for the last few days and called the police, who found him dead in his bed. Weissmann stated that he had not been aware of Cimino having any illness.

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Some critics have since revised their opinion on the movie and are now deeming it to be a masterpiece. I don’t subscribe to that point of view.

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Not so much Back to the Future

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Who doesn’t remember the iconic car from Back to the Future? Or should I perhaps say the ironic car from Back to the Future,because although it couldn’t have  hoped for a better marketing tool then the movie franchise, the DeLorean DMC-12 completely failed.

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Despite it’s ultra-cool appearance  not many people actually bought a DeLorean car. They were much too expensive: Each one cost $25,000, compared with $10,000 for the average car and $18,000 for a souped-up Corvette.

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Also the wing doors weren’t that practical if you were parked between 2 cars, you couldn’t open them.

John DeLorean,the designer and the founder of the DeLorean company, grew up in Detroit and began to work for Chrysler while he was still in college. His career was a promising one.

DeLorean attended Detroit’s public grade schools, and was then accepted into Cass Technical High School, a technical high school for Detroit’s honor students, where he signed up for the electrical curriculum.

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DeLorean found the Cass experience exhilarating and he excelled at his studies. His academic record and musical talents earned him a scholarship at Lawrence Institute of Technology (now known as Lawrence Technological University), a small college in Southfield, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, that was the alma mater of some of the automobile industry’s best engineers. At Lawrence, he excelled in the study of industrial engineering.

World War II interrupted his studies. In 1943, DeLorean was drafted for military service and served three years in the U.S. Armyand received an honorable discharge. He returned to Detroit to find his mother and siblings in economic difficulty. He worked as a draftsman for the Public Lighting Commission for a year and a half to improve his family’s financial status, then returned to Lawrence to finish his degree

He worked his way up the corporate ladder at General Motors, where he is credited with designing the GTO and the Firebird, and became a vice-president in 1972, but he left the company just a year later to pursue his own business interests. In 1978, he started the DeLorean Motor Company in Northern Ireland

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The British government, along with investors like Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis, Jr., paid the bulk of his start-up costs—to build his dream car: the DMC-12, a sports car that was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Its stainless-steel body was unpainted; its doors opened up, not out; it had a 130-hp Renault engine and could go from zero to 60 mph in eight seconds.

However John DeLorean got into difficulties.On October 19, 1982, he wass arrested and charged with conspiracy to obtain and distribute 55 pounds of cocaine. DeLorean was acquitted of the drug charges in August 1984, but his legal woes were only beginning.

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He soon went on trial for fraud and over the next two decades was forced to pay millions of dollars to creditors and lawyers. Nevertheless, DeLorean occupies an important place in automotive history: Thanks to its starring role in the 1985 film “Back to the Future,” his gull-wing sports car is one of the most famous cars in the world.

DeLorean was already mired in legal problems by the time  Steven Spielberg chose a DMC–12 to serve as Marty McFly’s time machine in “Back to the Future.”

Back_to_the_FutureSpielberg had originally planned to use an old refrigerator instead of a car, but had changed his mind at the last minute. (The director liked the DeLorean’s futuristic look, but more than that he was worried that young fans of the movie might accidentally get stuck in refrigerators and freezers while playing make-believe.) While the DeLorean’s instant celebrity did not do much to revive its creator’s fortunes, it granted him a permanent footnote in pop-culture history.

DeLorean died at Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey from a stroke, on March 19, 2005 at age 80. He was a resident of Bedminster, New Jersey. His ashes are interred at the White Chapel Cemetery, in Troy, Michigan. His tombstone shows a depiction of his DMC-12 with the gull-wing doors open.At the request of his family, and in keeping with military tradition, he was interred with military honors for his service in World War II.

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Happy 120th Birthday,Count Dracula.

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When I was a young boy, Count Dracula scared the crap out of me.Having an older brother pretending the Count didn’t help either. The fear was so real that to this day I still have a phobia for Bats.

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Little did I know then I would end up living in the country where the legend of Dracula was created, Ireland.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, on November 8, 1847, Bram Stoker published his first literary work, The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, a handbook in legal administration, in 1879. Turning to fiction later in life, Stoker published his masterpiece Dracula, in 1897.

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On 26 May 1897,Stoker published his masterpiece, Dracula. While the book garnered success after its release, its popularity has continued to grow for more than a century. Deemed a classic horror novel today, Dracula has inspired the creation of numerous theatrical, literary and film adaptations. Among them are the 1931 film Dracula, starring actor Bela Lugosi, and F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film Nosferatu, starring Max Schreck.

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Dracula is literally translated in Gaelic as Drac Ullah (or Droch fola) meaning bad blood.

Count Dracula, a fictional character in the Dracula novel, was inspired by one of the best-known figures of Romanian history, Vlad Dracula, nicknamed Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), who was the ruler of Walachia at various times from 1456-1462. Born in 1431 in Sighisoara, he resided all his adult life in Walachia, except for periods of imprisonment at Pest and Visegrad (in Hungary)

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Although he never traveled to Romania, Stoker crammed his book with descriptions of many real locations that can still be visited in present-day Romania. They include the most important historical places associated with Vlad Tepes, such as the 14th century town of Sighisoara where you can visit the house in which Vlad was born (now hosting a restaurant and a small museum of medieval weapons).

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Other Dracula sites include: the Old Princely Court (Palatul Curtea Veche) in Bucharest, Snagov Monastery, where, according to legend, Vlad’s remains were buried; the ruins of the Poenari Fortress (considered to be the authentic Dracula’s Castle); the village of Arefu where Dracula legends are still told, the city of Brasov where Vlad led raids against the Saxons merchants, and, of course, Bran Castle.

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“Vlad the Impaler” is said to have killed from 40,000 to 100,000 European civilians (political rivals, criminals, and anyone that he considered “useless to humanity”), mainly by impaling. The sources depicting these events are records by Saxon settlers in neighbouring Transylvania who had frequent clashes with Vlad III. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Ottoman Turks, of whom his impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000.

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The story of Dracula has been the basis for numerous films and plays. Stoker himself wrote the first theatrical adaptation, which was presented at the Lyceum Theatre on 18 May 1897 under the title Dracula, or The Undead shortly before the novel’s publication and performed only once, in order to establish his own copyright for such adaptations. This adaption was first published only a century later in Oct 1997.[49] The first motion picture to feature Dracula was Dracula’s Death, produced in Hungary in 1921.

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F. W. Murnau’s unauthorised film adaptation Nosferatu was released in 1922, and the popularity of the novel increased considerably, owing to an attempt by Stoker’s widow tried to have the film removed from public circulation.

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In 1958, British film company Hammer Film Productions followed the success of its The Curse of Frankenstein from the previous year with Dracula, released in the US as The Horror of Dracula, directed by Terence Fisher. Fisher’s production featured Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, but it diverged considerably from the original novel.

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It was an international hit for Hammer Film, however, and both Lee and Cushing reprised their roles multiple times over the next decade and a half,

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concluding with The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (with Cushing but not Lee) in 1974. Christopher Lee also took on the role of Dracula in Count Dracula, a 1970 Spanish-Italian-German co-production notable for its adherence to the plot of the original novel.

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Many adaptions have been made over the years, The one truest to the novel is probably the 1992 adaption directed by Francis Ford Coppola,Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with Gary Oldman in the role as Dracula.

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Nearly as popular as the main character is  the main protagonist,Professor Abraham Van Helsing.He is an aged Dutch doctor with a wide range of interests and accomplishments, partly attested by the string of letters that follows his name: “MD, D.Ph., D.Litt., etc, etc,”[4] indicating a wealth of experience, education and expertise. The character is best known throughout his many adaptations as a vampire hunter and the archenemy of Count Dracula. The character is been portrayed in most of the Dracula movies but also in other fictional Gothic  stories. In 2004 he was the main character in the movie “Van Hesling” played by Hugh Jackman.

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After 120 years the story of Dracula still captures the imagination of many and  is as popular as ever(if not more) it really has stood the test of time. Happy Birthday Count Dracula.

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The tragic life and death of Harry Baur

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Harry Baur (12 April 1880 as Henri-Marie Baur in Montrouge, Hauts-de-Seine – 8 April 1943 in Paris) was a French actor.. Thanks to his impressive performance and his melodic voice he became one of the most important French actors of his time.

His father died in 1890 when his business was left ruined  after a break-in. His mother placed him in  a Catholic boarding school, but he ran away to Marseille.

He initially intended to become a sailor but opted for a career as actor.

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Initially a stage actor, he was described by film academic Ginette Vincendeau as “a corpulent man with a resonant voice, his stagey performance style ranged from the hammy … to the soberly moving”. Baur appeared in about 80 films between 1909 and 1942. He gave an acclaimed performance as the composer Ludwig van Beethoven in the biopic Beethoven’s Great Love (Un grand amour de Beethoven, 1936), directed by Abel Gance.

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And as Jean Valjean in Raymond Bernard’s version of Les Misérables (1934). He also acted in Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset’s silent film, Beethoven (1909), and in La voyante (1923), Sarah Bernhardt’s last film.

But Harry Baur had to bear two bad blows during the time of success, when his wife,actress Rose Grane, and his 20 year old son died in 1930.

He married actress Rika Radifé in 1936.

With the Nazi occupation of France in 1940, Baur made public pro-French statements and as punishment was forced into making films in Germany. In 1942 in Berlin he was to star in his last film “Symphone eines Lebens”

While filmimg  Baur’s Jewish wife was arrested on false charges of espionage, and when he tried to secure her release he was arrested himself and tortured by the Gestapo. He was subsequently sent to the concentration camp at Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris. In April of 1943 Baur was released but died mysteriously in Paris a few days later. His death further inflamed anti-German sentiment and his funeral was the occasion of a huge public demonstration.

 

 

The positive vibes of the Rocky movies.

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This is going to be a completely bias blog and I am not apologizing for it.For some reason I tend to watch the Rocky movies every time I am going to a bit of a rough time.

Although the movies are really not of the standard I usually would watch, I can’t but help having a soft spot for the franchise, yes even for the last 2 installments. It is not only the story of someone not giving up despite a lot of hardship, it is also  the music that works uplifting.

I was going for a walk earlier this week and as usual I would listen to music while walking. At one stage I was reflecting on some recent hard times and nearly became overwhelmed by emotion, but before the tears had a chance to make an appearance Bill Conti’s “Flying High now” was piping through my head set and it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.

It is also because of the Rocky movies and especially III and IV I was introduced to one of my all time favourite rock bands Survivor. “Eye of the Tiger” became an instant classic as did “Burning heart” and again both songs will leave you with this great and positive feeling, as if you are able to take on the world.

Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for Rocky in three and a half days, shortly after watching the championship match between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner that took place at Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio on March 24, 1975. Wepner was TKO’d in the 15th round of the match by Ali, but nobody ever expected.

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When Rocky Balboa runs up those steps in Philadelphia you feel like you’re running up with them and you get an equal buzz when you reach the top. And I think that is what the message is from the movies”It may seem like a lot you have to overcome but when you get to the top, the view is great”rocky-steps-with-love-philadelphia1-600vp

Joachim Gottschalk’s suicide.

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Gottschalk, the son of a physician, was born in the small town of Calau, in the Prussian province of Brandenburg, on April 10 1904. He attended the Gymnasium high school in Cottbus and from 1924 worked for four years on seagoing vessels. He later began an theatrical education in Cottbus and Berlin. During an engagement in Stuttgart, he met with his later wife, the Jewish actress Meta Wolff  They married on 3 May 1930 in Halberstadt, shortly before Hitler came to power. They had a son, Michael, who was born in February 1933.

After the Nazi took power in 1933, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels promoted the establishment of the Reichskulturkammer (Chamber of Culture) instituition. Actors were required to apply for membership in the Theaterkammer (Chamber of Theatre) for an “Aryan certificate” which meant a prohibition (Berufsverbot) for Meta Wolff.

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The couple managed to avoid the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws and rising tide of anti-semitic violence in Nazi Germany. From 1934 Gottschalk performed at the Schauspielhaus Frankfurt and in 1938 joined the Volksbühne ensemble in Berlin. In the same year he began his film career starring in the romance You and I directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner, side by side with the popular German actress Brigitte Horney.

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During World War II , Gottschalk and Horney appeared as a “dream couple” in a string of successful movies.

One day Gottschalk took his Jewish wife to a social function and introduced her to some of the prominent Nazis who were present. Although the Nazis were charmed, Goebbels  learned about this incident, and decreed that Gottschalk would be required to separate from his Jewish wife. When Gottschalk refused, Goebbels ordered Gottschalk’s wife and child transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The minister’s Special Representative Hans Hinkel insisted on the divorce and Gottschalk was told he would never work as an actor againHans Hinkel

Gottschalk insisted on accompanying Meta and Michael to Theresienstadt, but Goebbels ordered Gottschalk inducted into the German Army, the Wehrmacht.

On 6 November 1941, minutes before the expected arrival of the Gestapo at their house in Berlin-Grunewald, Gottschalk and his wife committed suicide by gas poisoning after sedating their son, who died with them.

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They are buried at the Stahnsdorf South-Western Cemetery. Though warned by Minister Goebbels, Brigitte Horney and Wolfgang Liebeneiner, as well as other artists like Gustav Knuth, Hans Brausewetter, Werner Hinz, and Ruth Hellberg attended the funeral.

Goebbels ordered no further mentions of Gottschalk in the German newspapers.Because of Nazi censorship, most of his devoted fans did not learn of the awful circumstances of his death until after the war. In 1947 Kurt Maetzig directed the movie Marriage in the Shadows after a novella by Hans Schweikart based on Gottschalk  and Wolff.Ehe_im_schatten

 

The 2002 drama Times Like These written by John O’Keefe is  also based on this tragedy.

 

Herbert Brenon-Forgotten Irish Oscar nominated Movie Director

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I pride myself to be a bit of a movie buff, but to my amazement I had never heard of this Oscar nominated and ‘Photo Play-Medal of Honor’ winner.

Today marks his 137th birthday. He has been credited for directing at least 124 movie and shorts, which is an amazing feat by any measure.

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Herbert Brenon (13 January 1880 – 21 June 1958) born Alexander Herbert Reginald St. John Brenon was an Irish film director, actor and screenwriter during the era of silent movies through the 1930s.

He was born at 25 Crosthwaite Park, in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, to journalist, poet and politician Edward St John Brenon and Francis Harries.

In 1882, the family moved to London, where Herbert was educated at St Paul’s School and at King’s College London.

 

Before becoming a director, he performed in vaudeville acts with his wife, Helen Oberg. Started as a stagehand in New York. By 1909 he operated a small picture theatre in Pennsylvania. Two years later he was hired as a writer by Carl Laemmle, directing his first short the next year. Signed by William Fox in 1915, graduating to feature films.

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Some of his more noteworthy films were the first movie adaptations of Peter Pan (1924) and Beau Geste (1926),and Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) with Lon Chaney.

For the 1927 movie “Sorrell and Son” about a a decorated war hero, who raises his son Kit alone after Kit’s mother deserts husband and child in the boy’s infancy, he was nominated for the Academy Award for best director ,dramatic pictures, at the First ever Oscars(Academy Awards) in 1929.

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Unfortunately he lost out to Frank Borzage for his picture “7th Heaven”

Regarded sound pictures with a measure of apprehension. Returned to Britain in 1934, but his career was well on the decline and he retired in 1940.His last movie “The Flying Squad”  he shot in London in 1940. It was based on a novel by Edgar Wallace in which the officers of the Flying Squad attempt to tackle a drug-smuggling organisation. The novel had previously been filmed in 1929 and 1932.

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He died in Los Angeles, California and was interred in a private mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY. Survived by a son, Dr. Herbert Cyril Brenon.

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Max Ehrlich-Told to be funny or be shot.

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Max Ehrlich (1892-1944) was one of the most celebrated actors and directors on the German comedy and cabaret scene of the 1930s. But his brilliant career was brutally interrupted by the rise of Nazism and his resulting deportation in 1942 to Westerbork concentration camp in Holland. Amazingly, there behind the walls and barbed wire, Max Ehrlich formed a theater troupe composed of fellow prisoners – the majority of them also famous Jewish show business personalities – and produced high quality musical and comedy revues. This artistic activity provided the means for everyone concerned, audience and actors alike, to retain a small measure of humanity, free their minds – if only momentarily – from the tragedy of daily life and nourish the illusion of survival. But, in the end, comedy did not prevail: like almost all of his colleagues from this theater of despair, in 1944 Max Ehrlich was transported to Auschwitz and gassed.

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Born on 25 November 1892, Max Ehrlich began his career as a stage actor in the 1920s, quickly building a reputation as a vital force on the Berlin cabaret scene. A popular parodist and poet, he performed with many other Jewish and leftist artists during the Weimar years.  However, like most of his fellow performers, his work was largely apolitical or only subtly critical.  Ehrlich also became a successful movie actor, with more than forty movie credits to his name by the time the Nazi take-over in 1933 abruptly ended his career.

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Max Ehrlich took part in over 40 movies and directed ten of it in his career. He published several records and wrote the book “From Adalbert to Zilzer”, in which he wrote humorous stories and anecdotes about many of his colleagues.

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With most performance venues either shut down or prohibited to him, that year he decided to assess the scene in Austria.  However, in Vienna as in Berlin, Nazis harassed him while he was on stage, ultimately making his act impossible.  Reluctantly he moved through Switzerland on to the Nerherlands, where he was already well-known as a touring comedian and cabaret star.  (German cabaret was popular in continental Europe during the inter-war years).  After two years touring Amsterdam, Zurich and Bern with other émigré artists, however, homesickness and the hope that things would get better drove him back to Berlin.

In 1935, Ehrlich returned to Nazi Germany. Jewish entertainers once again were permitted to perform there but only within the framework of the Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Union) and exclusively in front of Jewish audiences.

In 1937 he left Germany and with the help of Ernst Lubitsch he went to the USA.

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Unfortunately he was not able to get work there, so he made the fatal decision to return to Europe

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Ehrlich was named director of the Kulturbund’s light theatre departments. However, following the 1938 pogrom “Kristallnacht,” he decided to leave Germany definitively.

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Both of his farewell performances immediately sold out, so that a third presentation on 2 April 1939 was added. Here, in front of a full house of fans, calling out their affection and encouragement, Ehrlich made his final appearance in Germany.

Subsequently, he returned to the Netherlands once again and joined Willy Rosen’s “Theater der Prominenten” (Theatre of Celebrities),

 

until in 1943 ,like so many of his colleagues– Ehrlich was imprisoned in the Westerbork concentration camp. While at Westerbork, he created and became director of the “Camp Westerbork Theatre Group,” a cabaret troupe that during its eighteen-month existence staged six major theatre productions, all within the concentration camp’s confines. A majority of the actors were famous Jewish show business personalities; prominent artists from Berlin and Vienna, such as Willy Rosen, Erich Ziegler, Camilla Spira, and Kurt Gerron; or well known Dutch performers, like Esther Philipse, Jetty Cantor, and Johnny & Jones. At its high point, the group counted fifty-one members, including a full team of musicians, dancers, choreographers, artists, tailors, and make-up, lighting, and other technicians, as well as stage hands.

Most of the shows combined elements of revue and cabaret –songs and sketches– but, on one occasion, the program included a revue-operetta, Ludmilla, or Corpses Everywhere—a production whose theme sadly was a premonition of the actors’ and other prisoners’ fate. While some scenes were implicitly critical, of course, the Theatre Group at no time produced openly political cabaret or directly attacked the Nazi regime.

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To do so would have violated the most fundamental condition for the troupe’s and its members’ survival, as life in Westerbork was dominated by the persistent threat of deportation on the next transport to an unknown but deeply feared fate in the East. So, standing helplessly and unaided before the fascists’ executioners and their lackeys, the Theatre Group, of necessity, limited itself to entertaining its audiences and to momentarily distracting them from the surrounding horrors. But in so doing, it also gave their captive audiences renewed hope and the courage to face an otherwise unbearable existence.

Doubtlessly, this artistic activity provided the means for everyone concerned, audiences and actors alike, to retain a small measure of humanity, free their minds –if only momentarily– from the tragedy of daily life and nourish the illusion of survival.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/06/22/holocaust-and-humour/

During the summer of 1944, increasing numbers of transports carried Westerbork’s prisoners to the extermination camps in the East. Of 104,000 camp inmates, fewer than 5,000 survived. In the last transport to leave Westerbork, on 4 September 1944, Ehrlich was number 151 on the list of victims. Eyewitnesses recount that, after reaching Auschwitz, he was recognized by a Hauptsturmführer. As a result, Ehrlich was subjected to additional torture: brought before a group of SS officers holding their loaded guns aimed at him, he was ordered to tell jokes. On 1 October 1944, Ehrlich was murdered in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

 

 

The War of the Worlds

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

— H. G. Wells (1898), The War of the Worlds

I don’t know what it is about this Sci-Fi classic by H.G. Wells first serialised in 1897 in the UK by Pearson’s Magazine and in the US by Cosmopolitan magazine. The novel’s first appearance in hardcover was in 1898 from publisher William Heinemann of London.

But ever since I came across the story I fell in love with it. But it was via Jeff Wayne’s musical version I  encountered the tale of the Martians that invaded our planet, Even though the chances of this happening were a Million to one.

I forget how often I have listened to that album but at least hundreds of times if not thousands(maybe I should get out more). In 2008 I got the chance to see the live show. 30 years I had waited for it and it did not disappoint. Although I was a bit surprised by the cast who joined for the most recent shows,in my opinion some just had no talent at all(An ex member of Westlife), leave alone to be a part of such an amazing phenomena.

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But of course it was Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of the World of the Wars which had probably the biggest impact. The panic that ensued because people believed it was a genuine news broadcast. Ingenious really when you think of it, you just can’t buy that kind of publicity. It was on the 30th of October 1938, the world was in grip of events happening in Germany.

 

Someone asked me once “what is your favourite War of the Worlds movie?”And I honestly couldn’t say. I like the 1953 and Spielberg’s 2005 adaptation equally.

The story is really the most basic form of Science Fiction. The earth being invaded by aliens. But it works, it is compelling. It basically is a war story but rather then human enemies we are fighting extra terrestrial foes.

The story clearly inspired other TV show and movie makers. Series like “V” and “Falling Skies” are clearly based on the War of the Worlds as is “Independence Day”

What is the most fascinating is that it was written between 1895 and 1897 and it didn’t date. It is still as fresh as it was when it was first released. Ironically I only read the book after I listened to the musical version and watched the movies.

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I think I might just retreat now and listen to the album again, or read the book. I may even watch one of the movies.Either way one thing I know for sure the story will never bore me regardless in which configuration or adaption. Leaving you with some art work of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of TWOTW and my favorite track.

A great script does matter

I am a great fan of TV Dramas and Movies and despite a lot of critics saying that the last few years the quality has gone down, I believe that this isn’t really the case.

Particularly the TV Shows have really improved, I think it was shows like the Sopranos that really raised the bar.

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TV Channels and production companies like HBO, Showtime and AMC have really invigorated the TV landscape, throw in the mix Netflix and Amazon Prime and the online entertainment is complete. If it wasn’t for these companies who basically gave a cart blanch to TV Show makers we would have never had show like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and their spin off Better Call Saul and Fear the Walking Dead

Shows like Ray Donovan, House of Cards,Bosch,Homeland and Game of Thrones would have never been aired, especially Game of Thrones with an often graphic and even pornographic content.

So on TV front I think the quality has gone up dramatically, but of course this is all a matter of taste. The one thing these shows have in common they are all character driven and it is evident that a lot of time is spend on the scripts.

Take Game of Thrones for example, although some of the graphic scenes are really ‘in your face’ it doesn’t take away from the character, Peter Dinklage who plays  his character Tyrion Lannister  so convincing that you don’t even notice his small stature.

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However unfortunately there are shows who started so promising but really failed to maintain the initial strong story lines.

Lost, took the world by a storm but at the end it ended in a damp squib. It really felt like the producers wanted to drag it out to get as much money as possible from the show  at the cost of a good script. They should have kept to the originally planned 3 seasons.

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Another prime example is Heroes. It started of great it had everything one could want in a show about heroes and villains, until season 3 that is where they came up with this ridiculous story line based in Cork,Ireland with the worse Irish accents I ever heard. But I could get over the accents, the worse thing here was they showed heavily armed security guards in a warehouse,not even the Police have guns in Ireland. That was just lazy script writing.

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One show that kept me interested until the very last episode was True Blood, unfortunately after all the hard work they had put in , it seemed that they had just given up at the very end. I have never have been more disappointed by a finale then with True Blood it was the mother of all anti-climaxes.

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By no stretch of the imagination am I a fan of the Irish national broadcaster RTE, but they did produce one of the most realistic and gritty crime drama’s even for international standards.

When I first heard of Love/Hate I had closed my mind to it, solely because of the fact it was made by RTE, but boy was I wrong. It is one of my all time favorites on par with The Sopranos ,Ray Donovan and Breaking Bad.

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Funny enough it was our Scandinavian brethren who produced some of the finest pieces of Crime drama this century, although subtitled the characters were so strong that you’d nearly forget they were talking Danish and Swedish. I am of course talking about The Killing(Forbrydelsen), the Bridge(Bron/Broen) and Wallander(well that is still Wallander in Swedish). I wasn’t to impressed with the BBC version with Kenneth Branagh.

When it comes to TV Shows I do tend to have a preference to Police Drama’s as a kid I grew up watching the German cop shows Derrick and Tatort, the latter one meaning Crime Scene, so basically it was CSI before ‘the’ CSI.

There might be more of a case when it comes to the Big screen to say the quality of movies just isn’t what it used to be and a lot of it is because of dodgy CGI, but having that said some of my all time favorite movies were made the last 16 years or so. Gladiator,The Lord of the Rings Trilogy,The Dark Knight trilogy, Pan’s Labyrinth and I am Legend, to name but a few. Again all these movies even though they were jam packed with special effects they were still character driven and a lot of attention was given to the script.But also movies like Gran Torino and Gone baby Gone are masterpieces.

I do get over some minor discrepancies in scripts, like in the recent ‘Captain America-Civil War’ where they mix up one German word, although it is annoying for a linguist like me, it didn’t take away the overall enjoyment of the movie.

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However when they mess up a whole scene by having a Finnish guy speak German as if it was Finnish is just lazy and unforgivable , this was the case in Swordfish,maybe that’s why Halle Berry took her top off to distract from the bad and lazy script.

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All in all as a viewer I think we are spoiled for choice in both TV and Cinema features.