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Home Classic Movies First Actor to Lampoon Hitler? + Charles Chaplin & René Clair at Pordenone

First Actor to Lampoon Hitler? + Charles Chaplin & René Clair at Pordenone

The Three Stooges Hitler episode You Nazty Spy

The first Hollywood actor to lampoon Hitler?

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

A few years ago, in the San Diego Jewish Journal Lynn Rapaport discussed the first Hollywood comedian to play Adolf Hitler on film. No, not Charles Chaplin. Try The Three Stooges’ Moe Howard.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that Hollywood has always relied on foreign revenues to sustain its filmmaking factories. Even so, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, several Hollywood movies did tackle the Nazi menace. Those included Warner Bros.’ Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), directed by Anatole Litvak, and starring Edward G. Robinson and Francis Lederer; MGM’s The Mortal Storm (1940), directed by Frank Borzage, and starring Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, and Robert Young; Paramount’s Arise My Love (1940), directed by Mitchell Leisen, and starring Claudette Colbert and Ray Milland; and 20th Century Fox’s The Man I Married (1940), directed by Irving Pichel, and starring Joan Bennett and Francis Lederer.

Also, the United Artists-distributed Foreign Correspondent (1940), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, and Herbert Marshall; So Ends Our Night (1941), directed by John Cromwell, and starring Fredric March, Margaret Sullavan, and Frances Dee; In addition, of course, to Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940), featuring Paulette Goddard and Jack Oakie as a Benito Mussolini parody.

You Nazy Spy: ‘Grim’ situation in Europe made ‘funny’

Below are a couple of quotes from Rapaport’s article:

“In mid-1939, Jules White, head of Columbia Pictures Shorts Department and long-time producer and director of the Three Stooges comedies, walked into his brother Sam’s office and said that he was planning a comedy about Hitler. Moe would be Hitler, Curly would be Göring, and Larry would be Goebbels. Sam told his brother that the situation in Europe was grim, and asked if he could make it funny. ‘I’ll make it funny,’ Jules replied.

“Filming began on Dec. 5, 1939. It was shot quickly, in seven days. Cutting was finished on Dec. 26, 1939, and on January 19, 1940 Columbia pictures released its 44th Three Stooges comedy, You Nazty Spy. The film cost about $18,500 to make, and preceded the release of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator by nine months. Moe Howard of the Three Stooges was the first American actor to lampoon Hitler in film. It was also his favorite Three Stooges short.”

The original Moe Howard as Adolf Hitler article is no longer available online via the San Diego Jewish Journal. However, a copy of the article can be found here.

The Three Stooges Hitler episode featuring Curly Howard, Larry Fine, and Moe Howard as Adolf Hitler publicity photo: Columbia Pictures.

Pordenone Film Festival A Propos de NiceJean Vigo classic À propos de Nice at the Pordenone Film Festival.

Pordenone Silent Film Festival: Charles Chaplin & ‘Chicago’ + René Clair

The 26th Pordenone Silent Film Festival kicked off today, Oct. 6, with screenings of Hans Behrendt’s 1927 social comedy A Royal Scandal / Die Hose, starring Werner Krauss and Jenny Jugo, and D.W. Griffith’s 1921 melodrama Dream Street, a poor return to the setting of his 1919 success Broken Blossoms. In the Dream Street cast: Carol Dempster, and potential lovers Charles Emmett Mack and Ralph Graves.

Among the 2007 Pordenone Silent Film Festival’s highlights are the following:

‘All at Sea’ (1933)

Alistair Cooke’s home movie (or rather, “boat movie”) All at Sea is described in David Robinson’s program notes as “one of the most exciting discoveries” of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, “… offering hitherto unknown impressions of [Charles] Chaplin at his most intimate and relaxed.” The film was shot while Cooke and Chaplin were on a weekend boat trip to Catalina Island – a few miles southwest of Los Angeles – in the summer of 1933. Also on board: Chaplin’s future wife – and future Paramount star – Paulette Goddard.

“With his extended thumbs touching and his palms at the parallel Chaplin would fix the frame for me and retreat to mime a range of characters he picked up from the only newspaper we had brought aboard, from the actress Jean Harlow to the Prince of Wales,” Alistair Cooke recalled in his 1977 book Six Men. With a deck mop serving as a wig, Chaplin also mimics Janet Gaynor, Greta Garbo, and (in his swimming trunks) Napoleon.

At one point considered lost, after Cooke’s death All at Sea resurfaced in the vast archive stored in his New York apartment.

‘À propos de Nice’ (1930)

This year’s Pordenone Silent Film Festival will screen Jean Vigo’s 25-minute 1930 documentary À propos de Nice, with live musical accompaniment by Michael Nyman, the composer of the haunting score for Jane Campion’s The Piano.

In the International Dictionary of Film and Filmmakers, Dudley Andrew describes À propos de Nice as “a messy film. Full of experimental techniques and frequently clumsy camerawork, it nevertheless exudes the energy of its creators and blares forth a message about social life. … À propos de Nice advanced the cinema not because it gave Vigo his start and not because it is a thoughtfully made art film. It remains one of those few examples where several powers of the medium (as recorder, organizer, clarifier of issues, and proselytizer) come together with a strength and ingenuity that are irrepressible.”

‘Chicago’ (1927)

Cecil B. DeMille’s Chicago (officially directed by Frank Urson), stars Phyllis Haver as Roxie Hart, the cutest media darling murderess of the 1920s. Despite its moralistic ending, Chicago feels more modern than most Hollywood movies made today, in addition to being infinitely better than Rob Marshall’s Academy Award-winning musical starring Renée Zellweger. Victor Varconi is Haver’s leading man in the 1927 film.

‘Only One Girl in the World’ (1930)

Officially the last Hungarian silent film and that country’s first talking picture – in other words, it’s a silent with a few talking sequences – Béla Gaál’s Only One Girl in the World / Csak egy kislány van a világon revolves around two former prisoners of war (that’s World War I) who vie for the same girl. The film’s leading lady, Marta Eggerth in her film debut, would became a major star in German-language musicals of the ’30s.

‘The Other Weimar’ series

In order to rectify the misrepresentation of post-World War I/pre-Nazi German cinema, the 2007 Pordenone Silent Film Festival will screen 15 rarely seen movies in the series “The Other Weimar.”

According to Hans-Michael Bock, Geoff Brown, and David Robinson’s program notes, “post-World War I Germany had a flourishing and prolific industry (more than 3,000 feature films were released between 1918 and 1929), which fostered the rise of an extensive generation of gifted, original directors, technicians, and actors – many of whom remain to be rediscovered and revalued.”

According to the authors, most the filmmakers and many of the actors were Jewish “and forced into exile by the rise of Nazism. In many cases they were unable to pursue careers abroad; and their names and films were simply forgotten.” They add that “a few other directors became so notoriously associated with Nazi propaganda films that critics chose simply to ostracize them and write off their earlier, generally apolitical films.”

Among The Other Weimar’s rediscoveries are the aforementioned A Royal Scandal; E.A. Dupont’s Das Alte Gesetz (1923), starring Henny Porten and Ernst Deutsch; Gerhard Lamprecht’s Buddenbrooks (1923), from Thomas Mann’s novel, starring Peter Esser, Mady Christians, and Alfred Abel; Erich Waschneck’s Die Carmen von St. Pauli (1928), with Jenny Jugo and Willy Fritsch; and Joe May’s Der Farmer aus Texas / The Cowboy Count (1925), with Willy Fritsch, Mady Christians, and Edward Burns.

René Clair silent movies

As part of the mini-series “René Clair: Le Silence Est d’Or,” the Pordenone Silent Film Festival will also screen eight René Clair silents, including Paris qui dort (1923-25), starring the charming Albert Préjean; the surrealist short Entr’acte (1924); Un chapeau de paille d’Italie (1927), also with Préjean; and Les Deux timides (1928), starring Françoise Rosay and handsome Pierre Batcheff (who would kill himself at age 24 in 1932).

The 2007 Pordenone Silent Film Festival runs until Oct. 13.

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