28 March 2017

Mathias Wieman

German actor Mathias Wieman (1902-1969) starred in more than 50 films was and made Staatsschauspieler, the highest honour attainable by an actor in Germany. But a few years later he was classified as ‘persona non grata’ by Joseph Goebbels, which reduced his stage and film performances at the height of his career. After the war he became a popular supporting actor in films.

Matthias Wieman and Mady Christians in Königin Luise (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 89/3, 1925-1935. Photo: Terra Film. Publicity still for Königin Luise/Queen Louise (Karl Grune, 1927) with Mady Christians.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. G 219. Photo: Binz / Bavaria Filmkunst.

Leni Riefenstahl

Mathias Wieman was born Carl Heinrich Franz Mathias Wieman in Osnabrück in 1902. He was the only son of Carl Philipp Anton Wieman and his wife Louise.

Raised in Osnabrück, Wiesbaden and Berlin, where he studied four terms of philosophy, history of art and languages, Wieman wanted to become an airplane designer and flier.

He started his acting career at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin under the direction of Max Reinhardt. His debut role was Moritz Stiefel in Frank Wedekind’s Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening).

In the early 1920s, he was a member of the Holtorf-Truppe, a stock theatre group that included future director Veit Harlan. His fellow stage actors included his future wife, Erika Meingast, Marlene Dietrich, and Max Schreck (the vampire in Nosferatu).

Later he began working in silent films, including Mata Hari, die rote Tänzerin/Mata Hari: the Red Dancer (Friedrich Feher, 1927), Feme (Richard Oswald, 1927), Königin Luise/Queen Louise (Karl Grune, 1927) opposite Mady Christians, and Das Land ohne Frauen/Bride Number 68 (Carmine Gallone, 1929) starring Conrad Veidt.

In 1930, along with Leni Riefenstahl, he appeared in the mountain film Stürme über dem Mont Blanc/Avalanche (Arnold Fanck, 1930), and in 1932 he played the male lead in Riefenstahl's Das Blaue Licht/The Blue Light (Béla Balázs, Leni Riefenstahl, 1932).

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 1894/1, 1937-1938. Photo: Ufa / Hämmerer.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3723/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / Bavaria Filmkunst.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3948/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / Bavaria Filmkunst.

Actor of the State and Persona non grata

During the 1930s, at the height of his film career, Mathias Wieman acted in such productions as Mensch ohne Namen/The Man Without a Name (Gustav Ucicky, 1932), Die Herrin von Atlantis/L’ Atlantide/Queen of Atlantis (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1932) with Brigitte Helm, Die Gräfin von Monte Christo/The Countess of Monte Cristo (Karl Hartl, 1932), and Fräulein Hoffmanns Erzählungen/Tales of Miss Hoffmann (Carl Lamac, 1933) with Anny Ondra,

After the rise of the Nazis he acted in Der Schimmelreiter/The Rider of the White Horse (Hans Deppe, Curt Oertel, 1934), Viktoria (Carl Hoffmann, 1935) with Luise Ullrich, Patrioten/Patriots (Karl Ritter, 1937), and Togger (Jürgen von Alten, 1937) with Paul Hartmann.

He had an international success with his appearance in Die ewige Maske/The Eternal Mask (Werner Hochbaum, 1935). The film was in 1937 nominated for an award at the Venice Film Festival, and awarded with the American National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Film.

Also in 1937, Wieman was made Staatsschauspieler, an honorary title bestowed by the German government and the highest honour attainable by an actor in Germany. In 1936 Wieman had produced the Frankenburger Würfelspiel of the Nazi playwright Eberhard Wolfgang Möller in association with the 1936 Summer Olympics and the inauguration of the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne, and also played the Black Knight.

However, Wieman was eventually classed as ‘persona non grata’ by Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda who was responsible for film production in Germany.This reduced Wieman’s activity. He took part in a few films like Ich klage an/I Accuse (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1941), Das andere Ich/The other I (Wolfgang Liebeneiner, 1941), Paracelsus (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1943) starring Werner Krauss, Träumerei/Dreaming (Harald Braun, 1944) opposite Hilde Krahl, and Wie sagen wir es unseren Kindern/How Do We Tell Our Children (Hans Deppe, 1945).

After the failed 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Mathias and his wife Erika helped the family of Count Fritz-Dietlof von der Schulenburg. This assistance, at great risk to themselves, is detailed by Charlotte von der Schulenburg in the book Courageous Hearts: Women and the Anti-Hitler Plot of 1944.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. A 3306/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Binz / Tobis.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3435/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Tobis / Binz.

Mathias Wieman
German postcard by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3571/1, 1941-1944. Photo: Ufa / Binz.

Alfred Nobel

After World War II, Mathias Wieman was able to work more intensively in the film business again, normally in supporting roles. To his fairly well-known work belongs Herz der Welt/The Alfred Nobel Story (Harald Braun, 1952) in which Wieman portrayed Dr. Alfred Nobel, Solange du da bist/As Long as You're Near Me (Harald Braun, 1953), Der letzte Sommer/The Last Summer (Harald Braun, 1954), and Reifende Jugend/Ripening Youth (Ulrich Erfurth, 1955).

He appeared opposite Romy Schneider and Horst Buchholz in Robinson soll nicht sterben/The Girl and the Legend (Josef von Báky, 1957), and opposite Ingrid Bergman in Rossellini's La Paura/Fear (Roberto Rossellini, 1954).

Two of these films were in competition at the Cannes Film Festival: Herz Der Welt in 1952, and Solange Du Da Bist in 1954.

He also made many records of classic stories where he would narrate the story accompanied by orchestral music. On stage, Wieman appeared in countless productions, including Goethe's Faust, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello, and Im Dickicht der Städte (In The Jungle of Cities) by Bertolt Brecht.

After the war Mathias Wieman and his wife Erika Meingast moved to Switzerland. In 1969 he died of cancer in Zurich, soon followed by his wife. The couple had no children.

Mathias Wieman in Herz der Welt (1952)
East-German postcard by VEB Volkskunstverlag Reichenbach i.V., no. G 704, 1956. Photo: NDF / Schorchtfilm. Publicity still for Herz der Welt/The Alfred Nobel Story (Harald Braun, 1952).

Romy Schneider and Mathias Wieman in Robinson soll nicht sterben (1957)
Dutch postcard by Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 3078. Photo: Filmex NV. Publicity still for Robinson soll nicht sterben/The Girl and the Legend (Josef von Báky, 1957) with Romy Schneider and Mathias Wieman.

Sources: Dieter Svensson (Mathias Wieman Site), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

27 March 2017

Imported from the USA: Olive Moorefield

During the 1950s and 1960s, American singer and actress Olive Moorefield (1932) worked in Austria and West Germany. She starred on stage in musicals and operas, acted in several films, including Monpti (1957) with Romy Schneider and Horst Buchholz, and Onkel Toms Hütte/Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1964), and she appeared in television shows.

Olive Moorefield in Monpti (1957)
German postcard by Ufa. Photo: Vogelmann / NDF / Herzog-film. Publicity still for Monpti (Helmut Käutner, 1957).

Olive Moorefield in Die Beine von Dolores (1957)
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. V 172. Photo: Kurt-Ulrich-Film / Constantin / Wesel. Publicity still for Die Beine von Dolores/The legs of Dolores (Géza von Cziffra, 1957).

Very unusual

Olive Moorefield was born in 1932, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. She had seven siblings. After attending the Pennsylvania College, she took singing and acting lessons. In October 1952 she debuted on Broadway in New York in the play My Darlin 'Aida.

Moorefield went on extensive European tour and settled down in 1953 in Vienna, Austria. There she received a commitment at the Vienna Volksoper. At the time, this was very unusual in Europe for a black artist. She celebrated her first success with the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me Kate. Initially, she played the supporting role of Bianca, but later also the leading role of the Kate. Many other productions would follow in the next two decades and Moorefield became very popular among Viennese audiences.

Soon also parts in films followed. Moorefield first appeared as a singer in such Austrian films as the drama Das Licht der Liebe/The Light of Love (Robert A. Stemmle, 1954) with Paula Wessely, the comedy Liebe, die den Kopf verliert/Love that loses its head (Thomas Engel, 1956) starring Paul Hubschmid and the musical Scherben bringen Glück/Seven Years Hard Luck (Ernst Marischka, 1957) with Adrian Hoven.

She made several records and did not shy away from pop music. In Germany, she also appeared again as a singer in light entertainment as Einmal eine grosse Dame sein/To be a great lady for once (Erik Ode, 1957) and Die Beine von Dolores/The legs of Dolores (Géza von Cziffra, 1957).

Her first bigger part was in the melancholic romantic comedy-drama Monpti/Love from Paris (Helmut Käutner, 1957), starring Romy Schneider and Horst Bucholz, then Germany's biggest stars, as the young lovers. She also had a supporting part in Der schwarze Blitz/The black flash (Hans Grimm, 1958), featuring ski champion Toni Sailer.

Olive Moorefield
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. T 875. Photo: Kurt-Ulrich-Film / Constantin / Wesel. Publicity still for Die Beine von Dolores/The legs of Dolores (Géza von Cziffra, 1957).

Olive Moorefield in Die Beine von Dolores (1957)
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. V 181. Photo: Kurt-Ulrich-Film / Wesel. Publicity still for Die Beine von Dolores/The legs of Dolores (Géza von Cziffra, 1957).

Olive Moorefield
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag G.m.b.H., Minden/Westf., no. 2644. Photo: CCC / Deutsche Film Hansa (DFH) / Arthur Grimm. Publicity still for Einmal eine grosse Dame sein/To be a great lady for once (Erik Ode, 1957).

Olive Moorefield in Einmal eine grosse Dame sein (1957)
German postcard by Kunst und Bild, Berlin-Charlottenburg, no. I 254. Photo: Grimm / CCC / Deutsche Film Hansa. Publicity still for Einmal eine grosse Dame sein/Once a great lady (Erik Ode, 1957).

Before Mandingo and Drum there was Uncle Tom's Cabin

Olive Moorefield had her first leading role in the cinema in the Austrian comedy Skandal um Dodo/Scandal around Dodo (Eduard von Borsody, 1959) opposite Harald Juhnke. After that she returned to guest parts as a singer in Riviera-Story/Riviera Story (Wolfgang Becker, 1961) with Ulla Jacobsson, and Straße der Verheißung/Street of Temptation (Imo Moszkowicz, 1962) starring Mario Adorf.

She had another another leading role in Onkel Toms Hütte/Uncle Tom's Cabin (Géza von Radványi, 1965). The film is based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic novel of the same name. In the pre-Civil War South, a sadistic plantation-owner (Herbert Lom) brutalises his slaves to the point of them having no other choice but to rebel. Always obedient, peaceful and honest old slave Tom (John Kitzmiller) plays a central role in this tragedy. Moorefield played the slave Cassy.

Jugu Abraham at IMDb: "While the film is true to Harriet Beecher Stowe's story, the director's implicit comparison of the past and present America (skyscraper skyline shown during the credits) is interesting. Eartha Kitt's song at the end is unforgettable. The film is distinctly European (the director is Hungarian) in style and the story and songs could merit a re-release." Actually, there was a curious American re-release in 1976,Uncle Tom's Cabin (Al Adamson, 1976), edited from the 1965 film but with new scenes added. It was promoted with the tagline 'Before Mandingo and Drum there was Uncle Tom's Cabin'.

In the following decade, Moorefield did not return to the cinema, but she kept appearing in the German-speaking theatre and on TV. She was Bess in the Vienna production of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, which was also televised. I

n 1969 Olive Moorefield married Dr. Kurt Mach, with whom she has a son, Oliver Mach. She gradually withdrew from the limelight into private life. In later years, her name (now Olive Moorefield-Mach) reappeared on the administrative side at music festivals.

Olive Moorefield sings Bongo Rock in Das alte Försterhaus (1956). Source: fritz51203 (YouTube).

Olive Moorefield sings Etwas leise Musik in Der schwarze Blitz/The black flash (1958) with Oliver Grimm. Source: fritz51203 (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

26 March 2017

Tomas Milian (1933-2017)

On Wednesday 22 March 2017, Cuban-American actor Tomas Milian passed away. He worked extensively in Italian films from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. Milian played neurotic and sadistic killers in several Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s and lone-wolf anti-heroes in violent action and police thrillers of the 1970s. Very popular in Italy were his crime-comedies of the late 1970s and 1980s. Besides these genre films, he worked with such prolific directors as Mauro Bolognini, Luchino Visconti, Bernardo Bertolucci and Michelangelo Antonioni. Tomas Milian was 84.

Thomas Milian
Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, in the series Artisti di sempre, no. 118.


Tomas Milian was born as Tomás Quintín Rodríguez in Havana, Cuba in 1933 (some sources say 1932). His name is also written as Tomás Milián and Thomas Milian.

He is the son of Tomas Rodriguez, a general serving the dictatorship of Gerardo. His father was arrested and jailed after dictator Fulgencio Batista took power in Cuba in 1933. Rodriguez committed suicide in 1945 in his home, with Tomás as an eyewitness.

In 1955, Milian decided to leave Cuba. Arriving in Miami he worked in several small jobs. He joined the navy for a few months to get his American citizenship.

In New York he auditioned at the Actors Studio, where he was taught the seminal ‘Stanislavsky method’ of acting. He played on Broadway in Maidens and Mistresses at home at the Zoo. Author Meade Roberts had written the piece just for him. Milián also appeared on the short-lived television series Decoy in 1957.

In 1958 he went to Italy for a part in the play The Poet and the Muse by Jean Cocteau, which was performed at a theatre festival in Spoleto. There he decided to relocate, and he stayed in Italy for 30 years.

His Italian film debut was as a young Roman criminal in the social drama La notte brava/Bad Girls Don't Cry (Mauro Bolognini, 1959) with Rosanna Schiaffino and Elsa Martinelli. With Bolognini, he also worked on Il bell'Antonio/Handsome Antonio (Mauro Bolognini, 1960) with Marcello Mastroianni and Claudia Cardinale. The film won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival.

Milian appeared in other classic art house films such as I Delfini/The Dauphins (Francesco Maselli, 1960) starring Claudia Cardinale, and Luchino Visconti’s part of the anthology film Boccaccio '70 (1962), opposite Romy Schneider. In most of his Italian films, his voice was dubbed due to his accent. Milian performed his lines in Italian. Gradually he became a very successful performer in the European cinema.

Thomas Milian & Romy Schneider in Boccaccio 70
Publicity still distributed by Rank in Germany (see the mark of the German censor FSK at the right). Thomas Milian and Romy Schneider in Luchino Visconti's episode Il Lavoro in the episode film Boccaccio 70 (1962). Milian plays a bored aristocrat, caught in a scandal with callgirls. Schneider plays his rich and equally bored Austrian wife, who tries to seduce her husband and make him pay for love just like he did with his callgirls. It works, but leaves the woman with bitterness. The set of the film was very costly because of all the authentic, valuable objects present.

An Unexpected Boost

After five years of making what he deemed ‘intellectual’ films, Tomas Milian was unhappy with his contract with producer Franco Cristaldi and thought of going back to the United States.

Needing money to start over, he took the opportunity to star as a bandit in the Spaghetti Western El precio de un hombre/The Bounty Killer (Eugenio Martin, 1966). This Spanish-Italian production gave his career an unexpected boost, and ultimately resulted in his staying in Italy.

His next Western was La resa dei conti/The Big Gundown (Sergio Sollima, 1966) with Lee Van Cleef. According to Wikipedia it falls in to the subgenre called Zapata Westerns: Spaghetti Westerns with some political context usually concerning the Mexican revolution.

Milian played Cuchillo, a charming rogue accused of rape and murder. He played the role again in Corri, uomo, corri/Run, Man, Run! (Sergio Sollima, 1968) with Gian Maria Volonté. Milián became a star of the Spaghetti Western genre.

Among his films are the brutally violent Se sei vivo spara/Django Kill (Giulio Questi, 1967), Sentenza di morte/Death Sentence (Mario Lanfranchi, 1968) starring Richard Conte, and Vamos a matar, compañeros/Compañeros (Sergio Corbucci, 1970) with Franco Nero.

Milian often played Mexican bandits or revolutionaries, roles in which he spoke in his real voice. When the Spaghetti Western dwindled, Milián remained a star. He starred in the drama I cannibali/The Cannibals (Liliana Cavani, 1970), inspired by the Antigone of Sophocles.

He had a supporting part in Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie (1971), which won the Critics Prize at the Venice Film Festival, but failed financially and critically. More successful was the Giallo Non si sevizia un paperino/Don't Torture a Duckling (Lucio Fulci, 1972) in which he starred with Barbara Bouchet.

Milian also excelled in another genre, the Poliziotteschi (Italian police crime films). His first film in this genre Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare/Almost Human (1974) lead to five more films with the director, Umberto Lenzi.

Thomas Milian
East-German card by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 2371, 1965. Retail price: 0,20 MDN.

Cult Performer

In the late 1970s, Tomas Milian turned to comedy. In Il trucido e lo sbirro/Free Hand for a Tough Cop (Umberto Lenzi, 1976), Milian played for the first time the petty thief Sergio Marazzi aka ‘Er Monnezza’, a role that he later played two more times.

Another recurring character was the Serpico-like police officer Nico Giraldi, which he played in 12 crime-comedies. Although his voice was dubbed most of the time by Ferruccio Amendola, Milian wrote his own lines in Roman slang. Milián's inventive use of romanesco (roman dialect) made him somewhat of a cult performer in Italy, even though his later films were critically panned.

Wikipedia cites Bruno Corbucci, the director of many of these films: "At the cinemas as soon as Tomás Milian appeared on the screen, when he made a wisecrack and in the heaviest situations, then it was a pandemonium, it was like being at the stadium."

As Milian used similar make-ups and accents in portraying both characters, Monnezza and Nico were occasionally confused by Italian audiences. In Italy, Milián is now still associated with these performances.

Occasionally he appeared in non-genre pictures, such as Bernardo Bertolucci's La Luna/Luna (1979), for which he won a Nastro d'Argento for Best supporting Actor, and Michelangelo Antonioni's Identificazione di una donna/Identification of a Woman (1982). In the latter, Milián plays a divorced middle-aged filmmaker searching for a woman to play the leading role in his next film, and also in his life. The film was awarded the 35th Anniversary Prize at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.

During his 30 years in Italy, Milian received two major awards for his contribution, the Antonio de Curtis Award for Comedy and the Coppa Del Consiglio Dei Ministri from the Italian government. In 1989, he decided to go back to the United States.

He played character parts in Revenge (Tony Scott, 1990), Amistad (Steven Spielberg, 1997) and Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, 2000). He also performed on stage. More recently he appeared in Andy Garcia’s Cuban drama The Lost City (2005), and in the political thriller The Feast of the Goat (Luis Llosa, 2006), based on Mario Vargas Llosa's novel about the assassination of Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

Tomas Milian died in Miami, Florida, where he had lived in retirement. Since 1964, he was married to Rita Valletti. They had one son, Tommasso. Milian was 84.

Trailer Faccia a faccia/Face to Face (Sergio Solima, 1967). Source: Cultcinedotcom (YouTube).

Trailer Roma a mano armata/The Tough Ones (Umberto Lenzi, 1976). Source: Thomas Crommentuyn (YouTube).

Trailer Identificazione di una donna/Identification of a Woman (1982). Source: Tomas Milian (YouTube).

Sources: Sandra Brennan (AllMovie), Tom B. (Westerns... All’ Italiana), The Spaghetti Western Database, Wikipedia and IMDb.