Re: Andres Deinum (was Joris Ivens Question)

From: db (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Sep 26 2006 - 18:09:04 PDT

A bit more about Andres, from "A Girl and a Gun" blog (just found)

While the City Sleeps (1956)—10/3/04
Fritz Lang was forty-two years old and Germany’s preeminent filmmaker
in 1933 when Josef Goebbels invited him to the propaganda ministry
for a little talk. It transpired that Goebbels’s boss thought
Metropolis (1925) was the greatest film ever made, and the idea was
to put him to work making films for Hitler’s new regime. It was no
secret that Lang’s mother was Jewish, but apparently the Nazis were
willing to overlook that and make him an honorary Aryan. As Lang told
the story, he could look out the windows of Goebbels’s office and see
the clock on the exterior wall of a nearby office building. It was a
few minutes to noon on a Saturday. He had only minutes to get to the
bank. He thanked Goebbels politely, said he would like to discuss the
generous offer with his wife, left, and went to his bank, drawing out
all his assets. He then phoned his wife and told her to pack. They
left almost immediately, going first to France, where Lang directed
one film, and then to the US, where he directed twenty-five before
returning to Germany for two late efforts. Poor eyesight forced him
to stop working, and he died in 1976.
I was in my final months of teaching at Reed College in Portland,
Oregon, in the summer of 1970. My colleague and friend Gene Lunn,
also an historian of modern Europe with a heavy film addiction, had
agreed to join me in a summer school course for Master of Arts in
Teaching candidates. But since neither of us had ever taught a film
course before, the program wouldn’t authorize us unless we could get
a pro to join us. We rustled up Andries Deinum, who taught film and
ran something called The Center for the Moving Image at Portland
State University.
Andries was born in the Netherlands in 1921 (I believe), went to the
UK during the war, where he worked with the OSS, then came to the US—
southern California, to be specific. He had worked on documentary
films as a very young man, and wanted to get into the US industry. As
he told it, “I was walking down Sunset Boulevard one day not long
after I arrived, and there, standing on the sidewalk talking to
someone, was Fritz Lang. It was like being a young composer in Berlin
and suddenly seeing Brahms. I was thunderstruck.” Andries worked for
Lang as a personal assistant, and also for John Ford, before getting
a teaching job as the University of Southern California in 1950.
Things went swimmingly for a while, but Hollywood was of course a
major target of the red-baiters running the blacklist, and after a
few years Andries—always on the left, and a member of the Communist
Party in 1946-50—found himself before the House UnAmerican Activities
Committee of cherished memory. They asked him to name names; he
politely suggested they blow it out their collective elbow. USC,
great guardian of our personal freedoms that it was in those days,
fired him the next day. But Andries was a fighter, and he continued
to speak out for what he believed in—social activism, freedom of
expression and association, the left in general. He served as a sort
of research director for the Hollywood Ten before making his way
north to Portland.
The Oregon of these days is known as a sort of quirky haven for the
unconventional—assisted suicide and that sort of thing. In the early
‘60s, it was run by right-wing yahoos and a nebbish of a mayor named
Terry Schrunk. (I had to sign a loyalty oath to teach at Reed, a
private institution, in 1963.) Schrunk’s police closed down a theater
showing Louis Malle’s The Lovers, there was a protest at city hall,
and Andries went toe-to-toe with Hizzoner. To its everlasting credit,
Portland State hired him not long thereafter. Andries thought his
years in the party were a youthful mistake, but he was never
apologetic about it. Communist influence in the movies? “One night,
we held a big party because some of us working on a movie had been
asked to create a little business for a brief shot of several men
going up in an elevator. I gave one of the guys two bars of a tune to
whistle. It was ‘The Internationale.’ We partied all night.” He
realized he probably wasn’t going to get any directing jobs when, on
one set, Lang told him he was going to get his big moment. Andries
smoked a pipe in those days, and Lang wanted him to take several big
puffs off camera and then blow the smoke into the frame, for
atmosphere. After that, teaching started looking pretty good.
Lang had turned out some tight little films when he first came to the
US: Fury (1936), You Only Live Once (1937), and later followed with
several minor-key beauties, Hangmen Also Die (1943), Ministry of Fear
(1944), The Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street (both 1945).
Rancho Notorious (1952) has its fans and The Big Heat (1953) is
always cited as top-drawer noir. By 1956, though, the well was
running dry, and While the City Sleeps was not served well by its
script, which tries to do far too much and ends up doing almost
nothing. It’s a story about a struggle for control of a media empire
in New York, and that’s interwoven with a love story, and they’re
both tangled up with a serial killer (although they didn’t call them
that in 1956). The treatment of the killer is especially dreadful;
he’s played by John Barrymore Jr., who seems to have taken his
inspiration from the potheads in those marijuana movies made during
the ‘30s. It works best as a collection of “moments,” of glances and
gestures and jokes and double-entendres (Lang works a surprising
amount of sex into the conversations) and amusing reversals, and as a
commentary on a phenomenon Lang thought was becoming very big and had
no idea how big it would in fact become. He deals with newspapers,
television, comic books (!), corporate power, and shows none of them
in an especially flattering light.
The cast included Dana Andrews (who is the hero, but also drunk about
half the time), George Sanders (who committed suicide in 1972,
leaving a note that said, “I’m so bored”), Thomas Mitchell, Rhonda
Fleming, Vincent Price (in non-Gothic mode, but still so creepy it’s
hard to see how even the golddigger played by Fleming would let him
lay a hand on her), Ida Lupino (by far the most effective, and
hilarious in a bar scene where Andrews is staring loopily into her
cleavage), James Craig, and Howard Duff (the radio voice of Sam
Spade, and a great one). At least one of these people seemed to be in
every movie I saw during the 1950s. Having them all in the same one
was like old home week.
Our course that summer included Lang’s M, on which Andries held forth
stunningly; de Sica’s Umberto D; Bertolucci’s Before the Revolution—
films I was watching for the first time, and which remain among my
personal favorites. As knowledgeable as Andries was, he left the two
novices plenty of room, and I think Gene and I grew a lot during
those two months. Part of my own growth came from just being in the
same room with Gene for a few hours a day. He was one of the most
brilliant men I’ve ever known, and if I had not already lost any
religious convictions, I’m sure his death from cancer at age forty-
eight in 1990 would have finished them off. Andries died in January
1995 at the age of seventy-six.

October 31, 2004 at 10:24 AM

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