Wednesday, January 3, 2018

RIP Wolf C. Hartwig

German producer Wolf C. Hartwig, best known for Sam Peckinpah’s 1977 blockbuster “Cross of Iron,” died in Paris on December 18, 2017 at the age of 98. Born on September 8, 1921 in Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Hartwig was a controversial figure within the Teutonic film biz given his role as the mogul behind a series of sexploitation movies. Hartwig’s career as a producer began in 1953 with a controversial WWII documentary and, while the style and subject-matter of his projects would change markedly over the next three decades, controversy remained at the core of most of his work. He truly believed there was no such thing as bad publicity. In the early ’60s Hartwig saw profit in the Near and Far East, where he would use European funding to bankroll international co-productions with projects shot in Asian countries. These films where often Westerns or based on popular pre-war pulp-fiction characters. In 1977 Hartwig produced his first big-budget blockbuster, Sam Peckinpah’s only war film, “Cross of Iron,” starring James Coburn, Maximilian Schell and James Mason. The picture was the most expensive German post-war film up to that point. And, although U.S. admissions were hampered by the concurrent release of “Star Wars,” the film took in Germany’s largest box-office returns since 1965’s “The Sound of Music.” Hartwig’s produced three Euro-westerns: “Black Eagle of Santa Fe” (1963), “Massacre at Marble City” (1964) and “Black Eagle of Santa Fe” (1965).

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