Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Karl May 1965 “Old Surehand” Part 1

 How and where they filmed, Karl May 1965: “Surehand is a friend of the Indians”.

Winnetou Romania

By Big Chief



Granger doesn't want to be in costume.

January 1965 brought bad news to the office of the Rialto Film company: Stewart Granger, who plays Old Surehand, is not inclined to act in two films in Yugoslavia. It concerns the planned films "Oil Prince" / Der Ölprinz / Rampage at Apache Wells and "Old Surehand, part 1" / Old Surehand 1. Teil.

[Lex Barker Stuart Granger 1965 Lex Barker, his wife Tita and Stuart Granger at the Berlin Film Festival in 1965]

Either the conditions of filming on Yugoslavian soil, or the fee paid to suit the Hollywood star, but the producer Horst Wendlandt had to once again apply his talent of "negotiator". One way or another, Granger still starred in “The Oil Prince” (Rampage at Apache Wells) in the spring, after which he told British journalists in an interview:

“I told Horst Wendlandt that he should make these films better and better. Then they can be re-released for at least twenty years. But if you make it worse, it would be over within a year.”

How right he was, even he himself did not know. It seemed that the cloudless Yugoslav sky, beating with a bright blue from European screens, would keep Karl May's movie heroes forever. But the clouds were already gathering. In Western Europe, meanwhile, Sergio Leone's westerns, destroying the old canons, were playing, the audience swallowed "pasta" with a voracious appetite. The records of attendance were beaten by films about James Bond. Wendlandt planned to wet the enthusiasm with the third part of Winnetou, planning to release the film in October 1965 and squeeze a tear from the public over the death of the Apache leader, but it was obvious that the peak of the Karl May wave had already passed.


Stuart Granger on the set.

While they are negotiating with Granger about filming in a new "shirt" Wendlandt, trying to reduce the planned costs, thinks about the future. The plans for 1966 include three May projects (in reality, there will be only one), but the outlook does not seem to be rosy. Here are both the whims of Granger, and the increase in expenses on the Yugoslavian "Yadran Film". In general, the Germans are beginning to look towards Spain, and Wendlandt is gradually coming to the conclusion that there will probably not be a continuation of “Old Surehand”, which has not yet been filmed. The last nail in the coffin of this enterprise will be hammered by the Columbia film company. But more on that later. Stuart Granger is still in the dark, and therefore sets a number of conditions.

After reading at the end of July - a month before the shooting began - half of the script for "Old Shurhand", he said that the dialogues was very drawn out, the first appearance of the heroine Judit was not attractive enough, the bandits at the end of the film had to be captured and punished not by Winnetou, but by Surehand. The end of the film must be done the same as in "The Oil Prince". According to the plot, in the first half of the film Surehand is ordered to wear a suit ... But no, in no case! Granger will only appear in his usual Westman outfit! True, now with a pink neckerchief. He finally decided to abandon the old whites and beige ones that he wore in the previous two films, since they constantly needed to be changed due to dust and dirt. And in general, he thought about getting himself at the director's console ... It was not a joke!

Comanches instead of Iroquois.

These and other requirements will be satisfied, with the exception of one - the experienced director will be Alfred Forer, who has already walked the "May" path and whom Wendlandt has always favored.

Forer's last year's Western "Unter Geiern” (Frontier Hellcat) aroused public admiration and deservedly received the "Golden Screen". And Granger, Wendlandt promised to entrust the director's console in the second part of "Surehand".

Alfred Forer will get down to business, as always, thoroughly. This time you will have to travel a lot in Yugoslavia. True, his colleagues will be surprised when, two weeks before filming, Forer announced that he needs ten "absolutely bald heads" and five with a "mohawk" hairstyle among the Indians. Why suddenly? Perhaps he was impressed by the footage from the recent premiere of "The Last of the Mohicans" / Der letzte Mohikaner by Harald Reinl ... After negotiations with the Yugoslav side, it was agreed that the extras and stuntmen would just wear skincaps.

Forer will bring his favorite cameraman Karl Loeb and the diligent assistant Efa Abner, who knew how to get along well with Jimmy. That is how the British actor was called, because his real name is James Lablanche Stewart, and he took the pseudonym "Stewart Granger" only so that he would not be confused with the American James Stewart. True, Jimmy is only used by friends and selected colleagues, for everyone else he is everywhere and always - "Mr. Granger".

Larry Pennell as The General.

Besides him and, of course, Pierre Brice in the role of Winnetou, new faces will appear. As always, the composition of the creative team is extremely international. Surehand's opponent will be played by the American Larry Pennell, who found himself in the film industry after excellent results in baseball and serving in counterintelligence during the Korean War. On the maternal side, Indian blood flowed in his veins, and it would be just right for him to play the red-skinned leader. But, like two peas in a pod similar to the young Clark Gable, Larry Pennell will embody on the screen the image of "The General" - a dastardly killer hiding under the guise of a decent businessman Jack O'Neill.

Pennell would later compliment the Yugoslav exteriors, which are well-suited for the filming of a western, and add:

also make a career. In addition to her native language, she was fluent in French, German and Spanish, which eventually pushed her back.

During filming in Italy, and then in Germany, she was noticed, especially after Mario Bava's tape "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" / La ragazza che sapeva troppo (1963).

At first, the brave naive Judith in "Old Surehand" was supposed to be played by the Swiss Liselotte Pulver, familiar to our older viewers from the films about ghosts in Spessart. However, the role was given to Signorina Novarese, who managed to star in 12 European films in three years under the pseudonym Leticia Roman. Not least thanks to her participation in the erotic comedy Russ Mayer "Fanny Hill" (1964), which was produced by Arthur Brauner himself. The authors of "Old Surehand", unlike the previous stories by Karl May, ventured to include in the film the image of a relaxed heroine. Leticia Roman matched him perfectly. In one of the scenes, she starred without a blouse, and in the pauses between filming she posed for photographer Karl Reiter for quite frank advertising shots at that time.

After the release of the film, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung is not very fair to call Leticia "the most serious acting failure in German cinema." But the actress herself will respond well to the shooting: “Great! Despite the difficulties, I had tremendous pleasure to work with such wonderful colleagues as Stewart Granger, Pierre Brice and others. I learned a lot.”

It is noteworthy that in the future, after minor roles on television, Leticia will abandon her film career and successfully engage in the sale of real estate in Los Angeles.

[To Be Continued]


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