The remarkable Oskar Werner

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Belle
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The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by Belle » Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:43 am

I've just watched the 1951 film "Decision Before Dawn", starring Oskar Werner and filmed in Germany five years after WW2. Directed by Anatole Litvak, cinematography by Franz Planer, written by Peter Viertel (from a novel based on true events) and with music by Franz Waxman. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1951 but was beaten by "An American in Paris". This largely forgotten gem of a film reminded me of the wonderful Oskar Werner - a gorgeous actor with an extraordinary voice and talent. This documentary about him was made 7 years after his death in 1991 and is, unfortunately, all in German. Made by ORF2 in Austria it demonstrates clearly the remarkable acting of Werner - essentially a Schauspieler of the theatre. The film captures the sad decline of Werner, who became a hopeless alcoholic and died aged 62 in October, 1984. A man who seemed to have everything; looks, talent, class and yet the film suggests he was plagued by depression and turned to alcohol. There's a very touching scene in the film between Werner and his young son when they are singing the bird-catcher's song from "The Magic Flute".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBuqJdiFKV8

I was amazed when I watched this documentary to find that I lived in 2011 a few doors down from the house of Werner's birth in Marchettigasse, Mariahilf, Wien. The film jogged by memory of seeing the plaque on the front of the house!!

Remembering Oskar Werner - one of the great acting talents of Austria who became an international star.

jserraglio
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by jserraglio » Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:27 pm

Loved him in Jules and Jim.

Belle
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by Belle » Tue Jun 04, 2019 5:27 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:27 pm
Loved him in Jules and Jim.
I wish I could get access to a subtitled version of that film as I haven't seen it. Werner had German (of course), English and French. He died at about the same time as Truffaut!! What a glorious voice he had; it was a musical instrument! Only sorry I was never able to see him in the theatre. He died 2 weeks before my mother and there was no time to focus on the passing of Oskar Werner at that time.

In that documentary from ORF2 that I posted, you can go to 15:20 to see that touching (private) film of Werner singing Mozart with his young son.

jserraglio
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by jserraglio » Tue Jun 04, 2019 5:56 pm

Belle wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 5:27 pm
I wish I could get access to a subtitled version of that film as I haven't seen it.
https://www.amazon.com.au/Jules-Jim/dp/ ... =8-1-fkmr3 Region 2 encoding: requires a region-free DVD player

I had a crush on Jeanne Moreau.

Belle
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by Belle » Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:20 pm

Thanks very much; I have a Blue-Ray player but I don't know if it's region specific. Will ask one of my sons.

Some of those European actresses were absolutely stunning; Signoret, Moreau, Schneider, Deneuve. (Was never a fan of Bardot - she had the aroma of 'cheap' about her!) And some of the men are and were beautiful; Alain Delon and, of course, Oscar Werner. Klaus Maria Brandauer, Franco Nero and the late Kurt Jurgens and Vittorio Gassman; gorgeous, all of them.

For me, the voice of Oskar Werner was the incomparable instrument par excellence. I would put him on the level of Olivier in that respect and nobody else could touch either of them!! However, I always had the impression that Olivier was 'practiced' whereas Werner was not. A cultured Hochdeutsch was his vocal livery.

John F
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by John F » Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:10 pm

He's Fiedler, the East German who debriefs Leamas (Richard Burton) in "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold," a great movie perfectly cast from top to bottom. I saw it in the post movie theater when I was stationed with the Army in Germany, right after coming back from a visit to Berlin, West and East. Chilling.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by Belle » Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:28 pm

John F wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:10 pm
He's Fiedler, the East German who debriefs Leamas (Richard Burton) in "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold," a great movie perfectly cast from top to bottom. I saw it in the post movie theater when I was stationed with the Army in Germany, right after coming back from a visit to Berlin, West and East. Chilling.
Yes, John, and it was a mesmerizing performance. The voice, the eyes. Here he is reading "Der Erlkönig": translation first,

https://germanstories.vcu.edu/goethe/erl_dual.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfEJE2Kq4Lk

I've been reading a bit about Oskar Werner and he had a fondness for poetry recitals and putting these onto recordings and/or film - as in this case. Fortunately. That miracle voice is preserved in perpetuity.

Werner became dissipated through drink and in many respects he is reminiscent of Peter O'Toole - another troubled legend of theatre and film with a golden voice and titantic talent. Here is Werner's death notice in one news outlet:

Actor Oscar Werner dead at 61
MARBURG, West Germany --
Oscar Werner, the Austrian stage actor who later starred in two films of the late director Francois Truffaut, including 'Fahrenheit 451,' died Tuesday of a heart attack. He was 61.Police said Werner died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital from his hotel. He had called off a poetry reading Monday night because he felt ill.During the last decade of his life, Werner became a near recluse in his Liechtenstein home, a victim of alcoholism.

Born Josef Bschliessmayer on Nov. 13, 1922 into the family of a Viennese administrator, Werner gained national popularity in the 1950's for his classical roles on the Viennese stage.His distinctive voice made him a romantic hero in Vienna's Burgtheater and soon brought him to the attention of French director Francois Truffaut, who cast him in two of his major films.In Truffaut's 'Jules and Jim,' Werner played the reflective, sensitive Jules, who suffers silently as his wife, played by French actress Jeanne Moreau, betrays him for another man.In the futuristic film 'Fahrenheit 451,' also by Truffaut, who died Sunday in Paris, Werner played opposite Julie Christie as a book-burning policeman-fireman who eventually flees his Orwellian society for intellectual freedom in a small community of dissidents.Later films included 'The Shoes of the Fishermen' and 'Ship of Fools.' Werner also made several German-language films. A few years ago, he played alongside Peter Falk in a few productions of the American television series 'Columbo.'Werner, whose drinking bouts ravaged both his looks and career, also gave sold-out poetry readings, many of them benefits for pacifist causes.The actor's willful, emotional character led to a break with the Viennese theater scene in the early 1960's and frequent feuds with film and theater directors both in Austria and abroad.

The Viennese political magazine Profil quoted Werner in 1979 as saying 'I feel like Prometheus, who brings fire among the people to illuminate and warm them. But at night, the eagle gnaws at my liver.'The Austrian press panned his performances in a self-organized arts festival in 1983, describing him as a drunken, wasted man who would be better remembered for his earlier contributions to German theater.

John F
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by John F » Wed Jun 05, 2019 3:04 am

I had no idea that Werner was so self-destructive. He just dropped out of the scene and I didn't know why. Now I do, thanks to the obituary you posted. Well, at least he made a few memorable films while he still could.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by jserraglio » Wed Jun 05, 2019 5:48 am

Belle wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:20 pm
some of the men are and were beautiful; Alain Delon and, of course, Oscar Werner. Klaus Maria Brandauer, Franco Nero and the late Kurt Jurgens and Vittorio Gassman; gorgeous, all of them.
I hadn't noticed. I wonder why.

Re: Jules et Jim. It's available here for rental or purchase via streaming services—Amazon Prime definitely offers it. But I couldn't find a streaming service in Australia that offers it.

jserraglio
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by jserraglio » Wed Jun 05, 2019 5:58 am

John F wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:10 pm
He's Fiedler, the East German who debriefs Leamas (Richard Burton) in "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold," a great movie perfectly cast from top to bottom. I saw it in the post movie theater when I was stationed with the Army in Germany, right after coming back from a visit to Berlin, West and East. Chilling.
That flick made a very powerful impression on me too, prompting me to read the novel. 'Mystic River' and 'Shutter Island' led me to Dennis Lahane; and just last week, I followed Scorsese's extraordinary 'The Age of Innocence' to Henry James disconvoluted—Edith Wharton. Great movies that led me to great books.

As for 'Fahrenheit-451': "cheesy" was the word students of a previous generation nailed this flick with. Even the book, they said, was better. Bernard Herrmann's haunting music was wasted on them.

John F
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by John F » Wed Jun 05, 2019 6:53 am

Belle mentioned Kurt Jurgens, as he was known over here. (His name was really Curd Jürgens.) I've just seen him in the TV adaptation of John Le Carré's "Smiley's People," in which he plays a Russian emigré murdered by Soviet operatives in London.

That series too is magnificently cast from top to bottom, the top being Alec Guinness as George Smiley - and it's been uploaded complete to YouTube. Links to all the episodes are here:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_ ... rch=Search

There are two versions, one with longer timings than the other. I believe the second is as edited for telecast on American public television.

At the bottom you'll see a link to an episode of Le Carré's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." It too has been uploaded complete to YouTube. If you haven't already seen these programs, watch "Tinker, Tailor" first - it's the beginning of the story that ends with "Smiley's People."
Last edited by John F on Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:04 am, edited 2 times in total.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by Belle » Wed Jun 05, 2019 7:28 am

Absolutely brilliant; thanks. Will watch these.

My landlady's mother in Vienna worked in the theatre and knew Curt Jurgens (I think it's a "C" and not a "K" - as I wrote earlier) and his wife. She spoke about it over dinner one evening in the last days of our sojourn in Vienna in 2011.

Belle
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by Belle » Wed Jun 05, 2019 7:33 am

jserraglio wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 5:58 am
John F wrote:
Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:10 pm
He's Fiedler, the East German who debriefs Leamas (Richard Burton) in "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold," a great movie perfectly cast from top to bottom. I saw it in the post movie theater when I was stationed with the Army in Germany, right after coming back from a visit to Berlin, West and East. Chilling.
That flick made a very powerful impression on me too, prompting me to read the novel. 'Mystic River' and 'Shutter Island' led me to Dennis Lahane; and just last week, I followed Scorsese's extraordinary 'The Age of Innocence' to Henry James disconvoluted—Edith Wharton. Great movies that led me to great books.

As for 'Fahrenheit-451': "cheesy" was the word students of a previous generation nailed this flick with. Even the book, they said, was better. Bernard Herrmann's haunting music was wasted on them.
"The Age of Innocence" - what a film!! The book was rather less sympathetic to Newland Archer than in the film. Loved the score. And Herrmann's score for "Fahrenheit 451" I regard as one of his best.

Now, THIS is one film I have to see!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuLb53N-XCY

jserraglio
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by jserraglio » Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:21 am

YT is amazing. Can't believe some of those top of the line Criterion Collection titles available there. Just watched Walkabout in full via YT on my iPhone and afterwards sought it out on a streaming service to see it properly on a big screen. A stunning achievemnt by a director I knew only from seeing his first flick "Performance" in the theater back when.

Belle
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Re: The remarkable Oskar Werner

Post by Belle » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:34 pm

My attention has turned to a 1965 film directed by Stanley Kramer, "Ship of Fools", where Werner gives an outstanding performance. It wasn't just the voice, but the eyes, the body language, the pauses and timing; all fundamental features of theatrical acting. Just look at this brief scene between very wonderful actors - Signoret and Werner - two of Europe's finest! And then the ironic exchange between Werner (the ship's doctor) and a friend where he is chastised for drinking too much Cognac!! (It has always amused me the way excessive drinkers pour a tiny amount into a glass, throw it down and then repeat the process. Why not fill the glass to the top?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5SlrR1UVZw

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