Austria conquers Hollywood
On June 9th 2017 when Adam West died, even a part of my youth died. No, not because I’m a baby boomer. At the end of the 80ies and early 90ies, the Batman series from the 1960s ran as an eternally appearing repetition in Austrian national television.Little known fact: the role of Mr. Freeze, one of Batman’s best-known opponents, was embodied in this series by the Austrian actor and director Otto Preminger. Later in 1997 the most famous Austrian export to Hollywood played the role of the undercooled villain in the movie “Batman and Robin”: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Even one or another James Bond film didn’t make it without Austrian villains. In the classic “Never Say Never” (1983) Klaus Maria Brandauer was Maximillian Largo as a simple handler of Bonds Widersacher Blofeld. In “Specter” (2015) one of the most successful Hollywood-Austrians took over the role of Blofeld: Christoph Waltz. The Oscar winning actor from Austria gave us a lot of pleasure in two respects: when he held his acceptance speeches in 2010 and 2013 we were proud of a native Viennese… and at the same time we did not have to feel ashamed for a horrible accent!
Unfortunately, not every year an Austrian wins an Academy Award. Michael Haneke, for example, came away empty handed with the b/w epic “Das weiße Band” (“The white Ribbon”, 2009). Nevertheless, Austria has been well represented for years at the ceremony of the Academy Awards. It has now become a tradition that the Austrian star chef Wolfgang Puck is commissioned with catering for the gala dinner.
Not only on the screen, but also behind the camera, directors from Austria were always important in Hollywood. Or would you have known that the director of “Casablanca” (1942) Michael Curtiz was born in Austro-Hungarian Budapest in 1886 as Mihaly Kertesz? Or, that Samuel Wilder became famous as Billy Wilder who created “Some like it hot” (1959). Already in Vienna Billy Wilder had been friends with Fred Zinnemann. The later created a film in 1954, which was to be the model for many other Western films: “Twelve o’clock at noon”.
The establishment of the sound film though has destroyed some careers of non-English-speaking actors in Hollywood. I already mentioned the director Michael Curtiz. Perhaps you have seen in to Vienna city map a lane called “Filmteichstraße” (roughly translated “Film-pond-lane”). There Curtiz had produced remarkable monumental films: “Die Sklaveköniging” (“Moon of Israel” 1924) and “Soddom and Gomorrah” (“Sodom and Gomorrah: The Legend of Sin and Punishment” 1922). The main actresess of his films were Maria Corda and Lucy Doraine, both Austro-Hungarians, and they were celebrated stars of the silent movie scene in Vienna. They also tried their luck in Hollywood, but since both spoke English only poorly, their success with the engagements of the sound film faded and they soon fell into oblivion.
In Austria, we often watch foreign films in synchronized versions. As good as possible it is tried to find voices that sound much like the original voice of the actors. Like Maximilan Schell in “The Judgment of Nuremberg” (1961) also Christoph Waltz dubbed himself in the german versions of his films. In contrast to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is synchronized in the German versions of his films by the Berlin born actor Thomas Danneberg. By the way, he also synchronizes Sylvester Stallone. That was a bit problematic when both appeared in the Film “Escape Plan” (2013). For this film, Arnie got a different voice.