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193 15 Blood and Soil The Berlin premiere of Pedro soll hängen on July 25, 1941, coincided with the first day of shooting of Die goldene Stadt (The golden city). Harlan’s first film under his new UFA contract was based on Richard Billinger’s drama Der Gigant (The giant), which dealt with the self-destructive desire a peasant girl feels for the city of Prague. Billinger himself had peasant origins . For his drama Rauhnacht (Rough night), he had been given the Kleist Award in 1931, but his blood-and-soil mysticism did not fare well under the Nazi regime—too sinister and barbaric were his characters, too much was he obsessed with animal instincts. The right-wing poet Josef Magnus Wehner openly accused him of “hemmungslose Geilheit” (unrestrained lecherousness) and reported him to the police on the grounds of “widernat ürliche Unzucht” (perverse fornication). Taken away by the Gestapo, Billinger spent three months in a Munich prison before actress Käthe Dorsch used her influence with former fiancé Hermann Göring to get the renegade poet released. There were rumors that Billinger had belonged to the circle of SA founder and commander Ernst Röhm; the two certainly looked alike. His plays were not directly forbidden, but directors avoided staging them. It took Gustaf Gründgens to reestablish him, and in 1937 Der Gigant was presented at Berlin’s State Theater. The director who had influenced Harlan more than anyone else, Jürgen Fehling, was in charge. By Billinger standards, the play was tame, with only slight hints of incest. Not only was Billinger now acceptable as a dramatist again, but he was also acceptable as the source for an expensive UFA film. In August 1940, it was announced that Erich Waschneck would direct the adaptation of Der Gigant, with Käthe Gold repeating her stage part. Billinger and Werner Eplinius were to cowrite the screenplay, and it was decided that the film’s title would be Die goldene Stadt (The golden city). (The “giant” that gave the play its name was a wax figure standing behind glass in the peasant’s veit harlan 194 living room.) Plans changed, however, when in mid-1941 Harlan decided to leave Tobis for good and move over to UFA. Tobis had produced or released some of his favorite pictures, but after the Der grosse König fiasco he no longer felt protected there. At UFA, Harlan got a production unit of his own, and it was easy for him to take the Billinger project away from Waschneck. A first conflict resulted from his insistence on color. Germany had produced some adequate color films using the Swiss Optocolor system: shorts, documentaries , and commercials. In 1936, Lil Dagover had starred as Madame Pompadour in the color short Das Schönheitsfleckchen (The beauty spot), which was quickly taken out of circulation and is now lost. The Agfacolor system developed by IG Farben seemed more promising. The release of Frauen sind doch bessere Diplomaten (Women are better diplomats after all), shooting of which began in July 1939, was postponed for a long time because of disastrous test screenings at which people laughed at the actors’ unnatural skin color and how the color of the grass changed from one shot to the next. For reasons of prestige, the first Agfacolor film had to be perfect . Before the Anschluss, Austrian moviegoers had already seen David O. Selznick’s Technicolor drama The Garden of Allah (1936), and The Four Feathers (1939) had been presented at the Venice Film Festival. Pirated copies of Gone with the Wind used for private screenings also put German film technicians under pressure. To solve the problems, Harlan and Bruno Mondi worked closely with the technicians of IG Farben. Their progress provedadvantageoustothemakersofFrauensinddochbessereDiplomaten, who saw their material copied in such a way that “the film that never ended” finally premiered on October 31, 1941. Its colors were pretty rather than expressive, but audiences did not mind. A second conflict in filming Die goldene Stadt resulted from Harlan’s insistence on casting Joachim Gottschalk as the engineer Leidwein, the one decent man who might save the story’s main character, Anuschka. In April 1941, Gottschalk had enchanted audiences with his portrayal of Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen in Die schwedische Nachtigall, which grossed a hefty 3.4 million RM, but there were no further film offers because of his marriage to a Jewish woman. Eugen Klöpfer had asked Harlan to cast Gottschalk, feeling too weak...


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