The Songs of Ufa’s Zarah Leander…

I was pleased to see another Tomahawk Films’ credit on television last night through the re-showing of New Animal Productions’ terrific two-parter on The Third Reich: The Rise and The Fall, (having caught Part Two last month on the History Channel), as I was ‘channel hopping’ and caught Part One on the Military Channel and the chance to hear our evocative track ‘Yes Sir’ by World War Two German favourite, the Swedish singer & actress Zarah Leander…

Back in the 1930s the Berlin suburb of Babelsburg was home to Germany’s pre-war ‘Hollywood’ and its leading production company Universum Film AG (Ufa) which, at its height was producing an incredible 500 films a year and with the advent of the Third Reich in 1933 Ufa came under increasing Nazi state control and by 1942 was wholly Reich-owned.

At this time the leading international female star on its books was the ever-popular Zarah Leander who, born, Zarah Stina Heberg in Karlstad in 1907, had originally been a star of Sweden’s silver screen’ at the beginning of the 30s. Early on in her career, a US Hollywood film had beckoned but newly divorced, with two small children, she had decided to stay in Europe and being fluent in German, looked towards the Third Reich and the advancement of her career in Germany and in 1936 she was successful in that aim and was rewarded with a Ufa movie contract.

Known as a very tough negotiator Zarah demanded, (and received), huge salaries, to be paid in Swedish Kroner rather than Reichsmarks, much to the great annoyance of Propagandaminister Goebbels’ who actually dubbed her an ‘Enemy of Germany’..!

However, as a musical movie star much-loved by the German people, (and Adolf Hitler in particular), and a leading performer in ten of Ufa’s most successful films, her career in Nazi Germany flourished as she played the role of a Femme Fataleindependently minded, beautiful, passionate and self-confident, all of which she actually was in her personal life!

Her wonderful singing voice had a smoky, deep intensity more in-keeping with that of her early rival Marlene Dietrich, however in 1943 Zarah’s villa in the fashionable Berlin suburb of Grünwald was hit during an Allied air-raid and, combined with un-ceasing Nazi pressure on her to apply for German citizenship, she chose instead to return to Sweden after her final 1943 Ufa movie, ‘Damals’ …

But following Germany’s heavy defeat at Stalingrad, neutral-Swedish opinion began to turn into sympathy for the Allies and Zarah, so directly linked with  Nazi Propaganda, was shunned in her home country, though in the post-war years she returned to Germany, but was unable to regain her previous mass popularity, eventually passing away in June 1981.

However Tomahawk have acquired a number of original schellack 78s in Germany and our CD ‘Schiff Ahoi’ offers of some of her most famous moody & atmospheric Third Reich recordings, including last night’s television airing of Yes Sir..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

 

German Music in The Guns of Navarone

Talking about the myriad German musical sound-tracks featured in the movies has obviously stirred some thoughts amongst Tomahawk Film’s gallant and much valued band of customer-friends in various far-flung outposts around the globe. One in particular, Dan, kindly dropped me an e-mail via our Tomahawk Films WW-II German Archive website to ask us about a certain musical track that has long captivated him…

It was one of the on-screen songs that featured in the 1961 British-American movie ‘The Guns of Navarone’ staring Gregory Peck, David Niven & Anthony Quinn, being the celluloid version of Alistair MacLean’s stirring 1957 novel of the same name…

Directed by J. Lee Thompson, the movie tells the story of an Allied team of highly trained Commandos sent on a daring mission to destroy an impregnable German fortification whose long-range guns threaten all Allied naval shipping operating in the Aegean Sea and thereby preventing the launch of any rescue attempts of some 2,000 British & Commonwealth troops stranded behind enemy lines..!

Reading Dan’s description of the particular song he was hoping to identify, which comes some way into the film, and describing it as a slow melody, I immediately ventured, (thinking it to be an originally-penned tune), that it might have been either something from Ms Lale Andersen, the evocative voice behind the famous & much-loved ‘Lili Marleen’ or, failing that, an offering from Ms Zarah Leander, who was very much a favourite of Germany’s Berlin-based war-time Ufa newsreel producers and who had a very distinctive & wonderfully intense, smoky voice.

However Dan says he has acquired a copy of each of our albums featuring those two superb artistes and though they now happily reside in his collection of Tomahawk Films CDs and get a regular airing, he could not identify this particular song from the Guns of Navarone movie on either of our two archival album offerings…

However, I have managed to do a bit of ‘rummaging’ and, according to official The Guns of Navarone Music Cue Sheets, (again not having seen this film on UK television in an absolute age..though you’d think that with all of the TV repeats lined up for this current Festive period, it’d be in there somewhere), I now realise that this might just be another case of a song specifically written for the movie, as with the aforementioned ‘Battle of Britain March’  as written by Ron Goodwin for the 1969 movie, which I referred to in a previous Blog.

Nevertheless I can see that there are two ‘German named’ songs credited ‘Treu Sein’ and ‘Das Sundenlied’  but neither of which have any resonance for me, (either as a fellow collector & enthusiast, nor as a producer); so I wonder if they might not possibly be an ‘in-house joke’ or, as I actually suspect, another ‘movie confection’ as both songs are credited as lyrics by Alfred Perry and melody by Dimitri Tiomkin,  who are jointly credited for the creation of much of the original music score throughout the rest of the film itself.

In addition, where there should be an artiste name listed as the performer for these two songs, the word ‘Uncredited’ is inserted… which is a little odd as when an original or historical song is used in a TV documentary or movie sound-track and the artiste is unknown, then I usually expect to see either the word ‘Anon’ or ‘Traditional’  utilised..certainly not ‘Uncredited’…

So sadly Dan may be looking at, or rather listening to, another ‘post-war soldier song’  based on an original score, but cleverly written specifically with a particular scene in the movie in mind and with a professional, but unknown studio-singer merely scheduled in to perform just that number(s) alone and so not meriting an artiste’s movie credit in the terms of her contract… a bit harsh when she probably put her heart & soul into the recording..!

However others may know differently and so if there are any readers out there who may have some more information and so be in a position to be able to shed some further light on any of these ‘German songs’ heard in The Guns of Navarone’… and perhaps even offer a singer’s name, (if actually known), then, both Dan and I would be delighted to hear, thank you…

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012