Saturday, January 26, 2019

Tribute to Carl Jaffé - Part 4: World War 2 - Playing the Enemy!

Tonight we have a great treat for all our viewers who have been following the Tribute Series of the prolific Jewish German character actor Carl Jaffé. We are thrilled to bring you not just one, but TWO consecutive Saturday Night Specials!

In the first (Tribute No.4) we take a look at the well-worn, often miss-told, misunderstood, yet perpetually popular subject of World War II. So many stories have been dramatized, romanced and explored - true and invented.

 Our London correspondent Michael Jaffé has opened the vaults of time (and his private family archives) to unearth some fascinating back-stores and exclusive PR images on his Grandfather Carl. 
Take it away Michael!!

Although Carl Jaffé was a Jewish refugee; his linguistic talents and natural Germanic tones meant that he was ironically and inevitably cast in over a dozen movies (and some TV) playing the stereotyped Nazi enemy(!) - typically either a frustrated Luftwaffe General or a Gestapo Chief.

  Viewing these performances you can detect in at least some that he invokes just a small dose of comical farce to poke his own sense of dramatic fun at the despicable regime.
 As with many roles played by stalwart character actors; it has been widely observed that playing the bad guy is much more enjoyable for them since it is generally easier for an audience to hold the enemy in ridicule, contempt, fear and loathing simultaneously.
Jaffé covered a broad range of baddies, from underworld henchmen to Nazi generals; all delivered with characteristic zeal to ratchet up the drama of the story.
Of the many examples that we could show, here are a few to consider:

 1940- Law & Disorder - Domestic underworld blackmail/robbery, the usual hoodlums. 

Jaffé plays a deliciously evil henchman whose underplayed persona and eccentric delivery pre-dates the iconic Dr. Stangelove by nearly 25-years.

1940- All Hands; British propaganda publicity film made by the Ministry of Information to highlight the risks of careless conversation during wartime.

 Jaffé plays the U-Boat Captain taking advantage of a London based German agent overhearing civilians discussing Royal naval shipping routes.

Jaffé met the then Minister of Information on-set during production and the PR guys were there to capture the moment.

1941- Gasbags; The Crazy Gang (Britain's humble answer to the Marx Brothers) embark on an ill-conceived mission to defeat Hitler that takes them to the heart of the enemy - leaving a trail of comedy slapstick gags and frustrated enemy along the way. 

Jaffé plays a gestapo general directing the chase; played with teutonic tone against the comic backdrop only adds to the fun.

1943 -The Night Invader; widely acclaimed and later regarded as one of THE greatest British war/thriller films; Jaffé plays Count Von Biebrich caught up in the affections of the girlfriend of a British agent on a mission to retrieve secret document that she has. Officially, no print copy of the film survives; only a few lobby cards from the Canadian 1950 re-issue.

 However, from the private archives of Grandson Michael Jaffé, we do have 2 original PR pictures, one of which was used in the lobby card, the other a portrait of Carl Jaffé himself.

1944 -Two Thousand Women (USA release delayed to 1951 and strongly edited, under the title; House of 1,000 Women); comedy/thriller female Prisoners of War being given almost hotel-like accommodation with their internment in occupied France.

  Jaffé plays the officious but curiously sympathetic Nazi Lieutenant charged with co-ordinating the rabble of Brit girls.

1951- Lili Marlene; not the iconic Marlene Dietrich issue; but equally entertaining if only for Jaffé's chilling portrayal of the gestapo Chief trying to persuade the lady to talk.

 Jaffé delivers the classic stereotyped line (and often misquoted; since it is anyway a corrupted adapt taken from Gary Cooper's 1935 The Lives of a Bengal Lancer) "...Vee hef vays of may-kink you tork..." - all done with an ice-cold smile and drinks on the table...

1953- Appointment in London; WW2 British bombing raids over Germany.

Jaffé plays the frustrated Luftwaffe General being thwarted by the RAF's strategy.

1962- The Password is Courage; dramatization of the true (and lighthearted) story of British Army POW Sergeant-Major Charlie Coward (played by the late great Dirk Bogarde) trying to frustrate the enemy with frequent prisoner escapes from the infamous Stalag-VIII-B; but not before becoming confused with the enemy and award the Iron-Cross!

 Jaffé in one of his shortest appearances plays the Nazi General in the opening scenes awarding Bogarde his medal.
Tune in next week when we present Tribute No.5: Carl Jaffé on US TV; some classic shows from the 1950s made as production collaborations with British distributors to maximize Anglo viewing exposure (and profits) in the exciting new entertainment medium of TV that was on the cusp of entering its own golden age.

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