Hollywood Movies in Germany – “Krieg der Sterne” becomes “Star Wars” and “Moana” turns into “Vaiana”

These days, many Hollywood movies screened in Germany keep their original English title. But it was not always that way. In the past, especially from the 1940s to the 1980s, there was almost always a special German title created for German audiences. Often the German title simply reflected the film’s story, as with The Caine Mutiny (1954), which starred Humphrey Bogart (voiced in German by O.E. Hasse) as Lt. Commander Philip F. Queeg. The title that Germans saw on their movie screens was Die Caine war ihr Schicksal (The Caine was their fate).

Moana and Maui

Disney’s Moana (left) became Vaiana in Germany, while Maui got to keep his name. Why? See more below. (Also see the Vaiana movie trailer below.)
PHOTO: Walt Disney Animation Studio

North by Northwest

Cary Grant was a victim of “the invisible third man” in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959). This is the cover of the German DVD version.

In Germany, the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest (1959), starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, is called Der unsichtbare Dritte (The invisible third man), which is only a little less vague than North by Northwest. The classic Bell, Book and Candle (1958), with Kim Novak, James Stewart, and Jack Lemmon, bore the rather prosaic title of Meine Braut ist übersinnlich (My bride is paranormal). But Vertigo, another Hitchcock film released that same year, also pairing Novak and Stewart, kept the “Vertigo” while adding the German tag line: Vertigo – Aus dem Reich der Toten (Vertigo – From the realm of the dead).

But it’s another, earlier Hitchcock picture that has one of my favorite German titles. Rope (1948), Hitch’s first color film, is about a murder committed in the New York City apartment of two college students trying to commit the perfect crime by strangling a fellow student with a rope. To create an alibi, they throw a dinner party in their apartment – with the dead body of their victim hidden literally under the guests’ noses inside a wooden chest. The German title: Cocktail für eine Leiche (Cocktail for a corpse). Continue reading

Marlene Dietrich stars in Berlin

Walk of Fame

Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Things can move slowly in Germany and Berlin. Especially things having to do with “the war” and the Nazi past.

The German-born film actress Marlene Dietrich falls into this category. Some Germans (the dumb ones) still view Dietrich as a traitor to Germany. They fail to grasp the big difference between being anti-Hitler and being anti-German. Dietrich, working in Hollywood in the 1930s and ’40s, refused to support the Nazis. She became an American citizen and entertained US troops. Her return to West Germany in 1960 drew a mixed reception. She was cheered and jeered. Later she said famously: “The Germans and I no longer speak the same language.” But after she died in self-imposed exile in Paris in 1992, Dietrich was buried in Berlin, at her request. In 1993 Berlin purchased her vast memorabilia collection for the film museum there for $5 million. Continue reading

Germany and Hollywood

Valkyrie movie posterBesides the glaringly obvious World War II thriller Valkyrie, opening Christmas Day in the United States, there are several other current or upcoming German-Hollywood connections. The more dazzling Tom Cruise blockbuster about the attempted assassination of Hitler by German Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was directed by Bryan Singer (Apt Pupil, X-Men) and filmed largely in Germany for an estimated $80 million. But the much quieter film, The Reader, which opened recently in US movie theaters, was not only filmed in Germany, it is based on a German novel, Der Vorleser (The Reader), by Bernhard Schlink — a book made famous in the US by Oprah Winfrey. Directed by Stephan Daldry (The Hours), the film features Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, and a German actor by the name of David Kross, who plays the young character of Michael involved with Hanna (Winslet). It’s a Holocaust film with an interesting twist, looking at morality and guilt in a very personal way.

When I was living in Berlin last year, I kept reading and hearing about Cruise’s problems with German authorities about filming locations (and a film lab disaster in Germany that led to the re-shooting of some key scenes). Later Continue reading

Germany, Tom Cruise, and Scientology

I just happened to read an article today in the International Herald Tribune entitled “Germany drops attempt to ban Scientology” (Nov. 21, 2008, no longer online, but see this 2011 International New York Times article: Book Excerpt: Inside Scientology). Having also just seen TV ads promoting the upcoming Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie, the whole Scientology-and-Cruise thing came flashing back. (Cruise had problems getting permission to film his Hitler assassination plot movie at certain historic locations in Berlin in 2007.)

For the uninitiated (i.e., most Americans) that may seem to be a rather odd headline, but the enmity between the German government and the so-called Church of Scientology has a long and bitter history Continue reading