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Jewish, but not Jewish enough


Early inspiration
Walter Lassally Film-maker
Comments (1) Please sign in or register to add comments
Ralph Williams
Thursday, 06 February 2020 08:26 PM
Walter Lassaly is my husband Ralph Williams / Spielmann

I grew up in Germany, in Berlin. My father was German and my mother was Polish. We lived in a flat in Berlin where my father had also an animation bench, because he was in the film industry after a sort of fashion, not really... not the sort of film industry I'm in, or I was in. But he was trained as an engineer and he used film as an adjunct to his engineering work. So, for studying mechanical processes. He had his own company, making these films which were anything from 20 seconds to two hours long. He made two in the period between, let's say... It started in the silent days, it started, I think, round about 1924/25, something like that, and went on into the sound period. He had a friend who did the sound, once sound started. But most of his films didn't need sound because they were studies of some mechanical process, and they didn't require sound. Towards the end of his career, as it were, there were two long documentaries which were shown in cinemas, but the bulk of his work was non-theatrical. Anyway, to help with this work he had an animation bench in the flat and occasionally, you know, aged at about six or seven or eight, I was allowed to help by cranking the handle, or whatever. So that was fun. And that was my first contact with the cinema, but I don't think it was that that led me to my career choice, I shall call it. It was rather seeing films in the cinema, and I got quite fond of going to the cinema fairly early on. I remember I had a little badge made up from a trade journal, the company called UFA which is Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft which was the MGM of Berlin, had this little sign and I had a badge made up and I wore it in the playground. When I went to school when I was playing in the playground I wore this little badge which said, UFA.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft, MGM

Duration: 2 minutes, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008