One of the great things of the internet era is much more easier to come accross things which otherwise should have been missed.
As an instance of that, I'm bringing to the visitors of this blog two examples of rare Laughtonware of which I just came aware through Youtube.
Filmed Galileo, by Ruth Berlau
Laughton as Galileo, William Phipps as Andrea and Mickey Knox as the Little Monk, in a photo from the Los Angeles staging
"In describing Laughton's Galileo Galilei the playwright is setting out not so much to try and give a little more permanence to one of those fleeting works of art that actors create, as to pay tribute to the pains a great actor is prepared to take over a fleeting work of this sort". So wrote Bertolt Brecht in "Building up a part: Laughton's Galileo".
It is indeed a pity that great stage work is usually only enjoyed by contemporaries, leaving little, or no trace for the future. Nowadays many stage performances may occasionally be captured in video, but older events are lost forever. Still, one can try to figure, even if in a platonic way, an approximative idea, from testimonials, reviews and pictures, how a performance might have been.
In the case of the 1947 stagings of Galileo, we have Brecht's word, and also the photographs which Ruth Berlau took during rehearsals.
Time ago, I was lucky to see a documentary titled "My name is Bertolt Brecht, Exile in U.S.A." (produced in 1989), in a local film festival: and I was thrilled to see that it contained silent filmed excerpts of Laughton's performance as Galileo. The directors (Norbert Bunge and ChristineFisher-Defoy) were present, so I asked Mr. Bunge about the footage, and he told me that there were filmed bits of the stage production in the Brecht archives in East Berlin. Very interesting to know. however, i was led to think that those were just only a few short filmed bits.
But recently, I came across a one-minute bit from a documentary about Ruth Berlau in Youtube ( Click here to watch it), in which, apart from it showing bits which I had not seen in the other documentary, it is mentioned that Ruth Berlau's filmed record is more extensive than I believed: she shot the entire play. Albeit it was done with a domestic camera, in Black and White, and from a static position (in fact, as an spectator might have seen it in the theatre), well, the mere idea of it being available to be seen is mind-boggling.
Click here to learn more about the documentary containing these images, "Red Ruth: That Deadly Longing"
Stopover in Bombay
Another surprise foud in Youtube is a video from a TV programme hosted and starred by Laughton titled "Stopover in Bombay". According to the notes accompanying the video, the show was never aired! It seems that it was a pilot of a series to be hosted by Laughton, who would also play parts in some of the series' episodes.
The date seems to be 1958, which is interesting, as it shows that, even though Laughton didn't do much films after "The Night of The Hunter", he was certainly busy, albeit in other mediums.
Click here to watch the video.
Invisible Stripes 1939
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