Columbus vs. Berlin (Comparisons and Contrasts)

Ohio suburban towns are very predictable. The population of these places is relatively small, people come from similar backgrounds, and the inhabitants tend to know each other really well. These quiet, peaceful (albeit boring) environments are where my friends and I grew up. However, after seeing Berlin, it is easy to spot distinct differences and similarities between the two places.

First, the amount of diversity found in Berlin versus back home demonstrates a huge dissimilarity. In my hometown, there were around fifteen minority students in my graduating class. In contrast, Berlin is an amazingly varied city when it comes to its population. When I walk down the street, I never know what languages I might be able to hear. The amount of unique cuisines being offered at all of the different restaurants is also astounding. Back home, it was a huge deal when the Giant Eagle nearby began offering premade sushi. Here, you can see a German, Turkish, Thai, and an Indian restaurant all within the same block. I love being around such a unique array of cultures and it’s something that I definitely wish I had more of in my hometown.

Another massive difference between Berlin and suburban Ohio is people’s general demeanor toward strangers. In Ohio, people are typically over the top friendly. Politeness is something that is ingrained in most Midwest kids from a young age, and it can be clearly seen in their everyday interactions. In Berlin, people have a much more rough exterior. They are very independent and they definitely keep to themselves more than people in Ohio do. Small things such as chatting with a cashier at the grocery store seem completely outlandish here. Privacy seems to be extremely important to Berliners, and they are definitely more wary of newcomers than those in the suburbs of Ohio.

Despite their differences, Berlin and Ohio still have some pretty wonderful similarities. One of the first things I noticed is how the kids in Berlin seem just like any of the other kids from back home. At one point, I saw some kids running down the street by our hotel, and they were acting exactly like my friends and I acted when we were that little. The boys were sprinting ahead and trying to get as far away from their teacher as humanly possible with the girls running right up there with them. When they finally stopped, they immediately started to tease each other. Clearly, at that age, we all have generally the same ideals of simply having fun with your friends. I loved seeing how the differences in culture did not affect their outlooks on life yet. Additionally, another similarity between the two places I noticed is that both my suburb and Berlin are segmented into smaller areas. In my hometown, there was one place that all of my friends always hung out in, along with most of the other younger people. We thought the area was really cool because it had the movie theater, a grungy coffee shop, and a pretty lake nearby that we could go swimming in. Similarly, Berlin also has specific areas where you are more likely to find unique things. At one point during our stay, I felt like I hadn’t seen anyone my age other than the students on the trip. Then, I ventured to Kreuzberg. Like the place in my hometown, Kreuzberg is where I was able to find the more interesting stuff and meet other people in their 20’s. I thought it was extremely interesting how both suburban Ohio and Berlin have their own districts where each subset of the population could find their niche.

Berlin and my hometown are two incredibly different places with stark contrasts existing between them. However, there are still ties between the two that show that no matter where you go, you can still find similarities. Even with two unique, vastly different cultures, people still go about their daily lives in comparable ways. Personally, I think this a very reassuring thought and analyzing the two areas has given me the opportunity to realize just how interconnected everyone is despite their differences.

What’s My Line?

In our search for information, we stumbled across an old T.V. show from the 60s in which Horst appears as a “Mystery Guest”! If you aren’t interested in checking out the whole video, Mr. Buchholz appears about 17 minutes into the video.

Why did we choose Horst?

                Horst Buchholz isn’t the kind of person you would normally do research on for a history class, and that’s exactly why we chose him to be our topic. We wanted someone a little outside of the norm. Someone who wasn’t a famous politician or a poet. I had taken a film course during spring semester and recalled Buchholz’s name coming up in one of our class discussions. When I saw his name on our list, I was hopeful that my partner would agree that he would be a good option. I only recognized a few of the other names on the list, and was hoping to do research on something I truly enjoyed. Luckily, Alexa wants to go into the entertainment industry and we quickly agreed that he would be our topic. Our interest in the film industry made doing research a lot more fun, partly because we weren’t looking up political speeches or long essays – we were looking up movie clips and interviews. Originally, the only thing we knew about him was that he had been nicknamed “The James Dean of German Cinema”, which seemed impressive. In order to learn more, we dug deep into the internet and visited different places around the city to find out more. We read commentary by his son about his life, ventured to the film museum to find out more about the cinema of the time, and even ended up being able to visit his grave. All of this gave us some interesting insights into his life that we never would have gotten otherwise. Through some interviews we were able to find, we learned a little about Horst and his private life and even found ourselves sifting through old tabloids that were printed about his presumed affairs.

               Through our research on his life, we learned a lot about the German film industry in general and how it is a reflection of Germany history. Because he was active in the film industry after the end of World War II, he had to deal with the dramatically altered industry. In fact, I would venture to say that he helped to heal the industry by devoting himself to it for many years. We learned about Billy Wilder, who directed one of the more famous films Buchholz appeared in. Wilder emigrated from Berlin to Hollywood after Hitler took power in 1933, even though he didn’t speak any English. He won more than 50 awards during his career and is world-renowned as one of the best directors of all time. Both of these men demonstrate the tumultuous history of German cinema through their careers, and the film they did together, “One, Two, Three” demonstrates their abilities. The film is a comedy that is set in West Berlin and provides a humorous take on the climate that ended up changing both of their lives forever.

               Learning about the German cinema through this project has been extremely interesting. We never knew how much the divide between East and West impacted the country as a whole. For some reason, this divide wasn’t really focused on in my past history classes, but this project really opened my eyes to all the implications it had for the people of Germany. We hear about what Hitler did, but never really focused on the negative impact the division of the country had on the people and the culture. By doing research about Horst Buchholz, we learned more about how the nation was affected by its history.

Horst’s Grave

IMG_1477IMG_1476Horst Buchholz’s final resting place is at Friedhof Heerstraße, not very far from the Olympic Stadium. Here are some pictures of his grave that we took during our time in the cemetery.

Berlin’s Buchholz

Horst Buchholz did not reach his ultimate level of stardom easily. He got to his prominent position in a very traditional sense – first by starring locally in stage productions, then by moving up the ladder through voice dubbing, local movies, and eventually being offered international movie roles. Through all of these things, Horst not only managed to secure his place in German cinema, but he was also able to have a lasting impact on his hometown of Berlin.

First, Horst Buchholz owes his start to the local theaters of Berlin. He starred in productions in the prominent Tribune Theater, the Schiller Theater, and the Castle Park Theater after dropping out of school. Because these were reputable theaters in the city, he began to build up a local reputation amongst Berlin theatergoers. Meanwhile, the booming film industry of the time period allowed him to work as a voice-dubbing actor, which financed his acting lessons and other acting pursuits. From the beginning, voice dubbing was an integral part of Horst’s career even after he started to take on actual film roles. Voice dubbing became a huge industry in Germany during that period, so it only made sense for Horst to begin there. It is estimated that by the end of his career, Horst had been a part of voice dubbing for over 1,000 films. The last film that he dubbed was the Disney animated picture Mulan, in which he played the Emperor. Voice dubbing also set Horst up to succeed internationally as an actor because it helped him become proficient in six different languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Russian. Consequently, this also made Horst a good representative of Berlin since the city has such a large immigrant population. Even at the time of Horst’s career, Berlin was becoming an international hub. Horst’s ability to work in several different languages was necessary for the city itself because so many people from different backgrounds came together in the location. His talent allowed movies to be understood by all types of people in the city and was extremely reflective of how Berlin was changing and becoming more diverse.

Eventually, Horst went on to act in feature films. He owed this transition to local theater and film in his hometown of Berlin. His first role was an extra in a local film called The Trail Leads to Berlin. Following this, he landed a starring role in Sky Without Stars, for which he won his first award – the 1956 German Film Prize known as the “sliver film strip.” After his local success, he was picked up for international films. First, he starred in a British film called Tiger Bay (1959) where he played a Polish seaman who commits a murder. His best-known works as an actor in Hollywood are The Magnificent Seven (1960) and One, Two, Three (1961). The first was a western film in which Horst played Chico – one of a gang of seven American gunfighters who were meant to protect a Mexican village from bandits. It was a very successful film, and today it is even preserved in the Library of Congress. One, Two, Three was a Hollywood production, but it was actually set in Cold War era Berlin, Germany. This was perfect for Horst because he could bring his knowledge of the city into his role in the film.

Although these movies did very well and Horst began to gain popularity over seas, his rise to fame plateaued after he had to reject several big roles in American films due to scheduling conflicts. The biggest role that he turned down was Tony in West Side Story, which could have made him an extremely well known celebrity in the United States. It is not confirmed, but there were rumors that he dealt with anorexia and alcoholism, which could have further prevented him from taking on these bigger roles. Although he did not work as much in Hollywood, he still was active in the film industry. He predominately went back to work in German movies such as But Johnny (1973) and he also did some work in German television. However, he went back to more and more theater roles after one of the programs he was in, Astro-Show (1981), flopped. His last time on the screen was in Dr. Lessing’s work called A Beautiful Life (1997).

When he died in 2003, it became extremely evident just how much of an impact he had on the German film industry. Simply being compared to great actors like James Dean gave him a wonderful reputation worldwide. His work also represented Berlin in a positive light. Because he was such an international icon, Horst was able to showcase the talent that Berlin offered to the world’s film industry. His fame helped to foster Berlin’s reputation for quality movies and gave the people of his city a star to watch for on the silver screen.

A brief history of German Cinema

The history of German cinema is full of twists and turns, mirroring the history of the country itself in many ways. The years following the end of World War II were full of uncertainty, something that was reflected in the cinemas. Huge blank spaces appear in the years leading up to the Second World War as well, thanks to the influence of Hitler and the Nazis. Many talented cinematographers, directors, and other sources of expertise had left Germany as a result of the political and economic instability of the Weimar Republic. Many others would leave when Hitler comes to power. Most of them were bound for the United States and the promise of Hollywood which provided the freedom to produce the film content they desired. Over 1,500 film professionals would migrate from Germany after the Nazis came to power including Fritz Lang, Hans Zimmer, Peter Lorre, and Billy Wilder. Under Hitler, there was little advancement in the film industry due to the strict rule of a totalitarian government. All films produced during this time were under strict regulations and many were shameless propaganda pieces that worked to promote the Third Reich. After the fall of Hitler, Germany was divided and cinema began evolving in different ways in both East and West Berlin.  In East Germany, film production begins quickly under the Soviets. The production company Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA) becomes the most influential and begins producing massive amounts of films. It started off slowly, only producing 50 films between 1948 and 1953 due to severe restrictions. However, the rate of production soon increased: 900 feature films and over 3000 documentaries and short films are produced between 1953 and the fall of the wall. In West Germany, the focus is on the excitement of foreign films again being legal. Before, international films would be screened and very few would be allowed to be shown in the country. Many films produced during this time focused on the devastation caused by World War II, but many others focused on everything but the war. They were focused on entertainment; attempting to take the public away from their troubles and the memory of the war. German films were popular in Germany, but they could not compete with the film industries of Italy, France, Japan, and the United States, and thus were rarely shown internationally. The separation of East and West German cinema continued until 1989, when the wall finally came down.

Although Horst Buchholz only appeared in films from 1955-1997, there is no doubt that he, and many of his peers, felt the repercussions of Nazi Germany and the following division of Germany. Growing up in that time period had a huge influence on Buchholz’s career, even though his first film role was not until 1955. His performance in this film was well-received and allowed him to quickly gain a solid reputation. He rose to fame as he took on more roles and began to win awards. This ascension to stardom allowed him to appear in films both domestically and internationally. In 1959, he began to work out of Hollywood, bringing with him the ideals of German cinema as well as picking up some American ideals. Buchholz spent most of his career going back and forth between Germany and the USA filming movies in both locations in German, English, and (later, in 1991) Spanish. German cinema in the 60s, during the height of Buchholz’s career, was in a bit of a crisis due to stagnation that caused attendance rates at theaters to plummet. This causes many production and distribution companies to close their doors. In American cinema, this was not the case. In the early 60s, Hollywood was still riding out its Golden Age. Thousands of movies showcasing the talents of hundreds of actors and actresses were released during this time, making it the ideal market for any person seeking fame. Hollywood had enormous international influence as well, making it a haven for many talented artists who, for one reason or another, had been forced to leave their homes all over the world. Even when the Golden Age of Hollywood came to an end in the mid-60s, filmmakers were critically acclaimed as well as commercially successful. This trend continues today, with huge-budget blockbusters dominating the theaters instead of smaller, more frequent, low-budget films. German cinema was not able to improve until the establishment of the Film and Television Accord in 1974. This agreement between television providers and the German Federal Film Board made it easier for films to generate revenue. There was even a movement called the New German Cinema that managed to get state funding for the film industry. However, Germany’s film industry would struggle until the 90s, and has slowly been re-emerging in the new millennium.



Buchholz as he appears in the film The Magnificent Seven

Buchholz as he appears in the film The Magnificent Seven

Horst Buchholz, a famous German actor, was born on December 4th, 1933. He was born in Berlin, Germany into a middle class family. His father was a shoemaker and his mother was Danish. However, he was only with them for a short period of time before being put into a foster care home in Czechoslovakia when World War II began in Germany. As soon as the war was over, he made his way back to Berlin, leaving his childhood home in East Berlin in order to work in West Berlin. Though he was still in school, he managed to land his first role at the young age of fifteen in a Berlin production of Emil and the Detectives. Once he realized his talent, he dropped out of school and looked for work in more local productions. He was also known for his work in radio, and he began working behind the scenes on films as a voice-over actor when foreign films needed translated. He was able to speak five different languages, making him extraordinarily versatile. Eventually, he was discovered by a famous film director Julien Duviver, who gave him his first movie role in the 1955 movie, Marianne de ma Jeunesse. The very next year, he won an award at Cannes for Best Actor for his role in Himmel ohne Sterne, directed by Helmut Kautner. In 1958, he married a French actress named Myriam Bru and they had two kids; a son and a daughter. He began appearing in English-language films in 1959 and moved to the United States in order to work in Los Angeles to be closer to Hollywood and the industry he was quickly advancing in. However, he began turning down key roles that would have quickly advanced his stardom. Due to this, his popularity declined after the 60s and he took up many smaller roles. His last film appearance was in Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful. On March 3rd, 2003, he died suddenly of pneumonia that developed while he was recovering from an operation in the hospital. He is buried in the Friedhof Heerstrache and has been immortalized by his son, Christopher, in a documentary entitled Horst Buchholz…Mein Papa.