10 December 2006

Jack Cardiff at Goethe Institut

Jack Cardiff interviewed by Richard Leon.

Jack Cardiff had worked as Assistant Cameraman on ‘Knight without Armour’ for which Marlene Dietrich was the star in 1937. To publicise the new Marlene Dietrich Collection (18 DVD’s, Universal) from the Goethe Institut screened ‘The Devil is a Woman’ which I hadn’t seen so I thought I’d attend, as I’d thoroughly enjoyed the Jack Cardiff event at the National Gallery earlier in the year.

Jack Cardiff shared recollections of working with Dietrich. By his early 20’s he was now behind the camera, having started in films as a child actor. Cardiff was intrigued by Dietrich’s devotion to Josef von Sternberg, Cardiff felt that the devotion almost manifested itself in a religious way. Cardiff was keen to learn about, for the example the overhead lighting techniques employed by Sternberg who he respected.

Sternberg had been the person most associated with lighting and photographing Dietrich and thus in turn her fascination with lighting and how she would look was picked up on by the young Cardiff for this 1937 British made film, after all the Cameraman and his team would be the ones to make her look beautiful.

Cardiff recalled how in one bath scene Dietrich decided not to wear the customary skin coloured costume normally used for nude scenes and instead preferred to play the scene naked. He further recalled that she fell out of the bath and landed on some newspaper which he cut out in the shape of her behind and that she signed for him, which he still has somewhere.

Cardiff’s view was that Dietrich wasn’t one of the great actresses and by this I understood it to mean perhaps he didn’t think much of her technical ability and that she wasn’t a studious in rehearsals and getting underneath the skin of the role as some.

My thanks to my friends at the Powell and Pressburger Appreciation Society for bringing this screening to my attention. I had never attended a screening at the Goethe Institut, the cinema is quite basic in terms of comfort but the programme is varied. Tickets for this event were £3, which has to be one of the cheapest screenings I have ever attended in London. Jack Cardiff was intervied by Richard Leon, a publicist.

Goethe Institut, link.
IMDB entry for 'Knight without Armour' link.
Marlene Dietrich: Movie Collection, link.
My earlier post; Jack Cardiff in Conversation at the National Gallery, link.
The Powell and Pressburger Appreciation Society's website, link.


Anonymous said...

Good post - Wish I'd been there.

Loved the story about Dietrich. Obviously, it would have been nice to have been THERE, too!

Richard Gibson said...

Thanks Jeff, it was a nice evening and hearing Jack Cardiff talk is very enjoyable. I hope somone does a 'Girl on Motorcycle' screening soon, I would like to hear him talk about that one.