Olympic bed-time story
Fraser famously said he wanted to put sport back on the front pages.
He got his wish, but I doubt it's made him happy. Cricket, it seems,
hasn't been cricket for a long time, and then there's the sports drug
problem. The Olympics are shaping up to be the Fear and Loathing games.
says here the doctor in charge of ensuring American athletes are drug-free
has resigned in disgust. Reckons the US Olympic Committee deliberately
encourages the use of drugs", Joadja said, as we sat round the
Olympic thing has been horribly corrupted by the profit motive and nationalism",
of which", said Old Possum, "I re-read the Leni Riefenstahl
story the other day."
she the Nazi film director?" Jo asked.
us an Olympic story, Uncle Possum", I said.
it's a story with a complex moral. She was a thoroughly modern gel,
but apolitical and ferociously ambitious", Old said, "Started
as a dancer, then got into film. In Germany, after the First World War,
they were pioneering adventure movies -- mountaineering, skiing, exploration
-- completely non-political, with fanciful story lines.
first role was in 1926 -- The Holy Mountain. It got rave reviews,
but even then, alarm bells rang. At least one German paper reckoned
it was propaganda for a super race and noble blondness.
her career takes off, and after a few movies she goes to the 1928 Winter
Olympics in St Moritz. She's completely taken in: the drama, the beautiful
bodies, the parades, the mystique. She decides she wants to make her
first is an art-house thing called The Blue Light. Everybody
hates the script except Bela Balazs, who's a Marxist screenwriter. He
helps her develop it, and it's a minor triumph. Proves she's bloody
1932, while she's promoting it, everybody's talking about Adolph Hitler.
Her anti-Nazi friend, Ernst Jaeger, urges her to go and hear the loony
for herself and she does, and gets sucked in. Like any ambitious careerist,
she bluffs her way in to see him and he tells her how much he admires
her work and ..."
then she's on the slippery slope", I said. Old possum took another
sip of cider before going on.
Nazis come to power and Hitler asks her to make 'documentaries'. The
result was the notorious Triumph of the Will, about the Nazi
Party Congress at Nuremberg -- a brilliant apotheosis of Hitler.
now she's Hitler's favourite director and she makes Olympia,
the 1936 Berlin Olympics doco. The Games are a propaganda triumph, but
Germany doesn't win too many medals and there's the embarrassing fact
of the black American, Jessie Owens, winning gold. Olympia premiers
on Hitler's birthday. Like the games, it's a triumph. It wins the Reich
Film Prize and the Grand Prix at Venice. It grabs the Mussolini Cup,
pushing out Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
goes to America on tour and, a few days after she arrives, the news
of Kristallnacht -- the night of the broken glass -- bursts on the world.
Olympia is boycotted and the media turns against her. The tour
is a disaster and her secretary, Ernst Jaeger, whose wife is Jewish,
decides to stay in the States."
what happened to her after that?" Joaja asked.
invades Poland, she goes in as a reporter, and a couple of days after
she arrives, she witnesses a massacre of civilians. She's horrified,
flees to Austria, works on a couple of non-political films and tries
to stay out of it all.
the war, half her friends dob her in as a Nazi insider. She survives
the subsequent trials, but nobody forgets that she prostituted her art
in a pact with the devil. She never seems to have been a racist, or
specifically an anti-semite. In fact some Nazis accused her of being
part-Jewish herself. She paid the price for being an apolitical careerist.
you know, the funny thing is, it would only have taken an accident of
history and she might have gone to Hollywood with Marlene Dietrich,
stepped right out of the Nazi milieu, and ended up making docos for
the US Army."
be dead now?" I asked
I don't think so. Last seen making dive movies and taking classy pics
of naked Nubas in the Sudan."