Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2018
The old emigrant life of suitcases, threadbare and bulging with one's entire belongings, began again for me in a small Paris hotel in the Rue Galilée. One of the first to come in search of me was the film director Max Ophüls. He came with the idea of convincing me how impossible it would be to find a foothold in Paris as a theater manager, and to advise me to consider producing films instead. Perfect fluency in French would not be necessary in this line; Russian and Hungarian producers emigrated from Berlin had already found an audience. They all spoke at least four languages, fluently and full of mistakes. Aware of my dislike for the cinema, he tempted me with a strange project: making Schiller's Love and Intrigue into a French fi lm. I was happy to have a project so soon, and I went about the unpleasant task of raising the necessary funds. Through a recommendation, I made contact with the son of the Swedish multimillionaire [Olof] Aschberg. He received me in his father's sprawling mansion in the Rue Casimir Périer flanked by two elegant secretaries. He was very interested. We went to dinner with Ophüls. Ophüls and I wrote a treatment and Aschberg liked it. Ophüls fl ew to London and hired the famous French movie star Annabella, who was filming there at the time. When he told her the story of Luise and Ferdinand, she said with tears in her eyes, “C'est trop beau!” and signed. It began as beautifully as an old-fashioned fi lm, and ended, unfortunately, as badly as a modern one.
A telegram from the same woman who had first put me in contact with Aschberg's son now summoned the old man himself to Paris. The telegram warned of the treachery of Ophüls and Aufricht. The woman, who was in financial difficulties, assumed that we'd already received our money and were now intending to withhold her finder's fee. The elder Aschberg had already dealt with several trying episodes on his son's account, and when he heard of the latest plans for filming, the kettle boiled over.