Laemmle’s Legacy … Film Premiere @ LAJFF

3 amazing documentaries have recently been brought to the silver screen, all based on amazingly resilient, positive human beings, all with tremendous compassion and ability to impact change, save lives, and inspire people, young and older. The three I refer to are: Mr. Rogers; Dr. Ruth Westheimer; and Carl Laemmle. Recently, at the opening night of the LA Jewish Film Fest, I had the privilege to view the premiere of “Carl Laemmle – The Film” and learn of his incredible fame and fortune as a Jewish immigrant who founded Universal Pictures, and managed to save 300 Jewish families, (despite the most horrific of circumstances), and his forever optimism ( his signature message: “it can be done,”). While previously I had only associated the name Laemmle to the multiple art house theatres throughout Los Angeles that I frequent regularly, little did I know of his rich legacy (besides being acquaintances of Greg & Tish Laemmle; and a co-worker of Antonia Carlotta (Laemmle’s great grand niece, prominently featured in the film.) This film reveals that it is no doubt that Laemmle’s invincible spirit and undying positivity led him to start out creating Nickelodeons in Chicago; build a substantial career in motion pictures in Hollywood ; establish the dynasty that is Universal Studios on the lot it still stands on; miraculously sponsored and rescued 300 Jewish families, paying their immigration fees; (much like the righteous Schindler, and no small feat); and forever be a shining light on the marquee of movie making history. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Museum of Tolerance spoke before show’s start and told the audience that Karl Laemmle couldn’t stay quiet in the midst of such immense suffering and injustice he witnessed daily, much like Simon Wiesenthal, who needed to survive the five camps of hell he was in, tell the story of these living monsters in real war time (Nazi’s) and ensure future generations a light at the end of a very dark long tunnel. Hier told of Laemmle’s wish to return to the Imperial Hotel in Vienna, for a birthday party many many years later; on a visit back to his hometown of Laupheim, Germany and stated, of the hotel, “everything is changed.” Hier’s message to Jews and millennials today: “be smart! Like Laemmle and Wiesenthal and so many who have outlived our enemies, and in current tragic times as well, the Jews will forever prevail, singing and dancing!” The legendary Peter Bogdanovich was recognized this evening, receiving the Marvin Paige Hollywood Legacy Award, as the illustrious writer, actor , director of such gems as Paper Moon; The Last Picture Show; and What’s Up, Doc; as well as an esteemed film historian. Bogdanovich was lauded as “a most fitting auteur and historian to be honored,” and he took the stage, exclaiming “it’s an honor to be honored by such an illustrious group! And the greatest thing about movies is you’re giving people a priceless gift, pieces of time that you capture in footage and will never forget.” Mention was made of Roland Emmerich (in the audience) who had won the Carl Laemmle prize for his creativity and innovation as a film producer. One of the most memorable creations of Laemmle’s career were the ‘monster movies,’ Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi and Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff, larger than life horror monsters on screen, terrifying in image but not real life monsters like Hitler. Antonia Carlotta profoundly states in the film, that we have lived (and still live) in truly troubled times and it’s reassuring to know that people care, act, and do ; and her great uncle “was that one.” His vivid imagination and innate ability to humanize his film monsters, and endow them with feelings was nothing short of genius. Everyone wants to laugh, even in the darkest, most troubling of times, and Laemmle was spot on in this regard. As for his own ‘theory of relativity,’ he employed and put to work several members of the very large Laemmle family, showing his true altruism and generous spirit. Director James Freedman spoke after the film as well: “What an odyssey!” pretty much summed up his sentiments. He went on to say how Laemmle saved all these lives and in turn opened the eyes of the universe watching intently. The film is clear in depicting Laemmle “as a hero, not a superhero, a man with the wisdom and humanitarianism to touch people, save people, and affect people through film for generation after generation. This is Laemmle’s legacy.

About Bonnie Priever Curtain Up!

I am a theatre reviewer extraordinairre. I attend and cover theatres ranging from large to small venues, and every subject from musical theatre to dramatic presentations. Also please check out my reviews at and my email is
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