Thursday, 11 November 2010


My obit of David Wolper is in today's Indy, you can link to it here. I had the dubious privilege of watching the opening ceremony of the 1984 LA Olympics up close, through its rehearsals, when I was coordinating the host feed from the Coliseum, and that was why I used the word impressario--even if it were monumental in its tackiness. In my mind Wolper was associated with any number of worthy, middle-of-the-road, prestige docs which I saw in my teenaged years, rather than the huge hit mini-series which came after: 'a David L Wolper' production was the sign of a certain quality which was pretty much umatched on US TV at the time. I particularly recall The Rise And Fall of The Third Reich; I had read Shirer's book when I was 12 or 13 and the film lived up to my expectations.

But I hadn't realised it was Wolper who brought Superman to our screens when we were younger, nor that he had produced two excellent though often overlooked films I admired in the late 60s and early 70s, The Bridge At Remagen and Willy Wonka. I might be willing to concede that Fantastic Mr Fox is an equally good Dahl adaptation; I mainly wanted to distance the Mel Stuart/Gene Wilder version from the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp remake.

The Olympics seemed to bring out the worst in Wolper, as it does to many artists, though I have a fond memory of his Rafer Johnson doc. Visions Of Eight was notable mainly for its unintentional echoes of Leni Reifenstahl and for confirming that TV coverage of sport was already outpacing what film-makers could do. But to me it is always a sign when an obit turns into, at least in part, a catalogue of the person's work, that they accomplished a huge amount that was worthy of note, and Wolper certainly did do that.

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