Bernard Vorhaus wasn't much appreciated when he was working here, and even less appreciated when he worked in America; but he stands as proof-positive that no matter how low the budget or how bad the script, a good director can make a difference.
Born in New York, he was educated in Harvard and was destined for the family law firm. However, Vorhaus' elder sister worked in the East coast film studios as a scenario writer, and he developed the movie bug from an early age.
By the mid-twenties he was working steadily as a writer in Hollywood. He wanted to be a director and he scraped together enough money to fund a short, Sunlight, which he co-directed. It was well-received, but Vorhaus couldn't get it sold to distributors. He decided to blow the last of his money on a trip to England.
He fell in love with the country and found writing work in the film industry which was undergoing a production boom. He managed to fund two productions to direct before joining Twickenham Studios. There he found himself at the heart of the quota-quickie system.
These movies were produced quickly for under £1 a foot of film to a maximum of 6000 ft (approx 66 mins. running time). Within these constraints Vorhaus managed to create little miracles of inventiveness. His work covered thrillers, musicals and melodramas. The jewel in this collection is The Last Journey. It's a speedy tale of a mad train driver and his runaway train. Possibly the fastest movie of the 30s, it's more fun than any Hollywood B-movie of the period.
By the time Twickenham collapsed, Vorhaus had already been head-hunted by Hollywood. Sadly, the bit of Hollywood he ended up in was Republic Pictures. It proved to be even harder to be creative at Republic than at Twickenham.
During this period he got involved in Hollywood's Anti-Nazi League. This "premature anti-Fascism" got him mentioned in the HUAC and he was blacklisted in 1951. Before this happened he moved to Europe where he made a couple of minor films.
He returned to England and set up business in flat conversions. His films were rediscovered in the 80s. He died in November and the NFT are mounting a tribute to his work in March.
(Details taken from Geoff Brown's essay Money For Speed in The Unknown 1930s)
|1933||On Thin Ice|
|1933||Money for Speed|
|1933||The Ghost Camera|
|1933||Crime on the Hill|
|1933||The Broken Melody|
|1934||Night Club Queen|
|1934||Ten Minute Alibi|
|1935||The Last Journey|
|1938||King of the Newsboys (U.S.)|
|1938||Tenth Avenue (U.S.)|
|1939||Fisherman's Wharf (U.S.)|
|1939||Way Down South (U.S.)|
|1939||Meet Dr Christian (U.S.)|
|1940||The Courageous Dr Christian (U.S.)|
|1940||Three Faces West (U.S.)|
|1941||Lady from Louisiana (U.S.)|
|1941||Angels with Broken Wings (U.S.)|
|1941||Hurricane Smith (U.S.)|
|1941||Mr District Attorney in the Carter Case (U.S.)|
|1942||Affairs of Jimmy Valentine (U.S.)|
|1942||Ice-Capades Revue (U.S.)|
|1947||Winter Wonderland (U.S.)|
|1947||Bury Me Dead (U.S.)|
|1948||The Spiritualist (U.S.)|
|1950||So Young So Bad (U.S.)|
|1950||Pardon My French (Fr.)|
|1952||Luxury Girls (It.)|
Bernard Vorhaus at Amazon UK
Bernard Vorhaus at Amazon US