When I Grow Up…

Rudy Behlmer…I want to be Rudy Behlmer. I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I can dream, can’t I? If you’re a fan of classic film, Rudy’s work has likely touched you in some way. If you have seen Ken Murray’s Hollywood Without Makeup, which plays often on Turner Classic Movies, then you’ve watched a program directed by Rudy Behlmer. If you have read Memo from David O. Selznick or Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck, just two of his many books, then you’ve been enriched by Rudy Behlmer’s scholarship. If you have explored the bonus features of DVDs like The Adventures of Robin Hood or King Kong or dozens of others, you’ve been enlightened by Rudy’s crazy knowledge of the production of classic Hollywood pictures. Rudy is the guy who took us Inside Warner Bros. where he sifted through those terrific inter-office memos that circulated during the production of Warner classics and gave us glimpses of the off-camera dramas. And, of course, Rudy was co-author along with Tony Thomas and Clifford McCarty of The Films of Errol Flynn, the 1969 Citadel volume that put Flynn’s career in perspective. Just this week I was enjoying the BYU CD original score of Dodge City—Rudy wrote the liner notes—70 pages worth!

I have asked for Rudy’s help on a number of occasions and at first it wasn’t easy because the man’s a legend and has an imperious quality about him. He has known and worked with the greats. Every time he answered one of my questions (or 10 of my questions) or reviewed a piece of my writing, I felt honored that he thought my work was worthy of his time and expertise.

No, I will never be Rudy Behlmer when I grow up; there’s only one, and I appreciate his love for Golden Hollywood. I respect his desire to protect the memories of those who made the pictures. I revel in his body of works that have benefited those of us who care about the studios and the stars. If there were a Mount Rushmore of film scholarship, he’d be on it.

I’m curious to know what your favorite Rudy Behlmer work is. If you look him up on IMDB you won’t believe how many credits he has in media. He’s one guy that we just haven’t taken time to appreciate and thank for a lifetime of service to classic film.

5 comments

  1. My introduction to Rudy Behlmer was through his wondrous collaboration with Clifford McCarty and the great Tony Thomas, The Films of Errol Flynn. It remains the Bible for me on the swashbuckler’s film career.

    Throughout the years, it has always been a reassuring confirmation for me of accuracy whenever I see Rudy’s name on the liner notes on classical music CDs, such as Now Voyager or Treasure of the Sierra Madre, not to mention his interview with George Korngold, the composer’s son, on the Varese Sarabande release of The Sea Hawk. It was Rudy, the detail historian, who verified here that part of the score for the Panama scenes in the film came from a waltz composed by Korngold for an unproduced 1936 Warners project, Danton. Now there was a little historical nugget I had never read anywhere else before.

    Of course, Rudy’s presence on the production specials of countless DVDs of classic films, including some of my favourites, such as King Kong, Adventures of Robin Hood and Adventures of Don Juan, has always helped immensely to enrich the experience of enjoying those films with his detailed insights on those productions.

    There are some film historians who, I feel, have had a tendency to embellish a little in their recount of Hollywood history. I never worry about this, however, with Rudy Behlmer, for whom I think the truth about film history is always his guiding light.

    And, of course, Robert, I’d like to thank you for the time I sent you an inquiry about Errol Flynn which you then passed on to Rudy Behlmer since you weren’t certain of the answer. Rudy was kind enough to promptly respond, for which I am highly grateful. In addition to being one of the foremost of Hollywood scholars, he acted just like the class act that I always knew he would be.

  2. Robert, as you know, my passion for old movies runs deep dating back to my childhood when I’d sneak out of bed and watch whatever was on at midnight IF I could get the aerial antenna to tune into the one Indianapolis station that played these films. I devoured many books to learn about the lives of the stars, but wasn’t introduced to Hollywood Without Makeup until TCM so I guess that would’ve been the mid ‘90s. I own the video and have watched it several times. The collection of clips are delightful and we get just a tiny glimpse into the lives of these stars. The San Simeon footage is priceless. Hello? Marie Dressler! It does beg the question how much footage did Rudy Behlmer, Loring D’usseau and Ken Murray comb through to come up with a 50 minute program?

    I’m so grateful for Mr. Behlmer’s knowledge and his own passion for telling the backstories of the classic movies we all love, and the producers and directors behind them. As a fan of many, many Warner Brothers movies as well as their amazing actors (with Davis, Garfield and Bogart as my faves), I’ve read and reread Behlmer’s Inside Warner Brothers. WB movies are my preference because they show a slice of life. It’s often dark but it’s real and the scripts gave the actors and directors so much to work with. Behlmer’s research allows us to learn the smallest details that went into making WB movies as well as the frugality and absolute control of Jack Warner.

    So happy you featured Rudy Behlmer in your blog. He’s such a treasure and isn’t it wonderful that 50+ years ago he was interested enough in preserving the history of Hollywood that he made it his life’s work? Bravo and thank you, Mr. Behlmer.

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