“Ich & John Wayne” – the title of this book, German obviously, means Me & John Wayne, and the subtitle “Lichtspiele” is a by now obsolete — but lovely nevertheless — term for cinemas: “Licht” means light in the sense of ‘electric light’ and “Spiele” plays.
This is THE book for everyone who loves the movies — think “Stagecoach” and “The Lady Eve,” “Captain Blood” and “Barry Lyndon,” some of Kurt Scheel’s favourites — and its title also indicates that this is not a ‘profound’ academic discourse, although chock-full of intelligent observations and informations, but above all a witty, ironic, ENTERTAINING book by someone who sincerely loves and knows the movies.
There are probably not many other people who watched as many films as Kurt Scheel did who was born and grew up in a cinema as it were. “Solange ich zurückdenken kann, bin ich im Kino gewesen” [For as long as I can remember, I went to the movies], he writes.
His parents owned the only cinema, the Altenwerder Lichtspiele, in a village of 2000 souls on an island in the Elbe estuary near Hamburg, and he saw his first movies when he still had trouble walking. “Meine ersten Filme habe ich mit 3, 4 Jahren gesehen, und es war von Anfang an mein Glück” [I watched my first movies at the age of 3 or 4, and from the very beginning it was bliss].
He helped run his parents’ cinema and watched an endless number of films, awful films and sublime ones, idiotic films and devilishly witty ones… till he left his island in the river to go to university.
He became the editor-in-chief of one of Germany’s most prestigious highbrow monthly magazines “MERKUR,” but preserved his love of the movies, the real movies, i.e. Hollywood, ’shallow entertainment,’ John Wayne and all that, and hated the art-house and academic approach to his beloved movies.
Kurt Scheel died two years ago. He was my best friend. So, He & John Wayne are both dead now. One of them I am still mourning.