Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Filipino Boy And The Death Of Murnau


Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau – the tragic film genius

Despite the fact that the Philippines has been producing films in Manila sine 1899, Filipinos were never heard of in America, let alone in Hollywood, during the 1930s.

The first time a Filipino became an item in Hollywood was in 1931 when a freaky accident happened in Los Angeles, where German-born Hollywood film director genius Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau died. This tragic event was in fact the very first time a Filipino became part of the Hollywood scene – and how!


Nosferatu, Murnau's well-known horror feature is amongst the creepiest horror films

Murnau, a proponent of the expressionistic film movement in Europe and who directed the film NOSFERATU – a milestone in the history of world cinema – was gay. He was well-known to like young boys.

In 1931, seven days before the premiere of his film TABU, he allowed a fourteen year-old, exotic-looking, very handsome Filipino boy named Garcia Stevenson, for a ride in his limo. And for some absolutely bizarre reason, he let the boy drive the Packard vehicle. Stevenson, driving too fast and swerving to avoid a truck, eventually crashed against an electric pole, killing the legendary film director. Garcia was not hurt, nor the other person in the car, but Murnau’s head was cracked open on a roadside pole and died in hospital shortly afterwards. He was 42 years old.


A 1930 Packard 740 Series Phaeton, similar to the limo driven by Garcia Stevenson

It was reported later on, that while Garcia Stevenson was driving, Mr. Murnau was playing with the boy’s genitals, and one report even went further by saying that the legendary director was actually performing fellatio on the boy, which distracted the latter, and eventually resulted in the tragic accident.


One of the most memorable scenes in Nosferatu that scared the hell out of moviegoers

This tragic incident was predicted by a psychic in Los Angeles and told Murnau to be careful and never ever to ride in a car for this particular trip. Murnau listened at first, but changed his mind later – a choice which led to his death.

Before Murnau came to Hollywood, he was already a well-known filmmaker in Germany. He was the most distinguished and talented of all the directors brought over to Hollywood in the 1920s with major press blitz and received the most elaborate red carpet treatment.

His first Hollywood film, Sunrise (1927) has been firmly included in the ten best lists of critics and film-historians of the world.


Sunrise (1927), is on the favorite list of film critics

Along with Fritz Lang and G.W. Pabst, Murnau was at the forefront of the outstanding creative German cinema of the early Twenties.


Pallbearers during Murnau's interment

While the scandalous rumors surrounding Murnau's death resulted in the appearance of only a handful of mourners at his funeral, Greta Garbo showed up during the interment. She requested that a death mask be made, which she kept on her desk throughout her life.


Murnau was buried in Waldfriedhof Stahnsdorf, a cemetery at the outskirts of Berlin


Greta Garbo went to Murnau's interment

And Garcia Stevenson?

Would you like to know what happened to our kababayan after the scandalous accident?

Well, one source revealed in 1986 that he was still alive and was still a hunk-looking grampa at 69.
:)

15 Comments:

Blogger Reno said...

One Pinoy I know of predated Garcia Stevenson in Hollywood. The pioneer of "Gorila Men," Charles (originally Carlos) Gemora.

He first became involved in Hollywood as one of the sculptors in the 1923 film "Hunchback of Notre Dame."

More info on Gemora at http://westgate-works.com/Charlie/charlieshistory.html

:)

January 26, 2010 at 3:11 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Reno,

He-he. I guess if it doesn't involve any scandal, the public won't even take a second look at it, hence little Charlie managed to have his own privacy. Though in the early 1900s, many Filipinos had stowed away to the USA and got away unscathed. I guess it was easier then to hide inside a ship's cargo area.

I think what really made the news item sensational in the early 30s was because Garcia was a minor and would have landed Murnau in hot water like where Roman Polanski is right now.

January 26, 2010 at 10:05 AM  
Anonymous annabellegonzales@yahoo.com said...

JM

How scandalous! At Pinoy pa ang bida. Je-je.

Wala kang picture ni Garcia Stevenson?

January 26, 2010 at 10:40 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Annabelle:

Garcia Stevenson's photo was never published on the papers. There's a law in USA and Canada wherein a minor child who got involved in any crime or sexual scandal should be protected, hence, the child image is not allowed to be published.

The very reliable source in California, however, showed me an old photo of Mr Stevenson and he was indeed very good-looking. If he's still alive today, he should be 83 years old.

January 26, 2010 at 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wala talagang taong perfect. Tagahanga ako ng mga films ni Murnau at hindi ko alam itong pangyayaring ito na naging dahilan ng kanyang pagkamatay.Nakakalungkot.

Mr. Rambutan

January 27, 2010 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Oo nga, Mr. Rambutan.

At kawawa rin si Garcia Stevenson dahil naging dalahin pa niya sa kanyang pag-iisip ang insidente.

Parang mga larawan doon sa site na:

www.kiuma.com

Kapag nakita mo ito ng mga tao, tiyak na magbabago sila sa kanilang pagmamaneho ng kotse, ng motorsiklo, at siguro's iiwasan din nila ang maglasing at maglakad sa kalye.

Dito lamang sa:
www.kiuma.com

natin mako-confront ang ating mortality.

Magpasyal ka na at tunghayan mo ang mapait at madugong katotohanan.

January 27, 2010 at 10:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you sa article na ito J.M. Maraming mga komikerong "nasa closet" ang nag-iisip ng malalim nang mabasa ito.

-oGIE boy

January 30, 2010 at 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is usual BS printed by gay bloggers.

Garcia Stevenson was not a 14 year old boy Murnau had just met. He was a grown man who was Murnau's valet. Every succesful Hollywood director had one.

There were several people in the car: Murnau, the valet, John Freeland a chauffeur who worked for Tanner Motors Livery, Ned Marin executive of a film audio company, and even Pal, Murnau's large German Sheepdog.

Murnau and Mr. Marin were in the back seat with the sheepdog between them. Garcia Stevenson and John Freeland were in the front seat.

Murnau was the only one hurt in the accident because he was thrown from the back seat of the open car.

This was brought out in the lawsuit Murnau's family pursued against Tanner Livery Service.

Don't go around repeating lies about a man who can't defend himself.

July 19, 2015 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Hello Anonymous:

The news item with photos was lifted from The New York Times from 1931.

I am not sure whether the newspaper changed their story, but I don't think so. Hence, this is the official report about the case.

There is no any other publication saying a different account of this incident.

July 19, 2015 at 5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew you wouldn't have the honesty, or love of truth to print my comment.

PS
"The news item with photos was lifted from The New York Times from 1931"
Another lie - Duh, there
were no color photos in the New York Times in 1931.

July 20, 2015 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Hahaha. You're funny. Why can't you state your facts without any snide remarks, and most of them are suppositions and without basis? It doesn't make your argument any stronger, my friend. You sound angry, and therefore, you remind me of a film made by Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar—Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). Let me give you advice: you better learn to relax, because LADY, you'll die young if you keep that sort of emotional distress all the time. You've been divorced and had another affair, and that too fizzled. You can only blame yourself for that. Just state your facts if you want, but trying to be cantankerous makes you sound like a buffoon. Let me tell you as well that my intention in lifting the article from news clippings has nothing to do with the obsession with kinky sex like you've insinuated. I have nothing against gay people, but personally, their sexual preference is their own business, not mine. I don't mind working with gays, but that's where the line ends. I worked in RP's showbiz for a few years, and I've met a lot of them in that industry. Beyond work, I'm totally off limits to other things. Sorry, but you can call me squeamish, and that's fine. As long as I'm far, far away from such "alternative" lifestyle, I'm at peace.

Now let's discuss what you've said about NYC Times. I never claimed that the Packard photo was the one used by Murnau. LOL. It was just to illustrate what sort of car it was, and I never claimed it was that car.

Okay, let me tell you one fact I never divulged in the article. Garcia Stevenson was my mother's first cousin. This is the reason I knew about him. My mother was French-Spanish (from Barcelona), and her cousins are Germans (Uncle Charlie Borck—was an Olympian at the 1936 Olympics in Germany. His father was German, and his mother was my mom's aunt from Barcelona. Garcia was 14 when he was hired as Murnau's gofer (this and that) LOL. His father was Irish. In those days, nobody gave a hoot if you were 14 and drove a car. He was an adventurous guy. Just the husband of one of my mother's cousins. He stowed away from Syria in the old days. When he landed in the Philippines, he married one of my mother's Spanish aunts.

Also, let me educate you on the process of printing in those days. The standard in printing in the 1930s was GRAVEUR. It was more sophisticated than offset. It produced the most beautiful colors in magazines and newspapers. You should visit any library in the USA or Canada and look for those newspapers printed in those years, and you'll be amazed how good the process was. So, please don't claim that there was no color used in newspapers in those days. Their weekend edition had comics and ads, all in glorious colors and done in the most sophisticated process of GRAVEUR.

I am a fan of Murnau, and I don't want to make him look bad, but the media perhaps weren't that kind to him. Even now, people who were part of the film industry in Hollywood still claim things about Murnau. Take this one from THE LOS ANGELES TIMES not too long ago:

July 20, 2015 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

• • • • • • • • •

LOS ANGELES TIMES
Movies

Out of the Shadow of 'Nosferatu.'

F.W. Murnau wasn't a martinet, and his star was definitely not a vampire, but this way is more fun.

SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Steven Katz admits he libels famed German director F.W. Murnau "horribly" in his screenplay of "Shadow of the Vampire," the recently opened quirky comedy about the making of Murnau's 1922 vampire classic "Nosferatu."
As portrayed by John Malkovich, Murnau is an obsessive taskmaster who, in his dogged pursuit for reality, actually hires a creepy real vampire named Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) to play the title role of the blood-sucking Count Orlock.
The truth be told, says Katz, Murnau "was apparently extremely polite, an unfailingly polite gentleman. I made him more manipulative than he really was."
As for the real Schreck (his name is German for "shriek"), little is known about him--but no, he was not a vampire. "There seems to be conflicting information about him," says Katz. "Some people claim that that was a stage name concocted for the film. I just kind of hijacked this man's biography."
Surprisingly, Katz has read in Internet chat rooms that fans of the Murnau film aren't happy he's transformed Schreck into a real vampire. "People have been writing they have been quite disgusted--how dare I tell a fictional story using real characters," says Katz. "It's a bit idiotic since it is the thrust of literature since Homer. I made no apologies."
The Lions Gate release plays off the real-life and legends of Murnau and Schreck. In the film, Murnau is a man so devoted to his art that even death won't stop him from bringing his vision to the screen. Schreck is the ultimate Method actor, who, Murnau informs his cast and crew, is so into his part he only will do his scenes at night and refuses to be seen out of makeup.
The film's premise, though, is that Schreck is the genuine article--a bloodthirsty vampire whom Murnau has promised the neck of the film's leading lady (Catherine McCormack) as his "salary." But Schreck also ends up being a most demanding star, one who snarls if he doesn't get his way and is not above sucking the life out of several crew members.
The facts about Murnau and Schreck aren't quite as colorful, but still the stuff of film legend. Here's a look at these two icons of the silent cinema.

July 20, 2015 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

F.W. Murnau
Born Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe in Bielefeld, Germany, on Dec. 28, 1888, Murnau studied art and the history of literature at the University of Heidelberg. He took the name Murnau from a town in Germany.
During World War I, he was a combat pilot. "He crashed his plane twice and damaged one of his kidneys so badly, he was never able to drink alcohol for the rest of his life," says "Vampire" director E. Elias Merhige. "I think he took some painkillers and some of the opiates that were developed in World War I in order to help with some of the pain at times."
Murnau began his artistic career as an assistant to noted theater director Max Reinhardt and started making movies in Germany in 1919. He quickly developed into one of the most influential directors of the silent era due to his innovative, Expressionistic use of camera, lighting, sets and editing.
He was also able to elicit tremendous performances from such actors as Schreck in "Nosferatu"; Emil Jannings in 1924's "The Last Laugh"; and Janet Gaynor, who won the first best actress Oscar for Murnau's exquisite 1927 drama "Sunrise."
"Murnau is someone who has inspired me a great deal," says Merhige, "like the camera movement when you met the woman from the city for the first time in 'Sunrise.' It is just fantastic. And 'The Last Laugh' with its moving sets and camera movements."
Hollywood took notice of Murnau, and in 1926 he came to Los Angeles with a five-picture deal at Fox. "Sunrise" was a huge hit, but his next two, "Four Devils" and "City Girl," didn't match its success.
Merhige says that Murnau established himself "quite well" in Hollywood. "He was an amiable person," says the director. "He wasn't too eccentric and too weird that he didn't get along with everybody. He was liked and deeply respected. I think that is a great combination for establishing longevity in a business that is very social and necessarily so."
Murnau left Fox after the three pictures and teamed with documentary film director Robert Flaherty ("Nanook of the North") to make the South Sea islands drama "Tabu," which would be his last film.
After completing "Tabu," he signed a contract to work at Paramount, along with another German emigre, Ernst Lubitsch.
Murnau was a closet homosexual, but his "secret" came out with his death in a car accident at age 42. Kenneth Anger wrote in his book "Hollywood Babylon": "Murnau's death in 1931 inspired a flood tide of speculation. Murnau had hired as valet a handsome 14-year-old Filipino boy named Garcia Stevenson. The boy was at the wheel of the Packard when the fatal accident occurred."

• • • • •

The incident happened ages ago, and the only records we have are news clippings from old newspapers. Beleieve me, I have no intention to besmirch Murnau's reputation, I only wanted to write what exactly happened to my relative. I was told my older relatives about this incident and they even showed me photos of Uncle Garcia (who was very close to Uncle Charlie). They both grew up together and grew old in California with their respective wives, and they only moved to Nevada when they retired. Uncle Garcia died ahead of Uncle Charlie. But Uncle Garcia never mentioned anything about Murnau when I used to visit them in Pomona.

Do some research of your own and share it us if you will. Thank you for visiting my blog (though I haven't written anything on it for sometime), but if you have new info on this matter, do share it with us. You are more than welcome to do so. Thank you, Madam. Don;t forget to change your disposition. You'll be a much happier woman if you do.

July 20, 2015 at 6:33 PM  
Anonymous Les Hammer said...

July 28, 2015

I am Les Hammer, author of "F.W. Murnau: For The Record," published by Bookstand Publishing in 2012.

For the record, Garcia Stevenson was not Filipino. He was not 14 years old and he was not having sex with Murnau when the fatal accident occurred on March 10, 1931.

Eliazar Garcia Stevenson was born in 1900 to Edward Stevenson, a British expatriate who had been living in San Francisco at the turn of the century, and his wife, Elivira Garcia of Mexico.

I know little about his early life, except that he raised by his father and probably had a British accent -- a cachet when he became a valet, first for director Ludwig Berger, then for F.W. Murnau.

When the fatal accident occurred on Pacific Coast Highway, north of Santa Barbara, Eliazar Stevenson was at the wheel of a Packard touring car. The 26-year-old chauffeur, John Freeland, was sitting next to him. Murnau was in the back seat, holding his dog, Pal. And no, producer Ned Marin was not riding in the car, nor was actor Herman Bing traveling in a second car.

Without warning, a truck veered into the oncoming lane. Stevenson swerved to avoid a head-on collision. But the car hit an embankment and overturned, throwing everyone out of the vehicle. Stevenson escaped with minor injuries. Freeland suffered severe facial lacerations, while Murnau was thrown into a ditch. He died the next morning of head and internal injuries at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital -- one week before the premiere of his last film "Tabu."

A coroner's jury ruled that Murnau's death was "accidental." The truck driver (who could have been prosecuted for manslaughter) was never caught. Freeland recovered from his injuries and took up a safer line of work as an aircraft mechanic in Los Angeles, where he died in 1964.

Eliazar Stevenson traded the petty humiliations of a servant for the raucous life of a bartender in Las Vegas, where he died in 1985. To the end of his life, Stevenson never responded to the patently false and libelous allegation in Kenneth Anger's scandal-mongering book "Hollywood Babylon" that he was Murnau's "boy" -- if, in fact, he ever read the book.

Read my book or, better yet, savor the haunting and ravishing images in "Nosferatu," "The Last Laugh" and "Sunrise." Wrap your heart around the star-crossed lovers of a lost paradise in "Tabu." Lose yourself in the world of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.

Les Hammer

July 28, 2015 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Hello Les:

Thanks for the input. Garcia's mother was Part-Filipino (and it's not unusual because Mexico, through Spain's orders, had overseen The Philippines for more than 150 years), and she was my mom's relative. I know the Las Vegas thingy about Gracia because Uncle Charlie Borck told me about it when I visited him there before he passed away in '89. The problem with my relatives who were quite old in the 1980s, I could only gather sketchy stories about Eliazar (Garcia Stevenson). If I could visit the Bicol Region, I might find elderly relatives there who would remember exactly what sort of childhood he had and will update you about his childhood. I will read your book. Thank you.

July 28, 2015 at 8:50 PM  

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