Posts Tagged ‘Huntsville’

“Dr. von Braun Says Rocket Flights Possible to Moon”
May 14, 1950 headline in The Huntsville Times

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that there’s a not so top secret area in the deep south that has some stories to tell.

Last night I stayed in Huntsville, Alabama and took this photo at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center before I pulled out of town early this afternoon.

Though I never saw the 1986 film SpaceCamp I remembered that the story was inspired by a space camp for kids in Huntsville. The movie starred the up and comers Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, and Joaquin Phoenix.

While most know the name of Neil Armstrong as the first man who walked on the moon, less known is Wernher von Braun the NASA engineer (and Huntsville resident from 1950-70) who lead the development of the Saturn V rocket that allowed Anderson to take those famous first steps in 1969. And according to Wikipedia, “Dr. von Braun also developed the idea of a Space Camp that would train children in fields of science and space technologies as well as help their mental development much the same way sports camps aim at improving physical development.”

In a 1961 President John F. Kennedy said in a speech, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth. ” This was something that the visionary von Braun had thought at least a decade earlier. But do you want to know the other visionary besides President Kennedy and von Braun that helped put man on the moon? Adolf Hitler. Now that’s a part of the story I don’t recall that story ever being told in a movie. (Though I can’t believe it hasn’t at least been addressed in a documentary or two.)

At one time von Braun was a Nazi. He is called “the Father of Rocket Science” not only for his work in the United States, but the early development of rocket technology during World War II for the Germans.  I’m not an expert in the fine details of how von Braun and his team of 118-127 German rocket scientists (known as The von Braun Group) found their way to Alabama, but there no doubt had to be some interesting cultural exchanges and gossip going on in Huntsville back in the 50s and 60s.

In a 2007 New York Times article When the Germans, and Rockets, Came to Town Shaila Dewan wrote, “By the mid-1960s, von Braun had so mastered the local [Huntsville] culture that when he wanted voters to approve a bond issue for the Space and Rocket Center, he persuaded Bear Bryant, the revered University of Alabama football coach, and Shug Jordan, the rival Auburn coach, to make a television commercial supporting the project.” Dewan also wrote that Von Braun himself was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan for hiring blacks.” I find all that quite interesting.

And interesting to think that rocket science was probably the real life “lost ark” that Hitler was hoping to find. If he had of won the space race, he would have ruled the world like he desired. Hitler, Nazis, JFK, KKK, rockets, Alabama football, and plans to take over the world—how come this movie hasn’t been made?

P.S. While von Braun’s genius was never in question, and he became an American citizen in 1955, his background made him open for satire. In the 1963 Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) the main character (played by Peter Sellers) is an ex-Nazi scientist and Sellers said that he based his part as Dr. strangelove on von Braun. And then there is this video by singer, songwriter and Harvard grad in mathematics Tom Lehrer:

Related Post:

Screenwriting from Huntsville
Muscle Shoals Music & Movie (This afternoon I drove through Muscle Shoals, AL and look forward to finally seeing the doc Muscle Shoals as it gets a wider release this month.)

Scott W. Smith

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“My work, I can do anywhere.”
Screenwriter Christoph Silber

One trend that I’ve noticed since starting this blog in January ’08 is there really is a growing trend of people writing screenplays and making movies outside Los Angeles. And some are doing quite well such as Paranormal Activities made by a writer/director living down in San Diego (still California, but really like another time zone to the people in the thirty mile zone) and then I just heard about a working screenwriter living in Huntsville, Alabama.

Now the south in general and Alabama in particular is no stranger to fine storytellers, but this one does have a twist. Christoph Silber not only lives far from Hollywood, but the films made from his scripts are made far from California—or even Huntsville. According to an article by Jon Buseker Silber is “one of Germany’s most soughtafter screenwriters.”

He’s had three films made in Germany  North FaceAranged, and the Golden Globe-nominated Good Bye Lenin!, and has written for the German crime show Tatort. Busdeker says that Silber met his wife in New York City but the couple moved to Alabama after they inherited a house and felt like it would be a better place to raise their family.

Silber said about the move south,”I think it benefits my writing. I feel there’s something about the land.” (Of course, it may have something to do with that land he’s living on being mortgage-free, but that’s another story for another day.)

Silber was raised in Germany and I’m sure he’s not the only German in town.  Huntsville has a history of Germans living there at least back to the World War II period when many of Germany’s top scientist fled Hitler and ended up working on the rockets that helped build the US space program (and why it’s called “Rocket City.”)

And this isn’t the first time Huntsville’s come up on this blog. Check out the post on Daytime Emmy-winning writer (and former Miss Alabama) Pamala K. Long.  Roll tide.

And a hat tip to Mystery Man on Film for the lead on the article. If you’re still looking for a good reason to join twitter then I recommend jumping into the game just to follow the Mystery Man on Film (@MMonFilm). (And follow me as well @scottwsmith_com)

Scott W. Smith

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