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?I Aim at the Stars? (and London) tonight 9-5


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11 PM Eastern Time


I Aim at the Stars (1960)


Rocket scientist Werner von Braun faces controversy when he emigrates to the U.S. to work in the space program.


Cast: Curt Jurgens, Victoria Shaw, Herbert Lom, Gia Scala Dir: J. Lee Thompson BW-107 mins, TV-PG


I gotta see this! I want to see how he justified bombing London with his early test rockets. And I want to find out if he was disappointed when he came to the US in the late ?40s, when he could no longer test his rockets on London.


Von Braun in dark suit at the far right:



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I've never even heard of this movie before, or this von Braun. So it's a true story.

I wonder if he was still alive when the movie was made? I'd also like to know how the

space program justified hiring him! :0


Curd Jurgens was good when Hollywood gave him a decent role to play (I thought him excellent

in The Enemy Below).

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Yes, he was real. I met and photographed him in 1964 near a NASA facility.


Right as the War ended, we captured a few German rocket scientists and we learned that the Russians had also captured a few. Since the US and the Russians did not have a rocket development program, both sides used their Germans to develop their rocket industries. Von Braun was the most famous of American?s German scientists.

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An old Tom Lehrer song;


Gather ?round while I sing you of Werner von Braun,

A man whose allegiance

Is ruled by expedience.

Call him a Nazi, he won?t even frown.

?Ha, Nazi Schmazi,? says Werner von Braun.


Don?t say that he?s hypocritical,

Say rather that he?s apolitical.


?Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?

That?s not my department,? says Werner von Braun.


Some have harsh words for this man of renown,

But some think our attitude

Should be one of gratitude,

Like the widows and cripples in old London town

Who owe their large pensions to Werner von Braun.


You too may be a big hero,

Once you?ve learned to count backwards to zero.

?In German oder English I know how to count down,

Und I?m learning Chinese,? says Werner von Braun.

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Last week we were talking about *October Sky*, the film about a group of West Virginia teenagers who were inspired to become rocket scientists because of von Braun's work.


It's the same von Braun. As Fred noted, he was captured towards the end of WWII. He and the scientists with him chose to surrender to the American forces.


He became known as the father of the space race and was the chief architect of the gigantic Saturn V rocket that enabled to us get to the moon among many other achievements.

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A guy I met on the internet a few years ago was a US rocket scientist in the late ?40s and early ?50s. He told me and others that it is a little known fact that in the late ?40s, to get around some law, the US Army people who worked at White Sands, took the Germans to the border with Mexico, down at El Paso, and they walked across the border, then they turned around and walked back into the US. Somehow, he said, this allowed them to work in the US as being ?German refugees?, while not being ?prisoners of war?. But I haven?t been able to confirm that story.


Here is a documentary about Von Braun:



This part of the documentary shows some excerpts from the movie we are going to see, plus an interview with the director of the film:


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It was a U.S. government program called "Operation Paperclip," in which all German scientists deemed useful for national defense, including rocketry, were imported into the United States, irrespective of whether they'd been Nazis or not.


It's all quite shameful, and did grave dishonor to the memories of all the U.S. service personnel who died fighting the Germans in World War II.

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It is almost always a bad idea to get your history from movies. They are too short to

give a detailed study of any historical subject, and will usually put dramatic concerns

ahead of historical accuracy. This film is probably no different. I would take parts of

it with a very large grain of salt.

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

> Ive never seen the film before. I dont remember it being in the theaters back in 1960.


It might not have played outside of major cities. According to imdb.com (which, I realize, isn't always 100% accurate) it opened in NYC on Oct. 19th, 1960.


The movie is apparently also known as Wernher von Braun.

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Fred, I'm thinking of *The Dam Busters* , a movie you talked about a few months ago. Reading the description/synopsis, I would not likely have watched it. Glad I read your thoughts and gave it a try --- it turned out to be absolutely gripping.


It will be interesting to see this one tonight, although as a former resident of London, I doubt I'm going to come out on the side of von Braun. I tend to dislike the folks who bomb my neighborhood, whenever they did it or whatever their reasons. Especially if those reasons were connected to the Nazi party.

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The film is a whitewash of von Braun's Nazi past, with everything possible done to shade the story in favor of its deeply-tainted subject. It's not that the arguments that Major Taggart (clearly a made-up character) advances aren't valid, but that they're simplistic, strident and clumsily motivated to the point that he's merely a foil for von Braun and his ambitions, and not a true or worthy adversary.


In a larger sense, it's just a bad, over-directed film that tries to make a man of suspect morality into an admirable figure, and fails at every attempt.


On a different note, as I was watching (and, mainly) listening to the actor who played the Colonel who offers von Braun work on the Army's rocket-development project and a path to citizenship, over Taggart's strenuous objection, I kept trying to pin down that actor's voice, with its distinctive New England accent.


It took a while before I finally realized that he's the same man who played Frank Poole's (Gary Lockwood) father in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY during the video-link call to wish Poole a happy birthday (the actor was Alan Gifford; for some reason he's not listed on IMDb as being in I AIM AT THE STARS, but the AFI Catalog does confirm it's he in the film).


I remember when I first saw 2001 at its initial roadshow engagement at New York's Loew's Capitol Theater in Times Square, a birthday gift from my aunt. During the above "happy birthday" scene, I heard my aunt mutter something along the lines of "What an ungrateful wretch," referring to Poole's apparently cool indifference to the televised greeting. I had to point out to her later that A: Poole was watching a recording and, B: the Discovery was so far from Earth that it might take twenty minutes or more for a signal between spacecraft and Earth to travel each way, so that any immediate reply would be pointless. Well, she was one of those people who never fully grasped the 20th century...

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MissGoddess, It was quite an interesting film. TCM should show it back to back with Operation Crossbow (1965), which is about the bombing of Peenem?nde by the allies.


Here is an interesting excerpt from David L. Wolper?s book, that seems to confirm the ?Mexican immigrant? story that the old scientist told me. Wolper was a famous documentary film maker in the ?60s and ?70s:





?Under this criterion many of the scientists recruited, such as Wernher von Braun, Arthur Rudolph and Hubertus Strughold, who were all officially on record as Nazis and listed as a "menace to the security of the Allied Forces," were ineligible. All were cleared to work in the U.S. after having their backgrounds "bleached" by the military. The paperclips that secured newly-minted background details to their personnel files gave the operation its name.?




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Was Fritz Lang?s 1929 movie responsible for inspiring Werner von Braun and eventually the US?s moon-rocket program?


?An artillery captain, Walter Dornberger, was assigned the task from his superiors to investigate the feasibility of using rockets. Dornberger went to see the rocket club VfR, made famous by Fritz Lang's movie, Woman in the Moon. Dornberger liked the enthusiasm generated by these young rocketeers and he gave them $400 to develop a rocket. A young Wernher von Braun worked through the spring and summer of 1932 to build a rocket with the funds.?



?Frau im mond? (1929), a Fritz Lang film:


Strange haircut on early astronaut:



11,200 kps, earth?s escape velocity:



No gravity in space:


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