Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Claude Heilman, Film Producer and Cousin

Often times when researching the tree I run across interesting people with interesting stories. At least I think so, and each time I find one I always mean to write it up and post it here. Well, today I ran into one, and before I forget everything I've learned about him, here's the story of how I found him and who he is.   

The Lachmann Family of Graudenz

My great great grandmother was born Henriette LACHMANN in Thorn, and I've spent a lot of time researching the Lachmann name. Not only were there a lot of them, but there are available records and finding them isn't as impossible as other lines.  

Berlin grave of Naumann Lachmann (1818-1874)
In any case, while researching her greater family a few years ago, I ran into her uncle Naumann LACHMANN and did a deep dive on him. I found his wife, and a child. I did a bunch of research on his wife's side of the family. Found a marriage of his child. And then found I was researching the wrong Naumann Lachmann.  Henriette's uncle lived from 1818 to 1874 and died in Berlin without ever getting married. I found his grave. I had a nice little family tree for some random Lachmann. 

I learned that places are really important.  Uncle Naumann was born in Graudenz, not Neuenburg. Minor details.

So that chopped off branch of the tree just sat there by itself for years.  That is, until a few days ago when I was looking at DNA matches and found a match that shared the Lachmann name.  I built out a tree and ended up in a completely new city, Lobens, Posen which make a direct Lachmann match unlikely.  However, as it often happens, during the time I was digging into this area of the tree and checking each and every match, I did a few searches for Lachmann along with the three cities: Graudenz, Neuenburg, and Lobens. 

That's when I ran into the other Naumann LACHMANN again. The wrong one, from the wrong city. However, it turns out his city of Neuenburg is actually the city my Lachmann family was in before they were in Graudenz.   Time as marched on, and in the ensuing years, I have gone back a few more generations and ended up in Neuenburg. 

The Lachmann Family of Neuenburg

With my updated tree, and the two Naumann LACHMANN's now linked to the same city, the obvious situation is that they are first cousins, named after a common grandfather or great grandfather. And, as I looked at the newly improved family tree, there was an obvious place for Naumann LACHMANN (1824-1894) to sit: right next to a supposedly only child, Mortiz LACHMANN of Neuenburg.  One quick note, only children in the 1800s are very rare, and if you see one on your tree you should assume there are siblings. 

With the "other" Naumann LACHMANN now situated into my tree as Henriette's father's first cousin (my 1st cousin 5x removed) I obviously started to complete the research I had abandoned on his descendants. 

I reattached his wife and "only" child Jenni (Henriette's 2nd cousin), and quickly found that he had two granddaughters, Bertha and Therese from the 1894 marriage of Jenni LACHMANN and Nathan HIRSCH.   

While Jenni and Nathan were murdered in the Holocaust, thankfully both Bertha and Therese survived.  And while I couldn't find any children for Therese, I did find that Bertha HIRSCH had married Martin HEILMANN and had a child with him.   Martin had two sons from a previous marriage, so his third son, Klaus HEILMANN born in Köln in 1927 is my only DNA-related cousin.  Klaus is my grandfather Edgar's 4th cousin.  It is almost a 100% chance that my grandfather had no idea that Klaus existed, but Klaus is interesting enough for me to write about him! 

And before I do, here's the relevant part of the family tree for those of you who didn't understand a word of what I just wrote. Hopefully it more clearly illustrates the path from Naumann LACHMANN to his great grandsons -- one of which is the subject of this very post. 

Family tree for Jenni Hirsch, geb Lachmann

Meet Claude Heilman (born Klaus Heilmann) 

Claude Heilman in 1960 (Klaus Heilmann)
Klaus Heilmann was born in Köln, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany on 27 June 1927 to Martin Heilmann and Bertha Heilmann née Hirsch (my great grandmother Rosi's 3rd cousin). 

Young Klaus escaped to London with his parents during WWII, and quickly got interested in the film industry. He spent some time at an early age working with the J. Arthur Rank organization in England before moving out to California. 

Klaus Heilmann, now using the name Claude Heilman, arrived in New York on 25 Apr 1947 aboard the Queen Elizabeth, and quickly made his way to Hollywood, California to pursue his movie dreams.

Less than a year after his arrival, Klaus Heilmann (aka Claude), aged 20, declared his intention to become a U.S. citizen on 19 January 1948 in Los Angeles. His address at the time was 6050 6th Avenue, Los Angeles, California and his occupation was listed as Film Publicity.  

Claude got his first job in the Los Angeles film industry in 1948 as a doorman at Fox West Coast Theatres, most likely Grauman's Egyptian Theatre which was run by Fox at the time.  

In the ensuing years he rose to assistant manager at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, before trying his hand as a film producer. 

U.S. Citzenship

On 27 May 1954, Claude Heilman petitioned for U.S. citzenship via naturalization. He gave his address as 4711 W 18th St, Los Angeles, California. Light complexion, 6 feet 3 inches in height, weighing 165 pounds, with brown hair and eyes. His two witnesses standing up for him were Charles L. King III of 1845 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverely Hills, and Hyatt H. Daab of 1239 N. Sweetzer Ave, Hollywood. The petition was filed and granted on 11 June 1954, with certificate 7214645 issued. 

The Hollywood Adventures of Claude Heilman

I love timelines. What follows is exactly that, a timeline of all the Hollywood film projects that Claude had a hand in producing or pursuing. Only one of them seems to have been actually made, but it is clear that he was actively involved in many projects over the years.  Many of them struck my fancy as I was compiling the list, and I actually think at least two of them should be made today! 

The Furnace Within (1954)

Variety's July 7, 1954 issue reported that Claude was teaming up with his friend: 


Hollywood, July 6. 

Production program of three pictures is set by Heilman-King Productions, a new company formed  by Claude Heilman, formerly with  Fox West Coast, and Charles L.  King 3d, former actor. Heilman  will produce and King will direct  the films. 

First of the trio will be “The  Furnace Within.” to be filmed next  month on the Mojave Desert. Second will be “Forever and Ever,”  to be shot in Japan. Third, still  untitled, will be made in; Oregon.

While it doesn't look like any of those films were ever made, it's clear that at the tender age of 27 he was all in on being a film producer.  His friend Charles L. King III, aged 35 at the time, was the son of the actor, Charles Lafayette King Jr., with Hollywood connections via his father, aunt, and grandfather -- he later became a movie sound technician working on The Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Wagon Train, and many other TV series.  Tragically on 29 June 1990, Charles L. King died at age 69 when he was shot and killed by an intruder in his Hollywood apartment just before midnight. 

Forever and Ever (1955)

Mentioned in the article above, this was supposed to be a film shot in Japan as the second in a series by Heilman-King.  Never happened. 

The Earth Is Mine (1959)

Three years later, as the age of 30 Claude formed Vintage Productions to film the novelization of Alice Tisdale Hobart's novel on the California wine industry during prohibition, The Cup and the Sword.   The film was named This Earth Is Mine and stars Rock Hudson, Jean Simmons and Claude Rains. It was filmed during 1958 at winery locations around California, and was a big picture. 

One of the most interesting things about The Earth is Mine is that it was financed by California Wine Growers, and was shot on location at many vineyards around the state.  

Variety magazine covered the filming in their October 1, 1958 issue, 

Little Intimate Junkets To The Grape 

Universal’s ‘Winelift’ Operating Under Military Logistics As Staffers Dedicate Their Stamina 

Napa, Cal., Sept. 30 — Universal is using a new publicity gimmick on its biggest-budget production, the $3,500,000 "This Earth Is Mine.” 

Henry King is shooting on location in the Napa Valley—wine capital of the U.S.—for six weeks and studio has devised system of “individualized junkets” to get full coverage for the picture. 

Instead of bringing 40 to 50 newsmen and magazine reps from New York and Los Angeles en masse, Universal is bringing them in by twos and threes all through six-week location period. 

This has resulted in a headache for the location publicity man, Fred Banker, and his assistant, Mike Baiimohl, not to mention the Frisco exploitation man, Mike Vogel, and Jack Diamond and Harry Niemeyer in Los Angeles and Phil Gerard in New York. 

But Universal staff, convinced that barrage of publicity is necessary from the time shooting started early this month until release next July, figures small, continuous junkets will pay off. 

Logistics of junkets involve: 

(1) Sending actor Alberto Morin, dressed as a sommelier, to five dozen writers in Los Angeles and New York to pour an iced glass of champagne and to deliver junket invitation personally; 

(2) Follow-up phone calls to each writer to set a definite date; 

(3) Delivery of four bottles of still wine, with round-trip air tickets to Frisco attached; 

(4) Picking up writers in publicity limousine at Frisco Airport and chauffeuring them north to Casa Lu-Al Motel, 50 miles north of Frisco and a mile outside Napa; 

(5) Putting writers up at motel—80% taken over by Universal—and then taking them another 25 miles into vineyards where Henry King is shooting; I 

(6) Arranging valley winery ; tour—premium wineries, Charles i Krug, Inglenook, Beaulieu, Schramsberg and Louis Martini are all working with studio; 

(7) Shipping writers back to Frisco and home bases after two or three-day stay. 

Whole thing is called "Operation Winelift” and Banker says it isn’t unusual to put a pair of writers on a 9 a.m. plane bound for New York and walk a few yards to pick up another pair of writers in on the 9:05 a.m. plane from Los Angeles. 

Each tour gets full-dress treatment—last weekend, for instance, U’s eastern publicity manager, Gerard, escorted Ed Miller of Seventeen, Florence Sommer of Redbook and Mark Nichols of Coronet in from New York, 

U feeling is that this picture, scripted by Casey Robinson and coproduced by Robinson and Claude Heilman, marks a definite turning point in company policy. Idea is that only a dozen films a year, half of them big budget and other half somehow unusual, will be produced henceforth instead of three dozen programmers. 

But, says Banker, “we can’t afford to shoot a picture and then forget about it until it’s in release ... we have to have a consistent, long-range campaign and that’s what we’re getting here.” 

Total publicity budget for these six weeks may run as high as $75,- 000, and that’s just a starter— film is on a 12-week shooting schedule with last half to be done at studio. 

Among those who’ve already had individualized junkets are:  Norman Siegal, Photoplay; Dave Zeitlin, Life; Stan Gordon, Look; Tom Wood, N.Y. Herald Tribune; Erskine Johnson, NEA; Betty Voigt, Newsweek; Dean Gauchey, legman for Harrison Carroll; Paine Knickerbocker, repping N. Y. Times; Louis Wolf, Chicago Tribune. 

Booked, for current or future junkets are: Neil Rau, repping Louella Parsons; Nelson Hughes, repping-Hed- da Hopper; Rick DuBrow, UPI; Larry Barbier and Don Ornitz, Globe Photos; Lize Wilson, American Weekly; Pat Campbell, Motion Picture; Peer Oppenheimer, Family Weekly;. Lowell Redelings and Len Boyd, Hollywood Citizen- News; Harold Heffernan, NANA; Nat Dallinger, King Features; Simon Bourgin, Newsweek; Ruth Waterbury, Cosmopolitan; Herb Stein, Triangle Publications; Sara Salzer, Seventeen; A. M. Colegrove Scripps-Howard; Hal Boyle, AP. 

U has grabbed considerable space in Frisco and other Northern California dailies, figures on bringing in as many of what it calls "key people” as possible in preparation for months-long campaign. Picture, which centers on a Napa Valley wine-making family and is based on Alice Tisdale Hobart’s novel. The Cup and the Sword,” also has fervent co-operation of California Wine Institute and Wine Advisory Board. 

A quick summary of the film itself from Wikipedia:

Elizabeth (Jean Simmons), an English cousin of the Rambeau family, arrives in California in 1931 for a casual visit with her aunt and uncle, only to find her future pre-determined with a pre-arranged marriage to Andre Swann, a young cousin of another branch of the family. Another cousin, John Rambeau (Rock Hudson), disagrees with those plans, informs Elizabeth that she's being married off to consolidate the family's wine holdings, hints at other dark secrets of the Rambeau family, and casually romances her. Elizabeth is conflicted over the entire series of events.

The patriarch of the family, Phillipe (Claude Rains), wanting to keep the winemaking heritage of his family pure, refuses to deal with bootleggers eager for a ready-made supply of alcohol. John, however, is not so righteous, and arranges deals with Chicago gangsters for the valley's wine supply. Violence, gunplay, and wildfires ensue. Elizabeth is caught in the middle, between Andre, the gentle man she is to marry (but who wants to be a priest) and John, the passionate man ready to make a deal with the devil to survive. And John may already have started a family of his own, fathering an illegitimate child with a vineyard worker—and the woman's husband is not one to go along with the whole sordid mess. Months, and years, of lies, blackmail and conflict follow, ending with the romantic union of John and Elizabeth, and their commitment to the Rambeau winemaking heritage.

The real deal. In fact, the film was Universal's biggest budgeted production at the time with a budget of $3 to $3.5 million.  Claude was a wunderkind Hollywood film producer at age 30. 

Islandia (1959)

Working from the amazing success of The Earth is Mine, Claude quickly started making plans for more movies. On Tuesday, May 19, 1959 Claude Heilman and Casey Robinson held a press luncheon at the Brown Derby in Los Angeles where they announced their high hopes to put Islandia before the cameras in August on location in Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland, Scotland, and the Italian Alps.   

The May-August 1959 issue of Motion Pictures Exhibitor reported,

New Production Team Schedules 'Islandia" 

HOLLYWOOD — Casey Robinson and Claude Heilman, whose “This Earth Is Mine,’ a current Universal release, is the result of their work as a producing team, announced last week that they have formed a further partnership. 

After a careful and thorough canvas of important literary properties, they have found one which, in the eyes of the top literary critics and millions of readers, remains unsurpassed for its unique and monumental nature. This epic work is the celebrated Utopian novel, “Islandia,” written by Austin Tappan Wright, first published in 1942, and recently republished by Rinehart and Company, due to heavy interest. 

Robinson is now engaged in adapting and updating the Shangri-La story to fit the present day requirements. He will do the screenplay as well as co-produce the film. Robert Bless will do the screen adaptation. 

Heilman, 31, is the youngest member of the team. He comes to motion picture production field with a solid background as production associate in Europe, publicity and exploitation with the J. Arthur Rank Organization. Recently, he has been in theatre management for Fox West Coast Theatres. They plan to bring “Islandia” to the screen in 70mm screen process in Technicolor, with shooting to take place in Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland, the North Italian Dalmatian Alps, and the North Scottish coast and marsh islands. 

When the cameras turn late in August, there will be at the helm of “Islandia” one of the industry’s most distinguished directors who is now being negotiated for. A cast including three high lustre marquee names is also being sought. 

As often happens in Hollywood, the classic story that is retold over drinks thousands of times as the years pass, this film also never got made.  They were so close, and yet somehow the deal fell through.  A lot of deals fall through.  It happens. In fact, it looks like Islandia, which sounds like a cross between Lord of the Rings and Lost Horizon (of Shangri-La fame) has still never been filmed. The November 2, 2016 issue of The New Yorker features a nice article by Charles Finch about The Forgotten Novel That Inspired Homesickness for an Imaginary Land.

William The Conqueror (1960)

On December 2, 1959, Motion Picture Exhibitor reported that Claude Heilman was talking to the press about his big plans for a big-budget production of William the Conqueror

LONDON Observations by Jack MacGregor 

ONE TIME MANAGER at Graumann’s Chinese, Hollywood, 30-year-old Claude Heilman called the press to hear his grandiose plans to film “William the Conqueror” in Super Technirama-70 on a $7,000,000 budget around Europe. He told forcefully of his hopes to get Brando to star; his hopes to get Olivier to direct; his hopes to get British backing; his hopes to start shooting the Battle of Hastings (England) scenes in Yugoslavia late next spring. Described on the blurb as “the natural successor to the late Mike Todd”—he must be the sixth contender—this young promoter who reflectively wonders how it was possible for Shakespeare to have passed over this exciting hour in European history, though New York bound, is wisely not contemplating an American press conference until he has some names signed. (This is not to be confused with a similarly titled Cinerama project). 

In the January 4, 1960 issue of Boxoffice magazine, there was feature on the ambitious plans of 32 year old Claude Heilman to produce William the Conqueror in Super Technirama 70mm for showing on 90x40 foot curved screens. To be directed by Sir Laurence Olivier, with a screenplay by Christopher Fry, starring Marlon Brandon and Maria Schell, this exciting film was never made. A competing Cinerama film, which may or may not have merged with this project was also never made. 

Photo of Claude Heilman in Boxoffice, January 4, 1960

Yes, certainly a lot of press in January about people being "all but signed up" and yet... 

By April 1960, it looks like Brando had fallen through and discussions were underway with Charlton Heston and actress Alix Talton to start shooting in May in Morocco and Yugoslavia. 

And none of that ever happened. The deal fell apart and the movie was never made.  

Desamor (c1962)

Desamor is described as a story of the Mexican land revolution where peasants rose up against the landed elites during the 1910 revolution calling for "Mexico for the Mexicans" land reforms. Very little else is known about this project, and it certainly looks like another Heilman project that was in the works that never made it to the big screen.  Desamor is Spanish for "heartbreak". works that never made it to the big screen.  Desamor is Spanish for "heartbreak".

The Odyssey of Justice Lee (1963-1966)

In August 1963, Claude Heilman, now working for United Film Associates International, Goldwyn studios in Hollywood, flew over the region around Taos, New Mexico scouting locations for an as yet unnamed Western set in an 1860's that was to star Spencer Tracy.  

The Taos News, Thursday 29 August 1963 

Movie May Be Filmed Here

The Taos area is being considered—again—for a movie location. 

Taos C of C Manager W. B. McCollum has had correspondence and telephone talks with Claude Heilman, location chief for United Film Associates International, Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood. 

Heilman recently flew over the region as the first steop in location scouting for the picture (the name of it is a secret yet.) Prime interest in connection with an information request was about Taos and Carson National Forest, Philmont Scout ranch, CS Ranch, Red River, Eagle Nest and the flatland between Palo Fletchado Pass, Cimarron and Springer. 

The Film story, dated in the 1860's, is set in a lush valley of northern New Mexico, with mountain ranges in the background and extensive ranch country including cattle and horses. The C of C furnished the studio with a listing of area, ownership and description of major ranches in the area. 

Starting date for the production, a western in Technicolor, is anticipated for November, with a shooting schedule of nine weeks on location, the C of C was advised.   

By November, more details were forthcoming, and the dates had been pushed. 

The Taos News, Thursday, 14 November 1963

Now It's March For Film

Looks like it'll  be March before that movie company starts filming here. That's the word from Claude Heilman of United Film Associates International, Goldwyn Studios.

Said he in a letter to Taos C of C Manager W. B. McColum: 

"As you recall, our screenplay was specifically written with approval and agreement of Mr. Spencer Tracy, for the lead role. Mr. Tracy had chosen this property as his major schedule and of course our own plans called for a target date of October production. Within days after Mr. Tracy went into the hospital here in Santa Monica, we were forced into a rescheduling of our other players including Steve McQueen who has since started a production for Columbia in Texas."

"It is the prime object of every motion picture company to film its exterior locations during the very best weather condition and our own screenplay calls for both summer and winter conditions, so her we were with a later and later date of starting and a rescheduled cast, including Mr. Frederick March in the Tracy role. The screenplay now rewritten to form the new cast, is complete and weather conditions and studio financing agreements depending, we should start in the late March of this coming year.  

"Present plans call for the locations to be filmed in the area of Taos, the Red River valley and with the gratefully appreciated cooperation of the CS Ranch in the Cimarron valley."

Now here is where a little speculation comes into play.  In 1966 The Odyssey of Justice Lee is mentioned in an article, touted as a Western screenplay by Earl Feldon (could be Earl Felton) that had Tony Curtis all lined up for filming in the Hollywood area.  My guess is that this is the same film as the unnamed 1963 film, with any thoughts of New Mexico abandoned to accommodate Tony Curtis' desire to stay close to home.  I could be wrong. 

The Daily Colonist, 29 March 1966

Curtis Sets Western 

HOLLYWOOD (NANA)—It comes to everyone and It has  come to Tony Cards. His next picture will be a western.  It's The Odyssey of Justice Lee. Tony has four pictures on  tap, and the western appeals to him because It can be made  near Hollywood, or even In it. A tree's a tree. His reason  for wanting to stay in Hollywood at this time. Is the impending visit from the stork for his young wife. Their second  child is due In mid-July, almost to tbs day when their daughter, Alexa n dr a, seas bom two years ago. Naturally with  three daughters—two with previous wife, JbjmI Leigh,  Tony would like a son this time. Curtis is currently winding  Up his picture with Vlraa Lial sod George C. Scott at  Warners in Not With My Wife, You Don't! For Narmaa  Panama. Eleanor Parker, on the same lot, was rehearsing  her nude bedroom scene for An American Dream. Eleanor  Parker in the nude? Isn't this something nude for her.  Sorry. It's the imminence of my trip, to London. 

Sound General Quarters (?)

This film appears in Claude's listing in the International TV & Video Almanac and nowhere else. Perhaps the name was changed and it still never came out?  A mystery.  Likely about Pearl Harbor or some other major military battle the US Navy was involved in.  

The Adventures of Gulliver (?)

Another mystery entry in the International TV & Video Almanac that remains ellusive. There is a 1968 television cartoon series of The Adventures of Gulliver by Hanna-Barbera.  And while 1968 is in the right timeframe, I can find no evidence of Heilman's involvement. 

The Italian Goes Home (1966)

The University of Minnesota has a screenplay by William Attaway and Claude Heilman called, The Italian goes home : original screenplay treatment from a novel in progress 1966

There is no evidence that either the novel or the movie came to fruition. It is listed as a United Film Associates International presentation, with an address for Claude Heilman at 27 East 79th street, New York 10021, NY.   

Could the New York address mean that Claude has left Hollywood by 1966?


The IMDB entry for Claude Heilman has exactly one entry in it, but there is an entry in the 2001 edition of International Television & Video Almanac that lists more for him, including the fact that he was the CEO of GEM Communications and Islandia Enterprises. 

Claude Heilman in the International TV & Video Almanac 2001

This matches with a reference that he was with Global Entertainment Management (GEM) in the UK (which looks to supply smart TV solutions for hotels). Perhaps his IMDB entry is not complete as it certainly looks like he continued in the entertainment industry in some manner his entire life. 

Cousin Bait

In any case, if you are reading this and some of these names attract your attention, feel free to click on the links to Geni to see more about how you might be related!

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