Monday, 8 June 2015

RIP Pierre Brice.

This Friday night, Pierre Brice has died, aged 86.

If you are German and my age, or probably a bit older, or a bit younger, chances are high that Pierre Brice has helped form your image of Native Americans - even though he was French, and the reason for this formative action was a German author living in the late nineteenth century who had never been to America when he wrote a series of novels... featuring a German adventurer and a noble Native American.

I am, of course, talking about Karl May and the Winnetou novels. Pierre Brice was the actor portraying Winnetou, the Apache hero, and I watched the films as a child and teenager, enjoying them immensely. I had posters of the Pierre Brice Winnetou in my room, and I was reading up on Native American culture* and listening to Country music. I remember dressing up playmobil cattle with shredded brown napkins to look like bison, and building playmobil-sized teepees for my "Indianer".

I read Karl May's novels, not only Winnetou but a lot of the others as well - many, many hours of reading. I watched the Winnetou films, and I had the soundtrack. We went to watch the Karl May festival at Elspe... I had a lot of good times thanks to Karl May.

A while ago, I discovered that a) the popular image of Native Americans in Germany is surprising to some people, and that b) not everybody knows where this comes from. (In case you do not know, it's very positive overall - Native Americans are living in harmony with nature, are almost always playing fair and are very honorable... you get the idea.) Well, one of the reasons for the spreading of this popular image has died on Friday.

For those of you who would like a glimpse of one of the films, here is the first part of the three-film series about Winnetou.  Watching a bit of it should give you a good impression of Old Shatterhand, Winnetou, the portrayal of Native Americans in these films, and the general not-so-small cheesiness of the movies.

Rest in peace, Pierre Brice.

*That meant I did discover most of what Karl May wrote was, well, not close to the truth. It was fascinating anyway.

No comments: