Tuesday June 06, 2023
Another excerpt from Sam Wasson's “The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood,” which I read earlier this year and recommend. It's the early 1970s. Director Roman Polanski is visiting his father in Gstaad, Switzerland:
Under a soft light, his father was sitting on the edge of the bed, his eyes on the floor. He was crying. “Why are you crying?” “No, no,” his father insisted. “It's just the music.” Beside his bed, a radio. A German song. “O Mein Papa.” Oh, my Papa, to me he was so wonderful, Oh, my Papa, to me he was so good. Polanski sat beside him. No one could be so gentle and so lovable, Oh, my Papa, he always understood.
“After you ran from the ghetto,” his father began, “and just before the final liquidation of the ghetto, they took all the people.” Oh, my Papa, so funny, so adorable, Always the clown so funny in his way. “They called all Jews ... we were standing there ... suddenly trucks arrived and they started loading children on those trucks. As this was happening, most were parents of those children, they started swaying and waving and moaning and screaming and crying and falling on the ground and tearing the mud from the ground ... and the Germans were playing this song.”
Oh, my Papa, to me he was so wonderful
Deep in my heart I miss him so today
Gone are the days when he would take me on his knee
And with a smile he'd change my tears to laughter
Polanski would try to console him. “This can never happen again.” “Wait fifty years. You'll see.”
Fifty years. Pretty much on the nose.