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05 December 2010

Ray Charles Ft. In Romeo Und Julia 70 (1969) + Amazing Photo Find

Romeo Und Julia 70 was a lavishly produced 2-part tv mini-series directed and written by Michael Pfleghar (1933 - 1991), at the time Germany's most famous TV director. Its first episode was aired, in German, by ZDF (who also coughed up the $2 million dollar budget) on 14 May 1969, the second on May 18th, but it was also distributed in English for other markets. I remember seeing it about 40 years ago, on Dutch television.

Pfleghar shot 120 kilometers of color tape and edited that back to 180 minutes. His Julia is working in a grocery store, Romeo is a taxi driver. Their love strengthens, when they mix their dream worlds with reality.
The film captures the climate of the 60s, using elements of drama, vaudeville, musical, sports and travel report.
Pfleghar's ambition was to present a modern Romeo And Juliet, using contemporary-modern TV semiology to make it arty (and rather pretentious). The two protagonists followed the dramatic Shakespearean storyline, but, quite anachronistically they also regularly consulted celebrities on what to do next, to avoid the expected dramatic outcome of the steadily developing tragedy. One of these celebs was Ray Charles. I remember him sitting at his piano, offering a piece of advise to Julia, and singing a few bits.

Hampton Fancher played the role of Romeo Müller, and Tina Sinatra - at the time living together with director Michael Pfleghar in Munich - played Julia Smith. Among the other guest artists were The Bee Gees, the Kessler Twins, the Dutch singer Liesbeth List, Eartha Kitt, Jerry Lewis, Dionne Warwick, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra, but there were also sequences with public figures like Christiaan Bernard, Hugh Hefner, Richard Nixon, Queen Sirikit, Gunter Sachs, Wernher von Braun, and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The filming locations were Bali, Bangkok, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Nevada, Washington DC, and Ray's RPM Studios in Los Angeles.

A German jazz photo enthusiast published a hitherto unknown photo reportage on Flickr. This is how he described his lucky find: "These are proofs I found at the trade market Ostbahnhof. The seller told me, the shots were taken at Geiselgasteig [in] 1967 during a session with German film producer Michael Pfleghar [Gieselgasteig is the ,film city' to the south of Munich, the head office of Bavaria Film - BS]. Since I could'nt find any of these pictures anywhere on the net, I post them on Flickr."
I found out that the photos were made by Peter Brüchmann. The pictures were "making of" shots (in the last photo we see Michael Pfleghar) from the Romeo Und Julia shooting with Ray, at his RPM studios in Los Angeles. See the slideshow on Flickr - here. Or admire the astounding quality of the pics below:
Ray Charles - Preparing for foto session?

Ray Charles - what a face!
Raelette Susaye Greene, then Ray's sweetheart, left:
Ray Charles - Dreaming background singer

Ray Charles - Cool Rodenstock glasses

Ray Charles - as we know him
Edgar Willis in the back:
Ray Charles - At the piano

Ray Charles - During Gig in the Studio

Ray Charles - Always in good mood

Ray Charles - shout it out!

Ray Charles
Tina Sinatra in the middle:
Ray Charles - and (i assume) girlfriend of Mr. Pfleghar at the left

Ray Charles - Crop of shot before


Ray Charles - Background - Mr. Pfleghars wife?

Ray Charles - Everything´s very relaxed
Hampton Fancher left, Michael Pfleghar right (Edgar Willis in the background):
Ray Charles - Michael Pfleghaar at the right.

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