Last year was the 60th film anniversary of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which is based on Frances Goodrich and Albert Hacket’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play bearing the same name. However, your Couch Guru goofed and thought it was this year.
This film has special meaning to me. In junior high and also high school, I performed in two different scenes from the play in my drama class. Both times I played Peter Van Daan, the lonely teenage boy, opposite Anne. (His actual name was Peter Van Pels; however, Anne Frank changed his last name along with his parents to Van Daan in her diary entries.)
During these formative teen years, I took an interest in the Holocaust victim and read “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” on my own. I admired the Jewish girl who lived in hiding in the secret annex above her father’s spice factory and felt pity that she died at the tender age of 16, along with her older sister Margot, at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, to typhus a few days before the camp was liberated.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in the 1952 Introduction of “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” that it was “One of the wisest and moving commentaries on war and its impacts on human beings that I have ever read.”
Your Turn: Famous movie was based on a gruesome real case.
In October of 1955, “The Diary of Anne Frank” open on Broadway with Susan Strasberg as Anne and ran 717 performances, earning a Tony Award. Otto Frank, Anne’s bereaved father, wanted Audrey Hepburn to play his daughter in the film role.
He wrote the film actress and expressed his interest in her playing the role of his perished young daughter Anne. In her reply, Audrey Hepburn wrote she was honored by his request for her to play the part of his youngest daughter, but felt she was way too old for the part. Audrey and Anne were born within a month of each other, and both spent their adolescent years in Nazi-occupied Holland.
According to a 1955 published article in Daily Variety, Milton Sperlin from Warner Brothers and Garson Kanin, who staged the Broadway play, had intended to acquire the film rights. However, the play was sold to Buddy Adler of Twentieth Century Fox Studios. And, originally, William Wyler was considered to direct the film project, but George Stevens signed on as film and director.
Joseph Scildkraut reprised his stage role of Otto Frank for the1959 George Stevens’ film. Also, Gusti Huber reprised her stage role of Edith Frank (Anne’s mother), and Lou Jacobi reprised his stage role of Peter’s father Mr. Van Daan for the movie.
Your Turn: Napa TV buff Carl White remembers the groundbreaking show that put teenagers at the center of a major TV production.
Teen model Millie Perkins was chosen from out of a hundred different actresses for the film role of Anne Frank. Richard Beymer played Peter Van Daan, Anne’s love interest, Diane Baker played Anne’s sister Margot, Shelley Winter as Petronella Van Daan, comedian Ed Wynn as Albert Dussell, Douglas Spencer and Dody Heath as the Franks’ helpers Kraler and Miep Gies. Uncredited role of cat Mouschi was played by Orangey.
During the filming of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” George Stevens adjusted the temperatures on the set to highs and lows to heighten the reactions from the entire cast. He also played actual recordings of Nazi rallies and designed the set so that it could make sudden, violent shifts. Various film shots of the city of Amsterdam were used in the movie location.
That year, Shelley Winter won for the best supporting actress Petronella Van Daan. Oscars also went for Best Art Direction, Set Decoration, and Best Cinematography—all in black-and-white. It won three Academy Awards all together.
This 1969-1972 family sitcom was based on the 1963 MGM film directed by Vincente Minnelli. Both the film and ABC television series were adapted from the best-selling novel “The Courtship of Eddie's Father” by Mark Toby.
In 1947 Otto Frank first published his youngest daughter’s diary with a Holland publisher under the Dutch title, “Het Achterhuis.” Translated into English it means “The Secret Annex.” Her diary has been translated into 21 languages and distributed to 95 countries. Besides the Bible, “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” is said to be the most read book.
Shelley Winters donated her Oscar to the Anne Frank Museum. In 2006, the motion picture was honored as the 18th most inspiring American film on the American Film Institute list for 100 yrs.
Carl G. White lives in Napa and enjoys classic TV shows and movies.