Friday, 3 April 2009

The Father of Dalton Trebeck

While researching the life of dead movie star Dalton Trebeck, I never felt the need to go into the life of his father, Gustav Trebeck (1901-1957). After all, they never met, the father marrying a nineteen year old who had been released from an insane asylum for imagining she was being stalked, before knocking her up and dying in mysterious circumstances. But the more you look into it, the more fascinating this man becomes.

By the end of world war 2, this contract player of dubious indie studios z-level films, making fifty in all within a decade and a half, mostly thankfully rotted, was in career trouble. He was a frequent co-star of a failing Bela Lugosi, viewed as a fat yet low-rent Clifton Webb, was hitting drug addiction and the blacklist. He was in fact brought to the attention of the McCarthy scum by his attempt to bugger Trotsky in Mexico not long before his death. This got the McCarthy people interested, as did a commendation for his acting ability by Stalin. It wasn't long before Gustav was on the run from the US then forgotten, because is a bad actor really of any interest to anyone.

Finding himself in London, and failing to get himself any work, even in theatre, he went into the quota quickies, always leeching onto any new black-listed actor or director than came his way (Joseph Losey kicked him in the nuts more than once, also threatening to knife him). He always hoped these people would show loyalty to a fellow lefty but all saw him as a fake. Not even Orson Welles would hire him as an extra.

With every insult he returned to the quota quickies, working as back-up to many a staple of two-days film runs backed by American studios trying to get their product into British cinemas. Working from a Yorkshire studio mostly, he supported the tawdry comedy of the Dalry Sisters (later convicted of cannibalism, their victims young newlyweds), Mick McDick (an old man who liked very short women off-stage, which somehow, due to his manner, made people feel uncomfortable), more often than not in some rambling thriller/horrors where he would be the sex-addicted killer. His most notable credit during this time was a never released film version of James Bond, made in 1953. He played M with a very Russian accent, and as a flaming homosexual. Bond was also played in a very camp way, by alcoholic forties acting legend Michael Deer, who looking down upon playing "such an appalling scallywag". The fights were laughable, the dialogue worse. It was written by Warwick Jehane the second (Grandfather of Dalton Trebeck's future master director, also on the blacklist, before returning to American television, after all that nonsense subsided.)

So he stayed in Yorkshire for a few years, on these terrible films, his girth expanding by the film, alcoholism and rumours of bisexuality out of control, before finally giving up altogether and not bothering to learn lines. In the modern era this is called doing a Brando but in that time it was called who cares, who will see this film. His acting improved a lot during this era, when he was just making things up and ignoring the story. Apparently the studios here were haunted, had aliens, had many suicides, but this might simply have been viewed as a respectable way out of a failing career.

His final role was that of a fat Dracula in a quite terrible, amazingly tacky low-budget rip-off of Christopher Lee's Hammer film. This was his only film in colour, he at one point vomiting blood on a young virgin. Gustav died halfway through the film, replaced by a dwarf-like actor. It was set in the modern-day, a bald fat Dracula hitting on hookers in Soho, slashing them to death at times also, a la Tod Slaughter. While some writers say its may have influenced Peeping Tom, can anyone really imagine Michael Powell watching a dubious Gustav Trebeck vehicle (assuming he knew who Gustav Trebeck actually was) named Dracula's Soho Virgin Bride. I think not.

As you can see, this was a man forgotten in his own time. Dalton never talked about this man, never acknowledged this man's staggering failures. Its sad but true.

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