Kurt Baum (b. **/**/**** - d. **/**/1964) was a theatrical producer and film director.
Kurt Joachim Baum was born in Germany. A student of Max Reinhardt, in 1922-23 he was a member of the Deutsches Nationaltheater in Weimar where he was engaged as an actor and singer and had a small role in their version of Peer Gynt. At the end of October 1923, he quit Weimar for a new engagement in Wiesbaden. At some stage he left Germany and by 1935 he was in South Africa, where he produced The Man in Checks by Lewis Sowden and, in 1937, a Yiddish adaptation of Ben Johnson’s Volpone entitled Gelt. In 1938 he was in Cape Town, where he staged Paul Raynal’s The Unknown Warrior for the Little Theatre, Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms for the Cape Town Repertory Theatre as well as a student production of The Concert (perhaps the play by Hermann Bahr). His work caused the critic of The Forum to herald him as “the German theatre’s gift to South Africa” and credited him with experience in many famous operatic and theatrical centres. He was also said to be involved in furthering amateur theatre in Cape Town.
Subsequently he founded an Afrikaans theatrical company called Die Ossewateater, touring with plays like Dood Neem Verlof (by Alberto Casella) and Ou Heidelberg (by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster). Unfortunately, the government of the time confused the company’s name with that of the Ossewabrandwag, the Afrikaans anti-British and pro-German nationalist organisation and closed it down. During World War II, while on tour in what was then South West Africa, Baum was arrested as an enemy alien and taken to the internment centre at Baviaanspoort. According to Harro Fromme’s autobiographical “Mein Weg durchs Leben”, Baum gave him acting lessons and advised him to take up singing. He and Baum attracted the enmity of the interned Nazis when they came to the assistance of a man of Jewish extraction who was being assaulted.
After his release he was involved with the Johannesburg Art Theatre, but then joined African Film Productions as writer and director and made a number of documentaries for the South African State Information Office. His Arches of Faith (1950) won the ATKV Prize in 1951 and three other shorts were shown in competition at Cannes: Tickets Please! (1955), New Horizons (1956) and The Bride Wore Pearls (1957). In addition Colourful Courtship was shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1958. He died in 1964. He was not married. (FO)
Arches of Faith / ‘n Volk se Erfenis (1950), Meet the Malans / Aangename Kennis (1952), 300 years South Africa / 300 jaar Suid-Afrika (1952), Pearl of the Paarl / ‘n Taal se Opkoms (1954), Tickets Please! / Kaartjies Asseblief! (with Emil Nofal) (1955), New Horizon (1956), Colourful Courtship / Ndebele Troue (1956), The Bride Wore Pearls (with Errol Hinds) (1957).
Baum should not be confused with the Jewish Czech-born tenor of the same name (1908-1989) who left Germany for the United States.
The Forum, 25 July 1938
Belling, Veronica Penkin - Yiddish Theatre in South Africa” a history from the late nineteenth century to 1960
Fromme, Harro - Mein Weg durchs Leben
Records at the Western Cape Provincial Library Service
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