Werner Grünbauer

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Werner Grünbauer (1913-1988) was a German-born cameraman, producer and director.


Johann Wilhelm Werner Grünbauer was born in Hamburg on 4 August 1913 and the first short he is known to have directed there was Messen werben für den deutschen Export (1949), made for Alter-Film. By the following year he had started his own company named Melodia Filmproduktion and produced a short called Volkswagen-Geschichten, though he did not direct. By 1953 he was an established producer of short documentaries, but in June of that year he came to South Africa on business. At that time he was single and divorced, but his fiancée, Ilse Grohs (known as Siggi), came with him and before the year was over they had married.

He established an office of Melodia Rolprentproduksies in South Africa and obviously decided to settle here, as official documents indicate that they applied for permanent residence in 1954. Almost from the beginning he started producing shorts for various government departments, notably for what was then the Department of Native Affairs. At that stage he became involved in the controversy concerning a feature film about the life of Paul Krüger. Initially it was thought that he would oversee the dubbing of Hans Steinhoff’s German-made Ohm Krüger (1941) into Afrikaans. However, there were problems concerning the rights and after the film was officially banned in 1956, these plans fell by the wayside.

At one stage Melodia Films was involved in the dubbing into Afrikaans of imported German films. However, by that time production had started on a locally financed Krüger film. A first starting date had to be abandoned because the initial would-be producer absconded with the money raised. At an early stage the English-born director Donald Swanson was also attached, but eventually Grünbauer took over and brought the film to a successful conclusion. It had its premiere in Pretoria on 11 June 1956. It featured James Norval in the title role, Wena Naudé as his wife and a range of prominent local actors in the smaller parts.

He had continued to cover notable events for government departments, including the unveiling of the Kruger statue on Church Square in Pretoria by Dr. D.F. Malan (1954), and contributed to the shooting of several documentaries. By 1957 he had established a new company called Protea Film Productions. Initially he acted as associate producer for visiting German television companies, but eventually he branched out to produce his own feature films, directed by theatrical personalities such as Richard Daneel, Mario Schiess and Carel Trichardt. In two of them he made uncredited cameo appearances as an actor. For some time he also acted as the South African representative for the German composer Gerhard Trede, with whom he had worked in Germany.

He died in Pretoria on 26 November 1988 and his wife passed away in 2014.


1949 – Messen werben für den deutschen Export) (documentary) (director); 1950 – Volkswagen-Geschichten (documentary) (producer) (Director: Hubert Kruchen); 1954 – Krugerstandbeeldonthulling (documentary) (producer); 1953 – Ontwikkeling van Bantoegebiede van Suid-Afrika (documentary) (producer, director & photography); 195* - Tuislande van die Bantoe (documentary) (photography & sound recording); 1955 – Paul Krüger (feature) (director); 1957 – Urwald-Melodien (documentary) (director); 1957 – Bopelo: Brunnen des Lebens (documentary) (director); 1957 – Liane, die weisse Sklavin / Jungle Girl and the Slaver (feature) (2nd camera operator) (Director: Hermann Leitner); 1962 – The Berg River Valley (documentary) (photography); 1962 – Journey into Nowhere (feature) (sound recording) (Director: Denis Scully); 1964 – My Own, My Native Land / My Eie, Eie Land (documentary) (photographer & director); 1964 – Bunga to Assembly (documentary) (photography); 1965 – Dirty Linen (short) (director); 1966 – Ex Unitate Vires: Republic of South Africa / Uit Eenheid Krag: Republiek van Suid-Afrika (documentary) (co-photographer) (Producer: Raymond Hancock); 1966 – Malaria en Dr. Annecke (documentary) (producer); 1968 – Oupa for Sale (feature) (producer, photographer & editor) (Director: Richard Daneel); 1969 – Die Vervlakste Tweeling (feature) (producer & photographer) (Director: Mario Schiess); 1969 – Vrolike Vrydag 13de/ Once Upon a Friday (feature) (co-producer & photographer) (Director: Richard Daneel); 1970 – Die Onwettige Huwelik / Professor du Plessis (feature) (producer & cinematographer) (Director: Mario Schiess); 1971 – Sononder (feature) (producer) (Director: Carel Trichardt); 1974 – Vinkel en Koljander / Oh, Brother! (feature) (producer) (Director: Roy Sargeant).


André I. le Roux and Lilla Fourie. 1982. Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

Leon van Nierop. 2016. Daar doer in die fliek: 'n persoonlike blik op die geskiedenis van die Afrikaanse rolprent




E-mail correspondence from Connie Violet Lovelace, a US researcher and historian (read 21 September, 2022).

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