Magic Lantern Video & Book Store

A  History  of
Simultaneous  Bilingual
Film  Production

        I first discovered the principle of Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production quite by accident. I had seen the wonderful Claude Lelouch film "And Now My Love" when it was released in 1975, in Los Angeles in a French-language, subtitled print. The movie itself is superb, an epic tale beginning around the turn of the XXth Century and across several generations, ending when the two young lovers meet at the fadeout – pure romance.
        So when it was exhibited again some years later at the New Beverly Cinema, I went to see it for a repeat of the pleasure of Lelouch and Pierre Uytterhoeven's elegant masterwork.
        I was astonished upon realizing that the print being shown was in English – and it was not dubbed! I held that thought and enjoyed the film, later perceiving the economic benefit of Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production:
        Since the greater portion of time during a feature film shoot is often spent in camera moves, the extra cost of reshooting the exact same scene or sequence with an identical cast speaking the exact same lines in a second language costs very little more, and that mostly for the exposed film.
        My seat-of-the-pants guess was that such a practice would cost only ten to fifteen percent more, producing a complete negative in the second language at minimal cost. (All purely action scenes or shots require no such duplication.)

        Later on, I found out that there is a solid history of Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production, especially during the early, experimental years of sound films.
        The agent-producer Paul Kohner is generally credited with the first major feature film produced in this fashion. He promoted and developed a simultaneous Spanish-language version of Universal Pictures's 1931 "Drácula": Bela Lugosi & Helen Chandler acted in the English-language version while Carlos Villarías & Lupita Tovar were in the Spanish-language version; however, the films used different casts. (Kohner married Tovar in 1932.)
        Buster Keaton made several early sound films in both English and French and-or Spanish in 1929-32, using the same director and himself, some with different casts.
        And Hal Roach made several early talkies in five languages simultaneously. The enigmatic Greta Garbo acted in two versions of "Anna Christie" (based on the Eugene O'Neill play), speaking her lines in both English [1930] and German [1931] under two different directors. Anna May Wong starred as Hai-Tang in three versions of "The Flame of Love" in 1930, with three different leading men, the casts performing in English, German & French (combined IMDb entry).
        Writer/director Preston Sturges [1898-1959] left Hollywood in the early Fifties, making his last film in Paris in both English and French. The Mexican comic actor Cantinflas made several films in both English and Spanish, hoping to match his tremendous success south of the border by breaking into mainstream American markets.
        Because of playwright Arthur Miller's politics and of the hysterical climate fostered by Joe McCarthy and the H.U.A.C. blacklist, funding for a film of his play "A View From The Bridge" was available only in Europe. Sidney Lumet directed the film during 1961 under the principle of Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production, with the same cast, in both English and French {French title "Vu du Pont"}.

        Recently, major U.S. advertisers have been filming tv commercials simultaneously in English and Spanish, due to the surge in Hispanic population and the resulting increases in radio and tv ratings and in consumer spending by Hispanics. So also, simultaneous French and English commercial production in Canada.
        And since 1997, the Ringling Brothers Circus has been using a second ringmaster in the U.S., one who speaks Spanish: in some cities, alternate shows are in English or Spanish; in other cities, some shows are bilingual, with two ringmasters; but in downtown Los Angeles, at the L.A. Sports Arena, the entire week's engagement is bilingual – and very successful.

        The principle of Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production is quite simple: each camera shot or sequence is repeated with dialogue spoken in a second – or even third – language. Financing such a feature or tv production is likewise fundamentally simple: Pre-sell the second-language print for one-third of the English-language budget to a Spanish- (or other-) language network or distributor, along with distribution rights for the second-language print to language-specific territories.

        All that is needed to get the ball rolling is crossover screenplay material, which is designed to attract, for example, both English-speaking Hispanic-American moviegoers and Spanish-speakers in the U.S. and Spain and across Latin America.
        The low cost of the second-language print and the cachet of American-produced product around the world makes the use of Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production economically feasible in a range of locations: The European Economic Union provides any number of combinations, especially English-French – a la Lelouche and Sturges and Keaton – and English-German and English-Italian, or even English-Russian, once the former Soviet Union's economy gets back on course.

        My own response to the idea of Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production has been to write the first of several screenplays whose protagonist is an English-speaking Hispanic U.S. Marine sergeant, Robert Lopez – a persona designed to be a role model for Hispanic youth. For one thing, he speaks English, with Spanish as his second language; for another, he refuses to go along with the crowd, thus taking a stand against the cliché problems of the East Los Angeles barrios: gangs and violence and drugs, that which is termed 'la vida loca' (the crazy life).
        The titles of the planned series of feature films are "El Tigrón", "Dos Gatos", "Tres Flores", "Quatro Vatos", and "El Cuento de Nando".

        For further inquiry, contact me by email or see my Contact Page for other options.

        And whether or not my "El Tigrón" script gets produced any time soon, the use by others of the Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production principles in making their films – their or your successes – will of course make it easier for me to eventually follow suit.


Copyright 2010 by Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved

Credit links above are to the Internet Movie Database

These are the fully-coded links for the bilingual film sets above, as well as others found over time among the pages of the Magic Lantern Video & Book Store.

"Anna Christie" [M.G.M. English Feb 1930, German Jan 1931]
Anna Christie movie poster (blue)  
Anna Christie movie poster (black)  
"Garbo talks!" The title character, raised in far Minnesota, returns to live with her fisherman father. A shipwrecked Scottish seaman falls in love with her, but she resists her attraction to him. The father tries to stop the romance, and the girl resents the men's assumed control over her life. She reveals the tragic events of the past 15 years; the men react, followed by a kind of forgiveness. Co-produced & directed by Clarence Brown; script by Frances Marion [1886-1973], based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1921 stageplay by Eugene O'Neill; starring Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, George F. Marion, Marie Dressler, James T. Mack & Lee Phelps; Oscar noms for Best Director, Best Actress & Best Cinematography
The DVD includes both the English- & German-language versions
Warner Home Video b&w DVD [9/2005] for $17.99
M.G.M. b&w VHS [9/98] out of prodn/many used
full credits from IMDb1930 movie entry at Wikipedia

blue 27"x40" poster (top) from Amazon for $19.99
blue 11"x17" poster (top) from Amazon for $14.99

Anna Christie German movie (sepia)  "Garbo talks!" in German! This Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production German-language version was made on the same sets after the 1930 version was completed, the only duplicate cast member was Garbo. (She considered this to be the better version.) Directed by Jacques Feyder; German script & dialogue by Walter Hasenclever & Frank Reicher; starring Greta Garbo, Theo Shall, Hans Junkermann, Salka Viertel & Herman Bing
The DVD includes both the English- & German-language versions
Warner Home Video b&w DVD [9/2005] for $17.99
full credits from IMDb1931 movie entry at Wikipedia

"The Flame of Love" [British Intl. Pictures March 1930]
British poster for 'Hai-Tang' 1930 movie  
French-language poster for 'Hai-Tang' 1930 movie  
German-language half-sheet poster for 'Hai-Tang' 1930 movie  Filmed at Elstree Studios in England; U.K. title "Road to Dishonour", also released as "Hai-Tang"; a Chinese dancer gives herself to a Russian duke to save her brother's life Directed by (producer) Richard Eichberg & Walter Summers; starring Anna May Wong {as Hai-Tang}, John Longden, Georg H. Schnell, Mona Goya, Percy Standing, Fred Schwartz & Ley On
VHS/DVD/Blu-ray not available
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia {empty}

French-language version "Hai-Tang" [Sept 1930]
co-starring Marcel Vibert, Robert Ancelin, Armand Lurville, Hélène Darly, François Viguier, Gaston Dupray, Claire Roman & Mona Goya
German-language version "Hai-Tang" [Süd-Film 1930]
the German version co-starred still a third actor as leading man
combined French & German credits at IMDb

"Free and Easy" [M.G.M. March 1930]
Free & Easy  Free & Easy  M.G.M. made a French-language version using title cards ('Le Metteur en Scene') and a Spanish-language version ('Estrellados') and a German-language version. The Chamber of Commerce of a small Kansas town sends the local winner of a beauty contest to Hollywood for a screen test, along with her formidable mother and a hapless gas station attendent designated as her 'agent'; remade as "Pick A Star" [Hal Roach Studios 1937] starring Laurel & Hardy and Patsy Kelly Co-produced by Edward Sedgwick & Buster Keaton; directed by Edward Sedgwick; starring Buster Keaton, Anita Page, Trixie Friganza, Robert Montgomery, director Fred Niblo, Edgar Dearing, Gwen Lee, John Miljan, Lionel Barrymore, William Haines, William Collier Jr., Dorothy Sebastian, Karl Dane & director David Burton, with cameos by Jackie Coogan, Cecil B. DeMille & Ann Dvorak
available on DVD on the T.C.M Triple Feature b&w DVD [12/2004] 3 films on 2 disks for $28.96
M.G.M./Warner b&w VHS [1/93] for $18.88
full credits from IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia

"Murder!" [British Intl. Pictures July 1930] /tt0021165/
"Mary" [Germany March 1931] /tt0021128/
English- & German-language simultaneous bilingual versions directed by Alfred Hitchcock

"Doughboys" aka 'Forward March!' [M.G.M. Aug 1930]
poster for 1930 'Doughboys' sound film starring Buster Keaton  Doughboys sound film starring Buster Keaton  Circa World War I, a naive & wealthy young man tries to impress a lovely entertainer and accidentally signs up for the Army; then she shows up to entertain the troops, and his sergeant also falls for her, just before they ship out for France . . . Directed by Edward Sedgwick; cinematography by Leonard Smith; starring Buster Keaton, Sally Eilers, Cliff Edwards, Edward Brophy, Victor Potel, Arnold Korff, Frank Mayo, Pitzy Katz & William Steele, with Ann Dvorak & Ann Sothern in bit parts
Warner Archive remastered b&w DVD-R [11/2011] for $10.99
Warner VHS [1/93] for $27.49
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia
ad/poster for 'De Frente, Marchen' Spanish-language version of Buster keaton's 'Doughboys' 1930 feature  Spanish-language version "De Frente, Marchen" [M.G.M. Dec 1930]
Directed by Salvador de Alberich & Edward Sedgwick; cinematography by Leonard Smith; starring Buster Keaton, Conchita Montenegro, Romualdo Tirado, Juan de Landa, Victor Potel, Martin Garralaga, Francisco Madrid, Hans von Morhart, Gabry Rivas, Rosita Granada & Lolita Méndez
VHS/DVD/Blu-ray not available • full credits at IMDb

"The Big Trail" [Fox Oct 1930]
The Big Trail  "The Most Important Picture Ever Produced" Filmed on location at Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Yellowstone & Zion National Parks, and in Arizona, California, Montana, Oregon, Utah & Wyoming; a handsome young scout leads a large wagon train across America to Oregon Territory while romancing one of the women on the train. Directed by Raoul Walsh & Louis R. Loeffler; first leading role of John Wayne; also starring Marguerite Churchill, El Brendel, Tully Marshall, Tyrone Power Sr., David Rollins, Frederick Burton, Ian Keith, Charles Stevens, Louise Carver, Chief John Big Tree, Ward Bond, Iron Eyes Cody; listed on National Film Registry (2006); the movie was shot in five versions: Fox Grandeur 70mm; standard 35mm; and (with different casts) in Spanish, German & French
Fox widescreen color Blu-ray [11/2012] 2 disks for $10.99
Blu-ray includes 70mm & 35mm & 70mm-as-full-screen versions, plus commentary & 4 featurettes
Fox 122-min widescreen color DVD [5/2008] 2 disks for $10.99
Fox panned & scanned 110-min color DVD [5/2003] for $8.99
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia

"Drácula" [Universal Pictures Feb 1931]
poster for 'Drácula' 1931 English-language version  
another poster for 'Drácula' 1931 English-language version  
Agent-producer Paul Kohner is often credited with the first major feature film produced using Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production. He promoted and developed a simultaneous Spanish-language version of Universal Pictures's 1931 "Drácula" which starred Bela Lugosi in the English-language version. London real estate agent Renfield takes papers to Transylvania for vampire Count Dracula's signature; Renfield is drugged and becomes Dracula's servant. On the ship to England, Dracula turns Lucy Weston into a vampire, and they suck away the blood of the entire ship's crew. Once in London, Dracula seduces Mina Seward, whose father calls in medical expert Dr. Van Helsing, who devises a plan to save Mina.
Universal Studios both b&w films on Blu-ray [9/2013] for $21.28
Universal Studios both b&w films Blu-ray/Ultraviolet combo [DUE Sept 2014] for $17.98
Universal Studios both b&w films on DVD [DUE Sept 2014] for $14.98
Filmed in England & Hollywood; co-produced & co-directed by Tod Browning; based on a stageplay based on Bram Stoker's novel; cinematography & co-directed by Karl Freund; starring Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, Herbert Bunston, Frances Dade, Joan Standing & Charles K. Gerrard
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia
Spanish-language version [Universal Pictures Spring 1931]
Filmed in Hollywood; produced by Paul Kohner; directed by George Melford & Enrique Tovar Ávalos; Spanish adaptation by Baltasar Fernández Cué; starring Carlos Villarías, Lupita Tovar, Barry Norton, Pablo Álvarez Rubio, Eduardo Arozamena, José Soriano Viosca, Carmen Guerrero, Amelia Senisterra & Manuel Arbó
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia

"Parlor, Bedroom & Bath" aka 'Romeo In Pyjamas' [M.G.M. Feb 1931]
'Parlor, Bedroom & Bath' sound film starring Buster Keaton  
'Buster se Marie' French-language film starring Buster Keaton  
Partly filmed at Keaton's huge estate in Beverly Hills; Virginia won't marry Jeff until her hard-to-please older sister gets married, so Jeff convinces his pal to pretend to be a Casanova . . . Produced by and starring Buster Keaton; directed by Edward Sedgwick; based on the Broadway stageplay by C.W. Bell & Mark E. Swan; also starring Charlotte Greenwood, Reginald Denny, Cliff Edwards, Dorothy Christy, Joan Peers, Sally Eilers, Natalie Moorhead, Leila Crofton, Edward Brophy, Walter Merrill & Sidney Bracey
Warner Bros Archive Triple Feature b&w DVD [3/2012] 2 disks for $22.98
Synergy Ent. b&w DVD [5/2011] for $9.99
Madacy Ent. double feature b&w VHS [6/98] 2 tapes for $5.15 with "Speak Easily" [1932]
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia
French-language version "Buster se Marie" [M.G.M. Dec 1931]
Directed by Claude Autant-Lara & Edward Brophy; also starring Françoise Rosay, Jeanne Helbling, André Luguet, André Berley, Mona Goya & Mireille • credits at IMDb
German-language version "Casanova Wider Willen" [Paramount-U.F.A.-Metro Jan 1932]
Directed by Edward Brophy; also starring Marion Lessing, Paul Morgan, Egon von Jordan, Françoise Rosay, Leni Stengel, Gerda Mann, George Davis & Wolfgang Zilzer • credits at IMDb

"Charlie Chan Carries On"  [Fox April 1931]
Charlie Chan Carries On movie poster  The death of a wealthy American in a London hotel leads Scotland Yard's Insp. Duff to a cruise ship in Honolulu; he is wounded there, and Charlie Chan takes over the case. Directed by Hamilton MacFadden; starring Warner Oland {as Chan}, Peter Gawthorne, John Garrick, Marguerite Churchill, Warren Hymer, Marjorie White, C. Henry Gordon, William Holden & George Brent
considered to be a 'lost' film: • video/DVD not available • full credits from IMDb
"Eran Trece"  {"There Were Thirteen"}
[Fox Spanish-language version Dec 1931]
b&w poster for 'Eran Trece' Spanish-language version of 'Charlie Chan Carries On'  The "Charlie Chan Carries On" script was translated into Spanish by José López Rubio, and the same sets were used for filming, with a different cast & crew.
Directed by David Howard; starring Manuel Arbó {as Chan} & Rafael Calvo
b&w DVD available as part of Fox color/b&w DVD box set [6/2006] 5 films on 4 disks for $21.46
full credits from IMDb

"Los Calaveras" Spanish-language feature
[Hal Roach/M.G.M. April 1931]
ad/poster for 'Los Calaveras' Spanish-language film starring Laurel & Hardy  Produced simultaneously with filming of the two English-language shorts "Be Big!" and "Laughing Gravy". Dubbing of dialogue had not yet been perfected, so the actors read their lines from cue cards on which Spanish was written phonetically; the Spanish footage of the two shorts was edited together into one continuous 63-minute film; the same was then done for a French-language version.
Directed by James W. Horne; written by H.M. Walker; starring Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, Anita Garvin, Linda Loredo, Charlie Hall, Charles Dorety, Luis Llaneza & Laughing Gravy the Dog
there is a Region 2 DVD with both shorts & both features
full credits at IMDb • no entry at Wikipedia
French-language version "Les Carottiers" [Hal Roach/M.G.M. 1931]
co-starring Anita Garvin, Germaine De Neel, Jean De Briac, Charles Dorety, Charlie Hall, Luis Llaneza & Laughing Gravy the Dog • full credits at IMDb • no entry at Wikipedia

"Politiquerías" [Hal Roach/M.G.M. May 1931]
Spanish-language 'Politiquerías' feature film starring Laurel & Hardy  Produced by Hal Roach, filmed in Costa Rica; 56-minute Spanish-language feature expanded from the "Chickens Come Home" short; dubbing of dialogue had not yet been perfected, so the actors read their lines from cue cards on which Spanish was written phonetically. Ollie is running for mayor and a former flame threatens to reveal intimate photos; Ollie agrees to meet her that night, but then his wife reminds him of a party at their home that night, so Ollie convinces Stan to meet the girl in his stead . . .; the film was lengthened by adding performances of two vaudeville acts at the party. Directed by James W. Horne; written by H.M. Walker; starring Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, Enrique Acosta, Hadji Ali, María Calvo, magician Abraham J. Cantu, Rina De Liguoro, Nelly Fernández, James Finlayson, Carmen Granada, Charlie Hall, Linda Loredo & Ellinor Vanderveer
VHS/DVD/Blu-ray not available • full credits at IMDb • no entry at Wikipedia

"The Passionate Plumber" [M.G.M. Feb 1932]
poster for 'The Passionate Plumber' comedy starring Buster Keaton  poster for 'Le Plombier Amoureux' French-language comedy starring Buster Keaton  Beautiful Patricia enlists hapless Paris plumber Elmer in making her boyfriend jealous. Elmer's attempts to promote his invention (a pistol with a range-finding light) lead to police trouble and a series of challenges to a duel. Filmed at M.G.M. Studios; directed by Edward Sedgwick; starring Buster Keaton, Jimmy Durante, Polly Moran, Irene Purcell, Mona Maris, Maude Eburne, Jean Del Val; co-starring Gilbert Roland, Henry Armetta, Paul Porcasi & August Tollaire
Warner Bros Archive Triple Feature b&w DVD [3/2012] 3 movies on 2 disks for $22.98
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia
French-language version "Le Plombier Amoureux" [M.G.M. France Dec 1932]
Directed by Claude Autant-Lara & Edward Sedgwick; same seven stars, co-starring Jeannette Ferney, Barbara Leonard, George Davis & Fred Perry • credits at IMDb

"People Who Travel (Les Gens du Voyage)" [France March 1938] /tt0169942/
filmed simultaneously in a German-language version, "Fahrendes Volk".)

"Carnival Story" [R.K.O. Radio Pictures April 1954]
Carnival Story movie poster  "The story of one woman's shame" Filmed in Agfacolor™ in Bavaria, Germany and Vienna, Austria; an American circus in Germany hires a local girl who quickly becomes the source of conflict between the high-dive artist and a carny barker and the strongman. Filmed simultaneously in a German language version, "Circus of Love"; the German cast can be seen in uncredited cameo appearances in the English-language version, and vice versa.) Co-written & directed by Kurt Neumann; starring Anne Baxter, Steve Cochran, Lyle Bettger, George Nader, Jay C. Flippen, Ady Berber
V.C.I. Home Video widescreen color DVD [6/2013] for $12.63
Alpha Video widescreen color DVD [11/2004] for $5.98
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia

"The French, They Are A Funny Race"
aka "Les Carnets du Major Thompson"

[France Dec 1955, U.S.A. May 1957]
French poster for Preston Sturges's 'Les Carnets du Major Thompson'  A lesser work of Sturges, made in France; filmed in both English & French. The story is of a befuddled Englishman in Paris and his attempts at affairs d'amour. Adapted & directed by Preston Sturges, from the hit 1939 novel by Pierre Daninos; starring Jack Buchanan, Martine Carol, Totti Truman Taylor, Catherine Boyl, Andre Luguet, Genevieve Brunet & Noel-Noel
video/DVD not available • full credits from IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia

"A View From The Bridge" ("Vu du Pont") [France 1961, USA Jan 1962]
Vu du Pont / A View From The Bridge movie  Because of playwright Arthur Miller's politics and of the hysterical climate fostered by Joe McCarthy and the H.U.A.C. blacklist, funding for this film was available only in Europe; Lumet directed the film in both English and French, with the same cast. An Italian-American longshoreman in Brooklyn lives unhappily with his wife and dotes on his pretty niece. Two Sicilian male cousins of the wife enter the country illegally, and ask for help finding work. When the girl falls for one of them, the uncle – unaware of his unconscious feelings for the girl – turns the boy in to Immigration. Directed by Sidney Lumet; script by Norman Rosten, based on Miller's play; starring Raf Vallone, Jean Sorel, Maureen Stapleton, Carol Lawrence, Raymond Pellegrin, Morris Carnovsky, Harvey Lembeck, Mickey Knox & Vincent Gardenia
Movies Unlimited English-language b&w VHS [undated] out of prodn/rare
French-language video/DVD not available • full credits from IMDb
A View From The Bridge stageplay script  
"A View From The Bridge" stageplay [one-act play in verse 1955; two-act play 1956]
Broadway credits: 1955-56 + 1983 revival + 1997-98 revivalstageplay entry at Wikipedia
Kindle Edition from Penguin Group [1977 edition] for $7.70
Penguin playscript 7½x5 pb [7/77] for $10.75
Heinemann playscript 7¾x5¼ hardcover [5/95] out of print/used

"Circus of Fear" [A.I.P. 1966] /tt0060865/ directed by John Moxey
simultaneous bilingual German version directed by Werner Jacobs

"And  Now  My  Love" aka "Toute une vie"
[France May 1974, AVCO-Embassy/U.S.A. March 1975]
This film was how I discovered Simultaneous Bilingual Film Production
And Now My Love  A love story that spans a century, with the two young lovers meeting in the very last frame. {But now the DVD includes the restored 20-minute scifi-fantasy sequence after that supremely-romantic moment; one option is to halt the movie when the fantasy portion begins.} Co-written & directed by Claude Lelouch; starring Marthe Keller (in 3 roles), André Dussollier, Charles Denner (in 3 roles), Carla Gravina, Charles Gérard, Gilbert Bécaud, Sam Letrone, Daniel Boulanger, André Falcon, Nathalie Courval, Judith Magre, Annie Kerani & Maria Pia Conte; Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay
Image Ent. widescreen subtitled color DVD [12/2003] for $22.99
Columbia-Tristar subtitled color VHS [2/93] out of prodn/used
full credits from IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia

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