Famed German WWI Hero Visits Culver City in 1927

REEL CULVER CITY

by Marc Wanamaker

COUNT FELIX VON LUCKMAN COMES TO AMERICA WITH PRAISE

On July 11, 1927, the Los Angeles Times announced, “German Sea Raider Will Visit Here”

Adventurer-journalist-writer Lowell Thomas said that Count Felix Von Luckner, German WWI hero, was coming to Los Angeles on an around the world sailing-lecture tour to talk about his exploits during the Great War.

A “GENTLEMAN PIRATE”

He was known as a “Gentleman Pirate” having captured and sunk many allied supply ships during the war. Despite the fact that he took up arms for Germany, he was recognized as having the gallantry and kindness to take prisoners during his exploits losing very few lives in the process.

After the War, the Pope decorated Von Luckner adding to his twenty-seven decorations from many of his former enemies (see photo). Three captains whose ships the German naval officer sunk during the war welcomed him in New York on his world tour.

ACCOMPANIED BY WIFE ON “PEACE TOUR”

On July 25, Von Luckner arrived at the port of Los Angeles announcing his “Peace Tour” and his love for America where he had lived and worked for eight years in San Francisco as young man. Having arrived on a converted sailing ship, the Vaterland, it was his first trip to the Southland. Upon his arrival, he announced to the press, “Aboard the Vaterland and we have one of the most valuable cargoes ever carried – that of friendship for America.

Count Von Luckner was accompanied by his Swedish wife, Countess Ingeborg, who was anxious to visit Los Angeles to see her longtime friend, First National Star film Anna Q. Nilsson who was between pictures. Also accompanying Von Luckner was his former German Naval Captain, Julius Lauterbach, who was himself a “Gentleman Pirate” during WWI. The entourage stayed at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles and traveled around the Southland for a month going from one lecture hall, auditorium, luncheon and dinner to another.

JEWISH BUSINESSMAN ARRANGES VISIT

In August, at the first luncheon honoring Von Luckner, was the man who helped arrange the Southland visit, businessman Leon Kutner of San Francisco. Kutner was a longtime friend of Von Luckner and was the toastmaster of several of the events honoring the Count. Kutner, a German Jew, told the audiences about Von Luckner’s views of America’s importance as a world power and its prestige promoting peace in the post-war era.

BILTMORE HOTEL STAR-STUDDED BANQUET

At the end of July, Countess Von Luckner and Anna Q. Nilsson hosted a banquet at the Biltmore Hotel with many friends stars of Hollywood. Among the notables attending were Ruth Roland, Priscilla Dean, Gertrude Olmstead, Norma Shearar, Mrs. Louis B. Mayer, Mrs. John Ford, Alma Rubens, Zazu Pitts, Lillian Tashman and others.

LECTURES PROMOTE FRIENDSHIP

Von Luckner and Lauterbach lectured at U.S.C. and U.C.L.A. stressing the face that they both were now on a mission of peace, their war experiences merely a memory and their chief desire to further cement the friendly relations between Germany and the United States. At this time both men spoke about their war experiences and their peace mission on KHJ radio.

At the end of August, Von Luckner was slated to give lectures at the LA Philharmonic Auditorium. The advertisement in the L.A. Angeles Times announced, “Count Felix Von Luckner, the Most Mysterious Figure of the World War, Will Tell of His Experiences as a ‘German Sea Raider’.” Part of his lecture was to honor Americans to be the first nation to send food to the starving children of German after the War. “We of Germany are very grateful for what the United States has done for us and that is why I am here on my world tour to thank the good people of Los Angeles and California.”

VISITS CULVER CITY & CECIL B. DEMILLE

August was an important month for the Von Luckner party as they were to begin to visit the motion picture studios in the Los Angeles area. On one of these visits they were guests of Cecil B. DeMille at the DeMille Studio in Culver City. Along with the Von Luckner party were German Naval officers from the new German Naval Cruiser, Emden, also on the tour. They all met with DeMille, and were shown the sets used for DeMille’s The King of Kings on the “forty acres backlot” along with a tour of the studio.

ENJOYS THE HAL ROACH STUDIO

On September 23rd, it was announced in the L.A. Times that the Von Luckner party had visited Culver City, “Benjamin Shipman business manager of the Hal Roach Studios was host at a luncheon to Count Felix Von Luckner and Countess Von Luckner along with Captain Lauterback with all the studio executives, directors and stars at the studio restaurant.” The paper added that the highlight of the Count’s visit was with members of “Our Gang” and Laurel and Hardy. By January of 1928, the party had visited the Fox Studio in Hollywood hosted at a gala dinner by Universal’s President, Carl Laemmie.

With the coming of the 1930s and the rise of Adolph Hitler, many German aristocrats rejected the Nazi government and were very worried that Germany might start another war. Von Luckner was one of the leading spokesman against this rise of Nazi power. He is now remembered for his struggle against the Nazi’s, his saving of a Jewish woman’s life, and his role in the preservation of his hometown from destruction at the hand of the German and American armies at the end of World War II.

CULVER CITY HAS HISTORY OF HOSTING EUROPEAN ROYALTY & HEADS OF STATE

Culver City had hosted European Royalty and government leaders from around the world since the First World War with the Royal visit of King Leopold and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. To this day, Culver City has distinguished itself as being a center for film production for over 97 years and is world famous for its film heritage known worldwide.

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