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Berga: Soldiers of Another War
Stories of Berga What Would You Do? Timeline & Maps Berga and Beyond War Crimes
About the Film
Intro Description The Filmmaker Interview with Charles E. Guggenheim Broadcast Schedule Credits

The Filmmaker Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 (Guggenheim Productions Inc.)
Charles Guggenheim, an internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker died on October 9, 2002 after a seven-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Guggenheim was 78 years old.

He dedicated the last six months of his life to completing a film about his fellow Jewish American infantrymen who he discovered had died in a Nazi slave labor camp. BERGA: SOLDIERS OF ANOTHER WAR is a film about an unknown and overlooked event in the history of World War II, in which for the first time the story of the American GI intersects with the tragedy of the Holocaust.

Mr. Guggenheim's career spanned half a century. He made over 100 documentaries, was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won four times. Guggenheim also received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for Saturday at the Zoo. He is considered by many to be one of the central figures in the founding and evolution of the American documentary. He was described by film critic Hollis Albert as "probably the most accomplished maker of documentary films in the country."


Charles Guggenheim behind the camera and at work.

He was also one of the first to create television media for American political campaigns using the documentary style in groundbreaking ways. Starting with the Presidential campaigns of Adlai Stevenson, Robert Kennedy, and George McGovern, Guggenheim went on to shape the campaigns of many of the most prominent senatorial and gubernatorial democratic candidates in the 1960s and 70s. Unlike the "slash and burn" techniques used in many of today's media campaigns, Guggenheim simply sought to reveal the character of his candidates in an affirmative way and let the issues speak for themselves. In a speech before Congress, Mr. Guggenheim explained why in the early 1980s he had quit the business of political advertising. He is known for saying, "If you play the piano in a house of ill repute, it doesn't make a difference how well you play the piano." Even years after leaving political advertising he often spoke passionately about his hopes that the system would reclaim itself.

Guggenheim established his first production company in St. Louis, Missouri in 1954 where he produced the seminal film about the construction of the St. Louis Arch, MONUMENT TO THE DREAM. This film won the Venice Film Festival's XI Gold Mercury Award, marking the first time in the Festival's history that the award was given to an American.

It was in St. Louis that Guggenheim won his first Academy Award for the film NINE FROM LITTLE ROCK, which tells the story of the Arkansas school integration crisis. He later moved to Washington, DC to work with George Stevens Jr. who headed the United States Information Agency (USIA), under Edward R. Murrow.

His second Academy Award came from one of the most tragic and profound moments in his life and career. Robert Kennedy Remembered, a film biography, was made in a remarkable six weeks after the senator's assassination, in time for the 1968 Democratic Convention. After the film was shown, in prime time to a packed convention hall in Chicago, the floor was brought to a standstill for more than an hour while the delegates mournfully demonstrated their sorrow and affection for RFK.

The third Academy Award went to THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD, a film commemorating the 100th anniversary of the famous disaster.

His most recent Academy Award was received in 1995 for A TIME FOR JUSTICE, a film about the civil rights movement.

Guggenheim's films about architecture which include MONUMENT TO THE DREAM, depicting the building of the St. Louis Arch; THE MAKING OF LIBERTY, the story of the birth and restoration of the Statue of Liberty; and A PLACE TO BE, documenting the design and construction of the National Gallery of Art, won him the 1987 Institute Honor from the American Institute of Architects.

Guggenheim produced two feature films including THE GREAT ST. LOUIS BANK ROBBERY (1959) featuring the young unknown actor Steve McQueen and feature editor Dede Allen.

He was commissioned by three presidential libraries to produce the film biographies of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Truman. They are on permanent exhibition in Boston, Massachusetts; Austin, Texas; and Independence, Missouri.

© 2003 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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