Wolf C. Hartwig, Producer of Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Cross of Iron,’ Dies at 98
War drama starred James Coburn, Maximilian Schell and James Mason
By Jamie Lang
January 2, 2018
German producer Wolf C. Hartwig, best known for Sam Peckinpah’s 1977
blockbuster “Cross of Iron,” has died in Paris at the age of 98. He was
a controversial figure within the Teutonic film biz given his role as
the mogul behind a series of sexploitation movies.
Hartwig’s career as a producer began in 1953 with a controversial
WWII documentary and, while the style and subject-matter of his projects
would change markedly over the next three decades, controversy remained
at the core of most of his work. He truly believed there was no such
thing as bad publicity.
In the early ’60s Hartwig saw profit in the Near and Far East, where
he would use European funding to bankroll international co-productions
with projects shot in Asian countries. These films where often Westerns
or based on popular pre-war pulp-fiction characters.
Starting in the late ’60s, the bulk of his career catalog reads like
a glossary of Penthouse Forum stories, and in 1970 the producer hit it
big with the salacious, not-quite pornographic, “School Girl” film
series. The first film racked up more than six million admissions in its
theatrical lifetime, and inspired 11 further instalments in the series.
Although his films were often suggestive, Hartwig adamantly defended
his “sex report” films, a genre he is largely credited with initiating,
while condemning what he considered pornography. In a 2010 interview
with Zeit Online, he clarified the differentiation and betrayed some
old-world homophobic views: “No coitus in close-up, no naked man from
the front, no homosexuality, disgusting. Otherwise I had no taboos.”
In 1977 Hartwig produced his first big-budget blockbuster, Sam
Peckinpah’s only war film, “Cross of Iron,” starring James Coburn,
Maximilian Schell and James Mason. The picture was the most expensive
German post-war film up to that point. And, although U.S. admissions
were hampered by the concurrent release of “Star Wars,” the film took in
Germany’s largest box-office returns since 1965’s “The Sound of Music.”
At the time, Variety said of the film, “’Cross of Iron’ more than
anything else affirms director Sam Peckinpah’s prowess as an action
filmmaker of graphic mayhem.” A sequel, “Breakthrough,” was released in
1979, directed by Andrew McLaglen, and starring Richard Burton and Rod
Hartwig worked another eight years, producing 11 more films before
retiring in 1985 to spend his later life in Paris with his wife, French
actress Véronique Vendell.
HARTWIG, Wolf C.
Born: 9/8/1921, Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Died: 12/18/2017, Paris, Île-de-France, France
Wolf C. Hartwig's westerns - producer:
River Pirates of the Mississippi - 1963
Massacre at Marble City - 1964
Black Eagle of Santa Fe - 1965