by Jack Kindred
Early in 1970, I received the go-ahead from Variety‘s editor, Abel Green, to become the paper’s stringer in Hamburg. During one of my trips to Paris to check out the turf scene at the local racetrack, I decided to look up Gene Moskowitz, the Variety correspodent in Paris. Hearing that I was living in Hamburg, he suggested I look up Ronald Holloway, a fellow film buff whom he had met at the Cannes festival. I did, and that was the beginning of a friendship that lasted for 39 years and eventually changed my life.
At the time, Ron was working on his PhD thesis — religion in film — at the University of Hamburg. One of the first things we did together was to spend a Chrismas Eve in the Sankt Pauli district of Hamburg, whose main drag, the Reeperbahn, was known at the “Mile of Sin,” since Ron, a former Catholic priest, wanted to check out the atmosphere at churches in the area and visit a charitable organization for the homeless.
After obtaining his degree, he and his actress wife, Dorothea Moritz, moved to Berlin where he eventually became a Variety stringer after freelancing writing artcles for various publications, including the Financial Times. My main job in Hamburg was as an editor at the German Press Agency (DPA). Knowing that I received six or seven weeks vacation yearly, Ron suggested that I take some of it to attend the Berlinale film festival, where I could really got to know the film world. I accepted, and in consequence made many new friends and contacts which changed my life.
In the early years of our friendship Ron was struggling financially, since freelancing paid little. I had done a stint at the Volkswagen company in the press and advertising translation department. The company had a policy of giving rebates to journalists, and I put Ron in touch with a friend of mine there. Asked what newspaper he worked for, the canny Ron said the Financial Times, which resulted in his getting a discount when buying a car there. Later, my friend asked me what Ron did at the FT, and he gave me a funny look when I told him that Ron was the paper’s theatre critic. Ron drove that VW Beetle that he obtained thanks to the connection for many years.
Ron’s stint as stringer for Variety ended after a dispute with a German television network over the credits of a film that Ron’s wife Dorothea had made. Ron made the mistake of sending a protest to the head of the network on stationery with a Variety letterhead, not realizing that this was a journalistic taboo. As a result, Ron had to leave the paper, but was almost immediately scooped up by the Hollywood Reporter with which he remained correspondent for many years. Later Ron often said that joining the Reporter had, to his surprise, been a good thing, since it forced him to acquire computer skills.
As his reputation as a film critic grew, Ron received invitations from many festivals throughout the world. After receiving an invitation from the Tokyo festival, he asked whether he could take Dorothea along as well. His reputation was such that the festival sent him two round-trip, first class tickets.
Ron and Dorothea recently celebrated the 30-year anniversity of their monthly magazine, Kino – German Film & International Reports when Ron was already very ill. The special issue was put to bed with the help of Screen International Berlin-based reporter Martin Blaney, just in time for Ron to be able read the issue shortly before his death on December 16. Ron once told me he had started the magazine to give “Dorothea something to do,” but actually the idea of publishing a magazine in English about German cinema was totally his. It enabled him to eventually to receive a special award from the German government. Also, while still in the hospital, he was given the Association of German Film Critics award, which Dorothea accepted for him.
Over the years, I often met with Ron at the Berlinale, where we tradtionally had lunch together with others, such as Variety correspondent Deborah Young and Ron’s friend from San Francisco, the well-to do film buff, George Gund. When in Berlin during the film festival, it was hard making any headway along the streets when walking in Ron’s company, for he had so many friends and acquaintences we’d have to stop every few steps.
In the interim, I had become senior editor at the news agency in Hamburg. About 1985, however, Ron suggested that I offer my services to Variety‘s European manager Roger Watkins to open a German Variety bureau in Munich. Roger said that Syd’s face “lit up” when he mentional the proposal, which resulted in my becoming the Variety bureau chief in Germany.
And that was the second of the suggestions from Ron that changed my life.