A Request for Freedom

The career of my grandfather is shrouded in mystery; no aspect more so than that of his time within the British film world of the late 1930’s at Denham Film Laboratories.

All of my previous attempts to discover the facts proved utterly useless. Apart from an obscure reference to David Oliver’s business relationship with Sir Alexander Korda in Rachel Low’s Film Making in 1930’s Britain-(Harper Collins 1985) there is no proof of David Oliver’s involvement in the British cinema. Only after a random search for details of his U.K. naturalization did I accidentally stumble upon a secret dossier within the British government’s archives. Marked “dangerous to relatives and other living persons” the files are over 300 pages long and were sealed on Jan 1st, 1954… not to be opened for 100 years.

What I have discovered is beyond belief.



The Origins of the Decla-Bioscop Company


Oliver resigns…The Regrouping of the Board of the Decla-Bioscop

On December 2nd, 1920, we received the following message from the board of the Decla-Bioscop Film Company: 

As of this day, Mr. D. Oliver has resigned from the board of Decia-Bioscop A.G. He is to be replaced by Mr. Rudolf Meinert. Mr. Erich Pommer takes over the factory…

And so what we have previously foretold, as a probable course of events some time ago has now become fact. The reversal is complete: Rudolf Meinert will move to Viktoriastrasse in place of the exiled director Oliver and Erich Pommer will take over the orphaned film factory department in Friedrichstrasse. All other items remain unchanged; foreign trade and distribution will remain affiliated under the central administration.

And the reasons for Oliver’s friendly resignation, which will undoubtedly lead to the transfer of his capitalist participation into other hands?…the same motives from which Ufa-Decla’s predecessors had failed, were also deciding factors in the sudden decision of Director Oliver. The organizations of the big corporations presuppose a multitude of personalities, all of whose voices must be heard on all decisions.

It is quite understandable if a man possessed of the characteristics of Oliver cannot fit into these forms of organization and that he should so easily tend to break up organizational presuppositions. Director Oliver acted upon the consequences of his temperament, his business policy, his disposition for his nature and left his influential position within the Decla Group.

Director Oliver is one of the most controversial and effective personalities in the German film industry. We have often had occasion to deal with his work critically, and have often arrived at conclusions not always sympathetic to Mr. Oliver. But it can be said without hesitation that he is one of the most generous business politicians in our industry. What we have written two years ago when he left the Ufa Group, we can only reiterate here: the numerous attacks against Oliver prove he possesses one of the most distinctive profiles within our industry. Whoever has ever had to deal with him knows how a skillful a subcontractor he is, how high his ambitions are and how he has adapted himself to every situation. It is to be assumed that a man of such activity and energy will not stand idly aside in these economic times, and we shall not be astonished when the name Oliver will in a very short time be mentioned again and in a no doubt surprising and generous combination.

Rudolf Meinert, Oliver’s successor, has done a bit of work on his previous post, which he can rightly be proud of. His work is above all the construction of the Neubabelsberger factory transforming it from a land without shape or form into a model plant. Into his new post he brings his business experience as a long-time film maker, with his pencil in hand, his dispositions. Mr. Erich Pommer, whose past has predestined him as head of production among the other members of the Management Board, will have ample opportunity in this position, as well as hitherto, for the development of the Group.


Here is an interesting article (written in Portuguese) I recently came upon in an issue of “A União” dated March 13, 1921:Portuguese Press_1921_A União

David Oliver c.1925
Chairman of Decla-Bioscop, David Oliver

Those of you who are only fluent in English  can get the financial details here:

Variety Mag_1921_Ufa_Decla

“Genuine Reborn” with The Oliver-Film Ensemble


On April 10th, 2016, as part of the awareness-raising campaign on behalf of the documentary UFA MAN- The Hidden Life of Film Pioneer David Oliver, the Vancouver International Film Festival hosted a screening of Robert Wiene’s Genuine. Here is a short film we made to document the extraordinary music performed by the Oliver-Film Ensemble. Many thanks to Daniel Ruiz, Marc Wild, Matt O’Donnell, Justin Patterson and Vi-An Diep  and of course to our wonderful Vancouver audience… More dates to be announced soon!!