Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Black Panther

In the 1930's Meher Baba attracted numerous movie dignitaries, but none so enthusiastically as Gabriel Pascal, who heard of Baba through Norina Matchabelli. Both had studied theatre in Vienna in the same era. Baba formed a company with Pascal, who was assigned to be the director of a film on Baba's theme of reincarnation and the planes. The company was called Circle Productions, Inc. (after Baba's circle of mandali, much as his cinema was named Circle Cinema) and Pascal was assigned 50% of the royalties. Another large share was to go to the planned writer, Karl Vollmöller, and the remainder to Baba to be distributed as he liked. Shares were actually sold in this venture, which was incorporated with Baba as president. Baba later dropped the project, but said it would be made at some time in the future, and had to be made.

Above is a 1945 March of Times Newsreel from the making of Caesar and Cleopatra, featuring Gabriel Pascal at the helm directing. Pascal was an affirmed mystic and in this film it is interesting and makes one wonder when one notices (unless my eyes deceive me) that he directs with his eyes closed. The words he is calling out, hard to hear in his deep Hungarian accent, are "Now Tess, Tess, you should watch the fall, whereby the eagle falls, run towards the eagle. Don't run beside[?] it, against the eagle. You know what I mean."(I think)

You often hear that Pascal was Romanian (as in this Newsreel) as well as Hungarian. The confusion arises over the frequently changing borders and identity of the area in which he was born, Transylvania. At the time of Pascal's birth (1894) this region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Pascal and his wife (best friends with the Gabors, Zsa Zsa and her husband) identified themselves as definitely Hungarian.

Pascal liberated his wife Valerie from behind the iron curtain after his success, and she later wrote his biography, The Disciple and His Devil (Pascal, Valerie, The Disciple and His Devil. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970). It is an exciting tale, worth the read, now in paperback from iUniverse, and mentions previously unpublished accounts (and still unpublished besides her books) of Pascal's life with Baba, as well as mention of the Rudds and other Baba lovers. She herself was not a Baba lover, and essentially disliked them. To my knowledge Valerie is still alive and lives in Palm Beach, Florida with an unlisted number, and does not seem to want to be bothered. Her reprinting of her biography of Pascal through iUniverse in 2004 was the last clue of her still being alive.

"Black Panther" was one of the two nicknames Baba had for Pascal, the other being his Phoenix. Baba never said why, but said his connection with Pascal was ancient. 

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