Mar 142024

While trawling through the archives of the Guadalajara Reporter many years ago, I stumbled across a one-line reference to the German-born film producer Hans Oppenheimer. Anita Lomax, the weekly newspaper’s Ajijic correspondent, commented in 1964 that “Hans Oppenheimer, writer and poet” had just left Ajijic for a visit to Mexico City.


Earlier that year, Oppenheimer’s short story “The Value of the Ear” had been published in the Spring issue of the prestigious Southwest Review. In the introduction to that issue, the editor noted the wide range range of locations from which material had come, including Oppenheimer’s which had been submitted from “Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.”

Interestingly, several other Lake Chapala-based authors had work published in Southwest Review, including Paul Alexander Bartlett, Willard “Butch” Marsh, and Witter Bynner, whose “Beach at Chapala” was published by the magazine in 1947.

Oppenheimer’s “The Value of the Ear” is a moralistic tale of a young shoeshine boy, Pedro, who is desperately striving to keep his family afloat in the face of poverty and deprivation. Pedro explains to his family that an eccentric ‘gringo’ has just given him five pesos to take the day off, and has promised that “if you will cut off your ear, so I can see it, I will give you a thousand pesos.”

The upside of this barbaric self-mutilation would be acquiring the means to buy a bicycle—enabling Pedro to sell newspapers—and also pay for his sister to get married and have “a good house, with room for pigs in the back.”

Before and after his decision, Pedro seeks advice from the local butcher and the local Padre. While the village is never named—and no clues offered about its location—the setting can readily be imagined as Ajijic or one of its neighboring lakeside communities.

According to an online movie database, Hans Oppenheimer was born in Berlin, Germany, on 25 April 1892, and died in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 19 August 1965. He produced several movies, including Wir Kellerkinder (1960), So toll wie anno dazumal (1962), Ich kann nicht länger schweigen (1962), Stop Train 349 (1963), Code Name: Jaguar (1965), and The Thief (1966).

As I tried to find out more about his life and writing career, I ran into an unexpected roadblock. Hans Oppenheimer is credited as a co-author of “An Evening With Robert Burns,” released by Columbia records in 1956, and featuring the Saltire Singers. According to a normally reliable music reference site, “The Saltire Music Group was a Scottish chamber music ensemble based in Edinburgh and co-founded in 1950 by composer and violinist Isobel Dunlop (1901—1975) and German opera conductor Hans Oppenheim (1892—1965).”

However, its biography of the distinguished musician and conductor Hans Oppenheim (not Oppenheimer) gives precisely the same birth and death dates as the movie database attributes to Hans Oppenheimer the producer.

Are Hans Oppenheim and Hans Oppenheimer one and the same person, or are they two different individuals whose biographical details have somehow become confused?

Please get in touch if you can help sort this out this mini-mystery!

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Several chapters of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village offer more details about the history of the artistic community in Ajijic.


  • Guadalajara Reporter: 16 July 1964, 8.
  • Hans Oppenheimer. 1964. “The Value of the Ear,” Southwest Review, Vol. 49, No. 2 (Spring 1964), pp 174-178.

Comments, corrections and additional material are welcome, whether via the comments feature or email.

  One Response to “Writer, poet and movie producer Hans Oppenheimer lived in Ajijic in the 1960s”

  1. Wonderful and now I have to find out Pedro’s decision–

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