Dec 222016

Orville Charles Goldner (1906-1985) was an art director, puppeteer and special-effects artist who visited Ajijic with his wife Dorothy Goldner in the early 1970s.

Goldner was born in Toledo, Ohio, on 18 May 1906 and died on 28 February 1985. He studied at the Toledo Museum School of Design in his native town before moving to Oakland, California, to study at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley (now California College of the Arts). Here, he met Dorothy (“Dot”) Thompson Goldner (1906-2005); the couple married in October 1925 and had two children.

Soon after their marriage, the young couple moved to Hollywood. In the late-1920s, they were members of a traveling Shakespeare Theater Group and peripatetic marionette show (1926-1930). Goldner’s long and varied career in the movie business began in 1927 when he worked at Kinex Studio in Hollywood as a technical director, designer, and creator of animated films and special effects.

In the early 1930s, Goldner worked for RKO Studios on such films as The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and King Kong (1933). Orville Goldner later co-authored (with George E. Turner) The Making of King Kong: The Story Behind A Film Classic (1975).

In the late 1930s, Goldner and his wife made many educational films for the state of California. One of his lasting legacies is an astonishingly powerful collection of photographs of migrant farm workers in California and their children. He spent the first few months of 1940 documenting families on behalf of the California Department of Education and later also photographed Hupa Indian students and their lifestyles on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in Humboldt County. See Picturing California’s Migrant Children: Orville Goldner’s Photographic Trek of 1940 for more details.

In 1935, Goldner had worked as an art director at the California-Pacific International Expo and he was given a similar role at the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-1940.

A series of four short, silent, color movies taken at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco (1939/40), by Orville Goldner, can be viewed online via this web page. The movies comprise the “Dorothy Goldner Collection“, now housed in the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive.

From our perspective, the most interesting by far is that relating to the “Art in Action” exhibition which includes footage showing Diego Rivera painting the Pan American Unity Mural at that event. It also portrays several other artists demonstrating their techniques in sculpture, mosaics, printing, doll making, weaving, pottery and axe carving. The Mexican pavilion at the Golden Gate International Exposition is shown in the film entitled “Pavilions, parades & soap box derby at Golden Gate Exposition“.

Other artists associated with both Lake Chapala and the Golden Gate International Exposition include John Langley Howard (1902-1999), Louis Ernest Lenshaw (1892-1988), Robert Pearson McChesney (1913-2008), Ann Sonia Medalie (1896-1991), Max Pollak (1886-1970) and Charles Frederick Surendorf (1906-1979)..

When the U.S. entered the second world war, Goldner joined the U.S. Navy, where he headed the U.S. Navy’s Training Films and Motion Picture branch from 1942 to 1946. His work in this position won him a Commendation Ribbon from the Secretary of the Navy, as well as the award of the Order of the British Empire from the U.K. government for his work with the British Armed Forces.

After the second world war, the Goldners went to Europe and lived for several years in France before returning to San Francisco. For the remainder of his career, Goldner focused on the production of documentary films and visual material for educational purposes. He was Director of Production (1946-49) and later an overseas film producer (1949-52) for Curriculum Films in New York.

Goldner then directed the Audio-Visual Center at San Francisco State University from 1954 to 1960, before returning to commercial film making as Director of Audio-Visual Services for the Panorama colorslide program at Columbia Record Club. Panorama series included “Guided Tours of the World,” “Adventures in Nature and Science” and “Guided Tours of the World’s Great Museums.”

Orville Goldner worked with his wife on numerous documentary film strips including A Colorslide Tour of Mexico Land of Sun and Laughter South of the Border (1961). This publication, with 32 color slides and a 33 1/3rpm record narrated by Cesar Romero, was edited by Darlene Geis and published by Columbia Record Club, New York in 1961.

The Goldners also made Doña Rosa: Potter of Coyotepec, a 10-minute color film released in 1959, which shows Doña Rosa de Nieto, from San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca making a pot (olla) and firing her creations in an underground kiln.

From 1967 to 1971, Goldner was a professor of Mass Communications and Director of the Audio-Visual Center at Chico State College.

In 1968, Orville and Dorothy Goldner formed the film production company Visual Americana. Their best-known collaboration from this time was on the award-winning ethnographic film Three Stone Blades, for which Ira Latour was cinematographer and Valerie L. Smith was anthropology consultant. The film was awarded a bronze medal at the New York Film Festival. It recreates a folktale of the Inupiat (Eskimo) people of Point Hope, Alaska, the farthest northwest village in North America, about the fate of a widow and her children in the Arctic. The Port Hope area has now been abandoned because of flooding by melting ice.

[Ira Latour, a student of legendary photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, was, coincidentally, also at the Golden Gate International Exposition. He had been commissioned by the National Railways of Mexico to paint an 18-foot mural for the Mexican Pavilion at the 1939–1940 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in the Bay Area.]

It was very shortly after completing Three Stone Blades that the Goldners visited Chapala:
“Goldner, head of Visual Americana, is visiting friends here prior to putting the finishing touches on his latest film, a study of an Eskimo legend filmed in Alaska. After  preparing the film for distribution, Goldner and his wife, Dorothy, will go to Chapala, Mexico, for an extended stay.” (Amarillo Globe-Times, 12 November 1970).


  • Documents relating to Orville Goldner’s career can be found in two university archives. Parks Library at Iowa State University houses a collection of his papers from 1926-1982 while California State University, Chico, has materials relating to the period between 1935 and 1957 (mainly related to his photographic study of migrant farm workers in California and their children).
  • Amarillo Globe-Times, Amarillo, Texas, 12 November 1970, p 43

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Oct 032016

Film director and writer Alfredo (“Fredy”) Bolongaro-Crevenna (1914-1996) visited Ajijic in about 1945 with movie producer Francisco Cabrera. Their visit was noted by Neill James in her 1945 account of the village.

Bolongaro-Crevenna and Cabrera played very significant roles in the golden age of Mexican cinema. Bolongaro-Crevenna directed about 140 films between 1945 and 1995, in genres ranging from melodramas to comedy, horror and science fiction.

Bolongaro-Crevenna was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on 22 April 1914 and was more commonly known as Alfredo B. Crevenna. He studied chemical engineering at Oxford University in the U.K. before returning to Germany to take a position at the UFA film studios in Berlin.

Crevenna married his high school sweetheart Renate Horney (1916-2009), the youngest daughter of German-American psychoanalyst Karen Horney (who also visited Ajijic, in 1945).

In 1938, at age 24, Crevenna left the UFA film studios and moved to New York City, with the intention of finding work eventually in Hollywood. After several wasted months trying to obtain a work visa, he accepted an invitation from an old school friend to go to Mexico City.

alfredo-b-crevennaAt a welcome party, he was introduced to the film producer Francisco de P. Cabrera. Cabrera was about to start shooting La noche de los mayas (1939) and asked Crevenna to take a look at the script. Crevenna did not at that time speak Spanish, so he translated the script into English overnight and then made various suggestions to tighten up the structure. Thus began the lengthy and exceedingly fruitful working relationship between the two men. Crevenna never did return to live in  New York, and eventually became a naturalized Mexican citizen.

Crevenna and Renate Horney settled into family life in Mexico City and Cuernavaca. The couple had at least two children: Angela Karen Bolongaro-Crevenna (1936-1999) and Pedro Bolongaro-Crevenna (ca 1940-1988). In 1960, Renate Crevenna exhibited in a group show of German artists in the Galerias Chapultepec in Mexico City. The show also featured a work by Otto Butterlin.

In 1943, Cabrera suggested that Crevenna begin his career as a director in Mexico with the movie Santa in a version starring Esther Fernández and Ricardo Montalbán. Unfortunately, at that time the U.S. completely controlled the supply of film stock. When the U.S.-based Office of the Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs objected to the use of a German-born director, Cabrera was forced to work with Hollywood director Norman Foster, even though Foster did not speak a word of Spanish.

bolongaro-crevennaHis films included Neither Blood Nor Sand (1941), Muchachas de uniforme (1950), Mi esposa y la otra (1951), Una mujer en la calle (1955), Orquídeas para mi esposa (1954), Talpa (1956), Where the Circle Ends (1956), Yambaó (1957), Adventure at the Center of the Earth (1965), La venus maldita (1967), La Satánica (1973). He collaborated on many projects with the legendary Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel.

Many of Crevenna’s movies won awards. For instance, Talpa received several ”Ariel“ awards and was nominated for Best Picture in 1957.

Alfredo Bolongaro-Crevenna, described by those who knew him as tall, polite, and with a wonderful sense of humor, died in Mexico City on 30 August 1996, leaving a legacy that included some of the finest Mexican movies of all time.


Angela Karen Bolongaro-Crevenna, the German-born daughter of Alfred Bolongaro-Crevenna and Renate Horney, and grand-daughter of Karen Horney, had an additional close link to the Lake Chapala area.

After the family moved to Mexico, Angela become a naturalized Mexican citizen. She met German-born otolaringologist Dr. Carl “Hannes” Lohmann in 1955 and married him three years later. They spent most of their time in the U.S. but were frequent visitors to Mexico and had a winter home in Quintana Roo. From 1993, they began to spend winters at Lake Chapala. They bought a home in Chapala Haciendas and, in 1995, moved permanently to the area.

Even after Angela Lohman (née Bolongaro-Crevenna) died in 1999, her husband Carl continued to reside in Chapala until his own death in a Guadalajara hospital a decade later.


  • Rogelio Agrasánchez, Jr. Undated. “From the UFA to the Mexican Studios: Alfredo B. Crevenna.”
  • Cinema Reporter. “Crevenna, Alfredo Bolongaro”, Cinema Reporter. No. 482, 11 October 1947, p. 16.
  • José Luis Gallegos C. “Alfredo B. Crevenna colaboró con Luis Buñuel.” Excélsior. Espectáculos. 30 November 1990, p2.
  • Guadalajara Reporter. “Longtime Lakeside resident Dr. Carl Lohmann died in a Guadalajara hospital on June 14 at the age of 84. 19 June 2009.” Guadalajara Reporter, 19 June 2009
  • Jaime Hernández.. “Alfredo B. Crevenna. Sólo en México no protegen al cine.” Novedades, 10 August 1984, p 1-2.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Aug 152016

Francisco Cabrera was beginning his career as a film writer and producer when he visited Ajijic in about 1944 with fellow producer Alfredo Bolongaro-Crevenna. Their visit was noted by Neill James in her 1945 account of the village.

Poster for Doña perfecta (1950)

Poster for Doña perfecta (1950)

Cabrera, whose birth name was Francisco P. de la Cabrera, had an acting role in the 1932 movie Carceleras, directed by José Buchs, which was the first Spanish film with direct sound recording.

In 1938, Cabrera began working in the then nascent Mexican movie industry. His first title as producer was Refugiados de Madrid (1938), followed by Noche de los mayas (1939), Ni sangre ni arena (1941) and Santa (1943), which he wrote.

In 1944, at about the time he visited Ajijic, Cabrera wrote and produced Adán, Eva y el diablo, which was directed by Alfredo Bolongaro-Crevenna.

In 1946 Cabrera was one of the founding members of Mexico’s film academy: the Academia Mexicana de Ciencias y Artes Cinematográficas, founded on 3 July of that year. The following year, the academy launched its Ariel awards, Mexico’s equivalent of the Oscars. This was the golden age of Mexican movies, with as many as 85 movies being made each year. The Ariel awards were held annually until 1958 and, after a lapse of 14 years, were re-initiated in 1972.

Other Cabrera productions included La malquerida (1949), Un día de vida (1950); Doña Perfecta (1950), which won three Ariel awards in 1952, He matado a un hombre (1963) and Amor de adolescente (1965). He also both wrote and produced the movies ¿A dónde van nuestros hijos? (1956) and Los hijos que yo soñé (1964).

Cabrera died in Mexico City on 3 July 1965, coincidentally, the 19th anniversary of the founding of the Mexican film academy.

Among Cabrera’s many claims to fame in the history of cinema in Mexicoy is the fact that he introduced the artist Gunther Gerzso to movie-making, when he contracted him to work on Santa (1943). The film was directed by U.S. actor Norman Foster and starred Esther Fernández and Ricardo Montalbán. Gerzso was initially reluctant to try his hand at set designing, but the success of Santa was the start of a lengthy and highly successful career in cinema. Gerzso, who was a good friend of Otto Butterlin (a German-Mexican artist with strong ties to Ajijic),  went on to work in more than 150 movies between 1941 and 1963. Octavio Paz considered Gerzso to be one of Latin America’s greatest ever painters, on account of the fact that he, Carlos Mérida and Rufino Tamayo had opposed the “ideologist aesthetic movement into which muralism had degenerated.”

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Mar 212016

Author and filmmaker Richard Zdenko Moravec is known to have visited Ajijic in about 1945, where he met Barbara Keppel-Compton who later wrote To The Isthmus, a novel which includes fact-based passages about their time there. The pair, both of whom had previous marriages, became husband and wife in 1951.

Artist Sylvia Fein remembers Moravec as a friendly, interesting “darling man”, who walked up and down the beach with her when she was revisiting Ajijic with her husband Bill, who had just returned from military service. Fein recalls that Moravec was a friend of Salvador Dali, and talked a lot about Dali’s piano.

Richard Zdenko Moravec was born 24 November 1894 in Zagreb, Croatia, Yugoslavia. He appears to have lived in Paris during the first world war and shortly after the war ended, wrote a short book about Italian-Yugoslav relations. The 47-page work, published by Lang, Blanchong et Cie. in 1919, was entitled L’Italie et les Yougoslaves, avec un exposé des relations italo-yougoslaves pendant la guerre et des documents à l’appui texte imprimé (“Italy and the Yugoslavs, with a statement of the Italian-Yugoslav relations during the war and documents to support the printed text”).

Moravec left France in 1919 and emigrated to the U.S., arriving there on the SS Chicago from Bordeaux, France, on 29 July. Moravec’s first wife, Selma, was born in Dallas, Texas on 26 February 1906. They were already married by the time Selma gained her A.B. degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1929. The couple remained in the San Francisco area, and are recorded as living in Oakland, California in 1934. In 1940 the couple was still definitely together since they are listed as disembarking on U.S. soil (in New York on 18 July), having crossed the Atlantic aboard the SS Manhattan.

Moravec appears to have been a chemical engineer and is credited or co-credited for several U.S. patents, most in the 1930s on behalf of the Shell Development Company of San Francisco.

On 17 October 1951, Moravec, described as an “engineer” and “divorced”, married Barbara Joan Keppel-Compton (“writer”) in Charlottesville, Virginia. They left almost immediately for Mexico, to make a motion picture film about Paricutin Volcano. The Story of A Volcano, relating the Tarascan Indian legend of Paricutin Volcano and the volcanic activity since its birth in 1943, was copyrighted in 1952. The credits include:

  • Producer and director: Richard Z Moravec
  • Narration: Anita Brenner
  • Narrator: Homer Gayne
  • Music: Tarascan Indian band and ballad singers
  • Film Editor: Alberto E Valenzuela

In 1955, Richard Moravec and Barbara Moravec, both of Yellow Springs, Ohio, filed for joint copyright of the motion picture With Malice Toward None.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.