This page-by-page annotation is organized by sections, as delineated by the seven squares (sprockets) which separate each section. The page numbers for this page-by-page annotation are for the original Viking edition (760 pages). Editions by other publishers vary in pagination the newer Penguin editions are 776 pages; the Bantam edition is 886 pages.
Contributors: Please use a 760-page edition (either the original Viking edition with the orange cover or the Penguin USA edition with the blue cover and rocket diagram there are plenty on Ebay for around $10) or search the Google edition for the correct page number. Readers: To calculate the Bantam edition use this formula: Bantam page # x 1.165. Before p.50 it's about a page earlier; as you get later in the book, add a page.
Finally, profound thanks to Prof. Don Larsson for providing the foundation for this page-by-page annotation.
The tenement courtyards can be seen in many German films of the 1920s, especially the "street" films such as Pabst’s The Joyless Street as well as in Fritz Lang’s M (1931). Highlights painted on the sets are a feature of some early German Expressionist films, notably The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Wikipedia entry
vamp a la Brigitte Helm
- V394.03 the anti-Dietrich
Greta’s reference is somewhat anachronistic. If she achieved stardom in the 1920s, Greta would not have been compared to Dietrich until late in her career. Although featured in several German silent films, Dietrich only became famous when she starred in the first German talking film, The Blue Angel, in 1930. The director, Josef von Sternberg, brought her to Hollywood where he made her one of the great stars, playing a "destroyer of men" in such American films as Morocco (1930), Blonde Venus (1932), and The Devil Is a Woman (1935). Note that Pynchon also referred anachronistically to Dietrich’s eyebrows in the chapter "Mondaugen’s Story" in V. Greta's appearance as a faded but deadly silent film star is also (anachronistically) similar to Gloria Swanson's role as Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950). dietrich.jpg (48591 bytes)
- V394.22 Herrenchiemsee
The last and largest of the castles built by the mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, modeled after Versailles. Also see note at V750.11-13. herren.jpg (31697 bytes)herrmirr.jpg (30661 bytes)
V394.23 Ludwig II Something was "in the air" about Ludwig in the early 1970s. The mad king was the subject of a film by Italian director Luchino Visconti in 1973. The date is too close to the publication of Gravity’s Rainbow to be a likely direct influence, but could there have been an indirect connection? The film’s star, Helmut Berger, also had the lead in Visconti’s The Damned (1969), playing the transvestite scion of a German industrialist family. He imitates Marlene Dietrich and is eventually involved in a child’s murder. All of this is suggestive in relation to Greta and Blicero. ludwig.jpg (33752 bytes)damned.jpg (10195 bytes)
- V394.24 The rage then was all for Frederick
A reference to the popular series of German films about Frederick the Great that began with Fridericus Rex (1922) and lasted into the Hitler era, all starring Otto Gebuhr. Kracauer notes how these films tended to routinize rebellion by placing it as part of a process leading to submission (From Caligari to Hitler 118). fridericus.jpg (43799 bytes)
- V394.31 even on orthochromatic stock
Orthochromatic film stock was standard in the movie industry through most of the silent era. It produced the warm tones alluded to here, but was sensitive only to certain portions of the light spectrum and would not register reds or yellows (one reason for the heavy makeup worn in some silent films). It was replaced in the late 1920s by Panchromatic stock, which is sensitive to all colors in the spectrum.
- V394.33-34 Endless negotiating, natty little men with Nazi lapel pins
One nearly legendary story, retold by Kracauer and others, is how Fritz Lang was called to a bureaucrat’s office after making his film M, the story of a child murderer played by Peter Lorre. The official, sporting a pin like the ones mentioned here, wanted to know what the film was about, assuming that the working title, Murderer among Us, referred to Hitler. He was reassured to find out the real subject, and the film’s name was changed. Von Goll may have met the same bureaucrat.
V394.36 Koenigreich Igor Zabel notes that the word simply means "Kingdom."
- V394.38 delighted Goebbels
But probably only in private. The perverse personal tastes of the Nazi leadership are legendary (in more than one sense), but German films under Hitler’s regime and Goebbels’ supervision always endorsed bourgeois morality and would never have displayed anything close to the decadence of von Goll’s Good Society. (Hitler is supposed to have claimed that Gone with the Wind was his favorite movie!) The film does echo scenes of decadent parties in earlier German films, such as Dr. Mabuse, Lubitsch’s Madame DuBarry and The Merry Widow, and Pabst’s Diary of a Lost Girl and The Love of Jeanne Ney. lulu.jpg (21838 bytes)