Attack of the Clonebaugh


So, I did a foolish thing. Following a conversation at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, I flashed on the fact that there had been no biography of Josef Von Sternberg. His magnificent autobiography, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, is too idiosyncratic to really count. I proposed the idea to a friend in publishing. And learned that, in fact, there had been a biography just a couple of years ago. Oops.

Of course it’s by John Baxter, who has practically monopolized the field of director bios. I checked it out — it’s not bad.

I was amused to learn that, while Sternberg was making army information films during WWI, his Germanic name apparently causing no problem at all, character actor Gustav Von Seyffertitz underwent a name change in order to be able to get work. What would Gustav Von Seyffertitz consider a reasonable, plausible pseudonym?

The name he went for, G. Butler Clonebaugh, is kind of memorable, I guess. Except that of the three film he used it on, it was spelled correctly just once, the other times manifesting as Clonbough and Clonblough. Which are both clearly far inferior names. Except that I can’t find any evidence that Clonebaugh even IS a name: it hasn’t been attached to anybody on the internet except Seyffertitz. Even the name Seyffertitz is more common.

Fun fact: You never see Gustav Von Seyffertitz and C. Aubrey Smith in the same shot. This is because of the superstitious fear shared by both men that if they met, their profiles would permanently interlock like the mosaic-creatures in an Escher print.

You can buy the Baxter bio: Von Sternberg (Screen Classics)

7 Responses to “Attack of the Clonebaugh”

  1. Bobbie Belvel Says:

    Von Seyffertitz played the scary Germanic King in “The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg.” Little Phillipe de Lacy must have quaked in his boots for real when meeting him.

  2. Can’t think of any roles where he WASN’T intimidating. That face! Like a disapproving hatchet.

  3. Mark Fuller Says:

    Does the Von Sternberg biography go into any detail about his time in England in the early 20’s as AD to such as Harold Shaw ???

  4. It recycles the Clive Brook anecdote, naturally, and mentions the company he was working for… which I forget. The book was in the reference library but I plan to get my hands on a copy shortly…

  5. I was going to say “Alliance” — and I would have been right! This is surely the film:

  6. oeconomist Says:

    How is “Clonebaugh” pronounced? /ˌθrəʊtwɒbləˈmaŋgrəʊv/?

  7. It seems to be an adaptation of his mother’ name, Clonbough, so clone-bough?

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