At first glance the cover of this old sheet music for the song “Where The Lighthouse Shines Across The Bay” is just another of the many general lighthouse songs written in the early and mid 1900s. But, there is a fascinating story behind it that is an exceptional part of lighthouse and movie history that has nearly been lost in the pages of time.
“Where The Lighthouse Shines Across The Bay” was the theme song from the movie F.P.1 Does Not Answer that was released in Germany in 1932 by the U.F.A. Film Company shortly before the company was nationalized by the Nazis. The original German version of the movie starred Hans Albers, Sybille Schmitz, and Peter Lorre, who all fled Nazi Germany shortly after the film was released.
In 1933 the movie was remade in French and English. The French version starred Charles Boyer and Jean Murant, and the English version starred Conrad Veidt, Jill Esmond, and Leslie Fenton.
Like the actors who starred in the German version of F.P.1. Does Not Answer, Conrad Veidt (1893-1943), who starred in the English version of the movie, fled from Germany and defected to the United States when Hitler came into power. As well as starring in the movie, Veidt, who also had a good singing voice, sang the lighthouse theme song for the movie.
Some of you may have quickly recognized the name Conrad Viedt as the man who played the role of Major Heinrich Strasser in Casablanca, one of the most famous movies of all time. In fact, Veidt was often cast in movie roles as a Nazi. Although he fervently detested the Nazis, he continued to accept many acting roles playing a Nazi, roles that made him a wealthy man. However, long before the United States entered World War II, Veidt loaned his entire personal fortune to Great Britain to help them defend England against Germany.
F.P.1. Does Not Answer has been billed as a science fiction movie because it was about a not so far-fetched idea to build a floating city-like airport in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The platform was built as a refueling station to allow intercontinental flights to stop and refuel, and for other possible emergencies that might take place in flight to be used for emergency landings. The floating airport, known as Floating Platform One, (F.P.1.) eventually evolves into a city on the ocean with hotels, shopping centers, restaurants and more.
However, villains have been reportedly hired by the passenger ship companies to sabotage the floating platform because it is a threat to their business. The last radio transmission from F.P.1 is the sound of screams and gunshots, leaving the world in suspense. However, the star of the movie is able to escape from F.P.1 in an airplane to seek help. Sighting a ship at sea, he parachutes from the plane so he can use the ships communication to radio for help.
Although F.P.1. had a lighthouse with a giant Bivalve Fresnel lens, interestingly the theme song is not about the lighthouse on F.P.1. Instead, as the words of the song indicate, it is about a lighthouse that is located in an area where the star of the movie was born, as he dreams to return to “the cottage kissed by fume and spray, where the lighthouse shines across the bay.”
It is also unclear from the movie whether the lighthouse built on F.P.1 was to warn ships away from hitting the platform, or if it was used to guide airplanes to the airstrip on the platform. But, since this is a fictional place in a movie, does it really make a difference?
The music for the song “Where The Lighthouse Shines Across The Bay” was written by Austrian-born composer Allan Gray who had moved to Germany to compose music for movies. As did the actors who appeared in the movie about F.P.1, Gray also fled Germany when the Nazi Party took control of the country.
Interestingly, the banner on the sheet music cover gives the title of the movie as No Reply From F.P.1., when the actual title of the movie is F.P.1. Does Not Answer. The movie is also known as F.P.1 Does Not Reply. These various differences may have come from language translations or because of various other reasons. Whatever the case, the movie is an unusual, yet important, offshoot of lighthouse history.
This story appeared in the
Sep/Oct 2012 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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