Red Elvis (Der Rote Elvis)

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Read Chuck Laszewski’s essay on Dean Reed, “the Red Elvis.”

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Director: LEOPOLD GRUN

Late American singer and actor Dean Reed was a phenomenon. Largely ignored in the West, he was a huge star in South America and the Eastern bloc during the Cold War. Dean Reed was a political idealist who loved to entertain, a showman who decided to live in the German Democratic Republic; a ladies man in search of his great love, who saw in Socialism the fulfillment.

He also had himself photographed in Lebanon with a machine gun slung over his shoulder. Most pertinent, however, he spent 10 days in Hennepin County jail back in the early Eighties after being chained to a lightpost during the Minnesota Powerline controversy. And had simply shown up in town to visit his friend, Marv Davidov, and present a coupla pseudo-Westerns made in Chile he starred in, at the U of Minn. Film Society, Bell Museum. Hundreds of Russian schoolkids wrote, protesting his local incarceration and threat of a hunger strike.

Twenty films, 13 LP’s, concerts in 32 countries, a friend of Salvador Allende, Daniel Ortega and Yassir Arafat, he also campaigned for peace. In 1986 his life came to a mysterious end in an East Berlin Lake. Officially listed as suicide, Reed’s mysterious death still gives rise to speculation, reason enough to take a look behind the facade of his life of showbiz and protest.

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GERMANY • 2007 • 90 MINUTES • DIRECTOR: LEOPOLD GRUN

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