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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Film-shoot Budapest - a nine-week Marathon in Spring '89

Updated: Mar 27, 2022

KesterTester67 - What was the film title, and/or whose story was it based on? Updated!

Photo montage: the film had its stars (of course) but these are just some extras. (That locomotive is very un-German, by the way.)

Just about this very time in 1989 - I'd guess shooting started about March 8 purely from memory - a western film production started in Budapest where the Hungarian capital had to stand in for another European capital in the 1930s. I don't think it takes much intelligence to guess which one :)

Although the producer used scores of Hungarian extras, for many scenes they needed westerners who spoke English. For one or two scenes, sometimes up to about 30-40, and finding such people back then was tough for the casting manager.

Working on films may sound exotic, but in reality it means long days and a lot of waiting, most especially for extras. (I remember Antonia B - that's the lady on the right in the montage above - only lasting one day. She said something like "I've got better things to do with my life than this," and quit.)

After a day or two, I began to take my cameras along - many of the extras wanted piccies as they were dolled up in period apparel. And then some asked me for photos of the stars. Before I knew it, I was doing two jobs (I too was an extra).

Photo (Left) : The shoot had its funny moments. This is the sound man, grimacing at some unholy cacophony.

Next thing, several of the 'stars' wanted their own pictures to boot.

The piccies used here are just a few left over from the nine-week shoot - the farewell party was on Népköztársaság útja (today's Andrássy út) somewhere near the then Soviet Embassy one Saturday in May. (After doing 16 days myself, I got an invitation.)

Photo (right): The train about to leave platform 5 .... This fine lady (right) was an American, one of two who with whom I worked a good many days on the set.

Photo (Left): This is the one piccie I have remaining with me of one of the professional actresses. If I remember correctly, he name is Gillian Eaton.

Right: Finally, some of the baddies. These guys are almost certainly Hungarian extras. If I remember correctly, this pic was taken at the old Népstadion.

So, there you have it, a fair number of clues. You may even recognise some of the actors!

Answers by the site messaging system please or email. Global celebrity status awaits the successful sleuth.

Oh, and you can still try for KT66 - if it's not obvious, those piccies are also extras from the same film looking for a bit of relief from the boredom.


Apologies for this taking so long (a full three weeks). So here are the entrants. Having nailed Nyugati railway sation car park for KT66, David McCall confessed that with this one, “Dear Kester, you have me quite confused”. “At first I was fairly sure that the film to which you refer must be Music Box, in which a daughter must defend her father when accused of certain terrible Nazi-related crimes in WWII. But Music Box had a Hungarian director, and is about a Hungarian father, so I wasn't sure about the references you made to impersonating another city. So I sleuthed a bit further, and became confused.” “I found only three films listed on the '1989 Filmed in Budapest list', and Music Box is the only one that seemed to fit the bill.” except … “Gillian Eaton has been in quite a few pieces, but Music Box wasn't one of them. (Or at least I couldn't find her name in the credits.) So I think I'm stumped.” Confused and Stumped to boot. Very sorry David, I hope all this hasn't ruined your last three weeks – read on please! In truth, first in (as he frequently is) was Hubert “Poirot” Warsmann “That's the Nightmare Years, a 4-part mini series from the book of the same name by William Shirer retelling the story of his and his wife's years in pre-war Nazi Germany as journalists,” he asserted, confidently. “I hope you have a few pictures of Marthe Keller you can share!” Hmmmm, funny you should say that, Hubert – Marthe was, er, how to put it, one of the “more interesting” characters on the set in my experience. And she (alone) certainly didn't like her photo being taken. I felt rather sorry for her, in truth. One thing for sure, on the few film sets I've been on you meet some extreme characters, but perhaps that's a tale best left over a beer. Next in was Eva Glass, who kept it short and sweet: “The nightmare years - a mini series about an american reporter who is stationed in Germany in the 1930s.” Eva was quickly followed by Steve Anthony, who told me off good and proper. “You know you really shouldn't have given the name of the actress. All it took was a Google and link to IMDB and I have established that the film in question is actually a TV mini series called The Nightmare Years."

Well, one has to give people, like you, a chance, Steven! He continued: “I quote: "Based on the historical work "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", "The Nightmare Years" tells the story of William Shirer, American journalist who, during his days of correspondence as a foreign press reporter in 1930s Germany, had to deal with the growing oppression of the Nazi regime, the increasing censorship of the press, and finally the prospect of World War. In the last days of peace, Shirer also struggles to have his German wife and child escape to the United States." “I note it starred Sam Waterston, Frances Barber, Ronald Pickup, Peter Jeffrey (lots of sterling Brits ;-)... oh and Bruce Boa, who played the obnoxious American in the Waldorf Salad episode of Fawlty Towers. Ooh and one of my fave character actors Kurtwood Smith as Goebbels... I may have to search this one out! ;-)) Search on, Steven. I found part 1 (of IV parts) on YouTube some years ago. (I'll look again after posting this.) I don't think I met Bruce Boa, but Peter Jeffrey was a jolly amiable fellow. Sam Waterston was ok. At the final party (which was in a villa, somewhere in the vicinity of the Soviet Embassy on Népköztársaság útja, as both then were) I was musing various scenarios with him about what might have happened had the US lost in its War of Independence. We hadn't got very far when Marthe Keller arrived, whereupon Sam burst out with: “Darling, you look absolutely wonderful!” (I kid you not, it was straight out of a movie). We got no further with the historical scenarios discussion that night. Next in was Frank Hegedus, who seemed keen to out-curt Eva Glass: “Kester... My best guess...The Nightmare Years. Frank” Next in line was Greg Dorey: “Hi Kester, The Nightmare Years based on the book by William L Shirer. I vaguely remember this was happening around the time I arrived in Budapest. Possibly Embassy colleagues appeared as extras in it. Less of the “oldie”, please….” Ooops, sorry Greg - you are, of course, a fine, strapping youth, as everyone says who knows you :) Anyway, it was March - May, 1989, and you're quite right about embassy folk being involved, and a bunch of English teachers too. In those days, English speakers were still rare on the ground in Budapest, and the casting unit had to work hard to come up with the goods. (I think all of those in the photos above and in KT66 are English teachers from the various IH schools in Budapest at the time.) Finally, Zsolt Maroti plugged in: “Szia Kester, The Nightmare Years, a mini series based on William L Shirer’s eponymous book. Zs” So, there we have it, seven entries, alas, poor confused and stumped David could not go into the genuine, European Union certified Black Woolly Draw Hat, ….. and the lucky winner, for whom the fame and fortune may become unbearable is … Number 5! I really don't know how Greg Dorey can get out of his home these days, he must be besieged by paparazzi, such is his fame and if ever I get down to Chichester, I'll end up an alcoholic! Thanks to all for taking part, (special mention to Zsolt, who has entered several competitions with the correct answer, but whose number just doesn't come out of the hat.)

I do hope you are de-confused and un-stumped by now, David and congratulations to Greg on his superb victory. Now, take a look at GuesterTester68 – I think I'm going to have to put up another clue tomorrow to help people along on this one. Have a great week!

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