Herman G. Weinberg (1926-1983)
Autumn Fire (1931)
Herman G. Weinberg, who translated major foreign films for 40 years, died yesterday of a heart attack at his home in Manhattan. He was 75 years old.
''Nuance Preserver'' was the way the headline of an article in The New Yorker magazine once described Mr. Weinberg. He indeed called himself an adapter rather than a translator and he prided himself on conveying the idioms and the aura of the original language in his subtitles. His translations included ''The Bicycle Thief,'' ''The Threepenny Opera '' and ''La Strada.''
Mr. Weinberg also wrote often on film, even after he had retired from translating in the late 1960's because of his declining health. He wrote seven books, two of which appeared this year, and was at work on two other books at the time of his death. Mr. Weinberg also taught film history at City College from the mid-1960's to the early 1970's.
Born in East Harlem on Aug. 9, 1908, Mr. Weinberg entered the field of translation through his initial interest in music. In 1926, he was an aspiring concert violinist making his living by transcribing the symphonic scores from silent German films for the string quartet at the Fifth Avenue Playhouse in Manhattan. When the first German movies with sound arrived, Mr. Weinberg used his fluency in the language to translate the dialogue. Worked in Many Languages
Mr. Weinberg ultimately translated more than 300 films. He learned Italian and French in the course of translating films in those languages, and he worked from Spanish, Hungarian, Greek, Czechoslovak, Swedish, Japanese, Finnish and Hindustani originals.
By his own recollection, Mr. Weinberg worked from the print and the original script of a film and, with languages in which he was not entirely fluent, a literal translation of the script into English. But it was his task to give an audience far more than the literal.
Once, for instance, the actress Anna Magnani exclaimed, according to the literal translation from Italian, ''Do you want us to believe your eyes are covered with ham?'' Mr. Weinberg's solution was ''You suddenly went blind?''
''An American,'' Mr. Weinberg once said, ''will hear a couple of Frenchmen in the audience howl at a joke in French and it burns him up not to be in on it.''
Mr. Weinberg's profession occasionally brought him into conflict with censors. In one film he had to translate a French expletive, and he expected that American censors would not approve an accurate equivalent. Mr. Weinberg used ''XZ%!X.''
In addition to his role as a translator, Mr. Weinberg wrote widely on film. His work appeared in The New York Times and Variety among other publications and his books ranged from film commentaries such as ''The Lubitsch Touch'' to ''Saint Cinema,'' a collection of essays, to the autobiography ''A Manhattan Odyssey,'' which was published this year. ''Coffee, Brandy and Cigars,'' a collection of his columns for Variety, also appeared this year.
Mr. Weinberg is survived by one brother, Eric Arthur; and one daughter, Gretchen Berg, of Manhattan, a writer and photographer. Mr. Weinberg's wife, Etta Pollano, died in 1950, and a brother, Max Weinberg, died in 1981.