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Von Ribbentrop's Watch

    by Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran


Black Comedy Play Script: 'Von Ribbentrop's Watch' by Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran

This play isn’t true, but the watch is.

In 1985 Marks & Gran were working at Paramount Studios, Hollywood. They weren’t enjoying it. One day, to cheer himself up, Laurence went window shopping in Melrose Avenue, one of the few streets in Los Angeles where you can walk without getting arrested for walking; LA Police being suspicious of anybody not in a car.

In one window Laurence saw a very elegant Art Deco wristwatch, so he treated himself. Two decades later, when the pre-war watch started losing time, he took it to a repairer. A few weeks later the jeweller phoned up. Oddly, he wanted to know whether the watch was a family heirloom? When Laurence said it wasn’t, the jeweller said, “In that case come to the shop. I think there’s something you should see.”

Laurence called in and the jeweller gave him his eyeglass to look through. Engraved on the inside back of the watch were the initials ‘JVR’ above a neat little swastika. JVR could only mean Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s Foreign Minister.

Intrigued, Laurence took the watch to Sotheby’s, who confirmed its provenance and said it would fetch a great deal at auction, although the bidders would almost certainly be anonymous. Laurence was tempted to sell it, but made the mistake of telling Maurice, who said: “How can you possibly profit from a Nazi watch?” After a long philosophical debate, they decided there was only one thing to do; write a play about this very dilemma. 'Von Ribbentrop’s Watch' is that play.

The protagonist, Gerald Roth, is a struggling wine merchant. To save his bacon he’s started selling assets. His watch is an antique, it’s gold, maybe it’ll pay for a month’s rent on his shop. When Gerald learns the watch once belonged to Von Ribbentrop, he realises he could put into auction and solve all his money problems, as long as his family doesn’t find out, because his jealous brother, overbearing mother, and pious wife would never speak to him again. The problem is that the family have gathered for the annual Passover dinner, and somehow his brother has got his hands on the valuation letter from Sotheby’s.


110 mins approx


(4m, 3f)

  • Gerald Roth
  • Ruth Roth
  • Mrs Lila Roth
  • Sasha Roth
  • David Roth
  • Mr Blackburn
  • The Collector  

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