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A Brief History about Hans Laube
personal reflection on the ‘Osmologist’ responsible for Smell-O-Vision

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Carmen Laube Date: 01.01.2016
Hans Laube with the boxes for the Swiss Pavillion for the New York's World's Fair 1939/40. Image source Carmen Laube

“I'm afraid it's a sad story. The Scent of Mystery was his swan song. He lost all his money, my mom went to work, and he died about 16 years later, penniless and broken.”

Carmen Laube, 2015

“Hans Laube was born in Zurich on February 21, 1900. He passed away in NYC in 1976. When Hans was born Queen Victoria was still alive and ruling. His childhood experiences included witnessing a cortege interrupted by noise emulating from inside the coffin; the 'body' was still alive! That may have stimulated his lifelong fear of doctors. A trip to the hospital was just the first stop on the road to the cemetery.

He believed everything on this earth, even emotions, have a scent. My mother was given to singing her own praises for considerable lengths of time. Hans would sniff and tell me to open the window, saying the room stank (of ego).

Hans loved cars and loved to race. It was a challenge. He loved challenges. He outworked people half his age - his passion for whatever was in front of his workspace drove him to the max. People asked my mom if she was jealous of the time Hans spent with Elizabeth Taylor. She knew she was safe, because Elizabeth was flawed; she had a small scar on her throat from a surgery, and he couldn't abide such a thing. (He was) an enormous perfectionist. I have memories of visiting his laboratories on 7th Avenue in the 50's (streets) and playing the piano outside the work area. Lots of brown glass vials. Very organized.
More in 70mm reading:

Scent of Mystery lives again!

Jack Cardiff about "Scent of Mystery"

Mike Todd Jr.'s "Scent of Mystery" in Smell-O-Vision

Internet link:
Advert for the Scentorama machine used for Smell-O-Vison in "Scent of Mystery". Image source Carmen Laube

As a little child I remember how happy he could be. He came home laughing and hugging us, with the most beautiful enormous boxes, wrapped in big bows and filled with treats (jewellery for my mother; FAO Schwartz toys for me) when things were good. We lived on Park Avenue then; for NYC it hardly gets more posh. This was around the time the film was being made.”

Carmen’s version of why the original Scent of Mystery screenings failed differs markedly from Jack Cardiff’s accounts:

“Old fashioned Europeans did business based on instinct and handshakes. Hans didn't legally protect his process correctly. The producers realized they could save a fortune if they air-conditioned the scents in rather than install the elegant, costly little units in front of each theatre seat. Hans's concept was, install the scent emitters in front of a certain number of seats. Send the scent; send some neutralizer. Personalized. Tidy and elegant. (And apparently, costly.) So very late in the game, one of the producers decided they could make much more $ by using the air conditioner to waft in the scents. And, screw the neutralizer. So the film became known as Mike Todd Jr's only Stinker.

After the film Hans moved his labs to 207 East 84th street. Hans was trying to develop BestAir during this time, but it went nowhere. The interesting scent thing there is, at this time there were no 'Glade Air Fresheners.' His was the first. That would have been the big seller, the world changer. I don't have a unit, though I do have half of a Smell-O-Vision unit, which functions as a mantle, in my living room.
Hans Laube (right) and Mike Todd Jr. (left) with the the Scentorama machine for Smell-O-Vision presentations. Image by photojournalist Art Shay

Hans continued to work on inventions. He gave up the 207 East 84th St space and worked at our kitchen table. My few fond memories include watching him pull off his glasses, plop them on the kitchen table and engineer things together to present to potential investors (there were no more by then). He was an expert at engineering with his hands. He worked delicately, mostly with his thumb and forefinger, to assemble what he imagined. He loved animals; we had a parakeet who flew around the living room and 'played chess' with us by picking up the pieces with his beak and walking to the edge of the coffee table and dumping them on the floor.

The last invented thing was a tiny removable heating unit you could attach to a can. He pictured it attached to a can of soup, of vegetables, coffee, whatever needed to be heated. I have no photos of that piece. It didn't get a name. At that kitchen table he also worked on our 18th century French clock. He kept it ringing, with baggie wrap ties and rubber bands, every half hour on the hour until a week after he died. I still have the clock; it's gorgeous but in bad shape.
Advert for "Bestair" Electronic Room Fragrancer & Deodorizer by Laube Laboratories. Image source Carmen Laube  
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Updated 07-01-23