Continental Strangers

Continental Strangers: German Exile Cinema, 1933-1951

GERD GEMÜNDEN
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/gemu16678
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  • Book Info
    Continental Strangers
    Book Description:

    Hundreds of German-speaking film professionals took refuge in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s, making a lasting contribution to American cinema. Hailing from Austria, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine, as well as Germany, and including Ernst Lubitsch, Fred Zinnemann, Billy Wilder, and Fritz Lang, these multicultural, multilingual writers and directors betrayed distinct cultural sensibilities in their art. Gerd Gemünden focuses on Edgar G. Ulmer'sThe Black Cat(1934), William Dieterle'sThe Life of Emile Zola(1937), Ernst Lubitsch'sTo Be or Not to Be(1942), Bertolt Brecht and Fritz Lang'sHangmen Also Die(1943), Fred Zinnemann'sAct of Violence(1948), and Peter Lorre'sDer Verlorene(1951), engaging with issues of realism, auteurism, and genre while tracing the relationship between film and history, Hollywood politics and censorship, and exile and (re)migration.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53652-3
    Subjects: History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. VII-XI)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)

    Early in Warner Bros.’ 1942 classic wartime romanceCasablanca, the smalltime crook Ugarte (Peter Lorre) asks the film’s hero, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), what he thinks of him: “You despise me, don’t you?” Rick replies, “If I gave you any thought, I probably would.” Although Ugarte is of negligible importance to the protagonist, and Peter Lorre’s screen time in the film is minimal (he is gunned down shortly thereafter), this role has become one of the most memorable in the actor’s long and varied Hollywood career. As theHollywood Reporternoted, “Lorre is in and out of the picture in...

  5. Part One PARALLEL MODERNITIES
    • One A HISTORY OF HORROR
      (pp. 21-47)

      Nine months after Hitler’s rise to power, in early 1934, the impact of the new regime in Germany began to be felt in the German-speaking film community in Hollywood. In December of 1933 veteran Joe May had arrived, often considered the inventor of the “monumental film” (grand-scale historical melodramas, sometimes consisting of several parts) and boasting an oeuvre of more than seventy films as director. He was soon followed by Billy Wilder, a budding Ufa screenwriter who had just completed his first directorial assignment in France. Their two very divergent Hollywood careers, with Wilder winning six Academy Awards and May...

    • Two TALES OF URGENCY AND AUTHENTICITY
      (pp. 48-74)

      In his 1930 essay “The Biography as an Art Form of the New Bourgeoisie,” Siegfried Kracauer provides a succinct critique of a genre that enjoyed widespread popularity in Germany and elsewhere during the years following World War I. Kracauer notes a preference among Western European authors to focus on the lives of historical figures such as politicians, diplomats, and military leaders.³ Kracauer explains this phenomenon to be neither a form of hero worship nor a mere fad or fashion but a reaction to the profound crisis of meaning that has grasped us in the wake of the atrocities of modern...

  6. Part Two HITLER IN HOLLYWOOD
    • Three PERFORMING RESISTANCE, RESISTING PERFORMANCE
      (pp. 77-101)

      William Dieterle’s biopics demonstrate (and one could also add his anti-Franco filmBlockade[1938]) that by the late 1930s Hollywood’s exile and émigré community had begun to wage a battle against fascism in Germany and elsewhere in Europe through feature films that were unambiguous about their political implications but nevertheless reached large audiences, an accomplishment that many veteran Hollywood producers had long believed to be impossible (and in some cases undesirable). In this eff ort the exiles were supported by the determination and courage of Warner Bros., as well as a significant number of liberal and left-wing film professionals who...

    • Four HISTORY AS PROPAGANDA AND PARABLE
      (pp. 102-128)

      On May 27, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, the Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia, as the Nazis called the governing body of occupied Czechoslovakia, was ambushed and mortally wounded when a bomb was thrown into his open car as he drove through the streets of Prague. He succumbed to his injuries on June 4. The Nazis retaliated in the most brutal fashion, arresting some thirteen thousand people, many of whom were deported to camps or killed, and murdering the entire male adult population of Lidice, a village near Prague, which was suspected of having harbored some of the assassins. Heydrich’s excessive force...

  7. Part Three YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN
    • Five OUT OF THE PAST
      (pp. 131-159)

      The critical and commercial success of Fritz Lang and Bertolt Brecht’sHangmen Also Diecan be attributed to several factors, but the most important may well be that it was the right film at the right time, boosting morale and empowering viewers by showing that Nazi Germany was vulnerable when the political reality of European warfare offered little to support such optimism. By the end of 1943, however, the immense military eff orts of the Allies began to have a visible impact, making it possible at long last to envision an end to the war. As a consequence, Congress gutted...

    • Six THE FAILURE OF ATONEMENT
      (pp. 160-188)

      Fred Zinnemann’s postwar noirAct of Violenceunderscores the impossibility of “going home again” after having seen combat, of seamlessly picking up from where one had left off . The story of Frank Enley and Joe Parkson shows that the war continues on the home front, with equally deadly consequences. It affects not only those who fought in the theaters of combat but also the families to which they return. While the film concludes with a sense of expiation, any real reconciliation comes at a heavy price, as Enley dies and Parkson’s future seems uncertain.

      To exiled filmmakers the question...

    • EPILOGUE
      (pp. 189-192)

      The end of World War II spelled the end of German exile cinema in Hollywood. The shifting ideological allegiances of the United States and the concomitant rise of the blacklist created a political environment ill-suited for the leftist-liberal bent of exile cinema. The postwar decline of the classical studio system and changing public tastes dramatically altered how films were produced, exhibited, marketed, and consumed, further eroding the political commitment that shaped exile cinema. Certainly, directors such as Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Douglas Sirk, and Otto Preminger extended their U.S. careers well into the 1950s and beyond, but the political and...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 193-228)
  9. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 229-262)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 263-276)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-284)