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Hitler's Heroines

Hitler's Heroines: Stardom & Womanhood In Nazi Cinema

Antje Ascheid
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Hitler's Heroines
    Book Description:

    German film-goers flocked to see musicals and melodramas during the Nazi era. Although the Nazis seemed to require that every aspect of ordinary life advance the fascist project, even the most popular films depicted characters and desires that deviated from the politically correct ideal. Probing into the contradictory images of womanhood that surfaced in these films, Antje Ascheid shows how Nazi heroines negotiated the gender conflicts that confronted contemporary women.The careers of Kristina Soderbaum, Lilian Harvey, and Zarah Leander speak to the Nazis' need to address and contain the "woman question," to redirect female subjectivity and desires to self sacrifice for the common good (i.e., national socialism). Hollywood's new women and glamorous dames were out; the German wife and mother were in. The roles and star personas assigned to these actresses, though intended to entertain the public in a politically conformist way, point to the difficulty of yoking popular culture to ideology.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-843-2
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In 1938, the Nazi women’s journalNS-Frauenwartepublished an editorial that severely criticized the representation of women in the popular media at the time (Fig. 1.1). Illustrated with a number of images, the two-page spread provided examples of what kind of representations the authors wished to disappear and how they should be replaced. On the left, we find a collage of scantily clad women posing as chorus girls and glamorous dames, heavily made up and coiffed, drinking champagne; on the opposite side, we see young females in sports tricots and peasant costumes, with long blonde braids and no makeup, exercising...

  5. 1 Nazi Culture? National Socialism, Stardom, and Female Representation
    (pp. 11-41)

    Bertolt Brecht described fascist spectacle as a theatrical discourse, a never-ending series of fireworks aimed at dissolving or exchanging the publicʹs critical perception of politics with the irrational sensations of emphatic entertainment.² Along the same lines, “fiat arspereat mundus,” the slogan Walter Benjamin suggested to coin the fascist motif of aestheticizing political life, of displacing the reality of totalitarian oppression and military aggression into the sublime sphere of artistic expression, is often cited to point to the Nazi state’s self-stylizations.³ Leni Riefenstahlʹs Hitler-documentaryTriumph of the Will(1935) readily comes to mind when one thinks of Nazi film culture today...

  6. 2 Kristina Söderbaum: The Myth of Naturalness, Sacrifice, and the “Reichʹs Water Corpse”
    (pp. 42-97)

    Among the actresses who gained prominence in National Socialist culture, Kristina Söderbaum is frequently identified as most singularly representative of the Nazi ideal, as the quintessential Nazi star. Cinzia Romani calls her “the embodiment of the fresh, ingenuous GermanFräulein—modest and selfless—as well as the strong and healthy Aryan—the fruit ofKraft durch Freude(Strength through Joy). The eternal child-wife, she provided an image of the feminine ideal of the Third Reich in a series of films that carried a strong message of propaganda.”² Richard Grunberger similarly opined that as “a snub-nosed Nordic naiad cocooned in little-girlish...

  7. 3 Lilian Harvey: International Stardom, German Comedy, and the “Dream Couple”
    (pp. 98-154)

    Lilian Harvey always appeared as a sprite, a dancing figurine in a glass menagerie, a fairy ballerina engulfed in tulle and taffeta, a pixie as cute as a button, who between the years of 1924 and 1940 performed her idiosyncratic mix of romantic heroine and tomboyish comedienne in fifty-five romantic dramas, musicals, and comedies (Fig. 3.1).³ In the 1930s Lilian Harvey was in factthemost popular star of German musical comedy and, while melodrama was the dominant women’s genre of the 1930s and 1940s, both in the Third Reich and in the United States, among the whole of the...

  8. 4 Diva, Mother, Martyr: The Many Faces of Zarah Leander
    (pp. 155-212)

    Zarah Leander was without doubt one of the most popular female star figures of Nazi Germany, arguably eventhemost popular, male or female, within and beyond the borders of the Third Reich (Fig. 4.1).¹ She was known as both an actress and a singer and not only received one of the highest wages paid to an Ufa star at the time, but also, as did Lilian Harvey, sold recordings of her songs in various languages, including French and her native Swedish.

    Her rise was as sudden as it was orchestrated. In 1936, Ufa signed Leander, a virtually unknown stage...

  9. 5 Conclusion
    (pp. 213-220)

    “To ACT in films,” the National Socialist writer Gerd Eckert declared in a 1938 publication, “our casting department should choose people like you and me, just like those we are familiar with from our reallives.”¹ The female stars of Nazi cinema, however—unless we are celebrities ourselves—were never people like “you and me.” In fact, scholars in star studies have told us repeatedly that movie stars per se are never fully perceived as “ordinary” people, even when they typically play them. Moreover, if Nazi film culture departed from its ideological delineations by perpetuating stardom, it did so doubly in...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 221-256)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-268)
  12. Index
    (pp. 269-274)