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Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds: The Jewish Presence in German and Austrian Film, 1910-1933

S. S. Prawer
Series: Film Europa
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Between Two Worlds
    Book Description:

    Jews have been well represented in the cinema industry from the beginning of the film era: behind the screen, as producers, distributors, directors, script-writers, composers, set designers; and on the screen, as Jewish actors and as named Jewish characters in the film's plot. Some of these characters are fictional; others, ranging from Rabbi Loew of Prague to Ferdinand Lassalle and Alfred Dreyfus, have a historic original. This book examines how a variety of German and Austrian films treat aspects of Jewish life, at home and in the synagogue, and Jewish interaction with fellow Jews in different cultural environments; conflicts and accommodations between Jews and non-Jews at various times, ranging from the medieval to the contemporary. The author, one of the best known scholars in film history, theory and criticism, offers the reader a rich panorama of the many Jews involved in all spheres of the cinema and who, as the author reminds us repeatedly, together with their non-Jewish contemporaries, created a great industry and new forms of art.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-791-6
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xii-xii)
  5. Chapter 1 Preparing the Ground
    (pp. 1-15)

    My father’s fiduciary office had many Jewish clients in the 1920s and 1930s, and from one of them I first heard an anecdote which seems to have lived a wandering life as part of the mythology of cinema entrepreneurship. It tells of the wife of a Jewish shopkeeper who had a toothache and found a dentist willing to give her emergency treatment in a district remote from her own. When she returned, relieved of her toothache, she had some exciting news for her husband: she had seen a queue waiting outside a storefront whose window advertised motion pictures; and those...

  6. Chapter 2 Dramas and Melodramas of the ‘Silent’ Period
    (pp. 16-41)

    In 1918 Paul Davidson’s PAGU, under the Ufa banner for the first time, brought out three films with Jewish themes. Two of these were comedies, directed by, and starring, Ernst Lubitsch:Der Rodelkavalier(The Tobogganing Cavalier), andMeyer aus Berlin. The third however, was a melodrama featuring a (non-Jewish) actress recently recruited from the Warsaw stage, Barbara Apolonia Chalupec, who had adopted the name Pola Negri in homage to an Italian actress whom she greatly admired. Pola Negri’s speciality, in the German films she subsequently made, was playing fascinating foreign women and various species of vamp – often, like the...

  7. Chapter 3 Comedies of the ‘Silent’ Period
    (pp. 42-71)

    This film, made for Davidson’s PAGU (Union) organisation, and first shown in the middle of the First World War, in 1916, was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, who also played the main part and had a hand in the screenplay credited to Hanns Kräly and Erich Schönfelder.The Yellow Passporthad fulfilled the aims formulated by German generals keen to see entertainment value married to the kind of propaganda which put enemies – such as Tsarist Russia had been during the First World War – into a bad light, and Germans who could make so tolerant a film, into a good...

  8. Chapter 4 ‘Enlightenment’ Films (Sittenfilme)
    (pp. 72-81)

    It all started in the early days of cinema: because some entrepreneurs were Jewish, complaints about alleged moral delinquencies propagated and stimulated by films often had an anti-Semitic slant. As early as 1897, theLinzer Morgenpost, a local paper of Hitler’s Austrian home town, complained about ‘vulgar Jewish demoralising activities’, ascribing to movies ‘low, Judaising ways of thinking’; and in 1909, theSt Pöltener Zeitungcampaigned against cinematic ‘smut’ emanating from ‘mostly Jewish entrepreneurs’. In fact, the films most often complained about, popular atHerrenabende(evening performances for adult men only) emanated from non-Jewish firms like the French Pathé Frères...

  9. Chapter 5 1929: A Year of Transition
    (pp. 82-114)

    The year 1929 was a fateful one for the German film industry. It was becoming increasingly obvious that the days of the ‘silent’ cinema were numbered. As the year sailed towards the Wall Street stock market crash and a world-wide financial crisis, patents for various modes of adding sound to film had to be sorted out, a particular system had to be decided on, spheres of interest and activity had to be negotiated (notably between Western Electric, Tobis and Klangfilm), studios had to be remodelled to allow sound-recording, cinema proprietors had to invest in new equipment, and the many musicians...

  10. Chapter 6 Ironic Realism
    (pp. 115-121)

    As a reaction against ‘Expressionist’ and fantasy films, historical spectaculars and popular melodramas, many filmmakers began to feel, towards the end of the ‘silent’ period, that something nearer to life as actually lived, especially in cities, a ‘new sobriety’, or new realism, was becoming necessary for the health of the German film industry. This feeling found memorable expression inMenschen am Sonntag(People on Sunday), released in 1930. Exactly who did what in this shoe-string production is difficult to determine, in face of conflicting testimony. Robert Siodmak seems to have done most of the directing, assisted for a few days...

  11. Chapter 7 Late Comedies
    (pp. 122-140)

    Among the many Jewish performers who enriched German and Austrian film comedy before 1933, three deserve special mention. One of these is Curt Bois: a slim, volatile, infectiously energetic player who is unforgettable even in brief appearances such as that in Lubitsch’sOyster Princess, where he plays an astonishingly youthful orchestra conductor whose jerky rhythmic movements set everybody dancing. As the star of such films asDer Jüngling aus der Konfektion(The Young Man from the Ragtrade), directed by Richard Löwenbein in 1926, andDer Fürst von Pappenheim(The Prince of Pappenheim), directed by Richard Eichberg in 1927, he rivalled...

  12. Chapter 8 Confrontations and Enmities
    (pp. 141-159)

    E.A. Dupont’sThe Ancient Law, discussed in an earlier chapter, had topical interest when it was released in 1923 because of the recent influx of Eastern European Jews into Germany and Austria, and anti-Jewish measures in the Ruhr district. It had been preceded in 1918 by Dupont’sFerdinand Lassalle. Des Volks-Tribuns Glück und Ende(F.L. The Prosperity and the End of a People’s Tribune), which chronicled the love of a Jewish political thinker for a titled German lady as well as his diverse relations with Bismarck and the most famous of all German Jewish poets, Heinrich Heine. By alluding, in...

  13. Chapter 9 A New Film Musical
    (pp. 160-196)

    The ‘silent’ cinema was rarely enjoyed in actual silence. Early entrepreneurs, and part-time directors like Gustav Schönwald, often stood before their paying public to comment on what went on in the film being shown; but suchconférenceswere increasingly shouldered out by musical accompaniments, ranging from the solitary piano and small ensembles of humbler venues to the full orchestras of first-run ‘palaces’ on the Kurfürstendamm. One of the most famous, and controversial, of Jewish suppliers of music for the ‘silent’ cinema was Edmund Meisel, a violinist and conductor who wrote music for the theatre productions of Erwin Piscator and was...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 197-210)

    Many of the films on Jewish themes created in Germany and Austria – like Joseph Delmont’sDie Geächteten(The Outlawed) of 1919, rereleased asDer Ritualmord(Ritual Murder) in 1921 – are now lost. Our journey through a representative selection has, however, led to encounters with a variety of on-screen characters embodying Jewish experiences in different social, intellectual and psychological situations at specific historical periods and varying stages of integration into surrounding societies. Cooperating with non-Jewish colleagues, and using film-specific means of narration, Jewish scriptwriters, producers, directors, cinematographers and designers exposed to the gaze of their audiences Jews in biblical...

  15. Appendix Jewish Artists and Administrators Working in the German and Austrian Film Industry in 1929
    (pp. 211-214)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-218)
  17. Index
    (pp. 219-228)