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Destination London

Destination London: German-Speaking Emigres and British Cinema, 1925-1950

Tim Bergfelder
Christian Cargnelli
Series: Film Europa
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Destination London
    Book Description:

    The legacy of emigres in the British film industry, from the silent film era until after the Second World War, has been largely neglected in the scholarly literature.Destination Londonis the first book to redress this imbalance. Focusing on areas such as exile, genre, technological transfer, professional training and education, cross-cultural exchange and representation, it begins by mapping the reasons for this neglect before examining the contributions made to British cinema by emigre directors, actors, screenwriters, cinematographers, set designers, and composers. It goes on to assess the cultural and economic contexts of transnational industry collaborations in the 1920s, artistic cosmopolitanism in the 1930s, and anti-Nazi propaganda in the 1940s.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-019-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Tim Bergfelder and Christian Cargnelli
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction: German-speaking Emigrés and British Cinema, 1925–50: Cultural Exchange, Exile and the Boundaries of National Cinema
    (pp. 1-23)
    Tim Bergfelder

    Britain can be considered, with the possible exception of the Netherlands, the European country benefiting most from the diaspora of continental film personnel that resulted from the Nazis’ rise to power.¹ Kevin Gough-Yates, who pioneered the study of exiles in British cinema, argues that ‘when we consider the films of the 1930s, in which the Europeans played a lesser role, the list of important films is small.’² Yet the legacy of these Europeans, including their contribution to aesthetic trends, production methods, to professional training and to technological development in the film industry of their host country has been largely forgotten....

  5. Chapter 2 Life Is a Variety Theatre – E.A. Dupont’s Career in German and British Cinema
    (pp. 24-35)
    Tim Bergfelder

    Studies of émigré filmmakers often mirror the disjointed lives of their subjects, focusing on a selective body of work that either precedes or postdates their emigration, and thus fixing this fragmented work within the stable parameters of a single national cinema. Only in a few cases do surveys manage to convey either a sense of artistic continuity, or else document a significant departure in the émigré’s work from their previous career. As I have outlined in the introduction to this volume, assessments of émigré artists are frequently couched in not always accurate assumptions concerning the cultural context these filmmakers emerged...

  6. Chapter 3 Geza von Bolvary, Arnold Ridley and ‘Film Europe’
    (pp. 36-46)
    Lawrence Napper

    The Ghost Train, adapted from the British theatrical hit by Arnold Ridley, was directed in 1927 by Geza von Bolvary as part of a production deal between Gainsborough in Britain, and Fellner & Somlo in Germany. The film is interesting for a number of reasons.

    First of all,The Ghost Trainwas a European co-production, a collaboration between British and German production interests, with a Hungarian director and a combination of British and German actors – a ‘British’ film made in Germany. Being an relatively early example of this kind of co-production, many in the British trade press nevertheless regarded the...

  7. Chapter 4 Inside the Robots’ Castle: Ufa’s English-language Versions in the Early 1930s
    (pp. 47-61)
    Chris Wahl

    British International Pictures (BIP) – the film company that emerged in 1927 out of British National – is mainly remembered for having produced the first multiple language version film (MLV) worldwide,Atlantic(1929), with the aim of establishing the Elstree studios near London as a ‘British Hollywood’.¹ The director ofAtlanticand two other BIPMLVs,Two Worlds(1930) andCape Forlorn(1930), E.A. Dupont, belonged to a community of German artists and technicians working in English studios at this time.² TheFilm-Kurierdescribed the cooperation thus: ‘In Elstree, the British speak broken German, and the Germans speak broken English’.³ The fact that so...

  8. Chapter 5 Flamboyant Realism: Werner Brandes and British International Pictures in the Late 1920s
    (pp. 62-77)
    Kelly Robinson

    In 1929 British International Pictures’ (BIP’s) market share in Britain was a substantial 36 per cent.¹ Two years after the company’s inception in April 1927, the number of productions involving German directors and/or cameramen also peaked; approximately three-quarters of BIP’s featurelength films featured German personnel. From its outset until 1936, when the company changed to Associated British Picture Corporation, this quota fluctuated, depending on who was being contracted to the studio. Altogether, BIP used German directors and cinematographers in a quarter of its entire output.² In this chapter I will assess the contribution of German cameraman Werner Brandes to the...

  9. Chapter 6 Famously Unknown: Günther Krampf’s Work as Cinematographer in British Films
    (pp. 78-88)
    Michael Omasta

    Günther Krampf must be considered a phantom of film history. The brilliant reputation as a cinematographer that he enjoyed among his peers is curiously at odds with the scant information on his life.¹ Analyses of his filmic work are equally scarce. In books on British film history Krampf barely features; and where references exist, factual mistakes, speculation and untenable assertions abound. A telling example can be found in Geoff Brown’s study on Michael Balcon, one of the few reliable German-language publications on British cinema, which includes a photograph from the set ofLittle Friend(1934). Its caption reads, ‘To the...

  10. Chapter 7 ‘German, or still more horrible thought, Russian – at any rate, it is un-English!’: A wide Shot of Exile, Emigré and Itinerant Activity in the British Film Industry in the 1930s
    (pp. 89-99)
    Amy Sargeant

    In the 1930s,The Spectator, among other journals intended for a general audience, frequently discussed the contending merits of the modern versus the ancient home. Its correspondent, Geoffrey Boumphrey, director of the plywood furniture importers Finmar, urged shops to support good design in china, glass, typography and textiles, and encouraged his readers to recognise that modernity is not of necessity foreign. ‘How often’, he asked in a 1932 article, ‘does one hear it urged against modern architecture that it is German or, still more horrible thought, Russian – at any rate, it is un-English!’¹ In 1933 he welcomed the Gorell Report...

  11. Chapter 8 Extending Frames and Exploring Spaces: Alfred Junge, Set Design and Genre in British Cinema
    (pp. 100-110)
    Sarah Street

    When Russian émigré set designer Lazare Meerson arrived in Britain at the end of 1935, he complained to a colleague working in Paris that ‘complete disorganisation reigns over the studios. In comparison, our poor Epinay looks like a lost Hollywood to me. The technical equipment is completely rudimentary’.² His account of an inefficient, chaotic economic infrastructure was also observed by Oswell Blakeston, writing forClose Upin 1927. He reported that an art director complained to him that ‘the balance of his composition had been completely spoilt. When the carpenters came to execute his design they were compelled to cut...

  12. Chapter 9 Lost in Siberia: Ernö Metzner in Britain
    (pp. 111-122)
    Laurie N. Ede

    Most accounts of British film art direction have offered an idealised picture of European influence. In particular, we have read that European designers – many of them former employees of the German studios – modernised British film design during the 1930s (as Edward Carrick had it, Alfred Junge, Andrei Andreiev and others ‘made up our minds for us’).¹ This historical orthodoxy has endured for one central reason – it happens to be true. However, this is not to say that all of the émigré art directors exerted equal influence or that they enjoyed similar levels of success. Foreign designers’ British careers were particularly...

  13. Chapter 10 ‘Be kvite Kviet, everybody, please!’: Paul L. Stein and British Cinema
    (pp. 123-141)
    Christian Cargnelli

    In February 1935 the British journalist Edmund G. Cousins visited the set ofMimi, a screen version of Henri Murger’s novelScènes de la vie de bohèmeon which Puccini’s well-known opera is based. He eavesdropped on director Paul L. Stein, an émigré from Vienna: ‘I love to listen to Stein directing. “Be kvite kviet, everybody,please– which is the good old Anglo-Saxon vordshut tup!”’ ¹ In this chapter, I will delineate Stein’s career in the UK and try to explore the way he constructed images of Austria in his British films. I will also discuss how the latter...

  14. Chapter 11 Allegories of Displacement: Conrad Veidt’s British Films
    (pp. 142-154)
    Gerd Gemünden

    In the 1935 Gaumont-British filmThe Passing of the Third Floor BackConrad Veidt plays a stranger who mysteriously appears one day in a London boarding house, where he rents a room. During his brief stay the lives of the lodgers are disrupted and dramatically altered by their interaction with this extraordinary figure. Thus, in some form or other, the stranger redeems the various stock characters who inhabit the house, ranging from an abject kitchen help (René Ray) through an embittered woman on the wrong side of thirty (Beatrix Lehmann), a bankrupt retired military man too proud to take a...

  15. Chapter 12 Anton Walbrook: The Continental Consort
    (pp. 155-171)
    Michael Williams

    In 1937 Viennese actor Anton Walbrook became an international star.¹ While he had had a successful career in Europe, his Austrian and German films had received limited circulation in the UK and America, and it was the success of his Hollywood debut,The Soldier and the Lady(UK title:Michael Strogoff), directed by George Nicholls Jr., in the summer of that year that consolidated his international profile.² The role that really secured Walbrook’s film career and fashioned his star persona for at least the next decade was that of Albert, the Prince Consort, in Herbert Wilcox’s historical biopicVictoria the...

  16. Chapter 13 From ‘ALien Person’ to ‘Darling Lilli’: Lilli Palmer’s Roles in British Cinema
    (pp. 172-180)
    Barbara Ziereis

    Lilli Palmer left Britain for the USA in 1945, after having lived in London for ten years, as an established screen and stage actress. Before her arrival in Britain she was a talented but largely unknown continental actress and singer who had become a refugee from Nazi Germany. However, by 1945 ‘Darling Lilli’ (as the tabloid press came to call her) had become a British star. She was an integrated and popular member of British society, partly through her marriage to British actor Rex Harrison, with whom she had a son. She had a British passport and lived surrounded by...

  17. Chapter 14 ‘You call us “Germans”, you call us “Brothers” – but we are not your brothers!’: British Anti-Nazi Films and German-speaking Émigrés
    (pp. 181-194)
    Tobias Hochscherf

    At the outbreak of the Second World War the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) eased some of its more stringent regulations, and the newly set-up Films Division of the wartime Ministry of Information (MoI) began to play a key role in the production of films. The combination of entertainment with a political message led to a boom in British cinema – both in terms of both creativity and popularity.¹ Hitherto, this success has often been celebrated as a genuine national achievement. Charles Barr, for instance, argues that ‘by the end of the war, a positive reading of “mainstream” British cinema...

  18. Chapter 15 Carl Mayer: Years of Exile in London
    (pp. 195-203)
    Brigitte Mayr

    Elisabeth Bergner’s memoirs contain an unforgettable description of the virtually hopeless situation faced by immigrants in London. Though finally safe, they were forced to sit idly, waiting to see whether and how those who were most in need of lifesaving aid might receive it.¹ In Carl Mayer’s case, this period of uneasy waiting lasted almost two full years before Bergner and Paul Czinner finally managed to obtain the necessary papers so their friend could enter the country. Czinner and Bergner, a director and star duo who later married, had worked together on German films since 1924. From 1929 onward, ‘Meyerlein’...

  19. Chapter 16 Music for the People: Escapism and Social Comment in the Work of Hans May and Ernst Meyer
    (pp. 204-219)
    Geoff Brown

    In January 1935 subscribers to the scholarly British magazineMusic and Letterscould read an essay by one William Saunders entitled ‘Songs of the German Revolution’. Using song texts, musical examples, and his own selective experiences travelling in Germany, Saunders painted an extraordinarily benign view of the lyric output in Germany following Hitler’s election victory in 1933. ‘Wherever the Storm Troops may be, and that is everywhere throughout modern Germany, there is to be heard the sound of singing,’ he writes. He identifies the ‘flag-song’ as a genre, followed by the ‘shirt-song’: ‘The Germans dearly love a uniform and consequently...

  20. Chapter 17 I Know Where I’m Going! Hearing Germanic Music in the Scottish Isles
    (pp. 220-229)
    K.J. Donnelly

    Shot in the mid-1940s,I Know Where I’m Going!continued Michael Powell’s interest in the Scottish islands which he had explored in his earlier filmsEdge of the World(1937) andThe Spy in Black(1939). The film’s narrative concerns Joan, who is going to the island of Kiloran to marry her boss who rents it. With progress blocked by bad weather, she instead falls in love with Torquil, the real laird of the island. The film’s team included a number of immigrants to Britain: most notably Powell’s close collaborator, screenwriter Emeric Pressburger, production designer Alfred Junge, German-born cinematographer Erwin...

  21. Chapter 18 ‘An Animated Quest for Freedom’: Mátyás Seiber’s Score for The Magic Canvas
    (pp. 230-242)
    Florian Scheding

    Part of the Austro-German musical avant-garde until he was forced into exile, Hungarian-born composer Mátyás Seiber became one of the outstanding figures in British musical life. Despite the significant influences he exerted both as a composer and as a teacher on a younger generation of British composers – Hugh Wood, Peter Racine Fricker, and Don Banks were amongst his pupils – his sometimes puzzlingly eclectic output has thus far received surprisingly little scholarly attention. Most of the few articles published on Seiber highlight his versatility that ranged from progressive modernist avant-garde to incidental music for radio and film and light music such...

  22. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 243-246)
  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-258)
  24. Index
    (pp. 259-272)