German Exile Cinema, 1933-1951
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's The Black Cat (1934), William Dieterle's The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942), Bertolt Brecht and Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die (1943), Fred Zinnemann's Act of Violence (1948), and Peter Lorre's Der 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.
Deftly, Gerd Gemünden combines perceptive close readings of select films with sharp archival investigation to show how some key movies of classical Hollywood came-in often fraught manner-to engage with the evils of fascism. By understanding cinema as a complex negotiation over political meanings, from production to final results onscreen, this volume represents a major contribution to the literature on the Hollywood emigrés and their cultural work.
Dana Polan, New York University
Continental Strangers is a necessary and most compelling pendant to Thomas Doherty's Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939. Indeed, these two recent releases provide an impressive ensemble. Doherty depicts how American film studios reacted to Nazi terror in both direct and less overt ways. Gemünden fills out the picture in a series of intriguing case studies devoted to filmmakers who fled Hitler and settled in Southern California. Sensitive to the variety of ways in which German film artists experienced emigration and exile, Gemünden's book remains admirably attentive to the historical determinations and textual shapes of Hollywood's anti-Nazi features.
Eric Rentschler, Harvard University
A lucid and comprehensive account of German filmmakers in American exile, this book also offers a poetics of displacement and alienation. It adds another chapter to the story about Hitler and Hollywood and contributes to a deeper historical understanding of political cinema at a moment of crisis.
Anton Kaes, University of California, Berkeley
A welcome and well-researched survey.
Gemünden's work... makes a valuable contribution to film history...
Part I: Parallel Modernities
1. A History of Horror
2. Tales of Urgency and Authenticity
Part II: Hitler in Hollywood
3. Performing Resistance, Resisting Performance
4. History as Propaganda and Parable
Part III: You Can't Go Home Again
5. Out of the Past
6. The Failure of Atonement
Read the introduction to Continental Strangers: