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Before Hollywood: Max Ophüls, Curtis Bernhardt, and Robert Siodmak in Exile in Paris

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Robert Siodmak (proper) with cinematographer Armand Thirard on the set of La vie Parisienne (1936)

Hollywood was simply past the horizon for the émigrés. There isn’t any doubt that Curtis Bernhardt, Robert Siodmak, and Max Ophüls thought they might calm down in Paris and grow to be part of the French filmmaking group with its appendage of anti-Nazi exiles working beneath exile producers who employed émigré movie technicians, even when the French wouldn’t.

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Earlier than 1933, Germany had the main film business on the planet subsequent to Hollywood. There have been 4 main German movie corporations. Movies have been principally made in Berlin at Babelsberg and in Tempelhof, the place Ufa and Terra Movie, respectively, had their movie studios; Tobis, the second-largest movie studio after Ufa, additionally had its studios in Berlin. It was a serious patent holder for sound movie know-how. A secondary movie capital was situated in Munich, the place Bavaria Movie, the fourth main movie studio, reigned. Solely Hollywood might rival the Germans when it got here to the common attraction, creativity, and basic high quality of their films. All through the 1920s and up till 1933, Berlin had solely America to worry as competitors.

Goebbels, 1932. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As early as March 1933, Joseph Goebbels, the simply appointed Minister of Propaganda, gave a speech earlier than the assembled Ufa personnel detailing his goals and beliefs, the objectives of a Nationwide Socialist movie venture. The Nazis have been younger, keen, and critical about their cultural coverage, as they have been about their racism and anti-Semitism. In accordance with a dominant German character trait, they meant to be consequent – not a nasty factor as such, solely so when utilized to evil intentions: systematic, ruthless, logical, and thorough, albeit they have been psychically encumbered by a type of insanity.

“The [Nazi] authorities goes to concern itself with films excess of earlier governments, primarily with their inventive and mental content material.” (Goebbels, March 29, 1933, Lodge Kaiserhof speech.)

Nobody – filmmakers, the Ufa administrators and administration in addition to technical personnel – might misinterpret the speech’s not-so-veiled menace: the Nazis would tolerate no hidden messages or ideological deviations from primary Nazi premises, and the previously “Jewish-dominated” German movie business must change radically if it anticipated to perform beneath the brand new regime. Goebbels made a verbal effort to guarantee his captive viewers that he was not going to uproot the business “root and department” however solely meant, first, to eliminate the Jews and, second, to rid the cultural cinematic merchandise of “un-German” parts.

Certainly, Goebbels was keenly all in favour of films and believed strongly of their usefulness as a propaganda instrument. He definitely meant to co-opt the business underneath his auspices and supervision to show it into a unbroken powerhouse in Europe with grand productions so it will keep its prime place to the glory of Germany and the Nazi get together.

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Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Hitler and Goebbels (proper) watch a shoot at Ufa, 1935. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The bloodletting when it comes to the shedding of Jews and anti-Nazis didn’t appear to have a devastating impact on the film studios in Germany – but. The preliminary influence within the films was not instantly obvious after the rise of Hitler. Nevertheless it quickly made itself felt. Within the selection of movie topics alone, it was obvious that Goebbels and his movie individuals have been in cost. However Goebbels was not silly sufficient to show now to Nazi themes and a show of parades and uniforms; actually, he disliked such overt propaganda, preferring to affect his captive movie audiences in additional delicate methods. He quipped that they didn’t want to point out Nazis parading within the films; they might deal with that on the streets in German cities. As an alternative, what they wanted have been entertaining and fascinating films made to attraction to the plenty. He admired the lightness of flicks popping out of “Jewish” Hollywood and in contrast it to German clumsiness, “profundity,” and gloominess. His ambition was to realize that very same mild contact in German film manufacturing – with out the Jews, naturally. He didn’t succeed. The delicate, when not overt, propaganda message was all the time there within the movies created from 1933 to 1945. Nothing was untouched if it was put in movie; even in a adverse sense, in productions like Helmut Käutner’s Unter den Brücken (1945) or his Große Freiheit No. 7 (1944) or horror movies comparable to Fährmann Maria (1935), the Nazis and their ideology and imagery loomed ever current.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Fährmann Maria

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Beginning in 1940, the German movie business was the dominant energy when it got here to movie manufacturing and distribution in German-occupied continental Europe; Festung Europa was really a captive gross sales, advertising, and distribution area. The one rival to the Germans, the People, had been banned from the continent because the enemy. So when Europeans went to the film theatre in, say, 1942 or 1943, they fairly often noticed German movies, typically within the unique, typically dubbed into their native languages. Or the nationwide movie industries had been co-opted by German subsidiaries. An intriguing facet of German dominance was the concomitant inferiority complicated and aggressive aspirations with respect to Hollywood. At Hitler’s Berghof eyrie within the Bavarian Alps (Berchtesgaden), quite a few American movies have been regularly proven to the assembled bigwigs, paladins, and friends. The alpine retreat’s movie archive was fairly nicely stocked with Hollywood movies, as we study from numerous Nazi sources (writings about Hitler’s life in Berchtesgaden, memoirs by Hitler’s employees and numerous underlings, Goebbels’ diary entries).

Goebbels watched American movies earlier than the warfare and even in the course of the warfare when he might get his arms on them, together with animated Disney productions, Shirley Temple films, to not converse of epics reminiscent of Gone with the Wind (1939), which he confirmed a number of occasions – “[The film] needs to be seen extra typically [by us]. We need to study from its instance” (Diary, July 30, 1940) – and formally urged his movie individuals to see so they could study by its instance methods to make films. Goebbels was able to admiring even explicitly anti-Nazi movies such because the Warner Bros. manufacturing of Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Overseas Correspondent (1940), which included Joel McCrea as an American reporter broadcasting to America from the bombing (the “Blitz”) of London and warning the world of Nazi tyranny in the long run scene.

Collectively, we noticed this night the American colour movie Swanee River [1939]. […] The state of affairs is the next: the People perceive how you can create one thing actually helpful for the present occasions out of their comparatively slight cultural stock owing to their state-of-the-art cinematic functionality. […] The People have solely a few Negro songs; however they depict them on the display so vividly that they conquer giant sections of the fashionable world, which, in fact, feels itself fairly appealed to on this approach. We’ve got much more in depth cultural belongings however don’t have the artwork and the facility at our disposal to modernize them.” (Goebbels Diary, Might three, 1942)

The propaganda minister, in response to his diary entries, was an ideal fan of Frank Capra’s It Occurred One Night time (1934) and Mr. Deeds Goes to City (1936). He admired the Greta Garbo melodramas Grand Lodge (1932), Anna Karenina (1935), and Conquest (1937), in addition to the varied movies of the Broadway Melody collection in the course of the 1930s, Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and John Ford’s Grapes of Wrath (1939), which he noticed within the final months of the warfare, remarking, “We couldn’t movie a extra anti-American movie” compared to what he noticed in Ford’s movie concerning the Okies in California (Diary entry, Nov. 22, 1944). His diaries are filled with remarks about movies and filmmaking, each German and overseas, particularly about Hollywood “rival” productions. Goebbels’ emotions of envy and admiration for Hollywood have been unmistakable.

He typically differed with Hitler when it comes to style. Hitler most popular Westerns, Lubitsch comedies, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy movies – and particularly Disney animated movies corresponding to Mickey Mouse shorts and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Snow White

The person answerable for German movie manufacturing was engaged in a aggressive wrestle with the American movie business, with the world market as his stage. And he truly didn’t appear to consider the German – i.e., the Nazi, movie manufacturing – would ultimately win, admitting, if the American rivals have been capable of re-enter the European markets of German-occupied Europe: “We might actually have a troublesome time with them [Hollywood’s competition]they usually may probably get the higher of us” (Diary, November 1, 1942).

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When implementing their racist coverage, the Nazis depended an excellent deal on the collaboration of the inhabitants. And so, in an act of pre-emptive or “anticipatory” obedience on March 29, 1933, Ufa, the most important German movie studio and the most important movie firm in Europe, had fired numerous its Jewish staff: administrators, cameramen, writers, technical employees, even earlier than Goebbels set the course for the longer term in his speech – Goebbels had given his Kaiserhof speech the day earlier than, March 28.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Carl Zuckmayer, Eric Pommer, and Emil Jannings at Ufa, 1929. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Amongst those that got the boot was Erich Pommer, probably the most well-known producer at Ufa, accountable for almost every thing that counted as basic German silent cinema within the 1920s and early 1930s. He, too, needed to search work and a refuge after he was clearly informed he was not needed in Berlin. Ufa, the truth is, cancelled his contract. Like so many, he went to Paris, the place he headed Fox’s European department. Alongside Pommer, Fritz Lang, cameraman Eugene Schüfftan, script author Billy Wilder, Emeric Pressburger (who later partnered up with Michael Powell in England), Friedrich (“Frederick” in his later Hollywood profession) Kohner, Max Kolpé (or Max Colpet, who later wrote the script for Germany Yr Zero [1948] for Roberto Rossellini), Curt Siodmak (Robert’s brother), Hermann Kosterlitz (Henry Koster later in Hollywood), and lots of lesser names, movie composers like Oscar Straus, Paul Dessau, Franz Wachsmann (later referred to as Waxman in Hollywood) made up the German exile group in Paris.

All these gifted individuals leaving the nation! Have been they missed? In all probability not. There was an excessive amount of scrambling for positions happening; in any case, with all of the Jews and anti-Nazis having left, there have been some issues to go round, and the dashing should have been terrific. Individuals who had intimately labored with their Jewish colleagues previous to January 30, 1933, now knew nothing higher than Nationwide Socialism and what the brand new regime promised. Actors reminiscent of Emil Jannings, Heinrich George, and lots of others who had made their fame with individuals the regime now spurned turned fairly satisfied Nazis, fiery and passionate for Hitler and his henchman and the fantastic way forward for Nazi Germany.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Comedy duo Sig Arno and Kurt Gerron, 1931. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

And, in fact, not everybody might flee efficiently when the Germans invaded. One instance is Kurt Gerron, who was caught in Holland, interned at Theresienstadt, and later murdered at Auschwitz. But there have been many different colleagues who labored with Ophüls and Siodmak who died by the hands of the Nazis, within the focus camps they conceived, unfold, and ran in Europe.

How did the Nazis see the émigrés? You don’t should look any additional than the 1941 movie Über Alles in der Welt (Above All within the World), starring Carl Raddatz, who can be featured 4 years later within the 1945 late-war “anti-Nazi” movie Unter den Brücken. In Above All within the World (a quote from “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,” the German nationwide anthem), Raddatz performs a German journalist in Paris because the warfare breaks out. He’s a patriot – that’s, a loyal German, true to Nazi Germany. The movie seeks to chronicle the plight of Germans caught abroad on the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939. “Invincible energy,” because the blurb for this movie goes, is certainly demonstrated on this flick. The movie is supposed as an example the may of the New Germany, and you may see how little energy the émigrés had in some key scenes of the movie. The exiled anti-Nazis dwelling in Paris are portrayed as Jewish blowhards who hardly acknowledge how little affect they’ve, who’re at greatest ludicrous figures to oppose the iron-fisted, mobilized Third Reich. In different phrases: they’re merely illegitimate usurpers of German (and lately annexed Austrian) tradition. The movie depicts these Jews and anti-Nazis as strangers to the “individuals” and as foreigners and not using a nation, rabid agitators with out help from the German individuals. At backside, solely “rootless cosmopolitans.” From our perspective, it’d seem like the émigrés possessed the ethical excessive floor and completed nice issues in Hollywood, notably in movie noir, however, from the look of issues within the 1930s and early ’40s in Europe, they have been the losers and laughably weak. In Above All within the World, there’s a scene depicting Austrian people musicians who’ve been caught by the warfare’s outbreak and are in transit to their homeland; they’ve been briefly interned in France. They’re nation people, “unsophisticated.” Some émigrés strategy them to make speeches about anti-fascism. The peasant musicians take a look at them and mumble amongst themselves solely the phrase, “Wiener Juden (Viennese Jews).” Within the movie, the reason was sufficient – and the digital camera exhibits their skepticism and antipathy to the émigrés.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Collage of stills from Venus vor Gericht

To get one other style of what kind of movies the Nazis have been making and the way a lot they have been agitating towards the émigrés and the types of modernism that the émigrés embraced, one must see an image like Venus vor Gericht (Venus On Trial, 1941). The plot of Venus On Trial is explicitly directed towards modernist artwork. The movie is a few younger German sculptor through the period that the Nazis referred to as the “Systemzeit” (years following the First World Struggle and previous to Hitler’s rise to energy, i.e., 1919-1933). He intentionally buries a statue of a unadorned younger lady, by-product of Greek sculpture. The younger artist needs it to be found and acclaimed as a misplaced treasure of historic classical artwork. By no means thoughts the implausibility of this ruse; he needs to show the degeneracy of the modernist artwork world and its skilled critics by contrasting this “naturalness” and freshness he has created with the distorted and perverse creations of modernism. We gained’t get too concerned within the ideology right here, however suffice it to say he succeeds, and no one can guess who created the statue of a nude and nubile younger lady. By no means assume the Nazis have been prudes – not with nakedness or, as they referred to as it, “naturalness” versus Jewish degeneracy and deformation. They did like their nudes. (See Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia [1938] for a feminine’s imaginative and prescient of bare power and beauty within the type of homoerotic imagery. It handed within the Nazi censor’s eyes as a result of it was “Aryan” males who have been bare.) In Venus On Trial, Siegfried Breuer of The Third Man (1949) fame performs the unscrupulous Jewish artwork vendor Benjamin Hecht, the good manipulator – he can get corrupt artwork critics to evaluate the artistic endeavors he sells in glowing phrases within the newspapers of pre-Nazi Germany after which sells the artwork to museums at exorbitant, inflated costs. That’s the artwork world towards which the younger Nazi sculptor – stated to be based mostly on Arno Breker (within the movie he’s referred to as Peter Brake, performed by Hannes Stelzer) – struggles in useless in pre-Nazi Germany. Hannes Stelzer, by the best way, was a younger and promising actor who would abandon the Goebbels-led Ufa movie studios to serve within the German military; on this case, he was an actual Nazi and didn’t have the prospect, after the struggle, to disclaim he ever was one. He was killed in motion in Hungary in late 1944.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Adolf Hitler and Adolf Ziegler examine the set up by Willrich and Hansen of the Degenerate Artwork Present, 1937. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Earlier than fleeing to Paris, administrators Max Ophüls, Curtis Bernhardt, and Robert Siodmak – who turned generally known as American filmmakers and masters of noir – had vital careers in Germany.

After working for greater than a decade as a theater director in numerous positions within the German provinces, Ophüls first made a brief for Ufa in 1931, Dann schon lieber Lebertran (I’d Somewhat Have Cod Liver Oil), which is now thought-about misplaced. He adopted up with two comedies: Die verliebte Firma (The Firm’s in Love, 1931), with the younger comic Heinz Rühmann, and the filmed model of the comedian opera Die verkaufte Braut (The Bartered Bride, 1932). Then got here his nice success, Liebelei (1933), the yr he needed to depart Germany.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Individuals on Sunday

Siodmak did his preliminary work as a director in Menschen am Sonntag (Individuals on Sunday, 1930), written by the younger Billy (then Billie) Wilder. Fred Zinnemann, Edgar G. Ulmer, and cameraman Eugene Schüfftan additionally labored on the movie. Seymour Nebenzal produced it; Curt Siodmak wrote the story. This movie is now seen as a pioneering achievement in lots of respects, each technically and intellectually, and was an enormous hit on the time. It was an independently made film that confirmed the every day life of 4 younger Berliners. After that, Siodmak was employed as a director by Ufa. He made Abschied (Farewell, 1930), a story set in a boardinghouse, which featured a Russian émigré who would later go to Hollywood: Vladimir Sokoloff. He then made a brief referred to as Der Kampf mit dem Drachen oder: Die Tragödie des Untermieters (The Battle with the Dragon or: The Tragedy of the Subtenant, 1930), starring Felix Bressart, which is now thought-about misplaced. That was adopted by 5 movies in fast succession for Ufa: Der Mann, der seinen Mörder sucht (The Man in Search of His Assassin, 1931), which starred Heinz Rühmann. This movie was written by Billy Wilder and featured the music of Frederick (then Friedrich) Hollander and Franz Waxman. The plot – the mannequin for a lot of follow-up movies reminiscent of The Whistler (1944), with Richard Dix and J. Carrol Naish – considerations a person who pays to have successful man kill him after which falls in love and modifications his thoughts. Siodmak’s subsequent movie, Voruntersuchung (Inquest, 1931), was a strong thriller and a proto-noir if there ever was one, starring Albert Bassermann as a district lawyer in Berlin who’s pressured to research a homicide involving – he suspects – his personal son and his greatest good friend (Gustav Fröhlich, one of many important leads in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis [1927]the place he performed the industrialist’s son). He had an assistant at Ufa for the French model of the movie. His identify was Henri Chomette, the brother of René Clair. Siodmak would later encounter him once more in Paris.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt


Stürme der Leidenschaft (Storms of Ardour, 1932), one other proto-noir that was lengthy thought-about misplaced (a replica might have been present in Japan), starred Emil Jannings. It was set within the Berlin legal milieu. Fast (1932) was a movie comedy and starred Hans Albers as a music corridor clown.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Brennendes Geheimnis

Brennendes Geheimnis (The Burning Secret, 1933) was based mostly on a novella by Stefan Zweig, a German-Austrian co-production, starring Willi Forst. It premiered in March 1933, however was shortly thereafter banned by Goebbels due to its theme of adultery and, allegedly, as a result of the propaganda minister believed the title of the film was an ironic allusion to the Reichstag hearth, which occurred on Feb. 27, 1933.

Kurt Bernhardt made his debut with a brief movie, Namenlose Helden (Anonymous Heroes, 1925), for a Communist-controlled movie firm. The feature-length silent movies he produced subsequent – Qualen der Nacht (Torments of the Night time, 1926); Die Waise von Lowood (Orphan of Lowood, 1926), based mostly on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë; Kinderseelen klagen euch an (Youngsters’s Souls Accuse You (1927), an anti-abortion topical movie made for a Catholic group – have been made with smaller movie corporations, as was Das Mädchen mit den fünf Nullen (The Woman with the 5 Zeros, 1927), a movie comedy. Schinderhannes (The Prince of Rogues, 1927) was based mostly on a play by Carl Zuckmayer, made for a Russian-German movie studio. Das letzte Fort (The Final Fort (1929) was a warfare movie. Die Frau, nach der man sich sehnt (The Lady One Longs For aka The Lady Males Yearn For, 1929) was a drama starring the younger Marlene Dietrich in addition to Fritz Kortner; it was based mostly on a novel by Max Brod. The crime movie The Man Who Murdered (Der Mann, der den Mord beging, 1931) featured Conrad Veidt, with Heinrich George. On this movie, George performed such a caricature of an English snob and nobleman that one can see that, previous to the Nazis, the Germans did certainly have a posh concerning the English and parodied them of their films properly earlier than Hitler got here to energy.

Earlier than Bernhardt left Germany, he made two very well-known movies, which have been fairly nationalist in spirit: The Insurgent (1932), with Luis Trenker, a movie that was paradoxically revered by Goebbels as a quintessentially German movie in his speech in 1933 addressing the assembled movie staff at Ufa; and Die letzte Kompagnie (The Final Firm, 1931), a struggle movie with Conrad Veidt, concerning the sacrifice of a Prussian infantry firm within the struggle towards Napoleon. Each movies have been exaltingly patriotic. It’s ironic that Bernhardt ought to have been kicked out of Germany for being un-German, that’s, Jewish.

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Paris was not at all a pleasant setting for German émigré movie administrators. To start with, they constituted competitors for the native filmmakers. The newspapers and the movie individuals in France have been on the defensive when it got here to the brand new rivals, and lots of media organs didn’t draw back from anti-Semitic invectives towards them. Robert Siodmak appeared to have notably dangerous luck. In 1933, simply as he arrived within the French capital, he was interviewed by the author Lucien Rebatet (who later would turn into a famous contributor to the primary newspaper of the French fascists, Je Suis Partout [I Am Everywhere]). Rebatet managed through the article to insinuate that the movie set on which Siodmak was working (for the movie Le Sexe Faible) was full of German émigrés (learn: Jews). Siodmak’s subsequent movie, La crise est finie, was picketed by the Nationwide Federation of French Cinema on the Joinville studio, the place he was capturing. The group’s proxy, specifically Henri Chomette, lobbied the French Ministry of Justice for the director to be faraway from the movie. Chomette, who in April 1935 would take part within the Berlin Worldwide Movie Congress organized by Joseph Goebbels, organized for a banner to be displayed, studying: “SIODMAK, GO HOME!” on the doorways of the Joinville studio. In fact, the worry of competitors had a really actual financial facet: “A lot of the [French] studios weren’t working at far more than half their capability, and the cinematic commerce unions had unemployment rosters of 50 %.”

La Sexe Faible: Pierre Brasseur and Mireille Balin

One other damaging issue was that the French movie business was not superior – the truth is, it was comparatively backward, extra provincial and technically inferior to the high-powered, globally revered German film business subsequent door.

Robert Siodmak was pressured to flee Berlin in 1933, after having been attacked by the Nazis within the German press as an ethical degenerate and a Jew, most notably in Der Angriff (The Assault), the newspaper arrange as a Nazi get together organ within the Berlin Gau (district) in 1927. The vicious polemic towards him was a part of a concerted marketing campaign directed towards Jews within the German movie business by Goebbels.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt


Max Ophüls didn’t depart Germany till after his movie Liebelei – starring Willy Eichberger (who would later turn into “Carl Esmond” in Hollywood after he fled the Nazis in 1938), Wolfgang Liebeneiner (who develop into a really prolific “high quality” Nazi movie director, maker of the infamous pro-euthansasia movie Ich klage an [I Accuse, 1941]), and Magda Schneider (Romy Schneider’s mom) – had premiered in Berlin on March 16, 1933. On that very same day, the director even went on stage with the primary actors to acknowledge the accolades from the cheering viewers. Ophüls had the good luck of being a local of the Saar. He didn’t have a German passport and was not a citizen of the German Reich. In European nations, it’s customary for his or her residents to register their residence tackle with the police. Ophüls was formally registered as residing in Saarbrücken, the most important metropolis within the Saar, which significantly aided him when it got here to reestablishing residence in Paris. He was seen as a resident of a area that, in 1935, was set to vote on a plebiscite on whether or not to stay part of France or Germany. In 1933, this plebiscite was two years away. Owing to this affiliation with the Saar and since he was a holder of a Saar passport when he crossed the border to Paris, he was in a way privileged and had no hassle getting a piece allow. It additionally eased the approval of authorized residency for him and his spouse and small son Marcel.

Against this, Robert Siodmak by no means obtained a French work allow throughout his residence in Paris, despite the fact that he actively filmed there till 1939. Therefore Siodmak all the time lived and labored on the sting of legality throughout his complete time there.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt


The émigré administrators weren’t “at residence” in Paris as filmmakers. They took together with them the movie mannerisms attribute of German filmmaking – and that we connote as synonymous with movie noir: themes of confused id, uncommon digital camera angles, chiaroscuro lighting, city/felony underworld settings, the world of night time membership leisure. Their movies have been intentionally worldwide or felt so as a result of the producers, cameramen, set designers, writers – for Curtis Bernhardt’s Carrefour, Hans Kafka, an émigré, penned the script, for example – have been neither French nor Parisians however typically hailed from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Russia. The movies of those exiles mirrored a made-up Paris however one which has stood the check of time. In essence, the émigrés have been producing movie noirs earlier than there was any notion of movie noir. Prime examples of this are Carrefour and Siodmak’s Píèges. They occurred to be made within the late 1930s in France however led visually, thematically, psychologically on to the basic movie noirs they might make in America.

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Hollywood was simply past the horizon for the émigrés. There isn’t a doubt that Curtis Bernhardt, Robert Siodmak, and Max Ophüls thought they might quiet down in Paris and develop into part of the French filmmaking group with its appendage of anti-Nazi exiles working underneath exile producers who employed émigré movie technicians, even when the French wouldn’t. The Germans invaded in June 1940. France, located proper subsequent to the Reich, made a army invasion comparatively straightforward to implement. The famed Maginot Line, an concept whose effectiveness would have been nice if the Second World Struggle had been only a repeat of the First World Conflict, didn’t forestall the quite a few German tanks – which, by the best way, have been technically inferior to their French counterparts – from going across the fortifications. The difficulty was that the French didn’t battle like they need to have, and the Germans have been simply provided of their again areas, nothing just like the stretched provide strains, for example, that plagued their armies in Russia.

The three émigré administrators have been very fortunate to flee, however tens of hundreds of others have been caught within the invasion’s iron vise. They have been sitting geese for the key police and SS, which adopted up after the military. All three would have been prime catches for the Nazi hunters, definitely, and won’t have survived.

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Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

The Tunnel: Jean Gabin and Gustaf Gründgens

Curtis Bernhardt – or Kurt Bernhardt, as he was recognized then – technically talking, made solely two function movies in France within the 1930s: Gold within the Road (L’Or dans le rue, 1934), script by Henry Koster (then Hermann Kosterlitz), music by Paul Dessau; and Carrefour (1938). He truly made a French model of The Tunnel (1933), with Jean Gabin and Gustaf Gründgens (with the well-known German actor talking French) within the starring roles. The movie was shot within the Bavaria Movie studios in Munich-Geiselgasteig. Formally, Jews like Bernhardt have been not allowed to work within the German movie business. However Bernhardt acquired particular permission to complete directing the movie, because it was a joint German-French manufacturing; formally, he had been employed by the French producers, so technically his employers have been Frenchmen. He had actually to be smuggled throughout the border from France to work in Munich; regardless that he was seen as an enemy of the brand new Hitler authorities, Berlin allowed him to complete the movie in each its German and French variations. The French model is arguably the higher one. The Tunnel was a capitalist journey, a half-science fiction, half-utopian fantasy about “American” engineers and financiers enterprise the colossal challenge of constructing a transatlantic tunnel 13,000 ft beneath the ocean, connecting the continental United States and Europe. The tunnel constructing is supported by and later sabotaged by a speculative financier. The speculator in query is performed by Gustaf Gründgens. The German artistic and political creativeness all the time works greatest in projecting wild capitalist excesses onto the USA and England, therefore the story was set in america. Enjoying the grasp engineer and tunnel builder within the German model is Paul Hartmann, who about half a decade later took the primary roles in two necessary Nazi movies. Jean Gabin performs the grasp engineer position within the French model of The Tunnel.

Bernhardt additionally shot a French model of The Beloved Vagabond (in French, Le Vagabond bien-aimé, 1936), the unique of which he made in England, with Maurice Chevalier within the title position. Franz Planer was cameraman; music was offered by Darius Milhaud. One other émigré named Walter von Molo was assistant director.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Carrefour: Charles Vanel

The final movie Bernhardt made in France, Carrefour, is a full-fledged noir. It resembles a movie Bernhardt would make ten years later, Excessive Wall (1947), in that the primary plot gadget is amnesia on the a part of the protagonist brought on by wounds and trauma throughout warfare. Carrefour stars a youthful Charles Vanel – if one solely is aware of the actor from Wages of Worry (1953), Vanel is a revelation; he was a number one man in French movie in the course of the 1930s. He performs an amnesiac, tortured by the seek for his id. He should battle in courtroom the declare that he’s an impostor who has slipped into the id of a enterprise tycoon named Roger de Vétheuil. “Vétheuil” – or an impostor – had returned twenty years earlier than with a extreme head wound from the Battle of the Somme with out remembering his previous.

Bernhardt was a grasp of cinematic timing. It’s a delicate artwork. It’s certainly the rationale – cited memorably as a lesson discovered the onerous method by the annoyed producer-turned-director Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) in The Dangerous and the Lovely (1952) – why a movie can’t consist solely of climaxes however should function transitions, sluggish elements, asides, diversions in an effort to render the complete pressure of the narrative on the viewers.

This sense of tempo is one thing Bernhardt perfected; it might stay part of his filmmaking arsenal throughout a profession that stretched from his early German silents within the 1920s all the best way to his swan music as a director, the “make-believe” film concerning the first lady U.S. president. Kisses for My President (1964) starred Polly Bergen because the President, with stalwart help from Fred MacMurray because the “First Woman,” her husband. Bernhardt’s talent at pacing added one thing to even the poorest materials.

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When Max Ophüls completed his 1933 movie Liebelei, he was nonetheless being celebrated for it in Berlin. He left quickly thereafter. His first movie in France, produced by Erich Pommer, On a volé un homme (Man Stolen, 1934), is taken into account misplaced. He then went to fascist Italy for his subsequent manufacturing: La signora di tutti (Everyone’s Lady, 1934).

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

On a volé un homme: Lila Damita

Ophüls confessed he all the time fell in love together with his main actresses and felt compelled to have affairs with them; in any other case, he admitted, he couldn’t be utterly engaged within the directing of the play or movie. This was his modus operandi, regardless that he was married, with a spouse and son. Beginning with Signora and increasing via his movies in France (with maybe a hiatus throughout his American years however in all probability persevering with after he returned to Europe), Ophüls started what he referred to as a collection of portraits of very engaging younger ladies who have been “victimized” by society, particularly by sure predatory males. It seems the director Ophüls favored to think about himself as a person in sympathy with ladies. Some have even referred to as him an early feminist, however his obvious profiting from starlets in his productions places him nearer to the predators of a few of his movies.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt


In 1935, Ophüls directed the primary of the “sympathetic” portrayals of a younger lady caught within the vise grip of aggressive males’ sexual attentions: in Divine (1935), the “pure” nation maiden Ludivine (Simone Berriau) has gone to Paris to be what quantities to nothing however a stripper. It employs certainly one of Ophüls’ favourite dramatic units of showing the mechanism behind the scenes of a film or a play. In Divine, he exhibits a well-liked Paris music corridor manufacturing and all of the inherent drama between the protagonists in actual life. Ludivine is sensible past her years and isn’t taken in by the tinsel fame and glamor of life in present enterprise; we’re alleged to consider that a woman her age is just not utterly enamored of such a life and whose solely sacrifice to it’s taking off her garments on stage for males to ogle at.

La Tendre Ennemie (1936), shot by grasp cinematographer Eugene Schüfftan – he was in a position to make use of particular results to his coronary heart’s content material, similar to working with double exposures all through the movie – was adopted by Komedie om Geld (Comedy about Cash, 1936), made in Holland. It’s a Brechtian didactic comedy, not very unique in its message of telling its viewers that cash is dangerous in addition to corrupting and that capitalists are scheming evil individuals.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

La Tendre Ennemie

Yoshiwara (1937) was set in Tokyo’s prostitute quarter, reminiscent in theme of the unhappy destiny of the feminine protagonist in Madame Butterfly. The Japanese disliked the movie heartily when it got here out. It starred Pierre Richard-Willm, a well-liked French “heartthrob” and star, with Sessue Hayakawa enjoying a coolie who’s in love with Kohana (Michiko Tanaka). The actress Michiko Tanaka lived in Nazi Germany within the late 1930s and in 1941 married the German actor Viktor de Kowa, a star of quite a few mild comedies produced beneath Goebbels’ auspices.

Ophüls collaborated once more with Seymour Nebenzal as producer and with Richard-Willm in Werther (1938), a melodramatic retelling of Goethe’s tragic novella. How Ophüls, regardless of the state of affairs he was in, might discover it in himself to dedicate his work to German literature and tradition is a query value asking. It’s a unusual phenomenon when any person like Ophüls identifies so strongly with the Kultur that’s looking for to annihilate him – perverse? Masochistic? For some perspective, that is the dichotomy portrayed in Fritz Kortner’s The Final Phantasm (1949), the place arguments ensue among the many émigrés as as to if Germany is a hotbed of unforgivable barbarism or nonetheless is a serious supply of humanistic tradition for mankind. Werther is a well-done depiction of the novella on display. The movie is moderately lugubrious but retains its impact as tragedy, for there’s seemingly no method out for its late-eighteenth-century protagonist. Richard-Willm was completely forged right here because the struggling, romantic Werther, and it’s nonetheless able to shifting an viewers.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Werther: Annie Vernay

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Werther: Half-sheet poster

Sans Lendemain (There’s No Tomorrow, 1939), produced by the émigré Gregor Rabinowitsch, shot by Eugene Schüfftan, is a weepie starring the ever competent Edwige Feuillère. It’s a few mom working in a burlesque home in Paris, making an attempt to boost her son. She is a stored lady, successfully a prostitute. The mom sacrifices every little thing in order that her boy may be taken away to Canada and happiness – no less than that’s what the mom hopes. The brooding and mounting fatalism within the telling of the story of the lady is reminiscent, maybe, of the overall state of affairs in France on the eve of the Second World Warfare, epitomized in different movies resembling Marcel Carné’s Quai des Brumes (Port of Shadows, 1938). Sans Lendemain had its French premiere in March 1940.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Max Ophüls

Ophüls shot one final movie in France, De Mayerling à Sarajevo (Sarajevo), with a screenplay by Carl Zuckmayer, produced by the Austrian-Slovakian émigré Eugène Tucherer, concerning the love and marriage between Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Countess Sophie Chotek, main as much as their assassination and the start of the First World Warfare. Together with her subtly expressive face – the melancholy smile and air of unhappiness – Edwige Feuillère because the Countess is heart-rending, as all the time. Feuillère lets her suppressed feelings shimmer beneath a taciturn demeanor. Within the final twenty minutes, a way of doom lies over the whole sequence of scenes – that the royal couple are going to die and all makes an attempt at reform of the Austro-Hungarian empire, mainly by this royal couple with a view to placate the nationalist fervor among the many numerous peoples of the empire, are for naught. The movie was launched on Might 1, 1940. France was invaded on Might 10. Sarajevo was banned instantly. Ophüls was a hunted man, well-known as an anti-Nazi émigré. He went into exile once more, for a second time, leaving for Zurich, Switzerland, initially to direct a German-language play about Henry VIII in addition to Romeo and Juliet. The invitation to Zurich was a lifesaver – Ophüls remained in impartial Switzerland nicely into 1941 – nevertheless it had a catch: he was depending on a Swiss residency allow. After a yr, his allow ran out with no probability of renewal; he can be pressured to return to German-occupied France together with his spouse and son. Valerian Fry’s Emergency Rescue Committee, lively in Vichy France earlier than America’s entry within the warfare, heard of the director’s misery and acted to save lots of him. Max Ophüls and household sailed to the protected haven of America. Within the phrases of Ophüls’ son Marcel, who was almost fourteen when the household of three arrived on August 5, 1941: “We reached New York and the Statue of Liberty. I can nonetheless keep in mind that morning. We got here out of the fog into shiny sunshine. There was New York, the skyline of Manhattan. Seeing it, we began crying.”

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Robert Siodmak’s first Paris movie, Le Sexe Faible (The Weaker Intercourse, 1933), is an amusing if unimaginative filmed stage play, a farce involving a number of characters in a lodge. Paradoxically, the “weaker intercourse” is, in fact, the male one. Siodmak’s subsequent manufacturing, La crise est finie (The Disaster Is Over, 1934), was virtually a French parody of the kind of elaborate Busby Berkeley-choreographed musical that was being made on the similar time in Hollywood. It starred Albert Préjean, whom many would know from René Clair’s Sous les Toits de Paris (Beneath the Roofs of Paris, 1930), in addition to the very younger Danielle Darrieux. It’s deliberately mild fare for the Melancholy, a energetic and upbeat film concerning the destiny of a theatrical troupe and the way they handle to placed on an enormous manufacturing and win over the hearts of the viewers – just about precisely the method of Berkeley and his cohort in America.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

La crise est finie: Marcel Carpentier and Danielle Darrieux

La Vie Parisienne (The Parisian Life, 1936) is a take-off on Jacques Offenbach’s eponymous operetta, that includes the comedian actor Max Dearly as a Brazilian millionaire who returns to the place of his youthful adventures, Paris, after an absence of over forty years. The movie includes a extended can-can scene, an actual show-stopper, in what is kind of a comedy farce, that includes the over-the-top efficiency of the Brazilian millionaire. It’s amusing, an apt sufficient car of Melancholy-era leisure. By the way, Emeric Pressburger was one in every of Siodmak’s screenwriters for the movie, and Michèle Morgan is an additional.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Mister Stream

Siodmak’s subsequent movie, Mister Circulate (1936), stars Louis Jouvet. He performs the title character, a grasp burglar who can impersonate numerous personalities. It’s a screwball comedy that undoubtedly has noir parts in it, a hybrid that doesn’t fairly work. Jouvet is, as all the time, spectacular because the arch-criminal. It’s mainly within the scenes with Jouvet that the movie rises above the extent of silliness and reaches the extent of what it may need been had Siodmak been allowed to direct a critical crime movie. In his double id, Jouvet’s scenes present the extra highly effective, extra sinister story the movie might have been. Particularly within the prolonged courtroom scene on the finish, Jouvet’s craven servant Achille Durin speaks and squirms with a skin-crawling obsequiousness, but within the subsequent second, he’s the infamous, menacing Mister Circulate. Jouvet’s eyes, gestures, and demeanor change solely as his character goes forwards and backwards.

Siodmak tried all types and genres whereas in France, from melodrama and lightweight comedy to darkish crime movie. He made virtually a dozen movies in the course of the six years he spent there.

Cargaison Blanche/Le Chemin de Rio (Visitors in Souls, 1936) is about “white slavery,” one other not-so-successful mixture of crime and comedy. It stars Jules Berry as the top of a nefarious group of criminals who trick fairly younger French ladies into agreeing to take jobs in Brazil, the place they’ll allegedly make a fortune; the roles are in actuality positions in golf equipment as name women, and the racket is prostitution. Within the movie, Marcel Dalio is forged towards sort: as an alternative of enjoying a refined and delicate character, he performs a brutal thug.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Chemin de Rio

Throughout his remaining couple of years in France, Siodmak made his two most vital exile movies. Mollenard (Hatred, 1938), starring the veteran French character actor Harry Baur and co-starring Albert Préjean, is a real oddity: a research of the extreme hatred of seafaring service provider Captain Mollenard for his spouse Mathilde, his two grown youngsters, and all they characterize in bourgeois domesticity and, presumably, as landlubbers. Mollenard, the captain of a cargo ship, works for a corporation that sells arms to varied combatants in China; we’re left in the dead of night as to the id of the recipients of those numerous weapons. Warlords? Kuomintang? The Japanese? Mollenard sails off together with his crew to Asia, the place he’s suspected of promoting arms on his personal account to rogue French middlemen. He has a quarrel with them; his ship is ultimately sabotaged by the gangsters; Mollenard should return to Dunkirk. There he’s celebrated as a hero, and his delivery firm should maintain quiet concerning the matter to be able to gather the insurance coverage. Maybe Siodmak’s misogynist tendencies contributed to Mollenard’s hatred of his spouse, household, and the bourgeois life in France; the character’s angle appears exaggerated and makes him lower than sympathetic. The movie was closely supported by the Fashionable Entrance in France on the time of its launch for its simmering hatred of the bourgeoisie. On its launch in America in 1941, it was not as nicely acquired.

Siodmak Ophuls Bernhardt

Mollenard: Harry Baur, Marcel Dalio

Siodmak’s remaining movie in France, although, is a masterpiece: Pièges (Private Column, 1939). It stars Maurice Chevalier, forged towards sort, as Robert Fleury, falsely accused of being a serial killer of younger ladies. Fleury is a well known nightclub proprietor and entertainer in Paris. The movie’s plot resembles that of The Incorrect Man (later directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1956). In his final movie in France, Siodmak develops his mature American type as maybe the premier director of movie noir. He masterfully handles the component resulting in the seize of the killer: a lovely younger lady who had labored within the refrain line agrees with the stymied police to pose as a decoy as a way to ensnare the mysterious killer, who writes cryptic messages to the police describing his murderous intentions (a bit just like the San Francisco serial killer Scorpio in Soiled Harry [1971]). Marie Déa performs the robust, street-wise younger woman in query. Pierre Renoir is Fleury’s enterprise associate. Erich von Stroheim does a cameo as an growing older dressmaker, a couturier who seems to be mad; his encounter with the younger police decoy is hilarious and pathetic, impressed in its unhappy lunacy, offering a detour within the seek for the assassin. The truth is, in Private Column, all of the minor characters are nicely realized and limned with depth, so the viewer by no means loses curiosity in what may in any other case have been a easy and routine crime movie. Removed from routine, the movie presents a strikingly real looking view of police procedures, the painstaking efforts and frustrations of looking for an unknown killer, and life in a refrain line at seedy nightclubs. Siodmak exhibits life because it’s lived in an enormous metropolis, and that is the underbelly of an city hell we acknowledge because the world of movie noir. The cruel-edged life within the metropolis that had a coronary heart beneath its floor bleakness is what Siodmak appears to need to present us: a troublesome world however one the place you can nonetheless discover kindness, albeit within the unlikeliest of locations – maybe among the many hardened policemen, maybe among the many refrain women, even within the affected person forbearance and loyalty of the housekeeper to a ruined former couturier. This was the world Siodmak knew – a contemporary city environment of darkish streets and darkish visions of the human soul that might be his personal true territory – and never solely Robert Siodmak’s however that of many different European exile administrators as nicely.

Siodmak, Ophuls, Bernhardt

Pièges: Marie Dea, Siodmak, Erich Stroheim on the set

Siodmak performs with the picture of the well-known entertainer Chevalier, in a critical position this time. Chevalier provides what is probably top-of-the-line performances of his profession. Private Column harkens again to Siodmak’s early Berlin movies, with its murky atmospherics and meticulous portrayals of a demimonde by which the losers in society, the criminals, outcasts, con males, lowlifes, and even the wealthy and highly effective are joined collectively to create a milieu with out patronizing or condemning the individuals who reside inside it. The higher class is as darkish on this world because the decrease courses are. And the serial killer continues to be unfastened within the metropolis.

The years of precarious exile in France have been over for the three administrators by the early 1940s. Ophüls wouldn’t direct a Hollywood movie till 1946. Preston Sturges had championed him initially, taking him underneath his wing through the warfare, however didn’t assist him get him into directing. Ophüls ultimately did Caught and The Reckless Second (each 1949), bur remained bitter about Sturges. Siodmak, then again, had his brother, the screenwriter Curt Siodmak, as helper within the studios, and he shortly directed a number of forgettable B-films earlier than he received his actual shot at the kind of crime movie for which they as but had no identify: Phantom Woman in 1944, adopted a number of months later by the campy B-spectacle Maria Montez car Cobra Lady (1944). Curtis Bernhardt acquired began in Hollywood with the assistance of Henry Koster. He later labored with Hal Wallis at Warner Bros. to direct Battle (1943) with Humphrey Bogart; Possessed (1946) with Joan Crawford and Van Heflin; after which Excessive Wall, that includes Robert Taylor and Herbert Marshall, at MGM. The three émigré administrators survived their wartime challenges and ultimately thrived in America, making main contributions to the fashion of filmmaking that mirrored their German roots and that we right now name movie noir.

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Photographs from the movies are screenshots from the DVDs or YouTube.

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