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Strangers in Paradise

Hollywood Emigres, 1933-50

By (author) John Russell Taylor
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Faber & Faber, London, United Kingdom
Published: 31st Jan 1983
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm
ISBN-10: 0571117007
ISBN-13: 9780571117000
Barcode No: 9780571117000

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Kirkus US
"It is remarkable at the end of the day how little a dent all these emigres made on Hollywood or on Los Angeles." That, unfortunately, is the only apparent point to this bland, superficial rundown (often little more than an annotated list) on all the show-biz/literary/musical Europeans who lived or worked in Thirties/Forties Southern California. Taylor begins with a brief look at the most prominent early arrivals - especially director Ernst Lubitsch ("the great survivor among 1920s immigrants") and the Viertels, whose home became the great emigre salon. Then he sketches in the 1930s transplants - touching on everyone from Charles Boyer to Schoenberg, but giving most attention to film directors, Fritz Lang above all (whose Fury, unlike other emigre-director successes, "brought something unfamiliar, something of the way they did it back in Europe, to the American scene"), Next: a survey of the British-emigre contingent (Hugh Walpole, Edgar Wallace, Aldous Huxley, Isherwood, lots of actors); a ludicrously thin appraisal of Hollywood political activities ("they amounted to surprisingly little"); a look at the German-intellectual community ("It should be emphasized that just because someone was friendly with the Werfels, for instance, it did not necessarily mean that he would be friendly with the Manns"). And, somewhat more substantially, the final chapters briefly examine the wartime/postwar output of emigre film directors: the film noir influence of Billy Wilder, Robert Siodmak, Lang - with yet another rerun of the Lang/Brecht tussles over Hangmen Also Die ("even with goodwill on both sides, Hollywood and the emigre literary community were probably fated to misunderstand each other"); and the Frenchmen, who "managed to preserve their own character in Hollywood, in but not of the American film community" - Rene Clair, Julien Duvivier, Jean Renoir (with Max Ophuls temporarily Americanized). If Taylor had, perhaps, concentrated entirely on the emigre film-directors, he might have come up with a study that genuinely illuminated matters of culture-clash, artistic compromise, and film history. As it is, however, this is a catch-all, surface-skimming compilation of facts and anecdotes (most of them familiar) - without the narrative stylishness that could perhaps have compensated for the lack of depth or focus. (Kirkus Reviews)