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The Sun And Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler's Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood

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Z. Sakall, Ernst Lubitsch, Fred Zinnemann, Otto Klemperer, Peter Lorre, Arnold Schoenberg, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Franz Werfel. Given hyperinflation and economic uncertainty in Germany, they took a chance on America, parking their sons in Dresden with a nanny.

It is more often in the imaginative literature about Hollywood and the 1930s exiles, rather than in the histories, that women play prominent roles and emerge as fully fleshed characters: Anna Trautwein in Lion Feuchtwanger’s novel Paris Gazette , for example; or Erich Maria Remarque’s heroines in Shadows in Paradise and The Night in Lisbon ; and Salka herself, who appears in fictional form in Joseph Kanon’s Stardust , Elizabeth Frank’s Cheat and Charmer, Gavin Lambert’s Inside Daisy Clover , Christopher Hampton’s Tales from Hollywood, Irwin Shaw’s short story “Instrument of Salvation,” and, fleetingly, in the film The Way We Were . Composer Franz Waxman met director James Whale through her and wrote his first Hollywood soundtrack for Whale.JBC’s print lit­er­ary jour­nal Paper Brigade pro­vides a 200-page snap­shot of the Jew­ish lit­er­ary land­scape in Amer­i­ca and abroad. Shortly after he arrived in Hollywood Waxman (you know his scores from A Place in the Sun and Sunset Boulevard) met director James Whale in Salka’s living room and composed the first of over his 100 Hollywood soundtracks for Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The last several of those waves brought a group of traumatized artists who were lucky enough to escape Hitler’s death trains and extermination camps. Yet it was impossible to begin again without the help of people like Salka Viertel, who welcomed them into a community after their own had been eradicated. Between 1933 and 1941, some 10,000 refugees from Germany and Austria settled in the greater Los Angeles area.

Or that it was Marta Feuchtwanger who planned and implemented the escape of her novelist husband Lion Feuchtwanger from the concentration camp at Les Milles in southern France at the end of the summer of 1940. Impressive…Rifkind chronicles in meticulous detail Salka’s substantial career in a hostile Hollywood studio system that regularly ignored the contributions of women…An impassioned and revelatory biography.

This book elegantly captures a splendid life and career worth remembering, its moving central portrait set like a brave feminist jewel amidst treacherous crosscurrents of history, in Europe and Hollywood, which echo eerily today. com, the Sell on Etsy app, and the Etsy app, as well as the electricity that powers Etsy’s global offices and employees working remotely from home in the US. These include Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the “Jewish” Sitcom (2003), Driven to Darkness: Jewish Émigré Directors and the Rise of Film Noir (2009), and a memoir based on his German-Jewish refugee parents’ experiences, All About Eva: A Memoir of Holocaust Survivors, with a Hollywood Twist (forthcoming, 2021). While it went out of print fair­ly quick­ly, it was just repub­lished (with an after­word by Rifkind) ear­li­er this year, giv­ing read­ers direct access to Viertel’s wit and the urgency of her authen­tic voice. On another occasion, the director Fred Zinnemann, who lived near Salka, was patrolling the neighborhood as an air-raid warden.

VERDICT This is a study of a complex, openhearted woman who had a key role in saving the displaced while shaping mid-20th century Hollywood. Hav­ing read the biogra­phies and mem­oirs of Thal­berg, Cukor, Ish­er­wood, Gar­bo, and many oth­ers, she can see dimen­sions to their rela­tion­ships that Vier­tel could not. I knew she was an immigrant from Germany or Austria or somewhere like that, and I thought of her as a wannabe, a hanger-on.As Donna Rifkind reminds us in “ The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood,” the National Socialists “suppressed all journalism, theater, literature, painting and film that threatened their stranglehold on the nation. Salka increased her activist work on behalf of exiles, funding relatives to escape Europe, and even more friends of friends fleeing Nazi persecution and trying to make their way in the US. She was a true bohemian with a complicated erotic life, and at the same time a universal mother figure. Berthold was back in Germany ready to direct a film when the book burnings started, and Jews were barred from working in the film industry. She soldiered on with dignity and artistic drive, writing her memoir and having it published, though it was largely ignored until after her death.

A woman, finding good fortune in a foreign land, comforted and fed and housed the survivors of an overseas genocide.

All of these women were like-minded friends and colleagues of Salka Viertel, whose work inspired and was inspired by their commitment and their bravery.

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