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Shadows in Paradise: Hitler's Exiles in Hollywood (2008)

6.8
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By 1939, 30,000 intellectuals and radicals were exiled from Europe, 80% were Jewish. These dramatic events sent many of the greatest minds of the 20th century into exile in the United ... See full summary »

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Title: Shadows in Paradise: Hitler's Exiles in Hollywood (2008)

Shadows in Paradise: Hitler's Exiles in Hollywood (2008) on IMDb 6.8/10

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James Conlon ...
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By 1939, 30,000 intellectuals and radicals were exiled from Europe, 80% were Jewish. These dramatic events sent many of the greatest minds of the 20th century into exile in the United States The manna of creative intensity that hovered over Berlin in the 20's, - in music, art, theater and film -that glow of aesthetic productivity was extinguished. In some ways, Los Angeles in the 30's and early 40's may be seen as its afterglow...when scores of exiles, fleeing the upsurge of European fascism, briefly transformed Southern California into one of the capitals of world culture, and profoundly altered the horizons of American music, literature, and the arts. What drew them to California? The balmy Mediterranean climate that always had been an attraction for those in cold Northern European climates. Los Angeles offered Hollywood with its tantalizing opportunities for employment. Most importantly, the attraction of so many others who had already settled there offered its own magnetic pull. ... Written by Peter Rosen

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Story of the exiled writers, musicians, and composers who fled Hitler and ended up in Hollywood.

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1 January 2008 (USA)  »

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$300,000 (estimated)
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'Hitler shook the tree and America gathered the apples' (Thomas Mann)
15 January 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This fascinating documentary has the same title as two separate feature films made in 1986 and 2010, with both of which it has absolutely no connection. It is directed by Peter Rosen, a highly experienced documentary director (47 titles) who has specialised during his career in profiles of classical musicians, and there are indeed composers and musicians in this one. The film is a 56-minute overview of the exiles who fled Hitler's Germany and ended up on the west coast of California, enduring the misery of exile with the shimmering sea at their feet and surrounded by beautiful flowers and enervating eternal sunshine. Some of them never learned any English, and few mastered it. They spent most of their time mingling with each other and chattering in German, as well as worrying about their families they had left behind, the shortage of money, the lack of work, the collapse of their careers and reputations, and endless anxieties of every kind. Only a few, such as film directors Fritz Lang and Robert Siodmak, successfully reinvented themselves and became Americans thriving in the new environment. Some, such as conductor Bruno Walter, sailed straight into well-paid positions. But most were effectively stranded and totally demoralized, returning home after the War often to even greater demoralization and depression at how everything there had changed and the world they remembered was gone forever. Thomas Mann, who had returned, wrote to Leon Feuchtwanger, who was preparing to leave for Germany, and said: 'Don't come!' Some footage in this film comes from the earlier and 25% longer documentary on the same subject, THE EXILES (1989) by Richard Kaplan. We learn many titbits of intriguing information. For instance, Heinrich Mann and his wife were considered much more lively and enjoyable company than his brother Thomas Mann and his wife, who were considered dour and boring by comparison. But Heinrich Mann went downhill and his life fell apart in the end for lack of recognition. (There were some, such as Franz Werfel, who had a permanent resentment against Heinrich Mann because he had naively revealed the escape route of the exiles in a press interview when he exultantly reached the safety of America. Werfel and others considered that Heinrich's stupidity had prevented numerous others from saving themselves. This is not mentioned in the film, but I was told it long ago by my friend Adolf Klarmann, the editor of Werfel's collected works.) A hilarious story is told about composer Erich Zeisl and his wife, who upon reaching New York required an affidavit from some other Zeisl who was a native American. I will not ruin the viewer's fun by repeating the story here, but it is truly wonderful. We see a great deal of fascinating footage of Leon and Martha Feuchtwanger in their gigantic villa, with his huge library (he was a fanatical bibliophile). Feuchtwanger is largely forgotten as a novelist today, but as someone who has read several of his books, I can testify that they are very interesting, and that ERFOLG is a marvel. Many famous names are mentioned in this film and flit across the screen like gnats, glimpsed only for an instant. Either not enough footage exists, or there is no time for exposition, So the film is often a tease, because it mentions someone like Erich Maria Remarque and then contains almost nothing about him. Considering that Remarque wrote a truly fascinating and desperately sad novel about the life of exiles in New York, entitled SHADOWS IN PARADISE, the very same title as this film, and published the year after his death, the film should have made this absolutely clear and stressed Remarque's central position vis a vis its subject matter. But it did not do so. I would describe the film as patchy and uneven. That does not make it any less interesting, it just makes it a frustrating experience if you happen to know something about this subject or have a serious interest in it. The subject is far too large, the existing footage far too sparse, and the focus far too blurred, for the film to do more than be suggestive. Concerning such an important subject, we are thankful for what we can get. The film has much more emphasis on music and composers than is normal, but that is because of the director's personal predilections. Frankly, I hate the music of Schoenberg, Zeisl, and some of the others. Even if they have cute titles to some of their compositions such as 'Fourteen ways to listen to the rain', I am not impressed. But if we wish to have a large and comprehensive view of Western culture (and there are few enough of us left who care), we need to know about all of these things and put our individual prejudices to one side. In any case, we do not need to like Schoenberg's music to be interested in the famous feud between him and Thomas Mann, and to feel sympathy for Schoenberg concerning his certainly justified outrage at being parodied in the novel DOCTOR FAUSTUS, which is explained in this film. Perhaps it is a good thing that after seeing this tantalizing taster of a film, I was left wanting so much more. Some of my favourite writers, such as Werfel, pass through in the blink of an eye, and though one knows much more about them than this film suggests, it is always good to think that they are still receiving any attention at all, considering the precipitous decline in both culture and taste which we are experiencing today, fuelled by the superficiality and unreliability of Wikipedia, the laziness of the contemporary pubic, the collapse of education and publishing, and the spread of ignorance. All I can say is 'Gurgle, gurgle,' as we all proceed to drown in the seas of mediocrity, indolence, and glassy-eyed stupidity: no bang, no whimper.


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