Shadows in Paradise – Hitler’s Exiles in Hollywood (2008)

by | Jul 29, 2011 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Shadows in Paradise  – Hitler’s Exiles in Hollywood (2008)

Director: Peter Rosen
Narrator: James Conlon
Covers: Arnold Schoenberg, Wolfgang Korngold, Hans Eisler, Erich Leinsdorf, Bruno Walter, Bert Brecht, Fritz Lang, Ernst Toch, Thomas Mann, etc.
Studio: Kultur D4411
Video: 4:3 color & B&W
Audio: English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles: German, French
Length: 60 minutes
Rating: ****

Sorry I missed this when originally released. 30,000 intellectuals and radicals were exiled from Europe during the 1930s, with 80% of them Jewish. Many of these great composers, musicians, writers, architects, artists ended up in the Los Angeles area, turning it briefly into a center of world culture. Many of these great minds worked or attempted to work in the movie industry. Korngold and others set a high standard for Hollywood film scores for decades. Schoenberg, however, was totally ignored and more known as the father of a tennis star son than a great composer. He expected complete control of everything to do with a motion picture he was hired to score, but that wasn’t the Hollywood studio way. He was hurt when Thomas Mann published a novel about an avant-garde composer with syphilis that sounded like it was modeled on him. He yelled at Mann’s wife when he saw her in a grocery store, "I don’t have syphilis!"

Conlon reads diary entries and statements showing that although they may have been in paradise compared to their former situation in anti-Semitic Nazi Germany, they were homesick and unhappy in their new surroundings. Many of them didn’t learn English and some had petty arguments among themselves because they had nothing better to do.  Brecht was especially critical of the Southern California lifestyle. After WWII was over the U.S. turned ultra-conservative and the McCarthy Era began, which soon sent some of the Jewish talent back to Germany.

The historic photos and footage share with excerpts of performances of various chamber works from some of the composers under discussion.  A very avant Eisler selection is excerpted twice – not really representative of his mostly very accessible music in the tradition of Kurt Weill.

 — John Sunier

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