When Germany challenged Hollywood
April 19, 2018
In 105 minutes Ruediger Suchsland's 'Hitler's Hollywood' provides a startling retrospective of German cinema under the skilfull hand of Hitler's propaganda mage who was Josef Goebbels.
As Reichminister for propaganda and national enlightenemnt, he had total control of cinema, radio, press and theatre.
Evil genius that he was, he had a deep intuitive understanding of mass psychology, and in 'Hitler's Hollywood' we see a large swathe of Nazi controlled films from 1933-to 1945,
when the first Oscar winner Emil Jannings was in the midst of staring in a film.
With great intelligence, we see how the Nazis through talented film makers out did Hollywood in romantic comedies, musicales and extolling the 'virtues' of the 'master race' in physical beauty.
And yet, the dark eyed Swedish singer Zarah Leander appeared in musicales with military themes, or the German penchant for Slavs. And yet, her career in post war Europe, there she was with a number one hit 'Wunderbar', sung in English. Her sultry, deep throat voice still even today has not lost its mystery and allure. [See, YouTune].
Hans Detlef Sierck's 'La Habanera' made her a star and a household name. Sierck remade himself after the war, and much lionised in Hollywood aas Douglas Sirk. There he was the masterly behind luscious romantic films like 'Magnificent Obsession' and 'All Heaven Allows'. He honed his technique at the Ufa Studios and theatre, and the influence of Goebbels ideas found its way in Hollywood, perhaps.
Popular singers like Hans Albers who sang of and longed for the South Seas, transitioned to a postwar career without a hiccup.
Suchsland does make a seamless cloth of Nazi cinema from the 1930s to the change of fortunes of defeat in Russia and the collapse of the Third Reich. Films became more realistic, less romantic and cotton candy.
One thing remained a red thread: anti-Semitism. 'Jud Suess' by Van Harlan, with his wife, Krista Soederbaum, is an infamous anti-Semitic film that pulls no punches as an odious film, yet one extolling Nazi pathologic hatred of Jews. And, he, too, survived the war, and continued to make film until his death in West Germany.
Goebbels understood 'soft power', and German films flooded European markets as they did in America's ethnic picture houses that spoke to 'benign' anti-Semitism that flourish in Europe and the US.
Even Ingrid Bergman as an ingenue appeared in a German film before she left for Hollywood. Suchsland script alludes to her guilt, which maight have been, and he repurchasing her guilt by playing Isle in 'Casblanca'?
A reviewer cannot do justice to 'Hitler's Hollywood' but strongly suggest you go see it, and visually and emotionally and intellectually absorb the dazzling cross section of 'Hitler's Hollywood'.
And this documentary is a cauitonary tale of techniques that used today. 'Caveat emptor!'