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Thursday, January 1 at 9:30 p.m. Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood

(Rochester, NY) When Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, one of his earliest actions was to ban Jews from working in that country’s storied film industry, widely regarded at that time as the most creative cinema in the world. Men and women who had created landmarks of movie history fled their homeland in the ensuing months and years. Many of them went to Hollywood. Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood airs Thursday, January 1 at 9:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1). Actress Sigourney Weaver narrates.

Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood traces the experiences of the exiles who took refuge in Hollywood and examines their impact on both the German and the American cinemas. In Germany, they had created such groundbreaking pictures as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Blue Angel and M — The Murderers Among Us. In Hollywood, their influence ranged from the horror genre and film noir to comedy and drama. With their lush musical scores, they changed the role of music in the motion picture. They even made Westerns.

More than 800 film professionals escaped to Hollywood in the years between 1933 and 1939. They include actors Felix Bressart, Hedy Lamarr, and Peter Lorre; directors Fritz Lang, Henry Koster, Billy Wilder, and Fred Zinnemann; composers Frederick Hollander, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Franz Waxman; and cinematographer Rudy Mate. Not every exile found success in Hollywood; most never regained the fame they had known in Europe. To survive, many had to seek work outside the industry, depending on the financial generosity of compatriots like actress Marlene Dietrich and director Ernst Lubitsch. A few returned to Germany after the war, but not many. The majority had set upon the road taken by many refugees, that of integrating into the American culture — and giving an element of themselves back to that culture.

By the 1950s, the output of these émigrés reflected a degree of professional integration in Hollywood perhaps unimagined when they had dreamt of California as a destination. Their films number among the classics of the American cinema. Excerpts from several of them are included in Cinema's Exiles: The Bride of Frankenstein, Fury, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Ninotchka, To Be or Not to Be, Casablanca, The Wolf Man, Double Indemnity, Phantom Lady, Sunset Boulevard, High Noon, The Big Heat, and Some Like It Hot. The program also highlights key film classics of the early German cinema, including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, The Blue Angel and M — The Murderers Among Us.

In addition to film clips, Cinema's Exiles includes a variety of visual elements: behind-the-scenes archival footage of director Fritz Lang in Germany, Marlene Dietrich’s Blue Angel screen test and rarely seen historical footage. Many previously unseen home movies and personal photographs have been provided by several of the exiles’ families, and the production has received the cooperation of the Museum of Film and Television, Berlin, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, the Academy of Motion Pictures, Los Angeles, and the National Archives. In-depth eyewitness accounts of the era are provided by screen actress Lupita Kohner and author Peter Viertel with archived statements from Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, and Fred Zinnemann, among others.

Web site: None

Pictured: Billy Wilder in a publicity still for Sunset Boulevard.
Photo Credit: The Kobal Collection

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