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64 6 The Interview Joseph Goebbels, who was appointed minister of popular enlightenment and propaganda on March 13, 1933, six weeks after Hitler became the nation’s leader, had very difficult and contradictory plans for the film industry. He intended to purge it of all Jews but was realist enough to make concessions. These concessions were easier to realize with men who worked behind the camera. Ernst Lubitsch’s pupil Reinhold Schünzel was a specialist for sophisticated musical comedies, as was Ludwig Berger; both received special permission to continue working. Kurt Bernhardt was even lured back from his Paris exile to direct the expensive sciencefiction drama Der Tunnel. Producer Erich Pommer refused offers to stay because he would not tolerate the discrimination suffered by his son, who as a Jew was denied access to university, but Arnold Pressburger and Gregor Rabinovich, who had contacts in the French and British film industries , were ready to organize coproductions, which helped give the German film industry an international flair. Pressburger and Rabinovich were also instrumental in luring Pola Negri back to Germany. Several German film artists were in or had just returned from Hollywood: Wilhelm Dieterle and Lil Dagover worked at Warner Bros., Marlene Dietrich and Dorothea Wieck at Paramount, Lilian Harvey at Fox, and Wera Engels at RKO Radio. Their career-related exile helped to cover up the enforced exile of others. To hide the suppression of socially conscious films in Germany, a socially conscious film from Hollywood would be imported—for example, the shattering, shocking I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, which opened in Berlin’s Mozartsaal on March 17, 1933. There is some irony in the fact that all of the lines spoken by Paul Muni, one of the few openly Jewish film stars in Hollywood, were dubbed by Veit Harlan. Much has been made of Marlene Dietrich’s refusal to return to Germany, but she was nevertheless present there throughout the 1930s, The Interview 65 albeit in cinemas and on magazine covers; mass audiences, who preferred Hollywood films anyhow, also preferred seeing her in a Hollywood film. Because she did not attack the regime, there was no reason to ban her films. When Song of Songs (1933) was banned, it was not because of her but because of its alleged antimilitarist theme. Given the importance of the German market for her career, Dietrich donated some money to the National Socialist Filmhilfswerk, but to no avail1 ; Song of Songs remained forbidden, though she herself remained an audience favorite. Her next venture, Josef von Sternberg’s eccentric film The Scarlet Empress (1934), failed miserably everywhere except in Germany, where it broke box-office records. Dietrich even became an unwilling benefactor of racial politics: at the same time, Elisabeth Bergner played the same part in the British production Catherine the Great, which in those days was better received and astonishingly had a German release, too, though it was withdrawn after Nazi protests. “To the German cinemagoing public,” British film historian Paul Rotha wrote after World War II, “things [under the new regime] might have seemed to change very little, for the old cycles and motifs were resumed and carried on, or seemed to be carried on, in the familiar manner . . . . Wegener, Krauss, and Jannings continued familiar roles in familiar vehicles, and story content differed surprisingly little. World War I dramas and military musical comedies, full of barracks humour, held first place in popular favour, but so they had under the Weimar Republic. . . . It must have seemed very much the same as before.”2 This feeling that everything was the same was emphasized by the fact that U.S. imports were not stopped. Throughout the 1930s, German cinemagoers would prefer Hollywood products such as King Kong (1933), It Happened One Night (1934), Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Broadway Melody of 1936 (1936), and San Francisco (1936) to the local cinematic productions. In the first months of the Third Reich, Harlan was still a stage actor who only occasionally appeared in films, so the radical changes in the industry did not concern him. He had participated in two productions that one right-wing theater historian would count among the most detestable of the Weimar era, Jessner’s Hamlet and Piscator’s Die Räuber, and Hilde Körber appeared in Pioniere in Ingolstadt and Krankheit der Jugend; to this list, one might add Paul Kornfeld’s Jud Süss, but by the time the historian...


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