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153 13 TheTrap Given the careless use of such terms as UFA style, UFA aesthetics, and UFA stars, it should be recalled that by the late 1930s Tobis had developed a strong profile of its own. This company had among its chiefs of production the first Best Actor Academy Award winner Emil Jannings, though Goebbels rightly suspected he had assumed the post mainly to secure good roles for himself. Other prestigious heads of production were actorsturned -directors Willi Forst and Gustaf Gründgens. Jannings’s favorite director, Hans Steinhoff, was a Tobis regular, and so were Harlan and Söderbaum. Jugend and Das unsterbliche Herz had been produced by Tobis. Verwehte Spuren and Die Reise nach Tilsit (plus the Söderbaum-less Pedro soll hängen) were Majestic productions released by Tobis. As his next project for the studio, Harlan announced an adaptation of Friedrich Hebbel’s drama Agnes Bernauer (1851), which Hilde Körber had just done at the Volksbühne. The heroine dies by drowning, so it seemed perfect material for Kristina Söderbaum. However, in this version Agnes’s death would not be a suicide or an accident; it would be an execution. The real AgnesBernauer(1410–1435)wasthesweetheartofAlbrechtIII,aBavarian duke’s only son and heir to the throne. With her bourgeois family background , Agnes was considered an unfit wife, and during Albrecht’s absence his father accused Agnes of being a witch. Witch hunters at that time used water instead of fire. Agnes managed, Houdini-like, to loosen her chains and swim to safety. Unfortunately, the executioner caught up with her and used an iron rod to push her head below water. One can only speculate about how Harlan would have adapted this incident for the screen because the project was shelved. Following the pyelonephritis caught while shooting Die Reise nach Tilsit and the birth of her son on October 20, Kristina was too weak to do a new film. She spent the last months of 1939 recovering and enjoying her veit harlan 154 new Hans Poelzig–designed home at Tannenbergallee 28 in the northeastern part of Berlin’s Grunewald district. Harlan, in turn, awaited the most fateful assignment of his career. The Jud Süss project, announced by Terra in April 1939, still had not shown any progress. There was nothing unusual about projects being announced and shelved, but Jud Süss was something special. Ever since the Baarová affair, Goebbels’s position had been in jeopardy . Despite his reputation as a Hollywood-like film mogul, something was still missing in the National Socialist film canon. Hitlerjunge Quex had been perfect in its way but seemed dated by now, with Hitler youths no longer a despised minority. Triumph des Willens and Olympia (Olympiad) were exercises in mythmaking and did not allude to everyday politics. Foreign politics changed so rapidly that films could not keep up with them, whichexplainstheexistenceinNazicinemaofpro-French,pro-Polish,proBritish , and pro-Russian (though never pro-Soviet) films. Yesterday’s ally could easily become tomorrow’s enemy or vice versa. Communism was not seen as a chief threat, even if thousands of Communists still lived in Germany, underground or in concentration camps. Communists were not born as such. Jews were. And aside from individual characters, scenes, and comments in some films, Nazi cinema had avoided the subject till now. It may sound cynical, but instead of deploring the existence of Jud Süss, one should ask in the first place why so few films of its kind were made. Anti-Semitism was the only consistent part of Nazi politics. One explanation may be the fear that anti-Semitism could prove detrimental to the exporting of German cinema or prevent further coproductions with other nations. However, every film industry—even Hollywood— ejects nonexportable products. It would not have hurt Nazi cinema’s overall export prospects to permit aggressively anti-Semitic propaganda solely for home consumption. But, other than a few films, such aggressive propaganda was not produced for the cinema. Negative Jewish characters did appear throughout the 1930s, but always casually, never dominating a film. In 1935, a latently anti-Semitic comedy from Sweden, Pettersson & Bendel, was released in Germany with seventy copies, an unusual investment considering that it was subtitled and had no well-known stars or director to offer. According to film critic Erika Fries, it was shameful “that such a hundred percent German film had to be imported from Sweden. . . . Such films should be produced by ourselves.”1 In 1938, a...


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