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172 14 The Catastrophe of Success For the first time in its young history, the Venice Film Festival could not be held at the Lido, which was being used by the Italian army, so it was moved to the modest Cinema Teatro San Marco, which at least was in the center of the city and offered its visitors similarly picturesque views. It was here that the world premiere of Jud Süss took place on September 5, 1940. Harlan, Söderbaum, and Marian personally received the audience’s applause. The Harlan couple even had time for a boat trip to the nearby island Torcello. During the final dinner, Kristina sat directly beside the festival ’s director, Count Giuseppe Volpi, who was said to have one Jewish parent, and his wife. Michelangelo Antonioni, then still a film critic for the Corriere Pardano, raved: “We have no hesitation in saying that if this is propaganda, then we welcome propaganda. It is a powerful, incisive, extremely effective film. . . . There isn’t a single moment when the film slows, not one episode in disharmony with another: it is a film of complete unity and balance. . . . [T]he episode in which Süss violates the young girl is done with astonishing skill.”1 Though well received, Jud Süss won no awards at Venice. The main prize went to another propaganda film, but it was the tough, no-nonsense, Hawksian action drama L’assedio dell’ Alczar (The siege of the Alcazar), directed by Augusto Genina. Gustav Ucicky’s Vienna-produced Pushkin adaptation Der Postmeister (The station master ) starring Heinrich George was voted best foreign film. The German release of Jud Süss was eagerly awaited for various reasons . Nonemigrated Jews expected the worst when Der Film’s Venice correspondent Hans-Walther Betz gave a first impression of Jud Süss: “In Germany this problem has been solved; in other parts of Europe it looks forward to its solution.”2 The problem he referred to was, of course, the The Catastrophe of Success 173 “Jewish problem.” Karl Korn, who after the war would coedit the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, similarly wrote in Das Reich that “one feels and understands from this film that the Jewish problem has been mastered within Germany.”3 On the occasion of its Berlin premiere on September 24 at the UFA-Palast am Zoo, Jud Süss was officially declared “politically and artistically exceptionally valuable” as well as “valuable for youngsters.”4 The best-reviewed performance was that of Werner Krauss. French critics were particularly delighted because they had missed him for years. Odile Montval, writing for La France au Travail, declared, “What a pleasure to see Werner Krauss again, whose Caligari and Jack the Ripper we have not forgotten, and whom we see again equally threatening, malign, and admirable as during the last time.”5 Jud Süss had been dubbed into French, with Richard Francoeur—a cast member of Jean Renoir’s La règle du jeu (Rules of the game, 1939)—lending his voice to le juif Suss. Le Matin found it “worth watching, original, and captivating”; to André Robert of Beaux Arts it was “a great film full of passion”; and Georges Champeaux of Le cri du peuple praised it for being “bold, vivid, and tense” and for having “good tempo.”6 More important than the reactions of critics, who in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied France might have praised Jud Süss out of opportunism or fear, was the reaction of audiences. Business proved sensational. Some 20.3 million people went to see it. Among those German films released in 1940, only UFA’s Wunschkonzert (Request concert) was a bigger hit, selling around 26.5 million tickets. With a budget of almost 2 million RM, Jud Süss grossed three times that sum. In those years, percentages did not yet exist for German film artists; nevertheless, Ludwig Metzger was rewarded for his contribution. The writer who had been ousted by Eberhard Wolfgang Möller, who in turn was ousted by Harlan, received a letter from Peter Paul Brauer in March 1941: “Dear Herr Metzger! We have decided, because of the extraordinary success of the film Jud Süss, to raise your previously granted fees for screenplay and additional source rights by a bonus of 4,000 RM. We hope that we have given you pleasure in this way and that you will continue being faithful to us as before. With the best recommendations and Heil Hitler. Dr...


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