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327 25 Youth Culture Revisited West German cinema of the 1950s is generally associated with Heimat and Schlager films, the former catering to older audiences longing for a lost, idyllic rural world that never was and the latter to young audiences eager to see their favorite pop singers onscreen. In addition, military dramas set in the Nazi era helped rehabilitate the Wehrmacht. Although all these tendencies in the film industry did exist, one cannot reduce the era’s entire film production to such commonplaces. A phenomenon seldom discussed is the problem picture, often with an anticonsumerist message that warns of greed and loss of morale in view of economic prosperity. The problem picture is easily confused with melodrama, but whereas in melodrama, as perfected by Frank Borzage, Douglas Sirk, Vincente Minnelli, and Veit Harlan, the individual defends his or her passions against bourgeois society , in the problem picture the protagonist is a dull, respectable fellow usually played by an actor such as Dieter Borsche or Rudolf Prack. Harlan seemed outmoded in the 1950s because he celebrated the irrational and did not share his compatriots’ striving for respectability. Some foreign buyers liked to see Germany’s sleazy side, to the horror of the Adenauer government, which expressed misgivings at the presentation of Das Mädchen Rosemarie (Rosemary, 1958), with its call-girl heroine , at the Venice Film Festival. Other criteria were also used to decide whether to import German films. In the early postwar years, U.S. distributors were looking for an equivalent to Italy’s neorealism, which could be found in the Trümmerfilme (rubble films), but after this vogue had died off, German films were imported on the basis of popular stars. Hildegard Knef, Maria Schell, Curd Jürgens, Elisabeth Müller, Hardy Krüger, Marianne Koch, Karlheinz Böhm, Romy Schneider, and Horst Buchholz were in a limited way bankable after having appeared in English-language films. German-born actress Lilli Palmer actually had a substantial career veit harlan 328 in British and U.S. films behind her when she returned to her homeland in 1954, and her Best Foreign Actress nomination from the British Academy for Television and the Arts for her work in Falk Harnack’s film Anastasia, die letzte Zarentochter (Anastasia, last daughter of the czar, 1956) was certainly boosted by her British credits. A Jewess who had to emigrate when she was nineteen, she caught West German audiences by storm and won the German Film Award for Best Actress for two consecutive years. Another Jewish emigrant, director Robert Siodmak, made German Film Award history when his portrait of a serial killer, Nachts, wenn der Teufel kam (The devil strikes at night, 1957), won in almost every category. West German cinema had no Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, or Ingmar Bergman and no international icon comparable to Sophia Loren or Brigitte Bardot. If Helmut Käutner’s Monpti (1957) did better business in the United States than any other German film, it was only because audiences thought it was French. But West German cinema was not the cultural wasteland future generations made it appear. Four times in a row, from 1956 to 1959, a West German film was nominated for a Best Foreign Picture Academy Award; five made the New York Times Ten Best List; and eight were nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Bernhard Grzimek’s film Serengeti darf nicht sterben (Serengeti must not die, 1959), with a score by Wolfgang Zeller, actually won an Academy Award as best documentary. And in no other phase of postwar German film history have so many stars been invited to Hollywood. Maria Schell and Curd Jürgens won acting awards at Cannes and Venice; Schell even won at both festivals for two consecutive years. Her younger brother, Maximilian Schell, went on to win the Best Actor Academy Award for Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). Liselotte Pulver was offered the female leads in both Ben Hur (1959) and El Cid (1961). Christine Kaufmann won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 1961, alongside Ann-Margret and Jane Fonda. Even a minor German actress such as Sabine Bethmann was about to play the female lead in Anthony Mann’s Spartacus (1960) before Stanley Kubrick took over. Such distinguished directors as Elia Kazan and Stanley Kubrick insisted on hiring Georg Krause as director of photography when working overseas, signing him for Man on a Tightrope (1953) and Paths of Glory (1957), respectively. Only two Harlan pictures have found a niche...


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