German 43: Exiles and Émigrés

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Baum, Vicki

(Vienna 1888–Hollywood 1960)

Born as Hedwig Baum. Writer. Trained as a musician at the Vienna Academy of Music, and married to the conductor Richard Lert, Baum turned to writing in her early 30s. From 1926 to 1931, she worked as editor at Ullstein Verlag in Berlin which published her novel Menschen im Hotel in installments in its Berliner Illustrirte in 1929. A dramatization of the popular novel was premiered at the Theater am Nollendorfplatz in 1930 and subsequently had a successful run on Broadway. Invited to New York in 1931, Paramount offered her a short-term contract. Ernst Lubitsch encouraged her to write scripts for Maurice Chevalier and Marlene Dietrich, but these did not reach production. Yet her participation in Grand Hotel with Greta Garbo, based on Baum's novel, was a tremendous success. In 1932, Baum left Germany for good, first working for MGM and then as free writer, providing stories and treatments for many Hollywood films. Her novels Hotel Shanghai (1939) and Hotel Berlin (1943) revisit her famous bestseller, as do the remakes Weekend at the Waldorf (dir. Robert Leonard, 1945) and Menschen im Hotel (dir. Gottfried Reinhart, 1959). A US citizen since 1938, Vicki Baum never returned to Germany where the Nazis had burned her books in 1933. Famous became her self-description as a "first-class writer of second-class literature."

GERMAN 43: Exiles and Émigrés
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