German 43: Exiles and Émigrés

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Photo of Wilhelm DieterleDieterle, William

(Ludwigshafen 1893–Ottobrun 1972)

Born as Wilhelm Dieterle. Director and actor. One of the most famous exiles of his time, Dieterle was a stage and film actor since 1913. When not starring in a Max Reinhardt theatrical production, he acted in films like Die Geier-Wally (dir. E. A. Dupont, 1921) and Faust (dir. F. W. Murnau, 1926). Although he had the capital to set up his own production company in 1927, he soon compiled a bad debt and was forced to accept a contract with Warner Bros. in 1930. At first, Dieterle made American remakes of European successes like Madame Dubarry as well as B-movies. When Reinhardt joined him in Hollywood, they teamed up to direct A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), a critical success that propelled him to the first tier of filmmakers working in America. During the war, he was very active as a co-founder of the anti-fascist magazine The Hollywood Tribune (edited by Dupont) and of the English-speaking exile theater group "The Continental Players." He and his wife, Charlotte Hagenbruch, struggled to secure work permits for German and Jewish refugees throughout this time period. Dieterle's incredible success and determination landed him jobs at RKO, MGM, Paramount, and Columbia, his favorite genre being bio-pics. In 1939, he directed the classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Charles Laughton as Quasimodo. This feature—itself a testament to the alienated individual—is the highlight of a fascinating career in exile. He returned to Europe well after the end of the war and retired from filmmaking in 1960.

GERMAN 43: Exiles and Émigrés
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