German 43: Exiles and Émigrés

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Photo of Douglas SirkSirk, Douglas

(Hamburg 1900–Lugano, Switzerland 1987)

Born as Hans Detlef Sierck. Director. A successful stage producer and theater director in Weimar Germany, Sierck switched to film direction after 1933 because he felt that the film industry provided a less censored arena for cultural production than the theater. After making three shorts for Ufa, his first feature became Schlussakkord (1936), a melodrama about a composer and his wife. His two following features Zu neuen Ufern and La Habanera (both 1937) established him as master of that genre and made Zarah Leander an international star. In the fall of 1937, Sirk emigrated to America to protect his Jewish wife. Now calling himself Douglas Sirk, he had a hard time continuing his success at Ufa, and even retired from filmmaking for longer periods. A number of small-budget productions, including the anti-Nazi film Hitler's Madman (1943) allowed him to work in the industry again. Yet it was not until the 1950s when he found international success with a number of Technicolor melodramas, including All That Heaven Allows (1956), Written on the Wind (1957), and Interlude (1957). After completing a production in West Germany (A Time to Love and a Time to Die, 1958), Sirk made his last American film for Universal, Imitation of Life (1959). Although he would spend his last years in retirement in Switzerland, his features enjoyed a revival in the 1970s when critics—among them a young Rainer Werner Fassbinder—hailed them for their cinematic beauty and their portrayals of strong women.

GERMAN 43: Exiles and Émigrés
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