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Foreign Devils

Exile and Host Nation in Hollywood’s Golden Age

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Gábor Gergely

Foreign Devils investigates representations of exile in Hollywood cinema from 1930 to 1956 through the films of Peter Lorre, Béla Lugosi, and Conrad Veidt. This book dispels the assumption that by virtue of its hegemonic, reactionary, and exclusionary modes of representation, otherness is excluded from or only obliquely alluded to in classical Hollywood cinema. This book contends that Hollywood uses European émigré actors to speak of the experience of exile and the often-futile exilic attempts at integration into the host nation.
This original, cross-disciplinary study incorporates a number of research interests in film studies – specifically Hollywood cinema, exile and émigré filmmakers, the Golden Age of the studio system, the Universal Horror cycle, and Poverty Row filmmaking. Foreign Devils combines the close reading of key texts with a theoretical framework that encompasses body theory and theories of space and nation with historical accounts of immigration to the United States and American concepts of nationhood through the symbolism of blood and death studies.
Film studies students and academics, both undergraduate and postgraduate, as well as scholars in other disciplines, and anyone with an interest in Hollywood cinema, Central European culture in the 1930s-1950s, and European emigration to the United States will benefit from reading this book. Foreign Devils is also a valuable resource for courses in Hollywood filmmaking, émigré film, exile, Central European culture, nationalism studies, and Jewish studies.

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Preface: Who am I?

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P Who am I? Before I do anything else I feel the need to situate myself in relation to the thorny issues this study hopes to unpick. I need to render visible the accent that remains unheard thanks to the written word. I am not an exile. I simply (I wish it were simple) swapped countries: Hungary for the UK. I have now done so twice. The first time, when I was seventeen, I was naïve and thought I could become English. I thought my accent flawless and my intonation appropriately melodic. I thought, having no visible corporeal inscription of difference (though I did not think of it in these terms), I looked native. The two years I spent at school in rural England opened my eyes: I saw and heard myself with the eyes and ears of my schoolmates. When I thought I sounded like BertramWooster, they heard Dracula. The second time I moved to England, I entertained no illusions. I was still, however, perceived, first and foremost, as foreign. But this time it hurt less, because I already knew it. I accepted it, and it became part of who I am. In the process of trying to entangle myself into the complex network of being English, I had stretched the bonds that have entangled me into Hungarianness. And I like to imagine myself a little more me, a little more free from these webs of nationality (and a host of other things), than I really am. So...

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