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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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Introduction

Extract

by unravelling its implications in order to sketch, briefly, the journeys—theoretical, metaphorical, geographical, filmic—that I take and trace in what follows. The playful substitution of ‘stomach’ for ‘heart’ suggests both optimism and despair. Optimism, because it implies that swapping hearts is not the issue: it is impossible and therefore not even worth attempting. No matter the reasons for exile, one can never truly change hearts and leave behind the homeland, where one was raised. It may be impossible too, but somehow the idea of swapping stomachs sounds like something that one might almost achieve. And despair, because it hints that because of the simple impossibility of changing hearts, the exile is destined to live out their life with a broken heart. This bittersweet elision of the problems of the heart shifts the focus to the stomach and as a result to ingestion, nourishment and digestion. Swapping countries means that one must swap stomachs because in exile only ‘foreign’ food is available. But of course it is not the food that is foreign, but the exile, and the exile’s stomach. Therefore a new stomach is necessary. A person raised on dry-cured pig-fat and raw onions can have trouble adjusting to thick American pancakes and grilled bacon with maple syrup. A whole new outlook and a whole new digestive system is required. For, to cope with the unfamiliar food, a food that one must ingest in order to survive, one must also digest this unfamiliar food. And in getting...

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