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Foreign Devils

Exile and Host Nation in Hollywood’s Golden Age


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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Contexts and Methodology


C  C  M Why Lorre, Lugosi, Veidt? Before I begin sketching the lives and careers of the three actors whose films I ex- plore in this study, I pause here to explain just why I chose them, and not others. Because I was planning an investigation of the representations of exile in main- stream cinema in the period I outline above, I was looking for actors with endur- ing fame and popularity who worked in the premier centre for film production, Hollywood. Lorre, Lugosi and Veidt were all hugely popular at the height of their careers, which together stretch from  to the mid-s. Lorre was as popular with co-stars as with audiences in general, and his period at the top would roughly correspond with his time atWarner Brothers, where he made, amongst others, The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, ), Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, ) and Passage to Marseille (Michael Curtiz, ). Lugosi’s peak, in terms of the prestige of the productions he starred in, was briefer (Dracula to The Raven or –), but he remained a powerful box office draw until the late s. Veidt was probably the most popular of the three, beginning with European stardom with silent films in Germany, through successful stints with British-Gaumont and Korda in the s to a sadly all-too brief association with MGM brought to an end by his untimely death at just  in . Veidt may have been the most popular in his lifetime, and he is instantly recog- nisable to many even today for roles...

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