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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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If that's me, then who am I?


C  I ’ ,    I In a scene towards the end of the cult Sci-Fi series Battlestar Galactica (–), Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) is confronted with her own corpse. She stares uncom- prehendingly at her own mortal remains and mutters: ‘if that’s me, then who am I?’ This question seemed to me to encapsulate the chief concern of my enquiry surrounding the representation of exilic bodies in Hollywood cinema. I imagined an exile, watching himself on screen, calling into question the identity he knows as his own, in response to the identity he is told is his by Hollywood. This chapter, then, investigates this idea of the conflict between the conceived (by the exile) and the perceived (by the host nation) identity of the exile. At the end ofNazi Agent (, Jules Dassin) Conrad Veidt’s Otto Becker / Ba- ron Hugo von Detner stands on the deck of an ocean liner staring at the Statue of Liberty. He is on his way to Germany to face the wrath of Hitler for the failure of a sabotage ring, which he headed. As Detner, he is the defeated monster, the spectre of invasion and infiltration banished whence he came. As Becker, he is also the triumphant hero, the man who banished that monster. We watch and weep (if one is as easily moved to tears as I am) as the sight of that powerful symbol of freedom from tyranny, the Statue of Liberty, reinforces his resolution to return to Germany and be held...

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