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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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The Madness of the Exile


. I argue that the crisis of rationality explored in Chapter , and the inability to find a space that tolerates the exilic body, leads that exilic body to seek recourse to a range of strategies of integration, all (or almost all) of which lead to failure and rejection from the host nation, the effect of which, as I explain below, is madness. I contend that the exile hopes to remake himself in an effort to comply with the norm, but, operating with a savoir of elsewhere, he is unable to present himself as a member of the commu- nity within the host nation. I consider the various manifestations of exilic madness, from Dr Gogol’s (Peter Lorre inMad Love, Karl Freund, ) mad love through Hilary’s (Peter Lorre in The Beast with Five Fingers, Robert Florey, ) and Otto  C . T M   E Becker’s (Conrad Veidt inNazi Agent, Jules Dassin, ) split selves, to themega- lomania of Béla Lugosi’s mad scientists. I argue that these mad exiles are united by their drive to assimilate through an attempted reconfiguration of the self—whether through science or performance—and their ultimate failure to present their claim to belong as ‘natural’. This inability to present themselves as natural members of the host nation will be key to this Chapter of the book. Madness sets in A recurring event in the corpus is when the exile, faced with an insurmountable problem, loses his mind and madness sets in. The madness the host nation imag- ines the exilic...

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