In 1936, director Henry Koster’s first Hollywood film Three Smart Girls premiered. As Koster waited in the lobby of the movie theater, the Jewish émigré from Germany knew the film’s success was literally a do-or-die situation. If the audience laughed, he figured he had a future in the U.S. If not, he would probably go back to Europe and be killed. After five minutes, hysterical laughter reached the lobby and Koster knew he had a career.
For Koster and many Jewish filmmakers--actors, actresses, writers, directors and other creative talents--the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party first threatened their livelihoods and soon their lives. In 1934 the exclusion of Jewish filmmakers in Germany led to independent productions in Budapest and Vienna–the so-called “Unwanted Cinema” banned by the Nazis.
As the Nazis invaded Hungary and Austria, many artists fled to the U.S. and hoped for a future in Hollywood. For Koster and other behind-the-camera talent, their heavy European accents were not a great hindrance. For some actors, though, the English language proved an insurmountable barrier.
Unwanted Cinema profiles a number of Jewish artists who contributed to independent films produced in Vienna and Budapest between 1934 and 1937. The film follows them in subsequent years, as they sought refuge from the Nazi terror, both in Europe and the states. Some found great success, while others paid the ultimate price for being a Jew. In addition to Koster, the film focuses on Ernst Verebes, Otto Wallburg, Felix Joachimson (Jackson), Hans Jaray, Franziska Gaal, Rosy Barsony, Hortense Raky, Oskar Pilzer, and Zoltan Vidor. Featuring scenes from many films of the period, Unwanted Cinema also recounts the efforts of Hollywood producer Joseph Pasternak, who offered many of these men and women their best chance of survival.
Transcript is available upon request.
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