Given the frenzied, ridiculous propaganda of the war years, it’s surprising to see how quickly Hollywood decided that German stars and directors were just the bee’s knees. Throughout the 1920s, German talent flooded into Hollywood and it seems like a good day to celebrate the power of a global film industry.
(Directors are for another day, I’m just going to be focusing on film stars this time.)
As usual, I will be linking to my review of the cinematic GIF sources.
We’ll kick things off with Conrad Veidt, the King of Gooseflesh. Brought over for The Beloved Rogue, he then signed on with Universal and made The Man Who Laughs (the Joker borrowed heavily from his character’s appearance), capping off his stay in America with The Last Performance, GIFed above.
Pola Negri was Polish but her career took off and flourished in Germany. Her collaborations with Ernst Lubitsch are fab but don’t write off her Hollywood career. A Woman of the World is a delightfully saucy romp and while Hotel Imperial has its issues, her performance (see above) is not one of them.
Emil Jannings will always be remembered as the very first Best Actor winner (his later German career is best left out of the discussion) and The Last Command is one of the pictures that earned him the award.
Born in Bavaria, Gustav von Seyffertitz is interesting because he made is career exclusively in American films. Was there ever a more perfect villain? (Though Mary Pickford is holding him at bay in Sparrows.)
Bonus round! We all know that Louise Brooks went to Germany and found artistic success but she was not the only American woman to make the journey. Betty Amann was born in Germany but raised in America. Her American career was slight, to put it politely, but she set the screen on fire in Joe May’s German production of Asphalt.
Finally, I wouldn’t want to neglect the most famous Hollywood German of them all: Marlene Dietrich. She made silent films in Germany but became a star in the talkies. I reviewed her gloriously kitschy WWII film, Golden Earrings, a while back– Ray Milland never knew what hit him. I also cover her buried silent film career.
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