German Stars in Hollywood! or “All Your Oscars Are Belong to Us”

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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10 Replies to “German Stars in Hollywood! or “All Your Oscars Are Belong to Us””

  1. Speaking of The Joker having been influenced by the film of The Man Who Laughs, I just read something that said Jerry Robinson (the artist) was influenced by a playing card of the Joker when he was drawing the character for the first time. I’ve seen this before and I think it is so.

  2. hello:))) i am catching up with all my reading, and as usual you do not disappoint!!! My favourite?? Ahhh the beautiful Ms. Dietrich. Thankyou πŸ™‚

  3. Conrad Veidt has been a favourite since I saw “The Thief of Baghdad” about fifty-five years ago, and I wish “The Man who Laughs” could be made compulsory viewing.
    Gustavo Von Seyffertitz had the kind of voice that makes talkies worth watching!

    1. You won’t get any arguments from me about Conrad Veidt πŸ˜‰ Yes, von Seyffertitz was great in the talkies. I read somewhere that he succeeded “despite his thick German accent” but I think it was just right and the casting departments clearly agreed.

  4. Marvellous – I love them all! Connie is such a favourite of mine (my heart but bleeds for him in The Last Performance). If only someone could find A Man’s Past somewhere. I’d buy them *all* the drinks.

    It always fascinates me how there were so many great film talents of the twenties – of all shapes and sizes – of whom were nurtured in Germany. My general feeling is that, acting-wise, we’ve Max Reinhardt to thank for a big chunk of it. Jannings always presents one with conflicted feelings, though the dude’s acting ability is undeniable. The Last Command has been on my to-watch list for far too long.

    Loved the article! Many thanks.

  5. Where are Lya de Putti (hey, you threw in Pola N.!), Evan von Berne (she didn’t make it, alas. And Austria-Germany, who really cared back then?) and Camilla Horn (arriving just the day the silents died).

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