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Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood (2009)

Eight hundred German filmmakers (cast and crew) fled the Nazis in the 1930s. The film uses voice-overs, archival footage, and film clips to examine Berlin's vital filmmaking in the 1920s; ... See full summary »


Karen Thomas


Karen Thomas




Credited cast:
Sigourney Weaver ... Narrator (voice)
Scott Subiono ... Hans Salter (voice)
Sewell Whitney ... Reporter / Bertolt Brecht (voice)
Scott Beehner ... Henry Koster (voice)
George Alvarez George Alvarez ... Curt Siodmak (voice)
Josh Nathan Josh Nathan ... Frederick Hollander (voice)
Kristin Lindquist ... Salka Viertel (voice)
Lynne Maclean Lynne Maclean ... Boszi Sakall (voice)
Robert Maffia ... Erich Pommer (voice)
Vaughn Armstrong ... Ernst Lubitsch (voice)
Lesli Margherita ... Kitty Koster (voice)
Raphael Sbarge ... Translator (voice)
Kevin Fabian ... Miklos Rozsa (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Marlene Dietrich ... Herself (archive footage)
Deanna Durbin ... Herself (archive footage)


Eight hundred German filmmakers (cast and crew) fled the Nazis in the 1930s. The film uses voice-overs, archival footage, and film clips to examine Berlin's vital filmmaking in the 1920s; then it follows a producer, directors, composers, editors, writers, and actors to Hollywood: some succeeded and many found no work. Among those profiled are Erich Pommer, Joseph May, Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, and Peter Lorre. Once in Hollywood, these exiles helped each other, housed new arrivals, and raised money so others could escape. Some worked on anti-Nazi films, like Casablanca. The themes and lighting of German Expressionism gave rise in Hollywood to film noir. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Official Sites:

PBS [United States]





Release Date:

1 January 2009 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cinema's Exiles See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (PBS Broadcast)


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Did You Know?


Shown in two parts on PBS America in the United Kingdom. See more »


Features The Blue Angel (1930) See more »

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User Reviews

fleeing the Nazis
8 May 2016 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood is a 2009 documentary about the wave of Germans and Austrians who came to America during the time of Hitler and attempted to establish new lives and careers here: Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Henry Koster, Robert and Curt Siodmak, Joe May, Frederick Hollander, S.Z. Sakall, Peter Lorre, Paul Henried, Ernst Lubitsch, Fred Zinnemann, Conrad Veit, and hundreds of others.

The documentary talks about the work of Paul and Lupita Kohner, Marlene Dietrich and several others who helped people leave by sending money, sneaking money (Lupita wrapped it in her knitting), giving them a place to stay, and writing sponsorship letters. A special fund that was set up where those who were working contributed so that those who were not could survive. Kohner, in the meantime, went to the studios and begged them to hire the immigrants.

Erich Korngold was asked to orchestrate Robin Hood and refused; he returned to Germany, realized what was going on, and returned, Robin Hood looking very good to him. It was said, "What Warners couldn't do, Hitler did."

It's a fascinating story of how some people could adjust and others could not; some were successful and some weren't. Some returned to Germany after the war; some returned and went back to Hollywood, as Peter Lorre did.

Some of these people, like S.Z. Sakall, had been huge stars in Germany; Fritz Lang made some wonderful films in Hollywood but never topped Metropolis. Joe May was relegated to horror films after being at the top of his field in Germany.

Karen Thomas has written a fascinating documentary about this group of people banding together and being helped by new Hollywood friends to assimilate. They gave the American film industry the gift of film noir and some of the techniques they brought with them, and made a big contribution -- something none of them could have dreamed of when they landed here with very little.

Really wonderful and a must for film buffs.

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