Unlike Michael Munn's wide-ranging Hitler and the Nazi Cult of Film and Fame (2013), Urwand's work keeps the focus on a few...

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THE COLLABORATION

HOLLYWOOD'S PACT WITH HITLER

A Harvard University fellow offers a keen, unsettling look at the unholy alliance Hollywood made with the Nazis, which allowed both to keep packing movie theaters in Germany up until the outbreak of war.

Concomitant with Hollywood’s golden era of the 1930s was the rise of the Nazi Party, whose chief officials admired American films and tried to enlist some of Hollywood’s affective touches and technical mastery for their own productions and propaganda efforts. Movies had potentially the same kind of magical power that Hitler could wield in his mesmerizing speeches; his critical appraisals of his nightly viewing of new films ran to “good,” “bad” and “switched off.” This meant that movies that were anodyne and entertaining were approved for German audiences (Laurel and Hardy); movies that were dangerous to German sensibilities were bad (All Quiet on the Western Front); and movies that had problematic content were simply changed or not permitted to get made (It Can’t Happen Here). Germany was an important export market for Hollywood films (before World War I, it was the largest). Despite the quota regulations on imports, Hollywood films were welcomed by the Nazis, and a good “working relationship” was developed between Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry and the big studios. There was pressure on the studios to censor defense of Jews in certain films and suppress films that portrayed Nazis in an unflattering light (The Mad Dog of Europe). The result of this complicated and slippery relationship, as Urwand depicts with subtlety, was the absolute disappearance from film of Nazis and Jews until the end of the decade.

Unlike Michael Munn's wide-ranging Hitler and the Nazi Cult of Film and Fame (2013), Urwand's work keeps the focus on a few films for an elucidating study.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-674-72474-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

THE MAN IN THE RED COAT

A fresh, urbane history of the dramatic and melodramatic belle epoque.

When Barnes (The Only Story, 2018, etc.), winner of the Man Booker Prize and many other literary awards, first saw John Singer Sargent’s striking portrait of Dr. Samuel Pozzi—handsome, “virile, yet slender,” dressed in a sumptuous scarlet coat—he was intrigued by a figure he had not yet encountered in his readings about 19th-century France. The wall label revealed that Pozzi was a gynecologist; a magazine article called him “not only the father of French gynecology, but also a confirmed sex addict who routinely attempted to seduce his female patients.” The paradox of healer and exploiter posed an alluring mystery that Barnes was eager to investigate. Pozzi, he discovered, succeeded in his amorous affairs as much as in his acclaimed career. “I have never met a man as seductive as Pozzi,” the arrogant Count Robert de Montesquiou recalled; Pozzi was a “man of rare good sense and rare good taste,” “filled with knowledge and purpose” as well as “grace and charm.” The author’s portrait, as admiring as Sargent’s, depicts a “hospitable, generous” man, “rich by marriage, clubbable, inquisitive, cultured and well travelled,” and brilliant. The cosmopolitan Pozzi, his supercilious friend Montesquiou, and “gentle, whimsical” Edmond de Polignac are central characters in Barnes’ irreverent, gossipy, sparkling history of the belle epoque, “a time of vast wealth for the wealthy, of social power for the aristocracy, of uncontrolled and intricate snobbery, of headlong colonial ambition, of artistic patronage, and of duels whose scale of violence often reflected personal irascibility more than offended honor.” Dueling, writes the author, “was not just the highest form of sport, it also required the highest form of manliness.” Barnes peoples his history with a spirited cast of characters, including Sargent and Whistler, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt (who adored Pozzi), Henry James and Proust, Pozzi’s diarist daughter, Catherine, and unhappy wife, Therese, and scores more.

Finely honed biographical intuition and a novelist’s sensibility make for a stylish, engrossing narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65877-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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