From Germany to Hollywood

United States was a relatively provincial country in the 1930s, and the films coming out of Hollywood reflected this lack of sophistication, even though it was the glamorous center of the movie production world. But the intellectual atmosphere began to percolate late in that decade with the arrival of German emigre writers, directors, producers, actors, composers and literati fleeing the Nazis. “That influx of what was literally hundreds and hundreds of these middle European intellectuals, it changed this town,” said Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA film and television archive.

Their arrival changed not just the film industry and the kind of films that were being made, it changed intellectual life. You have people who are not in the film industry but came here because of the weather and perceived opportunities like composer Arnold Schoenburg and author Thomas Mann. They change the electro character of Southern California.

I think you can make a definite case that noir has two sites of origin. The pulp fiction of Raymond Chandler and all of those writers of the detective fiction . .  that is the American source. But in terms of visual language, I think you have to look much closer at the émigrés and the infusion of German Expressionism and camera angles.

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