The Sun And Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler's Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood
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She became a mentor and friend to Greta Garbo and contributed to scripts for the famous actress for such films as Queen Christina, Anna Karenina, and Two-Faced Woman.
With her director husband Berthold, the couple established Die Truppe, a successful avant-garde theater in Germany, but disbanded as the economy collapsed, and Nazis began their attacks on all free artistic expression. The desolate American years of Heinrich and his wife, Nelly, form just one of the many fascinating but often distressing side stories told in “The Sun and Her Stars. Rifkind also delves into Viertel’s role as a leading advocate against fascist sympathizers in America. While her day job was writing for Garbo (most famously, “Queen Christina”), by 1938 her all-day-and-night job was ministering to the exile community, helping members find housing and jobs and negotiate the mazes of U. Or that it was Erika Mann, Heinrich’s niece and Thomas Mann’s eldest daughter, who risked her life by sneaking into Nazi-dominated Munich in the summer of 1933 to rescue her father’s manuscript of Joseph and His Brothers from the Mann family home, which was then under constant Gestapo surveillance.I love this book for the enjoyable way it explained her contributions to movie scripts and friendships. MGM’s greatest star as the Swedish queen was an idea that appealed to Irving Thalberg, the studio’s chief of production.
Rifkind makes a passionate case for rescuing her subject from anonymity…[She] has done an enormous service in spotlighting the life of Salka Viertel: not only by telling a story that deserves to be better known, but also by implicitly making the case for more such books. A vital presence in the golden age of Hollywood, Salka Viertel is long overdue for her own moment in the spotlight"--,Provided by publisher. Yet it was impossible to begin again without the help of people like Salka Viertel, who welcomed them into a community after their own had been eradicated. It's all here in this book - war, passion, film, art, friendship, loyalty, exile, glamour, danger, love, heartbreak, and courage. While reading Rifkind’s extraordinary book, I thought of conducting an Oskar Schindler-type census of all the lives that in one way or other, Salka emotionally and financially rescued.
Never prone to self-pity or cowering, she learned early that survival in Hollywood required a thick skin, and toughened herself up accordingly. These include Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the “Jewish” Sitcom (2003), Driven to Darkness: Jewish Émigré Directors and the Rise of Film Noir (2009), and a memoir based on his German-Jewish refugee parents’ experiences, All About Eva: A Memoir of Holocaust Survivors, with a Hollywood Twist (forthcoming, 2021).
America’s own deeply rooted anti-Semitism, the eruptions of homegrown fascism that emerged in the 1930s with rallies sponsored by the Silver Shirts and the German American Bund, and widespread anti-immigrant sentiments stoked by such fearmongers as Father Coughlin were factors in the Roosevelt administration’s reluctance to alter strict immigration policies that had been further tightened during the Great Depression.
I read dozens of thoughtful, entertaining, even groundbreaking works about Hollywood in which women who were not wives, secretaries, or movie stars scarcely make an appearance.