Major European Film Directors in America

Gene D. Phillips

This book deals with five European film directors - Fritz Lang, William Wyler, Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, and Fred Zinnemann - who were forced into exile in the wake of the rise of Hitler, and who subsequently enriched the American motion picture industry with a reservoir of new talent that had been nurtured in Europe. Of the many European moviemakers who suggested themselves, the author has chosen those who have made enduring works that still appeal to filmgoers today, as attested by their availability on television and on videocassette. Hence, bringing these directors together into a single volume, with illustrations of both the directors and some of their famous works, shows the contribution to American cinema made by an outstanding group of European filmmakers who worked in Hollywood.


The book's introductory chapter highlights cinema artists whose films reflect their personal thematic vision and directorial style. Moreover, these are directors whose careers encapsulate the entire history of cinema from the silent period to the advent of sound, color, and widescreen. The five chapters that follow feature the five directors and how they have been able to impose their personal stamp on their pictures; hence, each of them built up a coherent body of work like that produced by a novelist. As such, they made possible the individualism and independence that is the hallmark of today's directors.


As already noted, the work of these directors covers a wide spectrum in cinema history; indeed, their films represent the various genres of filmmaking that have evolved over the years, such as the Western, the musical, and the thriller. In addition to standard directors like Lang, Wyler, and Wilder, the book also includes a discussion of Preminger and Zinnemann who, because of the significant films they made, warrant more attention than they have received in other books on directors.


The author conducted personal interviews with and corresponded with all five directors featured in this book, lending a "first-hand" dimension and increasing the book's merits as a work of original scholarship. His previous book on directors, Major Film Directors of the American and British Cinema, was reviewed in Film Newsletter by Henry Herx of the National Center for Film Study, who said: "Phillips's carefully comparing the director's remarks in interviews with examples of his filmmaking. Each filmmaker is accorded a detailed treatment of his career and how each treats the major themes that comprise his work. The presentation also includes attention to the development of the movie industry and the uneasy tension that has always existed between the film artist and the box office pressures of making a profit.... The directors chosen and the treatment given to the development of the medium will serve the needs of most introductory film classes."


The book concludes with an epilogue that sums up the state of the artist in the world of contemporary filmmaking.

0934223491 (AUP)
9780934223492 (R&L)
Lehigh University Press - Exiles in Hollywood