Hollywood/CA: Germans in the Movie Business | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 29.10.2001
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Hollywood/CA: Germans in the Movie Business

What do Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox Universal & Warner Brothers have in common, besides the obvious?


Welcome to Hollywood

To filmmakers, Hollywood is what Paris is for painters. For most hopeful young actors, however, Hollywood and all the fame and fortune that go with it, is just a long way from home. Few have actually made it there, but that hasn't stopped the many from trying.

From the earliest days of film production, a fair number of German actors, directors, set designers and composers have crossed the Atlantic to make their fortunes in the Golden State. Hollywood saw an especially large influx of talent from Germany in the early 1930's.

Some left Germany for political reasons when the Nazis came to power, like Marlene Dietrich, Bertolt Brecht or Kurt Weill. Many Jewish actors, actresses, directors and producers, however, had to leave Germany to save their lives because of persecution by the Nazis.

Among those who came were the founding fathers of world famous American film dynasties: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount, Twentieth Century-Fox Universal and Warner Brothers were almost all founded by German Jewish immigrants.

After the Second World War, Germans came to Hollywood mostly for commercial reasons. In the 1980s and 1990s, German directors such as Wim Wenders (City of Angels, The Buena Vista Social Club, The Million Dollar Hotel, Paris, Texas) and Wolfgang Petersen (In the Line of Fire, Air Force One, Das Boot) made a name for themselves in Hollywood.

Composers like Hans Zimmer (Pearl Harbor), Harold Faltermeyer (Berverly Hills Cop, Top Gun) worked on the sountracks for major box office hits. And more recently, actors like Franka Potente (Blow) and Til Schweiger (The Replacement Killers) have also made an impression there. These are the kind of careers that dreams are made of.

But in contrast to these success stories, there are all the stars that never were, who hoped for the big break on the silver screen, but never quite made it. "Once you get here, it isn't as easy as all that", says Sonja Pendic, a young actress from Wiesbaden in Germany.

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