Advertisement

Permanent Vacation: Home and Homelessness in the Life and Work of Edgar G. Ulmer

Chapter
  • 29 Downloads
Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)

Abstract

In her preface to the catalogue published in conjunction with the Edgar G. Ulmer retrospective, held at the 1997 Edinburgh Film Festival, curator Lizzie Francke observes how the Austrian-born director and so-called wandering emigre once tellingly remarked, “there are no nationalities, the only home you have is the motion picture set.”1 For Ulmer, who was born in 1904 in Olmiitz, in the provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a multinational amalgamation that no longer existed by the time he was in his teens, the question of home and nationality remained an elusive one throughout his adult life. He personally experienced the mass migrations prompted by two World Wars—the first landing him in foster care in Uppsala, Sweden, after his father’s death in Austrian uniform in 1916, and the second sealing his fate to remain, at least temporarily, among the many refugees from Hitler’s Europe who decamped from Berlin and Vienna for Southern California in the 1930s and 1940s—and in his some thirty-five year career as a director, he returned to the basic theme of displacement with near obsessive frequency. The lack of permanence or firm footing that might link his subjects to a stable location—a city, a community, a nation— is something Ulmer explores in his best-known work, including The Black Cat (1934), Detour (1945), and Ruthless (1948), as well as in his lesser- known films: in his ethnic pictures directed in and around New York City during the mid- to late 1930s; in his eleven-film cycle of B-movies shot at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), the poverty row studio where, from 1942 to 1946, Ulmer earned a reputation as one of the pioneers of low-budget independent filmmaking; and in his later films, many of which were shot in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s and all of which were made outside the industry norms and standards of Hollywood.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Lizzie Francke, “Edgar G. Ulmer,” Retrospective (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Film Festival, 1997), 148.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Quoted in Frederic Morton, Thunder at Twilight: Vienna 1913/14 (New York: DaCapo, 2001), 185–186.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Frieda Gräfe, “Wiener Beiträge zu einer wahren Geschichte des Kinos,” Aufbruch ins Ungewisse: Österreichische Filmschaffende in der Emigration vor 1945, ed. Christian Cargnelli and Michael Omasta (Vienna: Wespennest, 1993), 227.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    See Daniela Sannwald, “Metropolis: Die Wien-Berlin-Achse im deutschen Film der 10er und 20er Jahre,” Elektrische Schatten: Beiträge zur Österreichischen Stummfilmgeschichte, ed. Francesco Bono et al. (Vienna: Filmarchiv Austria, 1999), 139–148.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Thomas Elsaesser, “Ethnicity, Authenticity, and Exile: A Counterfeit Trade? German Filmmakers in Hollywood,” Home, Exile, Homeland: Film, Media, and the Politics of Place, ed. Hamid Naficy (New York: Routledge, 1999), 112.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    See Heinrich Huesmann, Welttheater Reinhardt (Munich: Prestel 1983)Google Scholar
  7. Otto Preminger, “An Interview,” Max Reinhardt 1873–1973, ed. George Wellwarth and Alfred Brooks (Binghampton: Max Reinhardt Archive, 1973), 109–111.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Peter Bogdanovich, “Edgar G. Ulmer: An Interview,” Film Culture, 58-60 (1974); rept. in Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors (New York: Ballantine, 1998), 557–558.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Joseph Schildkraut, My Father and I (New York: Viking, 1959), 114.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Lucy Fischer, Sunrise (London: British Film Institute, 1998), 40.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    Lotte Eisner, Murnau (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), 180.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    John Belton, “Edgar G. Ulmer (1900 [sic]-1972),” American Directors, ed. Jean-Pierre Coursodon with Pierre Sauvage, 2 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983), I: 342.Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    Donald Albrecht, Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture and the Movies (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), 100–101.Google Scholar
  14. 25.
    Bill Krohn, “King of the B’s,” Film Comment, 19.4 (July/August 1983): 61.Google Scholar
  15. 26.
    Tom Weaver, “Shirley Ulmer,” Cult Movies, 25 (1998): 64.Google Scholar
  16. 28.
    J. Hoberman, Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds (New York: Museum of Modern Art/Schocken, 1991), 317.Google Scholar
  17. 30.
    Stefan Grissemann, Mann im Schatten: Der Filmemacher Edgar G. Ulmer (Vienna: Szolnay, 2003), 143.Google Scholar
  18. 32.
    See Anton Kaes, “A Stranger in the House: Fritz Lang’s Fury and the Cinema of Exile,” New German Critique, 89 (Spring/Summer 2003): 35–58.Google Scholar
  19. 37.
    Salka Viertel, The Kindness of Strangers: A Theatrical Life. Vienna, Berlin, Hollywood (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969), 143.Google Scholar
  20. 45.
    See Thomas Elsaesser, Weimar Cinema and After: Germany’s Historical Imaginary (New York: Routledge, 2000)Google Scholar
  21. Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands (London: Granta Books, 1991).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sabine Eckmann and Lutz Koepnick 2007

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations