The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood

Other Pr. Jan. 2020. 560p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781590517215. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781590517222. FILM
After the collapse of Germany’s Weimar Republic and during the rise of Hitler’s Europe, thousands of artists and intellectuals streamed out of occupied countries, trying to beat the closing door and overcome restrictive immigration quotas to enter the United States. Many gravitated west to the sunny climes of Hollywood. There, onetime actor and screenwriter Salka Viertel opened her home for Sunday parties, offering memories of home and a place to exchange information and learn a new language and customs, while forging relationships. Rifkind (Wall Street Journal) offers an overdue appreciation of a neglected figure. A confidante to Greta Garbo, Viertel worked on five of the iconic actor’s films, most notably Queen Christina. Among the many who crossed Viertel’s path were playwright Bertolt Brecht, novelists Christopher Isherwood and Thomas Mann, and composer Arnold Schoenberg. She struggled with constant money worries, a long-distance marriage, and concerns about friends and family living in Europe under Nazism.
VERDICT This is a study of a complex, openhearted woman who had a key role in saving the displaced while shaping mid-20th century Hollywood. Rifkind has penned a perceptive, exhaustively researched contribution to social and film history.

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