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Exiled to hollywood: British cinema, the plight of Europe’s Jews and the case of The Mortal Storm

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This article extends the term ‘British cinema’ to include the exilic productions of British artists and writers in Hollywood just before and during World War II. During the 1930s, British writers, film-makers and actors were lured to Hollywood as both an asylum from the threat of war and to make films that guaranteed creative opportunities, international distribution and acclaim far beyond what the cashstrapped British film industry could afford. As the Nazi threat in Europe escalated throughout the decade and Britain was increasingly threatened, the cultural bridge this artistic exile represented developed a political purpose. British artists were joining their nation’s propaganda efforts to win the sympathy and support of the United States. The British novelist Phyllis Bottome contributed to that effort, determined to see her 1937 bestseller, The Mortal Storm, produced in Hollywood. A prime example of a work that is both eminently British in its creative origins and focuses on the Jewish question remains The Mortal Storm by Frank Borzage, the 1940 blockbuster MGM film based on Bottome’s novel.

Keywords: Jews; Nazism; World War II; anti-Semitism; isolationism; propaganda

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Northwestern University 2: University of Minnesota

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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  • The Journal of European Popular Culture investigates the creative cultures of Europe, present and past. Exploring European popular imagery, media, new media, film, music, art and design, architecture, drama and dance, fine art, literature and the writing arts, and more, the journal is also of interest to those considering the influence of European creativity and European creative artefacts worldwide.
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