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The hate that dared not speak its name: Svengali, anti-Semitism and post-war British heritage cinema

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Abstract:

At key moments in modern British social history, works of art have been used to consolidate national identity by celebrating ‘Englishness’, while defining Jews as dangerously alien. British heritage cinema was implicated in this process after World War II, with David Lean’s Oliver Twist (1948) and Noel Langley’s adaptation of Trilby (1894). When the latter became Svengali (1954), it recast the evil Jewish mesmerist’s victim as an innocent German girl – an egregiously offensive development less than ten years after the Holocaust, but one that British Jews were in no position to protest in the political climate of the Cold War.

Keywords: Jews; Svengali; Trilby; anti-Semitism; heritage cinema; post-war Britain

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/jepc.3.2.155_1

Affiliations: University of Delaware

Publication date: 2012-10-01

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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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