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The roots of Alexander Korda: myths of identity and the international film

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Walker examines the life and career of the filmmaker Alexander Korda, from his early days in Hungary to the late 1930s. He examines Korda's Jewish roots, and the impact and influence of Jewish culture on his early career. Arguing for closer attention to the Jewish milieu in which he lived and worked, he examines the various attempts to elide or obfuscate Korda's Jewishness in contemporary accounts and more recent studies, and offers suggestions about the impact of antisemitism and cultural prejudices on his thinking and self-presentation. Walker argues that Korda was a more consistently and seriously engaged political filmmaker than is usually assumed, and briefly examines some of the abiding interests in his early life and the films he produced and/or directed in the period 1933-42 (The Private Life of Henry VIII, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Things to Come, That Hamilton Woman): principally, anti-fascism, British rearmament, the need to end US isolationism and the plight of the refugee. Finally, Walker looks at the ways in which issues of national and cultural roots, assimilation, belonging, and the special perspective of the 'outsider' made an impact on his ideas. He argues for a close correlation between Korda's own experience as a Hungarian Jew and an émigré and his ideas about filmmaking and the 'international film': the almost mythical idea of a film rooted in British national culture and identity that would be marketable throughout the world.
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Keywords: Alexander Korda; British cinema; Hungarian antisemitism; Jewishness; cinema of the 1930s; cultural chameleonism; national identity; refugees

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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