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The Ufa Story: A History of Germany's Greatest Film Company, 1918-1945 (Weimar & Now: German Cultural Criticism) Paperback – 4 Oct 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 460 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New edition edition (4 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520220692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520220690
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 15.2 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,636,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"Kreimeier connects the Ufa of the 1920s and its grandiose movie palaces, floodlit premieres, and impressive stage sets with the political, social, and artistic crises of the Weimar years."--J.S. Marcus, "New York Review of Books

About the Author

Klaus Kreimeier was cultural editor for "Der Spiegel" and has taught at the German Film and Television Academy. A freelance journalist, he lives in Berlin.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
UFA was the only European film company to rival Hollywood in its sophistication before the Second World War. Want to know where Billy Wilder earned his scriptwriting stripes? Where Peter Lorre and Anton Walbrook and Conrad Veidt were stars long before they ever acted in English? Where Douglas Sirk became a top director and Marlene Dietrich a world star? The history of UFA is fascinating for the back-story it gives to world cinema, and particularly Hollywood cinema, but it's also fascinating in its own right. For any Amazon.co.uk customers who understand German, I'd recommend this book as a prompt to order some of the classics of German cinema on video from Amazon.de. German cinema didn't slide into Nazi barbarism and prudery overnight in 1933, but the light gradually died: contrast the bubbly fun of Viktor und Viktoria (the original of the Julie Andrews musical) from 1933 or the international sophistication of Douglas Sirk's late 1930s movies with Zarah Leander to the kitsch and sentimentality of the wartime German cinema, finally cut off from the influence of Hollywood with which it had had such a long and fertile two-way relationship. In classic film studies form the book is sometimes guilty of over-analysis, as when it compares the snappy discipline of German girl chorus lines to Nazi stormtroopers - I mean, didn't the author ever see a Busby Berkeley production number? Those girls were WAY more drilled - but ultimately this is a reliable and comprehensive look at an industry which was used by Nazi Germany to hide its evil behind a pretty, and often entertaining, face. Readers who know German might want to go on to read Felix Moeller's book Der Filmminister, to understand more about Goebbels' role in pulling the strings behind the scenes. Oh, and for anyone who sees the stills in the book for the 1939 Marika Roekk movie 'Hallo Janine' and thinks: that looks weird and fascinating, you're right - it's no more or less than a Broadway melody auf Deutsch.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read somewhere that there is not a culture of popular written history in Germany, rather it is written as an academic subject. This book is a prime example. I have picked this book up several times to try and advance a few pages, but once I reached page 85 and read this:

'What can be said with certainty is that this "gothic" film style does not offer the possibility of salvation but seems confining, claustrophobic, psychically undigested, anxiety-producing. It expresses a rebellion of provinces and small cities against industrial culture and its superficial rationality'

I'm afraid I laughed and gave up. If you want to cloak your opinions in a florid academic pastiche of knowledge fine, but don't expect me to read it.

Some of the book, turgid as the writing is has moments of lucidity, but it is soon awash again in knee deep lists of actors, film shareholders and the academic opinion of third parties it endlessly breaks up the flow of the text and any sense of linear history that the author might be trying to achieve.

I was tempted first of all to blame the translation, which appears to be literal rather than interprative. But the further I read I realised that anything other than what was done would have required a complete re-write of the text. This book badly needs an english language editor.

I do not normally write negative reviews. A bad book is just let go. However, this was such a disappointment given the subject matter and my interest in German history that I have vented my annoyance. I am currently reading Sebastian Haeffner's 'Defying Hitler'. The prose is beautiful and an object lesson in writing and translation.

I was tempted for two stars simply because of the plates. Any book with picture of the lovely Lilian Harvey should be worth that at least. But I'm afraid not.

A major disappointment.
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Format: Paperback
It is too bad that this is one of the only surviving books on UFA. Luckily it is one of the best. This book tells of the trials and tribulations of the film industry in Germany and the world between 1918 and 1945. It is packed with how they did it technically and economically. There are two concentrated picture sections. The pictures are of the sets, people involved in the industry, actors and movies. The author seems to think that the UFA was corrupted during the time of National Socialism.
According to this book, after H.G. Wells watched "Metropolis", he thought there wasn't much worth corrupting. Sot of gives you a different prospective of H.G. Wells; doesn't it?
Any Way there is tow parts, 30 chapters, Trailer, Epilog, and Fadeout.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Top heavy with historical, financial, and political info 12 May 2017
By John Colaresi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you’re looking for a detailed book about Germany’s Ufa film studio, this is the one you want. However, it might not be what you expected, at least for me as I have mixed reservations about it. My main complaint about ‘The Ufa Story’ is that it’s top heavy with historical, financial, and political info. It’s very thorough in those aspects, maybe too thorough because they make for slow reading. You can find shorter and less detailed accounts of the studio and that info elsewhere, but not to this extreme if that’s your choice.

Klaus Kreimeier’s book begins with how the studio was founded in 1918 by the German Army Supreme Command that wanted morale-boosting films made to counteract Germany’s defeat, but they evolved to become "Germany's very German response to Hollywood” as theaters were dominated by American films and others from France and Scandinavian countries and preferred by audiences. Plots became based more on German folklore, culture, and literature to promote pride in the nation’s past. When certain films received international acclaim in the 1920’s, many artists, like Emil Jannings, Pola Negri, Ersnt Lubitsch, and F W Murnau left for Hollywood; Marlene Dietrich departed in the early 1930’s. After the Nazis took over, filmmaking became “an instrument of the state.” Audiences wanted entertainment instead of political speeches and parading stormtroopers although you can find some kind of propaganda in almost any feature film. Of the over 1,100 films produced between 1933 and 1945, a very small percentage can be labeled pure propaganda and most of them were not big box office hits. There's a difference between a harmless nationalist film promoting love of country and its basic virtues (Heimat and mountain films), and a propaganda film promoting a political agenda and hate (JUD SUSS, HEIMKEHR). Some films blurred the line between these two types such as a few by Luis Trenker. Ufa cultivated its own star system and many films were artistically and technically well made because not all the best talent left Nazi Germany.

I wanted to read more about films and who worked in front of and behind the camera on them, but in fairness to Kreimeier, this wasn’t his intent. Most films are mentioned in passing so you’ll have to look elsewhere to learn about them if they are unfamiliar to you and too many are omitted. Occasionally you’ll find a few paragraphs or pages devoted to a famous film or person and learn something new about them. In the pages covering Murnau’s FAUST (1926), you’ll learn how the technical effects were executed, and how Ufa barely avoided creating a national scandal when the film’s intertitles written by Germany’s greatest living author at the time, Gerhart Hauptmann, were judged inferior and replaced. Although the film is now considered a classic of German cinema, most people don’t know it was an expensive failure like Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS debuting a year later. These costly flops and others almost bankrupted Ufa and led Alfred Hugenberg, an important German businessman and early Hitler supporter, to purchase the company in 1927 and later transfer ownership to the Nazi Party in in 1933.

Another example of good research providing new info for me and maybe others is found in several pages devoted to the fantasy AMPHITRYON that became 1935’s biggest hit: “Jupiter’s wife, Juno (Adele Sandrock) has Mercury (Paul Kemp) refer to her as Highest Lady... an allusion to the actress Emmy Sonnemann, whom the Reich Air Marshall [Herman Goring] had recently married. [Director Reinhold] Schunzel and his team permitted themselves the national joke. Ufa’s managers bet they could get away with it; the censors raised timid objections or looked the other way; and [Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph] Goebbels was delighted to have his rival Goring exposed to public ridicule. Like all despotic agencies with power, the Nazi censorship offices functioned perfectly and irrationally at the same time, working feverishly yet also at crossed purposes.” That in-joke about Goring’s wife was a very risky move for Schunzel who was half-Jewish and only allowed to work under a special permit because of his previous successes like 1933’s VIKTOR UND VIKTORIA.

As for actors, we learn that Hans Albers, who was Germany’s biggest male star during the 1930’s and 1940’s, was contractually obligated to make an occasional propaganda film during the Nazi years like 1941’s CARL PETERS, an anti-British and anti-Semitic story about Germany’s lost colonies in Africa. Kreimeier says of Albers who despised the Nazis and made them pay big money for his work: “Aloof, audacious, and not without a touch of cynicism, Albers lost no sleep over the question of who commissioned his films and he brought to his national Socialist roles the unmistakable Albers touch—with its mixture of devil-may-care and adventure, of rough-and-tumble elegance and magical invincibility… Albers and the roles he played kept this explosive combination intact, and it was his artful ambivalence that kept him, one of the few authentic folk stars of the NS cinema, from becoming a Fascist figurehead.” Other actors like Gustaf Grundgens and Trenker, who were also directors and whom Goebbels had plenty to say about in his diaries, are barely mentioned and deserve more attention.

In summation - As much as I like Kreimeier’s book, I have to agree with Publisher Weekly’s review quoted above: “A plus for his account is that he sets it within the context of the larger German culture. While it is packed with detail and interesting historical references, it is too prolix and discursive for general readers.”
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The German Contribution 5 Feb. 2011
By kevymack - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book which details the always fascinating story of UFA , the greatest film company IN Germany and all of Europe which for qite some time gave Hollywood a run for its' money as the film capital of the world. It also shows how many of the great directors, writers , film technicians etc. fled Germany for the freedom of Hollywood and the tremendous contribution they made to American cinema.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 2 April 2017
By Julie D,Goetz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
fascinating history of German filmaking
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To really appreciate good films, know where they come from 2 Jun. 2000
By Bernie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It is too bad that this is one of the only surviving books on UFA. Luckily it is one of the best. This book tells of the trials and tribulations of the film industry in Germany and the world between 1918 and 1945. It is packed with how they did it technically and economically. There are two concentrated picture sections. The pictures are of the sets, people involved in the industry, actors and movies. The author seems to think that the UFA was corrupted during the time of National Socialism.

According to this book, after H.G. Wells watched "Metropolis", he thought there wasn't much worth corrupting. Sot of gives you a different prospective of H.G. Wells; doesn't it?

Any Way there is tow parts, 30 chapters, Trailer, Epilog, and Fadeout.

From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (Princeton Classic Editions)
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