The European diaspora’s influence on Hollywood culture in the 1930s and ’40s is the focus of Peter Rosen’s documentary film “Strangers in Paradise,” to be shown at the Berkshire Museum here on Sunday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m.
Rosen will introduce his 2009 film and answer questions following the screening, which is co-presented by the museum and Close Encounters With Music.
Fleeing Germany and Austria as Hitler came to power, as many as 30,000 exiled intellectuals had poured into the Los Angeles area by 1939—80 percent of them Jews. These “displaced persons in Paradise” had a tremendous effect on music, art, literature, theater and film, giving the region the nickname “Weimar on the Pacific.”
Rosen’s documentary includes rare footage of some of these luminaries, including the author Thomas Mann, the composer Igor Stravinsky, the director Fritz Lang and many others. “Shadows in Paradise” weaves recorded interviews with the surviving artists and their friends and descendents with readings of the authors’ texts and performances of the composers’ work commissioned especially for the film.
“I have what I have always dreamed of—beautiful weather every day,” Mann wrote to Agnes Meyer, publisher of the Washington Post and a close friend, after settling in the Pacific Palisades in 1940. “I started to write again on the first day. Life would be more peaceful if we were not afraid that the agony we have already lived through would be exceeded by even worse news at any time.”
“Watching this film, one is struck by how important a role Hollywood ended up playing in helping to preserve the world’s intellectual life, at a time when not every community was that welcoming or accommodating,” writes reviewer Bruce Eder.
Rosen has produced and directed more than 100 full-length features and television programs. He won an Emmy Award and the Directors Guild of America Award in 1990 for his PBS special documenting the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. His subjects have also included radio personality Garrison Keillor, singer Enrico Caruso and architect I.M.Pei.
Tickets for “Shadows in Paradise” are $15 and include light refreshment. For reservations, call The Berkshire Museum (413) 443-7171.
For more information about Close Encounters with Music and its 2012–2013 concert schedule, visit www.cewm.org.